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What’s the point in decorating a temporary rental?

Last night, a follower messaged me on Instagram to tell me that she is going through a separation prior to a divorce, and as a result, she’s had to move out of her home and into a rental.

She said she was feeling a little like, “What’s even the point of decorating a rental if it’s just a temporary home?”, although she was feeling a little more inspired after watching me work at decorating my current rental.

hydrangeas in a pitcher.

She’s also feeling defeated, and a bit like a failure due to starting over again later in adulthood, and that’s immobilizing her a bit.

So, I thought, hmm, maybe I should write a post about the reasons I’m busy making my rental into a home!

(If you’re new, here’s a post about why I am currently living in a rental even though I own a house.)

1. A year is not insignificant

I signed a one-year lease, so I’m going to be here at least until May 2023, and possibly longer than that.

While that’s not as long a timeline as one would have in mind when purchasing a house, it is also not an insignificant amount of time.

I am never going to get to live those 365 days again, and I might as well live them in a home that feels…homey!

2. I have control over making my house a home

In the midst of serious life upheaval like this, there is a lot that is out of my hands.

succulents in a white pot.

But my rental IS in my hands! I can decorate it and make it cozy and beautiful and no one can stop me. 😉 This is kind of a reassuring feeling.

3. If I didn’t decorate my rental, I’d just be punishing myself

I left the house that I made into a home, and that was hard enough.

But I don’t have to continue the misery by living in an undecorated rental! I can soothe the had-to-leave-my-house wound a little by making this house just as homey as I made my previous house.

4. A beautiful home is important to ME

I like to be in a space that feels tidy, is clean and comfortable, and looks as beautiful as possible. I know this doesn’t matter equally to everyone, but it’s important to me.

I’d feel more depressed and unsettled if I didn’t try to decorate my rental.

5. I’m not making a home just for me

I would decorate even if I was on my own, but having my girls with me is extra motivation to make this house a home.

View of Kristen's living room.

They’ve experienced some traumatic upheaval (which is not remotely their faults!), and the least I can do is make this house a place that feels comfortable, peaceful, and settled.

The people who live here matter, so it is not a waste of time to make this house a home.

6. I like the challenge

I’m working within some constraints here. For instance, I have a limited budget, and there’s only so much I can do to this house because it’s a rental (no cabinet painting for me, alas!).

But I find these constraints to be motivating…like, “Ok, challenge accepted! Let’s see what I can manage to pull off in these circumstances.”

7. I think beauty is possible almost anywhere

It’s not like beauty is only available in homes you buy, or homes you live in for 25 years.

berries in a bowl.

I do not have to wait for those secure circumstances in order to have beauty around me. I can bring beauty and create order, here, now, even in the midst of a fair amount of life disorder. 

8. Nothing is made better by not decorating

I see zero advantages to the, “Why bother with decorating?” approach.

Living in an undecorated rental won’t bring back my old home and it won’t make my life more settled. It’ll just make me feel sad and stuck.

I might as well embrace where I am and make the best of it!

9. Decorating helps me focus on what I CAN do

It is really easy to get sucked into thinking about what I can’t do (I can’t add windows. I can’t paint walls. There’s no point in buying bushes or planting bulbs.).

two potted plants in a window.

And it’s easy to get sucked into thinking about what I’ve lost (my lovely white hydrangea bush! my daffodil bulbs! my painted cabinets! my granite countertops!).

I do think there’s a time and place for grieving those real and significant losses, and believe me, I have cried plenty of angry tears over this.

But it is also helpful to turn my thoughts to what I can do.

Even just typing out that list of what I’ve lost gave me a pit in my stomach, but when I turn my thoughts to what I am working on here at my rental, the pit goes away and the dark clouds lift a little.

10. Making a home feels like defiance instead of defeat

I really sympathize with the person who messaged me; in these shoes, it is easy to feel like a defeated failure! Losing a home and a life you worked so hard for and starting over in your 40s can be rather demoralizing (to say the least.)

To me, defeat means losing hope and then giving up. This is an awful feeling, and I much prefer to have an attitude of defiance.

Like, “Ok, life has thrown me a terrible curve ball, but I’ll be darned if I’m going to let this ruin me. I’m going to carry on and make things as awesome as I can.”


So. That’s why I’m decorating, even though this is “just a rental.” 🙂

Have you ever made a home in less-than-ideal circumstances? Do tell!

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Sunday 17th of July 2022

I am also in my forties - just turned 48 -and am starting over as a result of divorce. I am also an attorney. The first job I had after law school was working for a solo practitioner who did mostly divorces, and who herself was on Husband #3. One of her favorite sayings?

"Divorce is a growth opportunity."

I tell myself this whenever I am feeling down about my situation, and it helps. I hope it can help you and your Dear Reader as well.


Saturday 16th of July 2022

Don’t overlook the freedom of just not doing it. 12 yrs ago, I quit my job and my husband took a pay cut to take a great job that opened doors for him and allowed us to move to Germany with our 2 1/2 yr old. I cannot express the level of disappointment that 11 mos later we’d be moving into a rental in Texas. And then another baby came. And then we had to move again. So we set up the house and put stuff places just enough to say it was done. Now, we’ve been enjoying things more or less the way they were put those 9 years ago. It’s good enough and in the mean time I’ve discovered the freedom of being able to say “it’s a rental”. We take good care of the place, but I simply don’t want to put budget or time to in a lot of landscaping, or perfect furniture…and I like being able to say, “the kitchen really needs an update but it’s a rental so…”

Could I find budget for the perfect couch? Sure could if I wanted. Could I water the lawn all summer long? Sure I could if I wanted to. But instead we go away all summer, and spend time at the river, or go down to the coast.


Friday 15th of July 2022

I almost NEVER comment, but this was sooo inspiring to me. I cannot relate to what you must be going through in your life right now, and I am so sorry you find yourself in this situation, but your attitude is amazing. It actually brought back a memory for me....I had been well-established in my chosen career for 20+ years when we were told, in October, our jobs were going to be outsourced, and we would be losing our positions as of January 1. This was in 2010, when jobs were not very abundant. In a panicked frenzy, I immediately began applying for jobs everywhere. Applying for jobs, calling, and interviewing consumed a huge amount of my time, because I was still working full-time at my current job, at least until January 1, taking care of our home/yard, making meals, (you know the drill). But, in spite of this, I decorated our house for Christmas, BIG TIME! I have always done a lot of decorating at Christmas and have accumulated many different decorations over the years. Different people would say, why bother, you are so busy with everything else? I can't believe you are going to spend all that time decorating when you have so much to do? It must be so difficult to get all that done with all the other things you have on your plate? Running Christmas lights is going to cost a lot of money, and you are losing your job? And I said, "Yes, but this is one thing I can control right now. It brings ME joy. It helps ME feel a sense of normalcy during a time when everything else isn't very normal." So I definitely hear you, focus on what YOU can do, what brings YOU joy, what makes YOU feel settled! I truly admire your positive, hopeful attitude! Thank you!


Friday 15th of July 2022

Yes, yes, this is exactly how I feel about it. I can't fix this other broken stuff but darn it, I can hunt for and rehab free stuff to make my house a home.


Thursday 14th of July 2022

What an amazing post, Kristen!

I am going to be a bit more pragmatic, because all the kind words seem to have been said. I love this community!

I'm guessing that you know the minimum amount of time you will be in this new home, but not the maximum. Could be a year, might be more. I agree with planting whatever makes you happy, if it can be inexpensively obtained. If you don't stay long enough to fully enjoy it, it will bless someone else in the future.

Next, I'm a landlord. If I had a tenant with your credentials, I'd let them do anything they want and I'd willingly pay for the materials. You have a busy life, so you may not want to tackle something like painting cabinets, but even knowing that you could might be helpful. It couldn't hurt to discuss the topic with the LL.

Also, if you were my tenant and you paid the rent a day or two early every month and included a home-baked treat, I'd be disinclined to ever raise your rent. Ever. Just sayin'.

As much as you loved your other house, IIRC, there were things that weren't your first choice. This house is giving you a chance to try something different. I'm glad you're embracing that.

I spy my favorite big blue book on the bookshelf! It's terribly outdated, but the principles are rock-solid and I re-read it every year for inspiration. Hmmm, that's exactly why I've been reading your blog for so long. Thank you!


Friday 15th of July 2022

You are so right; I never liked living in a split-foyer! I was content and thankful, but split-foyer homes are never, ever going to be my thing. I am delighted to be living in a rancher now.

I need to re-read the Tightwad Gazette; I feel like some material in there would make for some fun post fodder here!


Thursday 14th of July 2022

The replies to this post are perfectly said. I’ve long since stopped following this blog for the frugal help, but continue for Kristen’s kindness, positive attitude/spirit and outlook on life (plus the pictures too!). I believe if more people could communicate in a gentler way, as Kristen does, the world would be in a better place. P.S. The hydrangeas in the white pitcher are BEAUTIFUL!


Thursday 14th of July 2022

Aren't they such lovely colors? I had to stop by my other house to pick up some mail, and I cut the blooms off of one of my hydrangea bushes there. I don't know what it is about where that bush is, but it produces the most colorful blooms every year.

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