4 easy apartment upgrades that won’t sacrifice your deposit

Put down that sledgehammer and try these upgrades instead.
Put down that sledgehammer and try these upgrades instead.

Moving into a new place is exciting. There’s a new location, new view, and new take-out restaurants for you to order from. But it can also be disheartening. I mean, I’ve wanted to hang up my Casablanca poster in every apartment I’ve moved into, but had to resort to taping it up (out of frame) so I wouldn’t get charged for the holes in the wall. I’ve also learned to buy dark, heavy furniture to give the room some personality to the white walls on white carpet. So while I have lots of ideas on how to spruce up  boring spaces, most leases put severe kink in those plans. Here are four tactics I’ve used that allow you to make your apartment shine, without worrying that your security deposit money will shrivel up:

Screw around; you can probably replace those awful fluorescent lights with something cheap.
Screw around; you can probably replace those awful fluorescent lights with something cheap.

Almost anything that has been screwed can be unscrewed
Most landlords* let you have your way with overhead lighting choices, as long as you replace the originals when you leave. Changing the lights to what you want will set the tone and make a drastic difference in your apartment. Some apartments have ceiling lights without fans; installing one will circulate the air and breathe life into a stale room. If you’re on a budget, Ikea lights start at $15 and work their way up to $100, while Home Depot has fans in the $200-300 range for making an investment.

Grab a screwdriver and see what else you can remove around the apartment. Start with knobs on cabinets; a lot of little changes can add up to one upgraded apartment. Knobs start at $3 each at most stores, which can get expensive if you have a lot of drawers and cabinets. Instead, try searching around garage sales and other bargain locations. When people remodel, they’ll donate their knobs or sell them for a lot less.

A word of warning for those looking to unscrew everything but the kitchen sink: it’s hard to store lighting fixtures in a small apartment. Remember, anything you remove has to stay in your possession so you can reattach it, so keep storage in mind before you begin.

Stick it to those bare walls with a decal like this one for just a few bucks.
Stick it to those bare walls with a decal like this one for just a few bucks.

Can’t paint? Try wall decals
Let’s think of this in a “glass is half full” light. By not being allowed to paint, you’re skipping the whole process of finding swatches, covering your furniture, giving up your weekend, and trying to keep your cat from rubbing up against the wet walls.

Instead of lugging cans all the way up to your sixth-floor flat, upgrade your apartment with removable wall decals. You can get the traditional Eiffel Tower or “Live, Laugh, Love” from Target for about ten bucks, or you can get a custom decal online. Some stores let you upload a photo and order to color, size, and surface type it will live on, which varies the price. You can easily get your own custom decal for less than $50.

My mom actually sketched out a custom drawing of one of her favorite recipes and added it to our wall with the decal printing service. People immediately notice it and either ask if she painted it herself. It has been up for years and doesn’t look like a sticker at all.

Drill-free corner shelving, which can hold up to a few pounds using friction. Photo via Treehugger.
Drill-free corner shelving, which can hold up to a few pounds using friction. Photo via Treehugger.

Get creative with shelving
Holes in the walls do not count as “wear and tear” and will need to be filled in before you move out. If you want shelves in your new apartment, you’ll have to find a way to hang them without drilling holes into your neighbor’s bedroom.

First, consider skipping wall attachments in the first place. Instead, look into freestanding bookcases or other storage methods. You will still have the same effect, but you won’t have to plaster over anything before you move out. Actually, a bookshelf will probably offer more storage space than a set of shelves would have.

Target and Ikea are your friend again here for cheap bookshelves. These start as cheaply as $30 and can to more than $300. A more expensive bookshelf would serve as a statement piece along with storage. Shelves have roughly the same price range, but you will have to assemble them. A bookshelf at least stands a chance of arriving fully assembled.

If you must hang shelves on the wall, try to research unique ways to do it. Some shelves can be held up with just two or three nails, depending on their size and shape. Also, consider adding corner shelves to your apartment. Drilling isn’t needed, and it helps you answer the question, “What on Earth should I put over there?”

Boring shower curtain? Put a bridge on it!
Boring shower curtain? Put a bridge on it!

Outdated bathroom? Let the shower curtain do the talking
It’s hard for landlords to updates bathrooms, because that usually involves plumbing changes and ripping out large tubs and tile. If your bathroom leaves something to be desired, find a loud shower curtain as a distraction.

Find something that immediately draws in the eye. That way when people enter your bathroom, they’ll look at your design elements instead of the outdated hardware. The shower curtain also hides your tacky shower and tub.

Basing the rest of your bathroom design around the curtain can make it look like the bathroom was upgraded, even if it hasn’t been since the 80s. The last apartment I moved into had a horribly outdated tub – that dripped incessantly. There was no saving the cracked tile and worn porcelain, so I bought a huge brown shower curtain with gold sequins in a paisley design to hide it. Once that was up, I had a main piece to decorate around. My towels, art, and bathroom rugs were all green, and I had a cute, jungle-themed bathroom.

Someday you will own a house and have the ability to paint or install a Jacuzzi in the living room floor, but that’s not today. Grin and bear it with these mini-upgrades.

*(If you’re unsure about any of these upgrades, it’s recommended you check with your landlord first to make sure you’re not violating the security deposit rules).

Follow Yazmin on Twitter: @yazzywrites.

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