The time has come to accept the inevitable: you’re growing up. Embrace it! Becoming an adult can be daunting, but not when you have guides as easy (and, let’s face it, as cool) as the ones in our new Adultify series. Now, you won’t ever have to utter that cringe-worthy term “adulting” when you accomplish something, like doing your laundry—you know, basic, responsible grown-up activities—because you’ll know these truths to be self-evident.
Somewhere between high school and college, I got my shit together. It’s unclear how. Not all my shit, mind you, just my shit. My stuff. My physical belongings. I started decorating purposefully, keeping things (relatively) clean, ditching the things I secretly hated, and becoming genuinely proud of my dorm, then apartment, then home.
Disclosure: that took privilege. Privilege of time and funds, however cobbled together it felt at the time. And it took patience. In my mind, I’m not nearly done adultifying my living space. But over the years, I’ve noticed a few things that made a HUGE difference.
If you’re feeling like your room or house is in need of some TLC, follow these steps.
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1) Assess the situation
When your space feels cluttered and claustrophobic, making changes can feel totally overwhelming. Audit the room. If it helps, scan the walls first. What stuff are you proud of? Is there anything you’d rather not see?
As soon as you notice anything that feels off—like that poster your old roommate left and you never gave away—or purely utilitarian—like that old broom that hangs on your wall like art—take it down and put it aside.
If a purging tornado takes hold, you do you! Just don’t throw everything away. You can start a nostalgia box for stuff that you can’t part with, but isn't necessarily fit for a living room.
2) Frame it
Once you’ve narrowed down those band posters, show them off. My rule is “everything gets a frame,” but at the very least, you should frame your biggest pieces and forgo the sticky tack.
Even your most tattered prints will look purposeful and add depth to every room with a frame around them. If you only have smaller things like postcards and photos, you can still incorporate them into a collage wall.
Pro tip: Ikea makes excellent frames at affordable prices. Measure your art and go!
3) Contain yourself
A few months ago, I found myself staring at a pile of umbrellas stacked near the front door. Days later, I found myself at Target, buying a big wooden vase that I now use as an umbrella stand. My partner was perplexed, but all I could say was, “They needed a home.”
Especially when it comes to those utilitarian items every house needs, containers are that home. It sounds soccer mom-esque, but hear me out. They don’t need to match, and they certainly don’t need to be labeled. Just take note of objects that are free-floating. Then, grab a basket for your gaming equipment, remotes, or wires. Get a box for your beauty or cleaning supplies. If new containers aren’t an option, reassign drawers and cabinets to have very specific purposes.
All of these moves save space, and declutter your place (and brain).
4) Buy a vacuum
Best. Investment. Ever. Especially if you have rugs and cloth-covered furniture, vacuums are your new BFF. I went years sweeping up messes and never giving my apartment the deep clean it deserved.
Now, when people come over to watch fine films (cough, Game of Thrones), sitting on the floor is no longer cringe-worthy.
5) Get handy
Depending on your living situation, a painted wall could be a NBD or major hassle. If you can, pick at least one wall and transform the room.
If not, add color in other ways: through shelving stacked with books, long curtains, or tapestries.
6) Ban plastic, where you can
This one will take time, but it’s worth it. Everyone I know has gone through a stage of plastic bowls and spoons (did I even touch metal to lips in college?) but having household items that will truly last, feels like the most adult thing ever.
Collect wood and metal supplies as you find them, and decant liquids like soap and olive oil into glass when possible.
7) Make your bed a throne
Choose a color you want your sheets and pillows to be. That’s right, one color. Pick up extra pillows so things are optimally fluffy, but don’t go overboard.
If you have space, try moving your frame to the middle of the room rather than squished to one side. Hello, adult bed!
8) Stop and buy the flowers
Having plants, succulents, or some fresh flowers can completely shift the energy of a room, freshening it up and adding texture. Try budgeting 10 bucks a week to pick up flowers on the way home if you don’t have a green thumb.
The key here is ambience. Be it greenery, incense, or music you love, you shouldn’t wait for your parents to visit to set your ideal mood. Remember this is your space, and not even a grumpy landlord can change that.