Decorating while (really) broke…

I’ve had a few people ask me how I manage to decorate on a limited budget. They want a nice looking home but just can’t afford the prices they see pretty much everywhere. They can’t be the only ones who are curious so I figured I’d post my tips here. And, if you have any tips, please feel free to comment below.

My first tip is to check the dollar stores. Seriously, you can find some amazing stuff there. You just have to go often and be selective. Don’t pick up a picture or other decoration just because it’s there and in your price range. My favourite shop is Dollarama. Sorry everyone else in the world, Dollarama’s only in Canada. I’ve found some fantastic finds. They get items in regularly that were from everyday stores. Maybe they were overstock, maybe they’re out of season, maybe the store went under. Either way Dollarama’s got it for $4 or less. You can buy pictures, wall art, pillows, lap throws, table cloths, dish towels, artificial plants… the list goes on and on. But you can’t just go once in a blue moon. Often the good stuff comes only in the amount of two or three and they go fast. If you see something good, get it then, it might not even be there tomorrow. Plus check different stores. They mostly have the same items but sometimes you’ll find something special that wasn’t in your usual store.

Dollar Tree is okay. I find where they stand out is with wall art. They get some amazing wall stickers there and those can really tie a room together. I found a cute glittery unicorn sloth on a rainbow once but otherwise I’m not impressed with their decor.

Second hand stores are great too. They’re obviously hit or miss but they can have some gorgeous things. I’ve found ficus trees there before (I only have one now) and a lovely ceramic hot chocolate container. Colin found a ceiling lamp that looked like it belonged in an old bar. I think they’re called tiffany lamps. Google says I’m right and, oh my goodness, they’ve got some pretty ones out there.

Don’t forget to check out the clearance section. I have found so many things at Icing, Marshalls, and Homesense. Icing has a buy three – get three free deal which includes their clearance rack too.

I also order online. I use Aliexpress but I know other people have used Wish. It is buyer beware but I’ve had good luck with their wall art stickers and small items. Just remember it’ll take up to two months to arrive.

And, of course, what you need are pictures of what you can find for inspiration. Remember, when you go to the dollar store or thrift shop, you might find nothing at all or you might find something you adore. It’s all part of the adventure.

Just breathe

This Just Breathe sign was bought at Dollarama. It wasn’t there for long. The vase in the back was also a Dollarama find as is the flowers (which I sadly cut off in the picture). The table’s a freebie I found in the laundry room. I’ll get around to refinishing it… someday.

fit happens with blurry m

Both “Fit Happens” and “every day – is a – fresh START” are from Dollarama. They certainly don’t look like they are though.

desk wall

The word art starting with “each day” is from Dollar Tree and is very sturdy while the gold glittery picture is from Dollarama. They still have glittery pictures but not this particular one.

bedroom wall

The two pictures on the left are from Dollarama, the circle is a glow in the dark moon from Aliexpress and it glows really well, while the last picture was on clearance at Icing. I love that store!

kitchen

The folding dish rack and mat are from Dollarama as are the miniature topiary, spice racks (under the spices), wire utensil containers, potted plants, and the lemon “live your life with zest” hanging. The lemon wall stickers, the towel saying “Love, laugh, & gather together”, and the word art on the cupboard reading “The secret ingredient is always love” are from Dollar Tree. And the tree “window” is from Aliexpress

Just breathe and sloth

This “Just Breathe” sign is also from Dollarama as is the metal bucket. The flowers are from Clair de Lune and were on clearance. And, as said above, the rainbow unicorn sloth is from Dollar Tree.

living room wall

The “home is where your story begins” sign is from Dollarama and was one of two. “This is my paradise” is also from Dollarama. It’s fabric and held to the frame with twine.

Dream big

This is one of my Icing finds. I absolutely adore it. I’m a sucker for glitter!

word art2

This is another Dollar Tree find. I love having family photos on the wall and this just ties them together.

kitchen finds

This is an old picture from 2016. It shows my hot chocolate jar and a plate (with apples on it) that I found at Value Village. The “Today’s Menu” chalkboard is from Dollarama. Oh, and the rice container/cookie jar is from Goodwill going back years ago.

Obviously if I went out and spent all that money today it would be a fortune, dollar store and thrift shop or not. But spread out over the course of a year or two(ish) it’s definitely manageable… anywhere from $4 to $12 a month and the results are very much worth it. Happy shopping!!!

 

Five more years…

Five more years. That’s the estimated time until I can get a one bedroom apartment through subsidized housing. It should also, hopefully, get Colin through a good chunk of his schooling and prepare him for living on his own.

Getting him to be independent has been a process, not a one shot deal. Since he’s autistic and delayed socially, I started teaching him in late elementary school by sending him across the street to buy a small amount of groceries on his own. Something that made him feel quite proud of himself. Of course back then he was using my debit card but it was a start. His high school teacher was speechless when she found that out. Apparently he was the first student, out of all she’d taught, who had grocery shopping as a skill. Now he has his own bank account and a pre-paid Visa. He can spend exactly what he put on there and no more. Giving him responsibility without the worry of overspending.

Our bills are split relatively even. I pay extra on the rent  and pay our insurance while Colin pays for our Virgin bill (phones and internet). We were doing our grocery shopping together until this month. I lent him my card to buy three items at the grocery store. He forgot my three items then went to Dollarama and spent $71. So separate grocery runs from now on.

Colin’s all excited about his new responsibility because that means he picks what he wants, namely canned ravioli and macaroni and cheese. I figure he’ll broaden his horizons food wise once he gets bored with processed junk. Tomorrow I’m going to teach him how to make real macaroni and cheese, starting with a roux. Tonight he’ll be learning how to prepare tofu. The sauce is in a bag but it’s a start.

I’d say it’s bitter-sweet to be preparing for him to move, but it’s not. We’re both ready for places of our own. Splitting expenses just makes the inevitable move a lot easier. I’m looking forward to visiting Colin, and his clutter, in his own place then going home to relax in mine.

The weird part for me will be living on my own. I moved from my parents’ house right into my fiance’s house then our marriage broke up and I lived with our two kids. Kait’s flown the coop and is doing amazing. Now it’s Colin’s turn. We just need to wait five more years.

p.s. For those who are concerned about Blackie. She is doing 100% better now. Gobbling up her wet food and running to greet people at the front door. I’ve put her euthanasia money into a savings account but I don’t think she’ll need it any time soon. Which is amazing considering it was only a week ago that I was dithering about getting her euthanized. The appointment had been scheduled for a week ago tomorrow at 3pm. I’m so glad I dithered and cancelled the appointment. She’s such a sweet kitty and she’d leave a huge hole in our hearts.

Our 26 hour vacation…

“Mom! Mom!! We need to get up in two hours so we should get up now, just in case!”

To say Jeremy was excited about our trip would be an understatement. I had my alarm set for 5am so they woke me at 3am. We were playing MarioKart at 5am just to keep me awake. I don’t play it any better before dawn than after. Thankfully I didn’t play any worse.

Then, finally, we left with our suitcase and bag full of food, all set for a day and a half of excitement… with only two buses and a train to get there. We got to the bus stop early, which meant we caught an earlier bus and an earlier train. Plus our train didn’t go past Union Station (in Toronto) so we had to transfer… and Union is under construction. Talk about anxiety! But we found our connecting train and then got front seats on the double decker bus…

Kathleen and Colin on the double decker GO bus

Jeremy was excited, they just don’t smile for pictures

The bus system announced it was only a 15 minute walk to Clifton Hill (the tourist trap of Niagara Falls) so we decided to save our money and walk to the hotel. Let’s just say I’m so glad Google Maps exist because we were walking the wrong way originally. But we found our hotel and it was just as elegant as we remembered.

elegance

Elegant and cheaper than the other hotels because it’s “old”… bonus!

Crowne Plaza

I bought a saver’s pack of activities back in July, which I highly recommend because it comes with WeGo bus passes (our room came with passes too). These buses took us, for free, all over the main tourist sections of the city and the buses were barely a block away.

Our first (and favourite) stop was the Whirlpool Areo Car, a gondola ride across the Niagara River whirlpool…

whirlpool areo car

Our next stop was at the butterfly conservatory. I’ve always wanted to go to one and, I think, next time I’ll go when it first opens so the place is more quiet. The crowds were too much for both Jeremy and myself but I loved the butterflies anyways.

me at the butterfly conservatory

One of my friends said I’m the friendship butterfly 🙂

Jeremy wanted to ride the boat right to the falls. It was too late (and we were too overwhelmed) on our first night but I’m glad I insisted we go first thing the following morning because they loved it!

Colin on the Hornblower cruise2

Soggy Jeremy in the middle of the falls and the mist.

Horseshoe Falls and comorant

A cormorant and Horseshoe Falls

And then we went home, hours earlier than I’d planned. I’m glad we did too because we were both exhausted and overwhelmed on the bus ride home and so happy to be back in our apartment with our own beds and kitties.

I’m glad we went. It was a lot of fun and Jeremy’s already talking about our next trip to the Falls. Next time I’ll skip the water park passes as Jeremy’s outgrown the park (although I haven’t) and use the waterpark pass money for an extra night. But not for a few more years!

rainbow