25 Cheap and Easy Fixes That Make Your House Look Amazing

by Ashley Marcin on 18 April 2014 6 comments

I'm currently in the process of selling my house, and it's been quite an ordeal getting it up to snuff for listing. Over the six years my family has lived here, we've surely settled in. Things like dirty baseboards, slow draining tubs, and a rogue dead outlet didn't seem so horrible; we got used to all these little inconveniences because our minds were elsewhere. When it came time to fix everything, however, we were quite overwhelmed with our to-do list. (See also: Cheap Ways to Stage Your Home)

Now that we've finished going through our house from head to toe, I can surely tell you — tiny changes add up to something big — mammoth, actually. And you don't need to put your house on the market to improve your habitat and your life. Even if you are living in your forever home, there are 25 super easy projects you can do inexpensively or even for free to really put some extra shine to your house that you didn't know you could get back!

1. Deep Clean

We all try to keep our homes tidy and clean, but when's the last time you lifted all your carpets and vacuumed the floor underneath them? What about scrubbing behind your toilet? Dusting off the blades of your ceiling fans and blinds? Think of all those dark corners and slowly chip away at dusting and scrubbing them. Once they're totally clean, it's amazing the difference you'll feel. I like to start with one room or floor at a time and plow right through. (See also: One-Month Guide to Spring Cleaning)

2. Toss and Donate

Then comes clutter. Spring is a great time to go through your hoard and see what you want to keep, to toss, and to donate to local thrift shops and charities. I always start with my closet and then work my way through the rest of the house. Old pots and pans or anything I haven't actually used in the last six months are up for debate. I'd rather have open spaces than store stuff I may never use again anyway. If you are questioning if you should purge something, put it (and like-items) in a box to store in your basement or attic for three months. If you don't miss it, clear it out of your house.

3. Scrub Appliances

"Our refrigerator isn't too bad," I told my husband. And then I moved the food around and saw lots of drips and spills that had hardened into quite a sticky mess. I took a couple hours one day and set the oven to self clean, took all the food out of the fridge and freezer and scrubbed it with an all-purpose cleaner, and then finished off with cleaning out the filter in the dishwasher. They're like new again! (See also: 8 Tips to Make Your Fridge Last Forever)

4. Rummage Through Your Pantry

While you're at it, go through your food to see what's stale, expired, or might be headed that way soon. You'd be surprised how much space you gain by taking stock, and you might actually find foods you didn't know you had. I have definitely saved some grocery dollars by using up ingredients instead of letting them go to waste in the back of a cabinet.

5. Oil Your Hinges

Open all your doors and hinges and spray a little WD-40 to get those suckers sliding quietly. If you don't feel like running to the store, you can also use three different household items — soap, petroleum jelly, and paraffin wax — for the same silencing effect.

6. Wipe Down Trim and Molding

I don't know about you, but I never wash my door jams or baseboards. I didn't think they were too dirty until I looked closer. Coffee splashes, fingerprints, dust, and other (toddler) messes were very apparent on ours, so a little elbow grease (and a few Magic Erasers) got them bright white again.

7. Or Even Paint Them

Beyond the general cleaning, some of our molding was actually dinged up from years of moving furniture, accidental kicks and scrapes, and even damage from that time when we hung a doorway pull-up bar. I went to our local hardware store and got some paint samples to find a glossy off-white that matched closely and then got a sample size can of paint. I took an artist's paintbrush around and blended them back in again.

8. Safeguard

Take a tour of your home's fire alarms, extinguishers, and carbon monoxide detectors. If they need new batteries, get new batteries today. If they are expired, broken, or are missing entirely — buy new today. Safety is one area not to skimp on or leave until tomorrow.

9. Filter and Maintain

As a first-time homeowner, I didn't really know we needed to maintain our furnace every single year. Now, that's not a hard and fast rule, but it's certainly a good idea. At the very least, we put in a new filter each year and make sure to call in help if we suspect there might be an issue. Keeping a furnace, water heater, air conditioning unit, or whatever else in working order is much cheaper than buying a new one. All it takes is a quick call to make an appointment, and be sure to check websites of bigger companies for coupons.

10. Clean Windows

On the inside and out, our windows are exposed to a vast number of icky things. Whether it's handprints, dirt, bugs, or whatever else that's obscuring your view, all it takes is some glass cleaner and time to get them clear again. (See also: The Best All-Purpose Cleaners)

11. Shine Up Floors

We have gorgeous wood floors that we clean with basic water and vinegar, but we called in the big guns with some store-bought Orange Glo cleaner to get them gleaming. It's something I'd love to start doing once a month, as it helps condition the wood beyond my basic washing. One bottle was only about $6, but I think it will last four or five applications in our small home.

12. Freshen Linens

I'll just come out and admit that we don't make our beds every day. So, doing so has majorly changed how we feel upstairs. Beyond that, we try to change our sheets more frequently these days to keep everything fluffy and smelling great. Be sure to add towels, shower curtains, bath rugs, curtains, and any other cloth item to this list.

13. Caulk Around

Our bathroom caulking had seen better days. Instead of scrubbing the mold and mildew, we decided to start with a fresh application. It sounds more complicated than it actually is. Simply rip out, re-do, and let dry — here's how.

14. Repurpose and Reimagine

Have a hall closet continually crammed with random junk? Follow the steps above to clean and perhaps clear out and then try to come up with a purpose for that space so it doesn't become a catch-all. We have a small closet near our kitchen that we hung some cheap shelving in and we now use as a pantry. It's actually "supposed" to be a coat closet, but that just didn't work for our family. Give spaces jobs to do, and you'll maximize your living spaces. (See also: How to Declutter and Keep Your Stuff Too)

15. Focus on Window Treatments

I'm sure we all have a few curtain rods, panels, blinds we bought long ago but haven't yet taken the time to hang. Why not skip the sitcom tonight and take that half an hour and finish that project today? It's incredible how simple window treatments can change the feel (and function) of a whole room. Plus, you'll gain back some storage space.

16. Patch and Paint Walls

I love the deep grey color of our living and dining room walls. However, if you look closely, you'll see some thin spots where the light blue beneath is still peeking through. Beyond that, you can see some holes from where we moved artwork or other nailed or screwed in decorative items. A container of lightweight patching is only a few dollars (and some people just use toothpaste!). If you don't have leftover paint, just head to the store and get a sample sized can in a matching color.

17. De-Clog and Decide About Hiring a Plumber

There's a quick and easy way to determine if your slow-draining tub or sink is a plumbing issue or not: Buy a container of de-clogger and follow its instructions. If you get things moving again — great! If not, call in a professional. Letting clogs go untreated can cause bigger issues in the long run.

18. Rearrange Furniture

Staging is something I'm no good at, but it makes a huge difference in the flow and feel of a house's interior. Why wait for potential buyers to do something like this? Consider moving around your couches, tables, and chairs to a new style that works well for you. And feel free to change your floor plan a million times until you get it just right.

19. Shine Some Light

Check out all your light fixtures to see where new lightbulbs are needed. Consider investing a little extra money in the energy efficient compact varieties. Not only do they use less power, they also purportedly last longer — which I have learned from experience. We didn't replace our overhead light in our bedroom for several months. Ridiculous, but it made such a difference to get it working again. (See also: Best Energy Efficient Light Bulbs)

20. Match Your Outlet Plates

I surveyed our interior and discovered that most of our light switch and outlet plates didn't match. Now, this isn't an issue beyond surface aesthetics, but new plates need not be expensive. If you can, try to get consistency going in your house. It's a subtle detail, but every corner counts.

21. Head Outside

Taking care of our spaces isn't limited to the indoors, unfortunately. Look around your yard to find any debris. Rake up any leaves or brush away any dirt that's on your patios or decks. Consider planting a few low maintenance flowers or shrubs to spruce things up a bit. No need for heavy landscaping, which might just require more work to maintain.

22. Tackle Simple DIY

One of my favorite cheap projects is to use vinyl tile ($1 a square foot where we live) to refresh an old floor. Painting a room a new hue can have big impact, too. Hanging smart shelving is another project most novices can undertake in an afternoon. Make a list of items you'd like to undertake and be realistic about your expectations. For example, if you've never tried your hand at plumbing, you could cause more harm than good.

23. Hire Help for the Rest

Then make a list of things you don't have the ability to do (whether for time or safety reasons). We had a light switch that was giving us trouble and a toilet that was leaking and our fix wouldn't hold. Calling the neighborhood handyman once versus multiple times can actually save you money. Many charge a flat rate just to come to your home, so it's best to get your money's worth while you can!

24. Nest

Sometimes all you need for renewed pride in your house is something homey. Slap an inexpensive wreath on your front door or add a flag pole with a festive banner. Hang a picture. Get a couple new throw pillows or even a new rug. We waited to do these things until our house was listed, but once we did — we were surely sad we didn't do it sooner.

25. Live Like You're Listed

From there, it's just a matter of keeping things clean and tidy, which is much more difficult in practice than it sounds in theory. I suggest following the 5- or 10-minute rule. If you can pick up, clean, or fix something in less than 5 or 10 minutes, do it right away. You'll keep up your spaces easily this way. Leave bigger projects to the weekend, but make a running list so you don't forget anything.

Anything I've missed? Please tell us in comments your best, low-effort, high-impact home care projects!

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Guest's picture
Guest

Beware when putting WD-40 on your door hinges. I did this once and they were never able to stay open again.

Ashley Marcin's picture

Hmm. I haven't had this experience, guest. But thanks for the warning!

Guest's picture
Guest

Not wearing shoes ever in the house makes a world of difference in terms of cleaning and maintenance. We redid old floors and installed new ones in our house nearly 20 years ago. Not wearing shoes has contributed them to basically not aging at all. Once you adopt this habit, you will find other benefits like feeling psychologically freed from the world when you take off your shoes before entering the house. It is the one thing my husband and I have done which is far more helpful than anything else. We clean far less than others do and have avoided having to use anything other than the vacuum (and VERY occasional vinegar and water for the hardwood floors in the kitchen).

Ashley Marcin's picture

Fantastic addition! We practice this habit ourselves. Unfortunately, our guests don't always comply!

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Jeremy

Be careful with clog removing chemicals - they are extremely caustic to both skin..and the pipes themselves. A better option is to buy a cheap "snake" at the hardware store and actually remove the clog rathing than dissolving it - a bit on the icky side, but it sure beats replacing pipes!

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Bee

To clean the refrigerator easily I put the shelves into the dish washer the day before I grocery shop when the refrigerator is close to empty. While the dishwasher cleans the shelves I wipe down the inside of the refrigerator.