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For many twenty-somethings, graduating college means more than saying goodbye to summer vacation and Tuesday night trips to the bar. Lots of us start looking for our own places — whether that be an apartment in a hip part of the city, a house rented with lots of friends, or (if you’re lucky enough to be in grad school) affordable student housing.

Even if you’re not moving out of your childhood home for a while, now’s still the time to start thinking about decorating your future home. Empty wine bottles won’t cut it anymore, but there are lots of ways to upgrade your space on a budget while still leaving room for your favorite things.  

Handbags and hats count as decorations, too... right?
Handbags and hats count as decorations, too… right?

Let’s start with what you can repurpose. Frames are your friend. Have a favorite concert poster that survived four years of dorm room walls? Frame it. Album covers for that record player you never bought? Frame them. Graduation memorabilia that would look great next to your diploma? You get my point. Many of the things you can’t bear to throw away when you finally dig through your boxes of college stuff months after you cross the stage are perfect to add a touch of nostalgia and style to your place.

My favorite Holy Cross print - a gift given to the class of 2014 at graduation.
My favorite Holy Cross print – a gift given to the class of 2014 at graduation.

When it comes time to buy new things for your home, stores like Home Goods are a great place to start. My only caution is to avoid the temptation to plow through the store with a cart and end up with a living room full of mismatched (or, worse, perfectly matched) lamps, pillows, and throws. Another great way to shop for home is online.  I use sites like Rue La La and Wayfair. You can search for a particular decoration, browse for inspiration for specific spaces in your home, or maybe happen upon something you didn’t realize would work in your home until you found it (sadly for my bank account, this happens to me all the time.)

A rug and lampshade I bought almost a year apart at different Home Goods stores.  Sometimes it's worth it to wait!
A rug and lampshade I bought almost a year apart at different Home Goods stores. Sometimes it’s worth it to wait!

I tend to make purchases for home one at a time, with two criteria in mind: I have to love what I’m buying — as in, I’d be sad to leave it behind in the store — and it has to be something I need. Not something I might need for my next home, or something that I might use if I ever clean or reorganize a space, but something I can put to use as soon as I bring it home. Otherwise, it’s not worth the expense and it’ll end up making me feel guilty that I’m not using it.

How have you made your post-grad space special?

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