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So you just bought your first home. Congratulations! This is a huge moment in your life, and I hope you truly enjoy the process!
When I first bought my home, I was elated and could not wait to get started making it my own. What I learned rather quickly was that a) moving cost quite a bit more than I anticipated, b) I needed a lot of practical items that I had not budgeted for and c) there wasn’t much left over to make my home the beautiful showplace I had envisioned. If you are in the same situation, fear not! Through quite a bit of trial and error, I learned what works and what doesn’t when furnishing your new home, and I am happy to share this info with you.
First of all, cut yourself some slack. It will take some time for your home to evolve into the masterpiece you have dreamed about for so long. It’s OK, and in my mind even better, to take your time and get it right the first time. Before you even move in, I suggest you do the following:
Have your home professionally cleaned or clean it thoroughly yourself. Even if the home is new, there will be dust and contaminants from former residents or the building process, and you want to start with a clean slate. Make sure to include windows, blinds, window sills, fan blades, baseboards, molding, behind appliances, etc. Thoroughly clean and disinfect the kitchen and bathroom, and vacuum and shampoo any carpet if it needs it.
Make sure you know the basics about your house. Where is the electrical box? Are the switches labeled correctly? Where are all the electrical outlets, light switches, etc. Where is the water and gas cutoff? Do you have the handbooks for your appliances? If so, I suggest you put these in a file where you can find them if necessary. Test all of your appliances if you haven’t done so already. Also check heating, air, water temperature, and any seasonal items like gas logs. Hopefully, you did this prior to purchase, but you need to know if there are any issues regardless.
Walk through your home and write down any impressions you get. This is particularly important if you did not purchase a new home and did not do a punch list. Notice any missing trim work, off-color electrical outlets, switches you might like to change (add a dimmer, etc.), how the lighting looks in each room, and any defects you might want to repair at some time in the future. Write this all down and put it in a file. Once you move in, you will slowly develop blinders to small imperfections that you see every day.
Check all fire and safety alarms and replace the batteries. Do this once a year to be on the safe side. Make sure you have enough alarms in the right places. Also, consider carbon monoxide alarms. Purchase and install fire extinguishers in the garage, laundry, kitchen, and in any other area there might be a fire. We keep one in our bedroom and one for the rest of the upstairs in the hallway. If you use the extinguisher consider replacing it, and make sure that you check the fire extinguisher at least once a year for expiration. (Side note – never use an extension cord with a space heater. This is one of the most common reasons for home fires in the winter, and how I caught our bedroom on fire on the coldest night of the year)!
I suggest you spend a couple of hours in each room of your home and daydream about what you want the room to look like once you are “finished” decorating. Note any colors that come to mind, any furniture placement that seems obvious, or any impressions that come to you that could help you with design decisions in the future. When I moved into my home, I had a large room in the front of my house that was intended to be a combination dining/formal living room. I knew I would not use the rooms for this function, and while sitting in the room imagining the possibilities, it occurred to me it would be nice if the large window on the side were a door, and the room was a game room/ bar arrangement. The door would open to a side patio where I could put a grill and some chairs for nice evenings.
Paint! The best time to paint is before you move in if that is possible. I suggest you look at color schemes on Pinterest, in the paint section of your hardware store, and on websites that focus on home design. I also recommend you stay away from white unless you are going for an all-white monochromatic look. Color can add warmth, serenity, excitement, energy, or any other number of emotions to the feel of a room, and it is typically fairly inexpensive. There are numerous articles and tips online about how to paint a room, and it really is something you can do yourself with very little experience or special equipment. To me the more work you do on your home yourself, the more it truly becomes a part of you.
Make sure to check out “How to Furnish Your New Home Part Two -Moving In” for more tips!