The divorce is final, and you were able to stay in your marital home. Congratulations!
One big hassle you won’t have to deal with is moving, so breathe a sigh of relief and give thanks.
But once the dust settles from divorce, it’s time to make the marital home your home. One that’s free of the negativity of your marriage and one that reflects you and your hopes for the future. If you have children who will be living with you, you’ll want to take their needs into account, too, so involve them in your plans at age-appropriate levels. But remember it’s your home, so you get the final say.
Your post-divorce finances might be limited, but don’t let that stop you. There are lots of free or low-cost ways to make your home your own. Suggestions are grouped into three categories:
- Changes that don’t cost a dime
- Low cost changes
- More expensive changes
How to Make The Marital Home Feel Like Your Own
Take a look at all the categories even if you don’t have a lot of money to spend. Some of the bigger changes may be worthwhile investments for the longer term. And some of the free changes would benefit most divorced moms even if you have a big budget for home updates.
Changes That Don’t Cost a Dime
- Forgive your former spouse and let go of any negative energy or feelings (this might be a work in process, but keep at it)
- Cleanse your home. Give it a top-to-bottom cleaning like you would if you were moving out. If you feel so inclined, you can also cleanse by burning sage, lighting candles, or sprinkling salt at the doors and windows. An energy worker or healer can help with this if you feel like you need more cleansing.
- Clear out any pictures, objects, or other items that make you feel bad when you see them or remind you of your former spouse.
- Clean house. Get rid of clothing, furniture, and anything else you don’t need or use, or anything that belongs to your former spouse that isn’t going with him or her. Cleaning out makes way for the new and better to come in.
- Invite the Divine in. You can do this informally through a simple invitation or spontaneous prayer, or more formally through a prayer or ritual from your faith or family tradition.
- Bless your home and those who live there. You can find a ritual for blessing a home from your religious tradition or search online for something that feels right to you. Or invite a priest, minister, energy worker, or group of friends to help if you don’t want to do this alone.
- Rearrange the furniture. Change where you hang your pictures. Put things where you want them to change things up and create a sense of newness.
- Create a mood that soothes or uplifts you by using sound or silence. Play the music, news, or TV shows you want – or turn them all off and enjoy the silence.
- Add small touches that make you smile. Flowers or branches cut from your yard, candles, kids’ art work (or your own), pictures of your kids, pets, nature, or people and places that support and inspire you.
- Laugh. Bringing laughter and lightness into your home will help you feel good and do as much as anything to make it yours. Whether it’s watching funny movies, laughing at the antics of your pets, joking with your kids, or hosting friends to share some fun, do what you can to laugh, smile and enjoy what you have.
Low Cost Changes
The bedroom is likely the area to hold the most negative memories and the first place to look at making changes in your home to make it your own.
- Buy new bedding or even a new bed.
- Redecorate. This might be as simple as rearranging the furniture and painting the walls, or could include new furniture, carpeting, towels, and artwork.
- Add pillows, a reading light, candles, or other accessory items that will make the room comfortable and useful for you.
If there are rooms that were primarily used by your former spouse, tackle these next.
- Clean out any remnants from your former spouse.
- Repurpose the room to something you will use if it makes sense to do so. For example, we turned my former husband’s office into a bedroom for one of the kids.
In the rest of the house, consider low cost changes you can do yourself or with your kids to make the house fit who you are today.
- Paint the inside – common areas, kids’ bedrooms, bathrooms, or the whole house
- Paint the outside – just the trim, the front door, or garage door. Painting the whole house is a bigger undertaking for most people (see below).
- Wallpaper – or strip the wallpaper and paint or texture a room
- Plant flowers, decorative grasses, bushes and shrubs, or other plants in the yard
- Pay for a 1 – 2 hour consultation and plan from a pro. An interior designer or professional stager can give you recommendations room by room to transform your home. You can tackle these projects one by one as time and money allow.
More Expensive Changes
Rather than listing 10 expensive changes you can make after divorce, this section offers a few guidelines to consider if you have the funds to spend on more extensive home improvements.
If you see yourself staying in the marital home for the long-term, you can do a complete home makeover yourself or hire pros to help. Consider hiring a designer to help plan the updates to pull everything together and achieve your desired results. You can make changes from replacing all the furniture and painting or wall papering to updating the kitchen and bathrooms to a complete structural overhaul. Have fun making your home your own.
If you plan to sell your home at some future point (say when the kids are all out of school), it’s well worth working with a designer and perhaps a real estate agent to identify what kinds of updates would pay off and present your home in its best possible light. You can still make changes to personalize your home, and doing so now will allow you to enjoy a newly updated home for the next few years rather than waiting to fix it up before you sell.
One final word: no matter how much you can afford to spend, make sure your home truly is your own. If you owned the home jointly before divorce, make sure your former spouse has signed a quit claim deed and that you have refinanced the home in your own name. You may want to look at funding some home improvement or updates as part of your refinancing.
Now pat yourself on the back and enjoy. You’ve made your home your own.