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BeforeandAfterDecoratingPost-holiday cleanup is an ideal starting point for spring cleaning and home improvement projects. But if the sagging economy isn’t inspiring costly updates, you can still create a new look, add pizzazz, or a make decorative statement on even the tiniest budget. Just add your own creativity to these helpful low-cost decorating tips from a few innovative decorators.

Here are some great ways to make the most of shoestring-budget decorating projects.  If you’re stuck for ideas on how to make low-cost, high impact changes to your home, check out my list of must-see shows; Design Cents, FreeStyle, Mission Organization, and Design on a Dime on HGTV, and Sell This House on A&E.

Some are older series, but you can still find them online and they offer great, small-budget projects ideas — compared to the full-house renovations that seem to be taking over these channels lately. They’re still my go-tos for loads of inspiration and creative solutions that cost little to nothing. If you can’t find the shows, here are a few HGTV books to inspire.

Looking for No-Cost Decorating Ideas? Start at Home…

Design Tip Number 1: Shop… At Home

When was the last time you rearranged your furniture? Now go one step further. Have you swapped major pieces or decorative accents between rooms lately? Try shopping your own home to create a fresh look at no cost – it’s easy and as budget-friendly as it gets.

Swapping out decorative pillows, artwork, rugs, or a few accent pieces between rooms is a simple job; and rearranging larger pieces such as chairs, shelves and wall units within – and between – rooms can create a whole new feel. And don’t forget to scour closets and storage areas for useful finds. Need inspiration? Watch a few episodes of FreeStyle and Design Cents on HGTV for scads of no-cost room redo ideas.

Design Tip Number 2: De-Clutter Your Way to Style

Often, the basics in a room are fine but any sense of style is lost in the clutter. Culprits include too many accessories clustered on tabletops, accent furniture-lined walls, and stacks of magazines, books, DVD’s, toys, games, and such. In these cases, a good clean-out can feel like a room makeover for free.

To de-clutter, grab some moving boxes and mark them: Keep, Trash, Donate, Another Room, and Store. Begin sorting, working around the room until the floor, table and shelf surfaces are clear. Then look at your furniture with a critical eye. Remove fussy fill-in pieces that serve no decorative or useful purpose. Keep pieces that you like, especially those that can be used for storage.

Once you know what you want to keep in the room, begin putting it back together. Don’t be afraid to move furniture or pictures, and remember Tip no. 1 – you just might find the perfect accent for this room in another. To see no-cost clutter clearing solutions in action, watch a few episodes of Mission Organization on HGTV.

In Decorating, a Little Can Go a Long Way…

Design Tip Number 3: Paint Your Way to High-Impact, Low-Cost Style

Decorators differ on many things, but virtually all agree that a coat of paint is the fastest way to perk up lackluster style on a tight budget. A fresh coat of paint is just that – fresh. It covers smudges and wear to bring a sense of clean and new to a room. Updating walls takes just a few gallons of paint, and clever uses of color can tie a look together more effectively than hundreds spent on new furnishings.

If you like your existing wall color but still want something new, try painting one accent wall or sponge an accent color right over the existing paint on a wall or two. Check the “oops” bin at the paint store for great deals on accent wall paint – you might find the perfect color for just a few dollars.

In just a day’s work, painting a room or a few accent walls can wash away decades of drab, usually for less than $50. Need ideas? The designers on A&E’s Sell This House are masters of turning rooms around with a bit of paint.

Design Tip Number 4: When in Doubt, Light it Up

Give an instant makeover to dark or dreary-feeling rooms with new or repurposed lighting. Regardless of color scheme and furnishings, most any room can be invitingly styled with proper lighting using a few tips from the pros.

In large bedroom and living areas, forego stark overhead lights that cast hard shadows and make rooms feel cramped and small. Instead place table, floor and small accent lamps in appropriate places to create a comfortable wash of soft light. You’ll find stylish yet inexpensive lamps in most home and department stores and even consignment shops – or shop your other rooms and storage nooks for no-cost finds.

Lighting curio cabinets, bookshelves and display cabinets combats shadows while highlighting interesting pieces and collections. Installing inexpensive under-cabinet accent lights and strip lighting couldn’t be easier with sleek new battery-operated and plug-in styles. These lights are ideal for lighting kitchen workspaces, too. See the many ways inexpensive lighting can be used as a decorative tool on Sell This House.

I hope some of these ideas help light that spark of inspiration (while keeping the wallet closed) for your upcoming home decorating projects. I’ll be working on our guest/room office this weekend – starting with the “De-Clutter” tip, then moving on to the “Shop At Home” tip. Happily, I painted just before the school year began — one task down.