I hadn’t planned to write about this today. I hadn’t planned to write about this ever. In fact, when Alex first approached me to see if I would be interested in writing a post for her new website – the brief I’d initially been given was something completely different to what I’m actually writing about now. Decorating tips for renters she’d asked for and at the time of the request, I was more than happy to oblige. (Alright, maybe ‘completely different’ is a slight exaggeration as this discussion is still very much on topic. I have a tendency to pile on the dramatics. The British in me wants to apologise for that in advance).
As long as there will be landlords ready to knock £50 from your deposit for hanging a picture on a wall, there will always be a need for rental decorating posts telling you not to hammer holes into your wall. One can’t exist without the other…Trust me. I wrote an entire book about it.
However, the moment my fingers touched the keyboard, I found my mind straying to something else. To something I had shared recently on my #howirent page – on a whim I might add (it’s important to note that part because I can’t remember the last time I shared anything online on a whim).
The post was titled ‘stop questioning our (renters) design choices’ accompanied by a ‘passionately written’ caption I probably could have given more thought into (grammatically speaking), but ahem like I said…whim. I have to think back to what had prompted me to write that post because that’s what I want to expand on today (you’ll have to bear with me though, my thought processes usually require a great deal of deciphering on the best of days).
Also, now might be a good time to slide in a little disclaimer: although I do sometimes use pronouns like us, and we, these opinions are all my own. I don’t speak for all renters, but if you are a renter and read this, I’m hoping you might relate to some of what I say here today.
A few weeks ago I shared a ‘part reveal’ of my rented kitchen update on my blog. Whilst the general feedback had been positive, there was one comment that wasn’t… positive, I mean (and of course, that was the one that stuck with me. It’s always the way right?). Now I won’t go into details and c’mon let’s face it, the moment you put the words decorate and renting in the same sentence, you are asking for people to begin questioning why and whether you can or should be doing it but it’s still an intrusion of privacy albeit labelled as ‘genuine curiosity’. You might as well walk around with a paper stuck to your face that reads ‘I rent, so personal questions about my finances, my landlord, and my future aspirations are fair game.’
You see, I was only telling you half the truth when I shared why in the past I had been reluctant to tell people that I rented. Yes, a slight embarrassment, as I’ve explained many times before did have something to do it with it. The idea that people would look down on me because I hadn’t fulfilled society’s expectation by buying a house, which is really interesting when I delve into that a little deeper. I grew up in a rented home both in the UK and when I lived abroad. Renting was the norm, and my friends from our various expat communities rented too. It wasn’t until I came back to the UK, got married, started employment (after a few years at university) and noticed that all my friends and colleagues my age were buying houses, did I think ‘oh wait … shouldn’t I be doing that too?’ Quickly followed by, ‘oh shoot, I can’t. My account is permanently in overdraft.’
Oh I know none of us like to admit it, but we are all influenced in some way by the circles we choose to be in. My social group at the time, consisted of homeowners, and so it was natural that I wanted to be one too.
I’m digressing a little now (I did warn you about my tangled thought process).
Back to the point. The biggest reason why I never told people that I rented was because I just could not handle the barrage of questions that usually followed when they saw my home. From homeowners mainly (and sometimes even other renters).
The questions are usually always the same, regardless of who is asking. Which makes me sometimes wonder if there isn’t an ‘ASK THE RENTER’ script out there in the world that I’m not privy to.
‘How does your landlord feel about you decorating?’ (who knows? Never met the guy…)
‘Are you allowed?’ (Good question.)
‘Don’t you think you are wasting money buying stuff for the house, when you could be saving for a deposit?’ (You’re right. That’s another 20 plus years eating on the floor then ey?)
‘But it’s not your home…’ (Yes I know. That’s why I pay rent)
‘What if your landlord decides to sell it now?’ (You’ve just kicked my anxiety up a notch, thanks for that)
Sometimes I’m happy to answer (minus the sarcasm) and other times, I’m not. Sometimes I find the sudden interest into my landlord’s emotional wellbeing hilarious, and sometimes it makes me want to roll my eyes right back into my sockets. It just depends on what mood you catch me in.
It’s only really on those days where I find myself feeling more than a little over-sensitive, and hence hugely justifying my decision to paint one of my living room walls, do I think to myself, maybe these kinds of questions aren’t that harmless after all.
In a way, they continue that age-old narrative that
- renting is only temporary
- renters must always do things on a budget because they should be saving
- renters shouldn’t decorate a home that isn’t their own
- all renters want to buy a house
- renters never ask for permission from their landlords
But what do I say to those people who ask me why I decorate a house that isn’t mine, You ask?
I say, mind your own business.
MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS.
Alright, that’s a lie …
Instead, I smile sweetly ‘Life’s too short to hate the house you live in.’
Great post on decorating a rented property. While I’m living in the house it is my HOME. I want to be as happy and comfortable in it as anyone else would expect to be in their home. I have no idea how long I’ll live here but I’m going to enjoy it.
Bethan W says
What a negative, unhelpful post. Or should I say rant. And how discourteous. This post is structured around ONE negative comment on your own blog (amongst what you admit are many positives) – and yet you choose someone else’s blog to discharge your venom on. Could you not have addressed the above diatribe, in the place it originated, to that ONE person? Because that’s the only person who deserves it. Telling Alex’s readers to mind their own business, when they’ve done nothing but read your post, is rude. Not just to the readers but to Alex herself, because it assumes her blog attracts the sort of people who are going to pile into you with invasive judgmental comments. It’s like a random person walking up to you in the street and yelling “it’s none of your business why I decorate my rental property”.
And by the way, if you can’t handle the occasional criticism, justified or not, you don’t belong on social media. Read it, respond (if you like), walk away, forget it.
I doubt if this comment will be published but I hope it is at least read, and taken into consideration when commissioning future posts. I think it’s a shame this post was published on what is otherwise a positive, helpful and interesting blog.
Alexandra Stedman says
I actually disagree, it’s based on comments constantly being asked which can beat you down as a renter (I think I even asked these questions myself, and had never though how discourteous I was being until I read this – so I have learnt a big lesson!), the blog comment was just one specific example. This post is by no means accusing The Frugality’s readers, it’s putting thoughts cohesively into a piece, like a lot of online journalism – and as you can see no one else in the comments took offence, I am proud to have published this piece but can understand if you no longer choose to read the content we provide, Alex x
I’ve just found this post and I’m going through this exact thing at the moment – decorating a rental property and being questioned by some friends. I couldn’t quite articulate why I found it so rude until I read this. So thank you for commissioning it back in 2019.
Alexandra Stedman says
So glad it resonated! As soon as Medina wrote it, I knew it was spot on! x
Obdulia Vicente García says
Wow! Such a strong message! I feel sooo awful because I made one of those questions as well. I feel stupid now. Never with bad intentions but from all my admiration. I was renting in the UK for years and I was petrified when a glass broke that I was a bit jelous that renters could have such cool landlords or agencies.. Either of them! So, this time I am renting in France and taking these as an example and making my rented flat to look more like my home. Sorry again. And happy new year!
I love this, thank you. I rent and have been in the same house for 14 years. We have done loads to the house, I love it, it is my home. Like you I did t grow up with home ownership and find the preoccupation with it did and yet I feel the societal pressure. My response to the renter questions varies depending on my mood and I wish I could say it was always with me feeling secure in my choices. But my home is my home even if it belongs to someone else. X
Thanks so much for giving me this platform to talk about these things Alex ☺️
Alexandra Stedman says
You’re so welcome – just going through all the lovely comments now! Thanks for writing this! xx
We have decorated our rented home many times and we have filled the garden with plants. We’ve also had the same questions asked of us. But while we’re here (16 years so far) I always reply, because it’s our home , why wouldn’t we ?
What an absolutely amazing piece of writing. My parents in law rented all their lives and had a damp home with threadbare carpets. They could never be persuaded to spend any money on their home as it “wasn’t theirs” They wouldn’t allow us to decorate or to make their lives more pleasant or comfortable. They spent 60 years like this. I only wish they could have read this. What a beautiful stylish home you have too.
Alexandra Stedman says
Oh yes this is so spot on! xx
😃😃😃 , here in France too, most are in this mood of passing over 30 years old and if you are married : why not buying … !!!???
Sam Campbell says
Dear Medina. I haven’t read your work before – I will go on to now – but having seen this post, I wanted to drop you a note to say hello. I’m a landlord and I’m so refreshed and excited by your approach and by what you’re saying. I’m not a “professional” landlord, but we have invested in two flats as a pension of sorts for later in life. We manage them ourselves; we want people to love them as their homes – holes and all – and you would be a dream tenant. We are very lucky and we do have lovely tenants, but taking pride in your home and making it a lovely place to come back to is the same regardless of how you “own” it. A few holes in the wall is neither here nor there in the context of someone who’s going to live in and look after it so beautifully. So lovely to start the New Year meeting you. I shall also be stealing/soaking up your design tips. Thank you. Happy renting and happy 2020! Sam
Alexandra Stedman says
Oh this is so lovely to read – will pass on your feedback! And what a refreshing landlord you are! xx
Kate W says
As a fellow renter, I love this! And I think it’s totally relevant to ‘The Frugality’ because of course, a lot of us who are interested in frugal living are those of us who can’t afford to buy a house. I totally feel that frustration when you spend money on your home (or anything) with that guilt and shame that maybe you should be saving that up for a deposit, and a lot of people heaping on the criticism are hypocrites on some level (‘helped out’ by parents, usually). I also try to live and spend as sensibly as possible but accept I’ll probably never be able to own my own home, even with making some serious compromises such as moving from my home town and further from work. I literally cannot afford it. So why not enjoy where you live? Bravo to Medina to showing how to do so stylishly and having the brass balls to shout about it. Thankyou for this! X
Such a timely article as we just moved in to our rental two weeks ago! So relatable and yes, my mother wonders why we are spending money decorating our rented house. Its because its my home! I want to be happy and proud even if it’s a temporary home. ☺️
This is a really interesting article to read as I too am a landlord with just one property. I also agree you would be a dream tenant. I’ve been reluctant for tenants to decorate in the past due to bad experiences. Before several new tenants moved in I’ve painted & bought new carpets only for that tenant to paper the walls, ruin the carpet & then move out 12 months later. The property was so uncared for & the paper is so out there that it would put any potential new tenants off. This has then resulted in more money been spent on painting again. This has happened several times. But I’ve got lucky with my last tenant she did decorate the property & when I’ve called round to check everything was okay I nearly cried at the love & time she’d put into making the property her own. This is the perfect tenant. As a landlord once you find one you don’t want them to leave.
Donna Taylor says
It’s taken me 6(ish) weeks to find this post and as a renter of 10 years having once been on the mortgage wheel I understand completely the “guilt” heaped on a person because they don’t own their home. My husband was brought up in a council property and I was brought up in a mobile home – my parents owned the home but paid rent on the land……but we are both products of Margaret Thatchers era when everyone was encouraged to buy…hence why there is a shortage of council houses now. We have been in our home 10 years renting due to the last financial crisis….and I am only just now beginning to feel I can and should make it mine even tho I don’t own the bricks. Plans are underway, paint has hit the walls and not magnolia this time. But I still have moments of should I do that? Is it worth it? Should I paint my woodwork dark instead of bog standard white. The future is never set, I’m going to have fun with my home until such times I have to move to the next one.
Alexandra Stedman says
I compleely hear that – nothing is permanent really, for anyone, so it’s so important to live in and love your home xxx
Louise Scott says
I don’t understand the intrusive judgement & preoccupation some people have with the fact that people are a)renting their homes & b)decorating their rented home.
I grew up in rented accommodation and my mother used to decorate all of our bedrooms & living room every summer. My mother lived in the same property for 35 years until she passed away.
I now own my property and I think homeownership is over rated. I’m responsible for all maintenance and repair’s. I’ve just had to replace the roof and I’ll probably need to replace the boiler & radiators within the next 2-3 years. Finding reliable & affordable tradespeople is quite stressful and I worry about if I’ll be able to afford the cost of property maintenance when I retire (I’ve got another 30yrs to go but it’s something I think about). I miss the years of renting – only worrying about changing the colours of the walls, buying new throws and curtains. I miss the days of saving every last £££ to go on holidays to the carribbean instead of worrying about saving up for maintenance.