Simple Home Improvement Projects Anyone Can Do

Photo by Ella’s Dad

We’ve been apartment hunting for the last several weeks, and some places definitely look better than others.

We saw one recently I wasn’t too thrilled about. I told Doug I thought it looked crummy, but then he reminded me it’s exactly how our current apartment looked when we first moved in!

Details do matter, but they can be easy to fix. Here are a few quick projects that can make a big difference in your home.

  1. Scrape windows and mirrors. Use a flat razor blade to scrape off paint over-spray or other stuff stuck to the glass. Then wipe it clean with glass cleaner.
  2. Caulk the baseboards. A gap between the wall and the baseboard draws your eye down and makes you notice scuffs and dust. New caulk makes a home look clean and sealed. (Learn how to caulk, if you haven’t tried it.)
  3. Wash the front door. In just five minutes you can wipe the dust off your front door with a wet rag, so your home will be welcoming when people arrive.
  4. Remove funky carpet odors. Sprinkle baking soda over your carpet and use a broom to sweep it in. Let it sit overnight to absorb lingering odors, and then vacuum it up the next day.
  5. Clean gunk from light switches. Nobody wants to touch a light switch that has dark buildup on it. Use a cotton ball with cleaner or rubbing alcohol to keep it looking good. (If you need to replace them, they are really cheap.)
  6. Brush off buildup from crusty faucets. Get an old toothbrush to clean around the edges of sink faucets.
  7. Touch up the paint. Every few months we go around and paint over the scuffs and toddler wall art. (We got a small container of matching paint by asking the apartment office.)
What other project ideas are simple and effective?
About Rachel

I write about practical tips that will help you simplify at home. Connect with me on Pinterest and Twitter.


  1. I think it always helps to have a plant or two. Usually a nice bright pot plant can brighten a room, and they are not expensive. Alternatively, a fresh bunch of flowers is always welcoming… along with the smell of coffee brewing :)

    angelvalerie´s last blog post..The excitement of something new

  2. I love your carpet odor idea, not something I ever would have thought of but it’s probably very effective.

    maryanne´s last blog post..Wordless Wednesday

  3. One thing that worked well for us is cleaning the window blinds. Take down those dusty, dingy blinds and clean them up in the bathtub. They look sooooo much better!

  4. Clean the blinds. They’re easy to do in the bathtub or wipe them down with a wet rag. Make sure the kitchen looks nice and clean (dishes away, food away…)

    Bonnie´s last blog post..Kids Journals

  5. Sandra Gonzales says:

    Hey, I think you should do a before and after piece as a follow-up. It’s so much clearer with pictures to see how a little elbow grease goes a long way.

    Dingy apartment + Elbow Grease = Ta Daaa! Home sweet home.

  6. My concern with a dingy-looking apartment is that even if it’s a good price for the rent, and even if you can spiff up the details, you may end up paying in the long run by having a landlord who doesn’t care about doing upkeep on the place or who doesn’t care about how some of the tenants act. That was the problem with our last abode, and I’ll be paying more attention to the potential warning signs in the future.

    Sally Parrott Ashbrook´s last blog post..Health, Food Allergy, & Sustainability Tidbits for You

  7. We don’t rent, but the house we bought back in October was built in the 60s and was a one-owner. As you might imagine, they had not done many updates at all–the walls had been painted maybe twice in the life of the house and were all white. As well, the switchplates probably originated with the house. Although switchplates are fairly inexpensive, we decided that we would spraypaint some of the ones that weren’t in bad shape and they now look great! It’s also a good idea to do this if you don’t want the bland beige-colored ones and want to color-coordinate with your walls. We used an off-white to match our baseboards and door facings. Just a thought!

    Leann´s last blog post..Happy Things

  8. I can definitely relate to the dingy apartment living! We lived in apartments for our first 5 years of marriage. Although they were safe and pleasant surroundings they were not the ‘cool’ kind with fancy layouts or nice features. We asked about painting after our walls were starting to look pretty scuffed (cheap flat paint does not hold up well) and they said that if we painted over it with white before we left, it was okay. I found some nice neutral colors which really helped our dark apartment alot. If you plan on living there for years, a few gallons of paint are no big deal.
    I think too many times you think you don’t need to decorate or otherwise treat it like a home if ‘its just an apartment’ but it makes all the difference in the world.

  9. Yes! This is such a good reminder. I would add: take a damp rag or a microfiber cloth & go around wiping dust off the baseboards, windowsills, door frames, etc. It’s one of those things you don’t really notice until it’s done, and then it’s like *wow* that looks so much better!

    I especially like your idea about keeping a little can of paint around & regularly doing touch-ups. I am constantly moving pictures, so I end up with all these little chips & holes in the walls – It would make a big difference to go-at-em with a little spackle & paint!

    Laura´s last blog post..Happy Weekend! {and a recipe}

  10. It’s so true how doing just a few simple things can brighten any place up.

    corinne Britt´s last blog post..Before & After And A Request

  11. I’m always looking for a way to brighten walls, especially around entryways where scrapes happen. Touchups with paint sound good.
    But the best way I’ve found is to hang new curtains. Changes the whole character of a room. And they don’t have to be expensive- my last ones I bought at Bed, Bath, and Beyond for $5.

    Evenshine´s last blog post..Form over function

  12. I’m with Laura. Polishing baseboards and windowsills makes a huge difference. Also, just before company gets here I like to use glass cleaner on handles. For some reason a clean house doesn’t impress like a shiny one does.

    Also, I’ve learned to remember surfaces above my sight. I’m only 5′ so when company comes over sometimes I forget to give the tops of frames and the fridge a quick dusting.

  13. These are such good ideas. Angelvalerie, I’m so glad you mentioned plants, because that’s one I wanted to include but forgot about.

    Sally has a good point, because even though our rent is rather inexpensive, the appliances are inefficient and the heating and cooling don’t work well. We’ll be looking for something a little bit nicer for the next place.

  14. Every couple of weeks, I spend a half an hour going over the house with a microfiber sponge (the amazing sponges of a brand that shall not be named). Dampen it and the darn thing gets out dirt I didn’t know I had…It brightens things up.

    This and CLEAN YOUR CEILING FANS. Ours get gross before I even know it…a wipe down of the blades makes a huge difference.

    Wipe down the inside of light fixtures…many light fixtures look like bowls..and the inside collects all manner of gunk.

    These are my favorite “make it feel clean” tricks.

    Coffeemomma´s last blog post..Sensitive new-age man

  15. Francis — We treat our apartment like “just an apartment,” and it really does make a difference in how we feel about it. We also asked about painting, and our landlord hemmed and hawed and gave us so many requirements that we decided against it.

    One thing I’ve found is a quick fix is to get matching picture frames. All one color ties in everything nicely. I’ve painted over a bunch of frames to make them all black, and it makes everything feel coordinated.

  16. I’m in the same boat as LeAnn. My house was built in the early 60’s. The kitchen and one bath was updated. But, in my girls bathroom they have the green sink and bathtub.

    As a rule I hate having to fix up something I won’t own. After all it money you won’t get back.

    SoBella Creations´s last blog post..Cupcake Extravaganza

  17. You make such a lovely case for apartment living. We too are renting (we just moved to Seattle and will continue to rent). I struggle with making our house a home knowing we won’t be here for a long time. I know you’ve written about it before and I would love to read more about how you make your apartment a home.

    Also, with our first child who is very much like your daughter we were able to live in a high rise apartment quite comfortably. Our second child, a rambunctious boy would make that impossible. I’m wondering if you are considering this in your search for a new apartment.

    Nina´s last blog post..Our Nature Table

  18. Nina, we have been considering that. Actually I’ll share more about it once we sign the new lease and everything is final (maybe next week, I hope).

    The comments and suggestions about how to make a temporary place feel like home are really inspiring to me, and giving me ideas about future posts.

  19. Smart idea to ask your landlord for matching paint. I’m sure they appreciate that you want to help things in good order.

    All the other hints are great, too. For sticky stuff on the windows, I’ve noticed that nailpolish remover can be a big help, too. Although it can be a little more intense in smell (e..g, yielding headaches), so next time I’ll give the glass cleaner a try.

    Jules @ Lovely Las Vegas´s last blog post..Romantic Las Vegas Recommendations

  20. If the landlord allows, I have had great success with using the Rustoleum tub and tile refinish product. If you follow the directions it will last a long time and totally change the look of your bathroom. Never tried it on a toilet but I don’t know why it wouldn’t work, at least on the outside….just keep the lid down!

    Katchmo´s last blog post..How did I get in this mess?

  21. Annie Pazoo says:

    All excellent suggestions. Thank you!

  22. I think one of the things that makes a big difference is to keep it simple and not have a lot of clutter. Some pretty pillows and a soft throw blanket, a plant or a candle or two, a few good books and your eye is drawn to the homey atmosphere.

    momstheword´s last blog post..WHEN IN DOUBT, GO TO COSTO

  23. Put foam gaskets between the switchplates and the wall to reduce the unheated/uncooled air that leaks through those things and runs up your utitlity bills. I’ve done as a renter or homeowner. Easy and it pays off in lower bills.

  24. Great tips, a lot of these are very easy things to do. I would add, to constantly stay appraised on all your appliances and small household items. If there is a minor repair needed to it quickly by yourself before it becomes a major and expensive problem.

  25. Thanks for this help, these all seem like easy and manageable projects that almost any homeowner can do.

  26. You right these are simple tips that anyone can do. Additionally, these are relatively inexpensive improvements that can be done in a weekend and don’t cause for too many headaches.