My roommates and I are finally free of the dorms. We all loved college, but we really didn’t like being limited to a tiny dorm room without much room to decorate. We’re still a little limited, though. We’re renting, so we can’t repaint the walls or do any renovating. Still, I really want our place to look a little more “adult,” and my roommates agree.

It’s not too adult right now. I don’t mind that we have potato chips and vodka in the house, but I wish they weren’t clearly visible on the cheap plastic shelving we have in the kitchen. I wish our bathroom wasn’t overflowing with all the shampoo and conditioner bottles. I wish our furniture looked a little nicer, and that our wall decor wasn’t just cheap posters from the school poster sale. I hate the color of the walls in the kitchen. But I don’t know how much I can do about any of this. Where do I start?

Living off-campus is a lot of fun, and college is a great time to learn — not just about the world and your future career, but about yourself too. You’re clearly learning that you (and your roommates) are passionate about living in a beautiful space.

That’s a good thing, because beautiful, soothing, and functional spaces are good for our mental health, our sleep, and our productivity. But you’re a renter. Your space is temporary, and your right to change it is limited. So what can you do?

In fact, you can do quite a bit. For starters, you can ask your landlord about your options. Maybe they’ve thought about repainting the kitchen anyway, and would be thrilled to learn that you and your roommates wouldn’t mind the inconvenience. Or maybe you’ll get permission to put up a faux-tile (or real tile) backsplash, which is easy to do.

Even if your landlord won’t rubber-stamp big, permanent changes, you have options in the form of temporary decor. Removable wallpaper, large fabric hangings, and other temporary changes can change the look and feel of your space. Check out the many decorating tips for renters that you’ll find online to get some ideas.

It seems like you have some other problems are well within your power to tackle as a renter. Things like the kitchen shelving, booze, and furniture are not things that your landlord has any control over. But you can make changes here as you see fit.

Start by looking for affordable ways to organize your space a little better. Perhaps bins or drawers can hide your food — or, if you must keep the open shelving, you could try swapping the unsightly items with cookware and other items that are in closed cabinets and drawers now. Maybe your pots and pans will be easier on the eyes than the food.

You can also make your displays look a bit more intentional. A big bottle of vodka may not feel “adult,” but what if you got a cheap bar cart and stashed different sorts of liquor in there? Or what if you added a wine rack and set various liquor bottles next to it? The modern wine scene is full of very affordable wines, according to one experienced wine distributor. That would make outfitting a wine rack or bar cart pretty affordable and could give your party headquarters a classier vibe.

You asked where to start, but that’s not a question anyone else can answer. Your best bet is to target the changes that will make the biggest difference to you, and only you will know which ones those are. But you can read blogs, magazines, and books for home design inspiration. Think about what the home you’d love most would look like. What are the biggest differences between that home and where you live now? What factors would change the overall feel of your space the most to you? Answer that, and you’ll know where to start.

Author's Bio: 

A freelance writer with a BA in English from Sarah Lawrence College.