Making Your New, Sustainable Home on a Budget

Your space is your sanctuary, and you deserve a home that will support you through your life change. This post is sponsored by our friends at Stasher, our founder’s toddler’s favorite snack bag

Leaving a relationship often means leaving the place you called home. The uncertainty of moving out and starting over in a new space may come with as many emotions as leaving your relationship.

Have courage. A change of address can be an opportunity—a chance for a fresh start, a new neighborhood with new people to meet, and in my case, a healing activity. 

When I went through a particularly hard break up years ago, setting up my new home saved me. The home I left was beautiful and spacious, but unsafe. My new home was safe and supportive, but neglected. So I set to work, pouring my broken heart into fixing up a new space worthy of my new life. I covered the walls in bright cheerful colors and ripped away tired old carpet. The activity grounded me and gave me a sense of control through the transition.

Even if you are staying put in your home and it’s your partner who is relocating, a change in decor can do your space good. For example, consider replacing the bed you used to share with your ex or the couch you bought when you first moved in together. Letting go of things can facilitate the emotional separation you need to grow. There is nothing like changing your surroundings to help change your perspective. 

Making a Home on a Budget

Let’s face it, going through a break up isn’t cheap. Moving out and furnishing a new home is an expense you probably didn’t budget for in advance. If you’re having to pay a divorce lawyer or make a new alimony payment on top of it, finding every opportunity to pinch pennies when making your home is key.

My pro tips for making a home on a budget:

  1. Use the Divorcist gift registry. Your friends and family want to help. A gift registry makes it easy to ask for help. And it makes it easy for your friends and family to support you when they want to help.
  2. Buy used. There is a lot of great stuff in our world. With a little hunting, you can find great deals on gently used items that need a good home. The savings are immediate. 
  3. Start simple. Small up front investments in things like energy efficiency and reusable packaging will save you money in the long term. 

Why You Should Make Your New Home Sustainable

Living a sustainable lifestyle is less expensive for you and better for people and the planet. 

What is sustainability? I define sustainability as an ethos and a lifestyle. It is a commitment to supporting the systems and materials that do the least harm. 

Sustainability includes principles like buying locally, fair trade, and union-made products that support the people around you. It also means minimizing your impact on the environment, such as by becoming more energy efficient, buying used items, and reducing toxic waste, like plastic.

I consider sustainability a necessary part of any healing process. Reducing harm to people and the planet also reduces harm to yourself. We live in an age of climate change, water pollution, and wealth disparity, and many things are out of our control. But our actions are within our control. And choosing to do small, sustainable acts every day is an empowering way to contribute to a different vision for our world.

If you’re new to the sustainability lifestyle, it may feel intimidating to change your habits. Consider this post an introduction to some easy ways you can reduce harm through sustainability. With a few new tricks, it becomes quite easy to live a low-impact lifestyle.

How to Furnish a Home with Second-hand Items

Buying used is the most cost effective and sustainable way to furnish a home. It reduces carbon and pollution in our environment and often benefits a local charity.

There are so many treasurers to be hunted at local flea markets, swap meets, and estate sales. Second-hand stores, such as Goodwill, St. Vincent Depaul, and Habitat for Humanity’s Restore, collect and sell donated items—and put their profits towards helping people. Tip: the second-hand stores closest to wealthy neighborhoods tend to have a lot of selection and get their shelves restocked often with the discarded treasures of the well-to-do.

When it comes to buying second-hand, some things make more sense than others. In my book, the best things to buy second hand are traditionally made of wood or metal—such as bed frames, dressers, desks, tables, and chairs. Items with less fabric absorb less stuff from their previous homes and are easier to clean or refresh with a coat of paint in a fun color. Bonus: Furniture made before the 1990s tends to be better made and sturdier than a lot of new stuff you can purchase today.

For items that are made with lots of fabric, such as couches and mattresses, I like to stick to places like Facebook MarketPlace and Craigslist. Local marketplace sites keep money in your community, which is more economically sustainable. Rather than sending your money away to a large corporation, you’re putting your money in the hands of a local neighbor, who will likely spend the cash at an area small business. A lot of people have nice things they are letting go of for any host of reasons.

Rugs, pillows, linens, and towels are things I like to buy new. It’s nice to know that the things that touch my skin or that a child might crawl on are fresh and clean. Bonus: these tend to be smaller ticket items that are great for your Divorcist registry.

Stocking Your Sustainable, Functional Kitchen on a Budget 

Glassware, dish ware, and serving bowls are more great items to find at second-hand stores. Again, they are durable and easy to clean. 

Silverware and cookware, however, are two more things I recommend finding new. I’ve never had good luck finding a quality set of silverware at a second-hand shop—it’s not something people give away often. And I don’t trust cookware that may contain degraded chemicals that could get in my food. So put some new stuff on your Divorcist registry and start planning your first dinner party with friends.

Stocking your shelves with smart, reusable products is a good way to start off a new kitchen.

Some sustainable must-haves: 

These items cost a bit more up-front than their disposable counterparts, but you will make back the investment within the year because you only have to buy them once. 

Any sustainable home needs a thoughtful recycling system. If your city recycles, you’ll need a place to collect clean glass, cardboard, and whatever plastic you are not able to eliminate. Also keep a separate place to collect clean plastic bags that you can take to your local grocery store to recycle. Any clean plastic that stretches, such as bread bags or the film wrap around a frozen pizza, can be recycled at most grocery stores.

Decorating Your Home as Art Therapy

Now that you have your new home furnished and your kitchen stocked with sustainable goods, the finishing touch is to add art. 

A break up is a perfect time to try some art therapy. Sign up for a wine and painting class with a friend to create a beautiful new feature piece with a story for your home. Or go on a walk and pick a few wildflowers to press them in a glass frame. 

Creating and collecting art are more healing activities. The arts contribute to beauty and culture in your area, which supports your community’s collective mental health. Even if you do not consider yourself an artist, your choice to purchase art from local creators helps make careers in the arts sustainable.

You deserve a beautiful, relaxing space that will fill your heart with joy and support your well-being. Check out our blog for more home and lifestyle advice, and sign up for our email list below so you never miss a fresh sustainability tip.


Renee Gasch is a writer and environmental activist.