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Reeeally Cheap Decorating Ideas
by Kate Kemp

Anne didn't consider just how empty her new apartment would look without furniture. Sure, she had a bed and a couple of couches... but where could she put her trinkets? She'd budgeted everything out - from rent, to car payments, to grocery bills, to gas money... but furniture? Where would she find the money? There wasn't anything left over for decorating.

Her solution?

Boxes. Boxes = places to put stuff. After unpacking everything, she had plenty of those. So out came all the candles, sculptures, and figurines. Sure it was a temporary solution, but at least her apartment didn't look so empty. Plus, she was getting the most use out of the boxes before throwing them away... a fact that made Anne AKA "Ms. Environmentalist Saving The World '99" very happy.

So I can tell you're thinking: "Boxes. Yeay. How...brown." I know that looking at bland boxes is not all that aesthetically pleasing... even if it is temporary. Anne's solution? She called some friends over for a box decorating party, and everyone had a blast. If you have friends that aren't afraid to be goofy, it really is a fun solution.

Sound appealing? Then here's what you should do. Invite your friends over and tell them to bring as many old magazines they can find. If no one has any, check with libraries. Sometimes they have magazine sales, and most are usually under a dollar. Also, check the book resale stores in your area.

Now if you're REALLY broke, have your friends also bring scissors or exacto knives and rubber cement. Otherwise, make sure that for every person you invite, you have a cutting utensil (check to see who's left handed), a small bottle of rubber cement and a box to decorate. You don't have to have individual supplies for every guest, it just makes it easier if you invite over 3 people. This way, no one has to wait for supplies, so there's more time to get creative.

Now for the fun part. Get everyone to completely cover the boxes with magazine pictures. You'll be amazed how different people choose to decorate. Each box will reflect your friends' personalities.

Make sure when you are looking through the magazines you stay open minded. Don't restrict yourself to cutting out fashion models (unless you want to.) Look for patterns, colors, and textures within pictures. Also, you don't need to use scissors all the time. You might want to rip out pictures for a different look/texture.

If you want to get all sentimental, you can have each friend create a collage that represents a special event between the two of you. Or, you could keep things simple and go with a color theme. Maybe one box could be covered with all blue pictures, one with all green and one all black and white. It doesn't matter. Your desire for creativity is the only thing that could possibly limit your ideas.

Sound too complicated? It really isn't. But if you need another option, consider covering the boxes with material. You can always find crazy prints and textured materials on the bargain/scrap tables at fabric stores.

If you've finished decorating the larger boxes, and still have leftover smaller ones, don't throw them away! You can still use them. How? Well, just think of how much more closet space you would have if you stored your out of season clothes in these small boxes. Then, you can hide these boxes inside of the larger, prettier ones.

As I've discovered, boxes are great. However, they aren't indestructible. If they're not reinforced, they will start to cave in. In order to try to delay this inevitable misfortune, crunch up the leftover magazine scraps/pages or gather old newspapers and stuff the box until there's no more room to stuff. Then tape the box shut on the bottom. That way, you have little or no trash left over and a sturdier surface to hold your junk.

Another way to get the collage boxes to last longer is to cover the entire surface with clear contact paper. That way, condensation won't warp the pictures, and they're less likely to be accidentally ripped off of the box.

If you are still feeling arty after the party, you can get that exacto knife working and start making some picture frames out of any boxes you didn't use for make-shift tables. Don't discard ripped boxes until you've examined them first. Maybe only one side of the box is ripped and the rest are fine. You can decorate the picture frames just like the boxes, or you can glue dried flowers, plants, or other materials on top of them for a different look.

When you're done with it all, you are still setting your things on boxes, and storing things inside them, but they're no longer unappealing to the eye. So it's not exactly Martha Stewart, but who cares? You will have gotten the maximum use out of supplies rather than just throwing them away, and each completed box will be a constant reminder of how much fun you and your friends had together at the party. You might even decide you like the boxes better than real furniture. Anne did.