little improvements in a rental: how much is too much?

Since moving into my current rental - a small but pretty one bedroom in Montreal - I've made endless "small renovations". I replaced the pathetic old shower head, cut a custom mirror for my awkwardly-sized medicine cabinet, and switched out almost all of the overhead lights. Last year, when I was repainting the whole place for the second time, a friend of mine sarcastically asked "you own this place right?" 

The implication, of course, was that I spend way too much on it for something that isn't mine. 

To be honest, he may be right. I'm constantly thinking about how to make my home better and more liveable, but if these things aren't transportable to my next place, or just won't work in it, then it's money down the drain, right? 

In reality, these types of thoughts have always nagged at me, and there are certain improvements I've chosen to hold off on because of them, telling myself that I simply can't justify the expense. At the top of that list? Replacing my kitchen cabinet handles. I hated them (to put it lightly), but they worked, and spending the money to replace them when my next rental could have decent ones felt irresponsible. 

For your reference, the handles the previous tenants had installed looked like this:

Yep, those are knives and forks. Knives and forks, folks. Because apparently I needed reminding that I was in the kitchen. Needless to say they didn't go with anything else I'd put in the room, and I grumbled to myself every time I opened the drawer to grab a real knife or fork. 

Well, a couple of weeks ago I came across some decent replacements on ebay that cost only $1.69 each. Almost as importantly, they fit the existing screw holes, meaning no time consuming and costly hole filling and door refinishing. 

So I caved. 

I'm so glad I did. For the cost of a dinner out with friends, I took my handles from country kitsch to classic:

They may not be brass perfection, but for the cost the payoff is huge. Stepping back after putting the last one up, I immediately regretted not doing it sooner. I've lived here for two years, and yet I left those old handles up, abiding by a rule that, quite frankly, isn't mine. I care about my home more than I do a lot of things. The aesthetics of my surroundings matter to me, and making these improvements make me happy. How do you calculate the worth of that? 

This weekend I decided that you can't. I went out and bought a new toilet seat to replace the disgusting cushioned (ugh), and ripped (double ugh) one that was there when I moved in, and my dad came over and cut custom shelves for my bedroom closet.  It was another 100$ out of my pocket, but it's a more comfortable environment in which I spend so much of my time. 

I've decided that for me, it's worth it.

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  1. That is worth it. It is minor and you can switch them back out when you leave. I battle the exact same situation on a daily basis. Anyone who did not know, would think we owned our house. Wallpapering, painting, new light fixtures. But do not worry, all of our improvements will come with us :)

    1. Wallpapering! You're bolder than me. My insane desire to wallpaper is the only reason I ever get tempted to buy (not actually financially worth it given my current rent). Do you plan on being there a long time?

  2. OMG those fork and knive handles. REALLY?! I definitely think some things are worth it. I too, am in a rental and struggle with the same thing, but when it comes down to it I'd rather be in a place that feels like "home".

    1. I totally agree, but there's always that line I can't bring myself to cross. I guess I'm just deciding it's further than I thought!

  3. My husband would say the same thing to me when I would bring up yet another DIY project for our rental in Chicago. In the end, I definitely spent money on things that won't probably work for our next place but they were completely worth it at the time to save my sanity by having an organized, pretty, functional home.

  4. It was smart to change the pulls and worth the money not think of them every time you go in a cupboard. When I was younger in rentals I always painted and did what I could to make it feel mine. I'd buy furniture, curtains, even if everything was from flea markets, DIY or Ikea. When you love interiors you pride your home to be an extension of you.


Your comments make me borderline giddy! Thanks so much for taking the time!