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Creating a Home When You're Always Moving

Photograph by Getty Images

New homes, new cities, new neighbors, and a constant stream of movers coming in and out make it difficult to set up your house, much less make it a home. Sometimes just getting the boxes unpacked and sorted is trying enough, especially when you move for just a few months before packing everything up again.

Instead of giving up and pushing furniture in and out—or worse, spending time and money refiguring your entire home to “complement” each new space—stick to a few basic tips and quickly create a home that is comfortable, cozy and a sanctuary from the hectic military lifestyle.

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1. Invest in Quality Basics

After moving more than five times in the last three years, I’ve narrowed down the furniture I love and have invested in pieces and upkeep of quality chairs, couches and bed frames—things that I can have for years and are not trend-based design. More often than not, this means going a bit more traditional, or at least contemporary traditional.

Finding furniture that fits your style in your budget is tough, but instead of scouring Craigslist for the easiest, fastest replacement, hold out until you find a piece of furniture that fits and that you see yourself keeping for a few years to come. In the long run, it is more budget friendly to save for a single piece than continuously add and change your collection of big items.

2. Avoid Layout-Specific Furniture

I dream of having a sectional with a long chaise and corner seats—but it just isn’t realistic to invest in a large, layout specific couch until we are in a more permanent living situation. Instead, I created the illusion and feeling of a chaise with a pouf near the couch as a footrest. It’s a $50 alternative that leaves your furniture more versatile. Sometimes those big pieces like bookcases and dining tables are a necessary addition, but they arrive and don’t fit in your new place. Instead of selling them for cheap or dumping them, think about the value and how much you love the piece. It may be worth putting in a small storage unit until you move and have a different space to navigate. It is a small price to pay if the piece of furniture is a family heirloom or a unique find and you envision using it for years to come. Just don’t forget it when you move!

3. Look for Budget-Friendly Accessories

By investing in quality basics, you have the opportunity to spend money on adding accessories like lamps, art and other décor to suit your taste and the needs of your home. We just moved into a house with almost no light—small windows and weak ceiling lighting—and a few trips to World Market, Home Goods and Target gave us extra lighting, style-friendly finds and kept me in budget. I can’t say that we will always need these lamps, but as I spent less than $100 on all three, I’m not going to complain.

Instead of just giving up and living with white walls, I love finding and creating inexpensive art to give life to a space.

Art and wall décor are some of the hardest things for me to decide on in each home. The wall space in each room is different, and sometimes the placement of a window or doorframe can impact a room’s previous décor styles. Instead of just giving up and living with white walls, I love finding and creating inexpensive art to give life to a space. Art.com, 20x200 and even online sales like Gilt and One Kings Lane have fun finds for any budget. Michaels, Target and Ikea have great deals on frames and mats to complete the look.

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4. Make It Yours, and Invest in a Tool Kit

Anyone can go to Ikea and buy an entire living room, or even house, but is that really your style? Love vintage china or milk glass? Showcase your collection. Have an affinity for mid-century design? Thrift stores and vintage shops often have great deals on furniture, as it is hard to move quickly. Sometimes all you need to create the perfect piece is lumber and a tool kit. Don’t hesitate to get your hands dirty with a DIY project, especially a low-cost one. It may be designed for your now-home, but could end up working for future homes as well.

I’ve created a Pinterest board that has tips, resources and finds that I have used to set up house move after move.

Leave your favorite tips in the comments below!

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