The master bedroom in our home looks very much like, well, a cluttered college dorm room. The shoes are all in a shoe cupboard, dresses and suits hang nicely in the closet and daily clothes like jeans and t-shirts sit neatly in the armoire. But that’s where the tidiness ends.

Five Things You Can do to Make Your Bedroom a Retreat

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Our always-full clothes hamper is unsightly and sits in the corner of the room. The bed looks messy and not welcoming because I usually don’t make it until after dinner, which is ridiculous, I know.

Clothes we’ve worn only once lay on the floor in hopes for a final resting place either in the hamper or back into the closet. Toys line the walls. Towels are on the floor from this morning’s showers.

Books and magazines litter the floor next to the bed — perhaps I’ll be able to read them later. Much, much later. The bedroom is not inviting and I don’t spend a lot of time in this room.

I’d rather read a book on the sofa in the living room, or better yet, the kids’ room. After a few years of living like this, the husband and I decided enough was enough. We wanted our bedroom to be a retreat, a safe haven for us, especially when our day wasn’t going so well. We wanted a place to relax, not a place to cringe at.

So in the next few weeks we will be doing the following to spruce up our dreary bedroom:

Paint

— Our walls are currently painted in Swiss Coffee, a terribly boring off-white color that reminds me of depressing hospital rooms. The worst part is that we didn’t even paint the room very well before we moved in.

We were so convinced we were going to put bamboo or seagrass panels on the walls (like what we had in the rest of the house). Obviously, this did not happen. So every time I walk into our room, I’m welcomed with the heinous deep red hue (the previous owner’s choice, not ours) that peeks out behind the Swiss Coffee. Not particularly attractive.

Painting a room is one of the most inexpensive ways to transform it. There’s a mind-numbing array of colors out there and it’s easy to get lost with all the choices. Who knew there were hundreds of different shades of green? Instead of standing in front of the paint section holding a gallon each of Ralph Lauren’s Mediterranean Blue, Bali Turquoise, Aegean Blue and Baltic Blue, take a little time to do some research.

Flip through some home and interior design magazines like Domino, Architectural Digest and Elle Decor and earmark or tear out the pages of rooms that you like, rooms that make you smile or take your breath away. Focus on the color(s) on the walls and how they relate to the other furniture in the room. Then take a look at all the pages you marked and find similarities. Do the rooms you marked lean towards neutral, calming colors or do you prefer pops of color that animate the room? Colors have everything to do with emotions; find one that truly registers with you.

Lighting

— Our current house was built in the 1960′s. The only source of lighting in each room before we moved in were these lights that emanated from the closet, above the closet door frames. It lit the room, but only dimly. This light created a lackluster ambiance and drove me crazy. We headed over to the World Market (also known as Cost Plus Imports in some regions) on a mission to find inexpensive lighting.

Since our home has a Polynesian, Tiki theme, we wanted lighting that complimented the organic style that flowed throughout out house. We found a pair of capiz shell pendant lights that were perfect (pictured above).

The sunlight that comes into our bedroom reflects off the shells and creates stunning shadows. If you have a fan light over your bed, swap it out for something more romantic and contemporary; fan lights tend to be uninspiring. Pendant lights come in all shapes and sizes and can be very affordable. If your budget allows, look for an intimate chandelier that will show off your bedroom’s new colors.

Art & Photos

— The walls in our bedroom are bare and unimaginative, but that’ll soon change. After we paint the walls, we are going to put up some art and pictures.

Look for art that reflects your personal style and taste. Ikea and Target have a great selection of affordable art pieces. Buy a poster or two and frame them — AllPoster.com has a dizzying selection of posters.

Go through your photo albums, or if you’re like me, go through your boxes and envelopes of photos. Choose photos of you and your family or events that are special to you. Black and white photos are always intimate and stunning.

If you don’t have any photos that are in black and white, scan photos onto your computer and use Google’s Picassa software (free) to manipulate your photo and use the black and white effect. Simple! Create collages of favorite pictures and put them into frames, or enlarge photos to 8×10″ or larger, frame them, and create dazzling wall art. You can find affordable framing options at Michael’s. Pottery Barn also has a beautiful selection of frames, though they’re more expensive (pictured above).

Furniture

— Our bedroom is minimalist, but this was not intentional. The only pieces of furniture in our room are a dark wood armoire we purchased from Pier 1 Imports last year and our bed. Unfortunately, furniture can be expensive.

Instead of buying big, elaborate items that will add bulk to your bedroom, keep it simple — add just one or two pieces, like a couple of bedside tables. Since we don’t have any, all my books, magazines, and notes clutter our floors — yuck.

Bedside tables help keep your room organized and easily add to the aesthetic of the room. If you want to have a sitting area, but don’t have room for a full-sized sofa, consider buying a papasan. They are unusually comfortable and bring a relaxing feeling into your room. Choose papasan cushions that compliment the colors in your room (papasan pictured above from Pier 1 Imports).

Clean Your Room

— This is the easiest thing you can do. Make your bed right away; it will instantly cater to a tidier state of mind. Move your hamper into an inconspicuous area like the bathroom or even your closet.

If your laundry room is big enough, put a large laundry hamper there. If you wear something and plan on using it again, hang it up right away. When you’re doing laundry, fold and put your clothes away immediately.

Sometimes, when I’m really busy, I throw our laundry on our bed, thinking I’ll get to it soon. When bedtime comes, I still haven’t folded the laundry and am irritated that it’s still on our bed. Too tired to even lift a finger, I throw the clothes into the armoire. The point is to keep your clothes in their proper place, hung or folded nicely, and not on the floor or on your bed. Make sure your floors are clear of books, magazines, and toys.

These all have a place like a bookcase, nightstand, or coffee table and the toy box. Put your shoes in a shoe cupboard, shelf, or other shoe organizer. You don’t need to be tripping over your shoes in the middle of the night.

Stop hoarding things. Go into your closet and purge everything you have not worn in at least one year and donate it to a local charity. Those Doc Marten boots you favored in college will probably never see daylight again.

The cashmere vest that is two sizes two small — chuck it. The only thing you want in your closet are current clothes that fit you well. If you still have clothes from 10 years ago, put them in a donation bag; they are out-of-date, maybe too small, and are taking over your closet space. Your bedroom should give you a sense of tranquility and be able to provide a calm and nurturing environment. Stop cringing and start painting!

Pic of the Day: Put my cat on a timed feeder

Put my cat on a timed feeder