Since I ventured out on my own into the big, scary, real world, I've learned a thing or two about what kind of decor works, not only for my taste, but also with my lifestyle. I don't claim wisdom in many areas, but I will cop to picking up some helpful tidbits in the last decade or so. Just starting out? Read on.
1. You're gonna move a lot. If you're staring at ugly rental carpet and stained ceilings right now, then moving probably sounds pretty good. The next several years of your life will take you to so many new and exciting (yet potentially horrible) new living situations that traveling light, at least in the beginning, is your best bet.
2. You don't need everything your parents had. Just because you associate certain types of home decor with being an adult doesn't mean you need it all immediately. Bedroom set? Eeh. Place settings for 12? No, thanks. You're much better off spending your (most likely limited) cash on pieces that you really love, even if it means doing without for a while.
3. Hand-me-downs are your best friends. Your well-intentioned relatives want to help arm you for solo life, so, for gosh sakes, let them. You'll save moolah in the short term and in the long term, you may come to discover that maybe your kind benefactors didn't have such terrible taste after all.
4. Don't recreate your dorm room. I know, it feels so comfy to see your wall plastered in posters, but this is a time to try new things! Adulty things! The best way to get to know your own taste is by taking a risk.
5. Your tastes may evolve. In fact, they should and will evolve. When something is no longer making you happy, it's time to let it go (decor specifically, but feel free to think broadly here). Learning how to move on will serve you well forever.
6. Don't wait to live your life. Yes, your 20's may be turbulent, but you don't need to live like a martyr all the time while waiting for your next crisis (and drinking out of Mason jars sure gets old). It's okay to treat yourself to some little luxuries now and then to make you feel like a grown-up.
7. Buy with intention. That means everything you buy should be something you can see yourself enjoying for at least 4 years down the road. Buying "place-holder" furniture is simply a waste of money. You may be stuck with hand-me-downs you don't love, or biding time 'til a move, but when you get to the place where you're actually making a purchase, think long term.
8. If you find something expensive you're sure you'll love forever, then shell out the cash. This is what's known as investing. The longer you use it, the better deal it becomes. If you know it's your destiny to own this thing, save your pennies and splurge, but realize that you'll be responsible for moving or paying others to move this thing until you're settled in your "forever home," so factor that time and money into the price.
Remember, 20-somethings, you won't be broke and confused forever, just the next decade or so. Take heart.