November 18, 2012 Happier home? Yes, please!
I read this little post on Apartment Therapy (a great site for all things home related) and really felt I had to share it. I’ve lived in quite a few different places, my family home for a long time but since then it’s generally been 3 months here, a year there, etc. I have learned a few things from each place I’ve lived in, and I am only JUST starting to figure out what I really want in a home. I’ve been in my present home (yes, I’ll call it my home even though it’s half way across the world from where my family is) since February, and I am guilty of wishing something was different pretty much every day, but I’m learning to love it. There are a few simple steps you can take to make yourself feel better about your home – and they don’t require much effort. Click the link in the paragraph above to view the whole post, it really is worth a read.
I definitely like the list they wrote, but I can’t say I practice all ten of the tips they’ve listed. So I’ve altered their list to make it more “me”.
Make your bed every day. This one was on their list – I’ve kept it. I started doing this in the last year university (prior to that I slept on a pull-out couch, which no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t “make” it). It sounds crazy, and I realize some people love the idea of coming home to a premade ‘nest’ of mussed up blankets and pillows, but this 20 second step in my morning routine seriously makes a huge difference in my day. Perhaps it’s something about seeing everything neat and orderly as I leave the room or maybe it’s feeling like I’ve already had a ‘win’ before I’ve even had my coffee or maybe it’s even just the small stretch I get when leaning over to smooth the duvet, who knows. But I do know that it helps maintain a sense of tidiness in an otherwise slightly cluttered room (thanks to laundry baskets that seem to have an aversion to the four walls that make up our bedroom).
Unplug. I love my computer. I like watching movies and the odd tv show. And while I don’t love phones, they are necessary. But there is a time and place for all of these things – I find that I get ‘teched out’ and need a break. I understand we all wind down in our own way, for many it’s turning the tv on and vegging out. I have no problem with having the tv on for a while, but I heard a scary fact not long ago – the average Australian adult watches 3 hours of tv a day (that’s 22 hours a week!). Maybe it’s time to reduce those statistics. On to phones – there is nothing worse then spending time making a meal, then have the phone ring and you’re left to then eat it while listening to someone’s one sided phone conversation. As for computers, I am guilty of sometimes tuning the other person in the room out because I am so focused on whatever I’m doing, and that’s not fair either. So turning off the electronics in your house for a period of time each day can go a long way to creating a happier home; it forces you to actually create your own entertainment.
Install hooks. I am a hook-addict. I like them because they keep things from becoming piles on the floor. Although some people argue that they simply convert your floor-piles to vertical wall-piles, I tend to disagree. If you have nice towels/clothes/hats/etc, then your hooks turn into renewable art of sorts. Pretty patterned shirts look nice hanging together on the wall. Hats add character. Even towels manage to break up a big wall. Hooks can also hang your jewellry, adding sparkle to the room. But the top reason I love hooks? They act as a place to put clothes that aren’t fresh out of the laundry clean (which would go in a drawer/wardrobe) but aren’t dirty enough to deserve the laundry basket (ie. that pair of jeans you put on after your shower, wore for two hours while you were out for dinner, and then you took off when you swapped into your pyjamas to lounge on the couch). Ahh, hooks. Maybe this one just applies to me, but they definitely make my home happier.
Roll with it. Yes, there are things I don’t love about our house. But it’s a whole lot easier to accept them than to stress over them. So, I’ve embraced the things that previously bothered me and used them to my advantage. I have created a space where the shearing back-sling that always hangs on the verandah actually sort of looks like it’s meant to be there, I’ve displayed the old wagon wheel leaning up against the fence rather than hiding it, and I’ve filled the rusty bathtub in our yard with dirt and it’s now growing asparagus amongst other things. I’ve decided rather than hating our lime-green laminate kitchen counters and brown lino floors I’d call them ‘retro’. I’ve left the ugly mosaic tiles in our bathroom but changed the walls from dingy blue to buttery yellow, which has actually made the tiles look way nicer. I painted the home-made yard gates a cherry red. I’m trying to get climbing plants to climb up our water tanks. I’ve accepted that I’m not going to be living in a designer home any time soon, maybe never. But I’ll roll with what I’ve got, and do the little things I can do to make it nicer.
Frame your photos. It’s too easy these days to take great spur of the moment photos on your amazing digital camera (or even your iPhone) and, after a brief moment of excitement while loading them to the computer, forgetting they’re there until the next time you open up the photos file. And no more excuses that you can’t find the time to go to the photo store – apparently you can get them done online and mailed directly to your door! Framed photos is one of the easiest ways to make a space feel like home. It gets you excited about the idea that the four walls you are living within are yours (or at least, if you’re renting, your’s for now). Although I don’t have a whole lot yet (let’s face it, even though I’ve been settled for almost a year here I’m still technically living out of a backpack), I am slowly putting more and more memories on our walls.
Do the dishes as you go. I do not have the luxury of having a dishwasher. Hell, sometimes I don’t even have the luxury of having water, if it hasn’t rained for a while. (No, I’m exaggerating, we’ve never not had water – we’ve only not had water to certain sections of our house – always unfortunate if it’s the toilet). But that’s besides the point – the point is, doing dishes is not my favourite activity, but nothing makes me grumpier than walking into a disaster zone kitchen. So to avoid getting grumpy, I do the simple thing of having a sink full of hot sudsy water while I’m cooking, then when something’s dirty and I’m finished with it, it goes directly in to soak. If I have a moment where I’m simmering something or waiting for something to rise/cook/absorb/boil I can quickly do one or two (or the whole lot!) and it really doesn’t seem like that big a deal, because I’m already in the kitchen and already busy. Everyone reading this may think it sounds simple or may already do this, but it seriously saves me some frustration.
Let the light shine in. This one may be purely personal, but I cannot function in a house with no light. When we first moved into this house there were some amazing curtains in our kitchen. And I mean amazing. Picture a kaftan from the 70s – they were a orange, mustard, and lime green floral pattern and they were faded out, with still bright parts where they overlapped the wall, not the window. I lived with those curtains for 5 months until one day I couldn’t take them any more and ripped them down. Then burnt them. (A little drastic, I know, but what can I say). And that afternoon, Jamie walked in and said, “Wow, it looks so much brighter in here, doesn’t it? We should have done that ages ago.” Indeed. It was a simple thing that took me under 5 minutes and it felt a thousand times better. When in the city later on I bought some new ones (because the light is pretty glaring at eye-level in the morning) but they don’t block out the light, they just filter it. Our kitchen feels so much cleaner now, all due to some sunlight and $20 curtains.
Get crafty. Maybe not everyone has the skill to do major building projects like tables and chairs, but you give me an example of someone who can’t buy a can of spray paint and revamp a lamp. Or bring an old pallet inside, lean it up against the wall in the hallway, and tuck shoes between the boards, creating a fully functional, if rustic, shoe rack (my solution for our front hall). Or take a spare metre of amazing patterned fabric that reminds you of that time you traveled in… whereever… and create a cool cushion cover by simply doing some tricky folding and safety pinning (instructions here). Google it, people, there are heaps of amazing DIY tutorials out there for anything you could ever dream of having in your house. And not only will it give you something to do on a rainy afternoon (or during one of your tech-free evenings) but it will give you a sense of pride once you’re done.
Start a one-line-a-day gratitude journal. This is another I’ve kept from Apartment Therapy’s list. I like that this can be as simple as thinking about what your favourite part of your day was before going to sleep at night. I honestly think sometimes we get so wrapped up in what went wrong during the day we forget to think about what went right. Maybe it’s just that you were grateful for your awesome shoes that you wore to work (not so applicable for me, seeing as I’ve got steel capped work boots, but…) or that your dog was playing in the sprinkler and ended up being a goofy, soggy mess. If you take a minute to think about what you loved about the day, you’ll start to see that even on the worst days something good will happen.
Plant some veggies. I know not everyone has hectares and hectares of space to have a veggie patch, like I do. But there are some amazing resources online to help gardeners with even the most compact of spaces. Check out this link here if you have roughly 4×4 ft of space, or try your hand at planting tiny veggies like these ones in a window box. And if you’re in a city, check out some of the great community gardens that are around (although I know there’s often a wait list to have a plot in them, so maybe trying to grow some veggies in a pot at home would be faster). But I recommend giving it a try, because it’s a bit of a delight to cook with veggies that you grew. It doesn’t get fresher, it tastes amazing, you can feel safe in knowing there were no growth hormones or pesticides used, and you can brag about it when you invite people over for dinner. And it’s fun going out each day and watching things get bigger.
Have a morning song. Some mornings, I just can’t get inspired to get out of bed, and as I walk through each room I find things that make me grumpy. And if that’s the case, I’ll play my morning song (Gravity, by John Mayer Trio). It usually makes me feel better about things. I think hearing the house full of music brings creates good energy, without sounding like a yoga teacher or a monk. And I love that it usually sets my mood for the rest of the day. Just make sure it’s a song that makes you feel good. Mine’s calm, cruise-y, and slightly blue-sy which lets me wake up slowly and puts me in a relaxed mood. But you might want a bit more energy for your morning – choose what suits you. And I’ve just said a morning song versus a morning playlist because often that’s all I’ll have time for in the morning… I clearly press snooze a little too often.
If you can’t get out of it, get into it. I’ve stolen this one from Apartment Therapy, too. But I like it. Basically, the idea is get super pumped about the things you hate doing. Hate taking out the trash? Turn it into an Indiana Jones epic trash-taking-out adventure. Vacuuming? Crank up the tunes and turn it into a 5 minute vacuuming dance party. These are actually the sorts of things I do every day without actually realizing it. It makes the mundane tasks seem… awesome.
Anyway, hope this gives you a bit of food for thought for your own home. And if anyone has some great tips that they practice, let me know!