This month we will be taking stock of our home environment and how we feel right now about the space we occupy.
What changes do we need to make for our home to feel like our personal sanctuary; a place we can retreat to, recharge and share special time with our loved ones?
This article is not about creating an immaculate home; it is about creating your space in such a way that, when you are in it, you feel relaxed and totally yourself. As you read through the article, therefore, I would like you to focus on the things that give you personal pleasure, be that a simple vase of flowers on your kitchen table, the feeling of clean sheets as you climb into bed or the perfect shady spot to sit in the garden to enjoy a book.
Before we explore how well you are using the different spaces you have in your home, start by answering the following questions:
- What do you currently love about being in your home?
- What are you currently not happy with about your home?
- What are the everyday chores that you never quite feel on top of?
- Where do you carry out your admin and store your paperwork?
- Which space(s) do you use to relax in?
Now let’s think about the general ‘feel’ you want to create in your home;
- How much involvement did you have in choosing the decor in your home?
- What colours do you love (bold/muted, glossy/matte, plain/contrasting)?
- What style do you like (cottage/contemporary, kitsch/minimalistic, vintage/modern)?
- What home furnishing shops do you love, what is it about their style you admire?
- Which of your friend’s houses do you feel most ‘at home’ in and why?
Even if we are not currently refurbishing our home, it is good to have a real understanding of what we like so that, when we do need to redecorate or replace something (as we all inevitably do), we can move towards the look, the feel and the type of space that we want.
Creating ‘vision’ boards can be really useful in helping us to focus on any area of our lives, but perhaps never more so than for our home. If you wish to change the feel of your home (either now or over time) have some fun creating your own board; collect and put together fabrics, paint colours, pictures of rooms and home accessories that fit your desired look.
Exploring the spaces in your home
It is useful to consider how you perceive the spaces in your home, what you use them for and whether, in each place, you feel calm and in control. We will also consider whether there are practical steps you need to make for life to feel easier and less cluttered. If you have a space that really isn’t working, it can be worth taking a morning to focus purely on that area and complete the suggested tasks for that room.
Many of us see our kitchen as the heart of our home; it is the place we start the day, prepare food, talk, laugh, eat and welcome our friends in to share a drink and catch up on life. We can also see it as a place that needs constant attention to maintain any sort of order!
- What do you mainly use your kitchen for?
- How well does the layout of your kitchen work for you?
- Would moving items to different cupboards or drawers make it more ‘user-friendly’?
- Do you have items in your cupboards that you no longer use and can’t imagine ever using again?
- When do you most enjoy being in your kitchen?
- Does everyone in the house help with the kitchen chores?
- Are there specific jobs you could give to other members of your household?
In order for any of us to view our kitchen as an enjoyable place to be, it is crucial for us to feel that other members of the household help keep it tidy and clean. If you constantly feel you are the only one who does the chores, take time to talk to everyone in your house and have clear guidelines around what needs to be done and who is expected to do it.
Even those of us who do not feel we are natural domestic goddesses can enjoy cooking or baking if we have the time, the ingredients and a wonderfully clear and organised kitchen. There is a real pleasure to be had in getting in touch with our inner Nigella and producing something to enjoy and be proud of.
Our bedrooms are our most personal of all spaces; not only is it the room where we get ready, it also tends to be the room we retreat to if we wish to be on our own, relax or recharge.
- Does your bedroom feel uncluttered and peaceful?
- Is your bed comfortable?
- Are your cupboards organised and clothes easily accessible?
- Do you have a clear place with a seat and a mirror where you can get yourself ready for your day or evening ahead?
For some reason, even those of us who don’t hoard in other areas of our lives can hoard in our bedroom. We keep shoes we no longer wear, make up we don’t use and clothes we don’t like. Imagine for a moment opening your wardrobe and seeing only clothes hanging there that you know fit you, suit you and are relevant to your life.
It is useful for all of us to recognise that if we haven’t worn an item in 12 months (i.e. through all the seasons) the chance of us ever wearing it again is very low. If you need a clear out it can be incredibly helpful (and fun!) to invite a girlfriend over, sit her down with a drink and ask for her honest opinion about the clothes you are hanging onto. You can then box up the rejects and take them to your local charity shop or sell them on eBay (or, if that is too painful, put the box in the garage for a six-month ‘stay of execution’ and see if you go out to retrieve any of the items!).
Having clutter-free cupboards and drawers makes getting ready a pleasure, as does having a clutter free space to sit at and get ready. Be tough with yourself so that your room really can feel like the haven it should be.
However small (or big!) your bathroom is, it is effectively your home spa; the space you can use to wash, rejuvenate and pamper yourself.
- Is your bathroom cluttered with bottles, potions and creams?
- Could you create an easily accessible storage space so that you can have the sides and floor clear if they aren’t already?
- Is your bathroom a place where you can easily relax and nurture yourself?
- Do you have scented candles so that, should you wish to, you can have a candle lit bath?
Our bathrooms clearly have to be functional, however, they can be so much more than just the place we wash in. There are few (inexpensive) pleasures as enjoyable as the feeling of an invigorating shower or a soak in the bath, especially if the room we are in is beautifully organised.
If you do not have everything you need to be able to create a ‘spa experience’ in your bathroom, take time to list what you are missing (e.g. storage boxes, scented candles, soft white bath towels).
Let’s think now about the area we have our ‘down time’; the place you go to read, watch television, enjoy a movie or relax with our special people.
- What do you love about your living space?
- Are you able to be in this without feeling you are surrounded by things you ‘should’ be doing, repairing or completing?
- If you have young children do you have toys littered around the floor?
For our sitting rooms to be relaxing they need to be totally free of reminders of unfinished tasks, which includes not being surrounded by mess from the day. For those of you with young children, it is really worthwhile investing in a decent toy box in which everything can be hidden before the evening ‘child-free’ time begins.
Treating our living space as our group relaxing space allows us to recognise that it needs to be a comfortable and job-free zone.
One of the greatest weights we can carry at home is the feeling we have boring or overdue paperwork hanging over us. What are the admin jobs that you hate doing?
- Do you allocate time each week in which you can complete your paperwork?
- Do you have a clear, uncluttered desk where you can work?
Creating a space where we can easily find everything we need to do our banking, form-filling, bill-paying, flight-booking and tax returns can make these tasks far less arduous. This is especially true if we actually schedule in admin time each week, rather than expecting to somehow shoehorn it in around everything else we have going on in our lives.
With allocated time and a well-organised space (plus a cup of tea or coffee!) it can actually be quite satisfying to sit down and clear your inbox. In addition to a clear desk (with a fully stocked drawer containing stationary and stamps) it is important to have well-organised, clearly-labelled files, so that we can lay our hands on anything we need in an instant.
Spending a morning purchasing new stationary and files, shredding old paperwork, organising your office and scheduling in weekly time will allow you to approach your office space in a positive and productive state of mind.
Our gardens do not have to be huge (or RHS standard!) for us to be able to enjoy being in them; sitting in the garden looking at a freshly mown lawn and beds that are bursting with flowers is one of life’s simple pleasures, as is sitting in the garden sharing a glass of wine or a summer lunch with friends.
- What do you mainly use your garden for?
- What do you love about your garden?
- What is not currently working well in your garden?
- Where do you sit on a sunny day in your garden?
- What flowers and colours give you special pleasure?
- Do you have lighting set up in your garden so you can enjoy it in the evening?
Whilst it takes time to create the garden we want, it’s also incredibly rewarding. Visit gardens and garden centers for inspiration and take the time to plan specific areas where you can sit in the sun, relax in the shade, dine al fresco or simply enjoy smelling the roses. Remember that whilst waiting for seeds to take, plants to mature and buds to open, it is relatively easy to add some beautiful perennials to our beds and create pots bursting with colour and fragrance.
Visualising what we want and how we want things to be sets up our whole system to achieve it. Now imagine walking around your well ordered house with a cup of coffee in your hand feeling your home is just as you want it to be; you have clearly defined spaces to eat, to work and to relax. Imagine what you would see, hear and feel and what special touches you would have added to make it just as you want it to be.
You are now in a great position to answer these goal-setting questions:
- Which rooms need your attention in order to make your home feel as you want it to?
- What equipment do you need to feel more organised and in control?
- What time do you need to schedule in to put these changes in place and create your special spaces as you want them to be?
We can all feel we haven’t got time to get our home in order, but it is truly worth prioritising the time to do it, so that your home really is your own personal sanctuary; a special place where you can be you.