After fighting to overcome a wicked virus and dealing with the pressures of a world turned upside down over the last month, I feel like covering the fun and seemingly frivolous topic of home decor and making our homes a space more conducive to creating happiness and serenity in our lives. It’s a bit on point with much of the world forced into seclusion, but healthy people will go back to their jobs and regular lives when COVID-19 has run it’s course while those of us with debilitating symptoms will remain homebound long after. The pandemic creates an uncertain future, but everything must come to an end and if people are doing what they’re supposed to (ie. social distancing), this too shall pass.
I don’t want to just come out and say “My husband and I had COVID-19 and survived,” though the only thing that keeps me from that is that we weren’t able to get tested. This is a good thing; it means we never got so sick that either of us landed in the hospital. That’s how it’s being handled here in the US, unless you’re medical personnel.
We were lucky. We got a phone appointment with our GP, who diagnosed us based on our symptoms, which were consistent with the virus. He prescribed us with fairly high dose corticosteriods to help our bodies fight it. In truth, there were a few days in there that I thought I would land in the hospital, or never wake again when I fell asleep. I’d been having asthma attacks that were severe and scary, one even waking me from sleep choking and gagging and unable to take a good breath. But because I have asthma, I also have a rescue inhaler and each time I was able to restore my breathing through it’s use prior to the steroids the doctor prescribed. I’m mostly recovered now, though I still struggle with lingering fatigue, migraines and brain fog, not to mention some anxiety and depression. I assume I’m still dealing with some inflammation, some of which began before the virus even hit, as my head symptoms took a turn for the worst when I was working early in the year.
More than once while fighting off this virus, I found myself feeling grateful for being a veteran of the homebound life. For years I’ve worked to improve my surroundings by adapting them to work better for me. Now I’ve come back to focusing on the aesthetic of my surroundings. After all, escaping my 2 bdrm apartment that’s less than 1,000 square feet a couple times a month for doctor’s appointments or errands really doesn’t afford me much to look at or experience. Even the few short weeks that I worked at the theater only expanded my life by one building. If I’m lucky, one of our trips out might include a movie, but that’s the span of my universe and it’s been ever shrinking for 12 years now.
I realized at some point (maybe last summer after our ruined vacation) that the money I spent on excursions were wasted. I could go to a play, a concert or a museum, but chances were pretty great that after we spent all week planning ever so carefully that I’d be in too much pain and too fowl tempered to enjoy it, sometimes even too sick to go, and no matter the case, regretting it for the weeks of recovery it would cost me after. I decided it was time to accept my fate and stop torturing myself for the sake of ‘experience’ and focus those funds on improving my homebound life instead.
A Satisfying Home
There are many ways to improve quality of life in your space. When homebound due to chronic illness, our living spaces are where our lives happen, almost entirely. Shouldn’t that space reflect us and not just our illness? Sure, we all have our medical equipment and things that take up our house and tend to spread out wherever we spend our time. But it doesn’t have to be obvious. We deserve beauty in our lives. We deserve to enjoy and celebrate the change of seasons we can hardly feel. We deserve pleasure and comfort and good things. We NEED them in spite of the difficult lives we live. Here are a few suggestions for transforming your home into one you can enjoy day in and day out.
1. Your Living Space is YOURS, Let it Reflect You
Forget the Better Homes and Gardens version of focusing on making your space inviting to others. This redecorating needs to be all about you. Who cares what Aunt Helen thinks. She lives somewhere else. Let her make her own space there.
2. Don’t Break The Bank
Understand that if you’re on a budget, it’s going to take time to achieve the look you want. Be satisfied with buying one or two things at a time and ask for the things you want to fill your space with when birthdays and holidays role around. Taking advantage of your yearly tax return is another event you can take advantage of to bank roll these changes. For birthdays and holiday gifts, provide wish lists of the things you want to add to your home. People will appreciate the help and feel satisfied knowing they’re getting something you’ll really appreciate. Amazon is a great place to dream and store your wish list.
You can also get great things second hand. Whether you use Facebook Marketplace or any of the many available apps for second hand good in your community, you can find some nice furnishings and decor others have simply grown tired of. You might also be surprised by the fun things you can find in a thrift shop, both antique and new. There’s an abundance of second hand dealers in our area, from furniture to electronics to art and appliances, there’s almost always some place to turn to get what we want more affordably.
3. Blend Beauty with Practicality
Fill your home with things you enjoy looking at as well as the arts & crafts you fill your time with. If you paint, draw, collage, make recycled art or sculpture, consider using some of the things you make to fill your walls or decorate your tables. If your craftiness involves needlework, make your own throw blankets and pillows or cover your walls in your cross stitch projects. There’s a particular satisfaction in seeing the products of our own imagination adorning our home. Even better, try designing things specifically for your space and the aesthetic you’re trying to achieve, like I did with the painting pictured.
My little sailboat painting may not be top notch, but it goes well with my beach themed bathroom and I had a lot of fun making it with a few simple art supplies purchased from Ollie’s Bargain Outlet and Amazon. Outlets often carry art supplies, many of good quality. Check in often with the outlet places in your neighborhood for some great finds for a fraction of the cost.
4. Make It Fun
My husband used to buy me stuffed animals when I was ill and I ended up with an entire zoo of stuffed animals. While I loved the sentiment behind it, I’m not really much of a stuffed animal person and had no idea what to do with my little jungle other than decorate the tops of my bookcases with them. I suggested that maybe there was something a little more “me” he could buy for cheer-me-ups and when he realized that opened the door to buy me some fun little figurines from our favorite TV shows and movies, we both started having a lot more fun with these gifts! I have spaces dedicated to displaying my ever-growing collection in my living room and bedroom both, the two spaces where I spend the bulk of my time.
If you’re interested in your own collection, I enjoy Funko Pop, which coveres pop culture from Movies to TV shows to Music and can be found at Amazon, Walmart, Target and other retailers. The Best way to find what you want is to search for the name of the show/movie/artist + Funko Pop.
5. Make it Seasonal & Incorporate Nature Into Your Surroundings
One of the things we do every spring in lieu of visiting the conservatories or parks and in place of houseplants is to buy a beautifully blooming basket of flowers. Since I can’t have live plants in my home, they hang on a hook on my balcony, where I can see them from my recliner, where I write, eat and hang out most good days. Here is last years:
Visiting parks, hiking and other nature activities used to be among my favorites. Now the pollen causes such a reaction, I don’t dare leave my home in Spring unmasked, and even with that mask, I can only be out for the briefest of periods. My husband couldn’t bring the woods to me, but he could certainly invite the birds to come visit by installing bird feeders. We have one for a variety of common birds for year round and one we put out each spring especially for hummingbirds, which are a particular delight to watch. It creates the same sense of awe, tranquility and rejuvenation you get from spending time in nature because the nature comes to you!
If you want nature up close and personal, pets are always nice and a great way to add enrichment to your life. No matter how hands on or distant you need them to be, there’s likely an option for you. It’s no secret I’m a real fan of our four legged fur friends, but I’ve also come to love our aquariums. My husband provides most of the care, but I’m the one who spend hours watching their antics and appreciating the beauty a nice tank provides.
7. Fill Your Home with Art
Whether you’re a connoisseur of art or you’ve never given it two thoughts, there’s a form of art out there for every kind of taste and imagination. Even better, prints have become more and more affordable, and original art more easily attained through the internet. Choose things that speak to you and will interest you for years to come. For my birthday this year, I just couldn’t resist this self-portrait by Frida Kahlo. I feel inspired and elated every time I see it and I take power from her. When it arrived, I was in bed sick, so I propped her up on our new bedroom aquarium (my husband’s gift for his birthday) so I could enjoy her and draw strength from her powerful feminine energies.
Of course there are many kinds of art. My best friend in high school had a particular thing for Asian art and filled a cabinet in his room with it. Others are fascinated by abstract or surrealist art, while others are inspired by indigenous art and folklife works. I myself have an odd collection of baubles from around the world; some collected on vacations, others purchased because they remind me of someone or something important. Just doing a simple search of “wall art” on Amazon will give you plenty of ideas to begin with.
8. Fill it with Memories
Hanging family portraits, old vacation photos (great for collages) and other memories help us feel closer to those we love but hardly see and the good times we had with them. Have children or grandchildren? Let them fill one of your spaces with their art, so you can feel their love and warmth all the time. Here are a few samples of collage frames which are quite clever. With a little creativity, there are plenty of ways to present a wall of family memories!
9. Decorate the Eye Sores
An IV pole in your bedroom may appear cold and clinical, but if you decorate it with some fancy duct tape to match your room decor, then it becomes an extension of something you love. Just be sure that if you don’t own it or plan to sell it, that you can return it to it’s original condition. It’s easy to remove tape and use a little Goo Gone or Goof Off to remove the adhesive. For some inspiration, check out these tricked out mobility aides!
While much of our furniture tends to trend toward the practical over the aesthetic (I hate the way our recliners look, but they bring us far more comfort than any other living room furniture could), that doesn’t mean you can’t still have fun color coordinating and dressing it up. I love to add fun and affordable throw pillows, ultra-comfy but stylish throws. I’ve also been known to buy an accent chair that’s a little more aesthetically pleasing than practical, but let’s face it, the cat uses it a lot more than guests! This chair still needs some frills, not to mention a footstool, but like I said, I decorate as funds allow and I often wait until things go on sale. Delayed gratification can be frustrating, but if you look at it as a promise for the future, you can imagine it and the gratification you’ll feel when it’s perfect.
10. Eliminate Clutter
Finally, keeping your home clean and well organized is a gift in itself. Clutter can makes us feel overwhelmed, anxious even. Take time to organize your home in a way that makes sense to you. Use little storage boxes to hide the clutter (and clumps of disorderly cords under your electronics) to help give your home a streamlined look and make it easier to find things. Get in the habit of putting things away as soon as you’re finished with them and cleaning also becomes less of a chore.
Staying organized also helps keep those brain fog frustrations to a minimum. If there’s a place for everything, you don’t have to try to remember where you left it last. Since I work where I also spend my leisure time, I have an organizer to one side of me and a basket to the other. These not only hold my work things and household bills, pens and other office supplies, they hold my pill organizers, remote controls, vaping tools, inhaler, drops, pain meds and anything else I need as I go through my day.
You can also combine functionality and organization for pleasing aesthetics. For example, if you’re a musician, use wall hooks to arrange your instrument(s) in the place where you use them. It will make them easily accessible (cutting down those excuses not to practice) while making a personal statement about what’s important to your life. It will also create more closet space and keep things out of the corners of your home where they’re likely to get destroyed by pets, children or hell, our own clumsy or too-tired-to-give-a-damn selves!
11. Be Patient
Being 48, I’ve spent decades building my art collection and buying furniture pieces that are not only appealing to me and my partner, but will last for years. Stick to pieces that have a timeless feel to them and care for them well and they will serve you for many years to come. There is furniture in our home I would never part with, while other things have had to go by the wayside because they were too bulky or too cheap to last more than a few seasons. Make sure whatever you’re buying fits your lifestyle and offers lasting quality. Choose timeless over trendy so you can avoid the feeling that your furniture has become outdated. It may be more expensive up front, but you’ll get something that pays for itself over and again, provided you care for it.
I hope some of the examples I’ve offered gives you a good starting point for making your surroundings both practical and pleasing. Having a home we love and enjoy is important to our mental health and well-being. While it may seem frivolous to spend spoons and money to make our surroundings more aesthetically pleasing, it’s an exercise in self-care. Feeling in control of our surroundings and drawing strength from the things we love is essential when your life is confined to the four outer walls of your home. No matter the size or condition, it can always be improved by taking some time to get organized and add the little touches that make life more meaningful.