Adele Miner investigates how you can care for yourself through your space.
Take a look around the space you live in – you don’t really have much else to look at, at the moment! Maybe you own your dream home after years of scrimping and saving to get there, maybe you’re renting in a shared house and cohabit with three others, or maybe you’re still living at home with your parent and only have the box-room to call your own. Either way, how does the space make you feel? If it makes you feel good, then this article is for you. If it makes you feel less than satisfied, then this article is definitely for you.
‘Treat yourself’ and ‘self-care’ are just some of those millennial buzzwords we’ve been accustomed to uttering, so often in fact that they’ve almost lost all their meaning. We’ll drop €50 on a new Zara dress and spend half an hour meticulously giving ourselves a pedicure all in the name of stress relief, but so often we ignore the biggest stressor around us – our living space. We sometimes credit our good moods to those shiny new shoes we bought, but what if I told you that the space around you has as much of an impact on your mental health as anything else in your life?
This is something Dublin based interior designer Helen Turkington believes. “The space we are in has an immense influence on our mood and behaviour, from the use of space to the colours we surround ourselves with. When our surroundings are clean, happy and tidy we feel less stressed and anxious, and our productivity and creativity increases.”
Your home is a reflection of who you are, an extension of your personality, your haven and safe space, but when the current financial climate forces you to be constantly on the move, hopping from rental to rental every six months to a year is a stressful situation to find yourself in. Setting up shop and making your space ‘yours’ can feel counterproductive.
“In the last two years, I’ve lived in three different apartments. One flat-share with college friends and two different apartments with my boyfriend,” 27-year-old Laura tells me. “When you’re constantly on the move because of lease terminations and increasing rent prices, decorating and making your apartment aesthetically pleasing feels pointless.”
I relate. I still live in my family home and the only space I have to really call my own in my bedroom. I tidy it and make it look as pretty as possible, but is there any point in going all out and making too much of an effort when between work and my social life, I don’t actually spend that much time in it? Well apparently, yes.
For the women who are engaging in home-care, the benefits are plentiful. Gemma, 31, tells me that her home is her haven, and curating it was a process she’ll never forget. “Myself and my husband worked really hard for three years and saved up to put a deposit on our dream home. Before we even moved in I knew exactly how I wanted the interior to look,” Gemma says. “I thoroughly enjoyed the decorating process, seeing my ideal home come to life was like a dream.”
Gemma says that her perfect home changed the way she sees life, improving it in ways she could have never imagined. “Once the house was finished we started to host parties. It’s become the hub of all family and friend gatherings since we moved in two years ago and I’m round to show off my home and delighted to play hostess with the mostess any chance I get. I actually feel closer to my family now than I did when I lived with them.”
Historically, the activity of looking after your home and other spaces has been considered ‘women’s work’, a loaded phrase with so many negative connotations attached to it. But, what if we considered reclaiming homecare? Turning that traditional nonsense on its head and reinventing the act into something empowering. When you think about it, unlike traditional self-care practices, looking after and curating your home is the one activity that doesn’t involve your body. It’s not about altering your appearance to look a certain way – so often ‘self-care’ comes under the guise of adhering to traditional beauty standards, plucking and preening ourselves to perfection. Homecare is simply about filling the space you spend time in with objects that bring you nothing but happiness.
We’re well aware of the phrase ‘a clear space equals a clear mind’, but let’s replace the word clear with ‘happy and vibrant’ and see what happens to our minds then. And when you return home to that positive space again, to unwind after a long day, you’ll feel safe, relaxed, and content. This is exactly how Gemma says she feels. “I love coming home after a day at work. Walking into my hall and being greeted by happy pictures of my wedding day and other special memories makes any stress I felt before fade away instantly. It’s my safe place and there’s nowhere else I feel more relaxed.”
So, how can we all feel this level of zen and happiness? Designer Helen says that surrounding yourself with beautiful things that also have meaning is the key to ambiance. “Having recently renovated my home myself, I was reminded of the importance of having your personal belongings around you,” Helen tells me.
“During the renovation, much of our belongings were put into storage and the joy we got rediscovering our favourite possessions and replacing them in our new home space was amazing.”
But before filling your space with personal possessions, a declutter is probably needed. Living in fear of all your clothes piling up on ‘the chair’ (c’mon, we all have one) crashing to the floor is no way to be, and throwing a blind eye to the burnt-out light bulb in the kitchen isn’t going to help you achieve Goop levels of inner peace. It’s important to keep your space clear and functioning, so it;s time to find our inner gaff goddess and fix all the things that need fixing and throw out (or donate) all the things that need dumping.
When the clear out is complete, Helen says that often interior design is less about owning that perfect crushed velvet sofa and more about the little things we’ll adorn our spaces with. “Most people walk into a room and don’t notice the fabric of the curtains or the sofa, but everyone notices the beautiful flowers on the coffee table, or the fragrance from a candle, and this gives the space an intimate feel.”
So for those of us who are limited with what we can do with our space, buying yourself a potted plant and giving the room you’re in some personality can be enough to lift your mood – no drilling into walls needed.