Boasting Your Well-Being in Wintertime

I talked in my last blog post about Wintertime. Although, as I mentioned before this not my favourite season, but as one that can take up a good percentage of the year in the UK, it seems a good idea to find ways to cope better with what can be a challenging season for many. Longer, darker nights tend to create a need to stay indoors. Focusing on Winter wellness is important, it’s a time that our bodies and minds crave comfort and we need to look after ourselves.

I found a recent article written by interior designer, Biophilic Guru and writer Oliver Heath about this very subject. Seeing nature, even a little bit of greenery and getting direct sunlight can be positive for mental health.  (Biophilic design, roughly is a concept used in the building industry to increase occupant connectivity to the natural environment through the use of direct nature and indirect nature) View for more information.

One of the key elements of the article is about considering natural light, fresh air and stimulating the feelings that nature evokes in us all. In the colder months of the year, often because of the weather conditions, we go out into nature less, than in the warmer months. Which does affect our well-being. Simple things like making sure that curtains are drawn back fully to let all the available light into a room and having clean windows can maximise what little natural light there is. If at all possible, try to open windows even for a small time to let in some air. I do find when I do this it makes a real difference to the feel of a room. Air purifiers can also be used, these would be helpful after a period of illness to make sure of the best air quality.

Sensory and Aromatic additions to a room can make a huge difference to a room in Wintertime. Perhaps using a diffuser with a scent that can remind you of nature or Summer would be uplifting at a time of year that can be a little depressing. There are no set rules about having to use a certain scent seasonally. Candlelight is a must for keeping the ambiance warm and cosy during winter. Use natural Soy candles and ventilate a room well after use. A real fire can be lovely in colder months too.

Artificial lighting is used far more in winter than in summer, so changing bulbs for those with a golden glow, can add warmth and cosiness for a fairly low cost. You can use twinkly lights to create a magical winter atmosphere in your home. Fill some jars with them, string them around your window frames or even drape over your bed. I have left my fairy lights up from Christmas and will leave them up until Spring.

Indoor plants do bring a sense of nature indoors. Green is a natural mood-booster. But in Winter even your plants need light in a different way so these may need to be put in direct light.  Having an indoor garden are can be an uplifting place to sit and conservatories are wonderful for making the most of any winter sun, if you have one. But any light corner that could be used for greenery and where you could sit and read and relax would be uplifting.

Well, I hope this you some helpful tips for living in Winter, but if all else fails, why not start looking for a summer holiday?

Can Plants Improve the Air Pollution in Your Home?

There is an increase of indoor pollution in our homes, which can lead to allergies and lung problems. Are the air-tight, insulated, clean homes we live in harmful to our health? Could the humble houseplant be our saviour? As certain common plants have been shown to remove toxic agents naturally from the air.

Indoor air pollution is linked to the risk of pneumonia, COPD and lung cancer. Pollution in your home can also increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. If you have asthma, your symptoms might get worse if you have an allergic reaction to a pollutant in the air. The quality of the air we breathe indoors is affected by many things: how a building is ventilated, room temperature, damp, condensation, dust mites, cleaning products, heating, cooking, building materials used in construction, modern furnishings, pets, scented candles and cigarette smoke.

We use a wide range of household chemicals every day to clean and decorate our homes which are then released into the air inside our homes. Some of these can contain chemicals called VOCs, (volatile organic compounds) which are found in furniture polish, air fresheners, oven cleaners, glues and detergents. Although more research is needed before we can be fully certain about the effects of breathing in these chemicals in our homes, existing studies do suggest that being exposed to these can increase your risk of developing an allergy. ( As an asthmatic all of these have in the past caused me breathing problems and increased coughing) So, look for products that are labelled allergy friendly, as they have lower levels of volatile chemicals. Natural cleaners like hydrogen peroxide and vinegar are easy to use and cheaper than most commercial chemical cleaners. Use solid or liquid cleaning products rather than sprays that go into the air. Using toxic, chemical cleaning products can makes your home unhealthy.

In the UK, we use a lot of air fresheners, plug-ins, wipes and cleaning products. The characteristic lemon-fresh or pine so familiar in bleaches and washing up liquids comes from fragranced chemicals like limonene and alpha pinene chemicals, not harmful, but it’s what they turn into once released into the air that’s the concern. One of the known secondary products of all fragrance chemicals once they react in the air is formaledehyde ( VOC) with has carcinogenic and breathing-irritant properties. Everyday exposure to indoor chemicals such as formaldehyde may contribute to increasing cancers and other illnesses. The levels of formaldehyde in the air and water are strictly regulated by law in the UK. In small concentrations, they are a normal part of our environment. However, exposure to high levels of VOCs indoors is a source of concern among health professionals, particularly their effect on the delicate airways of children.

In NASA experiment published in 1989, it found that indoor plants can scrub the air of cancer-causing VOCS like formaldehyde and benzene. However, in 2018, Michael Waring, an associate professor of architectural and environmental engineering stated that Houseplants, though charming, do little to purify the air in a room, scientists who study the air we breathe appear to be divided in their oppinons. As one study found that within just two days, the plant removed up to 90% of the toxins found in indoor air. Through photosynthesis, they convert the carbon dioxide we exhale into fresh oxygen and can also remove toxins from the air.

Dr Tijana Blanusa, principal horticultural scientist at the Royal Horticultural Society, explained that research into the impact of houseplants on indoor air quality has intensified over the past few years, particularly the ability of plants to remove carbon dioxide (CO2) and other volatile organic compounds, such as those emitted from paints and furnishings. When CO2 builds up, it results in drowsiness, dizziness and headaches and creates a stuffy, unhealthy home. All leafy green plants will remove some CO2 during the daytime, which they use for photosynthesis. The RHS stresses that plants remove VOCs at a slower pace and not quickly enough to have much effect on the air quality of your home. But that houseplants can enhance our lives in a number of ways like improving moods and reducing stress. Adding plants into the areas you are working in, (if home-working) is said to increase productivity, improve attention span and creativity. Which is another great reason for having a few plants, scattered about.

So, no clear-cut answers for now, but it’s an area of ongoing and exciting research, which I will keep following closely. I think that adding plants to your home can look lovely in a room, making you feel energised by the space around you. Some plants are better at improving the quality of air such as Palms, Ferns, Ivy, Chrysanthemums and Spider Plants.

Spider plants, known as air plants, grow quickly and look great in hanging baskets.

Golden pothos, known as devil’s ivy, flourishes in a variety of conditions and can grow up to 8 feet One of the most effective indoor air purifiers for removing common toxins.

Chrysanthemums are ranked the highest for air purification. They’re shown to eliminate common toxins as well as ammonia.

English ivy (Hedera helix) is an evergreen climbing plant well adapted to indoor conditions. Different varieties prefer different light situations from indirect light to low-light spaces.

Peace lilies (Spathiphyllum) Remove common household toxins like ammonia.

Bamboo palms add a healthy dose of moisture into the air, making it a welcome addition in dry winter months.

Rubber plants are evergreen trees and these plants love bright, light and a little attention occasionally.

If you have pets such as cats and dogs, you may want to reconsider air-purifying plants as many of these plants can be toxic to them. Ask the staff at your local garden centre about pet-safe options.

Also, an increase in plants can also affect humidity and promote mould growth, to prevent this, let the water drain into a pan or a tray and remove the excess water regularly.

One final point about home air pollution, open your windows every day to let the fresh air enter your home. Even for a few precious minutes a day even when it’s a bit cold outside and especially if you’re cooking or using the shower. Your home will feel better for it and you feel good too.

A (Naturally) Fragrant Home

All five of the senses work together to give a full picture of our surroundings. The sense of smell works more acutely on our brain than we realize, having the power to trigger memories and feelings. It has been proven through a number of studies that fragrance can affect a person’s mood, so choosing a scent that puts you in a happy and relaxed state of mind is really important during a time of 24/7 home-confinement. Finding the perfect home-scent can contribute to your well-being by triggering positive emotions that allow you to fully unwind and recharge.

We encounter a lot of smells in a day, our nose’s are often subjected to some very unpleasant ones; in the street, at work, pollution, stale tobacco, the list is endless. I’m a big fan of perfume in any form and if I walk into a room and smell a lovely fragrance, its instantly uplifing. When someone visits your home it’s often the first thing they notice. A quick spray of Febreze doesn’t work anymore. However wonderfully furnished and accessorised, for rooms to be fully complete, the way they smell is the missing link. The mystery ingredient if you like. How your home smells can leave a lasting impression and is just as important as its visual appearance. Fragrance is often underestimated and seen as an afterthought rather than an integral part of a home. But have you ever wondered why you get a great feeling when you smell fresh flowers or ground coffee?

At-Aroma a Tokyo- based fragrance design company, they design a fragrance for a space which is described as scent architecture. In Japan, the importance of scent to the overall design of a space relates to the tradition of kodo. In more recent years more western companies have begun to recognize the power of scent. Restaurants, hotels and spas often use fragrance to create a specific atmosphere that they want to portray to match their image. Like the Gramercy Park Hotel in New York who collaborated with French perfumers Le Labo to develop their signature scent.

Scented candles have been raised to objects of celebrity status and desire in social media.( Blame the millennials) The choice is huge, you can get tealights, pillar candles, taper candles, votive candles, container candles, scented, unscented, beeswax, vegan candles, soy wax melts and even charcoal sticks. We have gone a little crazy for home fragrance. A home can’t be Instagram ready without a (branded) candle.

To fragrance a home, there are scented candles, incense, essential oils, room sprays and diffusers. The most popular been candles and reed diffusers. Reed diffusers infuse the room with a constant background scent and candles provide a mood-setting glow and fragrance. Home-scents are not used purely for necessity but for creating a warm and intimate space that encourages comfort and happiness.

It is best to avoid a strong scent that can dominate an entire room or one that is too subtle to smell. Floral scents are relaxing, I love Rose and Jasmine, (perfect for a bedroom or bathroom) woody scents like Frankincense can make you feel grounded (think of churches) and the freshness of citrus invigorates. For kitchen spaces, the distinct aromas of lemon, lime, orange, grapefruit and herbs; lemongrass, ginger, basil and rosemary can cover up cooking odours. In the bedroom to create ambiance, warm, floral scents are lovely. A candle or diffuser with lavender and jasmine is an aroma-therapeutic, sleep-inducing treat. Light, aromatic, nature-inspired; green tea, fig, leaves, grasses and bamboo are perfect for the main living area and give a connection with the outdoors. Do take into account whether it’s a small or large space. Children and pets are more sensitive to smell so factor this into your choices. If you want to match your home-scent to the seasons, try lighter, fruits and florals in summer and warmer, spices and woods in winter. After a while you can go nose-blind, so it’s a good idea to change the room fragrance regularly.

It’s crucial to source your home fragrances from companies producing natural products to keep your air clean of harsh chemicals. These products can be more expensive but do also last much longer as well as better for the environment.

Diffusers- Oil diffusers don’t create smoke and thus won’t spread toxins in the same way as candles. Larger diffusers can scent an entire room, in smaller spaces, reduce the reeds used or opt for a gentler scent. The reeds in a diffuser should be inverted (turned) every two weeks to maximise the fragrance and maintain a consistent level of scent within the room. With diffusers you can leave them unattended and are fairly low-maintenance. Aesthetically, many of the bottles can act as a stylish centrepiece or you can pour the liquid into a pretty glass or ceramic container of your own. A narrower top will ensure the fragrance doesn’t fade as quickly, but if it does turn the reeds, to instantly refresh the room.

Candles– are great for an intimate event, like dinner or a bath, as they give off light and scent. Luxury candles can be made primarily with synthetic scent and boosters to help a smaller amount of fragrance go further. I prefer candles that aren’t made with synthetic ingredients. Natural candles use natural wax and essential oils. Scented candles with artificial fragrances can release synthetic compounds into the air, which can cause skin, eye and nose irritations. Paraffin wax is the predominant wax used in the candle industry. It’s the final by-product in the petroleum refining chain. (Described as the bottom of the barrel). Although there is no conclusive evidence that burning paraffin candle wax is damaging to your health, natural waxes like soy, vegetable and beeswax offer a non-toxic alternative. (Having a very low environmental impact and footprint) These burn cleaner and slower, with less soot than cheaply manufactured waxes so the candle lasts much longer. Ventilate your room after extinguishing a candle to get rid of any toxins released particularly if using paraffin candles. Breathing too much of any type of smoke can potentially damage your health, so don’t burn candles for longer than four hours and cool for at least two hours before relighting. When first lighting a candle burn for three hours to ensure that the wax melts evenly and to the edge and bottom of the candle to prevent tunnelling, which is a hole or ‘tunnel’ in the centre of the candle caused by uneven burning. Trim the wick to around three millimetres, so the wick burns at the same speed as the candle. For some really lovely natural scented candles go to Neom and the Bathhouse.

I believe that the right scent creates a unique character to a room or home. Your personal choice of fragrance can make a house feel like a home. It’s an everyday affordable luxury. So, why not treat yourself to a candle or diffuser, natural of course and see if it makes you feel you good!

Scenting our Homes in Lockdown

One of the few positives from the various states of lockdown has been the increased focus on self-care and also thinking more about our home environment. The home fragrance market: candles, diffusers and vapour diffusers has enjoyed a real surge in demand as we seek ways to relax, to concentrate or even just to make our rooms (we’re spending more time in) simply smell better. Candles have been used in sacred ceremonies for centuries, to bring a peaceful ambiance into a space. But whilst their minimal light and aromas create a serene sanctuary, there are actually other reasons why you should burn candles in your home. They can actually help your mental state and well-being, essential in our third lockdown. (And hopefully final one)

The UK is one of the world’s biggest candle markets. In 2020, the estimated market was 1.9 billon. And, while the beauty industry has faced a steep decline, there has been a large increase in home fragrance. This may be vital to the survival of many beauty retailers during the pandemic, as shoppers bought more home scents such as candles and diffusers. Small independent candle makers were one of the lockdown business success stories.  

There has also been a new focus on our sense of smell since the start of the COVID pandemic, as a sense that many of us took for granted and is often ranked as the least important sense.  Half of patients with covid-19 may lose sense of smell and guidance rules states that a new change or loss in sense of smell should prompt a period of self-isolation. Losing the sense of smell (anosmia) has been traumatic for many people struck with COVID. The effect of it meant not just missing, the smell of fresh bread or perfume but it left many patients feeling depressed and further isolated. Dr. Sandeep Robert Datta, a neurobiologist, states that while many think of scent as an aesthetic bonus sense, it is an important link between people and the environment around them. Nine in ten patients can expect substantial improvement in their sense of smell within four weeks and using olfactory training been shown to help people improve and regain their sense of smell.

Olfactory training is a self-management strategy that involves a regular programme of using strong odours or essential oils to trigger recovery of the olfactory system. Smell training involves twice- daily sniffing of four essential oils to help the damaged olfactory nerve repair itself.

We don’t just miss the sights and sounds of our favourite places; we also miss the smells. Indeed, some brands have capitalised on this lockdown absence in creating exotic scents that are evocative of distant shores. A good-quality scented candle can remind us of places we have visited and loved. Perhaps we need this more than ever when we’re locked down in our homes and unable to travel. The soothing effect that candles have is based on how the brain processes smells. The smell of scented candles stimulates our limbic system, the part of the brain that is home to our memory and emotions.

If you need a further reason to place a handful of candles around your desk for decorative purposes, you now have the perfect excuse, as surrounding yourself with scented candles while you work can actually increase your focus and help you become more productive. Aromas like mint, lemon, orange and rosemary can invigorate your senses and help give you that extra boost you need whilst working from home.

Lighting a candle can remind you of a happier time and can make you feel better if you are feeling a little down. A Japanese study conducted on 12 participants who were depressed, showed that the smell of lemons helped, boosted their immune function and regulated hormone levels. So much so that their dosage of antidepressants was lowered. There are several essential oils that can help alleviate feelings of uneasiness, uplift your flagging spirits and promote a better, stronger, more positive state of mind. Using essential oils is a natural and proven way to help reduce the symptoms of nervousness and restore positivity, I use Bergamot essential oil (reduces hormone responses to stress) in a burner and find this both uplifting and relaxing. So, the next time you want to instantly lift your mood, try to use a candle or diffuser with citrus or rosemary scents. If you’re choosing candles for your home, then they should be natural where possible. I will write a blog about natural home scents.

The blue light that is admitted from computer screens decreases your magnesium levels, which can make you feel less tired and more anxious. (Contributing to insomnia) To combat this, shutting your light off earlier and lighting a candle can actually help you feel calmer earlier in the evening and reset to your natural sleep rhythms. When you’re not being disrupted by technology, it’s easier to listen to your body and know when to shut down for the night without being distracted. When life starts to feel overwhelming, light a candle, an oil burner or steam diffuser with several drops of essential oil. To help instil a feeling of calmness, lift anxiety and aid sleep, the following used on their own or in combination with each other can be a great help; camomile, lavender, (sedative) frankincense, neroli, rose, sandalwood, vetiver, patchouli and ylang ylang. (lifts depression)

Once you smell a candle scented by essential oils, you’ll instantly notice the difference compared to a synthetic scented candle.  Also, there are concerns with the use of paraffins and other synthetic ingredients. Candles with artificial fragrances and boosters are releasing synthetic compounds into the air. This can sometimes cause skin, eye, and nose irritations for some. (Especially for those with potential allergies) Natural wax candles include: beeswax, rapeseed and soy, all have a very low environmental impacts and footprint, and I would recommend these rather than paraffin wax candles. Breathing too much of any type of smoke can potentially damage your health so ventilate your room by opening a window after extinguishing a candle.

Traditionally, oil burners have been used to diffuse oils, but now there are numerous options like nebulizing diffusers or vapour diffusers. They don’t require any form of internal heat to disperse scented oils around a room. As there’s no flame or hot wax, these can be left on for longer periods, even overnight, some have an automatic cut off after several hours. I add eucalyptus oil at night when I have a cold, to help breathing. These are ideal as a safer replacement for candles.

Vapour diffusers pump out a fragrant water vapor, (steam) these occasionally need to be filled with a small amount of water and a few drops of essential oil. They give off a fragrance at a slower pace. The result is a lighter scent but one that lingers. Vapour diffusers are one of the best and easier ways to use aromatherapy daily. If you are familiar with oils or only just starting to use them you will find that the electric vapour diffusers are really versatile and you are less likely to become over-sensitised to the oils because of a slower inhalation. I use one myself!

Nebulizing diffusers work by forcing a stream of air at high pressure through small tubes or filters that contain essential oil which then sprays fine particles of the essential oil into the air. This fine mist distributes the oil around the room. Nebulizers don’t require water but do use more oil. However, they disperse essential oils much faster and at a higher concentration.

If you have pets some essential oils are toxic to dogs and cats. If you have nebulizer, make sure the oil you’re using is safe for your pet and air out the room before you let enter the room. Avoid using an essential oil diffuser if you have birds as their respiratory tracts are very sensitive. Passive diffusers (bottles with reeds) are generally safer for homes with animals as these are more diluted so safer, it is always best to check with your vet. See the APCC’s toxic and nontoxic plant list for further details.

Both are readily available online at every price point and they make great presents. You do have to use pure essential oils not fragrance oils which can contain mineral oil. (This is actually paraffin oil and best to avoid)

I hope this has given you some insights into the benefits of home scents both for health and wellbeing.

Healing Your Home

I have talked before about your home been a haven, Home is where the heart is after all.  But what about a home that doesn’t feel quite right? Sometimes you can’t quite put your finger on what’s wrong. Take notice, you do need to listen to your heart, intuition and gut feeling.

 I love walking into a house or flat that has good energy. Comfortable furniture and interesting accessories play their part in making a home feel great, but a home that has good energy is just not as tangible as the décor. An open mind is required as I shall aim to explain.

There are many ways to heal the energy in your home. Having a healthy home is important to your health. The energy in a healthy home promotes healing and rejuvenation. It has a wonderful feeling of lightness and clarity, where you can feel relaxed, inspired and energised all at the same time. The atmosphere or feel of a home is so important.

Everything is made up of energy. Some energy we can see, some we cannot. Energy can be positive or negative. Positive energy makes us feel good whilst negative energy is draining. If you are living with negative energy this can manifests itself in many ways; harming relationships, creating a bad atmosphere, causing tiredness and poor health. If you’ve just moved into a new space, you should cleanse your home of any negative energies that might still be there from the previous owners. Have you ever felt an uneasy feeling when you entered a room or building? I know I have!

Homes become sick for many reasons, they can become cluttered and dirty and in energy terms, anything that is untidy, unfinished or unloved, holds onto stagnant energy and disrupts the flow of good energy. Ever more complex than that is the energies generated by us humans. (Arguments, divorce, stress from work and life, physical and mental illness, bullying, hatred and other negative circumstances) We all leave an energetic trace or pattern wherever we go. These can prove to be harmful to others who are vibrating on a different level to us.

It is, however, possible to clear poor energy from within your home through various spiritual clearing practises. The adverse emotional energy has to go somewhere and the bricks and mortar will soak it up like a sponge as does furniture and other items. I have tried some techniques myself, like crystals and using a bell and others I been told about.

Smudging-You have probably seen images of people waving bundles of sage, sometimes mixed with herbs or essential oils like lavender, lemon, juniper berry and cedarwood, mugwort or lighting a piece of Palo Santo. (Wood from the Bursar graveolens tree native to South America and used for healing and cleansing) Smudging is an ancient ceremonial practice used by Native Americans. It’s a process of burning herbs to cleanse and protect a space and when they start to smoke, it blows away any negative energy. It’s easy to perform yourself; first, you need to open all of the doors and windows in your home, then hold the sage and light the end until it starts to smoke. Then you can start the smudging practice, make your way from room to room, waving the smoke into all of the opened and closed spaces and corners. After you’ve smudged each room, you can now cleanse your house with salt. Pour salt into each corner and let it sit for 48 hours (the salt can absorb negative energy). Ring a bell three times in each corner to break up any stagnant energy. Many people choose to use salt lamps to continue clearing bad energy, I have one of these myself.

Crystals- scientists tend to scoff at the idea of crystals having any mystical properties, but crystals have been used all over the world for thousands of years, for adornment, healing and protection. The beauty of using crystals, is that they work with what you already have and are affordable to buy. Pink quartz crystals built up love and positive vibrations. Black tourmaline is powerful for soaking up bad vibes and works well when placed in each corner of a room. Put clear quartz, selenite and calcite next to the Wi-Fi router. Amethyst is known as a master healer. If there is a lot of emotion, try an amethyst cave (a bit like a big rock) it draws in energy, transmutes it and sends it out again. I will write an additional post about crystal power.

Music- is a vibration and those waves or frequencies, reverberate throughout your home. If you listen to music that has positive vibrations, it will broadcast those positive vibrations throughout your home. Think of the vibrations that emanate from bells ringing. The sound is both pleasing to your ears and has a positive effect on your home. There are even some studies that indicate the ringing of bells, like church bells, is an effective treatment for depression and other mental disorders. Tibetan bowls, cymbals, bells, and chimes are also special tools for sound healing, and you can use them to move the sound into the corners of each room to clear the energy. Investing in some wind chimes to hang inside, or outside your home, can give you the same healing benefits as ringing a bell.

Dowsing- is a type of divination employed in attempts to malign earth vibrations. Spiritual dowsing wasn’t used much before the latter part of the twentieth century. Prior to that time, dowsing was more focused on subjects like water and mineral locations. Its growing in popularly for clearing negative energy and geopsychic stresses. The level of stress is measured through dowsing before and after clearing to ensure the stress has been cleared. Geopsychic Stress is the generic term used to cover all the seen and unseen energy patterns, including negative imprints, negative thought forms, trapped souls and entitles, magnetic waves and geological fault streams. This is an area; I don’t know that much about and there are healers working in this field who can help to heal your home and give a more detailed explanation. It would be remiss of me not to mention this as this, although I think it best to take advice from a home healer rather than doing it yourself.

The Greek prefix Geo signifies earth and Pathos means disease or suffering. Geopathic Stress is a form of stress that is underground and can be from underground streams, geological fault streams, tunnels and mines and crossing points of energy and ley lines. These can cause energy stresses above ground where we live. All electrical items produce magnetic waves and these will be measured as Electromagnetic Stress. Electrical items include TV’s, Wi-Fi, microwaves, electric wires, fuse boxes and electric clocks. Some people are sensitive to these waves. Part of the clearing process is to neutralise negative waves emitting from electrical items and put in protection around the property against outside emissions.  I met a fascinating couple in Ibiza, who always turned their wi-fi route off at ten pm and didn’t switch it on again until the morning so as not to harm their sleep patterns.

To conclude then, trying some space clearing like smudging, playing some music or placing crystals in your rooms can help to change the vibrations and raise the energy. By giving your home some love and extra attention, it can make your home feel happier and more of a sanctuary to you.

Making Your Home a Haven

These are unprecedented times, when everyone in the world is being encouraged to stay at home as much as possible. This can create a lot of anxiety for everyone. So it’s important that you create a relaxing and tranquil atmosphere, whether you have returned to lock-down or if you’re just practising self-quarantine or shielding. These enforced stays at home make us realize the importance of been as comfortable as we can in our homes. This is the place to be totally ourselves. Homes can have the power to heal also, I feel another blog post forming!

There are different steps we can take to do this, often without a great deal of effort or additional expense. As I have mentioned before, keeping clutter down to a minimal does make for a relaxing environment. Its difficult to relax probably with piles of stuff that needs moving etc.  A mini-makeover can make a big difference to a room. Throw out or remove any old or uncomfortable cushions, if the pads are ok but the covers are old, just change those. There are lots really interesting designs available on the high street look at TK Maxx or Ikea. Charity shops, eBay and Gumtree can also offer bargains. If you like making things why not have a go at making your own covers! (Old curtains can be re-made as cushions) As we go into Winter, rich colours and tactile fabrics like fake fur, velvet or plaid can give a cosy warm feel. Throws and blankets are lovely for snuggling up with and will also cover an old sofa, so are a design feature as well as been practical.

The Danish culture of Hygge, is the happiness of staying at home combined with the satisfaction of enjoying time at home. Hygge means creating a warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life with good people. A real value is placed on well-being and family life. Perhaps this explains why the Danes are some of the happiest people in the world.

Lighting, particularly as it starts to get darker at night, can really change a room. Fairy lights are lovely and shops are starting to stock Christmas decorations many of which are far to nice to only use for a couple of weeks. Candles can add additional light but also fragrance and are a wonderful treat to both yourself and others. Scented with a fir tree scent or pine helps to embrace the Autumn and Winter time. But there are many wonderful scents available, personally I think that better quality soy candles using natural ingredients are better for you and the environment. These do last longer too, so can often work out as better value in the long run.

I always think that the best way to personalize your home space is to hang pictures or photographs on the wall. I like to have pictures of my loved ones but images of your favourite places, holiday memories or positive messages, can be uplifting too. Why not have a go yourself and paint your own canvas? You can attach wallpaper to canvases by using a heavy- duty staple gun, just make sure you pull this tight so it doesn’t bag at the side.

Adults and children’s alike will get a lot out of bringing plants into the home. If you’re new to having plants indoors, start with something easy like a large, statement piece that doesn’t need to much care like a Cactus or Succulent. Plants can have healing properties as well as looking great. I love flowers but these can be more expensive in Autumn and I like to use natural rather than artificial, so plants can be good value as with some care they will last for a long time.

As, I mentioned in my last post many people are still working from home and having a separation of work and home space is important for a balanced lifestyle. Creating a dedicated area for exercise and meditation could give you a place to retreat if you are feeling stressed. Playing music, lighting candles and an uncluttered space would help you to become calmer. We can all benefit from personal space and time.

It’s important you have a bedroom where you feel you’re safe from the outside world. Simple pre-bedtime routines like not watching TV or doing work and reading instead will help you feel relaxed in your bedroom. You may even want to consider updating your overall bedroom aesthetic at this time, and creating the bedroom you’ve always wanted. Choose a tranquil colour palette which really resonates with you or investing in new bedding so you can unwind in your bedroom.

Its vital that we all practise as much self- care as we can. Giving ourselves peace and a place to relax is so important in uncertain, chaotic times.

De-Cluttering in The Home.

I have found myself with extra time on my hands and I thought I would use this time to have a bit of a sort out at home. I don’t have a great deal of storage space, most of my previous homes also lacked storage. Whilst I am by nature tidy, I do need to be quite organized, as I often work from home and despite my best effects do still have too much stuff. I set up The Holding Company in London, with Dawna Walters of The Life Laundry, where we sold useful storage and items to help you get organized, I still use many of these today. When clutter starts to gather in my home, I begin to feel stressed. When I have dealt with said clutter, I feel much calmer. The way we feel about our living space has a big impact on our state of mind, so I guess it’s no surprise that when our home feels cluttered and chaotic, we feel the same.

A place for everything and everything in its place, what a wonderful idea! More and more studies are showing that a clean, organized living space is an important factor in our wellbeing. Clearing clutter from our homes is an important step towards creating that clean, organized space. Now many of us don’t have huge amounts of spare time for decluttering and organising our family homes. But there some great books and websites, like Pinterest, with helpful tips that can really help you to make a start.

 If you’ve been putting off decluttering your home and your life, chances are there’s a lot of work to be done. Don’t let that pile of junk overwhelm you, start small and tackle it one bit at a time. Set yourself a daily task of one box or bag per day and if that still seems overwhelming, try setting a timer for 30 minutes and do whatever you can in that amount of time.

Clutter is anything that is no longer useful in your life, if you have any of the following it needs to go: broken items, worn out items, things that don’t fit, aren’t used, are no longer loved, aren’t played with or don’t suit your lifestyle anymore. The Four-Box Method is a great technique to use to declutter any space. Get four boxes: rubbish, give away, keep or relocate. Consider each item and place into one of the four boxes. Carefully storing the items you are keeping is vital so that clutter does not built up again. Lots of high street shops like Ikea have afforable storage systems.

Donate things that can be used, and feel good about sharing your items with others who might truly benefit. Sell items that have value and make some extra pocket-money, eBay or Vinted are low cost and easy to use. De-cluttering is different from tidying. When you tidy, things are put away, that are out of place. When de-cluttering you are removing things from your house and life. It’s a positive step that can be taken towards improving our well-being.

Before you begin the de-cluttering process, think about why this task is important to you? What is the end vision for your life and your home? What goals would you pursue if your clutter wasn’t blocking your way. The idea of living a simplified, uncluttered life with less stuff sounds attractive to many, myself included. The benefits of owning fewer possessions are: less to clean, less debt, less to organize, less stress, more money and energy for things you are passionate about.

Remember, clutter isn’t just about stuff. It can be the outward symptom of an internal struggle, stemming from grief, loss, fear, self-image or even depression. Many people who suffer from compulsive hoarding have built literal walls around themselves. They are comforted by being confined by all their stuff. We can have a lot of things that don’t make us feel happy, by holding onto clutter because of the guilt of letting it go. Stuff guilt is a big obstacle to living clutter- free. We feel guilty about getting rid of stuff; because of the cost, we don’t want to be wasteful or because someone gave it to us and we don’t want to be ungrateful. Sometimes it represents all the things we said we were going to do, then didn’t like starting a new hobby. As an artist and crafter, I often have unfinished projects, these can really weigh me down. Now I finish the project or get rid of it, why torture yourself with lots of things that are half-finished.

Growing up we might have been faced with times of hardship when we struggled. One of the reasons we become so attached to items is because of the idea of scarcity. My Grand-parents lived through the war-time period and they saved all kinds of items: paper, packaging, out- of- date foods, newspapers etc. All because they knew what it was like to have nothing. Similarly, if you’ve gone through a traumatic experience, you might hold on to an item that identifies with a happier time. Or we may believe that holding on to items will somehow shield us from the pain of loss or grieving. But memories and stuff are not the same. This can be one of the most difficult things to work through when it comes to letting go of stuff. When we’re holding on to emotional baggage, it can literally become physical baggage we carry around with us. The reality is that at some point, it is no longer practical or healthy to hold on to things we don’t need simply because you’re trying to hold on to a memory. Don’t forget that you can take a picture of something you want to remember. How about a digital memory book? What about a creative way to deal with sentimental clutter and find a new use for an old thing? Upcycle or recycle your treasures into something you’ll use. (I will write a blog post about upcycling)

Whatever the reason for keeping it, hanging on to stuff causes a kind of guilt, the guilt that comes from feeling like our lives are cluttered and out of control. It causes you to feel totally overwhelmed physically and mentally, you can waste a lot of time looking for things, you can be too embarrassed to let visitors into your home, cleaning can take so much longer, so it doesn’t get done as well and important items get lost. It’s so much easier to function when you have a house that is well- ordered and free of clutter. It’s a happy, healthy space where you and your family can thrive.

There’s no doubt about it, once you deal with your clutter, you’ll feel more relaxed and in control. De-cluttering will also help relieve negative emotions such as guilt and embarrassment. Feelings that prevent you from living the life you want to live. De-cluttering will help relieve the stress and anxiety around those negative emotions, and help you move intentionally toward the life you want.  Any progress, big or small, is a great mood booster. The feeling of lightness you’ll get from removing the things in your life that are no longer serving you is wonderful. ( This can apply to people and habits)

Over-buying, is addictive, when we buy, we feel great at first then feel guilty, often hiding things in cupboards with the tags attached, it’s very tempting when spotting a bargain even when money’s really tight, many of us can’t stop shopping. Believe me, most of the stuff we buy is making us miserable. Try and get into the mindset of buying and having fewer things, but make them the best quality that you can afford. Who wants to fight through a wardrobe overflowing with clothes, that don’t fit, don’t flatter you and you don’t even like that much. Only buy what you love and wear it, don’t save it for best, enjoy it now, life is too short!

Books and media can be problematic. It feels lovely to have a book collection, but be honest, there is no reason to keep all those books we have read, unless they are first editions or heirlooms. Do you keep piles of old magazines? Instead just keep the recipes or articles you want and get rid of the magazines. These pages can be put in a file or scrapbook. Get rid of old planners and notebooks just take out the pages with the stuff you want to keep. If you have stacks of CDs you can trade these in and go digital. The same with photographs, store on your computer and back up to cloud.

If you work from home, once you’ve de-cluttered, and everything is in its place, you’ll be able to find what you are looking for so much more quickly and easily. And you’ll be less likely to lose things, how frustrating is it when you just can’t lay your hands on something. Distraction is one of the biggest obstacles to being productive, clutter is a visual form of distraction. It draws your attention away from what you really should be focusing on, impacting on your ability to make decisions and process information. Check through your supplies and see what you have unnecessary duplicates of, what is broken and what you don’t need. Been creative it’s hard for me to not look at everything as something I can use later. In my studio space, I try to only keep things that I have a specific use in mind. Donate to a craft centre instead where old supplies can be put to good use.

If you are temporarily working from home, putting everything you require in a box and get it out when you are working. This is far better than leaving your work stuff laying around as well as more productive.

Its always hard to let go of stuff that may have been important once, but why not let someone else benefit from what no longer serves your need. I am not a hoarder but I am also a long way off living a minimalism lifestyle. I think having things around you that you love and use is just fine as long as you can find everything when you need it. So if you put things away after using and have a home for everything all is good.

To quote -William Morris- Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.