I’ve been thinking a lot about what home means to me lately. Somehow all the decor stuff feels far less important than it once did. Ultimately what we really need our homes to be is a place where we feel safe isn’t it? It’s something that many of us have perhaps taken for granted in the past. I can’t imagine how it would feel to not have somewhere safe to live right now (for whatever reason).
I’ve always thought of home first and foremost as a place of sanctuary, but throughout our renovation I often found myself consumed by the design details. I would spend days or sometimes even weeks obsessing over things like floor choices or paint colours. And then when Covid-19 arrived it was as if we all suddenly and collectively found ourselves shunted right down to the bottom of Maslow’s triangle. Almost overnight we had to focus on much more fundamental needs – health, food, shelter, family and community.
The experience of spending the past couple of months in lockdown has fundamentally changed my relationship with my home and the community I live in. Perhaps it has changed the way you feel about where you live too? Will we all just click back to the old ways of seeing and doing things when this pandemic is finally over? Maybe, but maybe not.
I have been so grateful to have this home as our safe place for the past few months. This has been a big shift in perspective for me because I didn’t always love our house. We bought it as a fixer upper and it was in a pretty basic condition when we moved in. It was in a good location and at a price that was comfortably within our budget, but living here wasn’t much fun for the first few months while we were tackling some of the bigger and messier jobs. By buying a relatively small property that was within our means we didn’t have to take on any debt though, and we could also afford to do the work we wanted to do in order to extend and put our own stamp on it. Now that so many people are facing financial worry and uncertainty we feel enormously grateful that we took that decision. I’ve really come to appreciate this little house, because while it may not have everything I initially thought I wanted, I’ve come to realise that it does have everything we really need.
Here are some of the things I’ve learned during lockdown.
Where we live has been a lovely place to spend lockdown. People have started using their front gardens in a way they didn’t before and we spend more time chatting with each other as a result, so we’ve got to know our neighbours better. Some of us have shared cakes and plants with each other while others have put old books and toys out on their driveways for people to help themselves to. Small children have learned to ride their bicycles on empty streets – something that would have been inconceivable just a few months ago. Community matters more to all of us than it previously did, and perhaps the shared experience of living through lockdown together will leave a lasting positive imprint on us.
Having an outdoor space is really important
Actually having an outdoor space has always been really important to me – I’ve never lived in a flat for that reason. It’s become immeasurably more important to me over the past couple of months though. I’m especially grateful that as well as having somewhere to sit outside I’ve also had space to grow flowers and vegetables. Watering my plants every morning and evening has given my days a rhythm and watching things grow has been a source of peace, enjoyment and contentment.
A well stocked larder can be a source of comfort
When you are trying to feed your family during a pandemic there is something very reassuring about having a well stocked larder. I’ve discovered new levels of empathy and appreciation for my grandparents, who lived through the war and always had a pantry full of jams and chutneys and abundant supplies of fresh fruit and vegetables from my grandad’s allotment.
A big fridge freezer is your best friend
We bought one a few months ago and it’s been such a relief to be able to meal plan, keep food fresh for longer and not have to worry about what we’re going to eat for the next few days. And we’ve been eating much better as a result. I’m making healthier choices and cooking more meals from scratch. I don’t think I’ll ever go back to ‘just in time’ food shopping ever again. No more hurriedly picking up a basket of essentials at my local Tesco Express every other day – I’ll be ordering in a big shop once a week from now on.
Growing your own is good for you… and the planet!
Aside from a few days when there was an initial rush on the supermarkets, and excess demand for things like eggs and flour caused by all the sudden enthusiasm for home baking, there have thankfully been no major food shortages here in the UK. But having previously taken it for granted that the supermarket shelves would always have whatever we need I think it gave some of us a bit of a jolt to realise that our food supply chains are more fragile than we’d previously realised. Most of the initial shortages have now subsided but, perhaps because we’re all spending more time at home, there is definitely a surge in interest in growing our own food. Even if the supermarket shelves continue to remain well stocked it surely has to be a good thing that more and more of us are taking an interest in this. Taking small steps to reduce the environmental impact of the food we consume is something that most of us can do, even if it’s just growing a few tomatoes or salad leaves on a balcony or tiny patio. Along with an increase in walking and cycling as means of transport it’s something positive we can do to help the planet, not to mention the fact that there is nothing quite like picking and eating tomatoes from your own garden on a warm summer evening.
Having a dedicated working from home space is really important
We are both fortunate enough to be able to work from home at the moment. I already had a workspace but we’ve had to make adjustments to our home to create a dedicated space for Graham to work from too. I think this is really important but I appreciate that it’s something not everyone has access to. Working from the kitchen table on a laptop may be fine for short bursts but if you are planning on working from home regularly over a long period of time you really need to set up an ergnomically suitable space so that you can work comfortably and without risking strain or injury.
We’ve become better at rethinking, repurposing and using up things we already have
From making a cold frame out of left over palettes and polycarbonate sheets, to creating an additional desk for working from home out of an old kitchen worktop we’ve been finding new uses for things we already have. I’ve rediscovered old clothes at the back of my wardrobe and used up skincare samples and half empty bottles from the bottom of my dressing table drawer rather than buying new ones. Yes, I miss my hairdresser and visits to Space NK to splash out on the occasional treat, but for now, I’m getting by without those things.
We’ve had to learn new skills and become more self reliant
For many of us the past few months has meant shifting the focus of our lives away from going ‘out’ to work and meeting up for social and leisure activities outside the home. Instead our lives have been concentrated inwards to the confines of our own home. Whether we’ve been growing vegetables, baking our own bread, finding new ways of meeting or socialising online or doing DIY jobs around the house instead of hiring in tradespeople we’ve all had to learn new skills and become more self reliant.
We’ve reorganised our space to accommodate new routines
I started practising yoga regularly again while we were in lockdown and Graham has been working from home, so we’ve had to reorganise the existing space within our home to accommodate these new routines. As we emerge out of the other side of this situation some of us may reflect on how we can reconfigure or expand our homes to accommodate activities like this on a more permanent basis. So going forward I think it’s likely that we’ll see more people than ever looking to maximise the available space in their homes, by undertaking loft conversions or building a studio or home office in the garden for example.
We want our homes to be calm spaces that soothe anxiety
When I’ve shared pictures of my home on Instagram recently one of the more interesting things I’ve noticed is that rather than commenting on how the space looks some people have commented on how they think it might feel. A word that’s cropped up a lot is ‘calm’. I’ve always tried to create spaces that feel calm but I think it’s something people are much more tuned in to at the moment.
Finally, as well as reorganising my home I’ve also been cleaning up and reorganising my digital space and social feeds. I’ve muted or unfollowed people who’s content jars with me at the moment for whatever reason, whether that’s their relatability or their political viewpoint. I don’t say that as a judgement on anyone – it’s just something I’ve personally chosen to do for my own emotional well being, because well…. things have felt pretty dystopian at times recently and we are all just trying to get by. In the same way that I want my home to feel calm and safe I also want my online space to be a healthy and positive environment. The content I’m enjoying right now is the less aspirational stuff – expensive design and big budget renovations somehow feel less relatable in the midst of a global pandemic. The people who are inspiring me most are those who are showing sensitivity, resourcefulness and self awareness – ordinary people living in ordinary homes, creating honest, authentic content and finding joy, positivity and gratitude in the everyday.
Stay safe everyone and let’s support each other through this as best we can!