Apparently during the last lockdown, over 20 percent of us started small DIY projects. This growing trend continued throughout the spring and summer of 2020. Gardening was the most popular followed by spring-cleaning and then re-decorating. As soon as this second lockdown was announced, my reaction was to go out to John Lewis and to Dunelm. I ended up buying a long oval wall mirror, some fresh white cotton pillowcases and three silk fuchsia orchid stems for the bedroom.

Although I have always been more concerned with adorning myself than my home, these days I take more pleasure in choosing decorative accessories like scented candles and pretty cushion covers than in choosing a new eyeshadow. Our lives have once again slowed down and we can focus on our surroundings and use this month to channel our time and energy into minor home improvements. In the words of William Morris, we can discard that which is 'not useful or beautiful.’

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We may not have all of the skills of Mrs Beeton, but we can maybe attempt to learn a little more about 'household management' or as Americans put it, the sacred craft of ‘homemaking.’ It takes time to build a career, a business or a relationship, so why wouldn’t it take time to develop your home to the way you want it?

In the living room you can create soft snug places to sit, bring in freshly cut flowers, or new houseplants. We can dress the sofa by layering on a couple of velvety throws, add a couple of statement lampshades and of course light some scented tea lights in pretty glass crystal candle holders.

Upstairs in the bedroom, we could add some new artwork to the walls, or a garland of flower lights draped along the top of the headboard? By standing still in each room and getting a fresh perspective, we could maybe move some furniture around or declutter our bedside cabinet? Or take an old painting off the wall, change the lighting or reconsider how we store things.

St Albans & Harpenden Review:

Every autumn, I buy a copy of The Interior Design Yearbook from WH Smiths packed with photos of the latest design innovations just to get some fresh ideas and see what’s going on in the world of 21st century interior design. It’s such a pleasure to flick through and take a photo with my phone of that perfect armchair or console table.

Ultimately our homes become a place to nurture and sustain us especially in these winter months. I suppose the most important questions are: How does a room make you feel? What’s your unique style? How can you add charm or make it cosier? What patterns and colours are you drawn to? Would you prefer a Japanese themed empty space with uncluttered elegance? Or a more eclectic style interior rich in sumptuous fabrics and ornamentation?

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Tidying my messy study is the hardest task for me and takes forever. Piles of old unfinished manuscripts, discarded poems, interesting newspaper and magazine clippings all need to be filed or cleared. I can’t just throw things out randomly. It all makes up part of my creative journey. I find it difficult to confront my ‘emotional clutter’ so occasionally my husband tries to help.

Although he can generally be pretty ruthless when decluttering. As he sits with me, he can see that I can become tense and am sentimentally attached to certain possessions; he listens as I tell him about the story behind them and soon realises that a task that was pretty straightforward has become a huge emotional issue. Poor guy! But he accepts that ‘this is me’ and that some of these possessions represent part of my personal history. In the end I do manage to donate a pile of books to charity here and there. Refining my book collection and getting rid of the ones that don’t really mean that much to me is an ongoing process.

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As we are pretty much under house arrest once again, I decide to take my coffee to my study, take it easy, sit in my armchair and dip into some of my familiar coffee-table books in search of guidance and inspiration.

The Secret of how to win freedom from clutter by Don Aslett is a wonderfully humorous book written in a light-hearted tone and including anecdotes, charts and quizzes yet telling us that we are ‘enslaved by clutter.’ I like chapter three entitled, ‘A hundred and one feeble excuses for hanging onto clutter.’ Aslett reminds us that storage costs money and ‘we should get rid of old junk, so we have the freedom to greet a new season and grow again.’ He concludes by reminding us that ‘De-junking is a journey…not a destination.’

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Living with books by Alan Powers is a source book packed with imaginative ways to create a stylish home. The author explores how books can furnish and “establish the look and feel of the room.” The chapter on ‘Corridors and huge spaces’ is so inspirational illustrating how vertical shelving can be integrated into modern architectural spaces. Powers provides innovative solutions for book shelving in kitchens and in bathrooms.

The Family Manager by Kathy Peel is a comprehensive guide on organising the home. The author reminds us that ‘As family managers we are the sculptors of our homes and families.’ There is a no-nonsense approach to the book and it’s all about taking charge, delegating tasks and breaking down our housekeeping demands into daily, weekly and monthly chores.

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There are countless helpful tips from how to deal with a cluttered bathroom to an overstuffed drawer; from the many uses of bicarbonate of soda to how to fragrance your home. Peel encourages us to take it step by step, suggesting that we do at least one thing each day like sort out one kitchen cupboard, clear out the sewing basket or a sock drawer. One of my favourite tips is: “Start a seven-minute nightly decluttering routine just before bedtime” Then in the morning wake up to a tidy home. The book makes me feel like I need to: Clean up my act! Simplify my life!

It has been said that our homes reflect our personalities and even our levels of self-esteem. We as individuals are ever changing so why should our homes be static? Our home doesn’t have to look as if it has just sprung out of a glossy Interiors magazine, but we can attempt to arrange it as stylishly as we can. With a few finishing touches, we can create some nurturing breathing space where we can simply ‘be.’ Now more than ever, as we traverse these long winter evenings and 2020 gradually draws to a close, our homes become “a port in a storm, a refuge, a happy place in which to dwell,” and hopefully “a place where we are loved and where we can love.” (Marvin J Ashton, American writer).