By Melisa LaBancz-Bleasdale, Houzz
As we ease into fall, the change in life’s pace with the return to school, shifting seasons and the impending holidays can create ripples of tension that translate into unhappy home environments. It’s easy to get caught up in the craziness and forget to take the time to regroup. Whether your home is massive in scale or barely on the map, here are seven ways to create physical and mental space for recharging and giving you back the balance you need.
Related: A Cozy Home for Fall
1. Sit down.
There’s a lot to do in getting kids off to school, prepping for the parade of holidays and adjusting to the change in seasons. Stay connected to what matters, recharge and quiet your mind by creating special spaces that will keep your heart feeling warm and full during autumn’s shorter days.
Finding a spot in which to sit, breathe deeply and contemplate — even if just for five minutes — can quickly help you refocus.Set a comfy cushion or bench in front of a window and look outside. Focus on taking note of what you see. The simple act of noticing things will help you realign your mind and clear out the clutter.
Tuck a single-size daybed into a snug space, pile it with pillows and keep reading material nearby. Settle in for a 15-minute break to go over your mental to-do list or to indulge yourself with a favorite book. If you have kids, make sure they know that it’s a “safe space” for them when they’re feeling overwhelmed. Different from a disciplinary timeout space, a secure, welcoming chair invites them to settle for a moment before dashing off to the next activity.
2. Claim a corner.
If you can, designate a permanent corner for reading, listening to music or taking those first sips of coffee. Put a tiny table next to a cozy seat and add a great light source for an instant nook. Make it a weekly ritual to spend time there and limit your concentration to something cathartic like thumbing through new catalogs or listening to guided meditations.
If your living space is small and a separate corner isn’t available, take a look at your bedroom to see whether an armless slipper chair might fit. Scaling down on a larger piece to make room for a chair in which to relax may be just what you need.
Parents with infants and toddlers run on a definite energy deficit. Spending time before bed sitting with your child to read or recount memories does as much to wind you down as it does for them.
Add a pouf or ottoman to give you a place to prop your feet, and use a light with a dimmer switch to create a softened atmosphere.
3. Cover up.
Keep a stash of throw blankets close at hand. When the nights get chilly or you want to nestle down, choose a soft, warm blanket to drape over your legs or wrap around your shoulders. The physical warmth a blanket often leads to relaxed muscles and a calmer mind, not to mention a sense of security.
Pro tip: During colder months, try storing some of your books off the bookcase in an airtight container, swapping them out for a colorful display of quilts or woven pieces. They’ll serve as seasonal decor and be within arm’s reach for instant comfort.
Think seasonal materials such as organic cotton, woven wool or faux fur. Layer sofas and other seating with fuzzy, fringed throws. When a throw is draped over the corner of a couch deep with pillows, it’s impossible not to want to crawl in and stay awhile.
4. Surround yourself.
Memories are some of the most potent things in life for evoking every known emotion. Home should always be a place of refuge and dedicated space for memories that make you smile. This can remind you on a daily basis of the bigger picture when times get tough.
Try an untraditional gallery wall in an unexpected place, such as the one pictured. Find photographs of great people, places and moments, then hang them near the nook where you kick back on the weekend or where you’ll see them before you turn in each evening.
If you’re short on large wall space, use shelving to display personal photos and mementos. Try using frames that are similar in style and color to keep the collection looking cohesive rather than haphazard.
5. Bed down.
It doesn’t matter how much time you spend in bed, having quality bedding and pillows is the difference between it feeling like a camping cot or a five-star room.
Cooler weather calls for more covers, and an inviting bed subconsciously readies you for a deep sleep.
Pro tip: Check fall sales for deals on high-thread-count sheets, deeply discounted coverlets and winter-ready blankets. Always check the sales section of your favorite home sites for overstocked throws and blankets.
If your pillows have seen better days, it’s affecting your quality of sleep. For every sleep position, there is a pillow designed to properly support your posture. In the colder months, our muscles tend to seize up, and added daily stresses cause our backs and necks to become stiff.
Experts recommend replacing your pillow every six months if you are unable to wash and dry it frequently. Though they’re usually protected by pillowcases, bed pillows can harbor all sorts of unpleasantries. Look for sales in which you can buy multiples of what you love, then store an extra pair in a vacuum-sealed bag for later use.
6. Set up a sanctuary.
Transforming your environment, even for a day, can give you the much-needed inspiration to power through the rest of your week. There’s something magical about outdoor pillow forts and tents made from sheets. For a summer’s-night remix done autumn-style, anchor sheer curtain panels, swaths of fabric or even vintage saris from the ceiling with small thumbtacks. Allow them to dip above your bed at varying angles for tent-like drama.
Add hanging strands of mini LED lights to give off a starlight glow, and lie back and listen to your favorite songs.
Good to know: For children, creating this sort of seasonal wonderland can stoke their creativity, allay nighttime fears and carve out a space for you to bond with them each evening.
You don’t need a giant bathroom in order to evoke a spa-like feel. Turn it into a temporary getaway by adding a grouping of candles (battery-operated LED style is best for children), an ultra cushioned bath mat and fresh towels. If you have a tub, run hot water over a homemade sachet of whole autumn spices wrapped in cheesecloth while it fills.
You can do the same thing in the shower by tying the cheesecloth wrap on the neck of the shower head and letting the steam seep through it. Cinnamon, clove, vanilla bean and star anise create beautiful scents when paired with heat.
7. Make mealtimes matter.
Not everyone can sit down to a great meal seven days a week. Most folks are barely handling the necessities without having to worry about what to cook for dinner. Yet taking the time to sit for a meal a couple of times a week — whether it’s breakfast for one on the weekend or a family dinner for five — can help you feel centered and nourish you by giving you ample time to enjoy your food.
Setting the table doesn’t require matching dishes and crystal goblets. Put out the best you have with the intent of treating yourself, and you’ll be surprised how tempting eating in can be.
Pro tip: Choose days and times to have your sit-down meals that won’t compete with any other activity.
Assess your dining space and ask yourself:
• Could I benefit from fresh chair cushions?
• Would a matching set of placemats add color and style?
• Do I have good lighting that provides a warm glow?
• Does the space need a coat of paint?
Your dining space should be inviting for both you and your family and guests. If your walls need touching up, the overhead light is dusty and your chairs aren’t easy to spend time in, it’s time to give it a lift. Stick to the style you are most comfortable with — casual, eclectic, traditional — and buy the best you can afford to make it a place you want to sit down in.
If all you have is a counter and some stools, ensure that the stools are supportive and the right height, dress up the counter using a table runner with a pair of placemats set on top, add a few tea lights, and voilà! Instant bistro.