Cancer survivor rethinks her home for easier management after cancer.
Barbara Tako is a breast cancer survivor (2010), melanoma survivor (2014) and author of Cancer Survivorship Coping Tools–We'll Get You Through This. She is a cancer coping advocate, speaker and published writer for television, radio and other venues across the country. She lives, survives, and thrives in Minnesota with her husband, children and dog. See more at www.cancersurvivorshipcopingtools.com,or www.clutterclearingchoices.com.
Cancer survivorship has taught the clutter-clearing person (me) even more about simplifying life. I know the trick to simple home decorating is to have a home that reflects and enhances my life. Unfortunately, clutter often creeps in and weighs me down, even after cancer, probably especially after cancer.
If you are struggling with less energy, consider these thoughts. One couple I know had a nearly full wine rack above the refrigerator in their kitchen. From a decorating standpoint, I objected because neither of them likes to drink wine! Another family had a large and very expensive stand mixer on their kitchen counter. I shook my head because I know they don't bake, except maybe once per year. Another person had several beautiful, dusty, unused candles on a living room table. It bewildered me because I know she won't ever light them for fear of causing a fire.
All three of these situations are unauthentic decorating choices that clutter and drain instead of beautify homes. Especially as a cancer survivor, I want to be authentic. Decorating helps people when it enhances their home life, so consider decorating in ways that are authentic, functional, and simple for you now.
Try authentic decorating
. Your home is your castle. It is not The Jones' castle. Since this is where you nest, entertain and hang out, let your home express your personal hobbies, interests and color preferences. If you don't like wine, why keep a wine rack with dusty bottles in your kitchen? It is okay to decorate to reflect the potential for fun at home, but make sure it is your idea of fun. Choose art and colors that make you happy instead of matching the current trend. This means the art might reflect your family’s travels, hobbies or interests. This approach is authentic, frugal and more enduring – your preferences probably don't change as often as the trends. I would say authentic decorating reduces stress, and we as cancer survivors want to reduce our stress.
Consider buying art and decorations you like instead of worrying about whether or not they match your window coverings. Remove dusty faded valences and drapes. Make a conscious decision about whether or not you want your window décor and privacy options to block part of the window. Consider blinds or pleated shades if you don’t want to cover up a nice view. Notice what you like and keep a clipping file for your post-cancer emerging decorating style. Do you think differently since cancer?
Go with functional decorating.
Functional decorating means filling your dwelling space with things that work for you, not against you. Why move, clean and wipe under a heavy stand mixer when your energy is limited if you don't regularly use it? Put kitchen tools you enjoy using frequently on your counter and store the rest elsewhere. Consider combining decorating and functionality. Save your energy to spend it where you wish and not where your home demands.
Try decorative baskets or boxes in colors and styles that excite you to store your magazines and hobbies where you can easily reach them. Put decorative mirrors in places you need them, and use them to maximize space and light in small dark places.
Don't over-decorate in rooms that need regular thorough cleaning, like the kitchen or bathroom. Dried silk flowers and knick-knacks that get dusty and dripped on don't belong in these spaces. Remember the universal law of dirt: light items show dark dirt. Dark items show light dirt. And, most household dirt is light. At our house, we chose light-haired dogs (yellow instead of black labs) to go with our already light-colored carpet.
Try simple decorating.
My favorite! People know their authentic personal preferences and they know what items in their lives are functional. Here are a few simple decorating tips. When in doubt, go back to the first two thoughts – authentic and functional.
Decorate "big." It is simpler. Use a few large pieces instead of lots of little things that must be moved around all the time to clean and dust. Use one large figurine or bowl to catch the eye instead of many little items that compete for attention. Decorate vertically instead of horizontally. Try to put interesting items up on the walls instead of cluttering table and counter surfaces. Try large wall hangings and bright big tablecloths to make a change or reflect the seasons of the year. Remember, if you miss the dusty candles or little stuff, you can set them back out again. This isn't rocket science! It is just simplified decorating.
To soothe, go natural. Natural colors often look better than artificial colors. There is no substitute for using real plants, fruit and flowers to add color to a home. Fill a pretty bowl in the kitchen with fruit--just make sure it is fruit your family likes to eat! Or, buy a couple of potted flowers like azaleas or get a bucket filled with an assortment of bulbs that bloom at different times for the living room or family room. They will last for weeks and are a better value for your dollar than cut flowers. They can brighten your home and your attitude and help you stress less about cancer.
Change a few simple things every few weeks to keep your interest. It isn't necessary to go out and buy new stuff all the time. Sometimes shifting around what you already have will sufficiently perk up your rooms. These ideas can help you find a balance between "warmth and character" and "chaos and clutter" that works for you. Most importantly, enjoy! This is your refuge and haven.
Try Lauri Ward’s book, Use What You Have Decorating
(G.P. Putnam’s Sons New York, 1998 where she offers simple decorating solutions that use the stuff we already have! She also has a website at www.redecorate.com.
When our outsides are cheerful and welcoming, it can help our insides too. You can do this for yourself!