April Showers Bring May Flowers… and So Much More!

By Gwenn Voelckers

Oh, the promise of spring! The warmer weather makes me want to bust open my windows and break out my spring cleaning supplies. I’m ready to pull on my rubber gloves and get busy.

But scrubbing my tubs is only part of it.

Creating a clean, soothing and safe haven for myself after my divorce was an essential part of starting my life over as a woman on her own. Intuitively, I knew I needed to walk through my new front door and into my very own “warm hug,” a place where I would be embraced and inspired by all things familiar and friendly.

So I set out to create a retreat — a personal sanctuary where I could feel safe, sound and at peace. It was what I needed at the time.

Now, years later, my home has evolved into much more than just a nurturing place. My living space became a pallet of personal expression where I gained a true appreciation for the value of having space to create and live freely, as Virginia Woolf explored in her enlightening book titled, “A Room of One’s Own.”

With yourself as your sole guide and decorator, your kitchen, living room and bedroom can become portraits of your values, your loves, and your life. Making a home your own becomes an adventure in autonomy and a chance to explore and express — perhaps for the first time in your life — your own tastes unleashed, without compromise. It can be liberating. Energizing. Even healing.

One of the first things I did when I bought my own home (after I tore out the grass-green shag carpet!) was to frame and display photographs of my family and friends. I wanted to see their faces when I entered a room and to be reminded of good times and the love that surrounds me.

This was just the beginning of a series of decisions that made living alone in my own space not just pleasant, but lovelier and more wondrous than I could have imagined.

Paying attention to your surroundings can have an immediate and lasting impact on how you feel about yourself and about living alone. What better time than now to put out the welcome mat and make your home your own.

Here are some tips:

• Follow your heart. You’re on your own now. There’s no one around to second guess your decisions or rain on your preferences. You are free to express yourself in the colors you choose, the fabrics, the art and the accessories. Don’t know where to start? Look at your wardrobe. There, you’ll find a reliable reference for your style and tastes in color.

• Decorate with your senses. Is the hollow sound of loneliness bouncing off your walls? Is there a musty smell wafting up from the basement? Are your counter tops sticky to the touch? When I started paying attention to more than just visual aesthetics, my home became even friendlier territory. Transform your solitary space by creating a beautiful atmosphere filled with lovely music, pleasing aromas, and clean surfaces.

• Banish the negative. If something makes you feel bad when you look at it, either get rid of it or repair it. Ratty dishtowels, old lampshades, faded curtains: Their very existence in your home can dampen your mood and erode your self-esteem over time. Don’t underestimate the negative power of unsightly or outdated objects.

• Exhibit the positive. On the other hand, surround yourself with images and objects that lift your spirit and reinforce who you are or want to become. Photos of loved ones work for me. So do fresh flowers and original pieces of art I collect on my travels. I believe in the symbolic nature of objects and find inspiration in what fills my home.

• Reduce the clutter. Closets crammed with forgotten clothing, drawers loaded with useless stuff, dark corners made darker by a tower of boxes — all of these contribute to negative energy, according to the tenets of feng shui, the ancient Chinese practice of organizing space to achieve harmony and balance.

In the same vein, the Danish philosophy of hygge promotes a way of life that embraces coziness and well-being. Similarly, Sweden advances the virtues of moderation and balance in a new lifestyle trend call lagom, which captures the Goldilocks principle of “not too little, not too much, just right” for any given moment, gathering or situation.

I’m intrigued by all these concepts and have incorporated bits and pieces of each into my life. It’s made a positive difference; I encourage you to check ‘em out.

Your home can become an oasis of independence and autonomy — a place that’s unconditionally yours, absent of compromise. Claim it. Fill it with who you are. Because once you make your personal space your own . . . there’s no place like home!

Gwenn Voelckers is the founder and facilitator of Live Alone and Thrive empowerment workshops for women held throughout the year in Mendon, N.Y. For information about her workshops, book, or to invite her to speak, call 585-624-7887, email gvoelckers@rochester.rr.com, or visit www.aloneandcontent.com.