After the mourning period is over, you may be faced with decisions about whether you stay in the home you shared with your loved one or perhaps relocate to a smaller house or condo or move closer to family.
One rule of thumb is to avoid making major changes in the first year following a death—like moving—as you are likely not thinking too clearly and may end up with life-changing results you will later regret.
You may decide to remain in the home you lived in with your husband or wife, for a number of reasons: you love your house, it’s in a good location, you don’t want to uproot children, the mortgage is paid up, the taxes are low, you have a good support network in your neighborhood.
So, what can you do to freshen up your dwelling that won’t break the bank, but will add some joy, beauty, and comfort to this next stage of life, while still honoring the memory of your loved one?
Start by de-cluttering—a great stress reliever that will make you feel lighter and calmer. Then brighten up your surroundings with attractive new accents and accessories, such as curtains, pillows, bedspreads, and artwork.
If you hated that ratty old Barcalounger that your spouse adored—get rid of it. Instead, hold on to decorative items and prized heirlooms that had special meaning for your spouse—or both of you. Keep happy memories alive by displaying favorite photos or creating a grouping of pictures on the wall in a hallway or foyer that show your loved one with family and friends, doing the things he or she enjoyed at different stages of life.
Color Your New World
Finding yourself on your own for the first time in years following the loss of a spouse can be both lonely and anxiety producing. So creating a soothing and relaxing environment is a top priority.
Jennifer Walker, ASID interior designer, based in Stony Creek, Connecticut, has some great ideas about using paint to reinvent your home.
“One of the most unique environments you can create is a room of pure meditation, like the floating spas that use sensory deprivation intended to cleanse and revitalize your spirit,” Jennifer says. “The spas are supposed to relax and unwind you, driving the worry demons away.
“Creating this with paint is a lovely way to bring this feeling home,” she says. “I’m suggesting painting a room, preferably a bedroom, all white. White is a symbol of purity and light. Peace is associated with white. In our culture carrying a white flag means, ‘Stop the conflict.’ Keep furniture, fixtures, walls, floors, linens, and upholstery all white. Keep digital devices out of this area. Removing external stimuli and visual noise will let you unwind and regenerate.”
But if extreme white doesn’t appeal to you, Jennifer has other ideas for positive, mood-enhancing colors to repaint your rooms.
“Neutrals are reassuring and harmonious and work well with accent colors,” she says. “Benjamin Moore (B.M.) Consentino Chardonnay or Stone House are restful and uncomplicated and quiet the environment. Use in a space that tends to be noisy...a T.V. room, for example.”
Yellow is cheerful and uplifting, and reflects sunlight, so it will brighten a space that needs a punch, Jennifer points out.
Two nice choices she suggests are B.M. Straw 2154-50 and Vellum 207.
“A study in New York uncovered the fun factoid that people in a yellow room are more social,” Jennifer says. “The experimenters set up three rooms for cocktail parties: red, blue, and yellow. The yellow people were livelier and ate more than the others. Cautionary tale: not the best choice for dining rooms if you’re dieting!”
She notes that blue is the color of trust.
“Banks and politicians love blue. Blue can be regal and uplifting, as well as reflect a relaxing mood,” she says. Shades of blue are also perfect in bedrooms where we need a quiet, soothing, contemplative interior.”
Jennifer recommends B.M. Stratford Blue 831 or Lake Placid 827 as great hues for a study where you need to focus.
Red, on the other hand, can actually make blood pressure rise by bringing on an adrenaline rush,” Jennifer notes. “It’s the color of passion and energy.”
She suggests that B.M. Caliente AF 290 or Dinner Party AF 300 would work well in a spirited dining room.
But of all colors, she says nature green is a one of her favorites in all tints.
“Deep B.M. Lush AF-475 makes a dramatic statement. Subtle shades of green are perfect backgrounds for resting. The soft shade of B.M. Dune Grass 492 conveys a feeling of spring and with it harmony,” she says.
“All the gifts of nature are represented by green,” Jennifer observes. “Many studies find that green increases comfort and a positive outlook.”
And, in addition to paint, there are so many reasons and ways to use green to transform your environment with plants at the top of the list.
“As a designer and LEED (green design and building) proponent, I cannot stand fake plants. They do nothing for you but collect dust,” Jennifer stresses.
“Not only is greenery aesthetically pleasing, it promotes good healthy air-quality,” she says. “Our mothers had it right with the little old lady plants like philodendrons, ferns, golden pothos, and snake plants. These plants with tropical roots are especially ‘built’ to effectively purify the indoor air by absorbing carbon dioxide and other unhealthy gases and convert them to oxygen.
“Gerber Daisies are especially wonderful in bedrooms to promote excellent air quality while you sleep,” Jennifer adds. “Isn’t it nice to know something so beautiful is so healthy for you?”
Home is where the heart is, so make your home into a place that radiates with the peace and possibility of this new chapter of life.