Autumn is a marmite time of year. Either you’re the type of person who can’t wait to dig out the cosy sweaters and boots, for long leafy dog walks and hot toddy drinks in front of the fire, or you dread the nights drawing in and can’t plug your SAD lamp in quick enough once August ends.
But this year, even the Hygge enthusiasts amongst us are a little apprehensive of the change in seasons. As the economic crisis looms and energy bills continue to skyrocket, how do you cosy up your home, if you can’t afford to keep the heating on?
Growing up in the north of England, it certainly isn’t all sunshine and rainbows up there, and you’re encouraged to find the best in every situation. If it’s raining (which in Lancashire, it often is…) it’s not an excuse to hide indoors – it’s an opportunity to don your wellies and jump in puddles, or if the weather isn’t too cold, put your swimmers on and run around the garden barefoot in the rain. I guess that’s the ‘northern’ equivalent of making lemonade out of lemons.
So how can we make the best of this winter, when so many of us are concerned about the rising cost of living, reducing their energy consumption, war in Europe, food shortages, a change in leadership and rising covid numbers? It all sounds so bleak – but perhaps, just like the rain up north, it’s an opportunity.
Here are my ten top tips for creating a cosy, inviting home this Autumn, despite the challenges we face;
- Den = Microclimate. Children of all ages love building dens. Whether it’s pulling the cushions off the sofa, or erecting a small tent in the living room, make a game out of hunkering down. It will be several degrees warmer inside the den, particularly if you’re snuggled in there with them, so let them create their own interior microclimate with indoor den building.
- Bed curtains (or a sleep den!). Children sleeping in bunk beds will be delighted with the addition of a curtain to enclose them so they can ‘secretly’ read at night (spoiler alert, if your child is staying up to read, LET THEM! They likely wouldn’t be asleep anyway, just messing about disrupting your evening, and if it turns them into avid readers as they get older, that’s the ultimate parenting win). The curtains don’t have to be specially made, a blanket threaded through a cafe rod or garden cane that’s mounted on cup hooks does the job just fine, and will cost less than £10 all in if you don’t happen to have those things already. If you’re fortunate to have a four poster or a half tester bed, then now is the time to install curtains. Not only will it create dramatic visual impact to improve your space, it’ll keep you warm and give you privacy from bed invaders..
- Layer up. If you don’t already own one, now is the time to invest in a large snuggly blanket. We’re big on comfort in our house, but our old cottage with its stone floors and single skin windows can be quite cold, so we have piles of blankets and throws everywhere for the evenings, to snuggle up together or offer up to guests for maximum hygge. (It’s also a fine excuse to wear fluffy socks every day!)
- Mood lighting. With the astronomical rise in electric, the more we can reduce our lighting use, the better. Vegetable wax candles are relatively inexpensive if you buy unscented ones and they create a wonderful cosy atmosphere in any room. You could even make your own from empty glass food jars by buying the wax in bulk and melting it down yourself (stay clear of petroleum based candles though as they’re very toxic, look for soy, rapeseed, beeswax or vegetable wax instead). If you are reliant upon a light source that has multiple bulbs like a chandelier or several wall lights, swap for a simple table lamp with one energy efficient LED bulb, which will reduce your electric consumption, but still provide enough light to comfortably see.
- Game time. If your usual routine is to watch telly in the evenings whilst the kids are using various iPad, phones and games consoles, as a family you’re going to be consuming a lot of power in use and charging. Instead, use it as an opportunity for some screen downtime, gather the family, pull out the board games or even simple card games, and reconnect with game time (whilst also saving you a packet on your electric bill).
- Picnic tea. One of my favourite regular childhood memories was having a ‘picnic tea’ or ‘carpet picnic’ on a Friday. Little did I know at the time, but what I thought was a fun family treat was actually a way of relieving my parents from cooking a meal after a long week at work (I know now, because as a parent I now use the same ingenious trick on my own children). It’s also a great way of using up leftover bits of food in the fridge such as the last of the ham from school sandwiches, odd bits of cheese and half packs of crackers that would otherwise go off. It not only reduces food waste and saves time, but also reduces energy consumption further when there’s no cooking involved.
- A watched pot. If you’re fortunate enough to have a woodburner or stove installed in your home, I’d highly recommend investing in a stove top kettle and a dutch oven (cast iron pan). If the fire is on anyway for warmth, it’s a great way to boil water without using electric or gas, and if you have space enough on top for a dutch oven you can even cook on it too. You can pick them up online for around £20 and they’re great to have for a backup in case the power temporarily goes out. It also creates a lovely atmosphere and that mindful sense of slowing down, to savour the ritual of brewing the tea or cooking a wholesome supper.
- Time to get crafty. Time spent outdoors is essential for our health and wellbeing, regardless of the time of year or the weather. Make the most of your walks by foraging in the hedgerows for seasonal goodies such as blackberries, sloes, rosehips, crab apples, haws and hazelnuts – all edible and extremely good for your health. Free food is always a win! Our natural landscape is also an excellent resource for foraging materials for crafting, such as pine cones, sprigs of holly, teasels and spindly twigs. Bring the outdoors in and create seasonal decor. Add a string of fairy lights to a vase of twigs or a bowl of pine cones, create table centrepieces from holly and ivy and later in the year forage for your own Christmas wreath making materials – all free and on your doorstep.
- Turn the page. We all have at least one or two books that we have been intending to read but haven’t got around to yet. Now is the time. Turn the devices off, give your eyes a rest from all of those blue lit screens and immerse yourself in a page turning story. You could even break out the pen and paper to write your own story, or perhaps letters of comfort to family and friends.
- Declutter your environments. When tutoring or speaking, I often talk of the ‘3 environments’ we help our clients with – your inner environment (head), your home environment (house) and the world environment (habitat). If your mind is cluttered with negative thoughts, anxiety, dread or overwhelm, it’s time to let it go. Free up that internal space for inspiration, humour, gratitude and love. Similarly, if your home environment is cluttered, it will feel like an added stress rather than a place to recharge. Go room to room, cupboard to cupboard, and sort what you no longer need or want, then donate or sell it – the things you’re getting rid of will likely be things another person is currently in need of. The world environment is a little more tricky, but as a whole we are powerful. If we all shopped consciously, recycled, composted our food waste, nurtured wildlife friendly gardens and showed compassion to our neighbours, what a difference we could make. It may sometimes seem hopeless, but spring always follows winter, so take each day at a time and before you know it the daffodils will be brightly blooming again.