Homebodies, what do you have at home that help you enjoy it so much?
August 5, 2017 5:13 PM   Subscribe

I am 47 now, 48 in November, live alone in the UK, and have been giving some thought to how to enjoy my life better. For the last year and a bit I have focused my time and effort Meetup events with others, as well as getting out of the house more alone (mostly arthouse films by myself or visiting coffee shops). I want to ease off on that and pursue making my apartment nicer so that I enjoy being at home more. (I know some people would say get a pet, but they are not allowed on my lease and I'm allergic). If you are someone who is at home most days, but loves it, what are the details which makes you love being at home so much? Am prepared to invest up to £500/$500, possibly more.

This year has been mostly OK for me but seems to have flown by. I am not working through disability (bipolar) and have am 20 sessions into counselling to help me adjust to not working and also trying to reduce fears holding me back from voluntary work. My question history has a slightly embarrassing sequence of questions years apart asking how someone with bipolar can get back into work, and it's taken me a long time to accept that the low moods I often have where my functioning is very low rule that out for anytime soon.

However this year has seen some progress on other fronts in life. As well as the counselling, which I will have 20 more sessions of, I have tried various Meetup groups and they have given me a sort of "fast food" version of friendship as well as helping my social anxiety slightly. I have enjoyed the company of the people at the groups, had a few laughs, been to some good films and concerts with them. One group just meets for tea and cake and conversation and I have had some nice times with that group too. But the connection I crave, with the exception of three people, is not there. Now, for someone as shy as me, finding three people who I consider friends in just over a year is quite a haul. In comparison I have only two main lasting friendships sustained over the last ten years.

When I look at my diary I see quite a few "highlights" - concerts or films I went to and enjoyed, usually with Meetup, but lots of blanks spaces where I know if I had nothing planned or structured I will have wasted those days online. Possibly getting off Facebook and Twitter will help me focus on reading or watching the backlog of DVD's I have built up. The way my mind works is quite slow and unproductive and I need lots of spare time in between doing things. So if I go to the cinema that's usually the only thing I do that day, I won't combine it with going to the gym in the morning. I would like to change this pattern of highights and long boring gaps by making my apartment a more enjoyable place to spend time, since I am spending so much time at home and not really enjoying that. I want to tap into the wisdom of people here who love their home or apartment so much they positively choose spending time there even when they have other options (I have a one bedroom apartment with a combined living room/ small kitchen area).

I already have a nice Nespresso coffee machine to reduce my expenditure on coffee shops since sometimes I don't mind being in a coffee shop alone and sometimes I do. I have a 43" TV and a Personal Video Recorder, and two comfy sofas. I have enough books and DVD's to last me for a month of Sundays. I would say the main thing which stops me enjoy what I already have at home is clutter in the living room, for example clothes waiting to be ironed, or books laying out, which would distract from the view of the TV.

I can think of some improvements I could make to my home - pay for help decluttering, pay for someone to do weekly cleaning and ironing, buy a Blu Ray or multi-region Blu Ray player to enjoy cinema at home instead of going to see it alone/ with Meetup, buy a better class of readymade food to eat at home, get recommendations for some OK but inexpensive wines and have little "movie nights" to myself with wine and cheese. I could also resume my old habit of getting Spanish lessons by Skype as those were always fun. It seems incongruous with the other things I have said but getting better locks and a home alarm might add to my feeling of comfort.

To cut a long story short, if you live alone and love spending time at home, what activities do you do at home that you enjoy, and what products could I buy with a budget of £500/$500 that would enhance my life most?
posted by AuroraSky to Home & Garden (26 answers total) 45 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I've spent quite a bit of time home alone but am currently working.

How about an exercise machine of some kind that you could use while you watch tv/movies? Like a rowing machine or a treadmill. That way you'd get enough exercise on the days you don't go to the gym.

Do you cook? You mentioned readymade food. Cooking is a great solitary occupation that can be very satisfying. Try to replicate the readymade food you enjoy, or try other stuff. Recipes abound online. You could bake something to share with your group. Or take a cooking class one evening a week.

Taking online classes might be fun too.
posted by mareli at 5:56 PM on August 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I would 100% pay for de-cluttering and organizational tools/help. If I see a bunch of tasks that need to be done, that I should be doing, I cannot be relaxed in my home! I spend all my relaxation time beating myself up over the fact that I should've gotten task A done and that I shouldn't be reading a book I should be doing task B..... its exhausting. I enjoy my home much, much more now that (most) things have a place they belong and that I have systems in place to deal with on-going clutter causers.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 5:58 PM on August 5, 2017 [9 favorites]

I know this sounds counterintuitive for someone who spends a lot of time at home, but I would totally spend that money on twice-monthly cleaning service. There is just nothing like coming home to a house (apartment, whatever) that's been scrubbed clean by someone that's not you. It gives me more pleasure in my home than any object I could buy.
posted by HotToddy at 6:12 PM on August 5, 2017 [14 favorites]

-Music! If you like concerts you probably like listening to music at home, too. Listening to music through decent speakers and not just through earbuds is wonderful. Listen to playlists or put on records while you cook and do chores or just hang out. Do you sing or play an instrument? Enjoy the luxury of practicing alone in your own home!
-Open your windows when you can! It sounds like such a small thing, but having a fresh breeze in the air makes me feel more awake and invigorated. Similarly, if you have a porch, back yard or balcony, use it! Sit out there with a cool drink at a certain time each day. Look for wildlife you can see from there. Even in the city there may be pigeons or squirrels.
-Window bird feeder! If you like animals but can't have pets, this could scratch the itch of tending to creatures. Also birbs are hilarious.
-Scents: if you enjoy them and don't have allergies, burn candles, incense or scented oils. Candlelight can make any room feel warm and special, and a scent you love will add an extra dimension of joy to your place.
-Rituals like making tea with a proper pot and loose leaves. A lot of mundane activities can also be more enjoyable if you do them with some sort of treat. For me that's calling a friend while doing laundry. For you it could be watching a movie when sorting mail.
-Lighting: make sure it's not too glaring or harsh, and that it's directed to where you need it, so you're not trying to chop veggies or read in the shadows. Changing out shades and bulbs are fairly cheap ways to transform how a room looks and feels day to day.
posted by prewar lemonade at 6:19 PM on August 5, 2017 [8 favorites]

I think I most enjoy being at home after being out in the world amongst people. But here are some other things that have helped me enjoy being in my home:

* I got a friend with good taste and decorating sense to help me get it set up with my couch positioned nicely and lamps, pillow and a nice rug to make it feel kind of "finished," and art on the walls.
* I have someone come in and clean
* When I have the time for it I find organizing tasks very satisfying - going through a box of old clothing and deciding what to keep, for example, or rearranging the pasta shelf for maximum efficiency.
* I have a few board games on hand for something to do when friends come by
* Multiple hobby materials
* A well-stocked kitchen
* A full bookshelf
posted by bunderful at 6:39 PM on August 5, 2017 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I really think, from experience, that the practice in Marie Kondo's books The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up and Spark Joy would be great.

Read them with an open mind. There are videos (not by her) that show cultural context that might cause some to write her off. It has indeed been life-changing for me and for many members of the KM Facebook groups I am in.

Then you could take the $500 and get a monthly cleaning service. With KM completed, daily and weekly cleaning will take no time at all. Really.
posted by jgirl at 6:44 PM on August 5, 2017 [5 favorites]

Cute little bar.
posted by vrakatar at 6:44 PM on August 5, 2017

Best answer: Buy enough shelves, drawers, chests, etc to hold your clutter. Having a place to put things will help so much.

Do you have outdoor space? Patio furniture and plants give another clutter free place to enjoy books.
posted by crazycanuck at 6:45 PM on August 5, 2017

A garden or some indoor plants. If indoor plants, make sure there is a good location (no blowing air -- unless you choose plants that can handle it -- enough light, and that you will see them regularly.

Bird feeder outside.

The connection to nature is irreplaceable and a daily reminder of beauty and surprise.


Generous kitchen storage and working space, which both makes it easier to keep clean and makes it more achievable to be creative.

Generous storage all over the house, which you don't over fill, which, much like in the kitchen, makes it easy to keep clean and to be creative.
posted by amtho at 6:53 PM on August 5, 2017 [2 favorites]

I blew the edit window. I MEAN:

There are videos (not by her) that show cultural context helpful in understanding aspects of her method that might cause some to write her off.

Also, she writes that you'll have storage containers left over when you are done. She is right!!!
posted by jgirl at 6:54 PM on August 5, 2017 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Your home is your nest. This is the space where you go to feel blissfully physically comfortable. I would start with your bed.

If you go to the thrift store there is a section full of bedding. The bedding is unwrapped and hanging. Close your eyes and walk along the section, running your hand through the fabric slowly, smoothing up and down so that you get an idea what the texture of the various items are. Most of it will just feel like cloth. But some of it might feel special. It might feel silky, or sturdy or cosy, whatever texture strongly appeals to you. Whenever you feel something that feels outstandingly good to your hands stop and take a look at it. If it looks like it might fit your bed -not say, a fitted twin bed sheet when your bed is a queen sized bed - bring it along while you go through the rest of the display.

With a bit of luck after go through the entire bedding section you will have a selection of half a dozen items, all of which feel extremely pleasing to you against your skin. Your next step is to look at them critically as to colour.

It may be that there are some colours that please you a lot - a jewel like tone of garnet, or a restful wedgewood blue, maybe it's plum or pomegranate, or maybe it's just milk chocolate or a melancholy grey. Are there any items among those you've gathered up that are colours that really appeal to you? If you've found items that are tactile pleasures, colour favourites or neutrals that would work with your colour favourites and can be used on your bed, buy them.

Try to work out a colour scheme, or a pattern scheme. As an example, I like darker tones so I went with red, brown and grey. You might want to go with leaf green, magenta and pumpkin orange as your palatte, or all small pastel flowers, depending on what makes you feel cosy. Don't choose your colour scheme just because it's what you found at the thrift store though, it has to be colours and patterns that have always been appealing to you. You might want to think back to some favourites from your past, or some favourites that you already have and work to match those.

Do this at several different thrift stores, or come back to the some one periodically. Your purchases won't be expensive given where you are shopping so you will be able to indulge yourself a little. Because you are shopping at a thrift store the items will be unwrapped, enabling you to get an accurate idea of their real texture, something you usually can't get when buying new items that come in packages. Of course, while good quality textiles may achieve a wonderful soft texture from repeated washing, they may also become fragile, so you'll need to make sure that you're not buying anything that is about to fall apart, and cheap textiles become nasty if they aren't nasty to begin with, so you will be passing over most of the selection.

The end result should be that you should soon have a eclectic collection of bedding all of which sort of goes together and which feels special to you when get into bed.
posted by Jane the Brown at 6:59 PM on August 5, 2017 [10 favorites]

Best answer: I love being at home so much omg. I am meticulously clean so that my house is pretty much always enjoyable. I can't relax if things aren't done so I always have to get everything perfect before I flop on the couch. I have my house decorated and painted and full of color; there's art everywhere and the colors are cheery without being too intense. I love smells, so I alternate between candles, plug ins, Lampe Berger, etc. I keep lots of blankets around for temperature control, and I have windows with functional curtains (not like, bedsheets tacked to the wall); this is great for both lighting and airing out purposes. I keep my favorite beverages (bottled tea, chocolate milk, good coffee) on hand pretty much always, along with ice cream and cheese (I'm dairy fiend). And I also love cannabis and live somewhere it's legal but only on private property so that makes being at home extra great! I installed a porch swing and some hanging baskets out front, and I could sit out there with a joint and some iced coffee pretty much forever.
posted by masquesoporfavor at 7:10 PM on August 5, 2017 [10 favorites]

Best answer: I can think of some improvements I could make to my home - pay for help decluttering, pay for someone to do weekly cleaning and ironing, buy a Blu Ray or multi-region Blu Ray player to enjoy cinema at home instead of going to see it alone/ with Meetup, buy a better class of readymade food to eat at home, get recommendations for some OK but inexpensive wines and have little "movie nights" to myself with wine and cheese. I could also resume my old habit of getting Spanish lessons by Skype as those were always fun. It seems incongruous with the other things I have said but getting better locks and a home alarm might add to my feeling of comfort.

Well, if I were in your shoes, I'd do all that. Every bit of it.

I, too, have bipolar, plus a whole bunch of other stuff, and aside from doctor appointments, I very rarely leave my room. It's not my perfect place yet, but I'm working on it.

What's on your walls? What color are they? Do you like that color? How much can you do to change it? There are ways to affix fabric to your walls like wallpaper when you're renting so you can take it down easily when you move. I'm working on artwork and arts and crafts things to cover my walls. (They're cream with little dashes all over of wedgewood blue, wedgewood pink if there were such a thing, and wedgewood purple if that existed.)

What's on your floor? Is it carpeting? Tile? Hardwood? Concrete? Do you want it to be one and it's another? How much can you do to change your flooring? My last apartment had this weird "sidewalk" in tile from the front door to the kitchen, splitting up the carpet. I put down a rug so I could walk from the sofa to the tv in bare feet. You could probably create, or have created for you, a tile or hardwood "rug" to cover the carpet you don't like.

What's on your ceiling? Do you love it? Hate it? Want it a different color? I'm on the hunt for the perfect wrapping paper to cover my ceiling. It's a white popcorn ceiling, and I hate it. I want it to be dark blue, like the sky at dusk.
posted by The Almighty Mommy Goddess at 7:25 PM on August 5, 2017

Everyone is different in this regard but I also struggle with clutter. I do not consider a pile of laundry waiting to be ironed clutter. I consider a pile of clean washing, a pile of dirty washing, a pile of mail, breeding dust bunnies, and all available non-floor surfaces covered with Stuff To Deal With clutter. I do not have a hoarding tendency but I am easily overwhelmed by Stuff As An Impediment to Cleaning.

The most elemental thing for me in terms of being comfortable in my home is dealing with this. And the most valuable tool in dealing with this is someone I pay to help me when I get overwhelmed. She is non-judgmental, hands-on, and most importantly, at the end of a couple of hours will take away the bags for the dump and the boxes for the charity shop. I pay her €15 an hour cash in hand. She doesn't deep clean but she'll sweep and run the hoover and wash dishes and make laundry piles so I can get to the cleaning. Which, when I am not living in a pile of crap, I am actually happy to do.

Other than that, my priorities would be:

* Improve your food, and maybe add some cooking to your routine.
* Improve your lighting. If you are living with overhead lighting, it's depressing. Get lamps.

You seem to have gotten value from your expeditions out of the house with other humans, so I would not recommend investing in technology like a Blu-Ray so you can stay home more and get out less!
posted by DarlingBri at 8:58 PM on August 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

You mention a lot of books and DVDs, and I'd suggest getting rid of them. Or may not getting rid of them, but finding a way to store them that they're not all over the house, reminding you of what you "should" be doing, cluttering things up. I started accumulating ebooks instead of hard copies, and ripped all of my DVDs to my computer. Now the DVDs and books alike live on a server in the corner of my living room, which means both that I have minimal clutter and easy, constant access to all my media. It no longer tips my everything is a mess, I'm a terrible person circuit, and I'm more likely to actually watch/read things because I don't have to go digging through piles upon piles of crap to find them. If this is an option for you, I can't recommend it strongly enough.

I'd suggest decluttering on the whole--those cosy homes you see in media are never full of stuff, you know? You want things that you actually like and use, right now, and not things that you might use eventually if you decide to pick up [hobby], or things that you loved ten years ago but have kind of grown out of.

Also, everything that Jane the Brown said about texture is spot on. I'd go a step further, and argue that you should also figure out exactly what kind of furniture you enjoy sitting on--for example, I hate sofas with arms that aren't fully padded, top and sides, but don't like things that are too padded, because then they're hard to stand up from. Maybe you like hard backs and cushy seats, or whatever. Having furniture that fits your particular needs does a lot for making a place feel like it's yours.
posted by mishafletch at 9:18 PM on August 5, 2017

Heated electric blanket and wool slippers.

Watercolour painting is a nice hobby- spend about $20 on a palette, couple brushes, and paper, and then paint along to youtube tutorials. It's meditative and fun. You can make a little gallery wall with your paintings, or maybe turn them into birthday cards.

A small freshwater fish tank can be really fun. Guppies are easy to keep and have live births which are exciting and fun to watch. Get maybe 2 pairs of guppies, a few live plants, a sucker fish, and some little snails in there, and you may be able to have a little ecosystem that doesn't need much cleaning at all.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 9:24 PM on August 5, 2017 [3 favorites]

In no particular order: Art, plants, books, multiple light sources, tea, tidiness, white noise fans, clear surfaces, particular bed linens, cushioned hiking socks instead of house slippers, and keeping the place at the right temperature are all things which content me. You've already figured out the main obstacle keeping you from enjoying your home (which is terrific, by the way -- it took me ages to realize how much I loathe slippers), so you should address the clutter (allocate a portion of your budget toward professional laundering and ironing, perhaps), and put an organizational scheme in place so it won't accrue again.
posted by Iris Gambol at 9:31 PM on August 5, 2017 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Oh my, a question that speaks to my homebody heart! I have been working a ton in the last year or so to really dial in the things that make me happy about my home. I live in a pretty small apartment too. Here are some of the things that I've done:

Focus on neat, pretty, efficient storage for the areas I've identified that get out of control (crafting stuff, laundry, our approximately one million snacks.) If things have a smart place to be put it's easier to put them away. I am so much happier when I figure out a storage need and take care of it.

Figuring out what color schemes I wanted and picking art for them. I spent very little on this, got frames mostly at goodwill, went through cards folks have sent me and other things I already had for a bunch of them, and bought fat quarters of fabric from Spoonflower to fill a few slightly bigger frames and tie it together. I also spray painted a lamp to go with it.

Got a really small and lightweight cordless vacuum, the Hoover Lynx. It makes cleaning so easy, it's easy to store, perfect. I got the rec on the Sweet Home guide to gear for small apartments, which is a great list you could look at. I get much less annoyed with this vacuum.

I also started a container garden outside this year and got some house plants too. It's exciting to see things grow.
posted by fairlynearlyready at 9:39 PM on August 5, 2017 [3 favorites]

Best answer: This is ironic, considering where I'm writing this from, but I've found that taking an Internet break at home can make it more enjoyable. Like, a total break - cancel your service for 3 or 6 or 9 months.

And figure out something you can make at home that you'll be proud of. Writing, woodwork, knitting, programming, sewing, building, science experiments, painting, music, whatever catches your interest. Spend your money on enabling yourself to create.
posted by clawsoon at 11:26 PM on August 5, 2017 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I have a comfortable couch as well as a comfortable place to sit that's not my couch (or my bed), so I don't feel like a lump staying in one place all the time.

I have a mattress I love and keep my sheets clean and bed made, so slipping into bed for reading or sleep feels physically pleasant.

I love music and listen to it pretty much all hours, so I have as decent a sound system as I can afford at home, configured such that it's super simple to make music happen when I want it (as opposed to having to fiddle with multiple dials, devices, and remotes like I did at my previous apartment).

I have the equipment and supplies I need to keep me in cold brewed coffee, which I require to live happily.

I have art on the walls that's meaningful to me, brings me joy to look at, and makes my space feel like it expresses my personality.

I have exactly the right amount of stuff for me: not enough to feel cluttered or be a PITA to keep cleaned and organized, but enough that it meets my practical needs, is comfortable, and makes me feel materially secure even when I'm broke.
posted by rhiannonstone at 11:55 PM on August 5, 2017 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I also recommend that you read Marie Kondo's book and give her method a try. She advocates that people evaluate every object in their house and only keep the things that "spark joy". That's such a weird and precious notion that it garners a lot of mockery, but having done it myself, I can attest that the outcome is pretty much akin to the magic she invokes in the title of her book.

What I mean by that is, turns out there are several unexpected and very cool outcomes from having done this. For instance, I dress better every single day and look way better because every garment looks great on me and makes me feel like a million bucks; I have gotten so very many compliments on how I look since getting rid of 80% of my clothes and that was just not the case before. Another clothing-related example: it's surprisingly true for me how restful and even pleasurable it is for me to have closets and dressers be completely uncluttered and tidily organized--a whole level of visual and functional distraction just evaporated, that I'd never really been aware of before. Further, my desire to shop recreationally for anything--clothes, art, housewares--is just gone; I feel sated by the stuff in my house, in kind of the same way that I feel sated after a good meal, so I'm spending a lot less money on crap I am not really enthusiastic about.

Finally--may be the most relevant to your situation of all of it--I have a much better internal sense of what really matters to me when I *do* want to bring new stuff into my house (in my case, musical instruments, which is new to me but is very joyful!) and so I'm completely calm and confident about making those spending decisions.

If your central question is, "What can I do to make my living environment as wonderful as possible," the approach she lays out is designed to do exactly that and will get you practiced in establishing exactly that, *for you*. It will help you develop your own internal sensor of what makes *you* happy in your environment and get you past the common barriers to making that change. Strong recommend.
posted by Sublimity at 3:44 AM on August 6, 2017 [6 favorites]

Get a yoga mat and do some yoga videos from YouTube. Start a regular practice.
posted by hazyjane at 4:40 AM on August 6, 2017 [2 favorites]

The one thing that I've personally found quite helpful is to replace the light bulbs in our home with Philips Hue white ambiance bulbs. Being able to change not just the brightness but color temperature on demand really helps me with my mood and mental wellbeing.
posted by evoque at 6:38 AM on August 6, 2017 [4 favorites]

Maxwell Gillingham-Ryan's Apartment Therapy: The Eight-Step Home Cure lays out a plan explicitly for folks who feel unhappy in/disconnected from their homes. Starts with organizing, moves on to very low-stress decorating, winds up with cooking and having people over. I've done his "home cure" a few times, and it never fails to make me feel happier to be in my house. Good luck!
posted by apparently at 8:38 AM on August 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

You said no pets but most leases allow a small aquarium or goldfish bowl. Even a single fish brightens up a room and is fun to take care of.
posted by bq at 11:41 AM on August 6, 2017

Based on some examples you gave in your question, it sounds like part of your motivation for wanting to enjoy at-home activities is to save money. But you also seem to enjoy and benefit from hanging out with your new friends. Would you be comfortable inviting them to your home for coffee, movie nights, lunch, etc.? If not, are your reasons tangible (e.g., "My apartment is cluttered," "I don't have enough seating") or intangible (e.g., "I need to be alone to recharge")? If there are tangible reasons preventing you from hosting, those might be good areas to address, in addition to the ideas you already have.

I think something else to consider is whether you derive more pleasure from ritual or efficiency in your daily life. Some people take immense pleasure in the ritual of, say, brewing loose-leaf tea: heating the water to a precise temperature, setting a timer, straining the tea, etc. Other people will find these steps tedious, and would prefer to have some fancy tea bags (or other prepared beverages) on hand to enjoy whenever the mood strikes. Consider where you fall on this spectrum as you stock your apartment.
posted by Owlcat at 7:56 PM on August 7, 2017

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