Now that the holidays are over, winter probably seems a lot less festive, and a lot more gray and dreary. But there are simple things you can do around the house to feel a little more chipper, whether you’ve got a case of cold-weather blahs or a more serious case of seasonal depression. These ideas are all relatively gentle on your post-Christmas budget.
REARRANGE THE FURNITURE
The advice to rearrange your furniture appears even in Psychology Today as one of the best ways to inject a breath of fresh air into your surroundings and boost your mood. And you don’t have to spend a dime. “Simply playing living room Tetris with your belongings will lift your spirits and make it feel like a whole new space,” says Melissa M. Breyer, a real-estate lawyer with The Hive Law in Atlanta. “You won't have buyer's remorse, and perhaps you're repurposing an item you would’ve otherwise thrown away, and it’s getting you moving.”
DISPLAY FLOWERS OR GREENERY
Things may be brown and dead outside, but that doesn’t mean you have to forgo plants inside, too. “For a quick, easy visual impact that will awake your senses, add a bouquet of fresh flowers to the kitchen table throughout the season,” recommends Susan Serra, a certified kitchen designer. For a seasonal twist on your typical houseplant, she suggests bringing in big evergreen boughs or branches. “Place them in a tall vase for a dynamic look, or tie a bundle together and hang them from the ceiling for a rustic, outdoorsy element.”
USE A LIGHT BOX OR DAWN SIMULATOR
Simply exposing yourself to more light throughout the darker winter months can be a big mood booster. Two easy ways to do that: with a light box, made specially to mimic bright outdoor light, or with a dawn simulator that can wake you up as naturally as possible, just like the rising sun. Whichever you choose, research shows that these simple household objects can help offset depression.
SWAP OUT YOUR LIGHT BULBS
It’s also an ideal time to consider the light bulbs you already have. Caleb Backe, a health and wellness expert with Maple Holistics, notes that there’s a big difference between warm and cool white light. “The light can change the feeling of a room drastically. Every room may need something different. The only way to truly know is to try the different lights out.” Marty Basher, a home organization expert for Modular Closets, recommends using whiter light in the winter. “White light mimics natural light, causing rooms to appear more spacious,” he says. “Yellow light creates a warmer, cozier atmosphere.”
HANG A MIRROR OR TWO
Interior designers love mirrors because they’re one of the easiest, cheapest ways to make any space seem brighter, bigger, and more cheerful. One of the best tricks for using mirrors to make a room brighter, according to Country Living: Place a large mirror next to or across from a window — it will help bounce light into even the darkest corners. Don’t want to put more holes in the wall? Try a sleek standing mirror that you can simply lean against the wall.
DITCH THE HEAVY DRAPES
On one hand, heavy drapes can be helpful in the winter: They can block cold drafts, keeping rooms warmer and heating bills lower. But if your aim is to keep your space as bright as possible, a better bet is a light-filtering curtain that lets light in while still allowing for privacy. “If you have dark curtains or blinds in your home, consider swapping them for a lighter shade or a completely different color,” says Erin Fausel, a lifestyle blogger with American Freight Furniture and Mattress. “White and cream shades will make your room seem brighter during the dreary and dark months of winter.”
GET CREATIVE WITH LIGHTING
Winter is a great time to think beyond lamps and overhead lights. Instead of packing away all your holiday lights, keep a string or two out for instant warmth and ambience. And don’t forget about how cozy candles can make you feel. “Use tea light candles in colorful ceramic holders,” Serra recommends. “Light them while cooking, working, and dining in the kitchen.” Don’t want to worry about remembering to blow them out or keeping kids away from them? Pick upsome LED candles, complete with realistic flickering.
LAYER ON SOME COZY TEXTURES
Candles are an essential part of “hygge,” the concept of coziness and intimacy that dominates Scandinavian decor, particularly during cold-weather months. Another must: plenty of soft textures that can add instant warmth to any room. Think faux sheepskin rugs, throw pillows with a chunky, sweater-like knit, or blankets in practically any fabric, so long as it makes you want to curl up underneath with a good book.
START SPRING CLEANING EARLY
You don’t need to start the heavy-duty scrubbing yet, but a little decluttering can go a long way. “The overwhelming, hair-pulling antsiness accompanied by spending too much time forced inside ... only escalates with cluttered pantries, closets, entertainment units, and any other common disaster zones,” says home organization expert Marty Basher. “Combat cabin fever by spending time organizing and getting rid of junk you don’t need. Throw away expired food boxes, sort through old clothes, and detangle electronic cords — anything to relieve eyesores around the house.” Not sure if you’re willing to part with something yet? Basher recommends putting those items in a bin and storing it for a few months. If you aren’t drawn to them in that time, it’s probably safe to say goodbye.
SPRUCE UP YOUR ENTRYWAY
When you’re decluttering, pay some special attention to this high-traffic area. Boots, coats, umbrellas, bags — they all tend to clog the entryway. Nicole Gittens, principal designer with New Vision Interiors and Events near Seattle, recommends repurposing extra woven or wicker baskets as wall decor to curb clutter in entryways. None on hand? They’re easy to track down at thrift stores for less than $10 a pop, she says. “Include a colorful entry mat for guests to wipe the grime off of their shoes,” recommends Shawn Breyer of Breyer Home Buyers in Atlanta. “Add a bench so that guests can sit down to take their shoes off, and have a labeled basket to keep guests' shoes and boots organized.”
ACTIVATE YOUR SENSE OF SMELL
The way your home smells can impact your mood just as much as how it looks. “When all else fails, try lighting a scented candle with a spring-inspired aroma,” says Jeanine M. Boiko of Okio B Designs. “Choose scents that smell like an island getaway or like a warm spring day. Fresh linen, sweet orange, or lavender are good choices that will lift your spirits.” Another option: Fill a diffuser with essential oils in similar scents.
ADD ‘WINTER WHITE’ ACCENTS
At first blush, white may seem like a strictly warm-weather accent, thanks to now-antiquated rules about vacation attire. But just as attitudes have changed about clothing, they’ve shifted when it comes to home decor. Embrace “winter white” with crisp white linens, throw pillows, wreaths, and even dishes. All are easy ways to give your surroundings a light, clean feel without opening a can of paint.
MIX IN SOME METALLICS
Metallics are a no-fail way to keep some holiday sparkle and shine alive all winter long. Bonus: Because metallic accents catch and reflect light, they can make a room seem brighter than it is. Whether you prefer wintery silver or warmer copper or bronze tones, try shiny metallic vases, mirrors, candlesticks, or clocks to add a little bit of glamour to a room without spending a fortune.
PAINT SOME FURNITURE A BOLD COLOR
If you’re craving a bolder hue to spice things up, try painting a piece of furniture before committing to a new wall color. House Beautiful recommends trying out a bright showstopper like yellow, lavender, or teal. If you want something safer, try reviving a beat-up wooden chair or dresser with a coat of white paint. If you don’t have a piece of furniture that you’re willing to paint, grab something inexpensive at a thrift store for experimentation.
CREATE A GALLERY WALL
Buck the digital-only trend and order prints of some photos that are just living on your phone right now. Amber Harris, interior decorator and owner of At Home DC in Washington, suggests creating a gallery wall to show them off. “The end result will be a feature that brings back warm memories and makes your space more personal.” For a streamlined, modern look, she recommends using sleek, gallery-style frames with large mats. For something a little more funky, mix and match a range of new or vintage frames in a range of colors and styles.