Ch Ch Changes…or Home Dec for Widows 101

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Pretty soon now you’re gonna get a little older
Time may change me
But I can’t trace time
I said that time may change me
But I can’t trace time

– David Bowie


Time to Redecorate

Out with the Old, In with the New



We widowed have some unchosen and unwelcome ch-ch-changes thrust upon us. It stinks and we must adjust to so many new ways, so many new patterns. It’s important, though, to make them strategically so as not to make matters worse. There’s a right way to change things around in your home and make it a place to heal your grief. Let me show you how, and still make your home all yours.

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In the midst of this turmoil, the changes that have been thrust upon us, we can choose some things. Actually, we can change many things. Today I want to talk about changing our surroundings. We can either change them completely and move somewhere else altogether or perhaps we can stay right where we are and claim our space as now entirely our own.

I talk to a great many widows and widowers in my work. Most all of them, who chose to remain in the homes once shared with their spouse, elect to do some redecorating. As a Certified Grief coach and once Home Economics major who spent a lot of years working in the Interior Design field, I think redecorating is a splendidly healthy idea. It’s a very forward-looking thing to do, and it acknowledges that the past isn’t coming back. Time to seize the day and look to a different future.

Anyone contemplating a new environment, must go at their own pace and not rush into it before being ready, but most people find themselves ready at some point.  I have a few suggestions about how to proceed.

  •  Start by gathering a pile of home interior magazines or look on Pinterest for decorating pins. Tear out all the pictures or pin all of the pins that appeal to you. Every single one. Note that I said you, the you right now, not the living-with-a-spouse you.  Gather them in a folder or a Pinterest board just for those ideas. Spend several weeks on this.
  • Next, once you’ve found every image or idea that grabs you, spread all the pages out in front of you, or study your Pinterest board. Start deleting. Ruthlessly, delete everything that you don’t like as much as you thought you did, or anything that just doesn’t seem to fit with the rest.
  • What you have left is your style. It’s your road map. It’s a guide to reinventing your space.

  • Keep color foremost in your mind. A color change can change the mood more than any other design element in a room.  You want happy and relaxing colors in your space.  While I know that grey is ever so trendy right now, I can’t think of a worse choice for a recent widow. It’s tranquil, yes, but it’s also depressing. REALLY depressing, if you’re already a little down. You can bring it back when you’re on more solid emotional ground, but there will probably be more interesting color trends to follow by then. Years ago, I conjured up a color trend predictor theory that goes like this…”Once a color trend hits Tupperware and Rubbermaid? You know it’s on the skids!” I’ve seen grey underwear and even grey ice cream lately.  Yuck! Time to let it go for more cheerful choices.
  • Now that we have grey out of your color palette (except for the odd accent or two), what colors should you look for? How about thinking outside of the box? How about some girly colors in small or large doses? It’s your home, do what you want. Yellow, pink, coral, lime and turquoise come to mind. Think of cheerful and happy colors. Maybe like the ones above.
  • Next, think about the furniture in your home that you’d like to change. Is that beat-up old recliner just bringing you down, and taking up space, unused? Change it out for something that suits you, suits the way you want to use the room. Find a chair that fits your own proportions. Chairs, favorite chairs fit you just like shoes do. Did you know that? Most of the widowed I know elect to buy a new bed and linens as a priority. Get something you really love. It might make sleeping easier.
  • Speaking of how you use a room, is it time for the man cave to become a sewing room? A more feminine TV room? A guest room? Think about how you can better use space in a new way.
  • Budget tighter than a tick? Paint doesn’t cost much, and second-hand stores can yield some true bargains. As a last resort, consider covering existing sofas and chairs with stretch or canvas slipcovers.

When my own husband died, we had just moved into a home we built. We occupied it together, and it was planned for both of us. It was still pretty new to me.  While I didn’t need to do a complete overhaul, I did make some significant changes and finished planned projects. The windows all got sheers over them, so I had more privacy. The sofas were reupholstered. I converted Pat’s den into a guest room.

In short, I made it my own, and I’m glad I did. It helped.


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Mary Lee Robinson


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