Brightening the place up

Upcycle and adapt what you can, such as getting chalk paint from Aldi as it’s cheap for painting furniture and picture frames. I’ve even adapted a broken table into a wall shelf! There’s lots of ideas on sites like Pinterest if you’re not sure where to start. You can warm a small room with plant pots and candles. You can paint them to make them look more fun.

When your physical home is bright and light, warm and dry, and in good order, it can make a massive difference to how you and your children feel.

Your surroundings and your mental health

Taking pride in your living space is good for your mental health. Looking after your surroundings as best you can will help you and your children feel better.

  • Have as much natural light as you can inside. Keep windows clean.
  • Cleaning the windows lets the light in. Opening them lets fresh air in.  
  • Paint the walls white or a light colour.
  • Have a routine for cleaning and keep to it. Make your bed in the morning. Involve your children in keeping the place clean and tidy (according to their age). It creates a sense of control and order all round, and it makes everything more homely.
  • Try to make the most of the place you are living in:
    • Can the children share a room so you have space to yourself?
    • Can you re-arrange furniture in the room to give you more space or make it look better?
    • Would bunkbeds be an option for saving space?
  • Do you have too much stuff? Clutter can affect how we feel about our homes, and ourselves. Messy homes can make us feel anxious, helpless and overwhelmed.
  • If you feel like this, and want to de-clutter or organise your space, start off small with a drawer or break down a whole room into smaller projects: wardrobe, shelves, messy corner.
  • Having plants in your home can be good for your mental wellbeing – it’s a way of being a bit closer to nature while you’re inside. It can make your living space feel cosier. House plants are pretty cheap in supermarkets and bargain stores.
  • Think about the outside space too. Is there a balcony? A garden? Can you manage the garden? There are charities that can help by cutting the grass and doing other gardening jobs.
  • What about the other surroundings? Getting outside can help you feel better. Can you go to the park? Get involved in local clean-ups? These are good for being outside, and for meeting other adults and children too.
  • If you feel that things are getting on top of you, remember you are doing the best you can. Our pages on looking after yourself have tips for helping you cope.

Useful links

  • Housing and mental health are often linked. Poor mental health can make it harder to cope with housing problems. Being homeless or having problems in your home can make your mental health worse. This information from Mind explains how your mental health and your housing situation might affect each other, with tips on how to cope and where you can get more support.
  • This article from Psychology Today explains why mess causes stress and suggests eight ways to resolve this.  
  • Check out these tips from Zero Waste Scotland on how to declutter your home (and help the planet).
  • Your local council can give you information about special uplifts of furniture or other large items, recycling facilities, and also places where you can donate unwanted household goods. FourSquare in Edinburgh takes furniture and there are charities like this around the country.
  • Organisations like Fresh Start Hit Squad provide volunteer decorators for people moving from temporary accommodation or being homeless into social housing.
  • Gardeners’ World suggests houseplants that are easy to grow, with tips on how to care for them.

Making your surroundings bright and homely

We all want to have a nice home, but budgets just don’t stretch far enough for us to buy everything we’d like. There are ways to keep your home feeling fresh and homely without spending a lot.

  • Buy some tester pots of paint. They can cost as little as £1. You can use them to paint mirror frames, picture frames and ornaments that you can pick up cheaply in charity shops. It’s amazing what a fresh coat of paint can do.
  • Look for cheap or free household goods. You can find cheap or even free furniture and household items online on sites such as Gumtree or local Facebook groups. Have a look for local recycling projects, charity shops and so on. There are more ideas in our page on ‘furnishings and household items’.
  • Local Facebook pages can be a great source of information as well as places where neighbours are giving things away for free or a low price. If you don’t want to join these sites in case you have to give a whole load of personal information, you don’t have to include anything much in your profile and don’t put any photos of you or your children up on them. Keep yourself as safe as possible. If you ever agree to pick up a free item, always take someone with you, and don’t feel you have to go into someone’s house.
  • Charities, such as Shelter, British Heart Foundation and the Cyrenians, have furniture shops where you can buy good quality second-hand furniture and other household items. Upcycling, vintage and retro looks are all very fashionable. You’ll be surprised at what you can pick up. If you are looking for something, these types of shops often take phone numbers so they can call you when something suitable comes in. Some will let you put a deposit down and you can pay it up. Don’t be afraid to ask.
  • Rather than replacing old items of furniture and so on, why not try upcycling them? There are lots of ideas online with step-by-step instructions. Look out for reduced items in craft and DIY stores.  
  • Put your children’s pictures on the walls. They’ll love it and it will make the space more like a home.  
  • If you’re not allowed to stick things on your walls, can you rig up a ‘washing line’ with some string or fairy lights, and use paper clips or pegs to hang up their pictures?
  • You can pick up photo frames in charity shops. They’re cheap to buy in shops like B&M, Poundland and Home Bargains.
  • If you get fed up with the colour of your bedding, cushions, curtains or even clothes, think about dyeing them. It’s easy to do and dyes cost only a few pounds which is cheaper than buying new stuff. Some dyes you use in your washing machine, others you can use in a sink/bath. There are lots of videos on YouTube. Follow the instructions, and you could have a whole new colour scheme.

Useful links