Home & Garden

When Things Change


Removing unwanted items from the home can be cathartic

by Janet Armstrong

Many of life’s transitions necessitate the evaluation of our homes to determine if they meet our needs going forward.The most painful of these transitions is the loss of a spouse.There are numerous financial and legal requirements to be settled during this time, after which you may consider changing your living space. This may result in selling the existing home and buying or renting a smaller home such as a condominium or apartment or deciding to stay in your existing home. In either case, there a number of factors that should be taken into consideration to ensure your comfort, security and well-being.

Use of space

Whether it’s an existing home or a new one, it is a good time to examine the use of your available space. Will that extra bedroom be a guest room, a craft room or a T.V. room? Is there an opportunity to design it to be all of the above with a pull out sofa bed or day bed, an entertainment unit that can do double duty as craft storage space and a portable table that can be set up to work at? If you need a home office, is there a corner of the living room or bedroom that could easily accommodate this? When considering how the spaces will be used, current lighting should also be examined to determine if it is adequate and well placed. Many newer homes have laundry facilities conveniently placed close to bedrooms or on the main floor of a bungalow. If this is not the case, is there an option to place a stackable washer and dryer in an existing closet or reconfigure a kitchen or bathroom to accommodate a laundry closet?


Maybe you have always loved to entertain or now that you are on your own you would love to entertain more. Take into consideration the layout and f low of your space; can you prepare and serve appetizers and pour wine in the kitchen while easily chatting with guests seated in the living room? Do you want to be more formal and ‘serve’ appetizers and beverages in the living room? Would everyone be more comfortable noshing around the kitchen table chatting while the main course is being prepared?

Once you have determined your entertaining style, you can decide how to lay out your space.This may require opening up a wall to make the rooms more open. Do you require a larger table and more chairs? If there is an island, would counter chairs be an option so guests can gather and socialize? Once you have made these decisions, you can decide where and how to organize dishes, glassware and linens to make them more convenient and accessible for these occasions.


Many of us would like to have an efficiently organized home and now is a good time to arrange your home to meet the needs of your new life.This could be arranging items in cupboards that are at a height that is easily accessible to you (lower or higher); making sure counters and cupboards are at a height that is comfortable for you; having a step stool that would enable you to use more of your cupboard space; ensuring the bathroom is outfitted with features that make personal care safer and easier such as grab bars and easily accessible storage space.

This is also an ideal time to look at everything you have with an eye to their usefulness and necessity.We all have much too much ‘stuff’ and changes that impact our homes provide the perfect opportunity to take inventory and do away with unneeded items. There are many options for the disposal of any and all household items: family members may want an item that holds memories for them; charity shops, many of whom will pick up at your door; online classifieds such as Kijiji; 1-800-Got-Junk who will also pick up at your home; and most municipalities have facilities that will take a wide range of items for disposal in order to divert them from landfill.

When reviewing your possessions also consider whether you need to own an item or perhaps it’s available for borrowing or renting for the times it is required. For example, the local library or a thrift store is a fantastic source for books, DVDs and CDs. Home improvement stores rent out tools and other equipment such as rug cleaners that may be needed from time to time.

Low maintenance

At this stage of life, our homes should be low maintenance. Let’s face it, you don’t want to spend hours cleaning and for some, physical or health issues and challenges make this difficult if not impossible.To assist in making your home easier to manage and maintain, consider having hardwood floors installed in the main living areas and tile or linoleum installed in entry ways, bathrooms and kitchens. There are many beautiful options available for both tile and linoleum. For some, ceramic tile is too hard on joints and can be cold. However, DuraCeramic is a tile that has been designed to look like ceramic with the warmth and comfort of resilient flooring. It is a cross between vinyl and ceramic tile manufactured with a limestone composite base fortified with a polymeric resin. Linoleum has come a long way since our parents and grandparents’ generations, with many beautiful options and styles available. Vinyl flooring is even lower maintenance than linoleum and again there are some gorgeous options available.

Interior designers can assist and support you with any one of these deliberations and subsequent projects and activities. They can also make recommendations and assist in decisions regarding furnishings, finishes, layout and design and décor items. Interior Designers can also alleviate the load and stress by engaging and managing all of the trades that may be required to realize any changes to your home. n

Janet Armstrong (www.simplyswankdecor.ca) is a graduate interior designer from the Interior Design Institute and member of the Canadian National Association for Decorators and Designers (CDECA).