Ten Tips for Creating A Happier Home During the Dark Winter Months

Stephanie Thornton Plymale
8 min readJan 25, 2022

Written by: Rebecca West, Author of Happy Starts at Home
Photos by: Stephanie Thornton Plymale

Feeling the depths of the dark-winter-blues?

Now that we’ve made it past the winter solstice the days *are* getting longer and lighter, but maybe not as fast as you’d like. Well, I’m here to help you beat the dead-of-winter blues by freshening up your home! Here are ten simple tips to get you started:

1. Clean Something

Don’t try to clean everything, that’s too much! Instead, either do a surface clean of the house so it all feels tidy again, or deep clean one thing, like the freezer or your underwear drawer. My favorite quick fix? Clean the toilets, wipe down the bathroom counters, make the bed, and vacuum the floors.

Whatever you clean, make sure to take time afterward to look around and enjoy the calm. Spouse not likely to celebrate your efforts? Tell a friend or shout it out on Facebook — we’re all here to celebrate each others’ successes!

2. Open The Windows

Indoor air quality is notoriously bad, and burning all those winter candles and gas or wood fires doesn’t help. Throw open the windows and let your house air out for an afternoon. Your lungs will thank you and you’ll boost your energy levels just getting that fresh air!

Bonus Tip: Go take a walk while the house airs out — physical activity and a little Vitamin D are magic at beating the winter blues!

3. Change Your Lightbulbs

Even if you don’t have any burnt out bulbs in your home, keep reading!

  • First, obviously, if you have any burnt out bulbs, go change them! It’s a SO-easy fix that will LITERALLY brighten your home!
  • Second, trying changing out a few of your lightbulbs to ones that give off more light. LED bulbs have come a LONG way and draw less power than those old incandescent bulbs, so you can actually get more light (measured in “Lumens”) for less power!
  • Third, try swapping out your bulbs for ones that give off a cooler, more daylight-balanced light. Since our eyes perceive cooler light as brighter, having a daylight-balanced light instead of a warm, golden light can give you a boost of energy.

Helpful Hint: That’s also why it can be hard to fall asleep after looking at the blue light coming from your computer screen — consider those cooler bulbs for energetic rooms like the kitchen and your workspace, and the warmer bulbs for cozy rooms like your bedroom.

4. Change out that ceiling fixture (or at least layer in some lamps)!

I’ve seen countless homes where the only source of light is one sad “boob light” (you know the style I mean? 😅 ) and frequently one of the bulbs is burnt out too, just to add insult to injury. Even if you’re renting, changing out a ceiling fixture is a great DIY project and can utterly transform a room. (If your landlord is opposed to change, you can just tuck the old fixture in a closet to re- install when you move.)

Whether you change the overhead fixture or not, layering in some floor and table lamps will not only brighten your room, but will also soften the light so it’s more welcoming and inviting instead of like some creepy CIA interrogation room. Not to mention that rooms with just an overhead light cast terrible under-eye shadows… Ugh! Who needs that?!

5. Swap out your sad, droopy pillows.

Oftentimes the covers on our pillows outlast the “guts,” and those sad, broken down old pillow inserts makes a room feel so droopy. If you lay your pillow flat on your hand and it sags depressingly toward the ground then, unless it’s the Worlds Most Comfortable Pillow and you can’t bear to part with it, treat yourself to a new one! This goes for sleeping pillows, decorative bed pillows, and couch/chair pillows. Say it with me: “No More Limp Pillows!”

Designer Tip: No matter where you’re shopping for pillows, whether it’s a $300 designer-brand or a $20 score from Home Goods, look for an insert that is down or a down-alternative, rather than a firm batting. That polyester batting is not only unpleasantly bouncy when you first get it, after just a few months it breaks down into a flat-yet-lumpy mess and it’s is NOT fixable. Down or down alternative lets you sink blissfully into the pillow from day one, and then plumps up pleasantly use after use (saving your room *and* the environment). Extra Tip: Look for pillows with a zippered cover, so that if you love the cover, you can replace the insert!

6. Get A Better Couch Cover

We’re all real people with real lives, and sometimes that means we own a couch that has seen better days thanks to the kids, the cats, and (let’s be honest) that glass of wine we spilled last month but blamed on the dog. If you’re covering up your couch that’s a-okay, but why not dress up your couch cover. Instead of using a ratty old blanket, a commercial sofa cover, or an old bath towel (cue the pearl-clutching gasp of your designer lol) find a pretty piece of fabric you love.

Not sure where to start, or don’t have the time or skills to sew your own? Look for a gorgeous cotton table cloth in a color and print that matches your living room. They’ve got loads of cool patterns on Spoonflower and on Zazzle! Remember that pattern is your friend — it’ll camouflage the little spills between washes. Just be sure to choose something washable, avoiding those dry clean- only options.

Got dogs? Check out these cozy faux fur waterproof throws by paw.com designed specifically for the fur-babies in your home!

Got a New Couch? Lucky enough to have a beautiful sofa, but feeling anxious about your family giving it that “lived in look” too soon? My hubby and I throw a tablecloth on our sofa not to hide stains, but to prevent them! We call them our “picnic blankets” and throw them over the couch whenever we want to eat dinner in front of the TV, or snack while watching a movie. It’s become a cue that something fun is about to happen, and takes away all my anxiety about dripping food on my pretty couch. It’s good for my sofa *and* my marriage! 👏

7. Edit Your Stuff and Curate a “Story”

If you’re home is feeling a little *too* cozy (ie, cluttered) then think about the tchotchkes and mementos you have in your home and the stories they tell about your life. Which ones make you smile the biggest? Are those front and center in a place where you get to enjoy them every day? If not, clear off a spot for them — maybe the mantle, a wall shelf, or heck, even the back of the toilet, then create a story from three of those objects that will make you smile every time you walk by.

8. Paint A Wall

If you’re up for a bigger project, paint a room! After over 14 years in the Interior Design Biz, a can of paint remains my number one way to transform a room! Not only does it make everything feel fresh and clean, but it’s also a sneaky way to clean up a room (since you literally have to move your furniture out of the way and take everything off the walls). 😉 Just be careful — it’s sooo easy for a project to snowball. Make sure you’re honest with yourself about how much time you have for your project, and keep the scale of the project contained so that you can finish — and therefore enjoy — your new room!

9. Invite People Over

Okay, I know this one might be controversial in the age-of-Covid, but I’m not saying throw a house party. Just invite a couple of good friends over. 💕 Not only do I LOVE doing this because it helps me reset the house (see my quick cleaning fix in tip #1) but it’s the WHOLE POINT of having a house — to make memories and connect with the people we love. So yes, be thoughtful and safe when it comes to Covid, but remember that a life without love and connection will always feel dark. Let your friends bring the light and warmth with them. It’s not called a “housewarming” for nothin’.

10. Count Your Blessings

No matter what’s on your project wishlist, it’s important to remember that your home (just the way it is) is *someone’s* dream home, so if all else fails, look around and count the things you are grateful for in your house or apartment. What’s on *my* home-gratitude list? Hot running water! What a luxury to be able to stand under that wonderful, steamy waterfall every morning!

It’s easy to take these luxuries for granted, but when you remember that 1.6 billion people on our planet don’t even have access to safe drinking water, it’s easier to look around and feel happier at home.

What’s on your home-gratitude list?

Notice how I didn’t suggest you remodel *anything.* If you’re feeling down, burnt out, and stretched- thin, the last thing you need is the chaos, stress, and financial burden of a remodel. Instead, start small. I promise that the momentum of accomplishing one tiny thing, like cleaning out the freezer, will lead to accomplishing more than you can imagine — not just in your home, but in your life! Take it one step at a time and you’ll be astonished at how much you can get done! Just make sure you take the time to celebrate your successes along the way!

Need some accountability? Shout out what you’re going to tackle and tag us on Facebook or Instagram at @seriouslyhappyhomes — we’d LOVE to celebrate with you!