Michelle Dew is an interior decorator — with a twist. Owner of Cultivate Your Space, a local business focused on interior design and organization, Dew’s aesthetic encompasses more than just the items you fill your home with.
“What I do is different from most interior decorators in that the purpose of my job, my brand, isn’t just to keep someone’s space pretty,” Dew says. What makes Michelle and Cultivate Your Space special is its focus on wellbeing.
Each client, she says, has their own needs for their space — some people have plenty of chaos in their lives, whether that’s from a high stress job or raising kids — so their living space needs to be neutral and minimal in order to promote peacefulness. But others have too much quiet and get lonely, so need vibrant colors and photos all over the walls to create a livelier living space.
Dew has been running this business full-time for two and a half years, but she’s been doing this sort of work for her friends for closer to ten, so she has plenty of experience in cultivating spaces that fit specific needs and make spending time at home a more pleasant experience.
Right now since we’re all spending substantially more time at home than usual, Dew has a few tips to help you seamlessly transition from office life to creating your ideal home and work space.
Just Do *That* Project
“A lot of what I’ve heard from people is about projects they’ve been looking at in their house and putting off for a long time,” Dew says.
You know the one — usually a simple household task, like cleaning out the junk drawer. Dew’s advice is to just do The Project. You’ll feel productive, and, as Dew says, your space affects you in profound ways, so keep it tidy and aesthetically pleasing.
Separate Your Spaces
“Having a particular space to work at home that feels peaceful, that feels separate and put together, leads the way to productivity,” Dew states.
This new time brings with it a multitude of challenges, some of which affect both newfound workers-from-home and experienced remote workers.
“Now more than ever, being stuck at home and not being able to change our environment and go to a coffee shop or a park, I’ve had quite a few clients contact me and ask, ‘How do I make do with what I have?’”
Dew’s answer? Have a separate space for working or studying or whatever you need to get done. And beyond that, Dew truly believes that the space influences the person, and to take care of your space is to take care of your needs.
“A lot of what I talk about in my business is how our space really affects us,” she says. “It affects our mental health and it affects our productivity.”
Make a New Routine
With the “new normal,” households are getting thrown off their usual routine and, on top of that, are gaining extra family members under their roof 24/7.
“A lot of clients have mentioned that with having kids home all day, the messes accumulate much quicker,” Dew says.
With or without kids, it can be difficult to suddenly face the amount of dirty dishes or clothes cluttering up the house. For every age of kid, Dew suggests creating a routine with a cleaning song. Pick a song the kids like, and together pick up toys, wash dishes, or do some other general cleaning chore just for the duration of the song. Even without kids in the house, creating a routine can help weather this time of being homebound.
Dew says we normally think nothing of walking out on clutter when we leave for work. “But when we’re home,” she says, “it’s distracting.” Set a designated time to do it, she advises, and then mentally you can cross it off your to do list until that time.
No matter your style, “normal” routines may not be functional anymore, and creating new ones can help young children and grown adults alike.
Tackle Things on a Week-by-Week Basis
Dew says the best way to handle quarantine is to use this time to simplify your home. She continues, “But take it off in bite-size pieces every week. Pick one area that you’re going to tackle.” Dew’s simple suggestion of taking it one task per week combats both inactivity and also overactivity. Just pick one, Dew says. “Like, ‘Okay, I’m going to go through the closet,’ or, ‘this week I’ll go through the kitchen and get rid of the extra lids.’”
It is spring, after all, so perhaps a spring cleaning is in order. Just be sure not to overcommit.
Set an Intention
“I ask clients: ‘What is one intention you have for your home or for this specific space? What do you want to get out of this season?’” Dew says.
It’s a sentiment she carries into this uncertain time and encourages her clients to do the same. “For me, that would be peace and productivity. I want my space to support that. I just keep it clean and tidy, and my house fresh and clean, as if I were entertaining still and having people over. Because I want it to feel peaceful, and hopeful, and all those things.”
A personal idea that Dew says will help her navigate these strange waters is what she refers to as a “quarantine bucket list.” Essentially, she wrote down all the things she intends to accomplish while housebound, even if they were small. For example, calling that old friend you keep meaning to catch up with or finishing the book you started several months ago.
Following these tips will not only help you create a more productive space but will help keep you from feeling quite so out of control. Cultivate Your Space is currently running a “Quarantine Special” where Dew will virtually consult on one space in your home for $75. Visit https://bit.ly/2xXvC46 for a free download of Dew’s ebook, Cultivate a Space of Intention.