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shelter: art, healing and home

Are you looking for a change? So am I! The good kind of change: positive, optimistic, meaningful. So many things have been out of our control in the past months, and fatigue has set in. Everywhere we look we find restrictions, disease, difficulties, and stress staring us in the face. It’s really challenging to carry on in circumstances like these.

Nevertheless, we must! There are things to look forward to, and we need to get ourselves in the right frame of mind to keep going. It’s essential to our collective well-being and to our individual mental health.

One way of facilitating positive change is to alter your immediate environment. Yes, I know, it is usually the other way around and instead our surroundings seem to be the driving force in our lives. The perennial nature vs. nurture problem. After all, we are a product of our circumstances, right?

Though that is true to certain extent, we have the ability to harness our response to those circumstances. Even when larger problems cannot be immediately solved, we can make tiny alterations in our attitude that allow us to look to the future with more hopeful eyes. Easier said than done, you might be thinking. I hear you. I feel at the end of my tether at the present time, but I have no choice but to try again.

Surprisingly, the small things are what tend to make a difference: a sudden rainstorm, a bird singing in a nearby tree, or the smell of instant coffee reminding me of my grandma’s tiny kitchenette. Nothing earth shattering.

Have you ever heard of Feng Shui? It’s a Chinese philosophy that stresses the power of Nature and its impact within our home environment. The objective is to achieve harmony through rearranging our living space in such a way that it will amplify our sense of belonging while imparting a serene mood. It’s a highly actionable practice that you can easily bring to bear to feel a little bit more in control. Whether you completely abide by its principles, or simply believe that organizing your belongings in ways that are pleasing to your brain helps you to feel more at peace (think Marie Kondo and her method of bringing joy into your life), there are slight changes you can make with little effort or expense.

What are the uncomplicated actions we can take to feel like we are moving forward instead of stagnating? Well, one can start with something as mundane as painting the walls in your favorite colors. A lick of paint really goes a long way. Don’t be shy. Color has direct impact on your mood. There are plenty of studies that attest to that.

Maybe you can introduce some easy to care for plants into your space. They can truly improve your well-being. Taking care of a living plant gives you a sense of purpose. When “forest bathing” is not an option in an urban environment (or there are travel restrictions in place), bringing the outside indoors is an obvious solution.

We can even express our aspirations, preferences and personality through the specific artwork we pick for our home. In short, you do not need an expensive and protracted, whole-house-make-over to make your surroundings more relaxed and in tune with who you really are.

Granted that social life as it was, has taken an enormous hit lately. You might think “nobody is going to see the inside of my home for a while. It doesn’t really matter what it looks like”. That might be the case, but you are still important, and you live in that space 24/7. You are in your home a lot these days and it has become more than just a dwelling. It is now a place of safety, a sanctuary for you and your family. Shouldn’t it help you rather than hinder you?

Think about it for a brief moment. How do you feel in a cluttered room? Are you anxious? Does it make you short tempered not being able to locate your glasses or the remote with ease? These are just small irritations that can easily accumulate day after day to become bigger hurdles to a pleasant existence. I try to minimize these problems by implementing ingenious solutions that cost nothing. You can repurpose an old tin, a plastic box or any other container to indeed contain runaway objects. It works for me.

Have you ever felt overwhelmed just watching a TV program about hoarders? I find them too much to handle even as a mere spectator. The sight of such extreme chaos can have an almost paralyzing effect. There are numerous studies that indicate that a cluttered space is not conducive to good self-esteem or harmonious relationships. In fact, the most severe of cases of hoarding (whatever form they might take) are considered to be mental disorders that require professional treatment. They often hide some form of trauma or dysfunction that needs to be addressed. Fortunately, most of us do not fall into such a dire category and rather represent the more garden variety of careless house keepers. I know I do...

...It is at this point in the conversation about well-being that art enters the picture (no pun intended).

Unfortunately, it has the unenvious reputation for being expensive and it tends to be overlooked by many as an inaccessible luxury. Perhaps, an indulgence reserved for a select group of people. I’m here to tell you that nothing could be further from the truth.

The most important part of purchasing art is that you like it. Yes, it is that simple. It does not need to be expensive to be good art, and it must make you feel invested, happy, or moved in some way. You must trust your gut and forget about your neighbors, your coworkers or what your mother-in-law might or might not approve of. I assume your home is not an exhibition gallery, so you are the only person who is going to view the artwork on your walls on a daily basis. If anything, it needs to speak to you.

A blank wall is, in my estimation, a world of endless possibilities. It is open to infinite interpretations and modifications. Why not start there? The right piece of art can anchor your desire to improve and it can assist you in moving forward with purpose. We all need a little nudge at times...

It is actually quite easy to source affordable art that reflects your tastes. If you want to make the process effortless, there are certain rules you can follow:

a) Have a location in mind prior to buying the piece.

b) Take into consideration the adjacent colors and textures. Perhaps there is a defined theme you’d like to follow through with. Look for a piece that fits in or, on the other hand, something that will give you juxtaposition. Contrast is interesting and elegant.

c) How does the artwork make you feel? Some pieces are conversation starters, but that conversation does not need to happen with anyone else. It is a conversation with yourself. Does the piece suggest a feeling or a powerful memory? Then it is right for you.

d) Do not second guess yourself if you find a connection with a particular piece. What you see of yourself in it, will always be the most powerful reason to buy. When artwork speaks to you, listen and act. You just found something special.

In addition, you have the wonderful opportunity to make a difference in the life and career of a professional creative. Your purchase might be just what that independent artist needs in order to continue on his or her path. Not only do you fulfill your own needs for creating a beautiful environment in your own living space, but you are also part of a bigger story.

So don’t be shy and browse the many opportunities for art buying. Make sure you are purchasing from a reputable independent artist and perhaps even enjoy creating a lasting relationship with a kindred spirit. What else could we ask for from an online interaction? There’s nothing better than knowing you made someone's day.

Cheers and happy art hunting!


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