The other day, we were talking in the TFD office about home decor, and where we are in our complicated/ever-developing relationships with it. When one spends considerable time on the internet, particularly the more feminine internet, it can feel like one is surrounded by impossible standards of “lifestyle,” with living spaces and food and wardrobes so chic that it feels useless, even embarrassing, to try. But we do try, to some degree, and as someone who grew up the daughter of a house-flipping, interior-decorating Domestic Wonder Woman, my impetus to at least attempt the necessary domestic skills for a certain living space feels innate. I always feel like I’m falling short, and there is always a list of at least 10 things I would improve about my living situation/way of living, but I’m better off now than I was.
How to master crucial domestic skills on your own terms
And I also know a few things about myself: I’ll never be one for minimalism, I’ll never spend thousands of dollars on a couch (at least, not anywhere in the near future), and I’ll never be the level of meticulously clean that many of us grew up with. But within those limits, there is still a lot of territory to be mastered, and a lot of ways to get closer to “beautiful, harmonious living space” without “turning your life into a never-ending stream of Instagram sponsored content brought to you by this week’s home decor store.” There can be a middle ground, and a lot of it means getting over your fears/hang-ups/laziness about all things domestic. It’s all about teaching yourself, little by little, what you are capable of doing yourself.
So, in the interest of leveling up with all domestic skills, I consulted my most domestically-savvy circles and my own hard-learned experience to come up with the biggest 11 things we should all master in our home lives by the big 3-0.
11 domestic skills that are easier than you think:
1. Learning how to use basic things like sandpaper, paint, and contact paper to transform items.
We have a few posts specifically about this in the pipeline, but the general rule is still worth mentioning. The day I went from accepting the fate of “Oh, this chair is brown, it doesn’t go with my dining area,” or “these cabinets are ugly,” to “how can I cheaply and quickly make this look better” was a huge fucking day. Now, much of my furniture (and a lot of the installations in my rental, which I cannot permanently alter) have been changed from their original look. This means that I don’t have to go looking for all new things every time I want a refresh, and can make found-or-cheaply-acquired items fit into a pre-existing look, no matter how they arrive.
2. Painting your walls.
Seriously, even if it’s just an accent wall, paint that shit. Nothing looks more depressing than the “I moved in two years ago and never got around to doing anything” primer white walls in every room.
3. Keeping things tidy enough day-to-day that every guest is not a call for panic mode.
This means that you do a surface tidy each day of just “getting shit off the floor and out of the sink,” a deeper clean once a month, and a dusting/sweeping/mopping every other week. It also means basic things like regularly changing sheets, fluffing pillows, and wiping down surfaces. I’ll be the first to admit that the only time shit like baseboards get cleaned is when guests come around, but at least the rest of the place only needs a quick tidy to get it ready.
4. Making food in multiple servings, even if it’s just for yourself.
Always pre-empt yourself with leftovers, frozen or refrigerated. Always make sure there’s at least one thing that you can heat up quickly for a warm and satisfying meal, so as to deter yourself as much as possible from the temptations of Seamless.
5. Keeping your kitchen essentials stocked, and buying them before you run into a need for them.
Truly one of the most important domestic skills to master. You can find the full list of basics here.
6. Mastering at least a few basic tools.
For me, I can semi-skillfully use hammers, screwdrivers, sanders, power drills, and all manner of nails/screws/joints. I can put anchor studs in and other basic things like that. It’s not very advanced by any means, but it’s meant that I don’t have to ask for help for basic furniture assembly and wall-mounting. That’s already a huge step.
7. Planning home decor as you would any other project.
One of the big secrets of good decor, particularly the shit you see on Pinterest that makes you hate yourself, is that it was planned with some measure of consideration and time. Things like “color schemes” and “gallery walls” are drafted, and trips to places like Marshalls or thrift shops are made with a specific list of things to acquire in mind. And keep in mind, this doesn’t mean you have to go crazy with how much you buy, it just means that you take the time to make sure the stuff that you’re spending on — whether that’s wall paint, knick-knacks, plants, bedding, etc — are all purchased with some thought as to how they’ll fit into the greater scheme of things. This is the life-upgrade from the early-20-something strategy of “whatever I acquire, whenever I acquire it.”
8. Keeping a well-stocked cleaning cabinet.
Everything from Scrubbing Bubbles to Windex to dusters should be kept at your disposal, and put on your grocery list right along with your food items. If buying your cleaning products is an afterthought, your cleaning will be, too.
9. Making rituals out of your domestic chores.
This means picking out a podcast or audiobook you’ve been meaning to listen to, setting yourself a few tasks, and learning to bask in the zen of doing things like meal prep or deep cleaning. And while it may feel like a chore at first, if you make sure that the circumstances around your chore-doing are right (this is everything from the right background noise to a nice latte or glass of wine), you can transform it into a moment of ~self-care~.
10. Hosting people.
At a certain point, if only to save some money on bars and restaurants and force yourself to clean in a more diligent way, you’re going to have to get over any fear you might have of hosting people. I’m lucky, I guess, in that I was raised in a household very big on hosting all manner of party and gathering, but that doesn’t mean anyone can’t get into it. Start small, with maybe just a few people and a potluck scenario, but give yourself an excuse to make your place look beautiful, cook some food you’d never otherwise have a reason to try, and enjoy just being at home in the same way we enjoy going out to a restaurant.
11. Making your “home moments” more beautiful.
This is of the more abstract domestic skills, but is perhaps the biggest one for giving yourself a reason to give a shit about your apartment. Whatever your home moments might be — home manicures, a nice cup of coffee in the morning, a long bath, mixing a drink and watching a movie — make that moment and space as nice as it can be. This means a beautiful cocktail glass or mug, some candles and salts around your tub, a bar cart (even if it’s just a thrift store end table you put a couple bottles and a flower on), a nice coffee maker, a movie nook with string lights and pillows — whatever. Pick the “treat yourself” moments at home that mean the most to you, and set up that space with what you need to make it great. Give yourself a reason to want to do these things, and to take pride in them. All it takes is a little forward-thinking and maybe a trip to a discount store, and you’ve transformed a home ritual. And splurging a little on a cocktail shaker set and two nice glasses is so much more worth it than splurging on yet another $15 drink because you have to leave the house to drink something fancy.
Make your place the chic, adult living space you want, and that you lust over on Instagram. And then you’ll want to keep it clean.
This post was originally published on March 30, 2016, and has since been updated.
Image via Unsplash