Book Friday: Happy Starts at Home by Rebecca West.

Change your space, transform your life.

I like bold assertions and claims by books. This Book Will Change Your Life Forever has a nice ring about it… and then you read it, and realise that possibly it could… if you had the money to do everything it’s telling you to, or an army of servants to take over mundane tasks or even just space and time free to do a complete overhaul of life style, systems and spaces you are responsible for.

As a woman with barely enough time to clear my head or even just the motivation to get my bedroom into the sanctuary I know it is fully capable of being, I run a mile from ‘change your life’ claims. I like books that are grounded, sensible, rooted in reality.

I think that’s why I enjoyed this book, Happy Starts at Home, quite as much as I did. It’s a home design book, but not just about design. It takes a very holistic view of how you, your inner self and your home interrelate. The home, our ‘outer reality’ as Rebecca calls it, ‘is a reflection of our inner reality, and we can shift our inner reality by making changes to our outer reality’. It’s about charting what you want from life and creating your home to give you that. Rebecca says that we can use our home as one of the easiest and most powerful tools in our journey towards a new way of living. “Every choice you make about your home influences your life. With every dollar you spend on your home, you cast a vote for the kind of life you wish to live: what you value, how you will be treated, and whom you will let in…. If you’re like me, you are highly affected by your environment, In a messy room we feel frustrated, stressed, even out of control.”

There are nine chapters, plus a bibliography, and the headings are really more suitable to a self-help than an interior design book: Happy Starts With You; Financially Fit; Healthy and Well-Rested; Friends; Love; It Takes a Village; Work Space: Spirituality; and Self-Worth. How your home can support you in improving each of these areas is explored in each chapter, with advice on decluttering (so vital to good mental health), organising for health and designing areas to work well.

The book asks, and gets you to ask, Why? Why change, why buy, why spend? What is our intention for each space, how do we use it and plan to use it, and how can we balance the emotional needs we have with the aspirational aims we inherit or collect from magazines or television. Balancing deeply personal needs… the need to have a kitchen that supports and makes creating a balanced meal for a diabetic relative every day… against aesthetic needs means being able to recognise the influences of both and deciding how much impact one has against the other. A basket of medicines on a counter may not look good, for example, but may work better than putting them out of sight (and out of mind) for someone in denial of their condition.

Throughout the book, you are expected to put in the work to make aligning heart-house-health a success. Every chapter has activities, usually pen and paper ones, that ask you to consider what lies behind your home plans. What does your home mean to you? How does your relationship with money colour how you approach home improvements? Where, in your home, do you need to share and consider other’s dreams and hopes as well as your own? I’ve done no more than a cursory read through and review, but the activities are definitely worth doing properly and I’m taking this book with me on my next holiday as a retreat workbook. (Don’t you find that sometimes the best place to consider next moves for your home is away from the house and the people itself? Space to consider things dispassionately, and to not be swayed by sentimental issues)

The energy of both home and inhabitants is considered. Although not every chapter focuses on chi or even mentions it, there is a commitment to creating flow, to making a home that works intuitively and boost energy. You are encouraged to look at your lifestyle, as well, to make sure that, too, flows well, with events that feed your soul and give you the boost you need.

The book has enough one line nuggets of wisdom to keep you as keen as an Eastern koan collector. A personal favourite of mine is ‘Honour the Past, Embrace the Future’ which may not be as mindful and present as it could be, but is a good starting point for achieving balance between past, present and future as you’ll find.

The book is definitely about getting oneself into order as much as the home, not about appearances but about structure, support and sustainability. It encourages a shift in focus from lack to plenty, with emphasis on releasing the excess and appreciating and displaying gratitude for what you have.

It’s another good book to actually read and act on. Yes, the pictures are good, with useable ideas and an appealing, clean aesthetic, but the questions and the work they encourage you to do are what matters. Done properly, this book will lead to structural change of your home and heart, not a superficial tidying.

You can find Rebecca online with her design consultancy, Happy Starts at Home and life coaching at Seriously Happy. Instagram and Pinterest are also available.

I leave you, as always, with the flipthrough.

And now, a word from our sponsors.

How to Hygge the British Way is my gift to the world. I don’t get paid for writing it, I’m not in it for the kudos, financial rewards, to become an influencer, work with brands or otherwise make any money from the blog. That’s why there are no ads, and any products I mention and recommend have either been gifted to me or bought by me with my everyday wages or donations from supporters. Every book I review has been bought and read by me, unless stated otherwise.

I do get a couple of pennies each time someone buys from the Amazon links on my page, as an Amazon Affiliate, but otherwise if you’d like to support me, I like to give something back in return. That’s why I write books. It always feels good if you get a book back in return for some money. You can find a full list of my books at my Author’s Page on Amazon, but especially recommended for this time of year are:

Cosy Happy Hygge: Setting up a rhythm to life and rituals to enjoy it to make for a more balanced life that handles waves and storms better. Lent is a season of rituals and resets. The book has small and easy ways to make your life flow with grace and happiness, which lead to more hygge.

Happier: Probably my most personal book, it’s the story of how I used hygge and the little things in life to help boost my happiness. I still go back and reread to remind myself what I need to do to be a happy human. And it’s always the little things.

Planning ahead, early, is How to Hygge Your Summer. It has ideas for taking your hygge with you out of winter and to any place you go in the summer… the beach, the park, your holidays. Hygge is an all-year feeling, so start preparing and let’s hygge the heck out of summer this year!

If you’d like to support me, but don’t want to buy a book, I have a Paypal.Me account as Hygge Jem. Every little helps, so even a few pence goes towards the books, goods and courses I use and recommend on the site. I’m grateful for every little bit that brings me closer to my dream of full-time writing, and I know I couldn’t still be writing if it weren’t for the support of many readers and friends out there. Thank you all for every little bit of support, emotional, physical and financial, you give me.

If you’ve enjoyed this article, don’t forget to share it or save it so others can enjoy reading, thinking about and living hygge as well.

The regular photo I’m currently using between text and my book promotions is a photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash. It’s waterlilies, chosen for the reflection and because the flowers resemble lotus flowers so much. And my header is a photo of the book on my workdesk, complete with reading glasses. I never needed them until I turned 50, and now I can’t manage a book without them! I’m very proud of the Jamaica Inn glasses case as well. I bought them on my trip to Cornwall and didn’t realise til I opened it that there was a Daphne Du Maurier glasses cloth as well! A proper Fangirl moment!

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