A new year brings new home ideas

[attach]3290[/attach]It’s the start of 2011. The beginning of the second decade of the 21st century. Makes my head spin a bit.

But some things you can still count on. The days will get longer (though colder, but you can’t have everything!). Kids will grow taller. The snow will melt — eventually.

And people will make new year’s resolutions as a sign of continuing hope.

On the subject of home and garden, here are a few thoughts for 2011 to put on your own resolution list. Don’t go getting all over-ambitious (a sure road to tears). Choose a few that appeal to you, and that are doable and fun. They’ll give you a fresh outlook for a brand new year. (And something to plan during the cold months to come.)

In the year 2011, I resolve…

To replace two or more incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs. CFLs do look weird, with that open spiral of glass instead of the enclosed bubble you might be used to. And they’re pricier than incandescents. But they use up to 75 percent less energy than older light bulbs.

Use them in places where you leave the lights on for a long time, and you’ll save money while doing an environmental good deed.

(Tip: watch for public programs where you can swap old-style bulbs for new, or for special discounts on CFLs.)

To give away or sell unused stuff that lurks in my home regularly. It’s amazing how stuff piles up in corners, spare rooms, basements and closets. Stay on top of the wave by making it a habit to round up these unwanted things in one place. You’ll be ready to donate if charitable agencies call. Any bag or box will be easy to grab if you’re heading out near a drop-box or thrift store location.

To explore one new shop — garden centre, florist, consignment shop, toy store, fabric store, home store — during the year. It seems as though you find just the right thing when you’re not really looking for it. Exploring a new store just for fun can lead you to the perfect gift for someone’s birthday. (Buy it and put it away if the big day’s a few months off — look at the time you’ve saved!)

Even if you don’t buy anything, you’ll come away with fresh ideas and renewed creativity. Toy stores, for example, can turn up fun things for grown ups. And you don’t have to sew to enjoy fabric stores. Ribbons and trim and remnants make lavish gift-wrap—and great additions to little girls’ play boxes.

To take a good look at my “showpiece” living room and see if it’s earning its keep. Life’s too short and real estate’s too expensive to have a room that just sits and looks pretty. If you frequently entertain guests there, fine; it’s doing a job. But if everyone gravitates to the kitchen or family room, anyway, it’s time to re-think.

Consider turning that cold museum into a cozy library-study-reading room. Soft chairs, spacious tables and classic table lamps will set a peaceful tone. Keep the focus on a sense of order and beautiful things, and you’ll still be able to use the room for intimate gatherings of friends, as well as your own private getaway.

To make one significant improvement in my garden or outdoor area. Winter’s the time to think and dream and plan for our short warm season. Take time to think back over last summer: Did you have too little shade? Were your flowerbeds and borders too skimpy? Was your outdoor living area uncomfortable?

Use winter’s quiet time to decide where to plant a tree or build an arbour. Draw a plan for enlarging skinny flowerbeds. (Almost all of them start out too small.) Think about what you need to enjoy your outdoor living room. An all-weather rug? An outdoor fireplace?

New, cushy lounging furniture? Maybe a small fountain or other water feature? Stir up those summer thoughts and winter will fly by.

To not be a slave to my home, no matter how much I love it. Remember to grab hold of opportunities to contact friends, treat yourself to a leisurely lunch, have a picnic, take a walk, play with your kids. Home is more than just a place — it’s a state of mind.