6 lessons learned from 2021

We’ve covered a lot of ground together this year, from the transformation of light fixtures to the power of love, from buying less to planning more. And that was just the first half of 2021.

In January, I took my home out of the dark ages. Months of sheltering in place (and climbing the walls) caused me to fixate on my home’s flaws, including the dark, oil-rubbed bronze light fixtures that looked like something out of a medieval torture chamber. I dubbed the style “early dungeon.” Homeowners today want fixtures that are airy and light in color and weight, the designer chorus chimed. I joined them, and pulled the plug on the old fixtures.

Lesson: Updating a home’s light fixtures, or changing those that came in the original “builder package,” is one of those simple moves that yield big results. Highly recommend.

In February, I read a survey that touched on my two favorite subjects― love and home. Like the researchers, I worried about what a study on love in the time of COVID would find.

Lesson: Love may not conquer all, but it conquers a lot, and home improvements might fix the rest. Homes.com found that 63 percent of those surveyed said spending more time at home had made their relationships better. And one in three couples dealt with the new abnormal by making home improvements.

The number one COVID-driven home improvement project? Putting in a home office. So in March, I asked Chris Peterson, author of “Home Office Solutions: How to Set Up an Efficient Workspace Anywhere in Your House” (Chapel Publishing), for tips.

Lesson: The most critical component of the work environment is the chair. “The wrong chair can literally be a pain in the rear,” Peterson said. Also important: natural light, furnishings that go with the rest of your home and a location away from others.

In April, I stumbled across the Buy Nothing Project, a worldwide web of Facebook Groups where members post stuff they are giving away or need. The free-stuff forum, said co-founder Liesl Clark, removes one of the biggest excuses I hear from folks who want to declutter but don’t want their belongings to end up in the trash. This way, their items go to someone who can use and appreciate them.

Lesson: Since then, I’ve gifted plastic hangers, home accessories and furniture, and joined a movement that saves money, reduces waste, lightens the load on our planet and knits together communities.

In May, I lived out a vicarious fantasy. Admit it. You, too, have daydreamed about buying a decrepit old house for a song, fixing it up, slapping on fresh paint and ― poof! ― selling the dump-turned-dreamhouse for a nice profit. But Matt Lavinder, president of New Again Houses, says his job isn’t always a dream — not unless your dreams include dry rot, black mold, ruptured pipes or snake dens.

Lesson: Successful flips are all about math and data, not emotion. Every flip is different, but the method is the same: pick the right house, assess the systems before you buy, then plan the entire renovation before you start. “Too often, people make 80 percent of the decisions for what they will do and decide the rest on the fly,” said Lavinder.

After several bad experiences with florists, I grilled a few industry experts in June to get to the bottom of what I was doing wrong, what florists were doing wrong and how consumers could increase their chances of satisfaction.

Home decor: 6 home renovation lessons learned from 2021