Make no mistake: the 12-plus weeks of strict coronavirus restrictions brought our needs – both at home and outside it – into sharper focus than ever before. But while some of our resulting behaviours occurred because of the elimination of choice, many were down to our ability to adapt. And as our slow re-emergence from this time continues, we’re faced with decisions about what’s important and what we’ll convert into lifelong habits. Because this time has also given us something most extraordinary: the power of perspective.
In the interviews for this week’s set of insights, we asked our 20 households across the world to really reflect on the experience of lockdown and the process of emerging from it. And we found that, although we collectively remain in the space that we at IKEA have dubbed the ‘messy middle’, across the board there’s a feeling of positivity. With a few more weeks under our belts in this messy middle, our households report that confusion, lethargy and frustration have been replaced by a new optimism – for a better, more balanced future. As Dillip from Sweden sums it up: “The hamster wheel has stopped for a while. And I have no desire to get back on it.”
So, in a different mindset and an extraordinary context, this time has seen us break out of established habits, while taking a protective attitude towards the new elements of our lives that we want to keep. It’s a very positive takeaway from a challenging time, and runs on the principle of: ‘keep what serves you and let the rest fall away’. We’re experiencing an existential editing of our lives that, for some, is uncomfortable. But within it exists an exquisite clarity that many of us haven’t experienced before. Whether that looks like not settling for things we might have before or knowing more precisely what makes us happy and what doesn’t, it’s about having a more honest relationship with the truth.
As we explored in our first blog post in this COVID-19 series, people experienced a feeling of the blurring of boundaries and an endlessness to their days in lockdown, and this was acutely uncomfortable at the start. But their natural resilience soon led to them establishing rituals and routines to demarcate the day and provide comfort. As lockdowns continued – and as they’ve eased – those rituals have evolved to become fiercely protected lifestyle choices, whose purity and simplicity make us happy: “My resolution? To continue my self-care rituals of yoga and painting,” says Illenia in Italy.
Early on in our conversations with our 20 households, they universally talked about the joy they drew from noticing the little things in life. Interestingly, during this week of more reflective observations, this focus hasn’t changed. Many are reporting small things they’re grateful for and want to maintain: “I want to continue to have a house surrounded by greenery!” says Margareta in Italy. “Aromatic plants that I can also use for cooking make me feel connected to nature.” Meanwhile, Ashley in the USA also talks about what she’s loved: “I’m growing food we’re able to eat. And we’ve been spending time camping and walking outside. Before the pandemic, I felt too rushed and busy to spend time on these simple things that help to keep us well.”
Now, with this exquisite clarity, we’re collectively deciding what to take forward, both as individuals and as citizens of the world, as we continue to tread the strange, twisty path toward our new normal. This impacts not only our actions and habits, but how we see and live in our homes.
When asked what their post-COVID priorities are for the spaces they live in, our households gave us different answers along the same theme: to prioritise home more, and optimise space. “I’ll stop neglecting home and accumulating unnecessary stuff that takes up space,” vows Mauro in Italy, while Alan in Australia says: “I finally redecorated my bedroom after 30 years! I’ll keep on top of focusing on the house now – rather than waiting until it really needs to be done.” And for Margareta in Italy? It’s simple: “I’ll continue to renovate and optimise to ensure there’s more space and comfort.”