Give Your Home a Festive Makeover

By Mary Clark
Mary Clark
Mary Clark
December 4, 2012 Updated: October 1, 2015
Dress the tree with loved ones after making over your home. (George Doyle/
Dress the tree with loved ones after making over your home. (George Doyle/

If you still have ambitions to really get organised before Christmas, I hope these notes I prepared for you on how I gave my home a radical clean and pre-Christmas makeover in just two long weekends will inspire you to do it yourself.

What you won’t need:

Lots of cash. But do call in the professionals for key tasks that you won’t have time or energy to do yourself: painting key walls, cleaning carpets, cleaning windows.

What you will need:

A positive mindset: tell yourself, “It’s do-able, there’s still time, be systematic.”

Before we start, as you know it will be hard work. And above all remember to remain cheerful throughout and face being unstintingly ruthless on the de-clutter. The rewards for all that effort and letting go – a whole lot of lasting domestic satisfaction over the Christmas holidays and well beyond into the New Year. It will earn you extra time and space to kick back and relax when it matters most.

How I prepared my mind:

After pondering nervously for many days, I made up my mind to change the colour scheme. Having lived with neutrals for too long, I wanted some colour back in my life. The (very expensive but now boring) curtains were blocking the way to colour and the light carpets were looking decidedly dark.

The carpets showed no worn patches, however, so opting not to spend hundreds and hundreds of pounds on new ones, I decided to call in the professionals and get them deep cleaned. And also to re-paint some of the internal walls in their original colour as I still had quite a quantity of the original paint in the shed, thus saving more money.

I then carefully researched the risks of dying major heavy curtains in the washing machine. The situation in my case was complicated by the fact that the curtains were two pairs of quite wide, floor-to-ceiling drapes backed with black-out material, rubberised on one side and with cotton/viscose on the other.

I was concerned about shrinkage and dye uptake and the effect on the rubber film on the backing. I test-dyed a large cushion cover I have in the same material (but without the black-out backing). There was no shrinkage. The shop where I had the curtains made originally also advised me, and I decided to go ahead.

I chose Dylon’s 40 degrees washing machine dye in Bahama Blue, a clean and vibrant turquoise colour that looked good with the mink colour of my lounge furniture and the warm oatmeal colour my carpets were supposed to be.

As only one curtain at a time fitted into my washing machine, I put in the first curtain after simply emptying two packs of dye into the drum along with 500 g salt per pack. So easy to do and it worked like a dream. The curtains had to be carefully air dried flat so the rubber black-out backing surfaces were not folded together to prevent sticking.

I was so pleased with the result. The previously somewhat subdued pattern in the curtain weave was brought into relief as each different type of thread used in the material took up the dye in different intensities. I decided to continue the colour theme and carefully dyed the nets to go under the curtains, which came out a lovely vintage pale duck egg blue. Beginning to appear were echoes and differing shades of a really pleasing colour all around the house, giving a sense of order and calm to the combinations of different textures in the different fabrics.

With extra dyes I next threw a variety of light-coloured cushions and bedding into the washing machine. All dyed perfectly and all in their own patterns. Following weight instructions on packs of dye is wise but educated guesses seem to work, with one pack dying the equivalent of one double duvet. If you are using dyes on cloth with existing colours, the normal colour mixing rules apply, i.e. blue dye on red cloth will produce purple.

The average washing machine will take enough items for two packs of dye. In practice I found the dye stretches to about half as much again, so I threw in tired white towels, pillow cases, a table cloth and a crocheted bedspread that had an indelible stain. It covered up beautifully. All this initial success allowed me to instigate the rest of The Plan.

The Plan (Which more or less worked out in the end)

First long weekend

Thursday evening after work:

  • Dye own bedroom curtains, pillow cases, sheets and cushion covers Bahama Blue; dry in tumble dryer.
  • Re-hang curtains, re-cover cushions, and remake bed with newly dyed linen.
  • Deep clean, dust (including curtain rails and light fittings), polish, and hoover own bedroom.
  • Radically de-clutter room and purge wardrobe.
  • Be ruthless.
  • Remove any surplus items of furniture, ornaments, etc.
  • Sort smaller surplus items and clothes into three boxes for auction room, charity shop, recycling.
  • Warn rest of household that there is about to be an amnesty on all miscellaneous items left lying around the house by them and their friends – forgotten, half-working iPods, dog-eared mobile phones, endless discarded T-shirts.
  • Place all such items in a box in the hall to be collected by following weekend or recycled.
  • Ignore all frosty receptions to this news.
  • Delegate someone to put it on Facebook.

Friday morning bright and early:

  • Ring local charity shop and ask them to pick up larger items of furniture.
  • Ring local council for surplus mattress to be removed from carport.
  • Ring window cleaner and book for following Friday morning.
  • Ring carpet cleaning company and book for following Friday afternoon.
  • Ring painter and decorator – arrange for specific walls to be painted on following Saturday.
  • Arrange to supply own materials.
  • Dye lounge curtains and nets and dry over banister.
  • Dye various lounge cushion covers, tumble dry and put back.
  • Inspect shed and list any paint that can be used to spruce up the house.
  • Buy remaining paint required, counting about 5 litres of emulsion for an average lounge or bedroom, but always check the coverage charts on the tin.
  • While curtains dyeing in washing machine, deep clean, hoover, and de-clutter lounge/dining room and hallway including curtain rails, mirrors, pictures, and light fittings.

Saturday morning bright and early:

  • Dye dining room curtains and nets and place to dry carefully over banister.
  • Iron lounge curtains and nets and rehang.
  • Shop for frames for unframed pictures and posters.
  • Have a coffee with a friend.
  • Put together and sort pictures and mirrors to be hung, designating and listing locations on a sheet of paper.

Sunday morning bright and early:

  • Iron dining room curtains and rehang.
  • Make some Christmas cards.
  • Go to recycling centre with all non-donateable or saleable surplus items.

Monday morning on the way to work

  • Take saleable items to auction room.
  • Take charity donations to charity shop.

Second long weekend
Thursday evening after work:

  • Buy paint on way home.
  • On arrival, give all children and especially teenagers a 30-minute warning – it’s tidy up your bedroom time – then hope for the best. Each to do his or her own laundry (for once) and hoovering, and fill up the dishwasher with missing crockery from bedrooms etc.
  • Help process all the resulting chaos.

Friday morning bright and early:

  • Let window cleaner and carpet cleaner in to work their magic while you do a garden mini makeover.
  • Take a hammer and nails with you and bash a few in here and there where there are any loose fencing panels.
  • Weed, deadhead, and cut back plants.
  • Put spring bulbs in the ground. If the frost has already set in, plant in large terracotta pots and compost.
  • Radically de-clutter and tidy shed.
  • Sweep and tidy hard areas.
  • Clean, dry, and put away any lingering summer garden furniture and cover with protectors.
  • Clean and secure all bins.

Saturday morning bright and early:

  • While painter paints the selected walls, deep clean, de-clutter, and mop floor in upstairs bathroom, downstairs loo, and under-stairs glory-hole-cum mini-cloakroom.
  • Recruit all young persons to do their bit to sort out school bags, missing homework, mouldy PE kit, odd shoes, and so on.

Sunday morning bright and early:

  • Deep clean and de-clutter all kitchen cupboards.
  • Muck out and clean fridge.
  • Sweep and scrub kitchen floor.
  • Change pinny, put dinner on, and make friends with the kids who have cooled slightly knowing the heat’s been on in the tidying-up sphere.
  • Get them to help put up all the pictures, posters, and mirrors, including those in their rooms.
  • All get the Christmas tree down from the loft and dress it together while eating homemade chocolates.

Hey presto! Happy days.

Monday morning on the way to work:

  • Repeat as for week one.

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Mary Clark