Home Wellbeing and Migraines: A conversation with Kathie from @the_koo_koo_nest_
And just like that it’s February already! I must say, these longer days are very welcome – I’m loving having a bit more daylight!
But let’s get on with this week’s blog post. I first started chatting to Kathie at the start of the year, when we realised that we both suffer from migraines. Of course, we had a lot to talk about, sharing our frustrations about how little is known about them and what we’ve learnt over the years about ways to keep them at bay and if not, at least coping with them.
If you follow Kathie on Instagram (@the_koo_koo_nest_) you’ll see she has a very distinctive style and we’ve been chatting about how your home can be your sanctuary, your favourite place to relax, but that it’s a voyage of discovery and trial & error, to get it to that stage. Kathie has certainly got to that place, and as you’ll read in our interview, having her home just the way she likes it is a real help for managing her migraines.
It’s a real shame that so many people suffer from migraines and severe or chronic headaches, but if you are in the same boat as us, we’re hoping that this blog post might give you some ideas of things to try and show you there’s light at the end of the tunnel, as Kathie has finally found out!
J: Hi Kathie! You have a beautiful home & lots of great tips for decorating to suit both your needs & style. Would you tell us a bit about how you first started to get into home décor? And the journey you've been on to get it as it is now?
K: I worked for an interior designer in my twenties who taught me a lot about style and textures. I rented for many years and always wanted to put my stamp on them. On one occasion I almost completely redecorated a bit of a hole of a basement flat, I completely transformed it. Carpets, painting, I even plastered a wall! When the landlord saw it, he realised he could charge more for it. Promptly made an excuse to get rid of me, and the next thing the flat was being let for three times the price.
I moved on, and continued to do so, many, many times. When I met my husband, we bought our house, and I guess it’s the first time I felt this home was mine and more importantly I felt settled. My home really is my sanctuary, and I guess I’d never felt that anywhere before.
J: What a lucky landlord! You’re right, it is very different when you feel like your home is truly your own.
How long have you been suffering with migraines and how does your home help you to feel calm, and help you manage them better?
K: I’ve suffered with migraines since I was 18, though the pattern has changed quite dramatically. I remember thinking at that age, my migraines couldn’t get worse, but by my late thirties they had progressed dramatically.
I began to live a regimented life because of them. Trying to make my life easier for me to manage ‘in case’ I got a migraine. I have to have a clean tidy home. I have to feel I’m on top of all my jobs in case tomorrow I’m laid up in bed.
The other thing to mention is I learnt how important it is to breathe - I've learned several breathing techniques and they really do help.
J: I’m so sorry to hear your migraines got worse. I’m exactly the same, when I feel I have everything under control I feel so much calmer and usually it’s when things start to feel chaotic, I’m more likely to get a migraine!
Have you found any particular no-no's that tend to make you feel uneasy or can perhaps make you feel worse if you're suffering with a migraine, like particular colours or lighting for example?
K: For years our house was white, just a blank canvas. I guess the migraines have made me learn what I truly like and don’t like. If I’m starting to feel a migraine, or bad headache certain smells, colours, images, products, even songs or programmes on the TV can upset me!
So, I have to love everything that comes through my door. My bedding is linen, I love the texture and feel of something that’s natural. My bedroom is a very cool, pale colour, it’s just so relaxing.
We’ve had fairy lights hanging in our inglenook fireplace for the whole eight years we’ve been here. I love them. They make me feel calm.
The colours I have chosen, the plants I have, the pictures, they all make me feel happy. I have lavender and mint growing in the border in the garden, so if I’m feeling tense I make myself stop, go outside and literally smell the flowers and breathe.
It’s funny until I started with interiors on Instagram, I’d never realised how much I liked pink, and now my home is on my grid I realise there is a definite theme there! Pink makes me so happy.
And one other thing - we never put heating on. We have the Aga ticking away, and in the winter, we have the log burner, again I find it so relaxing. Nothing better than a fire. I'm not a fan of radiators or plug-ins - I couldn’t possibly sleep with a radiator on in the bedroom - artificial air.
J: I love that you grow lavender and mint in your garden, two of my favourite scents. Mint especially is so good if I have a headache!
Do you have any habits or routines in your home that you think make you feel calmer? And do you find feeling in control of your home life a big help as well? What are your top tips for running a well organised household?
K: That old saying ‘don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today’… that was written for me!
I can cope with a lot if I have to, if the end goal is worth it. We did a lot of work to our house when we first arrived, and I tolerated it. However, I can’t bare mess for no reason.
I keep my house clean and I tidy as I go. I have a place for everything and everything must be in its place. For instance, I have a blanket box with gift wrap paper, cards, and gifts, which is always stocked in case of an emergency birthday! One for Easter, Christmas and Halloween decorations. One for bedding.
The washing basket is never full. My paperwork is organised. Clothes are always organised to season. We don’t have much space at all here so as soon as the winter clothes aren’t needed, they go into store and the spring clothes come out, and so on.
Having a place for everything is also so imperative for the three of us, as I'm the primary carer for Maisie, and my husband is self employed. If I'm really ill, Maisie has to stay home with me and fed for herself to a point, so I ensure the house is child friendly and she knows where everything is, the cupboards are always stocked with simple things like fruit and cereal items that she can access easily. Adapting your home like this helps so much, and actually applies to anyone suffering any illness.
Ultimately, ailments aside, I think an organised home is definitely a happy one!
J: That’s interesting that you can cope with mess if the end goal is worth it. When we were renovating our flat, it was probably more the tradesmen and delays that stressed me out more than the mess – so I still got the migraines!
On a day when you're feeling unwell, where would you usually spend time in your house to help you feel better? Do you like spending time on your sofa or in bed? And have you made anywhere in particular a total relaxation spot?
K: Yes I can cope, if prepared! Preparing my mind is very important - the element of surprise is not good for me at all!
Thankfully my migraines are improving, due to Botox which I’ve been having for about 17 months or so now. So, I find instead of being wiped out completely, I can still function, but I’ll stay close to home. Try and get a good walk in and fresh air.
I never lay in bed unless I have to, I guess staying in bed reminds me of being ill, which is such a waste of precious time. I will always be downstairs on the sofa, looking at my fairy lights. I have lots of comfy cushions and throws, that I can just collapse on.
We took a wall out downstairs, making the cottage open plan, and put bi folds in the front of the house. When we first moved in, the dining room and kitchen window ledges were level with the garden, and the garden was about three feet from the windows.
So, my husband almost immediately brought the diggers in and dug us out a big patio and pushed back the border to the garden.
So now we have much more light - I think natural light is so important. We can sit and look out at the wildlife and we’re not over looked at all so again it was a great job done. If I’m ill I know no one will see me - that’s a blessing for them believe me! I can just potter outside and sit by the lavender looking at the birds.
J: That sounds like bliss! It sounds as though your home is so perfect for you.
K: I really feel our home has been moulded to us, particularly me! And looking back it’s very clear that I like natural products, and the more I think about it, our home is full of natural stone, wood, exposed brick, linen, cotton. Interesting that I’m learning about myself even now.
Thank you so much to Kathie for sharing with us about her home and lifestyle. It’s been so interesting hearing more about how her home really helps her wellbeing – I’ve certainly taken a few tips away with me so I hope you’ve found this helpful too.
Until next time, have a great week! Jess x