Thoughts — 01 Mar 2021
By Cara Van Rhyn

Comfort nesting: how lockdown home improvements reflect a deeper psychological need

by Cara Van Rhyn

Over the course of the past year, we have all had to adopt new habits and ways of adjusting to the new normal - one such habit that has skyrocketed is comfort nesting. During lockdown we’ve largely been holed up between the four walls of our home. Previously just serving as a place of rest and relaxation, lockdown quickly transformed our homes into gyms, school classrooms, and office boardrooms. So, it’s no wonder that there’s been a surge of people redecorating, renovating and reorganising in order to make the place they spend around 23 hours a day in more comfortable.

According to research from Contura, the average Brit spent £1,000 on home renovations between the first lockdown and November last year. In fact, furniture retailer DHS recorded sales £100m higher than expected with demand pushing back wait times for a new sofa to around 11-12 weeks. Research conducted by home and garden supplier Ronseal found that with hardware stores classed as an essential business, 56% of us had a go at DIY during lockdown.

Typically, the desire to overhaul your living space into a more comfortable and cleaner environment is called ‘nesting’. This natural instinct is something we can see clearly in animals and it’s something we do as well during times of transition and change. Painting walls, buying new furniture or alphabetising the spice rack are all born from our desire to nest. During the past year, we’ve seen more than the usual amount of it.

When we’re not painting old furniture or having a go at grouting for the first time, we’re consuming content of how other people are transforming their homes. TikTok has registered just under 800 million views for videos featuring #homerenovation and #furnitureflip has seen a whopping 3 billion views.

While there’s an obvious desire to make your space as comfortable and visually pleasing as possible, there’s something larger at play here and it has to do with how our brains react to a crisis. According to the American Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the psychological reason why we want to do something practical and productive like home renovation during lockdown is due to our hardwired need for control during an emergency. They say, “taking an action during a crisis can help to restore a sense of control and overcome feelings of hopelessness and helplessness.” Since there isn’t much else we can take control of during the current climate, we’ve directed this energy towards ways we can control our immediate space.

So, if you haven’t embarked on a home improvement project yet, it might just be the thing to help you feel more in control during what we can only hope is the final lockdown. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to see this nesting pattern continue long after restrictions ease as people adapt to a different, home-centric way of working.