What I Wish I’d Known Before Hiring a Contractor


On the hunt for a contractor to handle your home renovation or repair job? These helpful hints could save you time, money, and a lot of headaches.


Not all contractors are created equal

If your handyperson says they can “do it all,” watch out; electrical, plumbing and structural fixes require a licensed professional. A sure sign that contractors can be trusted is if they tell you they’re not the best person to do a particular job and recommend someone else instead.

Research is key

Good contractors get work through word of mouth, so they don’t really need to advertise. When you’re looking to hire someone, says Steve Maxwell, a widely published home improvement coach, ask friends and family for recommendations. If the job is large, consider several options, ask for at least three references and speak to previous clients before you sign any contracts.

Find out the home renovation mistakes that could send your property’s resale value into a tailspin.

Check the right websites

Can’t rely on word of mouth? Consider searching for contractors by checking out online review services like Reno AssistanceHomeStars and TrustedPros.

Avoid these home renovation mistakes if you’re planning on selling anytime soon.

Schedule an annual checkup

Ask a contractor to inspect your house once a year. Do you need to caulk around your windows and doors? Are any shingles loose? It’s a lot less expensive to hire someone to address those things than it is to replace them after years of neglect.

Find out how to get the most from a home inspection.

Fees may vary

Contractors may charge different prices for the same job. Some ask for more when they’re busy. They may also raise their fees for houses that are filthy, so keep yours clean.

Here’s how to clean your entire kitchen, according to The Marilyn Denis Show‘s Charles the Butler.

Be ready to pay (a little) upfront

Many jobs will require about a 10 per cent deposit—this books a contractor’s time and is a sign of the homeowner’s good faith. But they might require more, says Steve Payne, the editor of Canadian Contractor. If you’re having a new kitchen built, for example, your contractor will want to cover the cost of custom cabinets and counters, neither of which will be reusable if the project doesn’t go forward.

Here are 10 mistakes to avoid during a major home remodel.

Don’t be too hasty to ditch broken items

Before you throw something out, ask whether your contractor can repair it. They might be able to fix window frames, furniture and crown moulding—even tree houses and sheds.

Here are 50 things worth repurposing around the house.

Nothing in life is free

While many workers will be happy to adjust your sticky door or tighten that leaky faucet, don’t act surprised when they charge you. Contractors make a big part of their living from those “while you’re here” jobs

Find out six things professional plumbers never do in their own homes.

Let the professionals do their job

You could pay for the material yourself to cut costs, but don’t ask if there’s any way you can help out in exchange for a lower price. Payne says that the contractor could be held liable if you get injured.

Need more convincing? This gallery of do-it-yourself bathroom design fails should do the trick.

Always include extra cash in your budget—just in case

Always include some wiggle room in your budget. “If you’ve got a contract for $127,000 and you can really only afford $127,000, you’re nuts,” says Payne. No matter how good a contractor is, they don’t have X-ray vision—they might find mould, structural issues, plumbing or electrical problems that need to be addressed during your home renovation.

Learn to spot the signs you might have a termite infestation.

Make sure you get a contract

While it may be tempting to hire cash contractors—a handyperson whom you pay under the table, without a contract, avoiding taxes and getting a cheaper rate—Payne warns against it. “If the job goes south, there’s no paper trail,” he says. “You’re totally unprotected.”

Here are more money mistakes that are costing you thousands.

You can pay in installments

Establish payment stages in your contract. Possible milestones can include framing, plumbing and wiring, drywall and finishes, and you can give your contractor a certain percentage when they reach those milestones. “It’s an incentive to keep things rolling,” says Maxwell.

Here are 13 secrets real estate agents want you to know.

Stick to The plan

Make firm decisions, Payne advises. Changing details like finishes or tiles can prolong jobs and result in money down the drain.

Next, check out HGTV star Bryan Baeumler’s tips for a successful kitchen reno.

Is It a Valuable Antique, Or Just Old Junk?


We’ve all enjoyed watching the Antiques Roadshow, where someone discovers that the funny looking vase left by Aunt Matilda is worth a small fortune. Perhaps you have a treasure gathering dust in your own basement. So, how do you know?

Antiques vs. Collectibles (vs. Old Stuff)

According to Suzanna H. Cullen, vice president of the Levison & Cullen Gallery in Atlanta, Georgia, the first step is to do your homework and determine if you have an antique or a collectible. “A potentially confusing term is that of collectible,” Suzanna says. “Collectible objects are an entirely different category from antiques. Antiques are defined by an object’s age, authenticity and rarity, and are generally categorized as fine arts. Collectibles are defined by rarity and celebrity, which include items such as memorabilia, celluloids, baseball cards and toys.”

The Basics of Do-It-Yourself Appraisal

Before rushing off to have your piece professionally appraised, look at it closely and consider the following:

  • Is there a stamp from the manufacturer or a designer’s mark? These identifying signs may mean the piece is valuable.
  • Consider the condition. All those dents, cracks and chips do make a difference in the value. Something that is pretty worn, not matter how old, is not going to be worth the same price as something in “mint condition.” If it’s been badly restored, that is going to reduce its worth even further.
  • How rare is the item? Most of the silver you are going to come across in Canada is most likely silver plated. There are very few solid silver sets out there, since most families simply weren’t wealthy enough to afford one. The same is true about heirloom glassware. The relatively rarity of coloured Depression glass with a brownish-pink or green tint makes it worth a second look.
  • Is there a demand for the item? Just because something is old doesn’t make it valuable. “The value of an item is dependent upon many things, including the condition of the object itself, trends in the market for that kind of object, and the location where the item will be sold,” executive producer Marsha Bemko warns on the Antiques Roadshow website.

Seeking Professional Antique Appraisal

If you still believe you have a valuable antique gathering dust in your basement then you may want to get the item appraised. Start by talking to your local experts at nearby antique stores. If they don’t handle your particular item, they are sure to know someone who can. Most experts agree that you should never sell the piece to the person who has appraised it.

There are several organizations that also specialize in appraisals:

  • The Canadian Association of Personal Property Appraisers. Founded in 1989, this non-profit organization has accredited members with at least eight years experience.
  • The Canadian Personal Property Appraisers Group (CPPAG) is a Canada-wide appraisal organization with a network of accredited appraisers.
  • Online appraisals are trickier, but a good starting point is What’s it’s Worth from Crawford Direct Appraising. Jim Crawford has listed all the reputable online antique appraisers on his websites.

And remember, even if your item does turn out to be worthless, the memories it holds for you are priceless.

20+ Secrets Personal Organizers Would Never Tell You for Free


Create five piles

When you’re organizing, you should sort everything into five piles: move to another room, donate, give to a specific person, throw away, and, finally, the “marinating” pile. Pack up the marinating items, and label the box with a date that’s six months to a year later. If you never open the box before that date, you can safely discard those items.

To make an organizing project go faster…

Create rules about what you’re keeping and what you’re discarding. In your closet, for example, you can decide to give away any clothing that’s not between size x and size y, that’s stained, or that needs to be repaired. With periodicals, you can decide not to keep anything that’s more than a year old.

These are the things you shouldn’t store in your garage.

It will always take you at least five times longer…

Sorting through a box of personal papers will always take you far longer than you think it will.

Here’s a list of all the things to toss, according to a professional organizer.

Avoid lids

Avoid lids on laundry baskets, bins, and other containers. They just make it harder to put things away. For other items, I’m a huge fan of clear sweater boxes. Not only do they hold sweaters in your closet, but they’re perfect for holding beans, rice, and pasta in your pantry, kids’ toys, and more. They fit on almost any shelf in any home and can hold most of the stuff in your house. I order them by the case.

Save money by trying these simple organizational tricks.

Your goal should be to remove the clutter, not create more storage space

People who think they’re disorganized always run out and start buying baskets, containers, and hooks. You come home and try to use them, and they’re not the right type or size, because you didn’t sort through your stuff first. That’s just backward. All those new containers just end up adding to your clutter.

In a pinch, though, use these tips to squeeze the most into your storage space.

The number one problem for all my clients: too much paper

The whole idea of a paperless society is a complete myth. People are seriously scared to get rid of it. Remember, 80 percent of the paper you get you don’t need to keep. So it’s imperative to keep weeding out every single day, whether that’s magazines, catalogs, mail, receipts, or anything else.

These facts will convince you to use less paper.

Are you holding on to a big piece of the past?

If you’re keeping something that doesn’t fit in your home for sentimental reasons—say, Aunt Jenny’s blue recliner or Grandma’s chandelier—recognize it’s the memory you cherish, not the item. Then take a picture of it and give it away to someone who actually has space for it who will love it. That said, if you really love that paperweight collection, grandma’s old photographs, or that heirloom quilt, why are you letting them get ruined, moldy, or eaten by moths in cardboard boxes in the attic? Honor your favourite keepsakes by getting them out and displaying them.

Sure, you could sell that item on eBay…

…but are you interested in finishing your organizing project or starting a new career hocking used stuff? Unless you sell online all the time or need the money, I recommend just giving things away so you can move on.

Here are 30 things you can organize in 30 minutes or less.

Watch out for flat surfaces…

…which can quickly become drop zones for clutter. When my clients have a dining table that is always getting covered with junk, I’ll have them clear it off, put a flower arrangement in the middle, and set it with place settings. That usually prevents them from parking stuff there.

Consider trying these home organizing tips as soon as possible!

Anything that needs to go somewhere should be in your car…

…not in your house. Keep your coupons there in a clear folder so you have them if you need them. Get an errand basket to hold items that need to be returned. Use crates to store kids’ toys and emergency supplies. Also, a car trash bag is a simple thing—get one!

For what shouldn’t go in your car, here are the things that should never be in your vehicle.

Put everything on your calendar

Even errands, exercise, cleaning the house should go on it. Then make sure you prioritize the things that are important to you. If it’s not on your schedule, it’s not on your life.

Check out these 10 organizing shows on Netflix Canada that’ll inspire you to declutter now.

My biggest secret?

Don’t procrastinate. If you postpone things that take a few minutes, it adds up and suddenly you’re looking at several hours to clear your clutter. Always open your mail right away, do dishes right after you use them, and put things away as soon as you’re done with them.

These are the home items you should be cleaning every month.

If you have lots piles of papers you’re always looking through…

…that’s a big time waster. Here’s what I suggest: every time you look at a piece of paper, put a red dot on it. If you’re ending up with 10 or 20 dots on one piece of paper, you need a new system to deal with your paperwork.

Try these 40 home organizing hacks you’ll wish you knew sooner.

Please, get rid of that storage unit

You could buy all the stuff that’s in there for the price of the annual rental fee—and that doesn’t include the cost of the moving truck and your time. Plus I’m sorry, but the items you own are almost never worth as much as you think. And even if they are, who cares? That’s still not a good excuse to hold onto things you don’t use.

These Marie Kondo organization tips will change your life in minutes.

My favourite tip for a roomier kitchen

Adjust cabinet shelves; it can create a lot more space. Also, get that popcorn machine, bread machine and the other huge appliances off your counter. If you don’t use it every week, store it in the attic or basement and get it out only when you need it. And do you really need all those plastic containers? Most people have cabinets full of them, but they only ever use a few. Figure out which ones you really use and donate the rest.

Learn what other subtle organizing mistakes make your kitchen look sloppy.

My favourite little kitchen tip

Always load the dishwasher in an organized way. So instead of throwing all the silverware into the utensil box, put the forks in one area, the spoons in another, and the knives in another, and then when you’re unloading you just grab all the spoons and put them in the drawer.

Try these 40 kitchen organizing ideas that’ll save your sanity.

Go into your closet today and hang everything backward on the rod

Once you wear something, hang it the normal way. A year from now, if you still have some things still hanging backward, you’re obviously not wearing them, so get rid of them.

Use these ideas from professional organizers for your next spring closet cleaning.

A simple way to transform your closet

Switch to one type of hanger. It makes a huge difference. If you have varying kinds, they get caught on each other, they’re not the same height and you can’t see everything as well. I especially love the thin hangers that are covered in velvet. Because they’re super slim, you can fit more into your closet, and your clothes won’t slip off them.

Learn how to drop your bad habits and get organized.

Maximize your closet space

Put in an extra tension rod so you can hang shirts on top and skirts on the bottom, and always add hooks to hang jewelry and scarves if you have extra wall space. You can even put a chest of drawers in there if you have the room.

Did you know about the things that professional organizers don’t do at home?

I love hanging shoe bags

In addition to shoes, I use them for gloves and hats in winter, for sunblock, sunglasses and goggles in summer, and for crafts, toiletries and makeup.

Try these tricks to keep your shoes stink-free.

You’re going to be more motivated to get an area organized…

…if you make some changes you can get excited about. When you’re doing your closet, for example, throw up a coat of new paint, put down some cool floor tiles or a rug, or add a beautiful fixture. It will make you want to keep it organized.

These vintage home hacks are still brilliant today!

Ditch the cardboard

One client asked me to help carry a bunch of cardboard storage boxes into her newly renovated house. As I opened the first one, out came hundreds of cockroaches. That’s why you should never use cardboard. You name the pest; I assure you it loves cardboard.

Here are 12 shed storage ideas to organize your space at last.

I swear I’m not a neat freak

Being organized doesn’t mean everything is in its place; it means everything has a place. If you can get your house ready for a surprise guest in 30 minutes, then you’re organized. Believe it: I have not one, but two junk drawers in my kitchen—and I sleep just fine at night.

Lazy people will love these brilliant cleaning shortcuts!

Your kids will be so grateful…

…if you label and organize your photos now and if you stick a note on keepsakes explaining their significance. We settle a lot of estates, and it’s frustrating to the next generation when they don’t understand why something was left to them.


Here’s What You Need to Know About Laundry Stripping

Find out how laundry stripping can reveal hidden grime that’s been living on your sheets and towels.

Ready for an oddly satisfying way to clean your laundry? Laundry stripping is a method of washing clothes, sheets and towels that allows you to actually see all the dirt and grime that’s hanging out on your supposedly clean linens. It’s kind of gross; but also totally gratifying when you’re done, knowing your laundry is probably the cleanest it has ever been.

Here’s everything you need to know about laundry stripping—and how to DIY.

Laundry stripping is essentially a soaking method meant to deep-clean your laundry. The soak is done in a Borax solution that removes built-up residue from detergent, hard water, body oils and fabric softener. What makes it so satisfying (but also might leave you slightly horrified) is that often the soaking water turns brown or gray from all the gunk that is “stripped” away from your linens! (Here’s how to tell if you’re using too much laundry detergent.)

How to strip your laundry

You’ll need:

  • Borax
  • Washing soda (sodium carbonate)
  • Laundry detergent
  • Bathtub (or large bucket)

Step 1: Make the soaking bath

First, you’ll need a vessel large enough to soak the linens you want to strip. We recommend using the bathtub, but you could also use a large bucket or bin. Fill the bathtub with hot water. Add one part Borax, one part washing soda and two parts laundry detergent. For a bathtub, we recommend ¼ cup Borax, ¼ cup washing soda and 1/2 cup detergent.

Gently stir the water to dissolve the powders.

Step 2: Soak the linens

Add clean laundry to the water, completely submerging it. Let everything soak about four to five hours, or until the water is cool. Stir the water and swish the laundry around occasionally; the movement helps to remove the dirt and grime from the fabric.

Step 3: Rinse

Remove the laundry from the bathtub and drain the water. (Don’t forget to admire the gross murky brown colour!) Now run the laundry through the washing machine, using a rinse cycle without detergent. Dry the laundry as you normally would; then enjoy your crisp, super clean linens!

When you should (and should not!) use laundry stripping

Laundry stripping is great for sheets and towels because those items are used frequently and can easily collect a buildup of body oils and detergents. If your towels feel less absorbent than usual, and your sheets look a little dingy, it might be time to try your hand at laundry stripping.

Be careful with colourful linens, because laundry stripping can cause dyes to run. You’ll also want to avoid delicate linens like lace or embroidered pieces. Also, clothing isn’t a great candidate for stripping.

Remember, laundry stripping requires hot water; so keep that in mind and check care label tags before you get started.

5 Winter Tips to Save on Your Hydro Bill

Five strategies to beat the deep-freeze—without breaking the bank.


How to save on your electric bill this winter

The average Canadian will spend upward of $1,800 on natural gas and electricity bills each year; much of that during winter, when cold drafts entering the home can significantly jack up indoor energy use. Here are some hints on how to stay toasty warm this winter without taking a massive financial hit

1- Maintain your furnace

Do-it-yourself: Check furnace filters once a month for lint buildup, and clean or replace them every three months. Clogged with dirt and dust, they can be an energy suck and won’t last as long. Regardless of age or quality, a furnace should undergo a checkup every two years (or annually, for an oil system) to prevent expensive breakdowns and maintain the manufacturer’s warranty.

2- Turn down your thermostat

Do-it-yourself: Setting your thermostat back by 4°C to 6°C for eight hours each day can shave up to 15 per cent off your heating bill. The Canadian Centre for Housing Technology finds it most efficient to keep your home at 22°C when you’re at home in the daytime and at 16°C to 18°C otherwise. Contrary to popular belief, your furnace won’t work extra hard to bring temperatures back up. (Here are more home heating myths you need to stop believing.)

Big fix: Try a thermostat with a brain (such as Nest): some will track your daily home-and-away habits, set the temperature accordingly and are programmable using your smartphone. 

3- Inspect your roof and gutters

Do-it-yourself: Before temperatures dip below freezing, clean your gutters and downspouts of any leaves and debris clogs—clogs mean melting ice will seep into roof shingles. If you have an operational fireplace, make sure its damper is still working and keep it closed when not in use.

Big fix: Think of insulation like the toque your roof needs to wear in winter—up to 25 per cent of a home’s heat can be lost through the roof if it’s not properly insulated.

4- Seal windows

Do-it-yourself: A thrifty treatment for thin glass windows is to line them with bubble wrap: mist your windows with water and push the bubbled side of the sheet against the pane. No glue needed-simply re-mist and reattach if the plastic loses adhesion. (Here are 100 more home improvement hacks to save you time, money and effort.)

Big fix: Adding storm windows to existing frames is one way to boost heat retention. Replacing them entirely with Energy Star-certified windows, double- or triple-glazed and filled with insulating argon or krypton gas, keeps them sealed year-round.

5- Seal doors

Do-it-yourself: Prevent cold-air leaks with a draft snake: a plush doorstopper placed in entryways to stop drafts. If you’re crafty, make your own, but something as simple as a rolled-up towel will do.

Big fix: If your front door lets in more drafts than people, consider upgrading to an airtight model with double- or triple-glazed glass, an insulated core and good-quality weatherstripping (some newer frames include a magnetic strip that seals more tightly).

The Easy Way to Melt Ice You Never Knew About (Hint: It’s Not Salt!)

No rock salt? No problem! Here’s how to avoid slipping and sliding on your driveway this winter.

In the dark and cold months of winter, the last thing you want to do is spend hours shovelling ice and snow from your driveway. While rock salt might be a quick fix for slippery surfaces, it’s not always easy to find once temperatures drop. What to do?

Thankfully, winter-proofing your home doesn’t require breaking the bank on rock salt or fancy gadgets. You can create a DIY de-icer with items you already own, according to Jeff Rossen, NBC News National Investigative Correspondent and host of Rossen Reports.

This magical ice melter is easy to make, too. In a bucket, combine a half-gallon of hot water, about six drops of dish soap, and ¼ cup of rubbing alcohol. Once you pour the mixture onto your sidewalk or driveway, the snow and ice will begin to bubble up and melt. Just keep a shovel handy to scrape away any leftover pieces of ice.

Why does this simple combo work? Turns out, rubbing alcohol has a much lower freezing point than water, so it speeds up the melting process and prevent the surface from icing up in the future, Rossen says. (Check out more genius ways to put rubbing alcohol to work.) He also recommends pouring the mixture into a spray bottle and using it to thaw your car windows.

But that’s not the only cold-weather driving hack that won’t cost you a dime: find out why you should keep a nail file in your car this winter.

20+ Ways to Make Your Home Cozy This Winter


The secret to a cozy home

With daylight dwindling and colder weather on the way—along with pandemic restrictions, of course—this winter will likely feel like a long one. But if you’re dreading the thought of spending the next few months staring at the same four walls, it’s time to upgrade your surroundings with a few inspired touches. We turned to the experts of hygge—a.k.a. the Danish art of creating a comforting atmosphere—for their best tips on making the most of your time at home this winter.

Light a candle (or three)

Why hygge? According to Meik Wiking, CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen and author of The Little Book of Hygge, Danes use hygge as a “survival strategy” for the dark and cold days of winter. “It can help us boost our sense of wellbeing under the current circumstances because it’s a way to make the best of the situation you’re in,” he says.

For instant hygge, it’s as easy as lighting a candle. The soft, flickering glow adds a warmth that immediately transforms a cold, stale room. Upgrade the experience with a seasonal scent and a wood wick that crackles as it burns like a mini-fireplace, as seen in Vancouver-based Mala the Brand’s hand-poured candles.

Create a soothing interior

“It’s now, more than ever, important to embrace our surroundings with soothing interiors that comforts and elevates our spirits,” says Dorothea Gundtoft, author of Real Nordic Living. For example, if your pre-sleeping ritual includes reading in bed, make the activity extra calming by changing up your décor. This elegant wood sconce from Vancouver’s East Van Light saves table space and it’s dimmable so you can adjust for the ideal brightness.

Go for a fresh coat of paint

If you’re searching for a home renovation project to undertake this season, why not reinvigorate your space with a new colour on your walls? Try a cheerful shade of yellow for an instant mood boost. (Before you get started, don’t miss these painting tips from professionals.)

Block out interruptions with a sleep mask

An important aspect of hygge is taking care of yourself, says Wiking, and we all know how important sleep is for managing stress and strengthening the immune system. If you’re struggling to get a good night’s rest, wear a sleep mask to block out any potentially distracting light. This 100 percent pure silk eye mask from Toronto’s The Silk Labs also promises to be a cooling treat for the delicate eye area. (Here are the things you should do all night long for better sleep.)

The key to the coziest bedroom

Sink into your deepest slumber yet with this linen duvet set from Toronto-based, Portugal-made linen company Envello. The super soft and breathable combed cotton fabric will keep the coldest sleeper toasty even when the mercury plummets. (Check 0ut our ultimate guide to the best sleep ever.)

Snuggle up with a luxurious blanket

“On top of daily tasks, the fact that we have a global pandemic—no wonder we’re all stressed out,” says Gundtoft. The silver lining of this, however, is that this pressure-cooker environment has prompted many of us to think more critically about our routines and self-care. It might be incorporating a walk around the block into our schedule, or putting an ultra-soft blanket in every room, at the ready for spontaneous naps or to be worn as a cozy cape. This washable merino wool throw blanket from Montreal brand Volprivé is great for snuggling on cold nights.

Or try a weighted one

If you prefer something heavier, lull your body into deeper sleep with a weighted blanket that’s designed to feel like a snug hug. This 15-pound version from Canadian mattress company Endy features a reversible, machine washable cover and a weighted inner layer filled with rounded glass beads and polyester fibres. The blanket evenly distributes the weight across your body to help calm, relax and relieve stress. Tip: When you’re looking for a weighted blanket, it should be no heavier than 8-12 percent of your body weight. (Here’s how to fix the most common sleep problems, according to the experts.)

Elevate your daily routines

“Hygge has oftentimes been referred to as ‘the perfect night in,’” says Wiking. With that in mind, you don’t need a big budget to create a cozy home. Start by thinking about the activities you do throughout the day and how it can be made more comfortable. Invest in that one piece that can make a big impact on your everyday. If you’re used to stepping onto ice-cold floors first thing in the morning, a textured, plush rug at your bedside could be all you need for a happier start to the day.

Step into comfort

One of the upsides to spending more time at home is being able to dress comfortably all the time. For most people that means two things—sweatpants and slippers. The shearling lining of these slippers makes them some of the softest on the market, and the sturdy sole means they’re durable for indoor and outdoor wear. (We won’t judge.)

Refresh the air

Hygge is all about creating a calm environment and recharging your batteries—something we could all use a lot more of in this time. Whether you’re gearing up for a long day in the home office or settling in for a Netflix marathon, keep your home refreshed with a bit of aromatherapy from this uplifting diffuser blend collection. In addition to smelling divine, the different fragrances are designed to help you feel energized or relaxed.

Unwind with a made-to-order bathtub tray

Can you think of anything more peaceful than a long, luxurious soak in the tub? How about adding a glass of wine and a thrilling mystery novel? Keep your bath time essentials dry and float the day’s worries away with this custom, reclaimed wood tray that’s made-to-order to fit any bathtub. Sherbrooke, Quebec-based woodworker Sharon Muravsky hand-makes the trays using recycled Eastern Hemlock wood for a truly unique touch.

Take a breather with a puzzle

Decompress with this quirky limited-edition puzzle by Toronto-based artist Stephanie Cheng, commemorating the greatest baseball moustaches of all time. Once you’re done assembling all 1,000 pieces, all that’s left to do is find a spot on the wall for your new art piece. (Don’t miss these 30+ stress management tips from the experts.)

Reflect in a journal

“Take the time to reflect on all you’re fortunate for: love, connection, shelter,” says Wiking. “The times may be challenging, but there’s always something to feel grateful for—focus on that.” If you’re have trouble putting your feelings into words, try The Human Being Journal from Canadian lifestyle and wellness brand Mahara. The guided format offers prompts and questions to help inspire mindfulness and a deeper dive into your life’s goals.

Fill your home with your favourite tunes

“Hygge can be understood as ‘the art of creating a nice atmosphere,’ so perhaps start with reflecting on what that means to you,” says Wiking. If it’s the sound of music that gets you going, set this charming record player spinning for an impromptu sing-a-long or a living room dance party. No vinyl? No problem. The Bluetooth connection allows you to stream digital music through the built-in speakers.

Get crafty

There’s no better time than a lockdown to master a craft. Get started with this thoughtfully put together embroidery kit from Ketch Harbour, Nova Scotia-based Hook, Line and Tinker studio. It includes all the materials needed to stitch an adorable Scandinavian design-inspired holiday reindeer. All that’s left for you to do is to focus on the task at hand.

Play a board game

Unplug for the evening and star in your own version of The Queen’s Gambit with this travel-friendly roll-up chess and checkers set. The board features one of Pendleton’s signature geometric prints and comes with two-in-one wooden pieces.

Treat yourself to a hot drink

While a snowstorm rages outside, partake in a steaming cup of hot chocolate that’s sure to warm you up from the inside out. Satisfy this seasonal craving with a trio set of gourmet hot cocoa mix. The festive tins and delectable flavours—choose from milk, dark and peppermint chocolate–will make you want to savour the moment for as long as possible. (Don’t miss our round-up of the best hot chocolate recipes to try this winter!)

Add a new mug to your collection

Take your hot chocolate—or whatever cold weather beverage you prefer—to the next level with this fun asymmetrical mug. Handmade by ceramic artist Karla Strickland for Tofino, British Columbia-based lifestyle shop Merge, its perfectly imperfect handmade shape and natural raw clay finish will be a homey addition to any cupboard.

Send snail mail

Spread the cheer near and far by sending the special people in your life some snail mail. In a time where we won’t be able to gather together with those closest to us, a heartfelt message will go a long way. Let them know you’re thinking of them and make your wishes extra joyous with this adorable card made by Vancouver-based letterpress printing and design studio Porchlight Press.

Spend quality time with loved ones (virtually)

“Spend quality time with loved ones,” says Wiking. “Engage, listen, and be present.” Although we might not be able to be in the same room with family and friends for the time being, it’s easy to stay connected with video chats that makes it feel as though you’re together. Make face-to-face time a regular part of your routine by scheduling calls and doing activities together, like baking cookies or playing games. (Don’t miss the Reader’s Digest home tech buying guide.)

A DIY ambiance

As you make your home cozy this winter, keep in mind the key elements of hygge—presence, pleasure, gratitude, comfort and togetherness. “Hygge is about the now,” says Wiking. “How to enjoy the moment and make the best of it.” This can be as simple as lounging in your favourite chair with a mug of eggnog and the fireplace channel roaring on YouTube.