Prettifying everyday spaces

I remember a conversation I had with Mia Pascual of Pascual Laboratories sometime last year. She mentioned in passing that she painted the lobby of their building a happy, sunshine yellow, not because the existing paint was chipping off but because she wanted people — their employees especially — to feel good and cheery the moment they walked through the doors.

I remember that part of our conversation distinctly because I liked the idea of color having a positive effect on one’s mood, and ultimately in the workplace as we all know how that can translate into productivity. That resonated very well with me. I am happy that there are big bosses like her who look into seemingly random details in an effort to make employees feel good about themselves and their jobs.

Let me just say this: there is nothing shallow about making the best of your living and working space. It is not a useless expense. In QTV 11’s The Sweet Life, we tape at the old GMA studio two full days a week. We start in the morning and finish well after midnight. That is over 12 hours of being cooped up in there. We have been reporting there week after week for almost three years now. It feels like home to us and whatever is there that is not quite polished we have learned to accept and live with. Let me give you two words to give you an idea of how old that building is: Julie Vega. That was where the late Julie Vega used to tape Analiza!

Generally, people from showbiz are an adaptable lot. We cope and adjust by writing off everything as a series of somethings that are all just part of a day’s work. But sometimes the working conditions really deteriorate when you least expect it to. The air conditioner bogs down at the height of summer, the flies and other little animals multiply, the restroom refuses to function normally. Murpy’s Law, basically.  In the dressing room the nice sofas only come out when there are big guests, otherwise they put in place the worn-out ones with holes so big you can fit your fist in them.

Now here is one thing I learned from Kris. She told me before that any extras you need that production has not/cannot/will not provide, you just bring to work yourself. When she works she brings her own appliances to heat food, she brings her own food and snacks, her own chair. I took her advice and it has simplified working life for me. I bring my own food, my own chair, my own room spray and cleaning aids for the restroom. That way, there is little room to complain. It saves time, saves you from frustration.

Wilma and I have learned to make our dressing room as comfortable as can be, and because we are such good friends and we all laugh a lot the hours just fly by. Sometimes you get so used to certain conditions the things that initially bother you just cease to matter that much anymore. You sort of just surrender to it, and let it be.

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Until things suddenly shift for the better when you least expect it. Unbeknownst to me, Wilma one day seriously talked to a staffer from the show about making our dressing room cleaner in every way possible. The big flies were really bugging us. Measures and improvements had been made, but never in one big chunk to actually make a difference.

But two weeks ago when we reported for work, we saw a most pleasant sight. The big gap in the ceiling was now covered with a new board. Immediately, the number of big flies lessened. The room smelled good because it was sprayed with something that smelled very much like Pine-Sol, there were two clear bowls of potpourri — one each for Wilma’s and my side of the makeup table. The plastic chairs that were quite painful on the sitting bones were changed to sturdy, padded ones. There was a scent diffuser as well. And a clean table cover was now draped over the dining table. The chipped wall leading to the restrooms was covered from end to end with pleated drapes. Oh, and the rest room. Not only was it working well, it smelled heavenly too, many thanks to drops of scented oil heated in ceramic pots and a couple of votives that were lit all throughout the working day.

It was nice, it made us smile. It made us seriously happy.

What cleanliness, candles and aromatherapy can do! And it did not have to cost an arm and a leg. Our dressing room now looks warm and cozy in a way that is almost shabby chic. More than that, we are happy it is sparkling in cleanliness.

Immediately after, we felt better about ourselves, our job, the hectic day before us. Because our working conditions were so pleasant, we also felt we could take on so much more if we had to. Even the janitress was smiling a lot. Her job had just become easier. Because, really, that is how it is with pretty living spaces — whoever is exposed to it will immediately step up and subliminally do their part to keep it that way. And when everybody else is neat in the studio, the poor janitress is perhaps the happiest person. I wish I had brought my camera, her smile just said it all.

I challenge you today to make everyday spaces as pretty as can be. It does not have to be permanent. You can, like a child, take temporary measures and have fun as you go along. You will see how much of a difference it will make. You will smile more, the people around you will consequently end up doing the same. It is infectious in a very good way.

Once I visited a Habitat for Humanity village. Their spaces were small, but the people living there really know how to make a house a home. There were pretty windows cascading with plants and flowers, some houses were strewn with inexpensive but nice rugs, a few homes even had little chandeliers! They know how to make their homes pretty given the little they have and they are unapologetic about it. They celebrate their choices. And they are happier people for it.

We had a guest once on The Sweet Life. He arranges flowers on the side, says he finds it therapeutic, very simply a happy thing to do. He grew up in a home where money was not always flowing, but he remembers how, after church on Sundays, his mom would always buy fresh flowers on the way home. As soon as she arranged it in a vase it would be on their dining tale for the whole week. The family never had a meal without flowers. And more than just a few times while growing up he felt that they were such a useless expense. Not anymore.

He now knows, as I’m sure most of us also do, that flowers and most other things that are pretty on the eyes and kind to the senses, go beyond the pretty shallowness of it all. More often than not, it is also always about how it makes you feel. Every other thing stems from that.

Think about it.

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