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5 tiny changes that will make your home instantly happier
Keep clutter minimal
A stack of books. A pile of papers. Knick-knacks everywhere! If objects are crowding every surface of your home, you’re not alone. The first step to being truly happy in your space is to figure out what to keep, and what to let go. “A cluttered room is much more likely to produce, and contribute to, a cluttered mind,” says professional organiser Marie Kondo, author of the bestseller The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. “I believe that only in an uncluttered room, which enables an uncluttered mind, can you truly focus your attention and your energy on the matters in your life which are preventing you from reaching your truest happiness.”
According to design psychologist Sally Augustin, the powerful mental effects of clutter have roots in our evolution. “In our early days as a species, our lives depended on continually surveying the environment and seeing if anything was going to eat us,” she says. “Today we continue to survey our environment, and too many things make this subconscious reviewing more difficult, which is why the visual complexity of clutter is so stressful.” A study from Princeton University shows that too much disorganised stimuli simply overwhelms the brain.
Display meaningful objects
The process of letting go of ‘stuff’ doesn’t mean you should live in a stark environment, according to Dr Augustin that would feel alien to us. Kondo’s method uses the test of whether an object ‘sparks joy’ in your heart. “When you decide what to keep based on what sparks joy, you are establishing and reaffirming to yourself what is most important to you,” she says. It’s not about the latest home design styles, it’s how an object makes you feel.
Still love showing off that soccer trophy from third grade? Keep it! As far as how much to display, balance out the chaos in your life with a visually quieter environment. The amount that feels right may vary from person to person, but Dr Augustin suggests four or five pictures in a room and a couple of objects on a surface, depending on the size. Kondo says an added benefit of going through your possessions is learning how to get rid of mental baggage as well as the physical. “The skills you learn can be applied in your life well beyond deciding on which souvenir coffee mug to keep,” she says.
Create a calming space
Finding a ‘sanctuary’ in your home gives your mind a place to go to rest and restore, helping you feel more at peace. It doesn’t have to be a whole room, it could be a reading nook, a knitting or craft space, or even a ‘home spa’ in your bathroom. In carving out your sacred space, Dr Augustin suggests bright but muted colours like sage, soft textures like flannel, warm light, and curved lines in patterns and objects instead of straight lines. Studies show we prefer curved lines because we see sharp transitions, such as right angles, as more of a threat.
Bring nature inside
Studies have shown nature to be calming to our psyche, so one way to feel happier in your space is to bring plants inside. “Bringing nature into your home definitely has powerful psychological effects,” says interior designer and design psychology coach Rebecca West. “Peace lilies are one of my favourites because they’re easy-to-care-for and do well in low light conditions.” Dr Augustin also suggests avoiding spiky plants. “We associate comfort with curvy shapes and not spiky ones, which make us more alert,” she says. Houseplants have the added benefit of helping to refresh the air in a room, making you healthier, according to research. “But if you aren’t blessed with a green thumb, then fresh flowers or even a print of a garden or a wall mural of trees can affect some of that same profound healing,” West says. “Even having natural wood furniture in your home partnered with green accessories or wall paint can bring that outdoor feeling inside.”
Make your space more social
Humans are pro-social beings, so your home should also be a place where you feel comfortable inviting friends over. Consider buying home items that lend themselves to socialising: a barbecue, a fire pit to gather around, or board games for game night. Plus, make sure your rooms are arranged for easy socialising. “If you want your living room to be ready for a book club, then it should be arranged to focus on conversation, not a giant TV,” West says. Dr Augustin suggests considering your guests’ varying personalities as well. “Extroverts would prefer couches and introverts would prefer an individual chair, so you should have a range of options,” she says. “Arrange the furniture so people can make easy eye contact with each other, but also so they can gracefully break eye contact and look at something else, like a fish tank, a piece of art, or a window with a view.” These ‘positive distractions’ can help you and your guests adhere to humans’ preferred length of eye contact; about three seconds, according to research.
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