Home Sweet Home

Welcome to Format Free Fridays at AskDrDarcy.com, the one day a week when I break the format of answering your questions and I dispense that which we rarely welcome in life: Unsolicited advice.

I’d like to spend today discussing our physical environments, a subject that was inspired by an article written by my friend and colleague, Dr. Robert Biswas-Diener.  Click here to read his article.

I have always valued my environments, both at home and at the office.  The environment that I’m in tends to have one of two effects on me:  It either promotes tranquility or chaos (how’s that for black-and-white thinking?).  Even going back to my first job out of graduate school, I made it my business to show up two days before I was scheduled to start and I set up my office.  I brought plants, pictures, a computer, a small stereo – I set up all my files and arranged my office furniture so that I could hit the ground running on my first day.

I’ve been that way with every subsequent office.  And I’ve been that way with every home I’ve had.  Then, about 6 years ago, I moved to NYC and I joined the land of renters.  Renters tend not to make apartments their homes.  They view the effort of painting, remodeling, and customizing their space as wasted effort because eventually when their lease runs up, if they decide not to renew, they’ll be responsible for returning their apartments to the original paint color, layout, etc.  Holes in the walls will need to be spackled.  Any walls that may have been constructed or removed will have to be restored.  Essentially, tenants have to tack on a couple thousand dollars to their moving expenses if they go through the hassle of decorating.  Consequently, most don’t.

I’ve pondered this over the years.  Is it worth compromising my daily comfort to avoid some discomfort each time I move?  Not for me.  For me, my environment, particularly at home, is a sacred space.  When I walk in the door at night, the second thing I see is my home décor (the first thing I see are my furry animals as they run to greet me).  I’m flooded with a sense of peace as I look around. I can remember having 6 different paint colors taped to the walls so that we could live with the colors and see which we liked the most.  We went through the same process for choosing our wallpapers.  And we just did it again to choose the fabrics and designs of our window treatments.

Our environment, particularly our home, says so much about who we are and what we value.  Clutter and disarray contribute to visual pollution which makes it hard for our minds to be still.  Our eyes are drawn to colors that promote balance and a sense of calm.  Conversely, white, particularly institutional white, has no calming effect.

Take a minute and look around your home today.  Is it a home, or is it a house/apartment?  What 2 actions can you take this weekend to give yourself the biggest bang for your effort so that it feels more like a home?  Below are some suggestions to make it easier to design your ideal home:

  • Paint.  Pick an earth tone.
  • Light up.  Replace fluorescent lighting with lamps. Torchiere lamps are among the most effective.
  • Go green.  Buy a plant.  It will clean your air.
  • Smell the roses – or whatever scent you find calming by lighting candles.  Here’s a great site:  Candles4Less.com
  • Picture it.  Hang some pictures of family, friends, hobbies, or destinations.  Can’t make up your mind?  Hang a colorful blanket.
  • Toss it.  Everything paper.  Just toss it.
  • Hook Up.  Anything that can go on a hook should live on a hook. Particularly keys.
  • Listen Up.  Get some tranquil music pumping in your home & watch the stress melt away.