Three experts share their tips for turning a home back into a peaceful retreat and calm hub of relaxation.
“When returning home after a busy day, you really need to be in a space where you can center your mind and release stress,” says Melissa Carrington, Broker/Owner of RE/MAX Elite in New York, who also holds a degree in interior design. “A messy home can increase anxiety and stress and decrease productivity.”
Step 1: Combat clutter
The old adage holds true: A cluttered space is a cluttered mind.
The number one cause of concern for a stressful home is mess. And when juggling kids, pets and hectic schedules, it can often feel impossible to keep at bay. Experts agree, however, that challenging oneself to stay organized can be the solution to many other physical and emotional stressors.
“Leading a functional, organized lifestyle almost always trickles down into other aspects of life, including work, family and our personal lives,” says Jamie Hord, co-founder of Horderly, a professional home organization company based in New York City.
“When someone takes the steps to get their home organized, they oftentimes find themselves being less stressed, saving time on tasks around the house, and even reaping financial benefits from being able to prioritize what they are purchasing. They learn to shop smarter to avoid owning clutter,” she adds.
Keeping individual space tidy can prove difficult enough, but try managing high-traffic communal zones and it can feel downright impossible. Hord explains that the kitchen – often viewed as the heart of the home – is the most requested area clients need help organizing. Within the kitchen, she suggests investing in products like a spinning lazy Susan for spices and oils, drawer dividers for food storage containers and lids, and labeled clear bins on shelves to group goods together and make them more accessible.
The downfall of organization in any room, she adds, is letting objects and papers pile up on surface areas.
Before & After: Organized Kitchen Pantry By Horderly
Step 2: Soothe the senses
Activating – and calming – the senses is an integral aspect of curating a uniquely tailored, relaxing living environment.
To start over with a clean canvas, Carrington suggests creating resting space for the eyes with a new coat of paint in a pale or neutral color on interior walls.
Scent, through the form of aromatherapy, triggers old memories, creates new ones and can provide unparalleled ambience. According to the Sleep Foundation, evidence suggests that scent associated with positivity may even be able to aid in better sleep patterns.
“Oil diffusers have grown in popularity for adding a light scent to a room, though some people prefer natural scents through placing bunches of fresh eucalyptus or dried lavender around the home,” Carrington says. “Both [plants] are great options because they last longer than a bouquet of flowers yet still add a pop of greenery.”
Known for its relaxing aroma and ability to help aid in nasal decongestion, eucalyptus has become an admired plant to hang on the bathroom’s shower head, allowing its natural oil to fill the air in the presence of steam.
Like sight and scent, sound is a contributing factor in setting the tone of the household. But silence isn’t always best. Carrington recommends investing in a speaker system to create background noise with classical or acoustic music. This also proves a helpful tool for soothing pets during thunderstorms, fireworks or even just when leaving them alone at home.
Step 3: Practice mindful living
The physical elements of a home can help only so much in terms of how a person functions in their space. It’s the culmination of mindset, actions and intentions that determine their true ability to rest and relax. This is where the art of practicing mindfulness comes in.
In its most basic form, mindfulness is the practice of being present and aware. It is a type of meditation in which a person is conscious and patient with the world around them. In practice, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) has become a widespread method of reducing stress and negativity from daily routines and reshaping an outlook on life. The practice, though rooted in the mind, can make an impact on how someone interacts with their home.
“If we’re mindful, we can slow down and focus on where we are right now purposely,” says Lori Schlotzhauer, owner of Health+Harmony, a mindfulness coaching center based in Colorado that uses an integrative approach to achieving mental wellness and eliminating anxiety and chronic stress. “With mindfulness, we avoid focusing on what’s going to happen in the future or dwelling on the past.”
“There’s a strong correlation between peaceful living and fostering that with a relaxed home environment. Because after all, our home is our sanctuary,” she says.
Schlotzhauer shares six tips for anyone reconsidering how they interact with their home and looking to renew appreciation for their space.
6 Ways to Be Mindful at Home
“Set an intention when you wake up before your feet even hit the floor. Take a few deep breaths and just say, ‘Something great is going to happen today,’ even if you don’t know what that great thing will be.”02
“Make your bed. This is such a mood-boosting habit to get into that sets a great tone of productivity for your day.”03
“Try to eat mindfully. Take the time to truly appreciate your meal by eating it purposely. Remember, mindfulness is about being on purpose and being aware with acceptance and compassion. So often we will be in a hurry to eat and get distracted, and not notice that moments later our food is all gone. We may not be able to do it for every meal, but when we can, appreciate each bite and notice the colors, smells, flavors and textures of the food.”04
“Slow down! When we’re racing around in our lives, going from one thing to the next, our minds are doing the same thing. When we slow down our physical actions like walking, cooking or doing the dishes, the mind can be a bit more at ease.”05
“Try to turn off all electronics that would stimulate the brain at least two hours before going to bed. Overstimulating information can heighten the nervous system and may have a negative effect on our quality of sleep.”06
“Create a place in your home that is a quiet, small sanctuary. Know that it’s your own space. Try to sit for 10 minutes and simply focusing on your breath or whatever else works for you. I have a vast number of meditations that I do and that I teach others. A lot of people think they have to meditate for hours, but that is not necessary. Just start with 10 minutes.”
“You can have a beautiful home, but it’s what you do to maintain your own well-being that determines how you actually live in that beautiful space,” Schlotzhauer says.