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At the core of a happy home is a home that works for those individuals the four walls surround and keep sheltered and safe. Once the essentials are in place – a roof over our heads, walls to keep us warm/cool, then it is the inhabitants’ responsibility to cultivate a sanctuary in which each person feels they belong and loved for being their true selves or having the space to understand who they are as they grow and evolve. Whether you share your home or not, both require clarity and willingness to be honest about the needs to live your best life and if you live with others to enable them to do the same without short-changing yourself or compromising too much.
If these steps sound familiar, you are right. Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs builds on top of each of the necessities shared above. First we must have our phyiological needs met, then a feeling of safety before we can find belonging and feel and recognize love. Following the third step, once we have a home to feel free to just be, our stress levels drop, our health improves and strengthens and we find we think more clearly and thus make better decisions which leads to the opportunity to strive and try new things giving a boost to our confidence along our journey which builds the fourth tier – our self-esteem opening the pathway for us to have the choice to become self-actualized, the fifth and final tier.
Interior designer and author Rebecca West’s new book Happy Starts at Home, which was just released in the states last month, takes the approach to decor that it is far more than the aesthetics, but rather thoughtful decor decisions that marry function with and supporting each person reach their goals which includes feeling welcomed and at peace in the present.
“The truth is your home can directly improve your well-being and contentment. It can help decreease your stress level and increase your happiness.” —Rebecca West
What I was drawn to with West’s book is her underlying definition of happiness is contentment which is something we talk about often here on TSLL. Contentment is something that has the capability of being steady day-in and day-out regardless of the events of our days – good, bad or just blah. In fact, when you are content, you rarely have blah days at all and when you do have bad days, you can confidently move through them and the good days are elevated even higher. How awesome is that!
While we must build contentment within ourselves, our homes play a critical part in supporting this contented state of going about our lives. And in even better news, our home decor need not break our budget. Just as it takes time to get to know ourselves, depending upon where we are in our life journey when we begin to cultivate our sanctuary, it will take time to understand how we live well, and what is needed to enable our best life to be enjoyed everyday.
Today I’d like to share with you the takeaways from Rebecca West’s book that caught my attention as I am in the middle of customizing my home and making sure it works for me.
1.Understand “who” your home is and who it can be for you
As I mentioned in this post (#3), I have named my home, and I highly recommend you do as well. I think of how Paul and Julia Child named their home in Provence Le Pitchoune (translated The Little One), aka La Peetch. Naming our homes gives them a character, reminds of what our home means to us and signifies our appreciation and perhaps our vow to care for it as we are aware of how it cares for us.
If your home is not reflecting its full potential, not living up to its name so-to-speak, then let such a realization be motivation to give the home the care it needs to be the “who” you know it can be and need it to be as well.
2. Be clear about how your home needs to support your lifestyle
Begin with the more abstract concept such as supportive, strengthening, joyful and then examine how your home can enable you to feel these feelings. If your home is not supporting those feelings, examine closely why it isn’t and go about creating the change you need.
3. Understand the priorities of your home
In other words, what lifestyle do you not only sincerely have to live, but also want to live? How can your home facilitate your needs and support you on your journey toward your goals? Do you need your own office space and right now only write on the kitchen table? Do you need more light, less light, lighter fabrics in hue and/or weight? Do you need furniture that is comfortable that asks you to relax and unwind? Is your kitchen organized and functional so you can easily step into it and make what you need easily?
Let’s back step just a bit first because our answers to the above questions come after we know who we are and where we want to go and what are priorities are. Once we know the answers to these essential questions, the questions regarding our home, are far easier.
4. Make a habit of editing what comes into your home
As I have shared in previous posts, having a mood board is helpful to clarify and direct your purchases and decor aesthetic decisions. A mood board will also help when it comes to know what you need and what would work best in your home and being able to say no to otherwise beautiful items that would have found their way into your home, but they just are not needed or fit well.
Once you have decorated your home to support your contented life, become ardent about your shopping excursions, gifts that are received and get into a regular habit of letting go, consigning, selling for resale at used books/furniture shops what no longer serves you. You “have a say in what surrounds you”, and when you feel as though you are the director of your home and decor, you can feel more confident in your life decisions as well because your home doesn’t become overwhelmed and remains true to its purpose.
5. Examine the fear you have when it comes to letting stuff go
West examines the emotional attachment we have with material items well, as it often is a fear that we will not be able to fill the hole it may feel it is leaving. However, she argues that in fact, it is opening up space for something more in alignment with who we are and are becoming.
“When you take a leap and start letting things go from your home, you’ll open the door to trust and opportunity.”
6. Keep what brings you joy
However, make sure you are not keeping what brings you joy in a box tucked away in the garage. In other words, if you are not honoring it, if you are not letting it bring you joy in your daily life, does it really bring you joy, or are you just afraid to let it go? A self-examination, an honest self-examination, will help you answer this question.
7. Extend gratitude to your home
Whether you rent or own, your house is your dream house or not, extend gratitude to it for the good that it provides – at the very least, shelter and safety. One of the joys and things I am extremely grateful for in my home is that my key turns in the front door without snagging. As well, with an attached garage, my dogs are safer as we can move from the car to the house without having to worry about them seeing something to chase or say hello to. These simple changes are things I am grateful for each day I turn the lock in my door and cross the threshold.
It may sound silly to say thank you to our homes, but the expression of gratitude is a destressor and a good habit of looking for all that is going well in our lives no matter what the day might have brought us.
8. Understand that a well-decorated home that works for you will help you change your life
West cautions that if you have the determination to change your life, but you are not changing your home to support you, that may be an obstacle you are ignoring and should address. Why? From the simple reorganization and editing of your kitchen and pantry to support your new eating habit, your home can sabotage or support the new habits you are trying to welcome into your daily routine. More generally speaking if you get rid of the reminders of the bad habits you do not want, your home will most certainly better support you as it is with you each day.
9. Address the simple daily stressors
From a handle that is loose to a dishwasher that does not run properly or is not large enough for your needs, from small to large, tend to them immediately or as swiftly as your budget allows as you will be amazed how your stress levels will drop when you are not tripping over these items you know you need to tend to but continue to put off again and again.
An example from my own life, the dishwasher that came with my house had two racks and was too small for all of the cooking I do. Often I would have to run it twice to wash all of my dishes (yes, I know I could have hand-washed them, and sometimes I did, which is my point also – I wanted to save time!). So when my dishwasher unexpected broke down on my late last year, I took advantage of the first of the year sales in January to purchase a dishwasher that had the racks I needed and boy, what a significiant difference to my time allotted for washing dishes and daily stress.
10. Edit your bedroom to included nothing that isn’t related to sleep or intimacy
Keep only reading materials that help you relax and fall asleep (no work items). Add elements such as softer lighting, candles, and a vase for your weekly flowers. Focus on what calms you down and eliminate anything that rachets you up.
11. Create a home you are proud to call your home
When you wake up in the morning, you should feel a sense of calm as you are expected to be nobody but exactly who you are. When you leave your home, it should give you a confident boost to enjoy the day to the best of the events’ abilities. Upon feeling such ease in your home, you will become more confident to invite people over and build the social life you would like to have.
12. Be thoughtful with lighting
Consider where you need lighting and where you want people to relax and feel their best. In other words, nobody wants an overhead light shining down on them in the living room as they conversation casually. Nobody looks great under these lights and it is just too shocking. Keep the kitchen well lit, but use table and floor lamps instead in more relaxed settings. Welcoming in as much natural light as possible as this too will elevate your mood.
13. Find ease with your relationship status, whatever it is
A home that reflects where you are in your life right now is a home that allows you to feel settled and thus more calm.
“Once your home reflects you, you’ll start to feel a lot more settled about being on your own.”
I share the quote above because I think sometimes we decorate for the life we want, not for the life we have. When we choose to honor where we are, we are being present and enjoying all that life is giving us even if we cannot see all of the awesomeness. As someone who has lived alone most of my life, when I first began doing so, it took time to become comfortable with my own company; however, now, you could not convince me to live any other way. When we embrace we learn what we truly need to live well outside of another person or society’s expectations. When we let others who we are living with express what they need and we then express what we need, we get to know each other better on a far more intimate level. But the key is to set aside expectations of something either beyond our control or that we think should be happening next.
14. Let your home customization be the medicine to finding your ease of living
If you have ever felt your life is not where you want it – your job, your relationships, the country, etc., start at home and change what you can to make yourself happier. Take the weekend and paint that room you’ve been meaning to paint. Vow that you will wallpaper the office so that your work space reflects who you are and you enjoy stepping across that threshold each day even if you do have a home office and do not have to travel that far.
West suggests if you are having trouble changing your thoughts and perhaps feel overwhelmed and not settled with life, start at home and change something aesthetically that makes your home work better for you.
There are times when my mind races and sometimes not in the direction I want it to and one thing I had not been doing four years ago was tending to my decorating as it was a rental. However, after living in my rental for two years, I realized, why aren’t you doing something? So I did. I updated the blinds in the office and kitchen, two places I found myself frequently and wanted a beautiful frame to look out and see Mother Nature, I purchased a secondhand pedestal dining table, one I had been putting off until I bought my next house, and I framed photographs I had taken on my travels to France and England and enlarged them to be the artwork in the living room. Once I began making my home reflect who I was, the quality gradually lifted as well and I reveled in being at my home even more. In two short years of doing this, I did eventually find the home I wanted to buy, but even though the blinds cannot come with me, I felt as though I gave that rental some love, and don’t regret it for a moment.
I could go on and one about the takeaways in Happy Starts at Home. It is a decor resource but also so much more as readers will come to understand the psychological power of our homes when we recognize it for what it can do to improve the quality of our life.
Currently as I type, it has begun to snow in droves after just an hour ago being a bright sunshine of a day. And I am smiling and saying thank you because I have a home that enables me to see outside far more easily and savor the changing of the weather while relaxing in my armchair while Norman snores away on the ottoman. These are the moments that I wanted to cultivate more of, and you can too. Whatever it is that makes your life sing, examine how you can bring it into your home so that it is part of your everyday. Your contentment will rise as a result.
The changes can be grand, but they need not be, they just need to be intentional and in alignment with what you need to work best for you and the life you want to live.
Enjoy examining your life and how your home is supporting the life you want to live. If it isn’t exactly where you’d like it to be, enjoy the journey of figuring out what you need. Because although it will take time, when the right items cross your path or the right ideas cross your path or you all of a sudden discover what would work the best, you will be all the more grateful they made it into your life.
~If you live in Bend, Studio Vero sells this line of detergent and the laundry sachets as well.
Ginger and Almond Bars (gluten-free)