Whether you’re pulling 60-hour work weeks or are the boss of rambunctious kids, whether you live in Minneapolis or Mercer (pop. 1,732), your home should be an oasis. For the sake of your mental health, you should try to make your home somewhere you can recharge.
But how to go about it? You might not be able to control the outside world, but there are things you can do to make your home a peaceful, tranquil place where you can recenter yourself. Read on for 10 tips from the apartment experts at ABODO.
- Neutral Tones
Your whole apartment doesn’t have to be beige. But sticking to a palette of warm, neutral colors — off-white, pale rose, muted yellow, ivory — can create a cozy, relaxing environment. Plus, they allow any bold decor choices — a richly patterned afghan, a show-stopping print — to stand out.
- Soft Fabrics
Sure, you admire the advertisements in the Times Style magazine for angular modernist furniture. But can you really afford it? And do you really want to come home at the end of the day, take off your shoes, and stretch out on a couch that looks like a shark’s tooth? When it comes to furnishing your apartment or home, stick to simple, soft, and comfortable designs. Sofas like The Shelter from West Elm offer both plush comfort and mid-century styling. And don’t forget about your feet: If you have wood or tile floors, be sure to put down enough rug coverage down to prevent loud footfalls, cut down on echoes, and keep your feet warm.
- Noise-Canceling Products
Once you step into your apartment, you should be able to shut out the outside world if you want to. Thick “blackout curtains” like these from Bed Bath & Beyond not only block out light — they help muffle noise from outside. It’s amazing what simply pulling the curtains on the outside world can do. But if even that’s not enough to get you some peace and quiet, there are also a number of white noise machines that can help cancel out the sonic clatter. Gadgets like the LectroFan High Fidelity White Noise Machine — the highest rated on Amazon — have a multitude of soundscapes and settings to help neutralize environmental noise.
- Eliminate Clutter
By now you’ve probably heard of Marie Kondo’s runaway bestseller The Life-Changing Magic of Cleaning Up. But you don’t need to read it to know her central thesis, which is that people are happiest and most productive when their environments reflect the things they actually value. That means that if something doesn’t bring you joy, or hasn’t in the recent past, then it shouldn’t be in your living space. Clutter is unnecessary, unsightly, and because it makes spaces appear smaller than they are, stressful. Go through your space with a ruthlessly honest eye. Do you really need 15 coasters on your coffee table? How about three years of old New Yorkers?
- Gentle Lighting
Think for a second: What kinds of environments use harsh, bright, fluorescent overhead lighting? That’s right, airport bathrooms, supermarkets, and government buildings. Not exactly relaxing places. Instead of relying solely on bright overhead lighting in your home, try for varied, lower-wattage light sources. It’s easier on the eyes, creates the illusion of depth, and provides a warmer, more inviting ambiance. Plus, it’s flattering.
- House Clothes
Wearing a housecoat might bring to mind your Aunt Myrtle and her mumu. But there’s something to be said for not bringing the workday home with your clothes. Changing from your daytime duds to leisurewear — a pair of jeans, a T-shirt, a robe, pajamas, house slippers — is inherently relaxing and a way to start the process of ending the day. Think of Mr. Rogers switching cardigans or shoes between segments of his show. Clothing can help compartmentalize your home-time and separate it from more stressful locales.
- Home-Cooked Meals
Cooking at home has many advantages. It’s (usually) cheaper, it helps you bond with your family and loved ones, and it makes your home smell great. You don’t have to be a great cook to whip up some mac & cheese, or to follow a recipe for roasted chicken. And with new meal services like Blue Apron, which deliver ingredients and recipes right to your door, it’s easier than ever to leave the hassle (and expense) of dining out for the weekends. Home-cooked meals provide sustenance, but they’re also social occasions. If you live with others, cooking at home can be a group activity that fosters community. Plus, nothing smells more tranquil than chocolate chip cookies.
- No Screens After Dinner
Speaking of dinner — try banishing screens anytime after it. That means no television, no iPad, no computer, no phones. Studies have shown that the light from modern electronic screens negatively affects sleep, which can make it hard to feel rested even after a night at home. Plus, don’t you spend enough time on your phone during the day? Getting stuck in a feedback loop of the internet and social media use is the opposite of relaxing. Instead, try keeping it analogue after dessert: read a book, listen to music, meal prep for the next day. There will be plenty of time for Twitter during the daylight hours.
Smell is one of the most powerful and emotional of the senses. Creating an environment that smells different than the rest of your life — in a good way — can help promote a sense of calm and tranquility in your home. Find a candle with a scent you enjoy, and avoid the overly processed, sickly sweet stuff. (We’re looking at you, Yankee Candle.) In the last 15 years, dozens of smaller candle companies like P.F. Candle have entered the marketplace with intriguing, subtle scents. Try a few for yourself.
- Up Your Bed Game
For obvious reasons, your bed should be the part of your home most tailored to your rest and relaxation. But it’s hard to sleep well on a rock-hard mattress, with lumpy pillows and scratchy sheets. When’s the last time you bought a new pillow? Ventilated memory foam pillows help keep you cool while also supporting your neck muscles. Even Target sells high thread-count sheets. So what are you waiting for? Trade in your faded duvet for a new down comforter. You’ll sleep better.