Your home should feel like a place of refuge from the workaday world. A place where you can relax with your family and recharge your batteries after a long day or week. All too often, however, a home can itself serve as a source of stress, or even potential illness.
Perhaps these scenarios sound familiar:
- You constantly have a mess to clean up and chores that you need to complete.
- You have a project list several miles long: one you do not think you will ever catch up on.
- Family members, as much as you love them, put what feel sometimes like unbearable demands on your time and energy.
If you experience these feelings when you walk through the door, then you are not alone. Not by a long-shot. Fortunately, by making a few simple changes, you can hope to optimize your home for healthy, stress-free living and make it a better place for you and others to live.
1. Get Rid of the Clutter
Unnecessary clutter can substantially increase your overall stress level.
Clutter causes problems around your home:
- It draws your attention away from productive tasks and activities.
- It slows finding items you need, when you need them.
- It causes unnecessary visual stimulation that leads to stress.
- It inhibits creativity.
- Literally can lead to you slipping and falling.
To create a stress-free home environment, start by removing unnecessary clutter from your living space. Following these steps may help:
- Take it one space at a time. Get rid of all the unnecessary items in one closet, on one bookshelf (or one shelf of one bookshelf), or on one side of a room. Take care of that pile on the kitchen counter that never seems fully organized. Empty that drawer that constantly seems to draw all the junk in the house. The goal is to decrease overall stress, not to overwhelm yourself with the new stress of figuring out what to do with clutter. So, take the decluttering process one area at a time, one item at a time.
- Donate, sell, or throw away items you do not need or want. Many people, especially those who have suffered poverty in the past, may struggle to get rid of items that they perceive as potentially useful, even if they have no actual desire or use for those items. They may fear that they will need to replace an item once they remove it from the home, or they may worry that they cannot afford a replacement. In reality, however, you will find that holding on to those items increases stress, because you must constantly find a place to put them or something to do with them. Instead, get rid of those items and note the corresponding decrease in your overall stress levels. Throw away broken items, especially if they sit around for months, waiting for you to fix them. Sell items you have three or four of when just one or two will do. You may quickly notice a difference in your ability to organize your possessions.
- Do not immediately purchase items to replace those you cleaned out. Immediately after you clean out a large chunk of space, you may find yourself tempted to buy new items to replace them or to fill in the empty space. Instead, enjoy that empty space and allow yourself to take advantage of that decreased stress.
2. Bring in More Natural Light
Natural light can have a huge impact on your overall mental health. Find ways to open up your blinds or curtains and bring more natural light into your home, especially if you find yourself struggling with increased stress levels overall.
You may want to:
- Open up the blinds and curtains during the day. Let in as much natural light as you can while you hang out at home.
- Avoid heavy curtains and drapes. These items may block a substantial amount of the sunlight from coming into your home and make it more difficult for you to take advantage of that natural light. (They also catch dust, which can also cause stress.) The one exception: in your bedroom, where blackout curtains can make it completely dark at night and therefore make it easier for you to sleep.
- If you work from home, try to choose a room with plenty of natural light. Some rooms in your home naturally have more light than others. Choose a well-lit room with plenty of natural light as your work space, and (if possible) position your work area so that you have a window to look out of when you need to rest your eyes.
3. Set Aside a Space for Relaxation
Create a space all your own where you can kick back, relax, and let the worries of the day drift away. You might have a reading corner or a favorite nook where you can curl up and get away from the rest of the household for a little while. You might turn your bathroom into a spa-like oasis. You might designate your bedroom as your space.
Whatever space you choose, make it relaxing. Try some of these strategies:
- Make it a clutter-free zone. Make a point of picking up this space whenever you leave it so that items do not pile up unnecessarily.
- Use relaxing colors. Warm colors can help lift your mood, while cool colors often create a sense of serenity. Create a color combination that works for you!
- Make it yours. If you have kids, remind them that they need to respect this space. Talk to your spouse, significant other, or roommate about setting aside this space just for you and your needs. If others do use that space, remind them to clean up after themselves and avoid disturbing the effect you worked so hard to create.
4. Create a Chore Routine
Uncompleted chores increase most people’s stress levels—likely including yours. To help prevent chore stress from growing to the point of overwhelming, create a chore schedule that reflects what you need to do and when you need to do it.
Consider items like:
- Who has responsibility for each type of chore in your family? You can assign one person to, for example, take out the trash whenever it needs it, or assign a specific family member to take care of loading the dishwasher after dinner. Keep in mind, however, that occasionally rotating chores can make it easier and less stressful on every member of the family.
- Prioritize chores by order of importance. You know the bathrooms need cleaning, the kitchen needs wiping down, and the living room needs vacuuming...but which comes first, and when? Create a chore schedule that reflects the unique needs of your family and how you use the space where you live.
- How can you avoid one person in your family taking on the whole cleaning and chore load? If you have multiple people in your family, no one individual should have to take on all the cleaning tasks throughout the house. Instead, make sure you share cleaning responsibilities reasonably. Encourage each family member, even children, to bear a portion of the load.
Not only does a chore routine help decrease stress from undone chores, it can foster a healthier environment for your family. Sticking to a chore schedule can inhibit dangerous bacteria and mold from growing, and keeps dust and other potential allergens from accumulating.
5. Disconnect Periodically
If you come home from work but still have your nose buried in your phone, checking your email and messages multiple times a day and constantly browsing social media whenever you have a minute’s break, then you may inadvertently do yourself harm in at least two ways.
- First, simply remaining connected all the time can increase or sustain high stress levels, especially when it comes to social media.
- Second, you will find that constant connection to your job responsibilities and your social media accounts sucks away time you would otherwise spend on other tasks.
Take a moment to consider how much time you really spend checking your phone or using your laptop or tablet when at home. How much time do you typically spend on work tasks long after you leave your workplace? While some work stresses will inevitably come home with you, that does not mean you should invite them into your living space without limit.
Check your device at the door when you come home. Set aside several hours each day as tech-free. Over time, you will notice an improvement in your sleep, including your ability to fall asleep and reach deep sleep, as well as a drop in your overall stress levels. Try to avoid substituting the television for other technology use, since this may not substantially reduce your stress levels.
6. Set Realistic Expectations for Yourself and Your Family
Some people possess natural organization skills that make it easy for them to keep every space they inhabit organized and tidy. Others possess creative flair that enables them to create incredible craft projects and decorations, though it may leave a substantial mess behind.
Carefully consider your personality type and the personalities of your family members. What can each of you accomplish each day? How can you set realistic expectations for one another?
Keep in mind:
- If your spouse struggles with basic organization, he will not suddenly develop the ability to keep all his possessions picked up and put away. While those skills can develop with time, they likely will not happen overnight. If you want to make a change in your home, mark each step as progress and prepare to issue reminders.
- If you have children, keep their developmental level in line. Remember that children with underlying conditions like ADD and ADHD may struggle to keep things tidy or to handle large organization tasks. Instead of trying to force your child to plunge in all at once, offer assistance when needed, especially if your child seems overwhelmed or struggles to get a task done.
- Your schedule matters. If your family spends the entire week and half of the weekend on the go, bouncing from one activity to the next, you may all have more trouble keeping up with basic tasks at home. On the other hand, if your family spends more time at home than usual, especially for a short period of time, you may notice an overall increase in the mess. Pay attention to your schedule as you set expectations for yourself, your spouse, and your kids.
- The expectations you set for yourself matter, too. Often, you can decrease stress simply by changing your perspective. If you constantly struggle with what you perceive as a mess around the house, you may simply have small children or children deeply engaged in their favorite hobbies. You can choose to fight constant battles about the mess, increasing everyone’s stress in the process, or you can try to accept that you cannot do it all on your own. No one person can handle every challenge involved in running a family. Something will eventually fall through the cracks no matter how hard you try. Setting realistic expectations for yourself, in other words, can help you substantially reduce those overall stress levels.
7. Add Decor That Helps You Relax
Some people find that the sound of splashing water, as from a fountain, helps them relax and unwind at the end of a hard day. Others prefer the comfort of a roaring fire, especially in the middle of winter. Carefully evaluate what type of decor helps you relax most, then look for ways to add it to your home. Evaluate both indoor and outdoor spaces for maximum effectiveness. When you add decor elements that help you relax, you can more easily put your feet up and take advantage of the space you created. Keep in mind when decorating to incorporate the necessary home safety equipment and devices to keep your and your loved ones safe.
Many of our clients want stress-free homes where they can enjoy time with friends and loved ones. These tips can help you transform your existing home into a more pleasant place for you and your family, substantially decreasing your stress levels and turning your home into the refuge you deserve.