Good Vibes Only neon sign above Rodney Chair

I recently abdicated the family bookworm crown to my brother, and although I’m still a voracious reader, I now have another trusted book recommendation source in my circle. It was my brother who recommended Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project (HarperCollins, 2009), a book that spent more than two years on the New York Times Bestseller List.

For those unfamiliar with the book, Rubin wrote of her year-long embarkment to greater happiness. Before I even turned the last page, I started thinking of what would make a Happiness Home Project? Then, to my mixed dismay and pleasure, I learned Rubin already penned a book titled Happier at Home (Random House, 2012). In it, Rubin dedicates 9-months towards making her home a place of greater simplicity, comfort, and love. Not to be discouraged – and without reading Rubin’s later book – I forged ahead and composed a top 9 list of my own happy home tips.

I’m no Gretchen Rubin, but I do know that of all the almost 10 places I resided in throughout my life thus far, this list is comprised of the constants that made each home happy for me.

Interior shot of inside the sunny home of Erin Barrett
1. Space to Get Down
A spot to dance never meant I needed a full ballroom floor to do the Viennese Waltz. However, a clear spot for spontaneous or planned, solo or partnered jigs to favourite songs only leads to happy times and feelings. And science backs this up. Recent studies show regular aerobic training that incorporates some type of dance improves general and psychological wellbeing.

Decorating with Plants
2. Green Space
We can thank NASA for the discovery that indoor air quality is improved by the existence of live greenery. Low levels of chemicals such as carbon monoxide and formaldehyde can be reduced from indoor environments by plant leaves which produce oxygen that we breathe. This is good for our physical health but recent research suggests that plants can relieve stress and increase productivity. Healthy plus relaxed, inventive living space equals happy place. No further research required for me.

Kpele Kpele Mask as wall art
3. Less Mess
Clutter in your home may just say “Life is lived here…and here, and over there too”. However, clutter can impede our happiness and well-being. About clutter, Eleanor Brownn, author, public speaker and healthy lifestyle consultant writes, “(It) can rob you of your peace of mind, make you sick and defeat your purpose before you even begin.” As ominous as Brownn makes clutter sound, what I know for certain is that less clutter in the home makes for a happier me in the home.

Interior shot of Belgian home
4. Bright Lights
When I had cable, one of my favourite shows was HGTV’s Income Property with Scott McGillivray. In any basement conversion to an income suite, my thumbs-up approval would be determined by how much natural light filled the space in the reveal. That light has an effect on our moods is nothing new. Researchers have found that daylit environments increase occupant productivity and comfort, and provide the mental and visual stimulation necessary to regulate our circadian rhythms.

Incense stick burning
5. Inhale, Exhale
I started off the year not knowing what a nebulizer was. Then one day at the mall, I happened upon an essential oil puffing machine. And just like that, I graduated from Nag Champa essence sticks and soy candles to a nebulizer. It’s my self-prescribed aromatherapy and a nice aroma in the home makes me happy. And I’m not alone. According to Grand View Research Inc., the essential oil market is estimated to reach $11.67 billion by 2022. I smell more happy homes in the future.

Dion Antony, Anna Feller and Family, Boho house
6. Let the Music Play
I wrote about music in the home in an earlier blog post. What researchers know about the effect of music on our mood is this: When you listen to tunes that move you emotionally, your brain releases dopamine, the chemical involved in both motivation and addiction. The physiological effects can cause a person to breathe faster, a physical sign of happiness.

The Studio Apartment that Breaks All the Small-Space Rules
7. A Few of My Favourite Things
You’re bound to see my eyes light up if you ask me to talk about my music collection, DIY projects or Mid-Century Modern furniture. That light is what Marie Kondo, international best-selling author and declutter guru, writes about in her book Spark Joy: A Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up. Surrounding yourself with things that bring joy is about loving and appreciating what we have. I absolutely cherish my meager first-world possessions, not for their monetary worth but because they give me inspiration, ground me and ignite a light in me that I can only describe as pure joy.

A growing, creative, Brooklyn family
8. Make Room For Love
The house I grew up in on the West-Island of Montreal, had a plaque in the foyer that read: “My house is small, no mansion for a millionaire, but there is room for love and there is room for friends and that’s all I care”. That kitschy wall ornament’s sentiment wasn’t just waxed poetics. Having familiar faces around us releases Oxytocin which occurs when we grow close to other people. This helps to create intimacy, trust and build healthy relationships, all corner blocks to a happy home.

Pegboard walled workstation
9. Make Room to Make
When I lived in a studio apartment, I repurposed an old film cabinet into a coffee table. I sanded, primed and painted in my foyer which was about 4’5” x 3’. It was no easy feat in that cramped space but I enjoyed every moment of it. DIY projects and hobbies have proven to reduce stress and improve our moods. Plus the act of completing a project can simulate the good feeling of dopamine. All good reasons to make physical and mental space for personal pursuits.

There are many things that make a happy home, just nine made my short list. One takeaway from this exercise is that a happier home doesn’t cost a lot of money or require a lot of space. Perhaps I’ll read Rubin’s and Kondo’s latest books, it would be interesting to go deeper into what their approaches are to a happy home. Or, maybe by reading their books it might just win me back the family bookworm crown. And that would make me very happy too.

What makes your happy home list?




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