How to Clean Your Emotional House
If 2020 has taught me anything—and God help us all if it hasn’t imprinted a laundry list of lessons onto our nervous systems—it’s a sense of impermanence.
Entire industries can implode. Two of them I worked in did. So can relationships. In mine, on a Tuesday we were planning details for a road trip to Montana—car ride snacks, an isolated wood cabin in the Crazy Mountains, days to do nothing but be together—and by Friday my future of promises and plans with my partner was gone. Most importantly though, the concept of life itself is proving itself, now more than ever, fragile. It’s easy, too easy, how quickly everything can be taken away. This awareness of impermanence has me desperate for something, anything I can cling to for comfort. So, perhaps like many of you, I’ve sought out refuge at home, my safe haven where I’ve been riding out these uncertain times.
My home isn’t my home, but somebody else’s home. When I moved in, I intended to stay for four months, a pit stop on my way to I didn’t know where. Five years later I’m still here, which I didn’t expect but am grateful for, entrusting that the universe will kick me out when the time is right. I thought I would have It All figured out by now, but it turns out while you’re waiting for life to happen, life is happening.
Which is why I’m not sure why I’ve lazily propped framed art on shelves instead of putting a nail in a wall. I truly can’t stand this rug, every day resenting it more, but I haven’t changed it. It took me five years of procrastinating and five minutes on eBay to finally buy a lamp to replace one I inherited and hate. The only things I’ve regretted in life are the things I didn’t do sooner, including making my (not-so) temporary space the best home I can make it.
The Benefits of Experimenting
Even if you’re not living in your forever house, and don’t know when or where you’ll be moving next, don’t you deserve the comfort of home, wherever that home is? Life is too short to live with that lumpy mattress, don’t you think? (I think.) That said, now likely isn’t the time to throw down thousands of dollars on decor. The good news is, you don’t have to. Small changes in your home can make big changes in your life. It’s not the things, but the feelings, which hopefully are brought out by the things.
Home is where love resides, memories are created, friends always belong, and laughter never ends.
Even if you’re not living in your forever house, and don’t know when or where you’ll be moving next, don’t you deserve the comfort of home, wherever that home is? Life is too short to live with that lumpy mattress, don’t you think? (I think.)
That said, now likely isn’t the time to throw down thousands of dollars on decor. The good news is, you don’t have to. Small changes in your home can make big changes in your life. It’s not the things, but the feelings, which hopefully are brought out by the things.
Here to help is Victoria Sass, founder and principal designer of Minneapolis-based Prospect Refuge Studio.
“Home is more than housing,” Sass says. “It’s an extension of yourself, a place where you can truly be yourself. Home is also a state of mind. It could be a social place or a place of refuge; it might be a space that holds memories and/or allows you to grow.”
Exactly. Here are Sass’s top tips for making a temporary space feel like home.
Consider Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs in your design.
“If you are familiar with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, think about the base two levels of your needs,” Sass says. Maslow breaks it down to the basics: air, water, food, shelter, security, and health. “You might be surprised how few spaces actually, truly, meet those needs. Think about how you eat, how you rest, what makes you feel healthy and safe.”
Take eating, for example. That could mean dedicating a space for dining, not the indent in the couch in front of your TV, or even simply reorganizing your refrigerator. Maybe you invest in kitchen tools that encourage you to cook or replace the harsh overhead light with a softer bulb. Think small and simple.
This picture has been taken in 2020
Ask yourself these key questions.
“How do I…”
“How do I want to…”
“What fosters my ability to…”
Finish the question with your most important needs: sleep, work, eat. Make small, practical changes in your space to better facilitate those needs. Let’s look at sleep. Here’s how Sass tackles three of the most important design aspects for quality sleep:
Light: “I’d recommend investing in curtains that give you the privacy you desire and block light (or don’t) depending on your needs. Dimmable lamps are always a good idea. Think symmetry in your bedroom for balanced vibes.”
Sound: “Textiles in your sleeping space will muffle sound and envelope you in a cozy, womblike way. Think about all your surfaces—rugs, wall textiles, an upholstered headboard, curtains, or soft seating.”
Bedding: “Bedding is one area where I’d invest, invest, invest. Find your perfect fiber and buy the best you can afford. A complete bedding set will feel the most inviting at the end of a long day.”
Invest in moveable objects that are smaller than your car.
“You’ll want to take them with you, and you’ll want it to not be a pain in the ass to do it,” Sass says. She recommends if you’re not in your forever home to invest in:
- Chairs > sofas
- Small foldable kilim rugs > heavy wool beastly rolls
- Lamps > light fixtures
There you have it. I’m considering everything about this year a lesson in embracing temporary. I’m not there yet, but I’m starting at home. Allow yourself to look ahead, even if we can’t see that far yet.
Take that, 2020. And you too, 2021.