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Using the Power of Psychology to Design a Happier Home

We have a ton of big changes coming for us in the next year. One of the big ones is getting deeper into design and decor projects for our home. After three years of working on this home and getting the container ready, we’re ready to “turn the page” design-wise and begin a new phase. While I’m thrilled to get started, I’ve also felt totally over-saturated with inspiration images from social media, TV, books, and magazines. I absolutely love working in the interiors space, but at times it feels tough to take a breath and get some perspective on what is right for me and my family in the space we actually live in.  Instead of jumping in with tear sheets and a visual moodboard, I’m taking a step back to create some space and think more deeply on what will actually work for our family. Using little secrets of psychology to guide my process for the next design phase in our home. 

List Every Negative You Find

I’ve learned that we are poor judges of what will make us happy - in life and in our own homes. We all have an inherent “negativity bias” that makes us focus on the negative aspects instead of the positive. Financial advice I’ve always heard is “Don’t try to purchase something you think might add something positive to your life. Find a negative in your life that you can use money to remove.” So instead of pulling together a moodboard of rooms I love, I’m starting with what are the “pain points” in our home as it is now. There are a few things that are tough in our home that I’d love to change. 

  • We have no closed storage on the first floor aside from our tiny shoe cabinet.
  • We use only one room for daytime hangs and playtime - we spend all of our time in the living room, with occasional trips to the backyard.
  • Pinch point in our kitchen layout - we keep our espresso maker next to the only outlet by the sink, meaning someone making a coffee while someone is trying to make a meal or clean can create a bottleneck.
  • Continued DIY renovations means our basement stays in chaos as we move supplies in and out.
  • Baby stuff storage - since we are planning on have a second child at some point, we have a ton of stuff set aside for #2 - and no where to consolidate it in our 1000 sq feet.
  • Limited planting space in the backyard and lots more we want to grow.
  • Open shelving in the kitchen feels messy and cluttered, and could hold more and look better.
  • We are the owners of the world’s most uncomfortable sectional, purchased in the early weeks of my son’s life - I blame sleep deprivation. 
  • Our window curtains are too long, or I’ve hung them improperly. 
  • My husband needs a much quieter location for sleeping after his night works, as sound carries up the stairs and under the doors.

Where is the Mess

Determining where mess piles up allows you to evaluate two things. One, what is currently being stored in the closed storage nearby, and can any of those items be eliminated to free up some space. And two, if you don’t have any available closed storage, how can you add some to contain your vital items. Personally, I have my laptop, planner, and at least two books I’m reading that I cart around daily, pushing from space to space. I’m always trying to find a safe place to put them away from my toddler, but I still want them to be easy accessible. Clutter congregates on the dinner table and on top of our dog’s create, no matter how many times we clear them off. High-touch items deserve to have their own place, while items used more rarely or never should find new places to rest or be rehomed. 

Examine your Dirt

Knowing the color, quality and nature of your dirt is the first step in matching materials. Using colors and textures that match your dirt, yet are still easy to clean give you a fighting chance to enjoy your home without spending all your time cleaning - or wasting money on pieces that are instantly ruined. Even though our current sectional is incredibly uncomfortable to sit on, I still love that the black leather is the most toddler and dog-proof fabric there is. I love imagining a design for my home featuring a white linen slipcovered sofa, or an elegant chartreuse velvet couch. But what I actually need in my space and life, is a leather couch that is truly comfortable and more adaptable than a sectional.

Another example was using a rug with a white background in our living room - with a black dog. Why?!

Uncover the Personal

Some of our most precious possessions have been hiding in boxes for the last three and a half years. I have a pretty decent photo book collection. My husband and I have collected pins and patches on our travels separately and together. Our family photos, some dating back to the late 1800s, really deserve to see the light of day. One of my biggest priorities is creating more spaces to showcase the things that we love, and what makes our home unique to just us. 

Think About Function & Adaptability

We need our home to work harder for us. We need more spaces for play in our home, a dedicated desk for my work (and a private place to escape to), and space for my husband to work on his projects too. We need to be able to host family and friends when they come into town. We want to expand our garden even more - perhaps developing additional vertical space, adding more permanent, comfortable seating, and adding more to our plantings in the front of our home. 

Our Psychology-Based Plan

Our next big step is finishing the decluttering process we’ve been working on. I’ve been pairing down my things, donating a bunch of baby items, and generally creating space. We have some additional projects to wrap up - including finishing off the basement, before we look ahead to things like our mini-remodel in the kitchen. And taking our time and approaching our choices with sustainability in mind. We’re returning to our “negatives” list to begin our design process with a foundation of change based on psychology that will have an impact on how we live our lives.

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