Why Decorating Your Home Is Good for Your Mental Health

Health & Wellness

I was knee-deep in a bin of organized socks when I realized I was doing it again. Rage cleaning.

When I can’t control my worries with meditation or a good SSRI (praise be), I will indulge in a night of rage cleaning—wherein I feverishly tidy every corner of my home hoping to uncover some sort of calm and peace. Sometimes I feel better. Sometimes I feel worse. It’s almost always a sign I’m not managing my stress levels. And now that I’m talking about rage cleaning, I’m exhausted just thinking about it.

We all have little quirks we turn to when feeling a little (or a lot) anxious. Mine? Well, rage cleaning became the coping mechanism in my teenage years. Every time a stressor loomed, I would get into organization mode, sometimes taking it upon myself to organize my sibling’s rooms along with my parent’s kitchen. Once, I placed notes on everyone’s bedside tables outlining how we could all do our part in making mornings a little less hectic and chaotic. My parents thought it was cute (mostly because I wasn’t out getting tattoos—still a cardinal sign in their eyes). They saw and appreciated my gusto for self-improvement, but in hindsight, my propensity to improve and control myself and others came from anxiety and battered self-esteem.

It came from the expectations to win another national title; the pressure of maintaining a size zero pant size; the genuine struggles with ADHD I kept hidden from everyone. In trying to improve and control everything around me, I was just looking for an escape from the pressures of looming adulthood. Perhaps my inclination to control my surroundings was the beginning of an itch to “leave the nest,” coupled with a bit of teenage angst. Yet a little over 15 years later, home (for me) needs to be a place where the external stressors of my world are required to wait outside.

I rage clean less today because I found a new way of dealing with the chaos of the world around me, and that is… being slightly obsessed with nesting and ALL things related to interior design.

In many ways, caring for your space is a form of self-care.

Our personal spaces are the ones that set the stage for our lives. They do not require a vision board or even a Pinterest board. And while removing clutter is a huge part of caring for your space, it won’t necessarily reveal the home you NEED, just the one you might think you want. While we can’t control much of anything in this world, we can control what our spaces do for our psyche and our time spent with one another. We don’t need a picture-perfect house or designer furniture to create a haven for ourselves. In fact, if you’re feeling triggered by what you don’t have as it relates to material things, it probably means it is time go inward and explore what you may need emotionally or physically at home to feel more at peace. Easier said than done, but it’s usually what I need when I start comparing my life to someone else’s.

So what does my personal haven from the outside world look like? It’s a place where it is ok to be as messy as I’d like, to cry as loudly as I please, to indulge in frivolity without guilt. It’s the place where my kids feel like they can be 100% themselves, and can also begin to learn their own tactics for self-care—like when they need alone time or a little nook that’s all their own. It’s having that spot on the couch where we have our hard talks and good fights. It’s where everything that really matters happens. And most of it is right within our four walls.

Start with what you cherish about your life that money can’t buy. Then build your home around it.

What I’ve realized as we prepared for our 2019 remodel is this: the care I put into my space is almost always a reflection of the care I needed myself. It’s a reflection of what I’m teaching my kids about advocating for their own needs, and recognizing that my space is their space. In a way, designing my home became a subconscious way to heal during the years I was in therapy, and the way I prepared to become the best mother I could be before the babies arrived. Today, taking care of my space is just another way I show my family I love them. And really, there isn’t one style, design aesthetic, or budget that can make that happen for you. It’s much simpler than that.

And speaking of love and simple pleasures, as I am sitting here writing this—hot coffee in hand and light streaming in from the windows—this song came on:

I’ll light the fire, you place the flowers in the vase that you bought today.
Staring at the fire for hours and hours while I listen to you
Play your love songs all night long for me, only for me.
Come to me now and rest your head for just five minutes, everything is done.
Such a cozy room,
The windows are illuminated by the evening sunshine through them,
Fiery gems for you, only for you.
Our house is a very, very, very fine house with two cats in the yard,
Life used to be so hard,
Now everything is easy ’cause of you and our—
La, la, la

Our House, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

Photo by Matt Lien for Wit & Delight

BY Kate Arends - April 5, 2019

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    April 5th, 2019 at 1:17 pm

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    April 5th, 2019 at 4:41 pm

    A hippie you are not. W & D is all about consumption. Graham Nash and Joni Mitchell would be horrified by W & D and what it promotes.

  3. Jill

    April 5th, 2019 at 9:53 pm

    Love this Kate!

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  5. Teresa

    April 6th, 2019 at 9:35 am

    Beautiful way to look at such a mundane thing as decorating one’s home. I agree completely, a nice and comfortable home is the safe haven we all need after a bad day at work and when we feel like we need to hide from the world.

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  6. Lovely Day Designs

    April 6th, 2019 at 11:44 am

    I agree, your home should be an extension of your soul, you should feel welcomed into it. It doesnt need to have expensive furniture or extravagant decoration, simple things can create for you a place in which you can feel pleasure, peace and harmony.

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    April 15th, 2019 at 10:45 pm

    This is house I feel about my home, too. So beautifully said.

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  10. eli

    April 30th, 2019 at 8:11 pm

    Wow !! you sound like my wife. She start designing and cleaning up everything because it relieves her anxiety..
    My wife is great at designing living spaces .
    Thanks for the article..

  11. Lisa

    May 10th, 2019 at 11:42 am

    I love this post! I’m very much the same way. I’ve found a lot of feng shui books really interesting because of this concept. The Holistic Home by Laura Benko is one that has really resonated with me, it talks about how certain home or decorating habits are related to specific fears and how we can look to our house for healing etc. Thanks for sharing!

  12. Megha Kedia

    May 10th, 2019 at 8:45 pm

    Hey Kate,

    Thanks for sharing, it is awesome. In Indian mythology, we say our home is our third skin. It protects us, harness the energy within us, its our reflection.

    Megha | CEO Crafts N Chisel

  13. Johan

    June 8th, 2019 at 4:53 pm

    I sooo relate to that!

    Thank you for writing this article.

  14. Fred

    June 8th, 2019 at 4:56 pm

    Thanks for sharing !

  15. Henri

    June 11th, 2019 at 11:42 am

    I loved this post. I experienced some issues lately and I couldn’t agree more with what you since I lived it!

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    I put into my space is almost always a reflection of the care I needed myself.

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    Such a platform where every need can be solved and with the freedom to think and understand each person according to their needs, it is also a matter of great pleasure in itself. And this happiness has no value in this world.

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    The clean and scientific décor will help us to have a better and healthier living environment.

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    October 4th, 2019 at 11:37 am

    Decorating is also my kind of escape for all the stress that all the stressful situations gives me. Thanks a lot. 🙂

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    I love the push for mental health improvement! And also the design ideas are really great too.. we always try to recommend redesign and fresh decorating to clients as something to look forward to.

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