A fresh move into a new home can be a joyous occasion…and it can also be gut wrenching. As I write this, my heart is with those souls who are relocating and picking up the pieces after Harvey, Irma, and Jose. Harvey destroyed or damaged around 100,000 homes and left 30,000 folks still living in emergency shelters (approximately 8,000 families have moved into hotel rooms).
I talked to one of my best friends last night about her brother in Houston who lost everything in his one-level home where floodwaters rose to neck-level “except for some family pictures and objects high upon a shelf on the wall.” Gulp. That image got me. She says he remains grateful to have secured a new home–an apartment–in which to start over. Moving indeed involves a mix of emotions and anxiety triggers, and even though we humans are masterful at adaptation, transitions are still potentially tricky.
I know a little about moving and the art of nesting. As a child, I moved across the Midwest 8 times (due to transfers with my parents’ careers), and as an adult, I moved into 16 different apartments and houses, not counting college dormitories. According to the Holmes-Rahe Stress Inventory, changing residences is the #32 most stressful life event: less stressful than in-law troubles, but more stressful than minor violations of the law. Ummm. I think a few of us would agree that hurricane or no hurricane, the stress of moving into a new home should maybe rank in the top 15!
While there is much variation in how we acclimate to a new home and the manner in which we get settled, most of us seem to agree that “familiar smells and sounds will make you feel at home almost instantly” (from a piece on the Homestars blog). For me personally, organizing the kitchen first is important since the kitchen is our true living room. I clean the space thoroughly, stock the refrigerator, and bring in just one box to unpack at a time for less overwhelm and a sense of accomplishment as each box is emptied.
Good Housekeeping asked some of the top names in design for ideas to feel settled and happy while living among boxes those first weeks, and the range of their approaches surprised me a little, revealing some of their core values. Nate Berkus expressed a desire to be able to find his favorite sweater and suggests getting our closets organized first, while Nicole Curtis wants her son to feel secure and recommends prioritizing kids’ rooms. I found the personal strategy of Apartment Therapy founder Maxwell Ryan, to be especially heartwarming and poignant: “I’ve had a cuckoo clock for years that sings every 30 minutes…to me the sound of the clock is home, and having it running right away always does the trick.”
But what if a singing cuckoo clock or strategy to feel at home within the new place eludes you? Deep cleansing breath. I ventured beyond top design personalities and household names, appealing to my wise, down-to-earth, creative friends skilled in the art of moving…and they totally delivered.
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Here are 12 lovely ways to make a new house feel like home.
1. “Unpack books first…your rooms will be full of old friends.” ~Kathleen
2. “Put the coffee on!” ~Nancy
3.”Since I love to cook, I start there and make something that smells delicious.” ~Karene
4. “Keep the golf clubs in clear sight.” ~Bob
5. “I like to tackle the kids’ rooms first so they feel safe and settled and have a place to hang out. Then I start on the kitchen…a batch of chocolate chip cookies baking in the oven, and we’re home.” ~Jody
6. “Unpack the art, and plug in your favorite wax warmer to burn your favorite scent.” ~Erin
7. “Set up an area in the living room immediately with comfortable seating and lounging because getting settled is stressful, and it helps to have a retreat area to escape the chaos and regroup.” ~Karen
8. “My bed is always the first thing I put together at a new place. It soothes me and helps me feel ready to face the day ahead.” ~Deborah
9. “I light my favorite candle (Volcano – Capri Blue), hang family pictures, and add fresh flowers…then it feels like home.” ~Buffy
10. “I have always packed my kitchen last and unpacked it first. While it’s easy to order a pizza or go out to eat, creating a family dinner, sitting down at the table and giving thanks makes a house a home.” ~Reta
11. “Bake something that makes the house smell like yours.” ~Poppy
12. “Fresh flowers and music!” ~Kathy
BONUS MOVING TIP: “Be strategic in your packing plan. Pack essentials you’ll want to unpack first, and keep those boxes separate from the rest. You’ll be less overwhelmed and have the important stuff.”.” ~Webster
Your turn: What do YOU do to make a new place feel like home?
Peace to you right where you are.