10 tips for creating a happy, healthy home
Whether you’re a Marie Kondo wannabe or a chronic mess maker, cultivating daily habits is the key to a healthier home and happier you. We share our 10 steps to a tidy home.
Exercise-induced sweat, nutritious food and some daily maintenance are the ingredients of prime physical fitness. When you look after yourself, you are rewarded with the sense that you are performing to your full potential. Your home’s ability to function effectively is also dependent on conscious upkeep and a handful of good habits. A house that is cared for will run like a well-oiled machine, allowing its inhabitants to feel secure, happy and relaxed.
Making any lifestyle change can be a challenge, but if you feel overwhelmed by the clutter and grime in your home, it’s probably time to reassess your routines and tighten your approach to housekeeping.
Kirsty Farrugia is a professional organiser and the co-founder of The Art of Decluttering, a home organisation business that works closely with National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) participants. “Our passion is pointing people toward intentionalism and helping them become intentional with their time, money, space and mental health,” she says. While the processes of decluttering, cleaning and organising spaces are key to creating an intentional home, developing an overarching goal is the first step to making efficient and long-lasting changes. “Ask yourself what your vision is for your home and life. Do you want more time for self-care or family togetherness? Define your goals and design your home life in a way that helps you achieve this,” says Farrugia.
Everyone deserves to live in a welcoming and fully functioning home, and it’s possible to achieve this without spending a disproportionate amount of time cleaning and tidying up. What’s the trick? Look to those in the fitness industry, who know that physical fitness is achieved in incremental gains. Whether the goal is to lose weight, build muscle or breathe easier after a run, all health professionals will say the same thing: small wins motivate you to keep striving.
You are more likely to reach your target if it’s broken down into small, short-term mini-goals that are specific and consistent. Training for a marathon doesn’t involve a 42-kilometre jog on day one. A clearly defined end point will give you something to work towards, but breaking the journey down into manageable parts is the key to getting there.
While visions of a sparkling home may be far removed from your current reality, tackling small cleaning and organising jobs can help start the process while alleviating the feeling of overwhelm. Where should you start? Farrugia offers a simple piece of advice: “Start with what your eyes or feet land on first. Make them land on one thing. You can’t start with the whole house.”
Whether you begin by sorting the pile of papers on the dining table or the jumble of shoes at the front door, triggering an “I can do this” mindset is an essential first step. The more you achieve, the more motivated you will become.
Just as following a daily exercise and nutrition plan improves fitness levels in the long term, regular sorting and cleaning is the best way to maintain a functioning home. Achieve your home cleanliness goals by making small behavioural changes and incorporating good habits into your day. As they say in the fitness sector, “Fit is not just a destination. It’s a way of life.”
Start with these 10 habits and you will create the …
1. Don’t put it down, put it away
“This is one of the biggest tips we share with our clients. If you can just do this one thing, keeping your house tidy becomes so much more manageable,” says Farrugia. Clutter attracts clutter; all it takes is a day of not putting things away before the chaos appears.
In the 1960s, the “broken window theory” of Stanford University psychologist Philip Zimbardo posited that visible signs of disorder encourage further disorder in society. No matter the neighbourhood, one broken window would soon lead to many more windows being broken.
Apply this theory to the stuff in your home, and you can see how one errant object can become tomorrow’s pain point.
Minimise clutter build-up by taking that extra step in the moment to deal with an item right away, returning it to its shelf or cupboard.
2. Give everything a home
Maintaining a tidy home is easy when everything has a dedicated storage spot. It streamlines your tidying routines and makes it easy for the whole household to get involved, especially if your storage is organised in a logical, systematic way.
Group like with like and keep the regularly used items accessible. Storing your belongings like this means you can get a quick visual tally of what you may or may not need. For example, your addiction to purchasing blue shirts will become immediately apparent if you sort your wardrobe by category and see 12 identical blue shirts lined up, half of which you (probably) never wear. It tells you instantly that perhaps you need to rethink your next blue shirt purchase.
3. Make your home suit your schedule
A fully functioning home nurtures stress-free living and should support the lifestyles of those who reside within it. Take a moment to observe how you and your family or housemates use each area. Shift the layout and position of things in your home according to how you flow through the rooms to enhance your every day. “If you find yourself doing your kids’ hair at the door each morning before you rush out, store the brush and other accessories at the door. Brushes don’t have to live in the bathroom or bedroom,” says Farrugia. “Make life easier for yourself and save time by keeping items at the spot you use them the most.”
This simple concept is often overlooked or cast aside due to ideas about how a house “should” look according to glossy design magazines. The reality is, in optimised spaces that work hard for their inhabitants, form must follow function.
4. Wipe down surfaces
Attending to spills as soon as they happen reduces the chance of damage due to moisture build-up and irreversible staining. In the kitchen, doing a quick wipe down of surfaces after every use will help eliminate stubborn build-up and keep pests at bay. In the bathroom, store a window wiper or squeegee in the shower and give the shower screen a quick wipe down after use. Taking two minutes to do this each time you shower will save you the hassle of scrubbing heavy-duty soap scum down the track.
5. Shop mindfully
It’s easy to be enticed by shiny new things and the tidal wave of adverts that urge us to “Buy now!”. Despite the many temptations of consumerism, spending money on objects and filling spaces with stuff is no substitute for real happiness. In fact, a house cluttered with things can cause stress and discomfort. “When there is less in the house to look at, clean, repair and put away, the less mental load we have,” says Farrugia. “The concept of minimalism can be taken to the extreme, but when you own a small amount of stuff, it’s easier to keep track of it all.”
Take a mindful approach to shopping and be honest about whether you need to make a purchase. How will this item improve your life? If you must bring something new into your home, ask yourself if you can donate, sell or gift something you already own. Living by the oft-quoted rule “one in, one out” will help you stay on top of the amount of stuff in your home. Scale it up to “one in, two out” if you are really dedicated to simplifying your spaces and life.
6. Micro declutters
A day is made up of many moments, and while it’s important to take time out to be still, you can also use stolen minutes to do a super-quick tidy. As you wait for the kettle to boil, sort out the utensil drawer or a shelf in the fridge. Running the bath? Wipe the mirrors down or declutter the medicine cabinet. There is a lot to be said for the meditative benefits of tidying a small nook in your home. Japanese Buddhists view cleaning as a form of moving meditation and believe it brings inner peace. Complete a few small jobs to ignite your energy for a session of deeper cleaning. Remember — small wins, big gains.
7. Air it out
Dampness and poor airflow encourage damaging mould growth. A mouldy, damp home can lead to serious health issues, such as respiratory infections and chronic fatigue. Address any leaks or dripping plumbing as soon as possible and call the experts if needed. Open the windows often to circulate the air and use the extraction fans in the bathroom, kitchen and laundry to avoid condensation build-up.
Hang up wet towels immediately after use and give your bedding some time in the sunshine to kill bacteria. Humid nooks and crannies attract pests, as does food. Keep ants, moths and cockroaches at bay by storing food in sealed containers, wiping down food spills and crumbs right away, and disposing of waste correctly.
8. Do a nightly reset
Waking up to clean surfaces and an orderly space will set the tone for a calm, organised day. Get in the habit of doing a “nightly reset”, where you collect things that are out of place and return them to their right spot before you go to bed. Straighten the cushions, collect toys into a basket and drop the junk mail into the recycling. It can take less than five minutes, but it will set you up for a good night’s sleep and a step in the right direction as soon as you wake up.
9. Avoid chemicals and VOCs
Fresh, clean air is vital for the health of a home and its inhabitants. In addition to keeping the rooms well ventilated, you can improve the air quality of your home by swapping out harsh cleaning chemicals and synthetic materials for natural, environmentally friendly alternatives.
Reduce the presence of volatile organic compounds (VOCs, chemical gases emitted into the air) by banning smoking indoors and minimising the use of air fresheners, perfume, pesticides, solvents and paints. VOCs from new synthetic or highly processed materials and finishes can take years to off-gas, so adequate ventilation is crucial in a recently renovated or built home.
10. Get help
There is no shame in asking for help if you are feeling overwhelmed. “Society has told us we have to have superpowers and should be able to handle it all at home,” says Farrugia. “No one wants to be seen as weak as there is shame and guilt that goes along with that.” Your energies can be shifted toward more rewarding pursuits when you delegate jobs among family members or outsource to cleaning and decluttering professionals. “With a tidier home, you can focus on your wellbeing, and it may give you the mental space to lift your head enough to see things a little bit more clearly,” says Farrugia. “When you create space in your life, beautiful things can come into it.”