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How to Make Your Home Your Retreat

Updated: Jul 30, 2021

Erin Keller is a great parent, a great event planner, and a great organizer. With her background in merchandising, sales, and marketing, Erin has developed some tips and tricks for simplifying your home life and getting things in order. Below, the Turn Key Lifestyle owner offers her best advice for turning your house into the retreat-like home you’ve always wanted.

“Home is the nicest word there is.” -Laura Ingalls Wilder

There’s nothing quite like a global pandemic to shift our perspective on just about everything.

For the past year and a half, we’ve significantly altered how we live, work, play, and engage with people in our lives. We’ve spent more time than we imagined doing all of those things from home. And doing the majority of life from home has been… well, quite an adjustment. We set up learning stations and workstations. Stacks of books have become makeshift monitor stands. And sometimes a disabled camera and a mute option can be saving graces.

Now that many of us are returning to in-office work and schools are out again for summer break, our houses are left with *all the things from home* hangover. Even if you were and still are caught up in the pandemic DIY boom, how much is your home really serving you and how much are you really serving your home? Finding ways to make your home work well for you and your family will in turn allow you to easily care for your home. There is a positive and mutual benefit for both sides.

Your home can either nurture and support you or deplete your energy and leave you exhausted. Even the best of intentions to live in a home that is nurturing and beautifully efficient can be dashed by our constantly busy lives. As a professional organizer and move manager, I’m in a lot of homes every week. Available time is the number one factor that prevents most people from living their ideal life in their space. The biggest goal should be to feel good about the space you live in, so ask yourself what makes you enjoy your home. Then think about how you want to live when you’re there.

Determine what “retreat” means to you. Are you looking for stillness and serenity when you come home? Or are you seeking vibrancy and energy? Whether you have a place to yourself or are sharing a home with a family, your version of “retreat” can still be obtained.

I love finding ways to create a home atmosphere that will not only be nurturing but will also generate efficiency and harmony. Having symmetry and negative space in your home will result in order and harmony with your belongings. A good way to achieve harmony is to bring in a few similar pieces and have them match across a room or side by side in groupings. A pair of matching chairs or art that has the same frame and mat are also good examples of symmetry.

Another key to a harmonious and appealing home is to create negative space in rooms. Give the eye a place to rest so there is some visual comfort offered. By not filling up every nook and cranny, you provide breathing space around your items and highlight other features that each room has to offer. Even if you’re a maximalist and love living large, there is a difference between intentional design and clutter.

Neuroscientist and neurodesigner(!) Katarina Gospic says that, generally speaking, we enjoy environments that challenge our brains just the right amount. Even the positioning of furniture can have an impact on our ability to fully enjoy a space. Small adjustments can make a major impact.

With all that in mind, here are some tips for how you can have your very own retreat at home...

  • Make sure most items in your house have a purpose. Decorative pieces are great, but if you’re overrun with tchotchkes, then your home will look more like a gift shop than a collected and peaceful abode.

  • Declutter, streamline, and create systems of organization. Pare down what you no longer love, use, or need. Being intentional about where items are put away and neatly live will help create a home for each piece. If your living room looks like there were signs of a struggle, then it probably won’t be an inviting or relaxing space for anyone to enjoy after a long day of work.

  • The visual noise (visual stimulus) of a home can be minimized by allowing only 20 percent of your things to be visible and 80 percent put away. Sufficient storage has a direct impact on this idea, which is the 2:8 principle, also known as the Pareto principle.

  • Bring in elements of nature. Air plants and succulents are super low-maintenance if your thumb is the opposite of green. Flowering branches are my favorite in early spring and they require nothing but a vase with a little bit of water. I also love to incorporate natural woven fibers like rushed chair seats or vintage covered seagrass baskets, which can double as storage for smaller items.

  • Don’t forget about your home’s scent. Let’s be real: Every house has a smell and it’s super easy to become “smell blind” to your own home’s smell. I could do a blog post just about house smells because I’m constantly in other people’s homes. The perfect house smell is a neutral smell, so tame the usual suspects in the kitchen, bathroom, and closets (hello shoes and workout clothes — it’s you we’re talking about). Besides being relaxing, aromatherapy and essential oils go a long way in setting the tone of your home. Diffuse your favorite scents. A few drops in the garbage disposal will help tamp down odors too.

  • Support your sensitive senses. For example, if you’re visually sensitive, install a few dimmers in your overhead fixtures and use 3-way bulbs in lamps. Muted colors may be a good fit for you as well. If you’re scent-driven, then diffusing essential oils and burning candles might help you feel relaxed, as noted above.

  • Make your own power spot or wellness space. This is a personal space in your home that brings you joy and recharges you. It can be a little corner of a room where you love to read or it could be an entire room that you have all to yourself. Bring in items that you love. The key to this spot is that it separates your personal life from your professional one. And there are no rules here — you can have more than one power spot in your home!

  • Don’t forget your outside space, even if it’s just a little comfy chair and table where you can relax and read a book. My daughter Wren and I love to sit and decompress on our front porch bed swing.

There is a reason why the ancient Eastern practice of feng shui remains a popular philosophy.

This fundamental art of placement enhances our wellbeing inside a space and creates positive energy called chi. Cluttered environments can be huge energy drains that not surprisingly take a toll on our energy levels. Even if you aren’t a feng shui purist, there are certain changes and elements you can incorporate into your life. And if you want to take the plunge and learn more about this practice, there are architects, designers, and professional organizers who are feng shui specialists.

Our days start and end in our homes, so by creating an inspiring place to wake up to and a soothing place to come home to, you’ll reduce stress and save your energy. A relaxing place to live will not only recharge you each day, but it will also allow you to set yourself up for success. It will welcome you home peacefully, even if it may take a little bit to ease into a slower rhythm after a busy day. Discovering what works for you and what is manageable is the first place to start. It doesn’t have to be a complicated process either — think of it as a journey full of little positive changes. Being happy in your home will then spill out into your life.


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