Published November 19, 2012
With the light waning earlier each evening as I write this in early November, it's natural to be craving more downtime. After the seemingly endless shopping, working and errand running, it's a relief to come home and finally rest up -- but when we slip into that all-too-familiar routine of screen time and snacks right up until bed, our bodies and minds don't have a chance to fully recharge. By setting up your space with care and establishing a few simple new routines, you can choose to replenish your energy instead.
1. Tend to green plants and fresh flowers. Living plants add fresh oxygen to the air and remove toxins, which is especially important for our homes in fall and winter, when we open our windows less often. But beyond plants' air-purifying effect, the act of tending to living plants or arranging cut flowers is a wonderful way to let go of stress.
2. Do something that recharges you before turning on the TV. If you are having trouble cutting back on a TV-watching habit, try this instead: Tell yourself that you are free to watch as much TV as you want, but first you must do something unplugged. Make a list of little treat activities you never seem to find the time for and pick one of them to try each night.
3. Engage your senses. Create a haven for your senses with a fluffy rug and luscious textiles, beautiful music, favorite art and photography books, and a delicious room fragrance. Close your laptop, shut off the TV and allow yourself the simple pleasure of delighting your senses.
4. Lower the lights before bed. Artificial light can throw off our natural sleep rhythms, especially at this time of year. Try getting out in the sun a bit each day and gradually lowering the lights for an hour or so before bed for a sounder sleep.
5. Establish boundaries between work and home. A fact of modern life for many of us is that we simply cannot leave work at work. But even if you must do some work at home, setting limits will go far toward preserving your personal space. Setting a cutoff time works well for many people (for example, no work after 9 p.m.), but try to give yourself a whole day completely without work as well.
6. Set up a staging area near the door. Make a point of putting down everything you come in the door with -- coat, bag, shoes and so on -- as soon as you come in. Changing into comfy slippers and leaving your work and mail behind you will help signal a shift from outside worries to the comforts of home.
7. Fill your fridge and pantry with real food. When our schedules are overfilled, it seems easier to rely on takeout, but having healthy ingredients for meals and snacks on hand is often faster and cheaper than going to pick up food from a restaurant. If you're truly strapped for time, perhaps try swapping out a few takeout meals with healthy snacks and high-quality ready-made food from the market.
8. Set your table every night. No matter what you are serving, setting the table with real dishes, cloth napkins and candles nourishes more than just our bellies; it signals us to slow down and appreciate what we have.
9. Practice mindfulness while doing small chores. After dinner, instead of dreading the cleanup, view it as an opportunity to start a mini meditation practice. Focus on your breathing as you attend to the task at hand; when you notice your mind wandering, gently remind yourself to refocus on your breath.
10. Get social. Shake up your weeknight routine by inviting a friend over to share coffee and dessert, or even start a group around a common interest. If a book club sounds too serious, get creative -- how about a wine- and cheese-tasting club, a periodical society to discuss favorite magazines, a film club or a crafts night?
11. Make your bed every morning. Sometimes one simple thing can make your whole day go more smoothly, and I've found that making the bed is definitely one of those things. No matter how rushed your mornings, taking a moment to smooth those covers will give you a sense that things are in order.
12. Develop a simple 10-minute bedtime routine. Before turning in, take just 10 minutes to walk through the house putting things in their places. Run the dishwasher, toss laundry in baskets, put away books and papers, and set out your clothes and bag for the next day.
Houzz is the leading online platform for home remodeling and design, providing people with everything they need to improve their homes from start to finish -- online or from a mobile device. From decorating a room to building a custom home, Houzz connects millions of homeowners, home design enthusiasts and home improvement professionals around the world. Laura Gaskill is a contributor to Houzz.