Every season brings new and staggering trends for health and wellness. From charcoal to crystals to everything coconut, there is always a new do or don’t for clean living. The barrage can be overwhelming to those of us who are not lifestyle gurus. So what is the takeaway?
While there is a lot of quasi science swirling around, there are some basic things that we can all agree on. The basis to any happy, healthy and holistic home is removing any excess toxins. And while you will pry my bar cart from my cold dead hands, there are things that we can do to make sure that it is not just us caring for our homes. With the right choices, you can create a home that helps care for you.
It is historically shown that companies don’t always do the legwork we hope they would when it comes to harmful materials. Be your own advocate and look at labels. Natural, non-toxic and organic formations for your home products is a great place to start.
Apart from daily products, look towards the building materials and finishes you add to your home. Paint, carpets, laminate and engineered hardwood floors all have lots of chemicals used in their manufacture, and can leach these chemicals into the air when they are placed in your home. These leached chemicals are referred to as Volatile Organic Compounds or VOCs. The good news is that there are lots of brand that offer low or no VOC options for building or finish materials.
Take your time and do the research when selecting the products that you bring into your home. The extra effort can help protect you and your family’s health.
Seeds of Change
As more and more Americans move into urban areas and pre-planned communities, our connection with the outside world shrinks. Re-enforce that bond throughout your home by inviting some nature inside. Plants not only give a sense of the outside world, they are great houseguests.
Cleaning the air inside the home is something that we tend not to think about. Fortunately, it is something that plants do naturally. Keeping greenery indoors helps reinforce your direct connection with the outdoors and helps relieve the subtle anxiety of our digital, urban landscapes. Also, caring for something like a plant and watching it grow can be really rewarding.
Indoor plants can be easy to take care of. Just make sure you are selecting varieties that will thrive with the light levels in your space. Also make sure that they are not damaging the spaces that they inhabit. Guard against water damage by using appropriate planters or plant stands to keep water from sitting on hardwood floors or carpets.
Light of My Life
Make sure that your spaces are lit for their specific needs. This may seem simple, but many spaces we live in are planned and built by people who don’t know or don’t care about how the lighting really ends up. Working in a poorly lit space, or trying to relax in a room that is drastically overlit can be uncomfortable for short periods, and can even damage your eyes and mental health if exposed for too long. Think about how you use a space and plan the lighting accordingly.
Consider as well how light affects your body. We are genetically programmed to respond to color temperature. Cool light color temperatures—4500-5000 Kelvin—stimulate the brain and mimic the morning sun and daylight. As the sun goes down, the color temperature drops and the light gets warmer, culminating in the sunset. These warm tones—2400 Kelvin and below—help set our brain chemistry up for bedtime.
Think of this when planning the light you use. There are many studies that recommend avoiding screen time before bed, as computers, tablets and phones emit light in the cool color spectrum. I go as far as using classic extra warm bulbs in my bedside lights to help my brain wind down at the end of the day.
A big key here is to create good lighting, not easy lighting. Good lighting is not the easiest. It is going to involve using multiple sources and then controlling those sources. There is never a silver bullet with lighting a room; trust me on this. Look to layer ambient, task and accent lighting to create a fully realized lighting plan. While this may seem excessive, it is what it takes to make sure that your space is complete.
Don’t forget about natural light as well. Drapes with sheers are a must for me for controlling where and how much light and privacy I want in a space. Dark spaces can be improved with the addition of a window or skylight, while over saturated rooms can be helped by adding an outdoor shade or blinds.
Sounds Like Home
While technology had made installing your own surround sound system easier than ever, there is not a lot of thought put into the organic “soundscape” of a home. Turn off everything and take a walk around; what do you hear? Motorcycles, neighbors, loud appliances, echoes in rooms and noisy fans can all build up to interrupt the silence.
While you may be able to ignore them or turn the volume up, these sounds are all still there. Even through you may not be paying attention, your brain is. And while nobody can expect ultimate silence, cataloging your noises and taking care of the ones you can will help create a more serene and relaxing environment.
Look for the culprits. Replace noisy or unbalanced fans with a new DC unit. Loud rooms with lots of echoes can be helped with the addition of rugs. And planting a green barrier hedge or installing double glazed windows can help absorb ambient road noise.
Sound is not always the enemy, of course. You can add-in good sounds to help improve a space as well. Moving water has a special place in my heart. And despite being the scrooge that I am, I do enjoy the occasional Tibetan ringing bowl. Find the sounds that soothe, and put them in places where you will interact with them.
Touch and See
Texture is generally used in the marketing world as a way to sell luxury. This is because we respond very deeply to how something feels. Think a rich, buttery leather or a cool, silk-like marble. Textures can evoke a memory or a whole mood. Think about the things that you use in a day, about how they feel and how you respond to the sensation of touch.
One of the easiest ways to improve how you interact with your world is to place things that evoke a positive sensation. Be it a well-designed car or just the perfect water bottle, look for things that are made with quality and material that evokes a positive response within yourself. This does not mean that it necessarily needs to be a luxury item, but something that is made with attention and care out of materials that will last.
From a favorite mug to your choice in flooring, there are a whole range of textures that you can use in the home. Find what you like and place them into your daily path. Make them the things that make moving through your home and your day a pleasure.
So what makes a holistic home? For me, it is a home that gives back. We spend the same amount of time that our grandparents did cleaning and caring for our domiciles. Plan and build your spaces so that they return the favor. Think through the senses and make sure that you are caring for all of them and you will be rewarded with a home that really, truly feels like home.