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    14 Little Things I've Done To Make My Apartment Calmer And More Comforting Over The Past Year

    It's become my office, bedroom, living room, gym, kitchen, and therapist's office all in one.

    In the last year, like many of us, I've spent more time in my home than anywhere else.


    It's become my office, bedroom, living room, gym, kitchen, and therapist's office all in one. And even though I'm lucky enough to live alone, I can still feel trapped or constricted at times, and I've gone through moments when I'd just like to run away and never see these walls again, please and thank you.

    My space is also still a relatively new home for me.

    Michelle No / BuzzFeed

    Several months before the pandemic started, I made a pretty life-changing move from New York City to Berlin, Germany. In hindsight, it was absolutely the right decision for me, but I've still felt occasionally homesick.

    So I wanted to share my experience with several tips, tricks, and habits that I've used over the past year to help my living space feel better in some way β€” whether that's calmer, cleaner, cozier, more energizing, or all of the above. All of them have also helped my current space feel more like...well, home.

    1. I take a cue from the Germans and air out my space twice a day, even if it's freezing outside.

    Daryl Alexsy / Via

    Germans are so adamant about clean air (frisches Luft) in their rooms that some landlords will include an addendum about it in your lease (I have the proof). Of course, this makes perfect sense in the summer, when a lack of air-conditioning in German households necessitates a source of ventilation. But Germans even stick with the practice in the winter, in frigid temperatures.

    After a year and a half of living in this country, I have to admit that nothing gets rid of the stale feel of a long, depressing day than the crisp touch of ice-cold sheets. According to science, it might even help with your sleep!

    2. I decorated my flat with bright and colorful things that make me happy β€” even if they don't always "fit" whatever aesthetic I think I need.

    Bright yellow chest of drawers with blue and white knobs in writer's bedroom
    Michelle No / BuzzFeed

    As someone who's had an identity crisis for as long as I can remember, decorating and shopping for clothes has always felt like an extension of that crisis. I've recently come to the conclusion though that one way around the crisis is to just choose things that make me innately happy β€” things I'd otherwise say no to because it doesn't "fit" with everything else I own or the grown-up aesthetic I think I need to adapt.

    In the last year, I've bought bright pink curtains, a yellow chair, string lights, a way-too-colorful rug, and a yellow dresser. Sometimes I wonder if my flat is starting to resemble a cartoon house but then I start fantasizing about Arnold's apartment (in Hey Arnold!, of course) and realize that wouldn't be so bad.

    3. I moved furniture around to create cozier corners.

    4. I washed my vacuum filter and it was, no joke, a game changer.

    Michelle No / BuzzFeed

    I don't know why it's taken me so long to realize that just like clothing, a lot of home appliances can be renewed simply by cleaning them. The vacuum is the prime example of this, since its sucking powers decrease so significantly after a few months of use. (Or at least my cheap vacuum's did).

    After cleaning my filter out (which I did by simply washing it with dish soap), my vacuum's suction got so strong that I had a hard time lifting it off the floor. For many people, the hardest part about cleaning their vacuum filter will be just locating the filter itself. πŸ˜†

    5. I picked up a singing bowl (aka a "healing bowl") for calmer and more relaxing vibes on demand.

    View this video on YouTube

    If you've never heard of a singing bowl, you might know it as one of those golden bowls that yoga teachers often strike at the beginning and/or end of a session. Hitting one produces a single relaxing, dulcet note that rings pleasantly in your brain. You can almost feel your brain doing a little waltz with the note. The bowls likely date back to Tibetan culture and are sometimes also called "healing bowls."

    But you don't have to be into meditation or yoga to enjoy it (though it goes very well with both practices!). You can play one literally by just hitting it when you wake up in the morning, if you want a screen break, or when you just need a harmonic note to smooth you into a five-minute session of staring into the air.

    You can get one at Himalayan Bowls.

    6. I make ~tidying tasks~ feel less like work by catching up on them while I'm talking to friends on the phone.

    Toei Company

    I read a study many years ago about how people are way more likely to do their chores β€” and be more productive at it β€” when they have company around. I haven't been able to relocate this report but I swear it's true. Whenever there's a friend keeping me company or when I'm simply on the phone with someone, little chores that I've been putting off seem to feel easy, breezy, and even fun. It's the same for when I'm on the phone. I'm no psychologist, but I'm going to guess this works because having a friend to talk to makes you feel like whatever chore you're doing is less of a waste of time.

    7. I bought blackout curtains for better ventilation and light control.

    Thick pink curtains tied in front of a window, with text overlay reading, "These thick curtains = my best IKEA purchase yet"
    Michelle No / BuzzFeed

    Everyone knows that getting the lighting situation down in your home is key to controlling the mood. Whether you're going for fresh and airy, cool and dark, or β€” my favorite β€” extremely bright in the entire room except the small corner where you're hanging out. And the right curtains can play a key part in getting it right.

    For the better part of a year, I have to admit that I just lived with the same sheer, white curtains I had put up when I first moved in. They weren't really effective in blocking the sun when I closed the curtains, resulting in bad sleep when the sun would rise and wake me up at 5 a.m. (at least in the summer). Nor did they do a good job of keeping the cold air out. "But replacing curtains is a long and exhausting task," I told myself every day for a year. And so they stayed. When I finally did replace them with a heavy curtain, I was fascinated by how I could control the temperature and lighting in my room, like many other humans living in 2020 had been able to do for many decades.

    Sometimes we're our biggest obstacles to happiness β€” or just like, a well-ventilated room.

    8. I organized all my bills and important letters in one accessible folder.

    Bright blue folder on a wooden desk, with text overlay reading, "You know you're an adult when you have an Important Documents folder where you organize all the bills and letters for the errands you don't want to run"
    Michelle No / BuzzFeed

    Every twenty- and thirtysomething is familiar with errand paralysis, also known as that anxiety we experience when faced with mundane tasks like mailing a registration form or returning an online purchase. What makes these tasks just a little less dreadful for me is knowing exactly where all the important documentation I need to carry out said task is. No more rifling through all my drawers to find the prescription I need to refill or that birthday card I've been meaning to mail.

    Now, I know that when I finally conjure the courage to pay my medical bill, I just need to open up my Important Documents drawer and retrieve the one envelope. The important part of this habit is making it a drawer or box that you can close and put away. Out of sight, out of mind, right? Just make sure you don't completely forget about those bills.

    9. I also took the time to actually *label* those important letters.

    White envelope on desk with handwritten note on center reading, "Feb. 8, 2021. Notice of property management name change. No action necessary"
    Michelle No / BuzzFeed

    Recently, I learned about a German word that's entered the millennial vernacular: Briefschmerz (literally, "letter pain"). It refers to the anxiety triggered by the sight of bureaucratic letters and other official reminders.

    I have a ton of Briefschmerz and I deal with it by labeling all my envelopes. After reading the contents of one letter, I stuff it back into the envelope and label the outside with the contents. This way, I'm not triggered by envelopes lying around, and I don't have to put myself through the emotional rollercoaster of opening the letter and reading it again to confirm I don't owe anyone $1 million dollars (which is my usual conclusion when I see blank envelopes addressed to me).

    10. I lit candles that smelled really, really good.


    Have you ever left your room for a few minutes, then come back in to realize it smells like absolute garbage? Do yourself a favor and always keep at least one scented candle around. Even if you're too depressed to actually clean up (understandable!), you can light that baby up and rest easy knowing you're surrounded by fragrant air that envelops and cradles you and every single mess in your room. You don't have to be perfect to smell good.

    11. I washed a load of laundry containing all the miscellaneous non-clothing stuff that's easy to forget about β€” like bath mats or kitchen towels.


    I never feel cleaner than that one day on a blue moon when I wash a load of all the miscellaneous, super-dirty fabrics in my house. That includes things like the sponges I use to wipe my bathroom surfaces, greasy kitchen towels, dirty floor mats, etc. I'll never be rich, but I'll always be able to afford the luxury of cleaning with clean things. πŸ€“

    12. I backed up my hard drive and wiped everything on my laptop.

    Sky Italia

    We spend a lot of time at our desks, but you know where we spend even more time? Our laptops. Give yourself a chance at a trigger-free year by uploading everything to a hard drive then wiping your entire desktop and downloads folder. You'll feel so much better knowing that a simple search of "Jan 2020" doesn't pull up photos of your winter holiday with your ex.

    13. I make time to do a Korean body scrub, aka my shortcut for feeling like a newborn baby phoenix.

    Okay, so I don't know if this one counts as a household habit, but I do it on a lot of days when I'm too stressed to clean my house but still want to feel my house. A Korean body scrub is the most intense exfoliation treatment you could possibly undergo at home IMO, and it's super easy.

    To prep your body, you soak your body in a tub or just stand under water for 10–15 minutes. Then, scrub your entire body with a Korean washcloth, something that's akin to sandpaper but for skin. If you've soaked long enough and scrubbed hard enough, your skin should slough off in crumbly, dark bits. Those bits are your dead skin.

    When you emerge from the bathroom, you'll feel light as a silk robe. Your house might be messy, but you'll feel like a newborn baby phoenix.

    14. And if all else fails and you just can't get yourself to feel comfortable in your own home, just take a look at a picture of a home or really any space you once loved.

    Actress Sandra Oh showing her messy bedroom to Burke in a scene from "Grey's Anatomy."

    Here's the thing about the homes we live in: They're ours and we see them every day so we're desensitized to how wonderful they are; the memories we're making in them; the interesting smells, conversations, and historical moments they're privy to. It's only when many years have passed and nothing but a picture of that home remains that we can appreciate them.

    Any time I look at a picture of my childhood home, I feel a pang of warmth and nostalgia. The rooms that background my face are usually a mess; they have toys strewn about, unmade beds, and lumpy carpets. But instead of the untidiness, what I see and feel when I look at these pictures is a sense of belonging.

    Next time your worries are keeping you from relaxing in your own home, just think about a place β€” your childhood bedroom, your 12th grade girlfriend's smelly car, a teacher's classroom β€” that was imperfect and yet sparked so much joy. Your home is this place too. You might just need to zoom out a little.

    (I absolutely stand by the vacuum filter tip with all my heart though.)

    What's a tip or habit that's made your living space feel more comforting in these times? Share in the comments! 🏑