by Allison Aboud Holzer

Some people are natural nesters. When we first moved to New Haven, I couldn’t even sleep at night knowing that boxes were left unpacked. My home space is a haven to me and I need to be surrounded by images of people I love and souvenirs from memories I cherish in order to relax. I have a friend from college who, not to make a gender stereotypical comment but, seriously needs a woman’s touch to make his home cozy. Imagine white walls everywhere and just the bare essentials – clean and tidy, but completely impersonal.

A researcher named Barbara Kerr has studied the characteristics of what she defines as “happy homes.” One of her findings is that happy homes have pets, plants, and pictures! Before you jump out of your seat to make a run to your local florist – let me clarify that this finding is a correlation; there is no causal evidence to suggest which comes first, the chicken or the egg. In other words, it’s unclear whether happier people tend to be drawn to pets, plans and pictures; or, whether or not pets, plants, and pictures actually help make people feel happier.

Evidence to the latter is mostly speculative at this point. We know that pets have a positive impact on our moods (see Bliss Tip #1) for multiple reasons. It may be that the act of nurturing and deeply caring for another being, whether a pet or a plant, brings us a sense of fulfillment in our lives.

What about pictures? Well, we can argue that seeing pictures of people we love or other items that spark memories of joyful events encourages us to engage in something called “positive reminiscence.” Simply savoring past positive memories gives us a mood lift.

However, the truth is that pets and plants require a certain level of time commitment and may not be for everyone. So, I will focus on the third point about pictures and personalizing the home. For those of you feeling inspired by this post, here are a few ideas to get you started…

  1. Find and display pictures around of yourself and/or your spouse (or siblings) throughout your childhood, next to one another at around the same age.
  2. Create a Snapfish or Kodak album collage for each year that includes the top 1-3 photos from each major even of the year. Stack them around your house where you (and guests) can easily find them and browse through them.
  3. Collect one item – ticket stub, rock, napkin, be creative! –  from each family vacation that represents the spirit of the trips and display them around the house to savor those memories.
  4. Create and display a family tree! There are many software programs to help do this, or you can make one of your own.
  5. Ask your grandmother or parents for items from their childhood and place them around your home.
  6. Mark your calendar to rotate your pictures at least once a year to keep them fresh.
  7. Place photos of friends and family in unexpected, but visible, places – like inside drawers you open often.

As you get busy personalizing your home, send me your creative new ideas to add to this list!

  • B Kerr and C Chopp – Encyclopedia of Creativity, 1999
  • Robert Biswas-Diener and Ben Dean, Positive Psychology Coaching, 2008
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