The Scientific Secrets of What Makes a Happy Home









Home. The very word conjures up all sorts of warm and fuzzy feelings. But you’ve surely noticed that some people’s houses feel more homey than others. They say you can’t put happiness in a bottle—and yet recent research reveals plenty of ways to boost joy based on where you buy, how you renovate, and a bunch of other factors you may never have considered. Get clued in to these secrets of home happiness. You might just be rewarded with a significantly sunnier outlook.

Secret No. 1: It doesn’t matter if you buy or rent

If you’re under the impression that homeowners are happier than renters, here’s a reality check: A study by the University of Pennsylvania found that both groups have about equal levels of emotional well-being. Researchers theorize it’s because whatever joy homeownership brings is canceled out by the extra time homeowners have to spend on maintenance, from fixing leaky faucets to cleaning gutters. Happy-go-lucky renters, on the other hand, get to spend more time on leisure activities.

So all in all, it’s a wash—which means renters should stop feeling sorry for themselves, whereas homeowners should take care to not fall into the trap of feeling so smug (or for that matter, stressed by their long-term commitments).

Secret No. 2: Long commutes are a mood killer

According to recent data from the Office for National Statistics, long commutes can chip away at our contentment levels. So how long is too long? If it’s under 15 minutes you’re golden, but over 15, commuters get anxious. Over an hour, and you are seriously depressed. So try your best to stay under the hour mark to avoid serious siphoning of your morale.

Secret No. 3: Paint your walls green or yellow

A study from Vrije University in Amsterdam found that yellow and green evoked the most feelings of happiness.

“Green gives a feeling of comfort and serenity, so it’s an ideal choice for a bedroom, while yellow brings out creativity and playfulness, so you might consider that tone for a playroom,” says Victoria Shtainer, a real estate broker for Compass.

Secret No. 4: Understand the true cost of clutter

Mess = stress. According to the UCLA Center on Everyday Lives and Families, a “higher density” of objects in the home raised female subjects’ levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Men, interestingly, didn’t show this physical reaction, but we’d wager some must get irked when the coffee table is too crowded with things to find the TV remote.

“Clutter definitely costs you both emotionally and financially,” says Dana Korey, a professional organizer. “If your rent is $2,000 a month and half of your home is filled with nonusable space, then it is effectively costing you $1,000 a month. One short-term solution is to pack this stuff into boxes and pay to have them put into storage. That way when you see the actual dollar amount every month that the clutter is costing you, you are likely to take action and unload.”

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