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Being At Home In A New Home

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Moving into a new home is a shock to our emotional equilibrium, even when we don't get lost on the way to our new address or argue with the movers after they grow frustrated with our attempts to find the perfect place for the sofa. Our bond to our home is deep and visceral, like our links to people we love. When we need to relocate -- whether because of a new job, a new life stage, or a new family member -- we feel like we're abandoning an old friend.

Flickr photo by popofatticus

Having the same sort of relationship with our home that we have with a friend is really important for our psychological well-being. When we feel "at home" we can relax and recharge our batteries, just like we do with an animate friend. We even interact with our homes the way we do with another person. Admit it, you've cursed your home when it failed in some way (the heating system gave out) and reveled at it when you felt most relaxed and comfortable in it.

It's right to morn the loss of an old friend, just as it is to welcome a new one. There are steps you can take to make a new home feel like an old home just a little faster.

Flickr photo by DavePress

Photograph your old home before you leave, with and without your furnishings. Take photos from your old windows of the views. Keep images of what you enjoyed about living there. Knowing you have these reminders can help you step away and move on to the new place.

Before you move from your old home, focus on what you hear and smell there so that you can replicate those experiences in your new one. Odors are particularly important because smell is the most direct sensory route to emotional well-being. If you smell the same sorts of odors in your new home as the old one, you will start to feel as comfortable in your new place as you did where you used to live. Using the same potpourri and air fresheners in each place is obvious, but work beyond this level. Did you keep a stash of garlic bagels in your old kitchen? Make finding a new bakery a priority. Don't change your laundry soap or body wash, at least for a good long while. Clean your new home with the same products you used in your old one.

If you had a sound system in your old home, set it up in your new one as fast as you can find its pieces. You have lots of pleasant associations to your favorite music.

Flickr photo by Project Zaldivar26

Don't worry about putting up the curtains right away, but use common sense about this. Sunlight is a great mood booster, and can help you weather some emotional rough spots.

One of the reasons we have such a deep bond with our homes is because we use them to show ourselves and others important things about ourselves. Make sure that the photos and objects that send your favorite messages are unpacked and placed where you and visitors can see them right away -- pictures of grandparents, books by award-winning authors, etc. When the place you're living is "saying" the right things about who you are, you'll feel comfortable sooner.

Flickr photo by Petrusia1

Finally, don't forget your old habits. Maintaining the rituals from your old home will help you settle into your new one. Do you start each day with a hearty breakfast? Then keep doing so. If you meditate every morning, meditate. Go to sleep early? Then don't stay up to watch the late-night movie.

Smoothing the transition from one home to the next takes a little planning, but you'll be glad you made the effort when your new house becomes your new home, and friend.