12/30/2011 02:42 pm ET | Updated Oct 11, 2012

Sally Augustin: Resolve to Be Place-Happy

Flickr Photo by Posh Living, LLC

New Year's resolutions -- it's that time again. This year, when you vow to exercise more, eat less, be nicer, read more books, etc., also resolve to make a few changes in the places where you live.

If you're one of those "get it all out there" types who displays every photo sent in each year's batch of holiday cards and all of the cool tchotchkes from weddings, business associates, and vacation trips, things need to change around your house. You must de-clutter. Clutter makes humans tense. Really tense. This may be because we continually review everything around us -- no doubt this was a useful habit in our primordial past on the savanna -- and when there's lots of stuff for our eyes to catch on, that review takes longer and is more difficult to do well. The penalties for doing a bad job used to be severe, hence the clutter-induced stress.

Use your holiday gift certificates to purchase decorative boxes and cabinets (without glass in the door fronts) to house your stuff. Keep out the pieces that mean the most to you and speak most directly to your soul.

Displaying objects in your home that highlight the things you feel are best about yourself should also be one of your New Year's resolutions. We are most comfortable in spaces that tell our story well -- and that simultaneously remind ourselves of the same good aspects of our lives. Not everyone has to understand the meanings behind the pictures and objects you choose to keep around -- just you and the people that are important to you.

Also, be true to yourself in the look and feel of where you live. People vary in their personalities, cultures, and life experiences -- and all three have big effects on the sorts of places in which humans are most comfortable. The people deciding what's "in" may be very different from you. Don't follow the latest home design trend unless it feels good to you. Ignore the color of the year or the decade or the century, for that matter, if you don't like it. Create spaces you enjoy being in and that are comfortable for you and those you share them with.

Add a little nature to your home with potted plants and photographs or paintings of natural spaces you enjoy. They'll help you relax and restock your mental energy. For best effect those plants should have lots of curved leaves.

Finally, resolve to create a retreat for yourself in the year ahead. We all need a place where we can go to be alone. When we're alone we can review whatever has happened recently in our lives and make sense of it all. Your retreat space doesn't have to be elaborate, but it has to be available when you need it. A tub where you can soak to your heart's content or a bedroom nook or a chair on the back porch work well - but so do many other places around the house, yard, and neighborhood.

Resolve to be place-happy in the year ahead. Get rid of the clutter, tell your own story, be true to yourself, add some nature, and create a retreat -- make the year ahead a good one!

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