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12 Tips for a Happier Home, Adapted From Nursery School

It's such a cliche to say that "I learned everything I need to know in kindergarten," but I find that sometimes the most basic ideas are quite effective.
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One of my resolutions is to treat myself like a toddler. I've found that much of the advice aimed at children is just as helpful for me.

For instance, I'm reading Nicole Malenfant's Routines and Transitions: A Guide for Early Childhood Professionals (non sequitur: a surprising name for a childhood expert). She lays out several strategies for teachers to use in establishing routines and transitions for children. I'm going to try to apply them to myself.

Here's a tips list, loosely adapted:

  1. Turn routines into games. My evening tidy up, while not quite a "game," is kind of fun and quite relaxing.

  • Control the level of noise. I'm much calmer when there's no TV or music playing in the background. (Except at night. Weirdly, my husband and I fall asleep to all-news radio.)
  • Organize space so it's attractive, well-organized, and well-lit. One of my most important "Secrets of Adulthood": Outer order contributes to inner calm.
  • Plan times each day for relaxing activities. Why is this so hard for adults?
  • Encourage a feeling of belonging, e.g., by displaying children's work and pictures. I have a resolution to cultivate a shrine.
  • Consider children's reactions when making an unavoidable change. I do better with routines and predictability. I don't react well when there's a sudden change in the schedule.
  • Balance indoor and outdoor activities. Just going outside into the sunlight gives a mood boost.
  • Make sure there's plenty of time to get things done without rushing. This makes a huge difference in my day-to-day happiness. In Happier at Home, I write a lot about my struggle to create an unhurried atmosphere at home.
  • Provide opportunities for curiosity and creativity.
  • Speak in a calm voice. This is a big issue in my home. We talk all the time about "a kind voice," and "a mean voice."
  • Explain the behavior you'd like to see in a clear, respectful way. Not "settle down," but "sit in your chair with your feet under your desk." Not "I could use a little help around here," but "please unload the dishwasher so we can get the dirty dishes out of the sink."
  • Meet people's basic needs. Children and adults need to eat, drink, go to the bathroom, rest, and spend time outside.
  • It's such a cliche to say that "I learned everything I need to know in kindergarten," but I find that sometimes the most basic ideas are quite effective.

    What would you add to this list? What lessons from nursery school?

    For more by Gretchen Rubin, click here.

    For more on happiness, click here.

    -- It's Word-of-Mouth Day, when I gently encourage (or, you might think, pester) you to spread the word about Happier at Home and The Happiness Project. You might:

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