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The Psychology of Home

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What is it that makes a house a home? What are the things that make our home a sanctuary? Why can we sometimes not wait to be able to "just get home"? What is the psychology of home?

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I visited a friend in her lovely new home last weekend. It's a new home for her, but the house itself is quite old and oozing with memories. The moment I pulled into the long driveway of the large sprawling garden that the house is surrounded by, I felt a sense of ease - as if in fact, I was home. I felt at home. Yeah, that was the feeling.

We walked around the property and through every room and that sense just kept growing. The high ceilings and questionnable orginal floor coverings and wall colours doing nothing to detract from the safety and security I felt moving through the naturally lit and airy rooms. My friend said she felt it too, in fact, the word she used was "free". She knew instantly that she and her husband should live there.

As we sat on the verandah drinking our tea and soaking up the warmth of the sun, she said that more than the feeling of the home, they'd both noticed a massive change in their lifestyle. Moving from a townhouse to this massive home on a sizeable block saw them actively gardening until the late summer hours, being outside more, playing with their dog and just noticing an overall increased sense of wellbeing.

I've been thinking about that conversation ever since.

When I first lived with my ex-husband Dave, we had a coversation about tracksuit pants. Dave didn't own any, and I lived in mine when I was at home. Dave didn't get it. Why would anyone want to look less than their best at all times of the day? Maybe he had a point. But I also had mine.

I remember the conversation vividly, "But you don't understand, my home is my sanctuary, my place to unwind and take off any mask I've had on for the day. It's my place to be me, without judgement, where I can be 100% comfortable. I need to feel physically comfortable too and that's why I change when I get home from work." It was only then that the reason I did that dawned on me.

As little children in wintery cold Warrnambool, we'd get home from school and mum would've laid out our PJ's in front of the heater for us to change into while she made us a snack. That ritual formed a part of our sense of security, safety and most importantly, of feeling loved, cared for and protected. Home was our sanctuary and that was a little part of what I took into all of the homes I've lived in since (sometimes even the PJ's!). I'm happy to say that conversation helped Dave understand me a bit more and he even ended up buying his own tracksuit pants!

That memory got me thinking about the other behaviours I've taken from my childhood home.

One clear standout is how I light my home. At night, I create a relaxing atmosphere with dimly lit lamps instead of harsh lighting. That's certainly something my mum still does.

Another is the comfort of the throw rug to snuggle up with at night. And the cup of tea before bed.

I've noticed I also have seasonal habits where as winter approaches, I like to make home feel even more homely. I buy new linen for the bed, maybe new cushions for the couch, or a new throw rug. Yesterday, I decided I needed to create a new writing nook in my room where I can look out at the garden, while staying nice and toasty inside. You know by now that I'm not a materialistic person, but those homely purchases do increase my sense of wellbeing.

The psychology of all of this is so interesting to me and so I've decided that this is my next topic for Analyse This... stay tuned!

In the meantime, I'd love to hear your thoughts on this topic and what is the psychology behind making your home a home?

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Jodie Fleming

Jodie Fleming, a clinical & health psychologist, is an avid, curious and open observer of human behaviour. She's passionate about all things psychological, writing, running, swimming, travelling, stand-up paddle boarding, anything that involves other people, and her dog Mortimer plus around a million other things and people.

After spending much of her career normalising common human experiences to her clients, most of whom feel isolated in their experiences, Jodie decided to cast the net of her messages even further in order to connect people, human-to-human, and The Psychology of It was born.

She hopes to increase a sense of connectedness between us, as opposed to focussing on the differences that our comparative brains seems so readily programmed to do.

The Psychology of It aims to de-stigmatise mental illness and promote better mental health care.

"I'm excited to say that The Psychology of It is my muse - the place where I am able to bring all of the pieces together - where I can write for you about everyday life, demystifying the psychological science behind it and provide you with some handy tools to make your life the most meaningful life you can live."



  • Comment Link Rocky %AM, %26 %117 %2016 %11:%Jun posted by Rocky

    My mother was born and raised six miles outside of Joiner, Arkansas in the U. S, population 632 ... forty miles from a city with any size. She had a hard upbringing. They were as poor as Job's turkey, and she had a mother who resented the fact that she lived when her little brother died. Yet during all of my knowledge of her, when we to Joiner to visit my grandparents, my mother would always say, "I'm going home."

  • Comment Link Jodie @ The Psychology of It %PM, %25 %168 %2016 %13:%Jun posted by Jodie @ The Psychology of It

    Thank you so much Cath and Bonnie, I felt all warm and fuzzy inside reading your reflections on home. Bonnie, I love all of the notions of what food and the kitchen can bring to our lives and there is definitely something very special about 'breaking bread' with others. I hope you'll write about that one day for us along with all of your beautiful bakery photos!

    And Cath, what a blessing for you to see the traditions coming out in your own children's homes. Pure bliss.


  • Comment Link Catherine %PM, %25 %158 %2016 %12:%Jun posted by Catherine

    Jodi, I think you and I could live in the same house very comfortably. I 'take my mask off' the moment I get in the door. The pj's or tights/tee shirt is sitting on the bottom of the bed and lights are lamps or candles and I snuggle up in my mink blanket while I watch telly, catch up with the world on fb or read before I settle in bed with a warm cup of tea. I never thought why, I just knew I did this ritual ( and so do Tommy and the kids).
    But reading your why, I reflect on my own childhood- which, my mum wasn't a domestic goddess, far from it, but as I am realising in the 18 months that she has since passed, she had some amazing moments of being a great mum. My early child hood was not far from your own, I grew up in the lower Blue Mountains- Blaxland. The winters are very cold and our heat source was a slow combustible fire, which doubled for lighting-to save on power bills. I remember sitting around the radio to listen to the radio show-yes I am that old, but I was still very young when Mum & Dad bought a tv. We changed very early when we got home, too keep our clothes 'fresh' for the next day. A cuppa was the before bed ritual- but it was either my brother, sister or myself having to make it for our parents hahaha and into bed to save the fuel for the fire.
    I recognise this shapes my 'I'm at home' feeling. But in a sequel to this, I notice my children following suit. I have observed Tyler in his 'home' only this week and he is soooo excited with his renovations an making his 100 year old house his and Bec's home. They are rugged up in trackies, the lights are dim and a cuppa when we chat.
    Clare has only just recently made her first move from her family home, and in helping her with her purchase's it was , lamps, throws and cushions. Let's see if I get a cuppa when im invited down for my first visit.-I'll let you know.
    I know what makes me feel like I'm home, impressed on me by my Mum, and I have passed this onto my kid's. Regardless of the generations some things change very little.

  • Comment Link Bonnie %AM, %25 %087 %2016 %11:%Jun posted by Bonnie

    For me, so much of home is the dining area. All of us around a table sharing food, conversation and good cheer. I agree with Jodie about the track suit pants, or whatever form of lounging-around clothing you feel most relaxed in. Home is where you unwind, unravel, laugh and decompress. Home for me also means trying out recipes with friends or family. In the relative safety and seclusion of my kitchen, I can travel to far-off places through cooking....or just make the family our basic "go-to" meal for when we're watching programs in the evening. In this respect home is not any particular place, but rather a set of routine habits.

  • Comment Link Jodie @ The Psychology of It %PM, %23 %448 %2016 %19:%Jun posted by Jodie @ The Psychology of It

    Thank you so much for your thoughtful comments Paul. You're absolutely right about the kinds of things that make a house a home and yours sounds like a truly loving and warm place to live!

  • Comment Link paul %AM, %22 %115 %2016 %11:%Jun posted by paul

    hello Jodie love your thoughts on what makes a house a home, as you probably know that Judy and I have an older home that we recently renovated to some degree to make it a bit more to our liking, it is amazing what little things make it like a old friend a picture on the wall or something from your past like some sort of keepsake, the carpet on the floor that you wriggle your toes in and then there is the best of all the combustion heater the burns so very nicely in the corner of the lounge making the whole house warm and inviting on a cold winters day, and the big lounge window that lets you look outside and look out at the world that is truly wonderful and beautiful and full of gods love and beauty. Our house is not a home but a place filled with love and memories, happiness and joy of great times to come cheers paul

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