How to Tweak Your Living Space for More Happiness

Take a deep breath — you don't need to Marie Kondo.

Photo: Getty Images

There's no place like home, but after spending many, many months in it, you're likely itching for a refresh. That's why Shape tapped wellness pioneers to reveal the easy tweaks they recently made to their space and lifestyles that had big payoffs — in health, happiness, and a positive mindset. Plus, interior stylist Natalie Walton, the author of This Is Home: The Art of Simple Living (Buy It, $31,, shares exactly what makes folks feel content, connected, and calm in their humble adobe — and how you can use those findings to create your own tranquil, happiness-boosting home.

Kendra Kolb Butler

Founder of Alpyn Beauty, wild-crafted, plant-based skin-care products

"I'm comforted by plants. I also spend a lot of time in my bathroom getting ready and doing my makeup. SoI bought a handful of live succulents to surround myself with during my morning routine. Bonus: I upcycle empty glass lotion jars, put a little hole in them using a diamond drill bit, and use them as the pots for the succulents. The plant decor matches my beauty theme. A full circle of botanical skin-care happiness!"

Alicia Ferguson

Yogi and cofounder of BK Yoga Club, a body-positive studio

"I bought 600-thread-count white sheets, and it was the best investment ever. I love to travel, and what I love most about a great hotel is the buttery-soft bright-white sheets. My mom schooled me on how important thread count is. My nighttime experience has been transformed. I love going to bed and waking up; it's a bit of luxury every time I slip in."

Maya Feller, M.S., R.D.N.

A nutritionist in New York and a contributor on Good Morning America and GMA3

"We started using cloth napkins and microfiber cleaning cloths instead of paper towels. At first there was major uproar: I have four animals and two kids, so the family was not behind the shift. I explained that it was one small way for us to contribute to being an eco-friendly home. Now everyone is cool with it. I also cleaned my office and redecorated. Now at quitting time each day, I tidy up. I'm much more productive in an uncluttered space." (

Bobbi Brown

Makeup mogul and founder of Jones Road Beauty and Evolution_18 beauty-boosting supplements

"I'm a visual organization nut. My latest trick is to keep a big L.L. Bean canvas bag labeled 'give' in a few key rooms throughout the house. As I straighten up, anything that I don't want or need goes into the bag to donate. This exercise helps me declutter not only my space but also my mind."

Evan Goldstein, D.O.

Founder and CEO of Bespoke Surgical and Future Method, which sells sexual health products

"My partner, Andy, and I decided to have our own bedrooms. It may sound nontraditional, but the benefits were felt immediately. We both experienced more restful sleep — no more snoring or hearing the other person get up to pee — and it rekindled our relationship during the pandemic. Whether it's a nook, a bathroom, or a bedroom, I encourage you to find somewhere you can recenter yourself. It gave us our sanity back and a romantic spark. Who wouldn't want that?"

Clarissa Egaña

Designer of the ballet-inspired sustainable activewear line Port de Bras

"In my home in Caracas, Venezuela, I created a space solely for meditation, which brings clarity and strengthens my intuition. I chose a corner with natural light and fresh air. I added decorative floor pillows, a large mirror to make the area feel bigger, and a Buddha figure. Had I not created this space, I might not have taken my practice so seriously, especially when things get crazy. That's when I use it the most and I'm grateful to have it."

Matthew Malin

Founder of Malin + Goetz (with partner Andrew Goetz), luxury skin care and fragrances that combine natural ingredients and advanced technology

"As avid gardeners, my partner and I were strategic about what to grow. We can step outside and collect lavender to dry and scent our nightstands, kitchen, and baths. Sage is also handy for burning and cooking. Tomatoes are a summertime favorite. Fortunately, our vegetable garden is accessible from our kitchen for true farm-to-table living."

Macrene Alexiades, M.D., Ph.D.

A dermatologist in New York and the founder of Macrene Actives skin care

"I'm as cognizant of the ingredients in my mattress, bedding, and linens as I am of those I put on my skin and keep in my fridge. So I switched to an Avocado green mattress, opted for an organic duvet cover and Bioweaves sheets (Buy It, $62,, and stocked my bathroom with organic towels from Under the Canopy (Buy It, $37, It's helped me increase the overall healthfulness of my home."

Faith Roberson

Organizing expert

"I like when spaces are defined and have purpose. I painted my bedroom a deep navy blue. I swapped my table lamps for candles, which I light as part of my nighttime ritual. Most people think dark spaces are heavy and negative, but I want my bedroom to support my yearning for growth. There's something about dark colors that evoke mystery, transformation, and depth."

Whitney Tingle

Founder and co-CEO of Sakara Life, a wellness brand and organic meal-delivery program

"My days are spent on Zoom, so getting a healthy setup made a huge difference in how I feel when it's time to quit. My physical therapist told me to switch from my big armchair to a ball to improve my posture and strengthen the right muscles while working. It's a game changer." (

Diana Ryu

Owner of Namu Home Goods, which sells Korean woodwork (namu is Korean for "tree")

"A Japanese study proved how wood in the home can bring comfort, creating a relaxation effect and decreased blood pressure. I can attest to the wash of relief that comes over me when I walk into my home — a space I've filled with wooden objects and furniture. Each piece is beautiful, but it also reminds me that even in the face of their most bitter winters, trees remain steadfast. This philosophy is something I recall when I encounter these wooden pieces: 'Don't let a season dictate your life.'"

Shiara Robinson

Founder of LaSette, which sells body-positive lingerie

"I wanted my bathroom to be a little oasis, so I added a Sun Shower translucent shower curtain (Buy It, $35, from Quiet Town. The weight is heavy, so it doesn't stick to your legs while you're showering — I hate that. With the clear curtain and lights dimmed, showering feels like a trip to an exclusive spa."

Rachael Grochowski

Principal architect at RHG Architecture & Design

"I cut flowers from my garden or get them from the store regularly. Nothing fancy—just something that reminds me to stop and smell the flowers. It brings me into the present moment and helps me be grateful."

Danielle DuBoise

Founder and co-CEO of Sakara Life, a wellness brand and an organic meal-delivery program

"I had three goals for the past year:

1. More nature. I put a bird feeder by my window. Now I see birds every day that I never would have, and it's a beautiful reminder that nature is always around us.

2. A fresh perspective. Amazing what a coat of paint can do for a place.

3. Create. We decided to hang our family artwork, and it's changed our entire space. Our home is filled with the most beautiful memories and creations."

Gigi Caruso

Creative director of Gigi C bikinis and sportswear

"The best decision I made this year was dedicating a small area of my apartment to wellness. I keep a yoga mat stationed there for when I need to debrief, my favorite candle, and a jade roller."

Sahra Nguyen

Founder and CEO of Nguyen Coffee Supply, which sells Vietnamese coffee beans and filters

"I used to watch my parents juggle making coffee while multitasking, so now I'm intentional about not doing that. I grind my coffee, boil the water, and brew with a Vietnamese phin filter over a clear glass. Then I add sweetened condensed milk and whole milk, stir, and add ice. I made it a rule to have my first sip of coffee anywhere but at my desk. If the weather is nice, I'll go outside on our deck. After a few sips, I take my cup to my desk and get started."

Natalie Walton

Interior stylist and author

In your book, you focus on the touches and details that make people feel happiest in their homes was so interesting. Did you find any common threads?

"It's noteworthy that what made people happy was as much about the things they had let go of as it was about what they had held on to. None of their homes was overloaded with stuff. The collections were edited, so what was left was a distilled essence of the important moments from their lives. The pieces had a history and meaning — artwork created by a family member or a friend, or an object purchased on holiday. Artwork can be especially evocative. There is often a story behind the purchase, or it can remind us of a particular time in our lives."

It seems as though everyone is on a Marie Kondo minimalism kick.

"There's always a lot of talk of decluttering. But sometimes we benefit when we hold on to special objects. One woman I interviewed bought a hammock when she was 19 years old and working in Venezuela. At the time she had thought that one day she would have a nice, sunny place to hang this hammock. She didn't have that until about 20 years later. Now she hangs it off the balcony in her bedroom. It makes the space extra special for her, and it's not just a hammock — it's a reminder of her life journey." (

Many of the people you interviewed talked about how important the light in their homes was, or they decorated their spaces with natural elements. Why do you think people are blurring the line between indoors and outdoors?

"Being in nature has never been so important. But we live in a highly connected world. Rarely do we have a moment of quiet or stillness. We can bring nature into our home, however, and embrace it as a way to feel some release. Nature is a cure-all for many modern maladies, and it's free. I do it myself. My home has many windows overlooking trees. When I moved in, I made all my interiors neutral. The trees are beautiful to gaze at but also busy visually. I didn't want the inside to compete with the view."

Many people said their favorite space in their home was the place where their family and friends gathered. Why do you think that is?

"We are social creatures. We need to connect with one another. Our houses are ideal places for us to get together and share experiences. We create a sense of home when we turn on music, put flowers on display, share meals. These are touches that can make us enjoy our space yet are often overlooked. Sometimes we make life complicated. If the house isn't as clean or tidy as we would like it to be, we don't want to have people over.

"I say, host friends outdoors in the garden or on a deck or a balcony. Or just have people over for dinner, turn the lights down low, and light candles — no one will notice. At the same time, as important as it is to create spaces [where people can] connect, it's also a good idea to have quiet spaces to retreat to. A spot that's free of clutter. Natural light or a warm breeze always helps. Keep it simple yet soulful."

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