We put a lot of time and money into renovating and improving our homes, spending over $400 billion every year on renovation projects. When contemplating a renovation in your home, it’s natural to focus on the money—the up-front cost of the materials and labor, plus the estimated return on your investment (ROI) if and when you decide to sell the house. This focus on the finances often overlooks the other key aspect of home improvements: their impact on your quality of life.
Some renovations are purely aesthetic. A brand-new kitchen that upgrades all the finished but keeps an annoying or inefficient layout might offer a solid ROI, but it won’t make your life much better in the meantime. And some repairs and renovations are practical, like a new roof, but just get you back to zero without additional benefit. But some home renovations should be undertaken not because of the ROI or because they’ll fix a problem, but because they will improve your life.
Natural light is good for you. Like, really good for you. Unfortunately, some homes are designed in a way that limits, rather than maximizes, the amount of natural light that pours into your home. Not getting enough exposure to natural light can lead to depression, problems sleeping, and other negative effects. So any home renovation that increases natural light will not only make your home brighter and more attractive, it will improve your mental and physical health as well. Skylights, new or larger windows, and window treatments that can be easily opened to let in more light are just a few ways you can pump more sun into your home, and they’re all well worth the time and money.
Noise can have a real impact on your mental health, and your home may be noisier than you think. Noise from appliances, devices, heating and cooling systems, and other sources can combine into an incessant hum that you might not be aware of on a conscious level but still, well, drives you a little crazy. A home is supposed to be a calm space where you can relax, not a place that reminds you of living inside a speaker case.
Luckily, there are a lot of simple, easy home improvements you can make that can eliminate or reduce a lot of background noise. Installing soft-close cabinetry is a great idea, but if that’s a bit too ambitious at the moment, you can install simple cabinet bumpers to stop them from banging. These can also be put on doors to prevent slamming. While you’re at it, swap out toilet seats for soft-close versions to eliminate one more source of background noise. And adding carpet or even large area rugs on your floors—and not wearing shoes in the house—can further dampen down all that nerve-wracking noise.
Ceiling fans can have a huge impact on your quality of life, with the extra benefit of lowering your heating and cooling costs in both hot and cold weather. Ceiling fans will also improve the general air quality in your home simply by circulating the air. For just a few hundred bucks, you can make your home a lot more comfortable to live in.
Thermostats that can be programmed to raise and lower the indoor temperature of your home on a specific schedule are usually evaluated in terms of their impact on your utility bills. But there’s another angle to them: Being able to have the temperature of your home adjusted according to your own personal biorhythms means being more comfortable in your home. If you’re the sort whose body temperature see-saws during the day, or a hot sleeper who sweats all night long, a programmable thermostat is well worth it.
The phrase “good fences make good neighbors” is a cliché, but an accurate one. Even if you like your neighbours, they might not always be your neighbors, and having a private, defined outdoor space offers benefits in terms of aesthetics, security, and comfort. What many people miss about privacy fencing is that it offers you control over your space: You only have to interact with your neighbours if you choose to.
Main level laundry
This one might be a matter of opinion, but if you have a house where the laundry is located down in the basement, you know how much time you spend running up and down those stairs, often carrying baskets of clothes. Having your laundry room on the main level will make the chore of doing laundry a lot easier, saving you time and effort (not to mention making it a lot harder to forget that you ran the washer yesterday morning but never moved the clothes to the dryer).
Covered patio or deck
Outdoor space is awesome, and access to it is good for you in just about every way. But if your outdoor space only gets used in sunny, clear weather, you’re not getting all the benefits you could be. Even if all you do outside is grill up some dinner, adding a cover to your deck or patio instantly makes it much more useful, and increases the amount of time you get to be outside, breathing fresh air.
One of the cheapest and easiest remodeling projects is painting—and it can also improve the quality of your life by lifting your mood. Color has a powerful effect on your emotional and mental state, and going from builder beige to bespoke wall colors also offers a sense of true ownership and control that can make a space feel truly “yours.” Anyone who has lived in the institutionally white-walled world of rented apartments will understand the joy of being able to put any color you like up on your walls.
Decluttering a living space is often the first step people take when emerging from depression, and for good reason: Picking up and organizing your living space improves your mood, clarifies your thinking, and makes you less anxious. In order to attain this organizational nirvana, however, you’re going to need someplace to put all that crap. That makes any project that adds storage to your home a potential boost in your mental health and quality of life.
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