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Alice, How Can I Make My Home a Happy Place After a Big Breakup?

Ask Alice: Advice for Life at Home

Dear Alice,

After my ex moved out, I redecorated my space and made it "all mine" but I still dread coming home – it's where I feel the loneliest. Everything I do at home reminds me of him or at least reminds me that I used to have a partner. How can I make my home my happy place again?

Lonely at Home

Dear Lonely,

If you haven't already - have a good wallow. Jumping immediately into redecorating and trying to move on are good self-preservation instincts, but it's good to let yourself grieve a little. A good wallow is different for everyone, but here's a formula that works for me: re-reading letters, emails and texts, looking at past vacation photos, eating ice cream, watching sad movies, listening to sad music, a few mopey tears. I recommend starting your wallow on a Friday night and indulging in it all Saturday. You should be sick of this feeling by Sunday at which time you should take a walk, call a friend and pick up groceries to cook for yourself Sunday night at which point you should be able to laugh at your very recent pitiableness.

Okay, so you've wallowed and you've redecorated. What's next? I have a few suggestions:

Start a new relationship...with a plant. Plants improve air quality, help nurture a calm environment and can be an outlet for the nurturing tendencies you used to put towards a partner. Get one and keep it alive.

Create a new bedtime routine. Sadness has a way of creeping into our beds after the lights are off and lightly poking our brains with wistful memories of our former beloved (or, more likely, an idealized image of our former beloved). Squash the sadness by changing up your bedtime routine with reading, journaling, meditating - whatever will relax you and help you fall asleep quickly.

Vow to invite a friend over once a week. People bring energy to our homes so don't stifle this by making your home into a fortress. Keep it casual and have a bestie over weekly to order in Thai food and watch a favorite tv show. Or host a book club, even if it's just for a friend or two. Inviting people into your home will help neutralize any of your ex's lingering energy. I know, that sounds kind of woo-woo, but I believe it.

Have a housewarming. Okay, typically you throw a housewarming party soon after moving into a new place, but this is your new place—all yours, in fact—so reclaim your home and show off your new decor.

Be a busybody homebody. Not the meddling gossipy kind, but keep busy when you're at home. If "idle hands are the devil’s workshop," so is an idle brain! Fill the time at home that you used to spend with your partner doing things you enjoy like becoming a better cook or resuming a neglected hobby.

Start a happiness ritual at home. Think about a moment at home when you felt happy and satisfied and then try to replicate this in the form of a daily or weekly ritual. Did you feel elated when you tried a new recipe and it was a success? Maybe "new recipe Tuesdays" can be your new thing. Perhaps you love starting the day with a cup of tea and the Times. Start setting your alarm a half hour earlier to get in this ritual before work every day.

Breakups are hard and especially so when they reformulate how you feel about spending time at home. I hope that you are able to rekindle your love for your home while still leaving open the possibility of sharing it again someday.


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