A highly sensitive person (HSP) is anyone who is easily overwhelmed by everyday stimuli like bright lights, strong smells, loud sounds and scratchy fabrics. These people tend to recharge with quiet alone time rather than socialization. They may need to withdraw to a darkened room when stressed, after a long day or when they just need a break from daily activities.
If you or someone you know has high sensitivity, you know how important it is to have a safe space to retreat to after a stressful activity. That’s why we’ve created a highly sensitive person’s survival guide to creating a home environment that acts as a restful sanctuary. We cover every room in the house, listing tips and tricks you can use to create a home environment that is more comfortable for anyone with heightened sensitivities.
Anyone with heightened sensitivities knows it’s important to create an environment that promotes peacefulness. Highly sensitive people are more easily stressed, can be affected by loud sounds or harsh lights and often need to recharge in a quiet, tranquil space.
To help you curate a home that caters to your sensitivities, we rounded up the best home hacks for rest and relaxation.
For many people with sensitivities, the bedroom is the safest space there is. That’s why it’s important to be sure your bedroom meets your unique needs, whether you have light sensitivities or have nighttime anxiety.
Use these tips to create a sleep sanctuary that gives HSPs the rest they need:
Add blackout curtains to reduce morning sunlight and create a dark, sleep-friendly environment. Because light exposure impacts sleep quality, it’s important for highly sensitive people, especially those with light sensitivities, to eliminate as much light when sleeping as possible.
Invest in quality bedding to improve your sleep. While it’s safe to save money on things like bed frames and other bedroom furniture, a high-quality mattress (or mattress topper), pillow and bedding set could dramatically affect your rest.
Reduce bedroom clutter with baskets and under-the-bed storage containers. Research has linked a clean, organized bedroom to lower stress levels and improved rest.
Avoid working in the bedroom to eliminate subconscious connections between your place of rest and stressful work activities. If you live in a studio apartment, consider hanging a curtain between your bed and the rest of the apartment to create a distinct separation between rest and work.
Incorporate restful, neutral colors in your bedroom color palette. Stick to shades of grey, cream or tan as the base color and add accents of blue or green for a pop of color that invokes feelings of peace and calm.
Remove televisions and other screens, including phones, to eliminate blue light from penetrating and affecting your sleep cycle.
These tips will not only improve the look of your bedroom but will promote a more restful environment that highly sensitive people need to recharge.
Whether your bathroom leaves you barely enough room to move or is a large and luxurious spa, it’s important to adapt any bathroom to meet the needs of HSPs.
Try these ideas when sprucing up your bathroom:
Keep essential oils near the bathtub to incorporate aromatherapy into your nightly bubble baths. Have a tiny apartment bathroom with no tub? Add a few drops of essential oils to the floor of your shower –– the hot water will activate the scent and provide the same relaxing effect as a bath.
Use a waterproof speaker to play motivational music while you get ready for work or relaxing spa music while you enjoy a hot bubble bath. Research has found that "listening to music seems to be able to change brain functioning to the same extent as medication…dominant frequencies of brainwave activity that are associated with conscious states including concentration, anxiety and sleep.”
Invest in spa-quality towels and bathrobes. Many people with sensitivities are particularly sensitive to certain fabrics and may even experience skin irritation from lower quality material like polyester. Look for towels made from bamboo, Egyptian or pure cotton and microfiber for the softest touch.
Upgrade your shower head, especially if you’re renting an apartment. A rain shower head makes showering a more soothing experience by emulating the feeling of rainfall. It’s easy to install a new shower head and you can take it with you when you move out (just be sure to store the original one somewhere safe).
Incorporate muted natural light with sheer curtains. Sunlight is important for the production of serotonin, the hormone responsible for mood regulation. No windows in your bathroom? A sunlight lamp emits the same healthy light with no sun required.
Living room hacks
For many, the living room is the most frequented room in the house. Whether you spend your evenings watching TV or curled up in your favorite chair with a good book, it’s important to create a living room atmosphere that caters to your heightened senses as a highly sensitive person.
Use these ideas to craft the perfect HSP-friendly living room:
Place white candles on fireplace mantles, side tables or coffee tables to create a warm glow at night. Be sure to avoid especially fragrant candles, as the scent can often be overwhelming to those with sensitivity to strong smells.
Add soft throw pillows and blankets to your couch and armchairs for a cozier lounging spot. Be sure to avoid fabrics like polyester nylon.
Consider the flow of the room. Use principles of feng shui to leverage the energy flow between pieces of furniture in the room. The right set-up could make a world of difference for your stress levels.
Keep fresh flowers nearby at all times. A simple bouquet or potted plant encourages the production of dopamine, the hormone that induces feelings of happiness.
Scatter framed photographs of friends and family. Keeping photos close by can help HSPs feel connected to loved ones. Familiar faces also promote a sense of consistency that many people with sensitivity crave.
Whether you like to cook or prefer takeout, it’s important to structure your kitchen for maximum utility and organization when living with extra sensitivities.
These tips will help you keep your kitchen decluttered, calm and functional:
Use drawer organizers and dividers to keep everything in its place. HSPs thrive on harmony and neatness, so keeping every nook and cranny organized is key.
Place an air purifier near trash bins to eliminate odor and keep the kitchen smelling clean. Those with sensitivity to smell will appreciate the fresh air.
Replace harsh lighting with warmer LED bulbs and add dimmer switches. Total control of lighting levels will make a world of difference in the ambiance of the kitchen.
Add sound-dampening pads to all drawers and cupboards. The sound of a drawer slamming shut can be jarring to those with sound sensitivities.
Invest in ultra-quiet kitchen appliances for the most peaceful kitchen environment. Sound-sensitive appliances (everything from refrigerators to blenders) will be a godsend to any HSP with an aversion to loud or sudden sounds.
Home office hacks
For those who work from home, a well-organized office space is crucial. People with heightened sensitivity to sound and distraction will need some modifications to create a work environment that encourages productivity.
Use an ergonomic office chair and other office supplies that promote good posture, including cushioned mouse pads, wrist rests and lumbar support pillows. A standing desk is another great option for better posture and health.
Invest in noise-cancelling headphones to reduce distractions and offer a sense of privacy while working at home. These will be especially useful for sound-sensitive HSPs.
Maintain a calendar or bullet journal to track daily activities, including work tasks, mental health, self-care, meal plans and more. Not only will this daily routine give HSPs the consistency they crave, but research has linked journaling to increased awareness of emotion, improved mental health and memory.
Cut down on artificial light. Instead, opt for natural light with sheer window curtains (or no curtains at all) to keep your energy levels up during the day. Sunshine has many health benefits, including improved mental health, lower stress and even better sleep.
Keep a fidget cube on your desk to channel distracted energy during meetings, presentations and brainstorms. This will help many HSPs avoid more damaging habits like nail-biting.
Apartment hacks for highly sensitive people
There are plenty of other ways to modify a rented apartment to meet your needs as a highly sensitive person.
Dedicate an area to yoga or meditation. If you live in an apartment complex, there may be a community gym, walking trails or outdoor space that can also be used for physical exercise. Physical activity is beneficial for HSPs who get stressed easily.
Adopt an emotional support animal or therapy dog. For renters, be sure to look for apartments that are pet-friendly and offer discounts for registered ESA pets.
Make decisions based on your needs. If you have an aversion to heights, be sure to look for apartments that don’t have balconies or provide blinds to cover patio doors.
Consider the community environment. For noise-sensitive HSPs, living on the top floor may reduce sound caused by upstairs neighbors. In comparison, a complex occupied primarily by college students could mean parties and loud music late into the night.
Soothing activities for the homebound HSP
While being at home is often the most relaxing place to be for highly sensitive persons, nobody likes being homebound for too long. Unfortunately, there are rare circumstances where it’s necessary to stay at home for extended periods of time (Think: quarantine, snow days, sick days, etc).
If you find yourself in a situation like this and need some ideas to keep yourself occupied, comfortable and calm, use these ideas as inspiration:
Gardening: Spend time tending to patio plants or arrange flowers to feed your creative side and lower stress levels. Exposure to plants and flowers has been proven to lower stress hormones.
Mindfulness: Dedicate 15–20 minutes every few hours to a relaxing mindfulness activity like journaling, yoga, reading or meditation. Peace and quiet is the ultimate relaxation tool for those with extra sensitivities.
Alone time: Give yourself permission to take time for yourself in a quiet room, especially if you live with others. Like introverts, highly sensitive people use alone time to recharge and unwind.
Brain teasers: Complete a jigsaw or crossword puzzle to keep your mind engaged and productive. Some highly sensitive persons find themselves easily distracted or prone to habits like nail-biting. Keep those habits at bay with a mentally engaging activity.
Self-care: Treat yourself to a day of self-care involving bubble baths, face masks and ice cream. Taking time to unwind can soothe the feeling of “information overload” that many HSPs experience after a long day.
Decluttering: Spend 10 minutes each day tidying your home –– try the KonMari method for extra stress relief. A clean, organized space is key to good mental health, especially when stuck inside.
Cooking: Experiment in the kitchen with new recipes or try creating your own recipe. Many HSPs are especially creative, so finding ways to channel your energy into a fun and constructive activity can be rewarding.
Conversation: Catch up with old friends via FaceTime, Skype or Google Hangouts. Intimate relationships and meaningful conversations are important to people with high sensitivity, so be sure to carve out time to connect with loved ones if you’re stuck at home.
How to create a restful home environment
For people with higher sensitivities, sensory processing disorders and other conditions that make them particularly sensitive to certain stimuli, it’s important to create a home environment that is calming and comfortable. That’s why we created an infographic of different ways you can modify your home to meet the needs of a highly sensitive person.
Whether you’re living in an apartment or a single-family home, there are plenty of ways to modify your space to meet your needs as a highly sensitive person. Be sure to ask your leasing office or property manager how they can help you be most comfortable in your new home and prioritize your health and wellbeing when hunting for your next home.
Alex Heinz is a writer with experience in a variety of industries from tech to lifestyle. Her work has appeared in Business Insider, TechCo and PopSugar. She's lived in a handful of large cities including New York and San Diego, giving her first-hand knowledge of the ins and outs of renting. In her spare time, you can find her exploring new hikes with her dog.