How to Make a New Place Feel Like Home

alexis high heels and a briefcase

It feels like all I’ve been talking about lately, both on the internet and with my poor boyfriend, is this big move I made! I just recently moved, but I ended up moving back to a city I’ve lived in before. I suppose it’s not that weird—people come home all the time. However, despite the fact that I had lived in Iowa City for over 5 years, it still feels like I have to learn my way.

Or at least, learn a new way.

After the past couple years of switching jobs, moving cities, and nearly losing my sanity, I do feel like somewhat of a pro at managing extreme change. Perhaps one of the biggest changes we go through in our twenties is moving cities. Leaving our favorite local boutique behind or saying goodbye to our beloved girlfriends can be so hard. It’s totally okay to mourn this closing chapter while recognizing the beauty found in those opportunities. But you know me: I’m all about seeing the silver lining in life’s daily challenges, and thus I present to you the 4 things that I’ve done to make this ever-changing life of mine feel a little less new and a little more like home:

1. Scope out your places.

This is a big one for anyone moving to a new city. When we live somewhere for a significant amount of time, we inevitably find our go-to spots: our gym, preferred grocery store, favorite restaurants, most loved salon, and weekend hotspots. I’ll be honest: I didn’t totally love Des Moines. It brought me so much good, but it was a really challenging year for me. My heart was forever waiting to get back to Iowa City, and though it happened much faster than I was anticipating, I’m still bursting with joy that this is my new home. That being said, there are undoubtedly things I miss so much about the Des Moines area that did make the city feel much cozier.

Again, since I’ve lived in Iowa City before I do have a few places that I’m more or less coming back to. My nail salon is a no-brainer (Milady Nails & Spa) and my hair salon of choice is none other than Groovy Katz (s/o to my queen of a stylist Hayley!). I’m currently experimenting with which yoga studio I’ll call home and I’m looking forward to testing out coffee shops that will be my go-to weekend spots to blog!

Make a list of all the places that you visit frequently, and make it your mission in your first few months in this new town to find your local favorites. It can be really hard leaving something you love, but it can also be a ton of fun finding new spots to bring you joy. Treat your weekends like an exploration adventure, driving in and out of TJ Maxx & Target parking lots scoping out the best locations like a true detective on a mission! We all know these are the number one spots of interest, am I right?

2. Find your people.

Often the most uncomfortable thing to do, but really the most important: connect with people in your new city. The group of people you surround yourself with are going to have a huge impact on your day to day life, so take this one really seriously. Join a new gym with fitness classes, ask a new coworker to coffee, connect with a friend of a friend, or start volunteering in the community. As cringey and awkward as it may feel introducing yourself to the girl next to you in spin class, just power-through! We all know how hard it is to meet people while in our twenties—between working all day and watching Netflix all night, how’s a girl supposed to network, ya know? We gotta get creative!

I’m a psycho, and created a spreadsheet (of course) with a list of girls that I know that live in the Iowa City area and who I “kinda sorta know, because… we follow each other on Instagram.” I’m not kidding, and I can’t even believe I’m sharing this but if it helps one of you find some friends in your town, then it’s all worth it! Anyways, I’m going to casually make my way down the list, texting or DMing a new girl every week and ask her to grab coffee. Maybe we have a shared interest in blogging or perhaps I know one of them is into yoga and therefore I want to pick her brain on her favorite studio in the area. Regardless, I’m going to meet with these women to connect and grow and learn. Emily Steele of Brand Launch in Des Moines was a recent guest on my podcast, and she is the networking queen. She shared some really great advice.

She said to follow your curiosities and to constantly provide value to those around you.

In order to provide value to someone over a mocha latte, you might need to do a little research. Give them a recommendation for something they mentioned while you were chatting. Help them with something they mentioned struggling with that you’ve dealt with before. Invite them to a networking event that you’re getting ready to attend. Introduce them to a friend or colleague that you think they’d benefit from knowing. Do your part in providing value for your connections, and it’ll come back around to you in no time.

3. Make your home smell like you.

Smell is my favorite sense I think. Well, after taste and sight. But anyways, I do think there’s something special and nostalgic about smells that can bring us so much joy… or if you’re not careful, a little bit of discomfort too. (Yes, I’m talking about that perfume you used to wear when you went through that phase. We don’t need to smell that again.) When moving into your new space, unpack all your favorite smells first! I’m always plugging in my Bath & Body Works Wallflowers before I open any boxes, lighting candles as I’m hanging things on the wall. There’s just something about my favorite smells that can make a cold and bleak apartment instantly feel cozy.

4. Give yourself a break.

I tend to be a little hard on myself, however I’ve been actively working on giving myself the grace I so greatly need. I just uprooted my life—leaving my town, job, and friends in the matter of a few short weeks. That’s a big deal!! It shouldn’t be taken lightly, and though I’m not one to mope around about something (okay, who am I kidding—I totally am), I do think that we all need to cut ourselves some slack every once in a while. We can’t have it all together with the perfect outfit and the healthy lunch and the most creative ideas and a productive day and a loving attitude and a big smile on our face allllll of the time. It’s just not feasible!

So if you find yourself in the bathroom stall at 10am on a Tuesday, trying not to smudge your mascara because you’re crying about something completely insignificant just know that you’re not alone, sister. And also know that it’s okay to not be able to do it all, all of the time. Whatever you’re going through right now, take this moment to give yourself the biggest pat on the back. You’re doing the very best you can, and though it might not feel like it in this moment, you’re absolutely killing it. I promise.

Adjusting to your circumstances can be difficult, but it can also be an exciting adventure! Perspective is everything, and I’m trying my very hardest to view this little life of mine with discount mascara-covered eyes full of hope and positivity.

Iowa City, I’m home!

High heels and a briefcase