Game slide from Animal Crossing: New Horizons

10 Things Homeowners Can Learn From Animal Crossing: New Horizons

Hanna Kielar7-Minute Read
May 05, 2020

Video games are a perfect form of escapism when the world at large feels uncertain, scary and out of control. And while much of the country finds themselves spending a lot more time at home, one of the most popular pastimes has emerged that focuses mainly on building an ideal digital home. Animal Crossing: New Horizons offers players a wanted escape from reality in an uncertain time. What you might not realize, though, is that it’s also full of lessons every homeowner can benefit from, and can be a helpful activity for those of us in need of a little control these days.

What Is Animal Crossing?

Animal Crossing: New Horizons is the latest release in the popular Nintendo video game series. This installment, available on Nintendo Switch, brings players to a deserted island where they can create a utopia far away from the stresses of the real world. You’ll make the island feel like home, complete with a general store, a natural history museum and your very own house.

But you’re not totally alone on your island! Tom Nook, the common leader throughout the game franchise, will accompany you, along with his two sons, Tommy and Timmy. They’ll give you your first home — a modest tent — and even a cell phone. As you progress in the game, you’ll be joined by friendly animal neighbors who come to live on the island and spend their days fishing, crafting and sprucing up their own homes.

animal crossing character in interior of house
Animal Crossing: New Horizons, Credit: Nintendo

What Your Animal Crossing House Can Teach You

Nesting is a satisfying phenomenon often associated with the later weeks of pregnancy when expecting mother spends time cleaning and organizing their home (and sometimes, their life overall) to get ready for a new baby. It can also happen during times of unrest, when you’re unsure of what’s next in your life — after a breakup, a big move or the loss of a loved one.

It’s not only about creating a comfortable and beautiful space, it’s also about control. Redecorating and organizing gives us some semblance of control over our environment when life is uncertain. Animal Crossing: New Horizons taps into that innate need and comes at just the right time for so much of the world. Players can decorate and redecorate their homes as often as they want, learning new “recipes” for DIY creations and crafting new furniture, wallpaper and flooring. Through all of these wholesome activities, we also can learn a thing or two about homeownership in real life.

1. Bold And Creative Decor Can Really Work

In this game, all bets are off: You can put almost anything in your house, from telescopes to fossils to an aesthetically pleasing pile of cherry blossom petals. So get creative with your decor, mix busy patterned flooring with striking furniture pieces and bold wall colors. The space is yours — if something makes you happy, we bet there’s a way to incorporate it into your home decor.

2. It’s Important To Befriend Your Neighbors

Neighbors are important even on a deserted island paradise. Animal friends will move to your island when you start to build them houses with the help of Tom Nook. They’re one source of new DIY recipes and will gift you knickknacks as you spend more time with them. While you have some control over who moves in, you may find yourself playing favorites with certain residents and avoiding others altogether. I for one am terrified by my neighbor Pietro (he’s a Ram decked out in what could only be called “clown chic”) but still try to maintain a cordial relationship because that’s best for the harmony of the entire island.

3. Storage Space Is Key For Organization

Any homeowner knows the value of good storage organization. An empty drawer or shelf is full of possibilities. In Animal Crossing, your house comes with a built-in storage, but the space is limited depending on the size of your home. You can build a wardrobe for your clothes but again, there’s only so much room. So it’s important to be real with yourself: Are you going to display that astronaut suit, or should you sell it to make room for something that actually brings you joy?

4. Pay Off Your Loans First

Just like real life, you have a mortgage with Tom Nook in the game. It starts off relatively low at 98,000 bells, the in-game currency, and is simple to pay off. However, every time you want to upgrade your home, you’ll need to take out an increasingly larger mortgage. The life of the mortgage is essentially forever so there’s no monetary pressure to pay it off, but if you want to continue to add rooms and features to your house, you’ll need to be quick about paying your loan balance.

Making money in the game is actually easy and quite relaxing. You’ll spend time fishing in rivers and oceans, digging up rare (read: valuable) fossils, catching bugs and harvesting fruit, and then selling everything you don’t donate to Blathers the museum curator to the Nook’s Cranny general store for bells. There’s even a “stalk market” you can buy into by purchasing turnips and reselling them for a higher price.


5. Being Handy Comes In Handy

Furnishing your island home often means crafting your own pieces from DIY recipes found throughout the game. Collect resources to build beds, bureaus and barstools, and everything in between. This part of the game makes it easy for you to personalize your home with things you made with your own two … er, controllers. It’s rewarding to watch your space transform into a paradise, and it feels especially good to have some control over your environment, even if it is virtual.

Not only can you build your own furniture and decor, but you can also customize them! Change a rattan wardrobe to white to match your beachy, spa-like bedroom, or update the upholstery on your writing chair to blend with your sophisticated study.


6. Feng Shui Is Rewarding

The game is not without a bit of judgement: the Happy Home Academy is an organization that rewards players for how well their home follows the principles of feng shui. While you can decorate however you’d like, you’re rewarded for good color coordination and orderly design. You’ll accrue points from the Academy as you expand your home and add furniture and function to your rooms. Do you have the design skills to get the coveted gold Happy Home Academy plaque?


7. Take Pride In Your Landscaping

You’re not just limited to your home in terms of decorating — the whole island is yours to enjoy. Place furniture outside near the town square to make a cafe area, complete with a brick pizza oven and table settings. Or build a flower garden for residents who want to stop and literally smell the roses. Make sure to include plenty of places to sit and relax.

When you progress far enough in the game you also unlock the option to terraform on your island. Add brick and cobblestone paths, shift where rivers flow and even create ponds and lakes around your little village. You have nearly complete control over your landscape, so be sure to make your changes wisely. Or don’t, it’s all up to you!


8. You Can Give Each Room Its Own Style

Every room can have its own style and personality; they don’t need to serve any practical purpose. Sure, you can make a bathroom, kitchen and bedroom, but you can also stretch far beyond the confines of a real-life home. There’s nothing stopping you from dedicating a whole room to your beloved plants or creating a relaxing spa or meditation room. Or stray completely from the familiar and bring witchy dreams to life, complete with bubbling potions and spell books tastefully strewn around the floor. If you need any inspiration, there are whole Pinterest boards dedicated to Animal Crossing: New Horizons room ideas.


9. Location Is Everything

One of the most important decisions a homeowner can make is location. Are you prioritizing a short commute or access to amenities? The same holds true for Animal Crossing: New Horizons. You’re able to put down roots anywhere on the island when you first arrive. It’s the first big milestone you’ll reach in the game and it’s exciting to see your very own tent home set up. As you upgrade your house by paying off your progressively larger mortgage loans, you’ll also get the option to move your home. Maybe you want to be closer to the beach because you love fishing in the morning, or maybe you want to be as far away from your least favorite neighbor’s house. It’s all possible. Nook will move your house for a hefty fee, so unless you have an unlimited supply of bells, you have to make sure you choose the right location to make all of your landscape and neighborly dreams come true.


10. It Takes Time To Build Your Dream Home    

Like home buying in our reality, it takes time in Animal Crossing to build and decorate your perfect abode. You’ll need to make enough bells to pay off your mortgage before you can expand your house each time, so you may not immediately be able to fulfill your dreams. But, your loan doesn’t accrue interest so it doesn’t matter how long you take to pay it off. You can prioritize perfecting one room before expanding to include a second. It’s completely up to you.


animal farm character catching a butterfly
Animal Crossing: New Horizons, Credit: Nintendo

The Bottom Line

On the surface, it may seem like Animal Crossing: New Horizons is just another Nintendo game with a cult following. But as we look a little deeper, we find that this adorable video game teaches us a lot about homeownership, society and the power of our own two hands. A little patience goes a long way when building a dream home. For more tips on home decor and maintenance, check out our homeowner tips.

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Hanna Kielar

Hanna Kielar is an Associate Section Editor for Quicken Loans focused on personal finance, recruiting and personal loans. She has a B.A. in Professional Writing from Michigan State University.