We had the joy and the fortune to spend Thanksgiving week living in a home away from home. My aunt & uncle’s neighbors, who were away for the holiday, graciously offered up their home to us while we were in town visiting. Thus, we spent the week in this lovely modern style home with clean lines and fantastic amounts of light filtering into the 14' wall-to-ceiling windows facing southeast (with new light from each day filtering in).
Not only is their house lovely, but it is home to 3 boys, which meant that the space was set up to be indestructible--such a nice feature when your family of four is using someone else’s space.
It is a funny experience to spend time in someone else's home--someone you don’t know--and to be surrounded by all the stuff of life that tells a story about what life is like for their family.
I certainly have preconceived notions about what life must be like with 3 young boys. Full, comes to mind… so very full.
While the space had clean lines and lots of built in storage, full is exactly what I found: full junk drawers, full desktops around the computer, full cabinets, full piles of random papers stuck up above the desk. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t snooping, truly. I was trying to find the random things you happen to need on a daily basis (pens & paper, the coffee maker, the dog leash).
Honestly, I’m rarely surprised anymore by the fullness of storage spaces, the abundance of stuff. After all, I spend time with people and their spaces on a regular basis. I know the epidemic of stuff that plagued my own home and the epidemic of stuff that affects nearly all of us in a subtle, yet habitual manner.
And so while we were acquainting ourselves with the kitchen--in order to prepare many a Thanksgiving dish--we started to see a pattern emerging. We found water bottles in 4 different locations, and a drawer that housed every kind of cup imaginable: plastic cups galore, a few wine glasses, pint glasses, a glass water cup or two, water bottles, etc. It was a true smorgasbord.
My husband said to me: “This seems like a kitchen where a man is in charge.” (Takes one to know one, I suppose.) Turns out, he was right! The mom of the family is a doctor in the ER, while the dad stays home with the three boys. What a blessing. My husband stayed home with our son from the time when he was 6 months until he was 2, and it created the loveliest connection between the two, one that a father doesn’t always have with his children.
You could feel the stay at home dad vibe in other ways as well. Within hours of arriving, the older cousins had come over and unpacked the arsenal of nerf guns and a full out nerf gun war materialized… happily, between cousins aged 4 and 12. You could tell, in more ways than one, that the house was home to a lot of fun, to a very playful father at the helm, rather than a mom who may have been more keen to keep things in order. (Again, takes one to know one. :))
But I also saw something I see in 95% of my clients’ houses: In a kitchen with plenty of storage, every windowsill and counter-back was lined with stuff. Photographs made way for dusty ceramic creations, made way for vitamins and supplements. We had hot oil drips in the oven that required us to open the windows--lest the smoke detectors sound the alarm and wake the sleeping babes--and I had to remove a dozen random boxes and bottles before I could physically open the window.
Countertops are a magnet for clutter. It starts with one little thing: the honey jar, the salt shaker, and soon enough there are dozens of things that live there full time.
Clearing these spaces is an incredible way to feel immediate respite from all the stuff of life: from the clutter, from the overwhelm. A clean counter (desk/dining table) does wonders for the mind. It’s a blank slate of possibility, rather than a dusty jumble with no room for opportunity.
So what to do with all of the photographs and ceramic creations and supplements, you ask? The handmade objects in particular feel important, they have meaning, they inspire emotion in you. And it’s true, they were crafted by your child’s hands. But in their current state, under a thick film of dust, they are not being treated with the significance you intended.
We think that by placing all of these things in the line of sight, that we immediately give them the respect they deserve. But the truth is, stuff, even a creation that a loved one made, is meant to be appreciated and used. Surrounded by so much other stuff, on a shelf left untouched and unused, is a long slow death for these “cherished” objects.
Each additional object adds to our physical workload: cleaning, dusting, finding homes for. Every time we see these objects, covered in dust, our subconscious (if not our conscious) mind feels guilt around not maintaining their cleanliness. And we begin to associate these sweet possessions with a guilty conscious, with dirtiness, with stagnation.
That is why, the best thing you can do for your own state of mind, and for your relationships with your loved ones, is to cull through the treasures, keeping a few that truly inspire joy in you. It is not in keeping these things that your relationships with your loved ones thrive, it is in ensuring your keep only the ones that make you happy, that you are willing to take the time to maintain. It is only then that your relationships will feel fresh and free from stagnation and guilt.
The point of this post is not to scare you away from opening up your house, and life and story to strangers (particularly ones who think about space as keenly as I do :)).
The point is that each of our spaces has ingrained patterns worn into it. Your space tells a story about your life.
When there are parts of your life you want to enhance, improve, or advance, it can be difficult to break away from your patterns and habits to create that shift you desire. Your habits are held in place not only by your own comfort with things just the way they are, but, (and this is important) by the space around you.
I’ll give you a few examples:
- Do you watch more TV than you’d like to? Chances are, your tv is front and center when you walk into your living room… and/or you don’t have other spaces developed where you can easily sink in (like a cozy reading nook, or a card table).
- Do you do more late night snacking than you’d like? Are you eating foods that aren’t the best for you? Chances are, those options are are the easy ones that are super accessible (and your healthy options are less accessible/prepared).
- Is your junk drawer overflowing? Do you continue to add to it with the rationalization that you’ll deal with it all in one fell swoop… one of these days?
Your space is the foundation for your habits--those you appreciate and those you’d like to break. When you recognize the way your space is supporting your habits, it enables you to shift your space in order to support a new habit.
What parts of your space are feeling stuck? What parts of your life aren’t flowing the way you’d like? Are there ways that you continue to keep habits you’d like to break because of the stuff around you that supports those patterns?
Some of you will have traveled over the holiday or have plans to travel soon. Returning home is a wonderful opportunity to see your space with a bit of fresh perspective. Do you have any intuitions about your space at the moment… areas that aren’t working for you? Listen to them. Know that you can create the space you need--that supports the live you desire--even when you don’t fully know how you’re are going to do so.
When you are ready to connect the areas of your life that aren’t working well for you, aren’t flowing smoothly, aren’t as easy as you want them to be… with the areas of your home that are a bit stuck, stagnant or just plain don’t function well... reach out! Helping you create those connections and know how to move forward in order to live your ideal life, TODAY… in your well functioning, beautiful home, well, that’s my specialty. Let’s create the space that fully supports the life you desire!
Does your space make you feel rested and relaxed or does it add to the stress? Learn how to create a space to rejuvenate with my free and easy 3-day course: Take Command of Your Space.