Almost four years ago when we were faced with the prospect of changing our lives and moving overseas – it was an opportunity at a brand-new start. During this time of transition, I bumped into an amazing book called “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing” by Marie Kondo. Although it mainly speaks about home organization and decluttering, I realized that many of the principles contained in this small book seemed to apply to other areas of my life. Not only my home, but also my mind, my thoughts and even values.
Clutter lurks everywhere. Traditionally, I had thought it was reserved for my junk drawer (you know, the drawer where you put everything you can’t be bothered to find a place for), or that section in my closet where I kept outfits that I knew I would never wear but felt too guilty to get rid of. I have discovered that clutter can be so much more than just the physical things that pile up in our lives. Negative emotions and thoughts, although invisible just as easily creep in. Even relationships, unrealistic to-do lists and obligations can undoubtedly encumber our lives. We can also have digital clutter – constant notifications from our e-mail or social media.
It’s important to create and cultivate a safe and sacred place where we can be ourselves, unwind, and find refuge from all that clutter and noise that demands our attention. To cultivate a place where we can take a break, regroup, find inspiration, encounter rest, nourish our spirits and from that place of rest reprioritize and move forward with purpose.
Here are some ideas for creating your own sacred space:
1) Reduce the Clutter
I learned how clutter affects me first hand when we moved to the Netherlands. Everything we owned was either sold or given away, and we arrived with four suitcases, and my sewing machine. For the first 5 months, we had no furniture apart from a bed, and a few items we were able to borrow from family. At first, it was challenging as it didn’t feel like our home was complete, but as time passed, the peace that came with not owning so many things and not feeling the constant need to “manage” all the things in my life was so freeing.
I learned to become a minimalist (and am still learning). Moving taught me so much about the significance of things and how we impose so much value on items that don’t have an impact on the quality of our life. I must confess, we strive to be minimalists in most things except two: food and our love of plants. :)
The Princeton University Neoroscience Institute conducted a study that found that if your environment is cluttered, it inhibits your brain’s ability to process information. Clutter becomes a source of constant distraction as it competes for your attention. I can completely verify that this is and was true in my own life. Decluttering gives the gift of focus in an environment where there is so much competition for our attention.
2) Does it Spark Joy?
I take this directly from Marie Kondo’s “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.” This is her criteria for decluttering her life, and I love it. So often I keep things because I feel guilty or if it ceases to be functional (i.e. the item in question is broken). She writes that the, “best way to figuring out what has most value to us is to ask: Does this spark joy?”
Her reason? I’ll let her tell you in her own words: “After all, what is the point in tidying? If it’s not so that our space and the things in it can bring us happiness, then I think there is no point at all. Therefore, the best criterion for choosing what to keep and what to discard is whether keeping it will make you happy, whether it will bring you joy. Are you happy wearing clothes that don’t give pleasure? Do you feel joy when surrounded by piles of unread books that don’t touch your heart? The answer to these questions should be no. Now imagine yourself living in a space that contains only things that spark joy. Isn’t this the lifestyle you dream of? Keep only those things that speak to your heart. Then take the plunge and discard all the rest.”
I love this philosophy and feel like it can apply to so many aspects of our lives. When have negative thoughts about ourselves or others ever brought us joy, or filled us with love? When have hurtful relationships in our lives ever brought us pleasure?
Let’s choose joy.
3) Engage your Senses
We are multi-faceted beings and are equipped with a myriad of senses to discover and process the world around us. I believe that activating those very same senses that we have used during the day to deal with our environment can also be used to help us find rest and respite from it. Our sacred space can involve all our senses and helps us find inspiration and rest. Whatever that looks like, it’s creating a space where you engage with what refuels you. Diffusing essential oils, looking at art that inspires you, listening to music that you enjoy, reading, getting outside and feeling the elements—the sunshine against your back, or the breeze against your skin, hanging out with your own tribe, movement whether that be dance, yoga or sport, expressing your creativity, working with your hands, preparing a culinary feast of tastes and flavors, etc. This obviously will look and feel different for everyone.
4) Take the Time to Rest and Marvel
This is so important and something I am constantly learning. I have to learn to stop and rest. So often, I have an unending list of things to do and tasks I am anxious to complete. I mean, I get a thrill adding something on my list that I’ve already done, just so that I can cross it out. Please, someone tell me I’m not the only who does this!!!!
My husband has been instrumental in teaching me how to rest. We’ve made a gallery wall in our living room with some of our favorite images from the Into the Tropics Collection. Most evenings, while I get my foot massage (it’s the only moment in the day where my husband can get me to sit still, LOL) I gaze at those images and marvel. I marvel at the beauty of nature, at the different tones of greens, textures, patterns, and we chat. I’ve found that looking at those photographs, and taking the time to enjoy nature truly refuels me.
Certainly, there such a different sensorial experience when I’m walking through the forest, and my senses engage with all the sounds, scents, sensations, and textures that nature provides versus gazing at my gallery wall. But life and time doesn’t always allow for forest escapes, or getaways. So, we have to cultivate our own sacred spaces that reconnect us with some of those experiences that give us peace and cause us to marvel (Read more on the importance of marvelling).
5) It’s a Process.
My friend and I have an inside joke around the word “process”. Whenever we’re sharing about life, our perspectives, frustrations, etc. and feeling impatient at the speed in which things are moving along we remind each other, “IT’S AAAAA PROOOOOOCEEEEEEEESS”. It’s in this process what we discover and rediscover who we are and what are the things that are truly important to us.
Discovering what brings us peace and relief and incorporating that in our sacred space can take time as we learn who we are outside of what we think we “should” be or outside of the definitions others have imposed on us.
What is most important is making that decision to create and cultivate a space for your own enrichment, where you nourish yourself with what sparks joy in you, engages your senses, and gives you the space to rest and marvel.
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