Happy New Year! Let’s start the year by taking a journey together exploring what it means to have a mindful home. The creation of a home that supports us through all of life’s experiences. When we are ‘mindful’ we are “aware of something that may be important”. Your home provides safe haven to the significant people in your life – you, and your family.
In today’s busy world, we all perform a balancing act every day, with work, school, commuting, chores, maintenance, errands, homework, family time, self-care, and recreation. Its disappointing that family time, care of ourselves, and fun are losing the battle to more demanding items on the never ending list. We all weave numerous activities into the fabric of our daily lives. The new year is a good time for each of us to reflect on what is most important. It’s a time of new beginnings. We get to choose what we weave. We can increase the quality of time, energy and space for the people and activities we hold dear. We create the colors and pattern in our own individual fabric through our mindful choices.
Comedian George Carlin once spoke of home being a place for our stuff. Whether you life in a large house, or a one-bedroom apartment, most of us have a lot of stuff. If you’re like me, you eventually gather stuff that isn’t used much, if at all. My husband and I have lived in our house for over nine years, and I have to admit we’ve managed to collect a lot of stuff which isn’t used, loved, or necessary. There’s the pair of silver plated champagne glasses that fit together into the shape of a heart. They were a wedding gift and must be polished and dusted and were never meant to be drank from. (eye roll) Then there is the old computer printer that hasn’t been used since we got rid of the desktop years ago. Baskets that collect dust and cobwebs, and shoes that were comfortable when I tried them on in the store. I no longer bake very often, but have two electric mixers, cake pans, cookie cutters, and cooling racks.
And I’ll bet everyone has at least one item in their home like this – the electric ice cream maker I found marked down to the bargain price of $20. I brought it home, read the instructions and placed the drum in my freezer, dreaming of all the delicious flavors I would make. Two years later, I took the drum back out of the freezer and packed it all back up in the box. It’s now somewhere in my attic along with old Halloween costume props, a tote full of my now 18 year old step-daughter’s stuffed animals, and boxes that haven’t been unpacked since we moved in.
We pay a mortgage every month to house all of our stuff. If we didn’t have all that stuff, we’d likely have more money in the bank. If we had just what we needed and loved, maybe we could live in a smaller house, with a smaller mortgage, and fewer maintenance requirements. We might feel more comfortable stepping into a totally new career that we love, that pays a smaller income.
It’s difficult in our society today to avoid the consumer trap that surrounds us almost everywhere we go. Advertisements on television, radio, and in print media seduce us with all of the marvelous things we surely cannot live without; restaurant meals, snack foods, clothing, toys, perfumes, electronics, loans and vacations. All will be better if you buy this item, they insinuate. You’ll be richer, thinner, sexier, happier, and more popular, with thicker hair and better erections. Yet many of these items cross the threshold of our homes and rarely live up to expectations. They might be used for a short time, then wind up on a shelf requiring dusting, or in a closet taking up our precious space. Or, they might be like my bargain ice cream maker that never got used and was really just a waste of $20. Yet we put our energy into them. How many hours did we work to earn enough money to purchase the item, and what joy did it bring to our lives? The stuff we make space for in our homes, and take our time to wash, or dust, takes time and energy away from someone, or something we love more. Just make sure those items are worthy.
Let’s all take a hard look at our homes, and see what works for us and supports us, and what is just taking up space and our life energy. If we pare down to what we use, need, and love, we make room in our homes and in our lives, and we free up some of our energy and time. By doing so we expand our potential. We can create more energy and time for doing what we love.
What would you do, if you were free to do as you pleased? Coach your child’s Little League team, take a cooking class, be a Scout leader, an entrepreneur, a Big Brother/Sister, an inventor, world traveler, marathon runner, volunteer? Now I’m not suggesting you go live in a yurt or join the Tiny House Movement, unless that’s your vision. But why not take a look around at what you have created thus far, and ask yourself if you’d like to make any adjustments, or outright changes, or just make it better. At the same time, think about what you love, and what your visions are.
The perfect way to start this journey, at the beginning of a new year, is to start sorting through our stuff, rediscovering all that we love, and identifying all that we don’t love. What are we ready to let go of? Involve your family; after all, some of that stuff is theirs. Once you get in the groove, it’s easy and feels fantastic to let go of the dead weight.
Here are five easy steps to show your stuff who’s boss.
Box brigade! Place three boxes in each room. Recognize whether you need banana boxes, or refrigerator boxes. Label your boxes “Sell It”, “Donate It”, and “Toss It”.Schedule one or more blocks of time. A weekend day is a great time.Be methodical and look at every item. Don’t skip a closet or corner because it’s too daunting. That’s the area that really needs your attention!Be honest, ruthless even. Ask yourself : Do you love it? Do you use it? How frequently do you use it? Does it fit? If the item needs repairs, are you willing and able to make that happen? If the answer is no, it goes in one of your boxes.When you’re finished, move the “Donate” and “Toss” items out of your home ASAP. Make a plan for the “Sell It” items and follow through, whether they’re going on EBay immediately or to a temporary holding area for a spring yard sale.
You’ll come across some things that you’re just not going to get rid of, but that you’re not actively using, such as old family photos, or a box of your now college-aged child’s artwork. Think creatively. What about making a framed collage out of it and hanging it in his or her old bedroom (or is it your new sewing room)? My mother has framed embarrassingly cute childhood tubby pictures of both my brother and I and hung them in her bathroom. My brother’s is particularly funny – a bald, robust, pink baby with a twinkle in his eyes filling a 1950’s era pink bathroom sink to overflowing. He’s a vision of delight. She’s elevated two small but precious items from being part of the contents of another box on the closet shelf, to something that brings sweet memories and humor into her home.
When you’re finished, take a moment to savor how good it feels to release all that stuff you no longer loved or needed. Do something to celebrate. What were some of those things you’d like to do with your time and energy? Treat yourself; you’re making room for more good things! Go hiking or sledding as a family, take a bath with that book, or watch a movie together.
Even if it’s not immediately apparent, you’ve made room for all manner of good things, good times, and good experiences for you and your family. You’ve consciously removed clutter and distractions from your home and from the pattern of your own personal fabric. Take notice of the remaining colors and patterns. They are uniquely and beautifully yours. In the future, when you consider any purchase or acquisition of new stuff, consciously decide whether those items fit with your vision for your life and are worthy of your time and energy. You are worth it!