Many of us begin new habits and set fresh goals at the beginning of the year - and it's true - it is easier to create new habits with a clean slate. As Gretchen Rubin, author of Better Than Before states, “because we are creatures of habit, the first marks on that slate prove indelible.”
But starting with a clean slate really means removing the baggage of the past and the worry about the future to focus on the present moment. Our slate is clean every single day when we live mindfully in alignment with our goals. Mindfulness is tremendously helpful as we take steps toward our goals without becoming distracted by things that aren't essential to achieving them.
But being mindfully present isn't always easy.
Mindfulness takes practice and (at least for me) comes from experiencing stillness and calm on a daily basis. Taking time to journal, meditate, read and contemplate allows me to connect more to the present moment throughout the day and experience a sense of gratitude and peace.
Of course, finding time and stillness amidst a packed schedule of activities, deadlines, household chores, non-stop digital distractions and normal life commitments is hard. Really hard.
So how can you find stillness in a busy day?
Through a simple and calm home environment that encourages it.
By deliberately setting up your home to make daily life easier and elicit a sense of calm and relaxation, you'll be able to unwind and enjoy quiet time. A simple home won't add to your stress or your long list of "to-do's". It will help you gain clarity and be mindful more often and more easily. And that will lead to more purposeful action toward the goals you've set for yourself.
Creating a simple and calm home that helps you live your best life and achieve your goals is a personal endeavour; it will look different for everyone. You may respond best to a minimalist environment or one that's filled with creativity and inspiration. What's key is that you feel "at home" and at peace - in a clean slate so-to-speak. Your mind is at ease and your body is at rest. You're able to recharge and feel balanced.
Here's how to begin creating a calm and simple "clean slate" home environment that will help you achieve your goals:
It's difficult to feel calm when chaos is all around you. Invest some time in decluttering your home of things that aren't essential to living your best. That includes things that are useful and practical, but also things that are comfortable and beautiful and inspiring. Anything that doesn't fit those categories should go. Start room by room or category by category (ie. papers and books, then toys, then clothing, etc.). Keep your surfaces (countertops, tables, dressers) mostly clear - they're not a dumping zone. And have on your walls only art or photos or objects that are beautiful and meaningful and that will make you happy and calm. And leave a little white space around you - it's restful to the eyes.
2. Arrange furniture for function and comfort.
Make sure that your furniture will help you relax and enjoy still times and happy times. For example, your living room furniture should accommodate your favourite activities - whether that's watching TV, reading, board games or conversation. Or perhaps the best way for you to destress is to walk on the treadmill while watching TV or listening to a podcast. Set up your room for that so it's easy to do. If you love to cook and talk to others in the family while doing it, move a comfy chair or two into the kitchen space (if you have room for them) so that it's more relaxing and fun to unwind that way.
3. Create a quiet spot of your own.
Carve out a space that's all your own where you can meditate, pray, read, journal, do yoga or just breathe and spend quiet time with your thoughts. Use curtains to mute outside noise. Have a comfortable chair or cushion and a blanket nearby to wrap up in. Encourage everyone in the household to create this kind of sanctuary of their own and not disturb each other when you're there.
4. Reduce noise and distraction.
Constant noise can create stress, so we need to set up our homes to encourage quiet and stillness as much as possible. Try not to have TVs and computers front and centre, and absolutely do not have them in bedrooms. Hide them or tuck them in a corner if they're in your main living space, and if possible, give them their own separate room used only for entertainment or work. And make sure to set up a dedicated charging station for phones and tablets so that they don't come to the bedroom or kitchen or dining room with you.
5. Make daily life easier.
A calm space is one that makes your life easier. When everything you need for daily tasks is in place, routines become automatic and it frees up mental space, making it easier to be more present and focused. So hang lots of hooks in the entryway, bedroom and bathroom to easily grab the things you need (and so they don't end up strewed chairs and the floor). Use bins and baskets to corral like things together neatly and give them a permanent home (ex. paper clips, pens/pencils, snacks, hats, remote controls, soaps). Set up a dedicated drink station for coffee, tea and smoothies so you have everything you need in one convenient spot.
6. Finish every room.
I know it's easier just to close the door on a spare room that you've not decorated or a bathroom that's half renovated. But don't. It will weigh on your mind subconsciously just as any unfinished project does. And that makes it harder for you to live mindfully. So take time to finish every space in your home, even if that means clearing it out completely and just hanging one DIY piece of artwork and putting a pillow on the floor and calling it your meditation room.
7. Remove bad mojo.
The experiences you've had in your life could very well be hanging on your walls, sitting on your shelves or stuffed under your bed collecting dust. When negative memories are associated with things you keep in your home, the reminders will be draining without you even being aware of it. Consciously find and remove any items in your home that are associated with undesirable feelings. Removing this bad mojo will put you one step closer to enjoying a serene space.
8. Add natural elements.
Introducing nature into your home will inherently ground you and foster a sense of inner calm and peace. An easy way to do this is to add plants. In addition to being soothing, they'll also clean the air and absorb excess electrical currents and toxins from furniture off-gassing. Choose easy-to-care-for ferns, ivy, jade and spider plants. If you don't have a green thumb, you could also bring branches, fresh flowers, leaves, seashells, rocks, or cones inside and put them on display.
9. Use essential oils.
In addition to creating a calm and quiet home for the eyes and ears, your sense of smell can evoke a feeling of peaceful relaxation as well. Any number of studies prove that essential oils are beneficial in relieving anxiety, depression, pain and in boosting mood, clarity and productivity. Invest in a misting diffuser and use essential oils like lavender, sage or sandalwood to promote relaxation. You can also use scented sachets in drawers, or simply throw cinnamon, rosemary and orange in a pot to simmer on the stove all day.
I hope you take a little time to implement these suggestions and create a calm home environment that will enable you to reach your goals this year. If you have other suggestions for a calm home, please leave them in the comments - I'd love to hear what works best for you!
If you're ready to seriously calm your home and your life so that you can have your best year yet, join hundreds of others in the 7-Day Simplicity Challenge! I'll come into your inbox for one week to help you simplify your home and your daily habits so that you'll gain more time and mental clarity.