I'm struck so often lately by images of people near and far who are homeless. Flashes on the news of refugee camps crammed with fearful families piled into makeshift tents lying on wet sleeping bags (if they're lucky) turn my stomach. And young people I see squatting on the street with a backpack right here in our own cities break my heart. There are millions of people in the world today struggling for basic safety and survival, let alone for a beautiful home.
Does that make us shallow for fussing over the right paint colours and curtains? No, I don't believe so, if we are mindful to enjoy every minute of our blessings and be grateful for them. If we build comfortable homes and happy lives so that we can give back and contribute to society and those who need help, then I don't believe it's selfish or shallow at all.
What about worrying about our own stressful lives and making an effort to simplify them. Does this still become a priority when so many others are wishing they could have more in their lives and not less? Absolutely not. In fact, I would argue that by simplifying our homes and our lives we have more space and more resources - time, clarity, energy and money - to do our best to try to make the world a better place.
I believe that we should intentionally make our homes a place to cultivate gratitude, peace, and well-being so that this space - our sacred oasis in this uncertain world - can renew our energy and ability to perhaps make life better for others who need a little help. Here are a few ideas on how to cultivate that gratitude at home.
1. Clean your windows and open curtains up wide.
Let lots of light shine in and so that you yourself and your comfortable space are lightened and refreshed by the view and the energy of the sun. Put a pretty plant on the windowsill to draw your eyes to it and remind you to stop for a second and smile and be grateful for a comfortable home and safe place in the world.
2. Create a 'gratefulness jar.
A friend keeps a 'memory jar' on the counter for her family to put photos or little notes into when they've had a good day or experience, so that later in the year they can look back and remember all of the happy moments they've shared. The same concept applies to a gratefulness jar - set up a pretty jar or bowl and keep a notepad and pencil handy for the family to write down something every day that they're thankful for. Then take some out from time to time to read and remember.
3. Create a mood or inspiration board.
Keep a board in your office or reading nook or on your fridge or family command centre and add handwritten tags or notes with things you are grateful for, and photos of things or people you love. Take it a step further and leave little post it notes or chalkboard messages in unexpected places like kids craft zones or the medicine cabinet.
4. Use gratitude placecards.
Keep placecards handy for dinners around the table - whether it's your own family on a regular weeknight or guests for a special occasion. Set out cards with words or phrases of things to be thankful for. It makes the table special and everyone can sit at the place that they identify most with. Or let them write their own!
5. Use quotes as reminders.
Add quotes that remind you to be grateful to your walls, mirrors, fridge or desktop wallpaper. I get a lot of mine from repurposing old calendar pages in yard sale picture frames and putting them in various spots around my house and home office. I've also heard of others who have a piece of art in their bedroom that simply says "thank you" so that they remember to quietly say thank you everytime they go to bed and wake up in the morning.
Set up your spaces to cultivate a more consistent and deliberate practice of gratefulness and positivity, and the benefits will spill over into the rest of your life. Namaste.