Each week in January we'll bring the renewal challenges up a notch, graduating from easy tasks around the house to more challenging suggestions aimed at evaluating and lightening the soul. My hope is that by the end of this series we'll have a happy lil' bag of tools and ideas to gently, joyfully guide us through these last winter months.
To start things off we're gonna go literal......how can we embrace renewal around the house?
Ok so this one, tiny suggestion really is all about cleaning. I promise this is the only one. I'm not going to suggest you implement a weekly routine, or print out a checklist, or get down and scrub grout. I am instead going to suggest you find one thing, one element of your house that hasn't been touched in a while, and try to make it look new again. It could be the grease trap over your stove. It could be the windows. It could be the baseboards. Find one category or thing in your house, preferably something you can see or notice every single day that drives you nuts, and clean the ever-lovin' crap out of it. Like the stained shower curtain you always stare at when you're going pee. Or the dirty spot of carpet you see every time you do yoga. Or the books in your bedroom that are obnoxiously leaning in the wrong direction. Find something that makes you squirm and roll your eyes and clean it.
My go-to, feel-good cleaning task (and this sounds insane) is scrubbing my walls. I never, ever wipe down my walls, ever....so in every room of this house there are smudges, crusty bits of something, hand prints, dust (that's right, it can collect vertically, on a wall), hair, and weird splotches of liquid from gosh only knows where. Once a year I go around my house with a wet cloth in one hand and a dry cloth in the other and I wipe down my walls. I wipe down the corners. I wipe down the wall behind my kids' dinner chairs. I wipe down light switches and the areas over our heater vents. I wipe down the walls surrounding the sinks and around the door frames. And when I'm done, guess what? I get to walk into my bedroom and not be like, "who the hell flung toothpaste onto the wall next to my bed!" Renewal!
The amount of things in my home overwhelms me. Sometimes I get the biggest urge to pick everything up and throw it on the street....and I mean everything. All these stupid "coordinating desk items" that are staring at me right now as I type, for instance, are toeing the line. They say clutter and mess weighs on your person and can influence your mood the minute you wake up. They say it sucks up your energy even when out of sight, like in a closet or a basement. I say it's just annoying, moving things to clean, washing things because they sit there and get dirty, finding places for things to go when I'm tryin to impress people with a clean house. The less we have, the more we have.
A surefire way to get rid of stuff is to give everything an expiration date. If I don't touch a baking pan at least once a year, for example, I don't need it. Even if someday I might host a party that might make use of a special ribbon-shaped bake pan, oh well. I'll hafta bake with one of the pans I kept and used regularly, instead. Hair care and personal beauty products might have a shorter shelf life. If I don't use that bottle of straightening balm at least once a month, I don't need it. And no, nobody wants it. Throw it away and remember this feeling the next time you're faced with a shelf full of expensive hair products that you think you've gotta have, Jen. Same with clothes, same with toys, same with keepsakes and cards and photos. It's not easy, throwing away or donating things I've spent money on or become attached to, but the feeling I have when I open that closet or cabinet and see my very favorite things sitting there, smiling at me from a clean and uncluttered spot on the shelf, makes me ridiculously happy. Renewal!
Let the light in....literally. Every morning I get up and walk around my house opening the curtains, even if it's not entirely light out yet. Now I am no morning person, so I look more like the stepmother than Cinderella when I throw open those shades, but when that morning light filters in it absolutely changes my mood. We as humans need light to see by but light is also used to judge the time of day, to orient us to our surroundings, to help us gauge the heat or coolness of the day. Light is vital to the management and stability of our internal clocks; allowing yourself to fall into rhythm with the light of each season helps your body undergo the natural cycles intended for all living creatures. Winter is a time of rest. Let yourself be cocooned in darkness a few hours early. If you're like me and you can't reasonably go to bed at 4:30PM, invest in some pretty lamps with gentle glows, or better yet, have a few nights where candlelight is your guide. Light is a fantastic source of energy and heat, so if you're feeling depressed or cold, get creative, lean on our shared sky, and let the light shine through. Renewal!
This is maybe my favorite suggestion of the week. One of the best things in the whole wide world is taking something that would've gone in the trash and turning it into something awesome I can use and enjoy for as many years as I want. There's a little bit of backstory to this one....you see, I have two small kids, a young dog, a cat, and chickens. Nothing, and I mean nothing, in or outside of my home is safe from destruction. I've made the foolish mistake of purchasing nice, white, clean, pretty, fragile, Mama-only things before, and they almost always get broken, smashed, massacred, stained, scratched, or chewed. And it makes me angry when my things get broken. And then I get angry that I am angry about things getting broken.
It's way, way easier to furnish my home with things I don't care so much about. Things that I found on the side of the road. Things somebody gave me. Things destined for the trash. Free things. Lost things. Repurposed things. These things, when broken, do not represent a loss of money (something I constantly stress about) and are easy to replace (I'll just make another one). It's really, really freeing to have things I enjoy but do not need to protect or covet. My most recent project included an old kitchen window and some sample paints from the hardware store. I am not the best artist, and to some this thing is not worthy of primo-wall-space right over my dining table, but I love the bright colors and the reminder that spring is coming. I painted a symbol of rebirth in rejuvenating colors on a repurposed window...and I absolutely love it. And guess what...if it breaks, I can just toss it out, no tears necessary. Renewal!
Sometimes no amount of lipstick will make you wanna kiss a pig. I mean if we're really talking about kissing pigs here, I would kiss any of them with or without lipstick, no questions asked, but I digress....Sometimes you really do need new sheets. Sometimes your towels are gross and falling apart. Sometimes you see a beautiful throw pillow and you imagine yourself sinking into it and you smile and decide you're gonna buy it. It's ok to replace things in your home. The only warning I have is to be sure the items you're purchasing really are replacing something else - not simply adding to a collection. Be sure to live within your means and really think about the item you're replacing. Bonus points if you take the old item and find a creative way to repurpose it.
I always, always splurge on bedding. My bed is my sacred space and blankets, to me, are like wrappable clouds from heaven. I own three sets of sheets, all of them GOTS-certified and organic, because I am a prissy bed queen and I gotta accept that. I take time a few times a month to air out my bed, wash my sheets, and cycle on through to the next set. I'm bonkers about soft blankets. This is my area of excess. But I feel like I redeem myself when the sheets start to go...because I turn them into pillowcases or curtains for the chickens (chickens need window treatments too). And then I buy new bedding. And I feel guilty about it for exactly 5-6 hours until I sink into that freshly-made bed and let out the most genuine and joyful sigh I've ever felt in my whole life. Replacing old, worn, broken things is ok. Consider it an improvement to your environment and enjoy every bit of the selection process. Renewal!
Renewing your home and the area around you can be as simple or as detailed as you like. If you find you enjoy the deep-cleaning process, or the decluttering process, or repurposing things around your house, do it again. If you hate it, try another idea. Pay special attention to the areas around your home where you spend the most time. A few small changes to your physical surroundings will positively impact you spiritually and emotionally...and what better way to start the new year?
I'd love to hear some of the ways you're renewing things around your home in the comments down below and as always, thank you so very much for reading :) Happy New Year!