How shifting our focus to the simple pleasures in life can clear out the clutter in our homes, and our heads.
‘Home should be a place of rest, a source of inspiration, a healing retreat.’
But how many of us feel that way?
Rest? Inspiration? Retreat? Not exactly the words most of us would use about our homes, but as we commit to de-cluttering our lives and focusing on the things of real importance, turning our focus to how our homes FEEL is one of the most important steps in being a Happy Mama.
This description is how I’ve always wanted my home to feel. I’ve always pictured in my mind’s’ eye a beautiful home, all white and clutter free, with framed black and white family photos filling the walls and laughter filling the space. When my children and husband walk in, they take a big deep breath: they’re home. It’s the sanctuary from the world.
The reality, however, can be very different. And after trying the Marie Kondo method of magically tidying up my space, and failing, I had gotten to a place where I thought ‘mess’ and ‘clutter’ was part and parcel of this mamahood gig.
Until I found The Art of Simplicity.
Dominique Loreau’s book, which has been translated from it’s native French and brings together the simplicity of Japanese living with the elegance of French understanding of beauty, spoke to me like nothing else had before. This wasn’t about getting systems into place to make the clutter more organised: it was about totally shifting the way I looked at all our ‘stuff’ without having to pile it all into the centre of the room.
A place of rest
‘Home should be a place to replenish our energy reserves, and find new vitality, harmony and serenity.’ It should not feel like a burden, a place that feels heavy on your shoulders when you wake up each day. As Dominique says, ‘living with ease should be your ultimate goal.’ But what does ease mean?
It means clearing out the clutter and putting systems in place to make the maintenance of your surroundings as easy as possible. Sort out your makeup bag and bathroom cabinet so it only has two or three of your most precious products. Clear out the toy room and toy boxes, either store the rest to rotate in a month (and watch your kids rediscover the joy of their ‘old’ things!), or donate them to those in need. Mums 4 Refugees are an amazing group of mamas who collect and organise donations for newly arrived families in Australia. Halve your wardrobe to only include clothes that you would wear when you were meeting someone you loved: ever noticed how freeing it is to go on holidays with only a handful of outfit options? You take the best of what you have, and mix and match it on the run.
A source of inspiration
What inspires you in your home?
For me, photos of my family, music playing in the background as I cook, a full fridge and fresh flowers fills my soul. Setting the table with napkins even when it’s just for a Wednesday breakfast helps me connect with the beauty of a meal with my family. This isn’t about adding more things to my to-do list or setting unrealistic standards for myself. ‘Must now set instagram-worthy table every single meal’. This is about inspiration and – perhaps even more importantly – pleasure. What brings me pleasure? What reconnects me to the feeling of HOME.
‘Pause for a moment and consider what you can do to achieve a simpler, easier life,’ advises Dominique.
What makes my life complicated?
Is it worth it?
When am I happiest?
Is having more important than being?
How far am I prepared to divest?’
Our homes are filled with things that make our lives more complicated than they are meant to be. Too many choices, too much clutter, too many activities filling our calendar: we have to stop complicating things. When we ask that second important question – is it worth it? – and the resounding answer is ‘hell no’, it’s time to do something about it.
A healing retreat
How do you pamper yourself, mama? What do you have in your home, and in your day, that feels like a retreat for your soul?
As part of the Reconnect Program, one of the very first things we do is set up a little ‘sanctuary’ for ourselves in our homes. I ask the mamas to create an alter or corner just for them – and fill it with things that make them feel special. A candle, a photo, a crystal, a book: it’s their little retreat space they can go to whenever they need to stop and breathe.
But this goes beyond a corner of the house. Creating a retreat at home means more than just the things we have around us. It’s a feeling, a pace. It’s about turning down the lights at night, and slowly waking up in the morning with cuddles and smiles. It’s about respecting each other’s space (and yes, we can do that even with three kids in our bed) and seeing the joy in our lives.
‘Do not enrich your life with objects’, Dominique writes. ‘Instead, enrich your body with sensations, your heart with feelings, and your mind with principles.’
The art of simplicity
As mamas, turning our chaotic and cluttered homes into the retreats we long for is not something we can do in a weekend – but that is not the point. The point here is to commit to the ‘art’ of simplicity – the creation, over time, of the life we long for. If we come to this with another long list of ‘must dos’, there will be no rest, inspiration or feelings of retreat. Start slowly. Acknowledge that you are creating long term change. This is a way of living, not a decluttering course.
Start with one thing each day.
Throw out your old bras that have turned grey today. Then tomorrow, dig out the out-of-date sauces and unused marmalades at the back of the fridge and move them to the recycling bin. Dim the lights when the kids are finally asleep tonight, and wash your face with a beautiful oil.
It will take time – but that’s OK. We are creating memories for our children and beauty for ourselves. It may take time, but it can be a joyous experience. We simply don’t need as much in our lives – but what we do have, should fill us with pride and joy. Just for a moment, imagine what it would feel like to look around you and feel peace.
That is the art of simplicity.
‘Swap your battered armchairs for a really comfortable, good quality sofa, your silver for impeccable, stainless steel, dresses you no longer wear for a soft, expensive cardigan, your network of acquaintances for a few, true friends, and your therapy sessions for a case of fine champagne!’ – L’art de la Simplicite.
Dominique Foreau’s L’art de la Simplicite was first published in France in 2005 and has gone on to become an international best-seller.