Our homes should be a refuge—separate from the often overwhelming, fast-paced and demanding lives we lead outside of our homes. But too often the hectic outer world intrudes on our inner space. Instead of peaceful sanctuaries that nourish and soothe, our homes have become extensions of our busy lives and a visual to-do list reflecting our too full, too fast and too much existence.
We need to reclaim our homes’ intended purpose as a place for renewal, connection, and inspiration. When we “slow down” our homes we can find our way back to the calm, protective, healing environments our homes are meant to be.
Here are ten tips for how to create a slow home:
1. Simplify and declutter. When we surround ourselves with clutter, life can feel chaotic and overwhelming. A clutter-filled, disorganized home depletes our time and energy and can make us feel badly about ourselves, whereas a streamlined, organized space gives us room to slow down and breathe, as well as the time and energy for the experiences and people that truly matter. Only keep objects that are meaningful, useful or beautiful and let go of the rest.
2. Create focal points. We want to surround ourselves with objects that capture our attention and make our heart sing—i.e. the things we love. Beautiful and treasured belongings cause us to slow down and pause. As we take in these loved items we connect with what’s meaningful to us. You can create focal points with art, objects or by highlighting beautiful views. Focal points can be as simple as a bowl of fresh fruit in the center of a table, a fire or candles, a well-placed photograph, or cherished book.
3. Connect with nature. We often feel most relaxed in, or surrounded, by nature. There are many ways to bring nature indoors such as pulling back curtains and blinds to let in sunlight and fresh air, keeping plants or flowers in our home, adding mirrors to reflect views or draw in more light, decorating with natural materials such as wood, hemp, or linen, filling a bowl with river rocks or seashells, or adding art or photographs that depict nature. Also, do your best to create an outdoor living space. An outdoor space could be as simple as having potted herbs and a seat cushion on a fire escape or as involved as designing an outdoor room in your backyard.
4. Prioritize function and comfort. Of course we want our homes to be beautiful, but not at the expense of being functional and comfortable. If we want to spend more time being, instead of always doing, we need to make sure our cooking, bathing, working, eating, sleeping, socializing and lounging areas support our daily routines. For example, arrange sofas and chairs in a living room to make conversation easy, keep a cozy throw on hand, install proper lighting for reading, and make sure you have an end table or coffee table in arm’s reach to place books and glasses. When selecting furniture, focus on comfort not just looks. Keep in mind that while dramatic decor, such as all white rooms or lots of metal furnishings, may be beautiful to look at, they may not be comfortable for everyday use.
5. Remove stress triggers from your home and disconnect from the outer world. Simple choices such as not watching the news, or “checking” electronics at the door can greatly reduce stress in your home. Try placing a charging station by the front door, have everyone in your family plug in their phones and laptops when they enter and try not to use them until the next day. Stress triggers can also take the form of anything that makes us feel uneasy such as a sharp edged coffee table that you periodically bump against, or a disorganized desk that makes you feel anxious because you aren’t sure where important things are when you need them, or broken items that you have to negotiate with, or objects or art that are disturbing to look at either because of the content or because they remind you of a subconscious negative memory or association. Don’t negate the fact that many stressors at home can be subtle and subconscious, but small changes can make a big difference—simply keeping a light on in a dark entryway can make you feel more comfortable when you’re returning home at night.
6. Enhance your bedroom. Our bedroom should be the place where we can let our guard down and completely relax. In order to fully replenish and give our immune system a chance to repair, we need to create a peaceful bedroom. Your bedroom should serve two purposes only: rest and romance. That means removing things such as televisions, computers, cell phones and workout equipment from the bedroom.
7. Focus on your entryway. At the front entrance to our home we have an opportunity to leave behind the stresses from the day. Entryways are so important because this is where we transition from the public outer world to our private inner world. You can create space to shift gears and leave the energy of the outer world behind by making your entryway welcoming and appealing. Entryways should be well lit, clean and in working order. Place something outside your door that makes you stop for a moment, such as an attractive mat, plants, or a pot filled with beautiful flowers. Something that engages one or more of your five senses are also a good option. A fountain where you pause to hear the sounds of running water, or jasmine where you take a moment to inhale the fragrance will encourage you to slow down. Similarly, once inside your door create a stopping place by placing a table with a lamp, a spot to place keys and mail, or a bench or chair to sit down and take-off your shoes. A special object or favorite work of art are great ways to welcome yourself home.
8. Sit down to eat. Mealtime is a wonderful time to slow down. Sitting down for meals rather than standing or eating on the go is important not only for connecting with our loved ones, but also for digestion. The more comfortable and functional your eating areas, the more likely you will be to remain seated for a meal. Fresh flowers on the table, candles, comfortable chairs and other simple enhancements go a long way towards making your eating area more appealing.
9. Find rhythm and ritual. Consistent rituals and rhythms ground us and bring a sense of order and flow to our days. Look for daily, weekly and seasonal rituals in your homemaking, cooking, holidays and everyday living.
10. Nurture your inner home. Create a sacred place in your home to meditate, journal or simply “be.”
Sisters Laura and Alison Forbes are authors, speakers, bloggers, consultants, and co-founders of the home and lifestyle company Inspired Everyday Living. They write and speak about personal development through the home and believe that our homes are connected to all aspects of our well-being and influence all parts of our lives. Therefore, when you change your home, you change your life. They are the authors of The Peaceful Nursery: Preparing a Home for Your Baby and Love at Home: the Singles Guide to Feng Shui and Life Design. They also recently launched the online course Five Practices to Change Your Home & Life. To learn more about Laura and Alison, visit their website , check out their Free Video Series, or follow them on Facebook and Twitter.
Image courtesy of Thomas Wanhoff.