January is one of my favorite months of the year. After all the Christmas decorations have been put away, my spaces feel lighter and calm. The trees outside are bare, the schedule is less busy, and it seems as if there is more room to breathe. All is pared down. This season affords the opportunity for clean slates in our homes, our priorities, and our schedules.
At the beginning of the year, the Nester wrote a wonderful post about quieting your home or “hushing the house”. The thought is that you remove everything from a room, allow it breathe for days and only add back in a few things that you love and that are necessary. You are making space for evaluation, change and prioritizing.
“Everything in your room has a voice. Some voices are louder than others–if you have a bright red mirror its voice is louder than the white candle that sits on your dresser, but both have a voice and take up visual, physical and even emotional space in your room. Kept unchecked, over time, most of us add things in but never take the time to purposely remove stuff from our house. Quieting your space removes all those voices in a room and the cute decorative stuff that you’ve become house-blind to will need to prove its worth its voice before it comes back in.”
Quieting your space is a fantastic concept, and I believe that we can translate this design principle to quieting our cluttered souls.
How do we hush our lives, both the internal landscape of the soul and external pressure of the schedule from the outside voices that are loud, demanding and taking up precious space in our lives?
Are we living unchecked, adding things to our souls + schedules but never taking the time to remove drama, burdens, and activities that drain us?
Quieting your soul means removing all of those “voices” and activities and evaluating each one before being they are allowed back in.
Here are some ways to quiet your life and make space for what you love and for what is important:
1. Quiet Your Relationships.
Do we say that our marriage and family relationships are the most important thing when in reality our time is being spent focused on others outside of our four walls? Are there other relationships that you give your emotional and creative best to instead of to them? Friends, ministry, co-workers, small group, extended family, online relationships? Do your phone, social media, and texting receive your relational energy, your humor, your wisdom more than the ones in your midst? Are you absorbing the negativity, complaining, discontent and issues of others and allowing it to rob you of your joy, your focus, and your God-given priorities? Are you following people on Instagram or blogs that stir up comparison, shame, impulsive shopping or spiritual performance?
Take a season (this can be as short as a day and as long as months) to “quiet your relationships” to make sure that you are putting the most important relationships first and then, allow back in social events, friendships, service in church/community, and your phone presence with clear and honest boundaries about your availability and energy. Spend time with those who are teachable, growing, and honor your energy and time, and make sure that you do the same for others. Follow others online who feed your soul and your growth in freedom, grace, rest, gratitude and joy.
2. Calm the Calendar.
The calendar is the greatest indicator of where we are giving our energy. Where are your time and energy flowing? Make a list of everything that your family does outside of the home. Which ones cause tension, stress and take more than they actually give? Are there some that were perfect for you for years but no longer fit this current stage of life? Taking a season to step back, say no, and evaluate extracurricular activities, service commitments, and standing social engagements is incredibly clarifying and eye-opening. You know that exhale you have the week after Christmas when you feel like you are living “outside of time” because the calendar is clear? It’s the feeling of margin, of long hours with no place to be, of lingering conversation.
You can calm your calendar for a weekend, a full week, a month, even a semester. Allow some space to see how you and your family feels without the demand of a full schedule and only allow back in the activities and spaces that are sustainable, meaningful, and nurture joy + growth.
3. Minimize your mornings.
I know, I know. Many time-management gurus say to maximize your mornings. Get up early, hit the plan hard, crank out the most that you can. When choosing a season of quieting your life, I think that minimizing your mornings is a key to finding rest, space, and clarity. I have been allowing myself more sleep. A slower start. A lingering in Scripture, in reading, in sipping a hot drink. I keep my calendar cleared of morning appointments as much as possible. I am dressing cute but comfortable. I am seeking to stay off social media and emails before noon.
I am minimizing pushing hard, striving to get ahead, busyness, social media distractions and instead, maximizing presence, clear thinking, reflection.
These choices are allowing my soul to declutter, to find room to repent, reorient and choose the better path for the rest of my day. Without distractions, our spirits can hear the whispers of the One who longs to be heard. The seasons for busier mornings and higher productivity will inevitably return, but it’s important to cultivate rhythms of quieting, of emotional space, of recalibrating the focus of our souls.
This is the perfect time of year for evaluation, prioritizing and healthy change. We have the opportunity in deep winter to make some space for our souls to quiet, to listen, to rest, and to heal. The productivity of Spring and Summer are right around the corner, seasons known for higher energy, output, and fruit. Tend and prune your life now in this bare winter space. Give yourself permission to pull back, discern, and then add back in the beautiful relationships, activities, and routines that make for a rich, meaningful life. A life lived on purpose and by grace, rest, and the Spirit.