Some years back, I read an article in a magazine about a woman who had created her very own getaway. She had created a sanctuary where she could go and be herself; it was a place where she could rest her soul, and recharge her spirit.
The woman, happily married and living somewhere outside New York City from what I remember, had the financial ability to be able to buy her own apartment physically in New York City. The apartment was featured in the article, and I remember being amazed not so much that she had the wherewithal to buy a space, but more because she’d actually had the guts to do it. From what I remember, it had large windows for wonderful light, a single bedroom, a small kitchen and tiny dining table–just enough for one–and a comfy place to sit near those windows, with shelves of good books and a table to hold writing implements and journals. I remember at least one of the windows as having a window seat.
Imagine having a calm oasis like that, all for your own. How wonderful would it be to have a spot to call your own, where you can rest, relax, and renew? Imagine spending some time every day in a quiet, beautiful, serene space. It would be so good for your spirit!
The other day I was jokingly lamenting that I don’t have a condo in Kailua or an apartment in Paris that I can jet off to when I need a break. I do have my dear friend Sue, who lives in an apartment in Hoboken, and she is always open if I desperately need a getaway. But what do you do if you can’t run away to Hoboken/New York City? What if jetting off to Kailua or Paris is not in the cards?
There are three new Megamillions winners out there in this country for whom this type of sanctuary has become more readily available. While the rest of us can’t afford to hop a jet or buy a space of our own in some far-flung city (or country), there are still things we can do to create a sanctuary, a space, to soothe our ruffled souls.
- The first most important element in a sanctuary is calm. Look over at your nearest flat surface–the table, the bed, the chair. Is it neat and decluttered? Or is it covered with papers, books, and wrappers? Is it clean, or is it dirty or sticky? There is a reason why those gorgeous, glossy interior design magazines never show dirty dishes or paper clutter–it’s not relaxing. It’s not calm. It’s not inviting. Most of us get so used to our clutter, we don’t even see it any longer. However, it still creates chaos in the soul. You might not realize that it is a problem, but if you cleaned up your cluttered table and put things away, you’d probably find yourself physically relaxing at the clean, clear, calm space you’ve created.
- The second most important element in a sanctuary is comfort. Imagine sitting on a comfy, soft, warm couch or chair, one where you can put up you feet and sink in, maybe with a soft blankie on your lap and a book in your hands. Feel your spirit relax? Now imagine sitting on a hard, upright wooden chair, utterly devoid of cushion or comfort. Not very relaxing, is it?
- The third most important element in a sanctuary is beauty. Now you may feel there is little you can do to beautify your space, particularly if you live in a dorm, an apartment, or a mobile home. However, there is always something that you can do to cheer things up. There are some specific bulleted ideas below; the most important thing, however, is to straighten up and make it neat. That’s the first, most important step. You can’t create a pretty setting if the background is a wreck.
- The fourth element to a sanctuary is a space that is electronics-free. You might rebel, but think about it–how calm can you be if you never power down? If you know me IRL (In Real Life), you probably just spit out your tea at the idea of me in an electronics-free zone. After all, I’m the original computer geekette, complete with iPad, iPod Touch, iPod Shuffle, and enough laptops to power three families, let alone one. I’m so bad, I know some HTML and can set up home networks. I can even tell you how much space our computer backup system has (half of one terabyte–and it’s really not enough). All that aside, even I recognize that each of us needs one place where we can let our spirits relax and “power down”. In our family, we have never had, and continue to avoid, television in our bedrooms and living room. The kids don’t need it front and center; neither do we.
Here are some ideas for things you can do to create a calm, soothing space for yourself, in whichever room you choose. Some are quick, some take a bit more time. Are there others that you can think of that I haven’t added here?
- If you can’t paint your walls (and how depressing is “apartment white”, anyway?), you could try hanging beautiful posters or prints on your walls instead.
- Maybe you can’t re-upholster your old couch, but maybe you have a bright, cheerful quilt you can throw over it and tuck in, as an inexpensive and pretty slipcover.
- Brighten up your bed up with a couple throw pillows you reclaim from another room, or even from your couch. If you don’t have any, try the discount bins at any department store (Kohl’s, Wal-Mart, Target, HomeGoods). In New England, the Christmas Tree Shops is chock full of inexpensive cushions and baskets you can use around your house.
- Change your lighting by trading lamps with another room.
- Add or remove a chair, table, or even a footstool; bring in something to replace, or complement, furniture you already have in the room.
- Put up a vase of flowers. They don’t even necessarily need to be fresh flowers, although if you have a garden of your own, that’s easy enough to do. Silk flowers can be absolutely gorgeous, so long as you remember to dust them and don’t let cobwebs grow.
- If you really want to go indulgent, add scent to the room via a room spray or one of those vases with scent sticks. The goal is to enhance, not overwhelm. You want to appeal to your senses, not drive them to distraction.
- Create a “tablescape”, by taking everything off your table, and putting back just a couple pretty, decorative items. You could even show off your collection of ceramic boxes or arrange a pretty stack of magazines or intriguing-looking books. Of course, if you have small children, think very carefully before you put out anything breakable within reach of tiny fingers!
- If you choose to take the time to paint, a gallon or two is a cheap and fairly easy way to change the feel of a room. Look at magazines or online home design websites for ideas of what colors you might like. Houzz.com is my personal favorite. You can even take a picture or torn-out magazine page in to your local paint or hardware store, and they can use it to Colormatch your paint. If you choose to paint, don’t waste your time obsessively masking off everything. Get a really good quality angled brush, and freehand the edges. You’ll be shocked at how fast you can paint if you don’t have to tape it all up first. Your first wall might be a bit uneven, but you’ll get the hang of it pretty quickly. I’ve seen many professionals paint without taping, and it’s not hard to learn at all, if you have a reasonably steady hand.
My two favorite sanctuary spaces in my home are my bedroom, and my living room. There is only so much I can do with the living room, as it’s a more public place, and I have a preschooler. However, I am working on making my bedroom my primary sanctuary. Right now, the biggest issue I’m facing is an adequate back rest, so what when I’m sitting in bed, reading or journaling, I have a comfortable spot that won’t end up giving me a backache.
Today I spent a bit of time clutter-busting my dresser–my continual “hotspot” for clutter–and I made up my bed with my favorite decorative pillows, which lately have been on the floor behind the bedroom door.
There is still more that I can do, but it is a good start at reclaiming a quiet, serene space for myself.
Tonight, when I go to bed a bit early to read, I know that I’ll have a neat, comfortable, relaxing spot to sit; a spot with good lighting and a nice bedside table, complete with a coaster for a mug of tea or milk, my chapstick, and a pen, highlighter, and pencil (since I like to mark up my books).
It is my little place of rest in an otherwise overwhelming world.
Your Monday Challenge is this:
This week, work on finding, or creating, your own sanctuary space at home.
You can go grand and big–is there a garden shed in your yard that is only used for storage? Evaluate it, and see if you can give away, throw away, or move the stuff inside, and create your own little retreat.
Perhaps you have a screened porch that is a haven for junk. Clear it out, and create for yourself a comfortable new spot to relax. You can find old lawn furniture at a second-hand store; clean it up or paint it, add some cushions, and you’ve got beautiful, functional, inexpensive seating. You can also put up some inexpensive curtains, add some prints or mirrors, and even sand and stain the floors or put down some throw rugs. It doesn’t take much to create a wonderful new space to relax. Best of all, you won’t have to build an addition to your home to get it.
If you aren’t blessed with that kind of space, you can always go smaller and intimate. Perhaps your bedroom is your sanctuary. It’s a great space, since you have to be comfortable enough to sleep in there anyway. What can you do to make it even more comfortable? Can you change the bed covers, or move around some furniture or lamps to make it more luxurious? Can you add some throw pillows, or a “bed runner” for some color or elegance? Can you remove the TV, or hide it, so that it isn’t the focus of the room? Maybe you can even swap curtains or shades with another room, to change and enhance the spirit of your own.
Everyone needs a place to rest, relax, recoup, and recharge. Let your own home sanctuary become your place of calm. At the end of a crazy day, you won’t believe how much comfort it will bring you to sink into your space, and let out a big sigh of relief that you made it through yet again.
Aloha, and have a great week!