5 Ways to Create Space for the Things That Really Matter
When you think about ways to create space you might immediately think about your physical environment. Clearing out the clutter is important, and your physical environment definitely impacts your mental well-being. However, you are about more than just your tidy home and a streamlined closet.
Below I’ll share 5 ways to create space in all areas of your life so that you can make room for what really matters to you and find your joy every day! Here we go…
1. Create Space in Your Mind
To create space in your mind is to make room for calm, thoughtful approaches to the people and problems you encounter every day. Creating the space to think quickly and clearly helps you stay focused on your purpose, live your values, and make better decisions. So, how do you achieve and maintain this relaxed, but focused state?
First, you must be intentional about creating this space. Information overload is a real thing in our modern lives and without intentionally unplugging, slowing down, and paying attention to what’s on your mind you’ll continue to be pulled by the myriad distractions and noise. So much of our thinking is really just reacting to input. Set the intention that you will make time to think every day. Making it part of your daily routine will ensure it happens and you’ll begin to look forward to it.
Free Your Mind
Next, you must clear your mind of all the nagging, niggling, worries, to-dos and to-remembers. In order for you to get some clarity, you must free your mind of all the mundane remembering. I capture all of this information in my bullet journal through a “brain dump”. Simply jot down Every. Single. Thing. that’s on your mind or comes to mind during the exercise. By getting all of these things off your mind and onto paper you create the mental space necessary for you to think critically about what’s actually a priority (spoiler: you’ll likely find that much of what makes this list isn’t really important or necessary!). Then, you can review your list and thoughtfully choose what you will react and respond to, or delegate, and when. Knowing your list is safe and sound, and that you can refer to it as needed, is incredibly freeing to your mind.
Finally, cultivate mindfulness – being present on purpose – in your daily life and routines. The website Mindful is a fantastic resource. Mindfulness looks different for everyone but consider how you can be more mindful in your movement, eating, your daily chores, and your relationships. There is no finish line to becoming more mindful. It’s a matter of being open to finding what works best for you and accepting yourself where you are – which is the ultimate act of mindfulness.
2. Create Space in Your Body
We humans have a tendency to hold onto things. And our physical bodies, in particular, hold onto stress, anxiety, trauma, and injuries. These are stored in our bodies, much like memories, and can often begin to manifest as physical symptoms. Headaches, muscle aches and pains, allergies, sensitivities, PMS, etc. can all be physical signs of stress stored in the body.
Many also a believe that your emotional condition plays a role. For example, feelings of resentment and bitterness can lead to pain and inflammation; back pain may indicate a lack of emotional support; and negative feelings like shame, guilt, fear, anxiety, and anger, weaken the body and the immune system.
Are You Stuck?
It’s important for you to recognize where in your body these effects show up. Generally, the effects of chronic stress show up in five areas: jaw/neck, shoulders, lungs, stomach, or pelvic floor/hips. Where is stress “stuck” for you?
Once you identify where in your body you’re holding onto stress or painful emotions, it’s important to develop a physical practice to get “unstuck” and create space in the body for health and healing.
There’s no single, best, one-and-done way to get “unstuck” but I’m a big fan of yoga. The entire purpose of yoga is to create space in the body; to create room for your breath, which is your life energy. Begin slowly and cultivate a practice that replenishes and heals you from the inside out.
Yin yoga is a style of yoga that connects movement with the breath and emphasizes long holds of poses that lengthen the connective tissues that run throughout the body. Yin yoga is more about yielding than doing. When you hold a pose for a length of time and use your breath to support the hold, you’ll eventually be able to allow a softening and opening to take place. You’ll feel this happen in your joints and muscles and it’s a glorious experience! A simple, but consistent, yoga practice will release stress, anxiety, and emotional tension.
See five essential poses below that work the areas where we most commonly hold onto stress.
3. Create Space in Your Environment
The minimalist movement has sparked a craze. Many are opting for smaller homes that are less “decorated” and cluttered and more functional and liveable. I love this quote about how we tend to utilize the space in our homes:
This is true at work too. Recently, an employee of mine asked to have nearly all of the furniture moved from his office. leaving a simple table-style desk and his chair. This is his aesthetic and he knows he performs better, and is more creative, in a space devoid of distractions. Good on him!
So, the ultimate way to make space in your home and work environments is to eliminate everything that isn’t necessary. If you’ve read the works of Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, The Minimalists, you’ll remember their concept of the Packing Party. Basically, you pack up all of your belongings in boxes, like you’re moving, and then only unpack the things you need over the next few weeks. At which time, you likely won’t even remember what’s in the boxes and you can donate or sell their contents. Ryan states that after 21 days, 80% of his stuff was still boxed up.
A Gentler Approach
Does the Packing Party seem extreme to you? (disclosure: makes me want to try it even more!). Well, there are a zillion other ways to approach this process. The important thing to remember here is just to start. If you’re “all-or-nothing”, like me, get to packin’! If you’re a “slow starter” just clear out your kitchen junk drawer. Then another. Then another… Whatever method you decide on, just know, when you choose to approach eliminating duplicate, ugly, and non-functional items from your home it WILL change your life! How you ask?
Creating Space In My Environment Has:
1. Made my days less chaotic. Everything has its place and is (usually!) in its place. Therefore, I don’t have frantic morning rushes trying to decide what to wear or find my keys. Some studies show that people save about an hour a day after a big clutter-clearing.
2. Given me back my weekends. I used to spend most of my Saturday’s cleaning: dusting, organizing, putting things back in their proper place, and washing clothes that had been tossed into piles during my morning fury. It was exhausting. Once I got rid of all the unnecessary stuff, I realized cleaning was a cinch! I never spend more than an hour a week cleaning and that’s the tough stuff like bathrooms.
3. My home is always “guest ready”. I don’t worry about friends or family dropping in because my house is never “a mess” and a spare bed is always clean and available.
4. Allowed me to take risks. When you clear away the clutter you allow yourself to take bigger, more creative risks. You’re no longer living in the past. You’ve eliminated bad memories and broken dreams and made room for the new.
5. Created new, healthier habits. Charles Duhigg talks about how a vacation is a great time to break a habit. The routine and behavioral cues that trigger our habits are removed and you’re free of the temptations that set off a habitual response. It’s the same with decluttering; you remove the triggers when you remove the stuff.
4. Create Space in Your Relationships
Uugghhh! The dreaded line “I just need some space”. Our relationships, particularly our romantic relationships, can be our biggest source of joy. Or, sometimes, they can make us feel like we’ve lost ourselves and we’re suffocating under the weight. Remember the line in “Eat, Pray, Love” when David says to Liz, “How can I miss you if you never go away?”. Yeah, it’s like that.
One of the things I love best about my hubby is that he’s incredibly independent. So am I. So, it works. But, I realize it’s not like this for everyone. That said, I believe to have a healthy, joyful, and long-lasting relationship you have to allow each other to have space.
Time apart really is a good thing. Having separate interests and activities allows you to come back together refreshed and with something to talk about. My husband and I really couldn’t be more different. I’ve set in deer blinds with him and he’s set in ashrams with me. It’s cool. But sometimes you need to do your own thing. And your partner isn’t always going to be into that. It’s not personal and if you love, and respect, the other person you want them to have what makes them happy. They will love and respect you more for it and the old adage, absence makes the heart grow fonder, will play out.
A similar but different space issue in relationships is “holding space” for your loved one. Holding space is about being present with someone. Walking alongside that person without judgment and sharing their journey. Often, we have to let go of our own beliefs to really hold space for another. Allowing your partner to experience whatever it is they’re thinking or feeling can be hard. You want to help; you want to fix it. But giving your attention, rather than trying to influence the situation, will allow your partner to work things out for themselves. This is what therapists do. A therapist never tells you what to do or how to do it. They listen and trust that you already know the answers; they allow you to figure out what you need.
Try holding space for your partner and asking for this space for yourself. Set a regular time to be together and listen to each other in a nonjudgmental way. You’ll notice a less dependent dynamic develop. Instead, you’ll begin to see each other as partners in this life, creating your ideal life together.
5. Create Space in Your Day
Some days seem like we hit the floor running and don’t stop until we fall in to bed “worn slick” as my grandma used to say. When we’re in this loop of busy the first things we tend to skip are the very activities that bring a sense of calm, focus, and help us work more efficiently.
Julia over at Dusky Leaf writes: “Taking the time to focus, unblock energy channels, and breathe deeply decreases stress and helps us to gain and maintain mental clarity and calmness. Looking at the day’s tasks through this lens leads to easier identification of priorities, which means better, more efficient use of time.” Couldn’t have said it better myself, Julia! But, how do you fit it all in you ask?
First, go read my Soulful Simplicity post and learn how to Boycott Busy! This will blow your mind! Next…
Ditch the Guilt
Ditch the guilt and just do it! Reclaim space in your day for YOU! If something is a priority to you, it should get done first, right? Are you a priority in your own life? If not, that’s fodder for another post. If so, then making space each day for your own self-care should be a pleasure; not a guilt-trip inducing activity.
Discipline equals freedom! I choose to make space in my day first thing in the morning. I’ve learned over time that if I don’t do something first thing, it’s less likely to get done as the day wears on. So, creating space for the things that matter to me is part of my morning routine and looks like this:
- Coffee! Always coffee!
- Yoga – I practice Yin Yoga daily. On work days I set aside 20 – 30 minutes in the morning for yoga. On weekend mornings I luxuriate in my routine longer.
- Meditation – I end my yoga every day with meditation. Again, 5 minutes or 30 minutes, doesn’t matter. What’s important is taking the time to set intentions for the day with a clear and focused mind.
- Tidy Up – I hate coming home to a messy house and feeling like I have to start my “second job”. Therefore, I spend about 15 minutes every morning tidying up. I clean up the kitchen, start a load of laundry, pick up the living room, and plan dinner.
- Shower, dress, makeup, hair – you know the drill! This is pretty quick; relaxing soaky baths are reserved for my evening routine.
- Commute – I either listen to an inspiring podcast or, SUPER LOUD 90’s grunge (Eddie Vedder is my hall pass, BTW!). I know, one extreme to the other, again! But, my commute is time alone which I know I need daily.
- Bullet Journal – When I get into my office I spend the first 10 minutes or so with my journal. I do a brain dump if necessary and I plan my most important tasks for the day.
What Really Matters?
Well, that’s up to you! I hope you’ve enjoyed thinking through ways to create space in your day-to-day lives and have some ideas for how to incorporate what really matters to your days and your life. Please tell me about it – I’m interested to hear how you’re creating space!