Depending on how quickly and unrelenting life unfolds, utter chaos can be lurking close by. Writing as a city-dwelling, stay-at- home mother of three energetic boys, and one who strives to fully live into the roles of partner-sister- daughter-neighbor- friend-congregant- volunteer-etc. this is simple fact. For me at times (and perhaps for some of you as well) refocus and calm feels eons away. So I devised a personal rhythm of several small, intentional motions to bring myself (or my children, or my home) back into alignment, even when all else gives way.
All my life, I’ve liked everything in its right place. I have, in the past, described myself as a “clean freak” but I no longer think I accurately fit that description. I’m no Martha Stewart. I mean, there’s a correct way to fold sheets? Hmph. I usually just ball ‘em up and that’s that. And a deep spring clean comes closer to summertime for me – even then, windows and baseboards are optional. So I more recently assessed that I’m not a “clean freak” as much as I just like things in their designated spot for the sake of convenience and simplicity.
Now to make things spicier: enter small children. For sure, there are things I just need to be OK with letting go for the sake of my children knowing and experiencing their mom’s presence – it’s been a 9-year journey to understand and embody this concept. But as life would have it, sometimes a cleaning is not just re-centering, but necessary. This is where 10-minute cleaning – or more commonly known in my home as “Tornado Cleaning” – comes into play. The convergence of cleaning and children – it’s a thing of beauty!
The concept is simple: everyone pitches in and takes ten minutes to clean up as much as possible. Any toys on the floor are tossed into their bin. Any books on the couch go back on the shelf. A load of laundry is thrown into the washer, or folded and put away. A sink full of dishes gets quickly washed up. Window sills get dusted. Whatever needs cleaning, everyone takes 10 minutes to get a little more on top of the never-ending chore-load. I like to turn up some high-energy jams and the kids delve right in, eager to help, eager to beat that timer and outdo one another in acts of cleanliness.
The purpose of this is to obtain a sense of accomplishment in a short span of time, and to know that everyone pitched in. You could make it 20 or 30 minutes if you feel like that would allow for more efficiency, but the idea is to set a time limit for motivation’s sake; it’s amazing what one can do with the pressure of a timer winding down!
Chaos can encroach during work or play. As someone who has her children nearby most days, I’ve learned to employ music as a means of calming and re-centering, not just the kiddos, but myself. More specifically for children, there are several YouTube channels to help this effort, including Relaxing Music for Children and this channel that has an 8-hour loop of quiet piano and rainfall. I turn on the channel, but leave the computer screen off, so the entire house is flooded with soft melody for a long stretch of time. I also love Elizabeth Mitchell and, more recently, Kira Willey’s Mindful Moments for Kids. These are engaging and whimsical tunes – some of which incorporate mindful breathing and meditation – that resonate with the children, and even with me! Win-win.
Music is a powerful force, so if things start getting hairy in the home, try tuning into a musical pallet that’s quiet, rhythmic, and brings ease to the occasional wave.
Open the windows
Opening the windows is a seemingly insignificant motion, but it is one that I absolutely thrive off. In Wisconsin, there is a wintry chasm from about November to March where opening windows is not really comforting or practical, but for the other stretch of the year, I say go for it as often as possible. Nothing is as magically refreshing as a balmy current whispering through the house. In spring, it’s the cascading scent of budding lilacs and pear blossoms dancing on that breeze, and nothing awakens me more from stuffy hibernation than that. In fall, it’s the scent of changing leaves and the slightly cooler bite that’s welcomed after a humid summer.
Bottom line: if you can open your windows, open ‘em wide! It will do everyone’s minds and emotions a favor.
Light a Candle
When I need a bit of space from the everyday hum, I try to get a 10-20 minute slot of alone time in my room or in the nook at the back of my house which has been dubbed “The Peaceful Corner.” During this alone time, I read, meditate, pray – and almost always light a candle. There is something extraordinary and sacred about lighting a flame – the way it illuminates and warms and dances on the edge of the wick. I use it as a signifier to the beginning of my alone time and blow it out upon completion, along with any stress I felt wrapping up inside my chest and head.
I try very hard to keep things minimalistic in this house. It’s been a five year journey, and I still have much to learn, but I optimistically press on. Every so often, if I feel that we have extra toys, clothes, bedding, or collected hotel toiletries, I do a mini-purge. I crack out a box from the attic and fill it up with things that either a) I have no use for or b) no longer fill me with joy. It’s another one of those small practices, but one that exponentially calms. I usually try to find family or friends who might need or want anything in the box, but if there are no takers, I do a quick run to Goodwill.
“Nothing bad will happen”
One last thing I do when things are in a state of upheaval is calmingly declare the following phrase over myself: “Nothing bad will happen.” I usually cap it off with “… if I don’t wash those dishes right now” or “… if the laundry isn’t folded tonight” or something to that effect. I used to be so consumed with needing things in their right place that I would fret and not even be able to go to sleep if the sink was full of dishes. But now, I can free myself from that. Ultimately, it’s about what is best for me and my spirit.
Will it make me feel better to wash those dishes right that instant, or would it be better to go to sleep early and reset my mind, heart, and body in a deeper way? Saying “nothing bad will happen” is a way to put myself before the chores; to give myself permission, as it were, to pour into myself before pouring out to the chores that really don’t need immediate attention.
How do you find small ways to re-center yourself throughout the day and bring a sense of calm to your home?
Life is full of demands. No matter where you are in your journey, everyone should have effective, calming tools to help save the day and keep stress away.
Emili mostly spins the plates of motherhood, marriage, and intentional city-dwelling. When she’s not homeschooling (unschooling? freeschooling? whatever…) her uniquely lovable – and unruly – three boys, she is reading and writing poetry, working as a birth doula, composting, kombucha-ing, practicing her guitar, and attempting to learn French. She is passionate about minimalism (although she does have a penchant for Ball jars and pretty China plates from thrift stores) and she aspires to find the simple beauty peppered throughout the mundane. She feels most connected to God when in nature and will do whatever is necessary to spend at least a handful of mindful minutes outside, barefoot, each morning – even with Wisconsin snow on the ground.