I don’t know if there has ever been a time in the history of the world when it has been MORE important to create peaceful, calm places of rest and replenishment within the walls of our own homes.
This hasn’t come naturally to me, and it’s still a work in process, but today I’m sharing a few high-level ideas that have inspired me. I hope they will help you, too!
I’ve put them into a sequence that I think will make sense—even if your life and schedule feel unwieldy or you’ve been struggling with anxiety and discouragement. (We get it.)
But I want you to know that it is 100% possible to make a house, an apartment, or even a single bedroom into a place of calm. I’m going to reference a lot of resources in this post–I didn’t want to leave you hanging–but you probably don’t need them all. Just pick your favorites. 🙂 Let’s dive in!
(1) Start with the physical clutter, and go room by room.
I know, I know…. You might be thinking, “That takes too much time” or “I’ve already tried that,” but all of the other steps will feel harder if you’re moving clutter around in circles all day long.
My FAVORITE book on this is called It’s Here…Somewhere.* I read it back in 2000, and it radically changed my life.
Here at LearnDoBecome, we have lots of resources to support you, as well. Here are a few:
- Our Free One-Hour Training, “How to Finally Stop Drowning in Piles”—it has been viewed by HUNDREDS of thousands of people, and make sure you sign up, if you’re new here!
- How to Declutter the Whole House in One Month—a podcast and post we created when we were getting ready to move a few years ago.
- Clean-A-Drawer Challenge—this shows you step-by-step how to get a drawer (and really, any space) organized, and it comes with an audio training.
- Closet Clean-Out—I recorded this inside my closet, while I was cleaning it. I’ll show you what kinds of “organizing problems” are keeping you stuck and how to get past them.
This process of clearing your space of clutter is amazing, but it’s just the beginning.
(2) Learn how to discipline with love.
I grew up with really patient parents, but when children came into OUR home, I was fit to be tied. I found myself snapping, yelling, and feeling so frustrated, and as more children joined the family, I thought, “My calm life is over.”
But here’s the thing—it wasn’t that I was a defective mother. It’s just that I didn’t have parenting skills yet.
One internal commitment I made was to always speak to our children as though we had a guest over who was listening to me. (I didn’t want to be one version of myself in public and a different person in private….)
And then here are a few of my favorite parenting resources:
- Positive Parenting Solutions* (got the course from Amy McCready back in 2008, I think?) Soooooo good.
- Book: Siblings Without Rivalry*—it has fun comic strips throughout the book with a variety of common parenting scenarios.
- Post from Power of Moms: Books and Charts to Stop the Fighting—it shows our discipline chart that worked for YEARS.
- Book: Parenting with Love and Logic*—super encouraging philosophy on managing family dilemmas with creativity.
- The “Yes, I’d Love To” Jar—we started this years ago and still use the concept today.
If you have to pick one, get Amy’s course (we’re affiliates, and it’s because her course transformed my life). But honestly, investing in parenting skills isn’t something you do if you’re a loser. It’s something you do if you want a home that is a sanctuary.
(3) Create family routines that support your goals.
Are there things in your home that drive you crazy? Here are a few things that we’ve struggled with:
- Shoes/backpacks/coats left all over the house
- Toys on the stairs/all over the place
- Dishes left out, food all over the floor, kids eating in every room
- Sneaking screens
- Sneaking candy
- Forgetting to do homework
- Taking other family members’ things without asking
- Complaining when asked to do something
- Messy bedrooms
You get it, right?
Here’s what we did.
Eric and I have a Weekly Planning session, and we prioritize the issues that are driving us crazy the MOST. We can only pick one or two at a time….
Then we brainstorm ways we can create systems that support our goals of a clean and tidy home, the wise use of screens, healthy diets, good grades, calm and kind interactions, mutual respect, helpfulness, etc.
Here are some of the solutions we’ve created alongside our children:
- Practice sessions for children who leave things all over the place. We had them do the routine over and over again (maybe 20 times coming in the door with their backpack and shoes on and showing us the right way to put things away) until it became a habit. (We kept it lighthearted.)
- “Zone” cleaning at the end of each day, where each family member is responsible for coordinating the cleaning of one room. (They don’t have to CLEAN it. They just have to make sure people put their own things away.)
- A family dinner clean-up routine—posted on a chart in the kitchen with specific jobs for each person.
- Limits on screens, sugar, and privileges for anyone who was sneaky.
- Puppet Show Role-plays and an “I’d Love to Jar”
This is a constant work in process, but we’ve found that our children aren’t trying to ruin our lives…. We just need to lovingly create a structure that works for all of us.
(4) Make a Command Central for all your tasks so you can turn off your brain.
I learned how to declutter in 2000. But I didn’t learn how to build a Command Central until 2008. For those 8 years, I LOOKED organized, but my mind never turned off. I always felt like there were a million things to do, and I had a hard time focusing, enjoying my children, being present with ANYONE, and moving any big projects forward.
Once my Command Central was built, however, I felt a sense of calm I didn’t even know existed.
Here’s a photo of my first one—and my current one:
I won’t go into detail here because we have tons of resources on the site that talk about the Command Central, but feel free to check out our podcast about “A Command Central on Every Desk.” That will show you why our system is totally different and why you need one, too.
(5) Create boundaries and prioritize self care.
Oh goodness, I could go on and on about this topic. I used to think that a “good person” was a people pleaser. I have since learned that there are times we need to sacrifice for the good of the whole family / community / world, but living a draining, frustrating, anger-inducing life isn’t a gift to humanity.
Eric has been my champion in this whole process, and while I am not quite where I want to be, things are SO much better than they were before.
Here are my best suggestions:
- Book: Boundaries by Henry Cloud*—this was an eye-opener for me. It’s very Bible-based, so if you’re not Christian, I still recommend you read it, but just know that there are lots of scriptural references throughout.
- Course/Membership: Boundaries.Me by Henry Cloud—I pay a low monthly fee to get access to all his videos and a Facebook group. Listening to his calm perspective and advice has changed the way my brain reacts to stress. I highly recommend it!
- Take one day a week just for you! I have a podcast about that with an accompanying worksheet here.
- Make time to read. SOOOOO important. We have two podcasts on this (Part 1 & Part 2), as well as an Amazon store of our favorite books.*
(6) Create moments.
There’s this place called The Magic Castle Hotel that gets RAVE reviews, even though it is old, kind of run down, and has a really tiny pool. Chip and Dan Heath talk about it in their book, The Power of Moments.*
WHY is the hotel so beloved by its guests? They create moments there. For example, they have a popsicle hotline, accessed by a red phone by the pool. When you pick it up, a voice on the other end says, “Hello, Popsicle Hotline!” You tell them which flavor you want, and it’s delivered to you by the pool on a silver platter—by a hotel employee wearing white gloves. How awesome is THAT?
So how do we do this in our homes?
My mother-in-law gave me great advice on this. She simply told me to “be available.”
Each evening after dinner, she would go into the living room (that didn’t have a TV) and just sit with the newspaper or a magazine. She said the children would gravitate to her and start talking about their day. I’ve done this ever since she told me about it, and that one idea alone totally works.
We’ve done some other things that are fun, too…
- Disco lights* when we clean the kitchen
- “Window Sandwich” (the kids made up the name), where we open a front or side window and pretend it’s a restaurant.
- “We Love to Be a Family Day”—a holiday every February where we make a map and do fun activities together.
- Morning snuggles—my room “opens” at a specific time each day, and that’s when the children come in, jump onto the bed (with our dog), and we watch funny (clean) videos together.
The great part is that once your home is decluttered, you’ve got the discipline and routines down, your Command Central is in place, and you’ve got boundaries and self-care going strong, you FEEL like creating awesome moments. It’s no longer something you feel guilty about doing. You just want to go play catch in the backyard. You get out lotion, candles, and soft music and give your family members foot massages. You have campfires in the backyard, dance parties in the kitchen, and “homemade salsa” nights made from tomatoes grown in the backyard.
I used to doubt my ability to do this. Eric and I had to work to get on the same page. (We still do sometimes!) I had lots of health problems over the years. (Still do sometimes!) Our children don’t always do what we want them to do. We drive each other crazy more often than we’d like. And random things sometimes happen—like a worldwide pandemic—that throws a wrench into all our plans.
But the point of all of this is to encourage you to see that there are things you can DO—most of which are totally free and don’t take that much time—to make your home into that sanctuary you’ve been craving. And it is SO worth the effort.
LearnDoBecome Challenge: Identify just ONE thing you can do today to make your home environment more calm and peaceful. (Share your commitment in the comments!)