Physical space, white space, breathing room. Creating space in our home, creating space in our day.
It’s Ali Edward’s one little word for 2018, and it’s been at the forefront of my thoughts lately too. Here are 4 tips for creating space in everyday life.
1. Ditch It
When I first moved to Guatemala, I lived in a house that didn’t have a fridge, a hot shower or a flushable toilet. My first daughter was born, and we moved the couch against the wall to make room for a large basket where we hid plush animals and a xylophone.
That was the toy area.
My second daughter was born. This time, I swore I’d train her to sleep on her own. No more co-sleeping, I decided. I pushed the double bed against the wall and squeezed a huge crib into the bedroom.
The room was so stuffed that in order to walk between the bed and the crib, we had to turn sideways.
Sleep training a baby, I discovered, is not for the faint of heart – especially with a preschooler sleeping in the same room. The crib became a giant laundry basket.
What do they say about hindsight?
If I’d accepted the reality of our situation, if I’d accepted that in this season of life everyone would be happier and better rested if mama just let go of this sleep training idea, then we could have ditched the crib – and in so doing, gained some much-needed space.
2. Get Lost In The Woods
Growing up on a huge plot of land, with a forest to explore and a creek to poke at and endless trees to climb, I assumed the world was big. And it is.
The world is big, but our place in it is small.
What I mean is this: most people don’t grow up with a backyard, a place that is close to, yet distant from, the adult world. I am eternally grateful for this incredible stroke of good fortune that brightened my early days.
Now that I live in a country where wobbly houses are built right on top of each other for lack of a better option, I understand just how lucky I’ve been. Space is not a given.
3. Give And Receive
People often ask me what’s the best way to help those in need.
They want to give shoes. Or clothes. They want to donate to organizations that haul grains onto doorsteps. They want to give money.
I think that other than a job, the greatest gift for people in need is not cash or shoes or bags of rice – it’s land. Money will go quickly, and the bag of rice is only so big. But land enables people to grow food, and that’s a powerful gift indeed.
It’s not an easy gift to give.
Most of the land in our corner of Guatemala is owned by large plantations for export crops such as avocados. Almost 80% of arable land lays in the hands of just 2% of the population. The rest – i.e. what is available to Indigenous farmers – is steep, rocky, and vulnerable to mudslides.
Yet even with very little land, even with a house that may topple over with the next earthquake, people here have the biggest smiles, the warmest hearts.
Actually, come to think of it, the greatest gift we could give ourselves would be an opportunity to learn from them.
It’s difficult, isn’t it?
We schedule meetings, coffee dates, school pickups, mealtimes. We finish breakfast and plan for lunch. We finish lunch and plan for dinner. We hunker down and work.
Is there room in your day for spontaneity?
Is there room for wonder? I wonder.
I remember reading a post by Erin Loechner (from Design For Mankind) about watching the first bird arrive, and how it brought small a momentary joy into her day.
I remember thinking, This. This is what it’s all about – these small, ordinary, fleeting moments that grace our days. Making space doesn’t necessarily mean hours of free time or a peaceful, quiet house.
It means paying attention to details.
We’re good at celebrating the big moments of life (holidays, birthdays) but I believe the real celebrations of life can be found in the everyday – the flap of wings, the angle of the morning sun.
CREATING SPACE: MY CONCLUSION
Creating space has a different meaning for everyone. For me, it means paying attention. It means sharpening our senses and actively searching out wonder. In practical terms:
- Letting the kids play for a second in order to glance beyond them out the window.
- Listening to individual instruments when a favourite song is playing.
- Stepping out the door once the house is quiet to drink up the stars.
Being aware of the bigger picture isn’t always easy. I read somewhere that some things are hard to see because they take up the whole sky. The world is big, but our place in it is small.
I’d rather not befriend hindsight. When it comes right down to it, the birds will always fill the sky. The sunlight will slant just so in the morning, and the plants will lean over to catch it. The world is full of wonder, patiently waiting for us to notice.