One Home Mistake You Don’t Know You’re Making

Cozy Minimalist

You know how sometimes you’re hungry for something but you just don’t know what? Or your foot itches but you cannot, for the LOVE, find the exact spot to scratch it?

About a year ago, that’s how I felt about my sunroom at. Something was UP with this room. I knew it was wrong. I didn’t know how to fix it.

The office Before

If you want to know the truth, I carried no small amount of shame about this room when it looked like this. It’s remarkable how creative shame can get with us – never daring to show up blatantly and announce he wants to steal our sense of self-confidence and personhood.

Instead, shame whispers failure to us when we look at the diaper changing table we bought at Babies-R-Us 12 years ago that we now use as a dresser in our sunroom.

Or he taunts us when we realize we have tried exactly 80 different combinations of plants, photo frames and trays on said changing table and can’t figure out why none of it looks quite right so we must just not be very good at styling things.

Instead of seeing it all for what it is – a room with lovely bones that is difficult to style because it has doors and windows on every wall – I saw myself as a failure every time I walked in this room.

It wasn’t glaring. It wasn’t obvious. I was hardly aware of that low-grade sense of failure at all, actually. But it was always there.

Around spring of last year, my sister designed a course called Cozy Minimalist and because she’s my sister, I signed up and took the course. I thought I would learn a few tips about house stuff, but nothing I didn’t already know. I mean seriously guys, my sister is The Nester. I have no excuse not to know house stuff, right?!

She challenged us to pick one room of our house as we went through the course so I picked my sunroom as it was the only room left that I just didn’t know what to do with. I had kind of given up on it, actually. It felt beyond help.

Sunroom Before

See? I had tried to put this little sofa everywhere but the ceiling in this room and finally I just gave up and left it here, like an awkward middle schooler at her first school dance. A sofa should say come sit on me! but this one just said Pay no attention to the sofa in the corner. 

During the first module of the course, The Nester gave us an assignment – quiet the room.

Basically you just take everything out of the room and off the walls except the major furniture.

After that first assignment, something happened that made all the difference for me.

Quieting the room brought quiet in my soul.

It shushed the voice of shame.

Until that moment, standing in my quiet sunroom, I hadn’t realized how loud shame had been in my mind and heart. I hadn’t realized how hard I had been working to ignore that voice. I hadn’t known I wasn’t free until I quieted the room and listened in the silence.

The mistake I didn’t realize I had been making in my home was letting shame boss me around.

For a week, I lived with the room quiet just like The Nester said to do. I couldn’t believe the power of a quiet room. It gave me permission to begin again.

What do I really love and what am I keeping out of obligation?

Why am I afraid of color and texture? 

What purpose do I really want this room to serve for me and for my family?

All of these questions and more I was finally able to answer. And each module of the course walked me through them.

sunroom after

I’m sharing this with you today because I don’t think I’m the only woman who has carried a low-grade sense of shame about my home.

The truth is, we have enough to fight against in this world. Our homes should be the last place on earth where we feel shame.

If there is even one singular room in your house right now that you feel a sense of shame about when you walk into it, maybe it will be worth it to you to take The Nester’s Cozy Minimalist class, too.

The course closes tomorrow (Thursday January 20) at midnight. But you can buy it now and go through it at your own pace. And if you’re a mom with kid clutter you don’t know what to do with, she has another course just for that topic. You can find both courses here – choosing just one or both.

For what it’s worth, my sunroom office went from being my least favorite room in the house to my most favorite room in the house and all it took was a change in perspective. I’m grateful to The Nester for helping me see my room with new eyes and, in turn, helping to release me from unnecessary shame.

sunroom after

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For When Christmas Brings Mixed Emotions

emily p freeman

Last week, my daughter held an ornament and stared at the Christmas tree in front of her, but her gaze fell somewhere beyond it. “It feels like last year again. I mean, I remember exactly what I was doing this time last year.”

“Last year” for her was fifth grade. Each year her memory bank grows ever more full. And though I’m sure I would envy the list of things she was doing this time last year — making up stories, imagining middle school, being 10 — I also remember what I was doing this time last year.

It came back to me a couple of weeks ago when I took a sip of my first peppermint latte of the season.

Some of us would give anything to go back to this time last year.

Others of us would give anything to forget.

Today at (in)courage, I’m sharing How to Remember When You’d Rather Forget. Join me there?

Let’s Keep Tuesday Simple: More Heart, Less Hurry

Last weekend, I happened to see something that almost always slips by me unnoticed.

I was leaving my mother-in-law’s house after spending the evening with her, my two sisters-in-law, and two long-time friends. We had a lovely girls night complete with fruit, goat cheese, chocolate, and a movie John would never watch with me. It was perfect.

Girl Food

As I got in my car and glanced down at my dashboard, I noticed the speedometer was at the 80,000 mile mark.

In fact, it read 80,001.

I guess it was a big milestone in the life of a car, another 10K miles under the hood.

But these literal milestones on my car usually pass by unnoticed. I don’t plan for them or wait for them. They don’t seem to be the kind of thing to celebrate.

When I thought back over the last 24 hours, I realized we had spend most of our time within the two square miles around our house. Most of the places I drive are regular, familiar destinations close to home.

Simply Tuesday by Emily P Freeman

Even though each of these small-moments over time have added up to 80,001 miles on my car, we don’t always have such an obvious way to mark the milestones when it comes to our lives.

I’m learning the importance of noticing the moments of my real life by saying no to hustle and yes to heart.

Tuesday has been my greatest teacher.

Because if the light of a Tuesday morning candle isn’t bright enough to light the room, a spotlight won’t be either.

If the home where we live on Tuesday doesn’t satisfy, we’ll find ourselves always searching but never quite finding.

If the work we do on Tuesday doesn’t feel important, we’ll find ourselves slaves to comparison, forgetting compassion.

If the people we live our lives with now aren’t sacred companions for us, we’ll find ourselves competing with everyone and connecting with no one.

If our souls long for more and bigger and refuse the Tuesday way, how will we ever fully share in the life of Christ who became less and arrived small?

My newest book, Simply Tuesday, officially releases in the US today.

Simply Tuesday

The last time I released a book, I had a full travel schedule around the time it came out. For some authors that works beautifully – but for me it led to a frantic feeling of rush and an inability to focus and be fully present.

This time I decided to stay close to home during book launch week which seems fitting for a book about smallness.

These days I’m careful not to color the word “small” in negative shades, as if it were something to run from or escape. I want to start small because I’m human and dependent, not in hopes that my small will grow into something bigger.

Jesus will give me the grace to stay there even when it hurts and even when it’s hard.

Small things don’t always turn into big things. But all things begin small, especially in the Kingdom of God.

Small things don't always turn into big things, but all things begin small. Especially in the kingdom of God.

Acorns become oak trees.

Embryos become President.

Life starts with a breath.

Love starts with hello.

Tuesday reminds me to accept the beauty of smallness, hiddenness, and the secret work of Christ in the deepest part of who I am.

So let’s take back quiet conversation with friends, whispered prayer over sick babies, belly laughter around the dinner table.

Let’s take back the honor of small donations, small care packages, and small movements toward fellow image-bearers because love isn’t measured in inches, grand gestures, or dollar amounts.

Let’s take back moments that are lovely even if they are imperfect, words that are powerful even if only one person hears them, company that is meaningful even when we don’t say any words at all.

Let’s take back our Tuesdays, the smallest day of the week. Because this is where we live and where our people live. Let’s release our obsession with building a life and trust in the life Christ is building within us, one small moment at a time.

Freeman_SimplyTuesday_3D

I’m so excited this book is finally available (at least here in the US!)

Would you like help in taking back your own Tuesdays? Here are a few simple ways:

Pick up your copy of Simply Tuesday wherever books are sold in the US:  AmazonBarnes and NobleCBDDaySpring, or anywhere else you can find it.

Sign up here today for a free, four-video series we made for you where I will share practical ways to help you create space for your soul to breathe, even in the midst of your busy life.

Join us every Tuesday on Instagram and share a simple moment from your regular life. Hashtag it using #itssimplytuesday so we can see your moment and celebrate our smallness together.

Happy Tuesday, friends.

One Way to See Your World Differently

This week, I practice the words of Macrina Wiederkehr and I’m “leaving my head for a while on a journey to my heart.” I’m always surprised how I’ve lost the way but my Father knows and brings me home again.

Hilton Head, SC

Sometimes the journey to the heart takes a different path than I expect. I would do well to move to the rhythm of the moment rather than try so hard to find familiar landmarks. Perhaps my Father wants to show me a new way.

The anxiety that comes on vacation is real – This is your chance to relax and recharge so you better make the most of it! says the world. We have our ideas of what vacation ought to do, what our money ought to buy, as if a destination could give us the kind of peace our soul most longs for.

All vacations are not created equally. A house with 14 people is not a spiritual retreat. (I’ll share more about that this weekend). It’s good to know what this time is for – for joy, for play, for reconnection with my people. What a gift.

family

So this week I’m keeping the laptop (mostly) closed and instead I’m posting a lot on Instagram because it’s the prettiest medium around and I can take it with me. One way to see things differently is to take a picture of it. I know that sounds weird, but something happens in the framing, in the kneeling down for a better view.

While it’s possible to miss moments because of too much documenting, I think the bigger danger is in not recording them at all.

Over the years, taking photos has become a kind of remembering, a kind of worshiping God in a new way, if that’s not too weird to say. Writing helps me think better and photos help me see better. These days, Instagram is a place where I learn to see. You can follow me there (emilypfreeman) where I record moments of the days as they happen, write a word or two or even a few lines of reflection.

emily p freeman instagram

I have some favorites I follow on Instagram as well – @thenester, @gracelaced, @myorangepocket, @benjaminhole. So many others. Actually maybe I’ll share more of those on purpose soon and ask for your favorites, too. I have so many favorites and I’d love to find more. We can learn so much from each other.

When I’m not on vacation, these posts come 2-3 times a week. Want them to slip quietly into your inbox? Simply sign up with your email address here and be sure to click “blog posts.” Don’t want weekly emails but still want a little help to create space in your soul? Choose the option for “The Bench” and you’ll receive a letter from me only once a month. Or you can, of course, choose both.

Because June is as Good as January for Setting an Intention

Hopefully everything you read here will help to create space for your soul to breathe, no matter if I write it or if I invite someone else in. That’s why I’m happy to welcome Claire Diaz-Ortiz to the blog today. I love Claire’s gentle reminder that you don’t have to wait until January to be intentional about your life. Here’s one simple way to do that today.

Like most of us, I want to be happier. Whether it’s waking up with more spark or going to bed more satisfied with my day, I want to open my life to the opportunity for greater joy.

As such, I love to read books about happiness. Gretchen Rubin has written a few of those, and in one of them she recommends a small, powerful idea that has taken hold to become a big, strong force in my own life.

The Importance of Setting an Intention

That idea is to choose a word each and every year that represents the year you have in front of you. Rather, to choose a word for your year. (Oh, and take a cue from Gretchen: years don’t need to start in January.)

Choose one single word that imbues the type of year you wish to have, one word that can serve as a guidepost for what you want in the season to come. A singular word you can always harken back to in moments of darkness and doubt. One word that informs your decisions, crystalizes your passions and priorities, and embodies you—the new you!—in the months ahead.

Depending on the type of year you seek, there are many words that can do the trick. Words like Move, Pause, Breathe, Dance, Less, Family, Health, Travel, and Choose all hold a certain special sauce.

The guidelines are simple. The word can be a verb or a noun. It can be a long word or a short word. But it is key that the word brings together everything you fervently hope to live and breathe in the year to come. One word to inform and synthesize the year you have ahead of you. One word to mean everything you want the year to be, and one word that will help serve as a guiding light when times get tough and you’re not clear on where your priorities are.

A few years ago, my word of the year was Rest.

It was a word that meant the world to me in that season of my life. I was harried and overwhelmed from a few too many years of corporate globetrotting, and I needed a daily reminder to do less. And so I did.

Although my Rest might not have been as restful as the Rest that some might be able to enjoy (I saw nary a beach that entire year), my word still served as a key force in getting me to slow down. It helped me to make decisions, and to keep in mind what was really important when difficult choices arose.

Should I go to that social event—or stay home? Should I say yes to what could be a great opportunity, or pass it up to wait for something better to come along? Should I travel to that work meeting—or call into it instead?

When life and work calls for us to be busy, it is hard to slow down. However, by attempting to make this word forefront in my mind, I sought to make small strides that would lead to notable changes and positive transformation. I knew I wouldn’t be perfect. I knew I would never get it 100 percent. But I did know that by setting the intention, I could make some progress.

In the end, I did. And you can, too. Set a word now, and watch your year rise up to take shape around it.

51be5Z-MwOLClaire Diaz-Ortiz is an author, speaker and Silicon Valley innovator who was an early employee at Twitter. Named one of the 100 Most Creative People in Business by Fast Company, she holds an MBA and other degrees from Stanford and Oxford and has been featured widely in print and broadcast media.

She writes a popular blog at ClaireDiazOrtiz.com and is the author of several books. The above is an excerpt from her latest book, The Better Life: Small Things You Can Do Right Where You Are.