let your home be your canvas

As we continue to consider the new year we now stand in, The Nester has turned the conversation about goals around to the home. I have a strange and fickle relationship with my home. It brings me a great sense of comfort – family, love, holidays, normal days, the kids toys, my pillow. I write from home, so I can walk into nearly any room and remember – there in the dining room was where I sat and labored over chapter 6, and then wrote it all at once in a flurry of inspiration. There in that chair at our Kmart kitchen table is where I cried in the middle of chapter 11, because I realized again that God is real and he want us to know it. For me, the rooms matter. The colors and the lighting matter. And putting energy and time into making home is a great joy for me.

But. Home can also be my greatest source of shame. When I have ideas to pretty her or to clean her, sometimes it seems I stop just short of making a real difference. Even though we just had a huge yard sale in October, it seems I all of a sudden have piles of things I no longer want or need. Why does this always happen?! And immediately the critical voice pipes in – Hey you there with all your January intentions – I know you want to be more organized, but it’s impossible. So give up already.

Shame doesn’t have to speak too loud. A whisper when I open the junk drawer is enough – failure. And I grab the gum I’m looking for and chew it hard and angry, wishing I could get a handle on that drawer but believing the voice of shame instead – impossible.

And so my goal for my home this year? I want to change the voice I listen to. And I want to change my mind about “organized.” I don’t want to just get rid of stuff in order to be organized, I want to get rid to make room for something else. Namely, the art.

I believe this year will be one of creativity, of daring to let go of the burden of my own insecurities and allow God to uncover the imprint of his image on me. It is easy to compartmentalize goals and to think that this pull I have toward making art this year is unrelated to the desires I have for my home. But I think that would be a mistake.

Thinking of it this way changes the conversation for me. When my stuff is cleared out, my head is cleared out, too. If I think of it as a clearing out for clearing outs sake, I will lose steam, and fast. But if I think of my home as a canvas for the art I want to create, well that’s another thing altogether. I want to make time and space for the art, and that means getting rid of some scissors.

As we think about the coming year, it is good to remember that January is no different from November. That worry and fatigue and the ever dreaded funk will show up in even in the middle of the best intentions. It helps me to remember Natalie Goldberg, who made it a goal to write everyday. But also said, if she doesn’t meet that ideal, she is “careful not to pass judgement or create anxiety” because no one lives up to their ideals. We don’t have to live up to them perfectly. But it helps to have them. Thanks to my sister for giving me the opportunity to think this one through.


  1. says

    Beautifully written Emily. And that, is the point.
    I have found writing takes a lot of room – even in the physical.
    Much love and peace as you work on your manuscripts.

  2. says

    Sometimes I think you can get in my head. Because what you just wrote here? Well, it’s something I struggle with also. I have some goals in mind, but I’m afraid to publish them for all to see because I’m afraid of failure. I will say scripture and Jeanne Winters’ book are my inspiration this year. Thank you for the encouragement yet again.

  3. says

    Oh oh oh this is my world! Thank you for always being transparent and honest–it’s so refreshing in a world of Happy Mommy Blogs. I think we are always harder on ourselves then anyone else.

  4. says

    Hmmm. Some real food for thought here.

    I tend to think along these lines. . . “If I’m going to create art, I probably need more scissors!” And then I’ve created a scissor collection, but still no art.

    Thank you for feeding my mind AND my soul. I’ve got some chewing to do!

  5. says

    wow. post after post today are about people and their inability to be perfect. loving it. makes me like myself better to know i’m not the only one. thanks, emily. for reminding us that january is no different from any other month.

  6. says

    Well said! I never feel like anything is enough: organized enough, clean enough, pretty enough… my list is endless. Sometimes I wish there was a “next thought” button on my brain :) I, too, need to work on appreciating what I do have, and worrying less about what isn’t “good enough.” Thanks for the reminder :)

  7. says

    You are so right. I too clean out the clutter without really changing the environment. Love your focus on art – the beauty of the home. Think I will take a walk around the house today and see what my imagination will dream up. thanks for the good thoughts

  8. says

    Those voices, so penetrating, controlling, wrong. Not God’s voices either. And my inner voices too, always echo you’ve written, “it’s impossible. So give up already.”

    And it’s funny. I saw the picture of the scissors and I thought – art. And then promptly read “I want to make time and space for the art, and that means getting rid of some scissors.”


    Godspeed in your art, Emily, and in your creating room for it.

    I hope for blessings to you and all of yours.

  9. says

    “daring to let go of the burden of my own insecurities and allow God to uncover the imprint of his image on me.” enjoy the unfolding…it will be beautiful…even the messy process of that unfolding!

  10. says

    Thank you (once again) for your words, poking and prodding at my own expectations for myself and my home. Like you, I love working to make the box of my house a real home, but so often get stuck with the shame that in trying so hard to make it warm and cozy and inviting…I ultimately fall short of my (impossible) ideals.

    Thanks for the inspiration to just simply create, and attempt to free ourselves from our own nagging judgement.
    I’m with you on the journey!

  11. says


    Beautiful post. I agree that when we clear out the clutter it frees us in many ways. I feel more clear in my mind and spirit. I love the idea of clearing out clutter in order to make room for creativity to grow in our home and in our family.

    Thanks for this post

  12. says

    Emily, I’ve recently been thinking about “resolutions” and not having them for the sake of having them, and how they can set us up for failure and not leave room for God to move. What you wrote hits the nail on the head, so to speak, with what I’ve been thinking.

  13. says

    This is powerful:
    “But if I think of my home as a canvas for the art I want to create, well that’s another thing altogether. I want to make time and space for the art, and that means getting rid of some scissors.”

    Really, really powerful. I’ve never thought of it that way, but you’re SO right.

  14. says

    I find before I go to bed each night and before I write each day, I must rid my house of clutter — on the countertops, on the coffeetable, on the floor. Even if that means tossing (hiding) a few items in a closet, I find I need a clean space. Does this make me OCD? Yeah, I think it probably does. But a clean house and workspace helps clear my mind and paves the way for creativity (on good days).

    Great post, Emily. Tell me, how do you knock them out of the park every day?

  15. says

    I listen to that same voice all too often, especially when I walk into room after room and see little cluttery messes that need to be organized. It just seems too impossible, so I quit. I need to stop listening to that voice too. It’s silly that that’s all it takes to hold me back.
    Thanks for this post! I’m wanting to use some creativity too (maybe a book wreath or two). :) This post was just what I needed to read.

  16. Julie says

    Love your post! At times I feel like a mouse running on a wheel over and over again picking up after everyone. No one else even seems to notice the toy cars and crumbs on the floor so I just can’t worry about it so much and it can’t define me.

    Also, Love the pictures on your wall. Can you tell me where you got them?


  17. says

    After a day of some much needed organizing and cleaning out and thinking {too} much about my own home, I needed these words. A drawer can undo me as well. I seem to oscillate between vigorous trying to get a handle on things and giving up altogether…because I’m so balanced and rational and all. : )

    As for that last paragraph, I’ve been working on a post about that for a few days now and it just won’t come together so well. Your succinct way of talking about ideals vs. reality and the grace that lies between is exactly what I’ve been thinking a lot about this week.

  18. says

    Thank you for sharing this. I have the hardest time even trying to get organized. sometimes it seems as if it is just too big of a job to add to everything else I am trying to do. Even a little thing gets the better of me when I don’t know where to put things and I can’t stand to throw them away when I might need them again. I just need to start one drawer, one closet, one cupboard at a time.

  19. susan says

    Wow. You set the tone so crystalline I can see through it, from the layers of running, and working and collapsing repeatedly while trying to maintain two homes’ paperwwork & always putting everything else first. Till now I havent been able to see where I want my home to be,other than bits&flashes of light. And now I can actually see the three rooms (realistic) I wanted to truly establish this year,because you held up your crystal to the light. My canvas…after 17yrs of no time,energy,always something wrong with me -&- my parents and they come first. But I cant live like this anymore. Not the person who used to clean the hardwoods with a toothpick,alphabetize the books &movies by genre. It looks like a scene from Hoarders and I had to give myself permission to rest when I could. But now I can see. And while I will never be the former nutcase, I can see the finished rooms now. And this broken body can do it. I couldnt get the bookmarks to work for Nester&Melissa,but I got here thru facebook, and I got here for a reason. I couldnt have done my goals realistically without reading you first. And I was sooo angry at my phone! HE knew I needed to be here 1st, and I am thankful. Grateful beyond reason. :) thank you.

  20. says

    I think it was Oprah, who first introduced me to the thought that our home reflects who we are and where we are at. Rather than feel overwhelmed and anxious now when I notice my house is too unorganised, I can now reflect how and why and then take a little time to plan how to deal with it…and also reflect on my own state of mind and spiritual place of heart and deal with that too in a more considered manner. Sometimes every part of my life just gets neglected somewhat while I drift off somewhere….that’s just me…so now I know to just carefully bring it back online…steadily. I love the place of acting instead of always reacting!!
    Thanks Emily for always giving me a place to just share what has been meandering around my heart!!!

  21. says

    Oh wow! Emily, you speak straight to my soul with this one!!!! I tend to be so critical of myself. I am working on it though…getting a little better each month…but while reading your post, I realized that I had started doing it again. Sigh…so today, I will work on the cleaning and other things on my list and NOT criticize myself for what is NOT done. 😀 Thank you for sharing your heart with us…you touched my heart with your words again. I am so glad you are here!


    Mary Joy

  22. says

    love the scissor shot and here is where i am.. at 12:15 on a monday afternoon in my jammies, gears jammed still because i’m overwhelmed by all that i want to do. sigh.

    time to get dressed. 😉

  23. says

    I have really resisted embracing the New Year, and your post nailed me (in a good way) on why: because I too often listen to the whispers that say I should give up because I’ll never get it all done…that it won’t be as perfect as I want it to be anyway, so why try.

    Listening to these subtle little lies is a choice. I’d rather choose truth. Help me, Jesus.

    Blessings to you,

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