We just packed up the holiday decorations for the year. Usually, this is a wistful time for me as I think of family and friends headed back to their routines. Suddenly, the carols I’ve hummed for weeks (or months) seem out of place, and my home and schedule feel empty.
This year, I’ve embraced the openness of my winter home and the calm of an uncluttered life. Without buying new things, I have time and space to practice gratitude. I know I have enough. Recognizing that I don’t need stuff has made me content with what I have in all aspects of my life. I’m not stressing about improving my relationships or the tightness of my abs. My smudged windows remind me of the little hands and noses that made the smudges. Without the urge to acquire more, I feel at peace in everything.
Lately, the center of that peace has been my home. My husband and I always seek tidy simplicity wherever we live. Long before tiny houses were a thing, we lived in a 200 sq ft apartment with just a couple of floor cushions, a bed, and a bookshelf. At the time, home to us was the rustling Japanese Maple out front and eating tomato soup under the whir of the air conditioner. The lightness of having few possessions gave us space to get to know each other. When we felt the urge to move on and explore new places, we could pack the trunk of a car and go.
This prepped us for life in small California apartments, and in Denver, we squeezed the store, our rambling gardens, and all sorts of family and friends into a tiny space. Now that we have a larger home, we’ve taken care to find the balance between having the things we need to make the space comfortable and maintaining simplicity. We decided to forgo the instant homemaking of online shopping and Ikea and let our house unfold. Our patience has paid off in a space filled with family heirlooms and thrifted finds. From a Mid Century sideboard we found in a Denver alley to pieces from our great-grandparents, our home is steeped in meaning. Everything has patina. Our home is basically kid and pet proof because we let the scratches, dents, and other signs of life remain.
Despite the sentimental value of our possessions, we’ve had some lessons in non-attachment this year, too. Our home was burglarized this summer when we were out of town. Of course they took generic valuable items like the TV and a handful of cash in a drawer. Surprisingly, they also took a few one-of-a-kind furnishings including a print I’d been awarded for service to the Denver creative community and a coffee table that had been in Jammer’s family for generations.
At first, we set out to replace the coffee table immediately, scanning craigslist and rummaging through estate sales. Months have passed, and we still don’t have a coffee table. The task of finding a new one has drifted to the bottom of our list, and now we celebrate the extra space with morning yoga and evening dance parties. We learned to not just accept whatever is happening right now, but to celebrate it. Of course we aren’t grateful for the home invasion, but we do appreciate that it brought us closer to our neighbors and further from our attachment to our belongings.
This balance between finding comfort and calm in my home while not growing too attached to things is delicate but satisfying. It’s part of the sense of peace and fulfillment that comes from being less materialistic. I even think it was easier to let go of the holiday season and pack up our sparkly ornaments because I know I’ll get them out again, and I like the shift back to simplicity and quiet.
It’s the time of year when everyone wants to purge, lugging boxes and bags to Goodwill to make space for what’s new. Since we had fewer new things in, we have less to send out. Instead, we have the space to be present with each other and our lives. We embrace the blank spaces on the walls because in time, we’ll find our way to meaningful art to fill those spaces. We stretch and breathe in the openness of the space left by our absent table, enjoying the moment just as it is.
People naturally want to fill time with tasks. Of course it’s satisfying to finally paint a room the perfect color or organize a closet, but those spaces are fine as they are, too. The little messes are as much who we are as our hand-sewn curtains or grandmother’s favorite chair. In the rush to organize and tidy in the new year, I invite you to join me in accepting your space as it is, sinking into the comfort of the home you have already made.