Note: This is a guest post from Lisa Avellan of Simple and Soul.
There is nothing quite like the calm of everything as it should be. It’s something I’m more familiar with now that life is simpler, but still the calm never gets old.
The calm comes when the beds are made, dishes are washed, and the counters are clear. When space, exposed and bare, welcomes me home as if offering a place to lay down my anxiety, the unfinished tasks of the day, and all the ways I feel unproductive or small.
When the exterior of my life reflects the intentions of my internal life, only then am I able to escape the hustle of worthiness and allow the calm to change the atmosphere. I find myself whole, complete and content.
The calm of everything as it should be, as elusive as it may be at times, feels natural to my soul. It’s a nurturing habitat that requires little beyond the few essentials for living, my loved ones close, and a great cup of coffee.
Trouble comes when things—like our possessions, busyness, or unexpected circumstances—throw the calm into disorder. When clutter creeps in under our distracted noses, a busy week turns into a season of hustle, or the unfortunate diagnosis or job loss disrupts the flow of life, the calm becomes an indulgent treat we crave rather than the standard by which we live.
Calm as a standard is pretty far-fetched, though. I mean, who do you know that describes their life as calm? And if they do, it’s rarely positive. Calm implies boring, uninspired, attention severing. Let’s be honest, we are in competition for people’s attention. They’ve got email and push notifications blowing up their phones, birthday parties to attend, and committees to chair. Not many people have time for calm.
In a culture that celebrates busy, excess, and extroversion as the measure of a good life, where is there space in our homes and lives for calm, quiet, and simple? For things to be as they should be?
And what does should even mean? What is it that my things should be doing?
I think the answer, at least in part, is in this quote by William Morris, “Have nothing in your homes that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”
The things we own (or do) should be useful, having purpose in our regular way of life, or they should be beautiful, life-giving external joys that reflect our internal peace and calm. It is the natural state of our souls, to be and surrounded by the useful and the beautiful.
Of course, looking at a home full of stuff we’ve spent good money on or at one time had need for, calm can seem an unlikely hope. But, just because it’s not obvious doesn’t mean some of your things can’t, or shouldn’t, emit calm and joy and love.
To begin, it can be helpful to separate the useful and beautiful things from those that aren’t. Here are four simple guidelines for achieving calm at home:
Everything has a home
Many things in our space contribute to stress, but just the right amount of the right things effect a calming atmosphere. By designating a specific place for each of our possessions, and diligently returning it when we are finished using it, our things require less energy and create less stress.
When everything has a home, we are more purposeful about what we own—if it doesn’t have a home, maybe its purpose no longer serves us.
Everything has a purpose
Usefulness is essential to creating calm. Possessions that have outlived their usefulness contribute to stress, clutter, and decision fatigue—a condition where calm cannot survive. By owning only what we use, and eliminating what no longer serves us, we create a home free of excess and a mind free of regret.
Everything has a grace
The calm of purposeful ownership nurtures the condition of gratitude. We pour thanksgiving over the dishes that we serve food on, the blankets that keep us warm, and the car that gets us to work. We value doing things with our hands—like hand washing dishes or hanging laundry to dry—and choose to give away a bit more rather than keep just in case.
Gratitude calms the ache of want with enough.
Everything has an end
Our things will not last forever. Their purpose will expire, their parts will break, and their meaningfulness will dull. It seems, the more we amass in our homes the less we appreciate the value of the lifespan of what we own.
This is particularly true with sentimental items. We overvalue the lifespan of the item and undervalue the emotional effect of holding on to it. The calm of things as they should be is often on the other side of letting go, because some of our things should be let go.
The calm of things as they should be is where our souls come alive. When we design an external life of calm by making beds or clearing counters or letting go, we awaken something deeper—the internal life of contentment.
Lisa Avellan writes at Simple & Soul, helping you simplify life so you can uncover your soul and live joyfully just as you are. You can find her on Facebook and Instagram for more simple living inspiration.
Lloyd A. Cooke says
Everyone needs to find this peace, or ‘calm’. But it can only be found in God: as He floods your soul with His peace. See what Jesus said: “What shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul..”etc. Mark 8:36-37.
St Augustine is supposed to have said that “…There is an emptiness in our souls that only God can fill.” Also see th biblical book of Ecclesiastes where Solomon could find no happiness in any of the pleasures of life. he concluded that only in god is peace to be found. (Eccl. 12: 9-14)
Peace and purpose in life is promised only by Christ: Matt. 6:33.
Thank you – this popped up on my feed today and just encapsulated what I am searching for…. A calm feeling at home with everything calmly waiting for me. I live with someone with anxiety so if I achieve this I’m hoping it will help them too. It’s very difficult to become minimalist – especially with two hoarders in the house (I’m not one of them) with the “you never know when it will come in useful” mentality but maybe I can start with my own stuff! Here’s to a calmer year in the midst of pandemic uncertainty still.
It surely is true for the past year. Your wishing well words are welcoming and soothing to the heart of my home. Hoarders and now minimalists. Cheers !
Meme Siamese says
Myself too really needed to read this. Actually gave me peace just reading her words.
Wow! this is really inspiring article for us, thank you very much for sharing these awesome article.
Peter Anderson says
Many thanks for sharing this very diverse opinion post where each expert has no doubt shared his best knowledge on the topic. Have more success in your journey.
Helen Aquino says
Thanks to my son Marc who forwarded your post to me. You gave me that motivation to let go of the things that lost their purpose. My garage is full of stuff, most of them I know, need to go. This past six months have been very difficult for me as I was very sick of a rare congenital heart disease. Things I own don’t matter anymore I realize. Thanks to my 2 children who remind and help me simplify my life so I can experience that calm that I need in getting back my health. Thanks a lot God bless you!
I rarely post on things I’ve read but this was so spot on, I wanted to say thank you and share that this was EXACTLY what I needed to read this morning! Well said and challenging for a mom of 3 small children. But your words are true and the motivation I need to continue parting ways with things that are more clutter than purposeful. Thanks again!
Marcie Cramsey says
Truly a beautiful post! As a follower of Jesus Christ I couldn’t help but remember this verse in the Bible that calms all our anxieties and gives us peace:
“Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable — if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise — dwell on these things. Do what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.”
Philippians 4:8-9 HCSB
Thank you for sharing this post!
The day before I read your post, someone asked me what one thing I think children should be taught. I said contentment. Your words so beautifully explain what I was thinking.
I’m working on clearing out “stuff” so I feel that calm. I have an image of how I want it to be. The volume of my stuff is yarn and fabric. I’ve found a group to take the yarn and the fabric is being used for a children’s hospital, Hospice, VA Hospital, Women’s Hospital and nursing homes as well as lap quilts for the ill in our church. Hope for Domestic Violence will also take much needed items to help women in getting a new start. It’s so much easier to give things away to a place that you know love them too instead of just dumping them off at a place. Looking forward to the calm!!
Beautiful! So eloquent!
Lisa Avellan says
One habit I follow is to tidy my house before I go away for an extended period of time. Your post reminded me a lot of that habit because it’s my way of keeping calm a little longer when I return home.
Lisa Avellan says
That’s a great idea. I do this also and knowing that when I return home my house will be in order is essential to a calm re-entry into the day to day.
Jeanine Greenfield says
Great Article! very affirming as we journey the road of uncluttering.
I just recently found this website and have started ‘downsizing’ (which I have been trying to do for a few years …trying to get ready for a calm/peaceful retirement in about 10 years) – I have a HUGE jewelry cabinet filled with ‘stuff’ that I haven’t worn in years. I basically only wear earrings (the same dozen or so) and a few necklaces. I spent about 4 hours last weekend, sorting and organizing (found some pieces I had forgotten about) – got down to a workable amount and literally said out-loud the other morning, “I LOVE opening the cabinet and finding the earrings I want in a matter of seconds, instead of having to pick through mounds of earrings” It seemed like such a small start, but little by little I’m hoping that I will be saying that EVERY time I open ANY cabinet!!! Thanks for all the motivation and information!!!
Gloria Youchison Brown says
Enjoyed your article immensely, beautifully stated.
I really like this phrase “the calm of everything as it should be”. I’m a nervous traveler, so before I leave I like to thoroughly clean my home. There’s nothing like returning from a journey and feeling this sense of calm :)
Christina Lee says
Beautiful post, Lisa. I’ve been struggling lately with a full house of kids and all the things that seem to accumulate with them. Simplifying is a monumental task and I certainly aspire to have the calm you speak of. It’s especially difficult when no one else in on board with the vision of non-busyness.
I hear you Christina. It is a constant struggle to slow things down and not overschedule our children and family. My husband has trouble saying no and tends to keep us more busy than I’d prefer. He recognizes the need to slow down, but has trouble creating space for it.
I don’t like feeling that I need a vacation day after my weekend…
Lisa Avellan says
Hi Christina! Yes, kids certainly make the task of simplifying seem monumental. It’s a never ending practice of eliminating and monitoring and eliminating some more. It’s a practice, not a perfection and the calm, as I wrote, can be illusive. It’s important to seek it out when you can, instead of waiting for it to show up.
Gypsylady ( omitting my real name this time!) says
This was an absolutely beautiful post, Lisa!!!! I remember sitting on my porch once and thinking, “ My life is so peaceful and calm; I wish everyone could feel this way.” Later in life, I got remarried to a good man, but one who thinks mostly about food and how to spend more than he earns and never saving for the future. This is so difficult for someone who doesn’t enjoy food or cooking very much and who is very simple and frugal. He was in a bad accident and has many health issues, and although he is 78, he still wants anything with 2-8 wheels. I still have inner peace with Jesus, but my outer life never seems calm anymore and I miss it so much. Decluttering the things I collected all my life really helped, though. I can’t imagine how strapped for time I would be if I were still dusting all that!! This is not a comment to whine, but to say how paring down has helped so much for me to stay organized in a stressful life. And to point out that people who have spouses with the same goals and views are so blessed! I am blessed, too, but in other ways and am excited because I believe Jesus is coming soon!!
Lisa Avellan says
Love that! Thanks for sharing.
This is one of the best posts I have ever read… and just what I needed to hear! Thank you!
Lisa Avellan says
Wow, thank you, Judy! I’m so glad it spoke to you where you are today.
Carol McNamer says
The piece on calm by Lisa Avenon (not sure if I have name spelled correctly) was right on and encouraged me to get my apartment cleaned up and get everything in its place.