This month I’m talking a lot about create white space, or margin, in different areas of our lives. When you fill every inch of your life with something, what you’re left with is a stressed, trapped, busy feeling with little to no room for actual living. Overly-scheduled lives have become the new normal and here at Homespun Oasis, we believe being a little bit weird is a good thing. Don’t let the inability to say “no” create a prison out of your life.
I’m throwing the word “ritual” around a bit in this post, but what I mean by this term is – an intentional practice at certain times that are focused at streamlining certain areas of your life. Therefore, you may have different rituals depending on the time of day, the day of the week, the day of the month, the month of the year, etc.
Why a Ritual?
How can creating a ritual help you? Well, we’ll go through the specifics below, but the way I use them is by building certainty into my life. I don’t need to stress about when I’m going to pay my bills, because I have a certain ritual for bill paying. I don’t stress about my kitchen being clean in the morning, because one of my nighttime rituals is to empty my sink, clear the counter tops and wipe them down. AKA, I figured out a way to just do the things that need doing instead of procrastinating for a myriad of reasons.
By identifying areas in your life which cause you stress and combating them with an intentional set of steps, you are exerting control over your life and creating margin. You are creating a bubble of calm where there used to be just a bubble of stress.
How to Identify Stress
How do you identify the areas which cause you stress and can benefit from a ritual practice? That’s easy – anytime you’re stressing, write it down. Be specific. Try to get down to the “5 whys”. It goes something like this:
I can’t sleep.
Why can’t I sleep?
I can’t sleep because I’m worrying about getting enough hours this week to pay my bills this month.
Why wouldn’t you get enough hours?
I’ve been sick recently and missed some time at work.
Why have you been sick?
I’ve been eating junk food and drinking coffee instead of water.
Why have you been drinking coffee instead of water?
Because I stay up too late playing video games or watching tv.
Why have you been staying up so late?
Because I don’t feel tired until late.
Conclusion: I’m probably drinking coffee until too late in the day, causing me to stay up very late and subsequently needing more coffee to power me through the next day. Drinking too much coffee is dehydrating me and causing me to stay up too late.
Action Step: Cutoff coffee consumption at 11am. Switch to water. Go to bed at 9pm.
Try that a few times with the different stressers in your life. With the example above, you’ve just created a need for two different rituals.
1. Set an alarm for 11am. When that alarm goes off, put your coffee cup away and get your water bottle out instead.
2. Set an alarm for 9pm. When that alarm goes off, turn the tv off and start your bedtime ritual.
What’s very important about this practice is you MUST identify the action step to resolve your stresser. It doesn’t do much good to identify a problem you’re not willing to solve.
Here are some ideas for creating rituals in your life.
A couple years ago, I had a big problem with getting out of the house on time, with all of the items I need. Writing down exactly what I needed to get done before I left for work plus what I needed to actually take to work with me proved to be incredibly helpful.
- Shower as needed.
- Dress to my lace up shoes (holla, FlyLady!).
- Feed the dogs/cats/humans.
- Gather keys, work bag, lunch.
- Head to work by X time. (Usually accompanied by an alarm on my phone.)
Now that I work from home, my morning ritual looks like this:
- Shower as needed.
- Dress to my lace up slippers.
- Feed the cats.
- Shut off bedrooms so dogs can’t get in.
- Let the dogs out of their kennels.
- Do a couple minutes of sit/stay training while I’m preparing their food. (i.e., if they move I freeze, and give correction until they resume the requested position).
- Open blinds to let light in.
- Coffee for the human.
- Start work.
I’ve also found that during the day, I need to get up and move around a bit instead of just sitting at my desk. If I don’t my back starts to hurt, going all the way up through my shoulders/neck and causing a tension headache. So I’ve started taking the last 5-10 minutes of the hour to get up and do a quick chore.
8:50-9am: Empty Dishwasher
9:50-10am: Start Load of Laundry
10:50-11am: Switch Laundry over, etc.
Here are the micro-chores I normally try to tackle during these small windows:
- 1 load of laundry a day, washed, dried, put away.
- Sweeping the great room.
- Keeping surfaces clear.
- Cleaning the bathroom one small section at a time.
I’ve also found some room for rituals in my workday. I start each morning with a review of emails, flagging those that need my attention for later. I then review my task list for the day, sorting what’s workable vs. on hold. Of the workable tasks, I work all of the like things that immediately passable to another employee after I do my part first.
This has become a nice way to bring order back into sometimes chaotic days.
My current nighttime ritual:
- Draw the blinds in the evening when the sun sets and the light is blinding.
- Make dinner.
- While dinner is cooking, clear dishes that are no longer in use.
- Usually watch tv or play video games with my husband and sister.
- Around 9 or 10, my alarm goes off and I turn off the tv.
- I return the living room to it’s normal state, clearing any glasses, dishes, wrappers. Right now that looks a bit disheveled as we have aluminum foil on the furniture to train the dogs to keep off.
- Load the dishwasher, clear out the sink, clean the kitchen counters, setup the coffee pot for tomorrow.
- Meanwhile, my husband uses this time to take the dogs outside and put them in their kennels for the night.
- I check the cat box to make sure it’s clean.
- We’ll fill our water bottles, turn off the lights.
- I check the cat’s food and water and then it’s off to bed.
Right now you’re probably thinking, okay, how is this different from just living? The difference is each of these things are done intentionally. I group things together by like task, or similar location. These small tasks that I try to do before bed help me feel grounded, while also making sure tomorrow starts smoothly.
- Saturdays, I will work about 2 hours or so updating templates my team uses on a day to day basis so that they are up to date against our database.
- Most Sunday evenings, I spend 3 hours or so reviewing upcoming tasks for my team for the next two weeks. I disposition them and provide call-outs for the other departments on what we will need from them.
- Monday morning, I’ll compile what I put together on Sunday and send that via email before our noon meeting to go over the work for the next two weeks.
These rituals help me to keep a finger on all of the happenings my team needs to take care of.
- My husband and I get about 3 paychecks a month, so every couple of days I check my bank balance against my budget spreadsheet. I update my debt tracker and my net worth tracker. I have a full picture of my finances.
- I’m sure everyone does this – a glance at the grocery list and a weekly shopping trip that’s become a fun outing to look forward to each week (especially since we are about 45 minutes from town, so we can’t just run into town whenever we want, it has to be intentional).
- Sunday and Wednesday I do a deep-moisturizing mask on my face and hair.
- If you’ve ever read How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie, you’ll recognize this: I’d love to set time aside each week for reflection on the past week. What went well? Does something need more work? What do I wish I had done instead of actually did?
- At the beginning of each month, I write down a list of goals that could be achievable, with a strong push from me. I take a half hour to an hour to think about what is most important to put on the list.
- Around the 15th of each month, I do a half-way point check in on my goals.
- At the end of each month, I do a final re-cap.
These are usually accompanied by a hot cup of coffee and a heavy dose of intention.
Right now one of my big goals is getting our family finances free of debt. At the end of each quarter, check in against my yearly goals to validate I’m where I should be to stay on track to meet my goal.
Another ritual I love is changing over my closet from winter/fall to spring/summer and vice versa. This year I am focusing on keeping all of my items as clean, mended and like-new as possible so that when I unwrap my items at the next change over, it will be like unwrapping a nice package of like-new clothing. Like I just went on a shopping spree and get to unwrap all of my goodies.
A ritual I want to start (with lots of help from my husband) is a room-by-room deep clean each Spring and Fall. The intention of this is to make repairs as they’re needed and to cast my eye over each room of the house as if I was a buyer looking for flaws.
I love the New Year because it brings with it fresh possibilities. Sitting down with a hot cuppa and planning out what I want to accomplish for the next year and what needs improvement from last year fills me with a quiet joy. I usually start to brainstorm what I want for the next year in November/December, but I don’t finalize until the first week or so of January.
I plan to write about this more closer to the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, but finding small rituals that are yours and your family’s to enjoy during this time can make the holidays feel extra special – like it’s not just a corporate holiday, but really a time for family.
Having small rituals throughout your day/week/month/year can bring a sense of marking milestones. It can ground you. Rituals of your own making, intentionally set to create a sense of calm control, can be very, very rewarding.
What daily rituals work for you?
Millie Copper (Homespun Oasis) is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking amazon.com.