A Note from Natalie
Natalie is the resident writer, but not an expert. For expert advice, please book a consultation with Dr Quinn
We all have enough chores to do, but I don’t think of this process as creating more work for myself – I always remember what a difference simple things like clean sheets and a little extra space makes to my mood and general feeling.
It’s a simple fact that I sleep better in a clear space. I wake up a little lighter. And the quality of my experience is often altered by some very simple adjustments. So when the sun’s out and you realise you can’t find a nice clear spot on your desk to put a little vase of Forget-Me-Nots from the garden… it’s time to make a little space!
Oh… bed. Bed can be a wonderful place – when you’re sleeping well and waking rested. Otherwise it can be an uncomfortable pit of sleepless frustration. Whenever I feel a funk creeping in, I start with a little adjustment here.
Hoover it, replace flattened old pillows and tired old duvets – the idea is always to create a place of restful comfort – a haven at the end of a tiresome day, and a nice place to wake up and greet the next. And because I sleep under a window, there’s just something about the sunlight spilling around in white that makes me feel extra-energised, so I collect a lot of different layers and textures to pad out my sleeping nook to capture the rays and created magical patterns.
Photo by Natalie
Here are some tips:
Hoover it… Move the furniture…
Get underneath it: if you’re using it as a storage area, consider the energy you’re lying over every night to rest – if there’s a lot of forgotten things and even more forgotten dust, pull it all out and even if you can’t part with whatever you’re storing under there, do try to create a sense of order in your subconscious so that you feel like there’s nothing worrying you or taking up vital thinking space.
Get out some fresh clean linens and really think about the colours you use because dark may be stylish, but how does it affect your mood?
And for an extra pleasant experience when you rest your weary head, freshen your pillows and duvets with a light, calming scent. I use this:
Deep Sleep Body Therapy from This Works
If you don’t like strong fragrances, then why not make your own spritzer –there are endless ideas about how to do this and the perfect scents to experiment with.
The important thing is, don’t settle for what you have when it’s something as essential as your sleep. You don’t have to invest huge amounts of money, but this is the place you return to every night and start your experience with every day, and since sleep as such a fundamental aspect of your wellbeing, remind yourself it’s very worth giving yourself the best you can.
I come from a big ‘keeping things in case’ tribe. As an artist and writer, I don’t just have books and papers to rival a local library, I have all manner of useful materials – fabrics, equipment, yarns, paints, scraps, objects – if you can make anything out of it, I am likely to have a crate full of it somewhere.
It’s obvious that getting rid of those things will only mean I have to spend money later replacing it by buying new when I have a project on the go, but the storage of all these things can turn a peaceful, creative space into a bit of a junk yard, so I’ve spent years mastering the art of balancing practical storage with an open living space. And what I’ve learned is that personality and style can get just as suffocated in mess as it can in too sterile an environment. The spaces which seem to feel the nicest are the ones which combine necessity and personality with the space a person needs to feel free and unencumbered.
As with all things in life it seems, too much of anything will stifle.
Gail Rieke collage studio, second room
A happy space usually comes down to being honest about what we really need, and what we just haven’t put the time or the thinking into sorting out.
While it doesn’t sound like a fun job at all to start pulling out pretty well-packed storage spaces, sometimes nothing can feel as amazing as really getting a handle on your living space.
- Clearing your physical environment can be a transformative experience. Don’t do it in a rush or you may get swept away and deeply regret your enthusiastic choices, but don’t ignore it if you know that your daily living space is starting to shrink around you.
- Getting clarity isn’t always about subscribing to a certain look or ethos – Zen or minimal environments really are not conducive with everybody’s different tastes and aesthetics – I know some people get as anxious and distracted in empty white spaces as others do in cluttered, eclectic rooms – so as with everything else, you have to find your balance, and know yourself honestly enough to create a living space which nurtures you and makes you feel comfortable and well.
If you’re being taken over by objects, there will always be a part of your mind tangled up in that – a subconscious tug which can create vague anxiety and self-doubt.
If you have problems with this, then create a way to make dealing with it a very positive experience. I love to save exploring new music for just these occasions because if I hate the idea of sorting out chaotic kitchen cupboards – I love the idea of luxuriating in hours of new musical journeys as a just reward for doing something practical.
I’ve also more or less tricked myself into finding these physical tasks as a form of meditation – a way of clearing something physically to put me in contact with the process of clearing things mentally.
This kind of clearing out also offers a natural opportunity to make any changes you’ve been thinking about – using up the old to make way for new things you’ve been wanting to try.
Changing your kitchen cupboards from a great deal of packaging and boxes, you might find you want to use that space to store kitchen equipment, and devote other spaces to fresh produce, or a more systematic use of surfaces – whatever it is, don’t be afraid to start or to try.
Gallery Image of Design Diy Library Ladder
It’s always easier to express your individual style and aesthetic when you’re not just trying to find places for things you don’t actually want or need…
The below quote from the introduction of Thomas M. Sterner’s The Practicing Mind, expresses the importance of the way in which we determine how we feel by whether or not we have achieved a goal – reached some state of finishing before we can really begin to appreciate our lives.
Part of the spring cleaning mentality is that it is a job which can be done in a short time and will be finished and everything can finally be enjoyed. But actually all these process are a kind of daily mindfulness about our environments and how they influence us, and what we’re ‘putting off’ before we feel like we’re actually living our lives…
When we learn to focus on and embrace the process of experiencing life, whether we’re working toward a personal aspiration or working through a difficult time, we begin to free ourselves from the stress and anxiety that are born out of our attachment to our goals, our sense that “I can’t feel happiness until I reach my goal.” This “goal” always takes the form of someplace we have not yet reached, something we don’t yet have but will at some point, and then, we believe, all will be right in our life.
When we subtly shift toward both focusing on and finding joy in the process of achieving instead of having the goal, we have gained a new skill. And once mastered, it is magical and incredibly empowering.
So when it comes to spring cleaning yourself, bear in mind that whatever you focus on – contacting a specialist to do literal cleansing, or starting a new process, like journaling or yoga or any form of self-improvement – when you focus on the end result, you might find you experience impatience and pain because you’re not getting there quick enough, but when you focus on the process – on enjoying the practice, on enjoying feeling better each time or making new insights into yourself and actually making it a part of your living life, you experience something quite different.
See the spring clean as a process of starting to open up the spaces in yourself and your environment to make way for discovery, for peace, for clarity.
If spring offers any one thing it is shining light into places which may have been subdued in shade.
Enjoy it, throw yourself into the brightness of it, and share your insights if you have them.
To get you started…
- Cut some flowers from the garden, or get yourself a little cut bunch – brighten your space, treat yourself and open your generous nature.
- Don’t forget the windows! Always make way for the light – and clear the way to see the world outside. The forgotten smudges are sometimes more obtrusive than you think…
- Do it for your friends… If you lack the motivation, invite some loving, fun energy into your home and show off a little for them – make the space as inviting and sweet as you’ve always dreamt it would be. And after they’ve all gone home, you get to enjoy the sanctuary for yourself!
- Love your home and yourself – the two can be intrinsically linked, a change of your space into something more beautiful can be a quick access to opening up your heart. Express love, not the daily grind!
This week’s recipe is to keep up the inspiration of creating beauty every day – and isn’t this pretty??
Broccoli Rice, Fennel & Orange Salad
From Honestly Healthy
Important: Debbie is selecting recipes with combinations of ingredients to inspire your cooking regimes, but while they are healthier choices in general, they will not address individual issues. You MUST make sure that all ingredients you use are compatible with your own individual medical conditions, medications, allergies and goals.
2 heads of broccoli (roughly 500g)
1 large fennel (400g)
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 cup/150g uncooked quinoa
2 tbsp sultanas
tbsp chopped parsley
Juice and zest of 1/2 orange
Ingredients for the dressing:
Juice of 1 orange (3 tbsp)
Zest of 1/2 orange
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp tahini
2 tsp cider vinegar
1 tsp maple syrup/agave
What to do:
Preheat your oven to 180 degrees.
Wash the two broccoli heads and the fennel bulb. Put one of the broccoli heads to one side.
Chop the stalk off the second broccoli, and then break off the florets. Slice the hard bottom off the fennel, then cut it lengthways into 1-2cm strips. Place the broccoli florets and fennel onto a baking tray, cover with 1 tablespoon of coconut oil and a good pinch of salt. Place in the oven and roast for 25 minutes. The broccoli should be crisp and the fennel nicely browned.
While the vegetables are roasting, make your broccoli rice. Take your other broccoli and cut off the stalk. You can save this for making juices as it contains lots of goodness. Break off the broccoli florets and place them in a food processor. Blitz the broccoli until it forms small pieces, the size of rice.
Put the broccoli rice in a saucepan with 2 tablespoons of cold water, place the lid on top and steam on a low heat for 10 minutes until the broccoli is cooked and no longer hard.
At the same time put your quinoa in a separate saucepan with 500ml of cold water, bring to the boil and cook for 10-15 minutes until it has absorbed the water.
Soak your sultanas in a cup of warm (boiled) water.
Roughly chop the almonds and toast them in a dry frying pan, regularly turning for 5 minutes.
To make the dressing, simply add all the ingredients to a jar with a lid, shake the jar until everything is combined and you have a thick creamy dressing. If it’s too thick, add a splash of water.
To assemble your salad, mix together the broccoli rice and quinoa with the sultanas and roasted broccoli. Top with roasted fennel, chopped parsley, orange zest, and segments of the orange (roughly broken up).
Finally, sprinkle over the toasted almonds and a good glug of the dressing. Season and serve!