In Praise of Rituals
I decided to write the January check-in post during our month of getting cozy about rituals. (If you missed the first January post Getting Cozy, you can find it here). I find rituals to be such an important part of enjoying your home and your life.
It seems like most people these days feel overwhelmed, overcommitted and stressed to at least some degree. I often do! Whether or not you can reduce or rearrange your schedule is something I will leave you to ponder, but the advice I will give to you is about how we can organize our homes to reduce our stress and simply feel better at home.
Rituals are like habits, but they have meaning and importance to you as you do them.
What are habits? I have the habit of always washing my face first before I brush my teeth in the evening. I don’t know why, I’ve just always done it that way. I have the habit of drinking fresh squeezed lemon juice first thing in the morning. I created this habit because I’ve read how good it is for your body and now I enjoy this first step to my day.
What are rituals? I have the ritual of reading in bed before I go to sleep at night. I have done this my whole life, but it’s not just a habit, because I love this time of day. I look forward to it and it has a special meaning to me.
My kids and I have a ritual of drinking hot chocolate on rainy days. It’s a ritual designed to have something to look forward to and enjoy even if the weather is bad.
Rituals around your home are small things you can do intentionally to enjoy your days. The main point here is to be intentional. Instead of going through the motions and just letting home life happen, be intentional with your daily actions to create a simpler and happier atmosphere at home.
Rituals can be incorporated into your home and your life at any time of year, but there seems to be something especially poignant to bringing cozy rituals into your home in the winter months.
And by the way, by ritual I do not mean anything like adhering to the Japanese way of making tea that takes an hour. I mean pay attention to the small things that you enjoy and intentionally make them part of your day. No kimono required 😉
The true secret of happiness lies in taking a genuine interest in all the details of daily life.-William Morris
Here are a few ways you can be intentional about your daily activities.
I know I’m not the only one who spends too much time mindlessly looking at their smartphone, am I right? Do you ever have a few minutes to spare at home, without a specific task to do, and you sit or even stand around looking at your phone? I openly admit to doing this more often than I would like.
So in order to give myself an easy alternative to wasting time looking at my phone, I put together a basket of lovely things just for me. It’s for when I want to sit down and relax and not do work or household chores.
It’s great to have options that are not digital and yet still at your fingertips. I love to read blogs and look at Instagram, but we all need a break from the digital world.
I filled my new basket with magazines, pretty books that can be easily picked up and put down again, a journal and a crossword puzzle book (not something I normally do, but now that I have the book, I really enjoy it!). There are plenty of pens and pencils in there and a book and journal called Draw Your Day, something I love to do but don’t have time to do it all the time.
The import thing is that I took the time one day to buy the basket and order the crossword puzzle book. Once I had the basket, I took the time to collect the books and magazines and all the things I wanted to fill it with from around the house. Now the basket of goodies is sitting next to my favorite chair in the living room and is ready for me.
A lot of what we do in our lives in passive (like scrolling through our phones) but sometimes we have to be active to create the environment we want. Just having the idea of reading instead of looking at my phone wasn’t enough. I had to prepare the basket.
What would you fill your basket with?
Morning routines can be rushed on the best of days, but I find during the winter months extra difficult to get up and get going in the mornings. The cold and dark are of course reasons to want to stay curled up under the covers and also because here in Hessen we have three weeks of school break at Christmas. The kids only went back to school last week and we got really used to sleeping in until 9am every day. Getting used to getting up at 6.30am again is killing me.
These are simply facts of life, but how we go about preparing ourselves for our mornings is something we do have control over. The first question to ask yourself is what do your mornings feel like now? Next ask: What do you want your mornings to feel like? I could just tell you to get up earlier and that of course might help, but it’s more about how you prepare for your days.
What part of the morning is the most stressful?
When my kids both have early starts I find myself totally rushing to make their breakfast boxes (like a lunch box that they take to school) while they are arguing over breakfast and I’m yelling at them from the kitchen to hurry up and get back upstairs to brush their teeth before they need to be out the door. When school started last week I was afraid we would all oversleep, so I prepared the breakfast boxes the night before. The morning was so much calmer. I made my tea and actually sat down with them at the table and had some quality time with them as they ate their cereal. So I have kept up this new routine. In this case, making the breakfast boxes in the evening is a new habit and sitting down with my kids at breakfast is the ritual. Funny that it never occurred to me before to do this. So much of our days are built out of habits and it’s important to question them once in a while. By the way, I have had no complaints about the sandwiches tasting any worse having been prepared the night before!
If you feel most stressed trying to get yourself ready in the morning and it always leaves you feeling flustered, consider what you could do to improve the situation. Are your makeup and hair products cluttering up your bathroom? What if you paired down to the essentials and had them at the ready in a beautiful bag or organizer that made you feel pampered and pretty just looking at it. Sometimes changing the little details can have a big impact on your day.
Try to schedule in at least one thing in your morning that feels wonderful to you. Try for some measure of self-care, no matter how small – from meditation or working out to simply having enough time to eat a tasty breakfast and a lovely cup of coffee. Consider what can be quickly laid out the night before, whether that’s your workout clothes or your cereal bowl and coffee mug.
Your Evening Routine
Like the mornings, the evenings can be stressful in their own way. Between dinner, kids activities which can run quite late, homework, doing household chores and taking care of all the family stuff, you probably want to fall into bed at the end of the day. Most people fall onto the sofa and veg out in front of the TV, often with their smartphone in hand, passively continuing to consume and keep their brains overreactive (in a bad way!) until the moment they sleep. I speak of this from experience.
It’s hard to change all the things we have to do, but what we have control over is how we relax at the end of the day. It make such a difference to be intentional about it rather than just letting it happen and suddenly it’s past our bedtime and we haul ourselves off to bed.
I find the ritual of a drink (tea, coffee, wine) so comforting: morning, afternoon and evening. I love to have a glass of wine with my husband in the evening, but after too much indulgence over the holidays I am trying to cut down at least during the week. Instead I make myself a cup of relaxing tea in a beautiful mug and cuddle up on the sofa. Sometimes I watch TV, sometimes discuss things with my husband and sometimes I have to do work. But the tea makes me feel relaxed and marks the end of the day. What’s your drink of choice in the evenings?
I love the idea of having a bar station at home to make having a a glass of wine or a mixed drink special. With kids it’s not so easy to hit the town every weekend night on a whim, so why not prepare for fun nights in?
My friend and professional organizer Jo Becker-Birck has created a gin corner to be seriously envied. It’s a good thing she lives nearby so I can try hers out while trying to create one of my own 😉
Creating something like a drinks corner or bar cart elevates a simple thing into something special and I am all for that!
What kind of ritual could you imagine integrating into your day?
Hope you enjoy the rest of January and I’ll be back at the beginning of February to work on the Entryway!