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Creating a Sanctuary for Yourself

Does your space fill you with joy? Does it balance your energy - not too stimulating but enough energy to be productive? Does it inspire you, and express who you are, both at work and at home? Does your space reflect what is important to your soul?


Since forever, I have been a person who likes to purchase only those things which "speak to me" in someway. I have a large tulip picture in my dining room for example, that isn't just pretty; it reminds me of my childhood in Holland. In my bedroom, I have a large pink picture of a peony bloom because as a child I found it especially cool that the state flower was named after me, Penny, and then when I purchased my first real home as an adult, an older Victorian home, within weeks of moving in the entire property bloomed with #peonies on every side of our home, in every shade of pink. They welcomed me into the home which I enjoyed for more than a decade.


I don't have many, if any, nick nacks. These cause me a bit of #anxiety, imagining all the dust I'll have to clean and how to display them so that they don't feel cluttered. I don't keep anything I wouldn't use or that hasn't purpose or memory. My preference is more often #plants, monotones, shades of #nature, and of course, #books and records. Texture is important too.



The power of being in a space that feels fully aligned with our most authentic selves is sorely underrated. This is a bit more than cleaning and organizing. I am thinking more creating a nourishing space that resonates who you are, which really does impact your emotional and physical health, your self-esteem and even your relationships.


When my husband left, I was quick to move out all his belongings...like all within the next two days to his chagrin. I swapped bedrooms, decluttered, and quite literally reorganized from the attic to the basement. Soon after, I paid someone to repaint every room. I created a space that was refreshing and calming, yet inspiring - all tones of blue from fairly dark ocean blues in the living room and bedroom, to lighter shades of grey blue in the hallways and working areas. My office became a soft white.


Through the next few months, I sold my furniture and replaced it with softer, more comfortable, more natural pieces that reflected who I was and what I wanted in my life - and I filled my space with plants. More recently when I opened my new family practice clinic and yoga studio, I did the same in partnership with Jeremy. Our space is clean, modern, and reflects nature. It is calming and still inspiring. It is organic and as eco-friendly as our budget could muster. It is us.


We have only recently began this adventure in our home, because blending decades of each of our very full lives has been an incredible challenge. There is a great deal of sacrifice and compromise involved. He loves his bachelor pad complete with a massive television, blinds to the floor, and a reclining couch studded out with cup holders at every arm's length. While I mostly wear all black, each and every day, this is to balance or tone down all the fire and color in my personality, which I prefer to continue into my space not so much in continuing a black theme, but more so one of class and sophistication. My preference is great conversation while watching nature to vegging out in front of the television, so no window coverings for me, and I'd prefer seating that faces one another to encourage discussion while offering a great view outside.


These very differing ideals on a relaxing space can really cramp the other's style. It takes real work to figure out what reflects who we are and what offers us both - two very distinctly different people - a sense of sanctuary. To be honest, this is FAR more simple when one is single. Levels of cleanliness and organization alone can add or relieve significant anxiety in a relationship. I tend to have very organized closets and a messy dining room table. I wanna see what I need to work on, have all my mess right in front of me so I can keep my eye on it and continue to work at it, while trusting that what I've taken care of and organized, in the closet or pantry, remains that way. No surprises lurking in some dark place. My skeletons are out front and center. Well, Jeremy is much more a present-your-best-and-keep-your-mess-private-kind-of-guy. Again, we have learned much about ourselves and continue to learn about each other as we merge our favorite spaces.


Space Filled with Elements that Allow Us to Be Our Best


Many years ago, uh... decades ago now, I purchased my first really little home, seemingly only a foot from a gravel road a bit into the country. The land was really beautiful, with trees and sky for as far as you could see. I had great optimism we would soon rebuild our dream home on the many acres we had purchased and tear down the little home we initially resided. That dream didn't become a reality and soon I realized I was living in a cloud of gravel dust, squished in an 800 square foot home with four kids... I was miserable; the bathroom and kitchen were carpeted! It was caving into the center, settling through the years, so that when my son danced, he would fall over losing his balance.


The guilt I had in feeling so miserable in this home was incredibly disheartening. I knew I was blessed to own a home and my worries were very first-world, but I couldn't help but feel so misaligned and shameful of my environment. I wanted to invite friends over, but I was embarrassed. When I purchased my newer home, it was a complete transformation for me - my confidence, my hospitality, my peace was overwhelmingly altered.


This is true too of my work space. Each and every clinical environment I work within, I first organize my space and supplies. It's always my first task at hand and it truly makes all the difference for me. Not too long ago, at the height of the pandemic, I took a position as an occupational health nurse practitioner in a Medicaid call center (truly a phenomenal role had my colleagues been enjoyable) and after two days of training, I was left to run my clinic solo - lovely.


Having few clients in those first few days, I took to learning my environment, reorganizing and creating a space for myself. I was told in my interview that I would need to have skills to suture, which I did, but I soon recognized that there was neither any sterile instruments or suture available, there wasn't even a method to sterilize if I did. They were especially interested in me because I could offer women's health exams, as most all of their employees were women, but - okay no joke here - the speculums provided were metal, which again would require sterilizing between clients, but they were for large animals in a veterinary clinic and not meant for humans. They had clearly been ordered online, ebay or something, by someone with absolutely no clinical experience.


As well, I found a full Hardee's breakfast meal which had somehow found its way under the exam table and dehydrated itself. I wish this were the end of my rant, but let me simply say, can you imagine had a woman scheduled a visit with me and I discovered the truth of my supplies in the midst of her exam? I organized, cleaned, purchased files and rolling carts, and left all the unknowns, crazies, and need to work on items and equipment on the counter for further study. This is my method and what makes me feel safe. Doing this allowed me to offer my best to the clients who presented, and ultimately revealed I had taken a position with an employer who was not concerned about the safety and well-being of their clients.


Quickly I was able to leave an environment which did not resonate on my level, before the stress consumed me. Imagine though how remaining in this sort of work scenario could drain my energy. This environment was reflected in the staff's behavior too, with a exceedingly racist scenario being the final straw for me. This is such a low place to resonate which easily spreads emotional exhaustion, depression, shame, draining everyone of their pride and motivation.


On a more simpler note though, you know of friends who get stuck in this sort of clutter quicksand, the more you accumulate the less motivated you are to clean and declutter which leads to isolation and depression upon more #isolation and #depression. Same too for workplaces, or diners which fail to keep up with the times and then customers begin to wonder if the kitchen looks as bad as the dining space, so they stop coming back.


If we tolerate spaces that don't reflect who we are, will we tolerate relationships that don't honor who we are? If our space doesn't feel right, will we ignore warning signs of toxic behavior and fail to respect healthy boundaries? How we live "in here" at home or our private workspace translates into how we live "out there" in the world.


Your Space Says a Lot About Your Life


Take a look around your home or office and ask yourself, what does this space say about me? Does it reflect my most authentic self? If someone were to come in here who didn't know me, what would my space tell them about me? What story does this place tell? How does my environment make me feel? What have I been tolerating too long? What areas make me feel good and which areas cause me anxiety? If I could sweep this entire area into the trash and start over, would I?


These are the topics we discussed today in our Wellness Wednesday discussion. If you're like most of our clients, chances are your home or office is less soul nourishing and more filled with things they really don't cherish, maybe even a bit to the point of becoming numb to it all. Our offices are filled with stacks we ignore, our closets filled with clothes that don't fit. Our bookshelves are covered with books whose only role is to hold up the dust they've accumulated. You think your health and energy is about your diet, sometimes exclusively so, but how is your environment sucking the life out of you?


When I moved in with Jeremy, about 80 percent of my belongings were given away or sent to Goodwill. While some of this caused a few tears, most of it was freeing, liberating even, and I already lived by the rule "if you haven't worn it or used it this past year, get rid of it." I kept the bare necessities and still continue to prune. When you're brave enough to let go of anything you don't absolutely love or need, what you have left is space for stillness and possibility. It meant Jeremy and I could create a new environment that appealed to us both - peaceful, calm, and relaxing - raising our standards.


If it isn't an absolute yes, then it's a no. We were shopping for a new dog bed this week, and Jeremy picked out two. He kept staring at them, unsure, asking my opinion and I said to him, walk away from them and when we get to the front, if you feel you must have them, come back. He never mentioned them again. They just weren't right (and yes, the bed really was for the dog).


Our challenge for the month of February has been, to focus on creating a sanctuary at home, and if you're super productive, even in your workspace. Maybe start with a single room; might I suggest your bedroom. We are here with our own home and it is almost complete.


Join our members in this challenge and share your thoughts and successes in the comments below. Members, jump in the Detox & Wellness forum and read additional tips for decluttering and creating your sanctuary. When you visit the clinic, hopefully you feel the peace and serenity, the connection to nature we have tried to create here.


Maybe Raise Your Standards


Yes, this often seems too indulgent. I've suffered this a great deal in my own life, not wanting to be too frivolous when so many have so little but I've since learned that when I spoil myself a little, I am better for everyone else and that resonates even farther. Don't be afraid to beautify your home. Feed your soul, whatever this means to you.


For me it was space, sunlight, plants, comfort, and monotones. For you, it might be artwork, photos of loved ones, inspiring quotes on the wall, bursts of color... you decide. Allow yourself the budget to purchase furniture that helps you organize your space, good quality and beautiful! Get familiar with Pintrest. Think of shapes, color, textures, and size. Paint goes a long way. Search for treasures in second-hand shops. My clinic has a shelf full of antique medical items, which I adore. Raise your standards; you are worth it!

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