Fostering Flow in Your Family Home

tidy homeI’m pretty pedantic about my space. I keep my desk as clear as possible, I always make my bed and I can’t stand it when people (aka my family) clutter ‘my’ benchtops. A little OCD, yes, but it’s grounded in good theory and is also a necessity – we live in quite a small house. Well the latter makes sense, but ‘theory?’ you may ask… one could argue that theory has nothing to do with the fact that I’m just one of those annoying neat freaks. Well, perhaps I am – but there is more to my passion for tidiness than just wanting things my own way.

You see, I began life as a perfectionist. (You’re not surprised, are you?) Bit of a fruitless pursuit, but luckily I renounced my addiction sometime after having babies and before they became adults. You know, the stage where you realise your children are like real people, just smaller – and you can’t do what you want with them anymore? (Well, not that you can control babies completely, but they’re definitely easier to manipulate… with us as their primary source of food, they kinda need to toe the line!)

Anyway, once I realised that children have a mind of their own and this pretty much always clashed with my fixed mindset of what my space should look and feel like, I gave up on the dream of perfection and embraced a new value – ‘enough’. My house is now clean ‘enough’, organised ‘enough’, systematised ‘enough’ and although every now and then I whizz around on little tidying frenzies and try not to freak out too much when the family space gets too ‘busy’, I’m definitely far more relaxed about the state of my family home than I was.

Funnily enough, the theory of that particular life lesson only just caught up with me a few years ago on a retreat. I learnt of some ancient yogi wisdom about maintaining our space, respectfully, to allow for clarity. The way I interpreted it, if we want to be able to think clearly (and allow others around us the same opportunity), we need to keep our ‘stuff’ in order, intentionally. We do this for two reasons: so that we can move forward on our life journey without stumbling too much; and so that the people around us (who are usually the people we love the most) can do the same.

My little obsessive gene did a quick somersault of joy when I had this thought, but I quickly stopped it in its tracks when I reminded it that of course, this did not mean that I had a right to make my space adhere to my way only, to the detriment of those who share it with me. No, instead it means that our goal, when we live and operate in a space, particularly one we share with others (in my case, my family), is clarity. And that our responsibility is to ego-lessly embrace that way of existing without judgment or criticism. Sound a bit woo-woo? Even I’m raising an eyebrow… but stay with me.

 I’m not going to stand up and preach about cleanliness being next to godliness (mind you, I’m more spiritual than religious so God isn’t really part of my vocabulary) or throw stones at you for being a slob. What I do want to do here is encourage you to support yourself by thinking about how you can seek clarity in your space, your home. And then think about how you can best serve your family by supporting them on their own journey towards clarity.

So if your husband never puts the washing away after he’s brought it in and that bugs you, ask yourself why. Is it because he’s not done what he’s ‘expected’ to do? Or is it because the basket is in the hallway and you’re all tripping over it as you move around the house. The other word I really like to focus on is ‘flow’. A basket of washing in everyone’s way interrupts flow... or it makes it hard for family members to get what they need for their daily adventures.

Talking to your family about using the space you all share to maintain a constant, easy state of flow is a much calmer way to approach this topic, rather than resorting to reminding (read, nagging) everyone about their responsibilities. I’m not saying I’m brilliant at this (I could probably class myself more as ‘reforming’ rather than a ‘reformed’ perfectionist) but I certainly see it as far more worthwhile than demanding everyone around me conform. When we embody all of these elements in our life and foster it in our family, it ensures we are supporting each other to have enough clear flow to be the best version of ourselves that we can.

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