Creating Space for Yourself
Your own pretty little place of calm and order
When I first wrote ‘creating space’, it made cry. I was journaling about what I think could help Mums to feel good again: self-compassion practice, gratitude practice, more time for yourself, creating space for yourself... and a sneaky tear dropped out onto the page...So many of us don’t have a physical space that makes us feel good, and I was so moved at the thought of all Mums having their very own space in their house- A house that we kiiiind of take on the mental and physical load of cleaning and keeping tidy!
Our houses are filled with toys, stuff, and things for the kids. It is everywhere, and it is overwhelming. No matter how hard we try to teach them, remind them, bribe them, etc, the kids often just don’t get the importance of putting things back where they belong, and as a result, our houses get messy. I defend my bedroom and study from the creep of kid-gear fiercely, but I still end up working in a sea of kid toys, textas without lids, and dirty kid socks (always!).
Up until now I kind of just took the mess on as a fact of life, and assumed that my house would have to be this way until the kids left home. But there's some pretty compelling research for why it is important that our house feels organised to us.
New research just published this year has reported that clutter does actually have an impact on wellbeing (Rogers & Hart, 2021). Of the 1111 adult participants, those with high perceived levels of clutter in their home scored lower on all 8 sub-scales of a measure of wellbeing. Interestingly, it wasn’t the actual amount of clutter in their home, but the participants' perception of the extent of the clutter, and subjective experience of it, that mattered.
Other research shows that decluttering can enhance feelings of happiness and joy and happiness (Lee, 2017), and that people report feeling better when things are all organised and in their place (Dion et al., 2014).
Now I’ve got a pretty realistic idea of how clean a house can be when it’s got kids in it, and our house has been in all sorts of states as we have been progressively renovating this year. However I have noticed that having some spaces that are uncluttered, and a space that is just for me, does help me feel better- more calm, and feeling a bit more on top of things.
Many of us had creative hobbies before we had kids. Hobbies that required space to have all of our stuff set up for art, craft, music, and creating things that helped us feel calm, and more like ourselves. The room where all of that stuff was generally got packed up when the kids came along, and if it's anything like my sewing stuff, it's now been in storage for so long, I'm not sure what state it would be in if I got it out!
The 'She Shed' movement emerged in the mid 2010's, and it's always fascinated me. The female alternative to the man-cave, a 'she shed' is a dedicated space just for you that makes you feel calm, where you can engage in hobbies, movement, and self care. You only need to do a quick search on Pinterest to find some pretty incredible She Sheds, but yours could start with a much smaller space, on a much smaller budget. 'Mum Caves' are another option when you don't have space outside for a standalone building.
So, this brings me to a challenge for you! Can you declutter and dedicate one part of your house, just for you? A space where you can go for peace and quiet, to meditate, or to engage in some movement?
This is your official permission slip to justify dreaming about creating such a space... science says you need to!
I would love to see a pic of it on Instagram- tag @drzaliyager to show me!!
References for other research nerds:
Dion, D., Sabri, O., Guillard, V. (2014). Home sweet messy home: Managing symbolic pollution. Journal of Consumer Research, 41 (2014), pp. 565-589, 10.1086/676922
Rogers, C. J., & Hart, R. (2021). Home and the extended-self: Exploring associations between clutter and wellbeing. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 73, 101553.
Lee, H. H. M. (2017). In pursuit of happiness: Phenomenological study of the KonMari decluttering method. ACR North American Advances.
Dr Zali Yager is a Body Image Researcher and Maternal Mental Health advocate. After 16 years in academia, it's time to bring research to the real world.
Zali shares body image related content at @bodyconfidentmums and @bodyconfidentcollective, and evidence-based strategies for Mums to feel good again here at zaliyager.com and @drzaliyager on instagram.