You know that feeling when you arrive at a friend’s home for the first time, and you look around, and you say, “This place is so you”? That’s what I wanted — a home that reflected who I was and who I wanted to be in the world.
I had no idea that an intentional apartment makeover was going to reorganize my whole life — but I’m glad it did.
My interest in creating more alignment between my values and my home life began with a visit to a family friend’s place. I didn’t know a lot about these folks before I arrived, but the way they arranged their home told me a lot about what was important to them: These were people who cared for the Earth! There was a compost bin, a water recycling system, bulk organic pantry items, solar panels. I was impressed by how clearly their household choices signaled their sustainability values.
As someone who considered myself environmentally conscious, it inspired me to wonder whether my home choices truly reflected the green choices I wanted to be making.
In his 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey writes, “Peace of mind comes when your life is in harmony with true principles and values.” And what better place to demonstrate those principles than the space where you spend most of your time: home.
In taking a closer look at my own home, I realized that my living space could better reflect my environmental values. So I began to shift my food choices, household purchases, and utilities usage to reflect my priority to make earth-friendly decisions.
Sometime after making those shifts, I began a deeper season of wanting even more congruency between my home and my public life. I began to think about the alignment between my behavior at home versus the persona I displayed at work.
At the time, I was working with an organization that supported people making good decisions about their health. Ironically, I noticed that the care I extended to the people in my working life didn’t always extend to those in my home life.
As soon as I was home from work, it would seem that I had nothing left to give the people I lived with. Sometimes I was impatient with my housemates, or too tired to be present at a date night with my partner. I didn’t want to be the person who gave their best to their clients and their leftovers to their closest loved ones, but it started to feel that way.
Further, I realized I wasn’t practicing the balance and self-care at home that I preached to clients, either. Rather than being a sanctuary to nourish me, home had become a pit stop to breeze through in between jobs, graduate school classes and assignments, volunteering, fun social plans, and obligations I created for myself. I had gotten into a hectic rhythm of getting home from campus or work, dumping my stuff in my room, and then rushing off to the next thing or plan I had. I was often late, eating on the run, or feeling like I couldn’t catch a breath.
I would claim I wanted slow mornings sitting on my back deck sipping coffee before class, but in reality, I was snoozing my alarm and rushing out the door with my travel mug. I could hardly remember a night at home when I had energy to do anything more than cook food for myself and zone out to Netflix.
In the desperate way that only 20-somethings with no kids can ask themselves, I wondered, How will I ever have the energy to be a parent?! I can’t even take care of myself!
So, why didn’t I feel I had anything left to give others once I finally got home? Why didn’t I feel like I had anything to give myself? My life shouldn’t have felt so draining, but I realized I had made it so.
Achieving congruency between my home life and public life was now no longer a matter of setting up my living space to reflect my values. Rather, I needed to structure my outside work and commitments so that I could be who I wanted to be at home.
This wasn’t an easy process — it required honest reflection on nearly everything about the life I had set up that had started to wear me down. It wasn’t easy to unravel myself from the over-busy web of activity I’d created, but I gradually started to make changes to slow down and make only commitments that were sustainable with the other values and goals I held. I began to feel healthier, happier, more available to my loved ones, and more calm. And this change was apparent not only to me, but also to those close to me.
As a recovering overachiever, achieving balance will be a lifelong challenge. I don’t see it as something to overcome or a failing — rather, it is simply part of my personality that I am aware of and work to manage with intentionality.
Yes, home should be a place to rest, but when it became merely a place to crash, I realized that something in my life was out of balance. Now, when my behavior at home or with my loved ones is out of alignment with my values, I know it as a signal that something needs to give. I’ve come to learn that I have a finite amount of energy to pour into work and life and home, and I want to invest it in the right places.
So next time you feel like you need to check in with yourself because life feels out of control, perhaps begin with how you behave at home — the place where you should feel most grounded and known — then build out from there. That approach is working for me.