When we think of sacred spaces, all kinds of images might be conjured up. Churches, synagogues, pilgrimages to holy lands, trekking up Machu Pichu, and a plethora of other very religious visions surface. But what if sacred spaces are a lot closer and perhaps a bit less holy than we imagined? What if sacred space can be found right in our homes? What if sacred space can be found within us as well as around us? According to Jill Butler, author of Create the Space You Deserve, you can’t have one without the other.
“In order to make space sacred, you’ve got to clear the clutter or there’s no way to get centered in that space. Clutter clearing is not the goal but one step in the process.”
Clearing our outer space facilitates clearing the inner space. “Clearing the Clutter, Quiet the Mind,” are workshops presented by Butler in hopes of helping people get control of their stuff, their space and to embrace the sacred that is an essential part of living life to the fullest. She points out that if we have a house full of stuff that no longer serves us, all of that excess baggage follows us everywhere. We need to ask ourselves when we walk through our doors upon returning home each day, “How do we feel?” And is that how we want to feel?
“You never get to have a relationship with your stuff if you can’t find it,” she says.
Claiming a space as sacred is important as we seek to live with greater intention and awareness. We can choose to create homes that are sacred and honor what they provide for us or we can fill them to overflowing with stuff that means nothing to us. It is a conscious choice. But sometimes we fill our spaces unconsciously. We acquire family heirlooms we don’t want, we save 40 year old kindergarten report cards and 30 year old masterpieces from grammar school. In our consumer driven society, we shop til we drop and get so caught up in our stuff that we sometimes live in a vacuum of stuff we’ve acquired. But there is another way. And identifying our homes and the nooks and crannies within it as sacred space can help us to see with a new vision.
Butler recognizes her entire home as sacred space and she chooses carefully whom and what she invites into it. Within her sanctuary, which can be viewed in her book during its renovation as well as its completion, there are special places that speak to her at different times. She has an altar space filled with intentionally chosen items that make her feel connected. A favorite chair has her books within reach, while pictures, candles, and gifts she has received from special people in her life are close by.
“I visually connect with people through the things they’ve given me,” she says. “I only have things in my home that resonate with me. Something as simple as a chair can be sacred space. There’s not always room for a separate space, but we can find space that can be our sanctuary.”
Recognizing a certain area within our home that helps us to get still and centered, invites us into the presence of the holy, that sacred other. There is that stillness that comes when we can be present, in the comfort of our own home, surrounded by things that touch us in a deep way. There, we feel supported, strengthened, comforted.
“If our whole house is sacred space, then it has to be clear of all the stuff that is no longer useful,” says Butler. “When we walk through our homes, and find things we’ve inherited from our families, we need the courage to let go. Don’t dump that responsibility on your kids.”
She recommends finding the one thing that best represents the family member you are trying to connect with, and remember it’s the story of that piece that moves you, not the thing itself. She encourages setting boundaries rather than having so much stuff thrust upon us as keepers of tradition. We are indeed entitled to our own lives. We don’t need to hold on to things we don’t need or more importantly, don’t want. It is the memory we hold dear, not the stuff. In an effort to clear the clutter to begin honoring your space as sacred, she suggests, letting adult kids know you will no longer keep everything and invite them to take what they want and let them know you will dispose of the rest. Assuming responsibility for these unwanted treasures is a choice, not an obligation.
According to the Self Storage Association, there were over 48,500 self storage facilities in the United States at the end of 2013 with total self storage rentable space in the U.S. consisting of 2.3 billion square feet. That figure represents more than 78 square miles of rentable self storage space, equal to more than three times the size of Manhattan, New York. They report that 8.96 percent of all American households currently rent a self storage unit.
So we have all this stuff, that we don’t feel we can get rid of, and as the statistics show, we often end up paying someone else to keep it for us. But we don’t have to do this. Butler suggests we keep our eye on the prize. The idea that clearing out what we no longer need or want, without guilt, frees us for other things, in our homes, our spirits and in our minds.
Butler invites us to ask, “Are we ready for something new?” Let’s reward ourselves for letting go and making room for something new in our lives. Creating sacred space in our homes is just the beginning because once we no longer have all the stuff surrounding the outside of us, we may feel compelled to consider what’s going within us. And in that silence, it is there where we’ll find the sacred as well.
American author, conservationist and activist, Terry Tempest Williams writes, “The world is holy. We are holy. All life is holy. Daily prayers are delivered on the lips of breaking waves, the whisperings of grasses, the shimmering of leaves.”
Today, find a special place in your home that speaks to you. Gather a comfy throw, an overstuffed pillow, a good book or two. Light a candle, maybe some incense and carefully choose a few mementos, that help you feel grounded and in the present moment - Maybe something that helps you connect with nature or a loved one. Or grab a journal, your favorite pen, maybe some watercolors and perhaps Pachelbel’s Canon in D, and just enjoy the moment in gratitude for your holy and sacred space.
To learn more about Jill Butler’s books, workshops and products, visit www.JillButler.com.