A Safe Haven

Mara helping us pack

We are in the middle of moving, and as we pack up our belongings, I know I will miss this place. The little home my husband and I rented for three years and seven months was our first home together and the setting of so many memories and milestones in our relationship. It seems to me that a home is whatever you make it: it could be a battleground, a dumping ground or a safe haven. Our home has been all of these at different stages of our relationship.

Our home was a battleground as we clashed over money, housework and competing priorities when we first moved in together. Although we have resolved most of those early conflicts, whenever we have something contentious to discuss now, we find a neutral space like a café or a park, and the discussion ends before we step through our front door.

We used to wipe our feet on the doormat, but tramped the day’s emotional dirt through our home. It became littered with the ghosts of all of our stresses, sorrows and frustrations. Now we understand that we don’t have to bring these issues inside, and our home can be a safe haven away from our troubles. As well as the emotional detritus, we treated it like a dump for our possessions. Our home was already furnished when we moved in, and once we’d squeezed our own things into it, the cupboards and drawers were bursting and there wasn’t a single clear surface to be found. It took us a little while to realise that we didn’t need more space but less stuff, and we have been gradually downsizing and decluttering over the last few months.

We’ve become more intentional about what we keep and what we buy now. When our electric kettle broke, we replaced it with a stove-top whistling kettle; it’s a little reminder to slow down in an impatient world. We also treated ourselves to a few house plants (after researching which plants wouldn’t poison our curious house-cat); I don’t know if they purify the air but having greenery around is calming.

It seems odd, but what I’ll miss most is the scratched, old dining table (featured in many photos on this blog), around which my husband and I shared meals, wrote our Christmas cards and wedding invitations, played board games with friends, and where I typed most of these posts. I suspect our landlords would let us have the dining table and chairs if we asked, yet I’m leaving them behind, because I’m keeping all the memories.

A roof over our heads and walls to shelter us is something many of us take for granted, but others are not so fortunate. Over the last three and a half years we have learned to protect our home from physical and emotional clutter in return for the safe haven it provides from storms of all kinds, and these are the lessons we’ll take with us wherever we live. Have a lovely week.

Lanterns in the Darkness (Making Space)

“Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” J.K. Rowling

A couple of years ago, I joined a yoga class. I’ve never been able to meditate but after an hour of yoga I felt mentally calm and physically relaxed, and the class has been a regular part of my self-care routine ever since. During one class, something my instructor said resonated with me when she described the stretch we were practising as “making space in the body”, and I realised I needed to make space in other areas of my life too.

Both at work and in our personal lives, my husband and I often felt like our lives revolved around meeting other people’s needs, and we were sometimes so busy caring for others that we had little time or energy leftover to care for ourselves.

Yet even while struggling under the weight of obligations and in the midst of turmoil, we found solace together in quiet evenings at home taking it in turns to read chapters of the Harry Potter books to each other, or ambling hand in hand along a secluded beach we found (which became our favourite escape), confiding our fears and hopes for the future in each other as the sun slipped beneath the horizon. These intimate and restorative moments sometimes seemed like lanterns in the darkness, strengthening our resolve, and guiding us towards the peace and simplicity we both longed for.


Learning to say “no” to people who were used to us acquiescing to all of their requests (and in some cases, unreasonable demands) was, and still is, a challenge, and it caused some friction as we adjusted our boundaries with them. Yet the most difficult people were always counterbalanced by all the kind and supportive people in our lives who loyally stood by us through the darkest times, and focusing on our relationships with these family members, friends and even colleagues helped us to keep the more challenging relationships in perspective.

As we began to feel less harassed, we set about tackling the numerous little jobs that had been accumulating around our home, gradually decluttering and downsizing our possessions. We felt physically lighter every time we donated a bag of clothes to a charity shop or took a box of stuff to be recycled, and our home became a more pleasant and tranquil place to inhabit.

Now, as the build up to Christmas begins, and the dates in our calendar start to fill up, it would be easy to fall back into old habits, but we’re still finding ways to simplify our lives and make space for ourselves. Have a lovely week.