Create Space. Let It Feel Awkward.


I took down my Christmas decorations the first weekend in January. Usually I’m ready to haul everything back up to the attic, but this year was different. 

I’d put more than my usual effort into making my home merry and bright for the holidays. Now, my living room is a clean slate and I’m feeling out of sorts. I see everything that’s not there—the quiet mantle, the bare wall where the Christmas tree once stood, and the naked stair rail stripped of its garland.

It’s not just me. “We miss Christmas!” my kids said, and “It looks like we’re moving out!” my husband said, when all signs of December were cleaned up and packed away.

I looked around and fought the urge to mindlessly nail things to the wall or to run out and buy something—anything—to fill the Christmas-tree-sized void (another chair? a table? a giant plant?). 

But, when I looked again, I saw an opportunity. I saw a living room that’s clean and spacious. I saw a chance to think about how I want our home to look and feel—not just in December—but all year round.

I have this conflict in all areas of my life. I crave space, but it also makes me uncomfortable, with all of its unknowns and open-endedness. When I create breathing room, I rush to fill it back up. 

I suppose the simple but difficult solution to this problem is to stop doing that.

A couple of years ago, as I approached my 40th birthday, I decided to live my life with more intention. That sounds inspiring, but the biggest thing I’ve realized is that it takes a lot of work. 

Will this be the year that I’ll finish the book I’ve been writing for years, the year I’ll blog more consistently, the year I’ll get back in shape? Is this the year I’ll knock the dust off my starter DSLR camera and finally learn how to use it? Is this the year that I’ll make my home feel more like home? 

The only way to change the answers from maybe, or one day, or I’ll try to a big, loud, unapologetic YES! is to create space for it. 

Creating space is a process. It’s a process of going through my Google calendar and highlighting the blocks of time that aren’t yet occupied by something else. It’s taking ownership of that unclaimed time and understanding that how I spend it is ultimately up to me. 

It’s a process of decluttering my physical space and learning to sit with that temporary but awkward feeling of emptiness. I know I’m on the right track when I open my kitchen cabinet and things don’t fall out. I feel lighter and free.

It’s a process of understanding that goals don’t have to be tackled all at once or 100% accomplished in a single calendar year. When I look back on this past year, I can see how I weaved in some time to write, time to exercise, time to paint the kitchen, time to do nothing. I didn’t check everything off the list, but I moved it forward.

It’s a process of understanding that it’s all a process. And, it’s fun if you decide it is. Like choosing to keep this one particular decoration up all year, in its rightful place by the coffee:

Love sign

Yes, my dusty camera waits patiently and my living room echoes because it needs a rug, curtains, and so many other things, but I’m getting there. The New Year holds an invitation. It says, “Come as you are” and I accept. 

Angie Mizzell is a writer, TV spokesperson, and mom of three. She is also the co-founder of Charleston Storytellers and blogs about creating a life...

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