This past weekend I found myself standing amid the rubble of my new apartment, crumpled wrapping paper up to my knees, boxes piled on every available surface, and with the overwhelming feeling of not knowing where to begin looming over me. I’d already scrubbed, painted, and vacuumed, a transitional practice I like to perform before bringing my belongings into a new space, but then what? Once the boxes are unpacked and a place has been found for every last knickknack, how do you make your home feel like, well, home? The act of moving can be so transformative that it feels remiss to just launch right back into life as usual after completely uprooting it.
I like to think of the act of moving the same as I do a body cleanse. It’s an opportunity to flush out the bad to make room for the good, and the perfect time to make some major — and meaningful — changes. But the cleanse doesn’t just stop after you’ve had a yard sale or donated unwanted or unneeded items to charity, there’s plenty more to be done after you’ve arrived at your new digs.
As I mentioned above, I like to give a new space a once-over before I even bring my boxes in. While I wash windows, floors, and sinks, and vacuum up cobwebs and sawdust, I visualize wiping away the past to let the sparkling possibility of the future shine through. Whoever occupied the space before me — their memories, struggles, tribulations — is washed away and forgotten in favor of a fresh start. I begin thinking of the space as mine and visualize how my life will fit within its walls. While you’re doing this, keep your thoughts positive and think to the future, do not allow your brain to stray into negative territory.
While it might seem excessive, after you’ve unpacked it’s time to clean all over again with a lighter hand. This time, focus mainly on the floors: Erase the marks of others, mop away the footprints of movers, and the dirt and the grime you’ve most likely tracked in while hauling boxes. To benefit the most from this ritual, you should use all natural, non-toxic cleaning products that won’t bring harm to you, your pets, or the planet. For windows I recommend a solution of 2 cups warm water, 1/4 cup distilled white vinegar, and a dab of castile soap, like Dr. Bronner’s. Combine in a spray bottle, spritz windows, and use good old fashioned newspaper to wipe them down. If your windows are the kind that tilt inwards, be sure to wash both the inside and outside panes so the light can shine through as clearly as possible. For floors, dilute 1/2 cup of Dr. Bronner’s in 3 gallons hot water, mop them down, and rinse with fresh water.
I know. It’s a lot. But all that cleaning is worth it in the end when you’re standing in your new place with a fresh start stretched before you and a space that feels entirely yours. At this point, you’ve likely experienced every possible emotion or combination of emotions — stress, worry, excitement, exhaustion, happiness (buried somewhere in there) — and your desire to just move on is palpable. As a final act, a sage smudging ceremony will help to prevent any residual negative energy from clinging to the space and aide in completing your transition into your new life. If you live with someone — especially a significant other — they should be present for the ceremony and encouraged to participate. It’s best to have a discussion beforehand to mutually decide on the intentions you’ll be setting for your home so that you can start your new chapter free from conflict.
Never performed a smudge ceremony before? Here’s how:
What you need:
Sage smudge sticks
A large abalone shell (traditionally used) or tray
Glass of water
First open all the windows and doors in your home or apartment. If you have fans, turn them on — you want as much airflow through the space as possible. With your cup of water near by, light the end of the smudge stick and blow it out (just like incense) – it should be fairly smokey.
Decide which room you want to begin the ceremony in and stand at the center (if you have a partner, have them stand with you). Breathe deeply and set your intention for the room. Your intention can be anything you’d like it to be, but it should include a sentence or two about freeing the space from any pre-existing impurities and negativity. Walk around the room and gently wave the smudge stick (carefully holding the shell beneath it to catch any falling embers) so the smoke wafts into corners, up walls, around window moldings, and into closets. As you do this, visualize the smoke sucking up all the negativity that might have existed in the space before you and drifting out the open windows and doors. Just as you washed away the literal preexisting grime with a mop and bucket, now you’re washing away the spiritual dirt.
As you move throughout your home, repeat the ritual in each room, altering your intention as needed. You may want to promote unity and nourishment in your kitchen, or community and sanctuary in your living room, for example. Once you’ve finished cleansing the space itself, cup your hands around the smoke and waft it over your face and around your body, visualizing any remaining negativity, stress, or pollutants leaving your body and drifting out the open windows. If your partner is performing the ceremony with you, have them do the same. Extinguish any remaining sage in the glass of water and discard.
After a frenetic move, stressful unpacking, and harried organization, this is the perfect way to slow down and appreciate where you are and what you have, and you can begin this next chapter with a clear, uncluttered and grateful mind.
And while it is the perfect way to cleanse a new home, you can also perform the ritual any time you’re feeling like you or your space might be spiritually congested (after an illness, trauma, or stressful situation).
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