Returning Home – Nurturing Inner and Outer Environments

Fomr The Library of Congress, Flikr Creative Commons


What constitutes home for you and where or what do you regard as home?

One of the more challenging practical tasks that I’ve had to face on my downshifting journey is selling or giving away treasured pieces of furniture. At one time they held immense sentimental value for me and represented many years of hard earned wages saved in order to afford them. Sadly, though, my attachment to these items presented me with a dilemma where I realised I was trying to squeeze far too much into a small space – the house I’d downshifted into. I felt pressurised and claustrophobic and, interestingly, this emotional state crept into other areas of my life, triggering similar sentiments about my relationships and my work. Time to face up to what I was clinging on to!

What was I trying to achieve? When I reflected on this question during contemplation and journalled some thoughts, I realised that the nature of home  for me had changed. Rather than standing as a memorial to my affluenza days, I now needed it to be a sanctuary. That type of dwelling, my refuge, for me would be simple, clutter free, calm and orderly. Do you spot the conflict? I’ve noticed elderly people wrestling with this friction-provoking state of affairs when they move from a house into a flat after the death of a partner, for example, or when they realise they can no longer cope with managing a family home on their own. I hadn’t expected to be experiencing this quite so early in life!

Downshifting, and moving to a more sustainable way of surviving and thriving, is so much about letting go. Firstly, this becomes obvious with material possessions and later, as we find ourselves delving deeper into this process, it’s about letting go of some rather less obvious attachments:  convenience at all times; ready-prepared, instant meals; daily changes of clothes and a large wardrobe; a busy social life; a busy working life; distractions; entertainment at the push of a button; gossip and scandal; the ability to travel at will. etc. etc.

With a more frugal, simplified existence, what are the essential ingredients and qualities of home? What’s really fundamentally important when we consider what and where we call home?

Here are some ideas from me:

  • A sanctuary and refuge
  • Peaceful, calm, mostly quiet
  • Physically comfortable, without being luxurious
  • With people I love and care about, or on my own.
  • With access to nature

… and some more from coaching clients:

  • Cosy and quaint
  • Surrounded by trees
  • Contains what I need for my self-care
  • Space to move (Yoga, dance, exercise…)
  • With my dog, my partner, my friends or alone.
  • In the city, but self-contained.
  • By the sea.
  • On the land.


I find it interesting to note that many of these criteria apply equally to a home that is mobile, and that we might be able to temporarily construct wherever we are, or one that is fixed and therefore somewhere to return to.

What about our inner home? What do we carry around with us or hold internally that facilitates us coming back to ourselves whenever we need to? Perhaps we can commit to memory a grounding process – a meditation, visualisation or breathing practice, for example -that we can rely on to return us to an inner state of calm, courage and compassion or whatever state feels like home to us on the inside.

What are the essential ingredients and qualities of your inner and outer homes?


9 Responses to Returning Home – Nurturing Inner and Outer Environments

  1. Alison Clayton-Smith April 20, 2012 at 6:04 pm #

    Hi Sally
    Years ago I found myself moving on a fairly regular basis and realised that the less stuff I had, the easier it would be. Interestingly in recent times I have found myself wishing I hadn’t let go of certain things, but none of them has been critical. I regularly have clear outs and find it very liberating. I got over my discomfort at letting go of things that had been given as presents but that I no longer really wanted, which radically reduced the amount of knick knacks! Space is more important to me, though unfortunately I live with someone who is the complete opposite and so I compromise my idea of space.

    In terms of our internal home, that’s an interesting concept. In October I did the Natural Change for Faciltiators course in Scotland and found myself on a rock looking at the dark mountains of Skye. I had a profound sense of connection and being present. Each time I need to refind some peace, I go back to that moment and I feel I am home.

  2. Jane April 20, 2012 at 6:11 pm #

    Was it serendipity or synchronicity?…… Just found your email on my iPhone as I sat in the local pub with my daughter and I contemplated a move from the home I have shared with my two children for 18 years to a smaller and more self sufficient home in Totnes. They are off to uni and I am searching for a better connection to the earth/land. It is interesting to contemplate the places to which we are drawn and why….. and it is so challenging to follow your heart rather than your head (or other peoples’ advice, however rational)

  3. Sally April 23, 2012 at 4:56 pm #

    Aiison – Oh yes, of course, there are those things I wish too from time to time I hadn’t let go of. Have been pondering that one and realise that actually something else usually turns up, if there is a genuine need. Or else what I thought was a ‘need’ turns out to be a ‘want’ and that can easily dissolve. For me, this becomes an exercise in trust – that I can discern my needs in the present moment and that the universe will provide in the future, one way or another, although often not in the way I might imagine!

    I also resonate with the challenges of living with others who seem to me to be more prone to hoarding than I think I am. One of the many potential growth areas that reveal themselves when downshifting in relationship with others, I reckon and not to be underestimated. In my personal experience, and that of many of my clients, working through this can yield enormous benefits, though.

    Having spent a short time living and working in Scotland many years ago, your ‘dark mountains of Skye’ moment brought back some beautifully peaceful memories for me too. What a lovely peace practice!

  4. Sally April 23, 2012 at 5:04 pm #

    Jane – I prefer the idea that it was synchronicity! May you indeed follow your heart to the home of your dreams! I wish you and your children well at this juncture in your lives.

  5. Jane April 23, 2012 at 6:06 pm #

    Thank you Sally. May it be so.

  6. Claire Harrison April 25, 2012 at 2:58 pm #

    …thanks for the thought-provoking post. Having reflected on another quality I value in my outer home (uncluttered and energetically clean), I was then pleasantly entertained to note that these are also qualities I welcome in my inner home. Doing my best to allow thoughts to pass without dwelling (another inner/outer link!) on them and embracing practices that encourage self-acceptance, forgiveness and equanimity. Interesting.

  7. Sally April 26, 2012 at 9:49 am #

    Hi Claire – isn’t it amazing how so much of what’s ‘outer’ is reflected in the ‘inner’ and vice versa? I like your ‘allowing thoughts to pass without dwelling’. I recognise that as a popular meditation practice and also as an approach to material possessions. Another inner/outer reflection!

  8. Beverley May 3, 2012 at 7:35 am #

    As usual, right on cue with what I need to ponder… (love that about your newsletters Sally!)

    Home was something I craved for decades and then thought I’d found within me, but now I realise I’d attached it to a dream of what I wanted life to be like, my life. My vision and goals relied on the work of other people, a sharing of the vision and goals. I invested so much of myself into this that it came as a surprise to myself and especially to others that I’d changed.

    I still want the vision and the goals but not in the same way, not for the same purpose, not to meet the need they once did.

    I sometimes feel lost and confused experiencing this change. I allow these emotions to pass through me. I know that one day I will feel at home again. I don’t know how to reconcile the past need with the present need, or indeed, exactly what the present need is. I don’t know if holding onto my vision and goals is what I need to do right now. Home doesn’t feel like home right now – that’s okay – and I’m happy to experience the grief that brings up for me. Once again, I’m looking for home and this time I know that it’s definitely not out there, but inside here, in me. It is me.

    We gather things around us that reflect who we are back at ourselves.

    I really think I need to come out of hiding and BE… bold, brave, big, beautiful. Colourful, crazy, courageous. Stop hiding behind what I can do and start doing the challenging things I need to do to fully express ME.

    Thanks again!

  9. Sally May 4, 2012 at 10:37 am #

    Hi Beverley. I enjoy reading your reflections and insights and appreciate your courage in sharing how home is evolving for you. I particularly like

    : ‘We gather things around us that reflect who we are back at ourselves.’

    Good to take a good look at that occasionally, isn’t it and see what needs to happen next. I know that you’ve already achieved some amazing feats that others would find very challenging, I’m sure. So, I’m waiting with eager anticipation to see what happens when you start doing what you regard as challenging! Wow!

Leave a Reply

Website Designed by New Earth Vision