"One of the ways that my teachers describe mindfulness is paying attention to all the details in your life, whether it's making a cup of tea or your environment," says Anjie Cho, an architect and feng shui consultant who practices mindful design and writes about it on her blog, Holistic Spaces. "Mindful renovation is also like that."
Mindful renovation is informed by so many things that Cho has embraced in her own life — feng shui, meditation, Buddhism, as well as architecture and design. It's about slowing down and paying attention to how the space around us makes us feel, and using that quiet intelligence to inform design decisions. It's also about making choices — like using high quality, green materials, or paying your craftsmen well — that have a thoughtful impact on the world around you. And it's as much about the process of renovating as it is the colors, textures, placement, and finishes.
If mindful renovation in on your agenda, here are seven things that Cho says to keep in mind.
1. There aren’t rules, just guidelines.
The first rule of mindful renovation is to give up the notion of rules. "Every situation is different," says Cho. While there are general guidelines about placement, color, and materials, part of the mindful renovation process is respecting what's unique about you and your space.
2. Your inner environment and your external environment are interdependent.
Simply put, the spaces we live in affect how we feel — and for Cho, her understanding of that relationship comes from her background in architecture as well as feng shui. Both disciplines inform mindful renovation. "The philosophies are interwoven," says Cho.
The way a space is designed can make someone feel calm, energized, nervous, or apprehensive. Even simple things like clutter, or light, have a powerful effect — and should be addressed as part of design.
3. There’s no such thing as perfection.
"People just get such decision fatigue," says Cho. "Should we make the countertop two centimeters or three centimeters? You can kill yourself about it. With both options, there's no real right answer or rule."
The notion of perfection is an illusion, as any practitioner of meditation or mindfulness will tell you.
4. Take care of yourself.
"It's so important to take care of yourself," says Cho. "[When you are renovating] you're groundless at the moment because you don't have a home." She says self-care can take on different forms — from surrounding yourself with people you trust to taking the time to disengage from all the decisions.
5. Be thankful.
"Your home is alive," says Cho — alive in the sense that all things have energy. "Everything around you is alive. Your bed is alive. You can say, Thank you bed for holding me and supporting me and allowing me to rest every night. Your home is there for you — to shelter you, to protect you."
If you are thankful, says Cho, you can approach the entire renovation with gentleness and mindfulness. And it's a gift that keeps on giving.
"When you put that attention and when you give your home that gratitude, it will give it back to you as well," she says.
6. Be honest about your budget.
On a practical level, says Cho, you get what you pay for. Just as you might pay a little more for organic food, or for something that is made ethically, part of being mindful as you renovate is to acknowledge what you can truly afford and to really think about what you are bringing into your home.
"When you're honest with your budget, you can see where you can spend a little more and you can pay for things that will support more ethical business and pay people well for what they do for you," says Cho.
And it's more powerful than you'd think. "Political change can happen through the way you spend your money."
7. Listen to your intuition.
It's so easy to get lost in the noise of Pinterest and design blogs and other people's opinions, as well as the myriad decisions involved in any renovation, large or small. Part of a meditation or mindfulness practice is to tune back in to your true, inner voice — and being able to hear that voice because you are completely in the here and now.
"It's finding the beauty in what's present," says Cho. "Slowing down enough to see things. Being present with what the world has to show us."