When it’s Time to Put on Your Thundershirt :: The Ministry of One Sane Space


For the past few weeks I’ve had a weird nagging feeling. I’ve been unsettled–at home.

I kind of feel like someone is watching me and I don’t know where to sit and I can’t find where I put my cup of iced coffee. No place in the house feels comfy or cozy or inviting. Ugh, I cannot get comfortable in my own house.



If you are an introvert and you hosted a wonderful party with 100 people while your entire first floor is full of tools, and your stuff is mostly moved out because your ceilings and trim-junk are being redone and now they are a constant reminder of all the painting you aren’t doing and your oldest is a senior in high school this year and you realize how wonderful all these things are–but they still make you tired….

If you are tired because of any situation…

Good stuff, bad stuff, boring stuff. Life stuff.

And you feel like my dog when it thunders. He just wants to lay down and hide, preferably on the sofa with a blanket while watching with big eyes, waiting for it to pass so he can finally rest. He could probably use one of those thundershirts–it’s a trick to make him feel cozy and normal because things are unpredictable out there.


When my house feels out of control, no matter what the reason, it seeps into my life. And because you are the kind of person who hangs out around here from time to time, I’d bet you might feel like that too. Our homes influence us, good and bad. And for people like us, it’s wise to take notice and make a few small changes.

Sometimes we have to put on the thundershirt.

For my house sanity, I’ve learned I HAVE to have one sane space.

Take back one room. Start with one wall.

Put your thundershirt on, slow down and focus on creating one sane space for yourself, create some normal, do something ordinary, honor a routine.

This especially applies to stressful times of our lives, moves, transitions and fixer-uppers.

Here’s our bedroom the first day we moved in. Thundershirts for everyone please.


One way I’ve helped myself feel settled at home among changes is to immediately create ONE comfy, visually un-messy space in the midst of the chaos. Do not wait for the chaos to go away. You will be miserable for longer than necessary.

When we moved to our current house, even though we didn’t have a kitchen, I put on my thundershirt and painted the family room, even the walls that I knew were going to get knocked down and damaged. I put out throw pillows, even though I knew we’d have to pack and cover everything up in a few months when we put up the drywall. I felt like our family needed one little corner where we weren’t forced to stare at the mess and the undone. We needed a little win and a little progress and for one corner to give us a warm hug.


I created one normal space even though logically it made no sense in the middle of fixing-up our fixer-upper.

If your house is all hard floors and bare walls and rugless, you will start to feel unsettled and un-cozy and wonder why your home is rising up against you all jail-like and making you nervous.

I can’t put off living in our home until things get perfect and done. My boys and Chad and I deserve to have a comfy place with pillows to watch Napoleon Dynamite, in the midst of the imperfect, even when we didn’t have a kitchen. Especially when we didn’t have a kitchen.

temporary home

When things are weird and unpredictable, gift yourself with a small space where you can relax and focus on the good and the normal. Or at least not have to stare at the bad.

in process

For me, today, wearing the thundershirt at home looks like:

  • prioritizing painting the family room–start to finish, just this one room
  • having a plan for dinner (glory–here’s my current plan and it’s saved my sanity lately)
  • mopping the floors, because that’s instantly rewarding and feels so normal
  • washing the drapes and re-hanging them even though the walls and trim still need to be painted (#idhtbptbb) drapes are a hug for a room
  • bringing in the rug–again, even though the walls and trim need painting–I’ll just move it out of the way or cover it when I paint, but the trouble is worth it because of the coziness the rug brings–even in the midst of the undone
  • listening to All Sons and Daughters on repeat because they sound like home

Sometimes you need to create a safe place to remind you of the good. Sometimes you need to create a welcoming place to help lighten the bad, imperfect or unfinished– if even for a moment.

the ministry of one sane space



  1. Amen!

    • Thank you, thank you, thank you! I need a thundershirt in the biggest way. I fill like I am drowning in a sea of crazy until my new studio gets here. I cannot focus, I have party stuff cluttering every corner of the house because I felt it was silly to drive it all over to storage just to haul it back in a couple weeks. I go home after work, cook dinner, wash the dishes and then hide in my bedroom. Relief will be here in 2-3 weeks and a new chapter starts but until then I will make an effort. Thank you!

  2. I love this so much. I had a HARD winter (lost my best friend of 40 years to cancer) and really retreated into my shell and stopped doing a lot of things that I loved to do. I faked it for a while but then in early summer I just took a complete break of the obligation (blogging among other things) and just took care of me. Luckily I have a spot (master bedroom) that is my comfort zone or thunder shirt (our pup has one of those – they work!!) Now, I feel like I am coming out of that place and slowly getting back into stuff and I realized that I need to do the same thing with other places in my house. I started with the strangest of places, my storage room. I feel like if I am clearing the cobwebs out of the darkest reaches of my house, I can clear the cobwebs out of the darkest reaches of my heart! :)

  3. My kitchen counters are that space. I cannot abide having piles of junk: mail, legos, unfinished book reports, sunglasses, cords to heaven-knows-what all on my kitchen island counter. The kitchen is definitely the heart of our house-where I spend the most time and it makes me stabby when it feels cluttered. The rest of our house definitely looks like 6 (messy)people live here but my bare counters give me room to breathe.

  4. You hit the nail on the head for me. I was wondering why I felt the need to order cute craftberrybush throw pillows offline today for fall. Oh yeah it’s because our living room now has a huge hole in the wall so we (as in the plumbers) can fix the upstairs guest bedroom. YAY! I am happy to say that I did purchase two pillows (they are on sale for $15 today only!) so our foyer will be welcoming and cozy for all who enter including my family. Loved this post and your perspective that reflects mine so much.

  5. Wow. I need this post today. We are in the midst of our remodel with two toddler little boys and another due any day I do not feel comfortable anywhere in our house. I’m going to go make our master room loveable today so that the baby my husband and I will have one quiet place to not think about all of the unfinished waiting for our attention. Thank you.

  6. Um, Napoleon Dynamite IS my Thundershirt :)

  7. Beautiful post! I’m sitting in a small hallway..the only space that’s not covered in boxes! My little area of sanity for just a moment. Overwhelmed with packing..this was such a great read for me!! Inspiring me to move in to a sweet new home tomorrow with a mission of creating our 1 same room!! I always feel like your blog is directed just for me…for each season of my life. Thank you! Well it’s time to crawl out of this hallway and fill another trailer!!

  8. I love this! We moved a ton when I was growing up because my Dad was in the army. My mom always did this and you’re right- it made a huge difference! Just having ONE space finished for our family (usually the living room) helped everyone else feel better about the chaos, the change, the newness of it all. Thanks for the reminder!

  9. I needed these words so much today, Nester. We just moved to Cape Cod from NY in mid-June. The day after we got here, my dad died suddenly. One of the reasons we moved when we did was so that we could do life with my parents in their final years.

    He’s gone.

    We’re here for my mom now.

    Stunned I am with this new reality and everything else that happened in the months before and since. Like selling our home. Leaving the ministry I co-founded and friends of 30 years. And my counseling clients.

    And getting a new website up and running this week. Turning 60 today.

    This post is a lovely grace, Nester, because I’ve always felt that a place doesn’t feel like home til it has fresh paint on the walls. And we aren’t planning on doing that for awhile yet.

    I have no creative energy left right about now and even though pictures are up, there’s still ugly faded blue carpeting in the bedrooms and popcorn ceilings and the kitchen needs updating and our bathtub doesn’t allow anyone bigger than 3 feet tall to soak in it and the furniture we brought with us just doesn’t seem like it belongs here.

    And even though I’m thankful for our home and this joy of living near the sea, there’s a comfort in knowing that I’m not the only one that’s feeling unsettled in my own space. I’m grateful that you understand and that have put this on the table today.

    Even though we never met … I’m not alone.

    • Linda I’m just heartbroken for you hearing about your dad & how you had just left your whole life and moved to be closer to your parents. I am so sorry.

      I hope in the coming months you and your experience the rest and comfort that you need and that your new home will become a place of healing and creative joy.

      So much love to you, and happy late birthday!

  10. Angela Arnold says

    Oh my goodness yes! I get to this stage not just when moving but after holidays or trips–whenever things need a home and I just can’t seem to get it all away quick enough. It also means I have piles of stuff everywhere and no matter how much I attack it, the stuff is just everywhere. So I usually start in the kitchen, if I can feed my family a meal at the table everything will be alright.

  11. This really spoke to me today! It is exactly where I am at and what I needed to hear. Thank you!

  12. Wow! I feel that today too! 3/4 of my house is out of control due to weeks of in-service and getting a classroom ready for first week of preschool amoung a funeral, father-in-law’s terminal cancer progressing, impending birth of a new grandbaby… Walked into my sane space to find my sweet dog left a present right in the middle of the rug. Ugh………… Sometimes you have to laugh.

  13. Wow! You have touched so many readers with this post and I am certainly among the group. After reading others comments, I realized we all have burdens; life can just be plain hard, and home is where we can start to heal. Thank you!

  14. Yes!!!!!!!!

    • Shucks! Hit send too soon! We are in the middle of a bedroom, den and bathroom remodel. I can’t even! I just can’t. Two kids moving one weekend a part. One to another state. One boomeranging and moving back in so she can go back to grad school. My husband said one thing has to get finished. He hired a painter to finish the bedroom. LOL I just love him.

  15. Yes! I couldn’t agree with this more and know exactly what you are talking about. Plus, all those emotions of your son being a senior–we are just 2 years behind you and I’m already starting to feel it. BTW The new trim and plank ceilings are gorgeous–be still my heart. So exciting even with the chaos it brings.

  16. Thank you for putting a name to it! I have been feeling this in our rental, knowing we can’t do much to change it, but still wanting to make it (my) our own. I am making a list now that will be tucked in the pocket of my thundershirt for this weekend… And we dropped our oldest off for her first year of college just a week ago, so, yeah… It is an exciting time, but, yeah… :)

  17. THIS, this was a ministry straight unto my heart. You’ve put words to the feelings i have about living in this fixer-upper. That unsettled feeling also takes over when the house is just plain messy, too. This wisdom of having one sane place is so necessary to me, and something i’ve craved and done. When you’re a nester, when home is of the utmost importance, having at least one ordered, restful place breathes peace. Thanks, my friend!

  18. Oh I so needed this today! I’m moving this weekend, so things have been a mess at home for a few weeks, and they’ll be a mess at the new place for a few weeks. I hate mess. I hate the unfinished. So thank you. I’m going to finish one space instead of killing myself and stressing over making everything perfect right away.

  19. Reading your blog today put words to the strange and unsettled feelings I have had for weeks now as we journey through the long anticipated but still totally shocking and earth-shattering remodel of our 35 year old cabin. I keep telling myself it is “camping” but it is really wearing on my soul to live out of boxes and walk around on dirty subflooring for weeks on end. I am going to spend the weekend creating my own Thundershirt somewhere…Thank you so much for sharing and for all the readers who have commented with similar situations. You feel that you are the only one in the world who has a tore up house but there are many of us living the dream!! :) God bless us all. We are VERY blessed indeed.

  20. Thank you for explaining myself to me! We have moved twice in the last year, and I’ve realized it’s been one of the hardest things on our marriage. And to be frank, I feel crazy when we move, and I’m pretty sure I’m acting crazy. We are in a middle of a renovation now, and I demanded curtains to be hung before we finished patching and painting the walls. I drug out our area rug at 2 in the morning because I just couldn’t take it anymore. Now I have a place I can sit and feel comfortable in the living room. It seemed crazy, but now I understand I was creating a thunder shirt for myself and hopefully my husband gets his sane wife back. Thank you, thank you, thank you for explaining my behavior to me.

    • Well, as much as I feel your pain–moving twice in a year is a BEAST–it is so validating to hear that other people are deeply affected by the state of their home. We ARENT crazy!!!


  21. I adore this analogy. We are in a fixer, that has something unfinished in every room. Ga! We have renovated 2 out of 3 baths recently. The hall guest bath was finished for about 3 months- Hubs wanted a hands free flush toilet. More to break down, right? We are now waiting for the kit to upgrade the system. At least it is an easy fix. And we are never really finished, right? So-thunder coat on! Moving forward, eyes on the goal! Thanks for sharing, love your style and your heart.

  22. Thank you for this post! I have been struggling to keep up with my house, because an autoimmune disease leaves me unable to “do it all.” I have tried to let go, but it just nags at me, and I feel so unsettled and dissatisfied with my home. I want to be comfortable here. I want it to be a place of rest and peace and comfort—not perfect but good. But when I look around, I don’t see my home as being what I want it to be. It seems messy and undone. I love this approach of having one peaceful space amidst the chaos. That seems doable.

  23. I feel like this applies to my everyday – in a huge way! I have 1- and 3-yr-old boys and just coming out of the first trimester of #3 (so, at least tired all the time, if not nauseous). So, while we are not moving in or fixing up, the state of the house is beyond chaos. But I feel like if I have one clean spot to come to in the morning (sink, couch, whatever!), it’ll make me feel better about life!

  24. “Do not wait for the chaos to go away. You will be miserable for longer than necessary.”
    Yep, learned this one the hard way. You are so right though; just take a little bit of time (or a lot bit, if you’d like) and fix ONE thing. We repainted the entire house a few months ago (YAY! but also yay.), and one day, I waded my way into the kitchen and rearranged/cleaned out/redid the pantry. Seeing one space in order did my soul so much good.

  25. Well, Ladies…..I just feel 100% better knowing that there are so many of us in the same boat—it might feel like a sinking boat, but at least we’re all in there together paddling. Wow, did I ever need this post; thanks, Nester. My biggest enemy is “time” — working full time and just moved my mom to assisted living—getting her condo ready to sell, and hubby retires in 6 months (trying to get our house in order before he does!!). How often do I feel overwhelmed???!!! And yes, Nester, we AREN”T crazy….but darn close!

  26. Hannah Reid says

    I LOVE THIS!!!
    (pardon my excitement)

  27. Fifteen moves-some by choice, some military, some corporate; eight houses; three daughters-born raised, educated, grown, married and gone; five grandchildren; and retirement. Learning the lesson of making room for Peace was essential. Peace of place, heart, and mind. Staying up all night to create a clean, quiet, and sunny space for quiet morning coffee was number one. Dried flowers from the last house in a tiny vase on the table and my primitive “moving angel” stuck on an old nail left behind by previous owners were number two and three. And peaceful reflection that we were here, wherever that here was, and we would once again be whole was the thunder shirt that meant we could take a deep breath and begin yet again.

  28. its so funny how taking on a little tiny project can give you so much energy to take on more! way to go with your one sane space!

  29. I could not stop laughing about the thundershirt! We moved into our house a year ago and immediately had some work done, and it was INSANE. I needed a thundershirt in the worst way and I picked our master bedroom. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any experience picking paint colors back then and didn’t get it quite right, but a year of living in an ice blue room was certainly better than a year of living in a vomit colored room! I call that a victory for sure.

  30. This article totally spoke to me! We recently moved house that needs a lot of work and I instinctively needed to create a quiet, tranquil space. We painted the master bedroom white, put our best (& minimal furniture in it), our best bed sheets and throw cushions and made a conscious decision that this room would be for ‘us’. This came at the expense of what was going to be the guest bedroom-why do we think that a seldom used guest room should be prioritised?! We put all the larger, functional furniture in the guest room and turned it into a dressing room! Yes it means it will be a while before we are ready for weekend guests, but it does mean we have a beautiful, calm space in the midst of chaos

  31. Yes! Right there with you and totally get the dog senerio! I just wrote about how I want to go to sleep, wake up, and it magically be over. We are in complete reno stage in every room in the house. Last night my husband brought up the idea of the kids and I tent camping in the backyard so I could regain my sanity. Seriously considering it! Our backyard is my one room. We have an enclosed garden area around our slab fire pit. Lying on rugs in our hideaway with the smell of cedar burning is amazing after a day of complete chaos.

  32. This came at the perfect time. I just spent the last 9 months nursing my dad through the last season of his life. I experienced restlessness and unease in my own home. Deciding to make a spot on my deck and fix up our master bedroom saved me and gave me a place of refuge when I needed one. It is so important to provide that safe haven for your family when all else is chaos. Thank you.

  33. This is perfect, because so many times I wait until everything is DONE, before I make the space our own…which is crazy, because COZY is the love language of my family. Thanks for permission to stop and create a place to LIVE…in the midst of chaos.

  34. Thanks for this post M. I needed it. My husband and I are both feeling the pain and stress of living in a home that is turned upside down because one project leads to another. I am feeling so overwhelmed that I asked him if we could just finish what we had to, sell it and build! My children all start school tomorrow and our house is in complete disarray. I think I’ve gone into a remodel depression even though I know I should be grateful that we have a safe home and can afford to do the work. I created this mess and now I must fix it. Lord, give me strength.
    On the positive…I just signed up for Hello Fresh! Thank you for the promotion code! My husband and I were discussing this to make meal times easier on me. Praying for some sanity soon. I am going to focus on just one room and then breathe a sigh of relief when it’s done.

  35. Oh my goodness – YES. This post is perfect for my current place in life!! Thank you for posting! :) :)


  36. Wait, mopping floors is your thundershirt??? I’m speechless.

  37. #thundershirts. i’m mid-kitchen reno (take a peek on instagram: @alannacaprice #kitchen1013) and my three year old slides on his knees in the dust of of the day, we tore up the floor to find 2 layers of tile under the 2 layers of linoleum, all on top of hardwood. (i have no idea why) setting up my thundershirt for sure tonight. thanks!

  38. Susan Darling-Spurrier says

    My home sane space has been on hold due to a seriously ill husband. He needed surgery months ago and he declined it. I have been busy tending to his needs and too tired to insure I had sane space for myself. He is now scheduled for surgery next week. Today I found strength and revisited my sane space which I had abandoned. I have a lovely guest room that is bright and sunny. I have a sofa in it with plenty of lovely pillows. My next project is to place the dresser inside the double closet. This will decrease visual clutter and give me a clean wall canvas to beautify. Thanks for the encouraging post. Reading the comments put wind beneath my wings! Thanks everyone!

  39. Goodness, I can so relate this summer! Our whole main floor has been torn up while we work on our tile project. We’re getting close now, but we’re slow and it’s a big job and I can so relate to that unsettled feeling. I’ve been bringing some peace into the chaos just for our sanity. Thanks for writing this. ?

  40. Michelle King says

    So true! We moved into our house August 2014 and it has been a long, slow process of getting it to where we want to be (not nearly finished). I finally came to the conclusion that I really just need to finish one room at a time, so that it feels like I am getting somewhere. The living room is the closest to being done. I have a dresser to update that we have by the entrance (it is where we drop purses, school bags and keys upon entering) and then I need to move the new sewing desk I picked up from someone (into my craft room/office). Then that room will be done. It’s true, I get antsy too, so your description in this post is spot on!!! Glad it’s not just me :)

  41. I definitely can relate! We’ve had my MIL living with us so space is tight and I feel like stuff is bubbling over everywhere. I really need to take a minute and create a space where I can just breathe.

  42. The fact that you listen to All Sons & Daughters is- in a word- cool. That’s all.

  43. This is just perfect for me to hear today. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  44. Needed confirmation! I’m not alone ! My happy place is getting rid of “stuff” that’s clogging up the things that make me happy ….soooo ” it’s time to sing the dump song ” ! To the dump to the dump to the dump dump dump !!!! Happy face !

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