In this post, I’m going to share 7 tips on how to have a creative retreat when you can’t leave your home and actually make it happen.
Reading the word “retreat” might bring up a weekend away in a spa for you. This is not the kind of retreat I’m talking about today.
A few weeks ago, I was in the bathroom helping my 6 year old brush his teeth. It had been a beautiful, Spring day and as we were in the bathroom the sun was setting and the light was pouring into the room, giving it that golden hour glow.
I’m not one to take many baths, showers are more my thing, but at that moment I just felt the pull to take a bath. So I grabbed my cross stitch project, my book, and ran a bath. It was the most amazing escape and I stayed in until the sun went down and it was getting too dark to see my project.
During that bath, I realised 2 things. 1) We can totally have mini creative retreats even when we are stuck at home and 2) the reason I usually dislike baths is because I don’t like the artificial light in a bathroom.
The inspiration for this post was born! And yes, I did say I cross stitched in the bath haha!
You can listen to the episode below or keep scrolling to read the blog post.
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Now, as I write this we are in the middle of the Coronavirus pandemic however there are also many other reasons you may not be leaving your home; when you have a baby, if you are sick, if you have anxiety, if it’s the middle of winter and you are snowed in, you can’t afford to go out for the day, etc.
And although I love the idea of going out of the home for a creative retreat, I actually quite like my house and I’m such a homebody and would feel pretty awkward doing any of this in say a coffee shop or in a park, etc.
Of course, I wouldn’t say no to a lodge to myself in the middle of nowhere, especially right now, but again that’s not always possible #clingykids.
I first heard about creative retreats from Chasing Creative. They actually did go for a whole weekend away to write and work on their novels which does sound a bit like heaven and is absolutely on my list of goals to do one day. I didn’t have a hen do before I got married so maybe I can have this instead!
I also know of a crochet retreat that my friend Daisy runs over at Devon Sun Yarns. I’m not sure when her next one will be though but they look amazing and I don’t even crochet and am always so tempted to buy a ticket.
Then I came across the book The Creative Retreat by Jennie Moraitis * who defines a retreat as “any amount of time you set aside to pursue your creative passion(s)”.
I love how she says any amount of time and I talk about 5-minute retreats at the end of this post. If you have been around here a while you know I am all about fitting our creativity into those small gaps during our day.
I highly recommend this book; it’s like a guide and a journal and a colouring book in one. In fact, you could take this with you on your at-home creative retreat!
So let’s dive into how to have a retreat at home.
7 Tips to Have a Creative Retreat at Home
1. Decide when and where your retreat
will take place
The first thing you need to do is decide the practical things like when and where. Yes, it’s at home, but where about in your home?
I recommend somewhere with a chair and if you’re doing it during the daytime, somewhere with lots of light. Walk around your home and find your perfect spot.
Move things around a bit if you have to; I’m constantly shuffling our house around to set myself up for more creativity. For example, a unit of art supplies (the kids and mine) next to the kitchen table. A sewing box next to the couch. My desk in the downstairs front room – we have a 3-story house and my kids are usually on the first floor or at the back of the house in the garden so they can’t disturb me… much, at my desk.
Then decide when you will do it. It doesn’t have to be at X time; I know that sometimes setting a schedule can hinder that creativity. But you do need to decide on a certain time of day; morning, afternoon or evening for example.
I’m not going to tell you to get up at 4 am but if you have kids this retreat is probably going to be easier when they’re in bed. So you could try and get up an hour before them or do the retreat in the evening when they’re in bed for example. I have other ideas for you though.
1 trick I have done is go to the car! Just lock yourself in your car and it’s heaven. No one needs to know that you’re not actually driving anywhere. Obviously only do this if you have someone watching the kids inside the house. My husband was inside when I took my car retreat!
Or pretend you’re getting on the bath or shower and lock the door. This can be uncomfy though.
In fact, you could actually take a bath for your creative retreat, as I mentioned at the start of this post if it involves doing something that you can do in the bath, for example, reading. And like I said, I even managed to cross stitch in the bath.
Psst… As you will see when we go through these tips sometimes you need to go through it all then come back to work on the plans again. You can’t decide if you can get in the bath if you don’t know what you’re doing yet for example.
2. Tell everyone about your retreat
When you have an idea of when and where then tell everyone in your home! Make sure they know you just need this time for yourself.
I know feelings of guilt will start coming up about now; I’ve been there! But the more you get into a habit of having creative retreats (because yes, this won’t just be a once a year thing) the easier it gets to ask for it because you will start to see the benefits; not just for you but your family too. I know after an hour of alone time, I come back to my kids happier and more present with them.
Another little trick here is that of an evening I might say to my husband “do you want to play the Playstation tonight and I will go in the bedroom to read?” That way we are both getting some alone time to do things we love.
Another thing we have always done before I even started getting creative again is to give each other a lie-in on the weekends. On a Saturday I get up with the kids and he stays in the bedroom until around 10-11 am and the same for me on a Sunday. We aren’t sleeping until that time though. I use my Sunday mornings to cross stitch and plan out goals. Sometimes I treat that morning like a full creative retreat so you could do the same if you have a partner to switch with like that.
If you are a single parent you could have a retreat with your kids around. You could pop the TV on for them or set them up with crafts or lego; something doesn’t require too much supervision from you so this depends on their ages. I personally choose a film right now with the ages my kids are at. I like using a film because it’s a set amount of time so I don’t lose track and let them watch TV for 3 hours if I’m engrossed in something.
3. Decide what you will do on your retreat
Next, decide what you want to do on your creative retreat. If you know you want to work on 1 particular project do that. Maybe you are multi-passionate and want to work on a few different things (this is me!).
It’s totally up to you and can be anything you want it to be; cross-stitching, knitting, reading, drawing, colouring in, writing, meditating, journaling, blogging… anything at all!
If you need some ideas on finding some new hobbies for your retreat I have a blog post with tips on finding a new hobby here.
4. Decide how long your creative retreat will be
Then have a think about how long you will need to work on your project/s. An hour? 2? I wouldn’t recommend going over 3 at home just because we’re probably doing this in the margins and I don’t want you to think you’re going to have 3 uninterrupted hours of alone time and then something comes up. But of course, if you live on your own and it’s the weekend you could have a 10-hour retreat right now! But please take breaks for food and water haha!
Once you know how long you’re going to give yourself you might want to plan out how long each thing will take you if you’re working on more than 1 project. Or you might want to just go with the flow and see where your creativity takes you.
I do a bit of both. I plan out how long for each thing to make sure I fit everything in but sometimes I’m enjoying 1 thing so much I just go with it. This retreat is all about doing what makes you feel good, not what you think you should be doing!
5. Pack your supplies
Yes, even though we are doing this at home we are going to act like we are leaving and pack supplies. There are 2 reasons for this 1) It will feel more intentional and so you will get a lot more out of this and 2) You won’t have to leave the space you are in to grab anything you might need/have forgotten.
Here are some ideas for you, but don’t take things you won’t actually use and really think about how you’re using this time and what you will need. Take the things you love!
These can be good if you’re doing your retreat during the day and want to block out the noise from the rest of your home. I recommend listening to lyricless music only if your creative project involves you needing to write down words.
If you are planning on stitching or crafting, I have a new love for audiobooks so that could be a good idea. Or maybe you do just really want to listen to inspiring, uplifting music.
Again, this is all personal preference but I do think headphones will come in handy. I pretty much always have my headphones in when I’m alone.
Notebook and pens/pencils
A notebook can come in handy for so many things. If you want to use this time to do some writing you will need one (unless you are typing of course) and you might start to think of all the things you “should” be doing e.g. cleaning the kitchen, doing the laundry… Write it down to do later so it’s out of your head.
I also find having a “braindump” before starting a creative retreat can help get you in the zone. This is where you write down everything that’s swirling around your head to try and make room for more creative thoughts. This can also help reduce those “should be doing” thoughts from popping up throughout your time.
And of course, you will probably have so many ideas while on your retreat and you’re going to want a place to write them all down.
For your pens, choose one you love to write in and maybe take a few extra in case one runs out.
Food and drink
This one is so important! You don’t want to have to leave your retreat to head to the fridge. I recommend a bottle of water and/or a flask of something warm.
For food and snacks that depends how long and when your retreat will be. If it’s in the middle of the day you might want to pack yourself a lunch. If it’s for an hour in the evening you might just want a few biscuits or some chocolate (always take the chocolate).
A few more extras you might want:
- A sketchbook
- Your craft project
- A diary
- Your journal
- A book
- A colouring book
- Your laptop or tablet
- Your camera
- A canvas
- A candle or fairy lights
- A blanket
- A reading light
- Hand warmers/fingerless gloves
- A cushion
- The Creative Retreat book*
6. Write out your plan
There was a study that writing something down makes it around 40% more likely to happen. I have no idea where that study was done, but I have heard it on multiple podcasts now and found it to be true myself.
Making your plan for having a creative retreat at home will make it so much more likely to happen. To make this easier for you, I have created a free at home creative retreat planning sheet. Download it, print it off, and plan your time! And print it off any time you are planning a new retreat.
7. Make it a habit
Having a creative retreat shouldn’t be a once a year event, especially a retreat at home! This can be a weekly thing you do (like my Sunday mornings) or monthly or even daily. Yes, DAILY.
Daily creative retreats at home are going to look a bit different than a weekly or monthly one and these happen during those gaps in your day like I mentioned at the beginning of this post.
Daily retreats are literally just 5-10 minutes. They are what you do instead of grabbing your phone during those small gaps in your day. Are the kids playing happily together? Have a retreat! On your lunch hour working from home? Have a retreat!
For these retreats, I recommend setting up a corner in your home for yourself such as a sewing box next to your couch, supplies next to the kitchen table, etc. Because I cross stitch I work on a few projects at a time and leave them around the house for those small gaps I can fill with some stitching. I talk about this more in my post about finding more time to cross stitch.
You could also make yourself a portable retreat ie a bag filled with supplies that you can leave in the same place each time and grab when you can.
For these daily retreats, your project does really need to be something small and easy unless you have the space to leave your large project out in one place and no kids that will come along and mess with it.
So that’s it; my 7 tips on how to have a creative retreat at home!
I hope these tips help you see that you don’t need a whole weekend away to have a creative retreat and you can have one right at home.
Extra Cross Stitch and Creativity Resources
- 5 Tips to Find a New Hobby
- 5 Tips for Living a Multi-Passionate Life
- 13 Lessons Learned from the Book Big Magic
- 5 Tips to Find More Time to Cross Stitch
- Sign up for your free cross stitch guide