Moving On and Cleaning Up

Well, Dear Reader, we are about to let 2021 close its door (Hallelujah!) and, without a doubt, I am ready. I get giddy at the thought of a blank canvas and wiping the slate clean. I’ve reinvented myself so many times in my life and faced so many setbacks that I could be bitter and angry. And, truthfully, I was for a long while. Sometimes, making the effort to live differently after living one way for so long can feel like it takes too much energy. I’ve been there. Trust me. You labored to build that wall of protection. You struggled to ignore the loneliness so you could keep others at arm’s length. You battled against yourself and your needs for so long – trying to convince yourself and others that you are better off alone. Man. I know that feeling. But, how exhausting, right?

As we shut the front door on 2021, I could end the year off by telling you how to prepare to clean up and declutter your house. It’s really what I do best. In fact, last year, I did just that. In January 2021, I encouraged folks to do this old challenge with me. I posted pictures of the items I was discarding every day on Facebook (Day 1: One item. Day 2: Two Items. Day 3: Three Items, etc.) until I had pitched over 500 items from my home. I could write about how to declutter your closet, but I already did here. I could tell you how to organize your spice rack – again, been there, done that. I could even ask you to sell all your shit and start all over again. But wait. I’ve done that too.

Let’s be honest here. I’ve evolved since I launched this blog in 2011 with this post (I know, right??) with the idea of helping you to simplify by discarding all the things you no longer need. I think my heart is still in that simplifying space, after taking a five-year break from writing and then posting this piece, it seems that now I want to help you discard outdated ideas and limiting beliefs, not just physical stuff. We tend to make everything so complicated. (Does he like me? How will I know when he likes me? How many dates do we have to have before I tell him how much I really like him? Good God, woman. Have a drink, enjoy the company. Fucking relax a little.)

However, in the same vein of telling you how to get rid of any tangible item that no longer brings you joy – I am going to ‘suggest’ ways you can let go of ‘stuff’ that no longer serves you. After all, I’m a bit bossy – but I also am walking this walk right alongside you. I’m no expert at having my shit together, but I sure am trying.

Wanna try with me? Okay, then. Grab a drink. Settle in. Let’s work this out.

Simplifying your mental space can be as simple as discarding clothes that no longer fit. But I posit that it will be a tad bit harder. Time and time again I saw people rationalize keeping something because it cost them so much. I get it. When you spend a lot of money on something, it’s hard to get rid of it. The same thing goes for your mental space. When you’ve lived with specific ideas and beliefs for so long, they’ve attached themselves to you as though they are your identity. I’m not telling you it will be easy to change these things. I’m simply asking you to consider a new set of ideas. Ready? Here we go.

1) Declutter your home. I know, I know. I said I wasn’t going to tell you to do this. But I’m not talking about getting rid of half-used candles, broken items, and socks with holes in them (but, yeah, of course, get rid of those). I’m talking about items that hold energy you no longer need—pictures, letters, ticket stubs from concerts with old boyfriends, etc. You don’t need a bunch of stagnant energy hanging around. (Disclaimer: If you’ve experienced a death of a loved one recently, I’m not talking to you. Take all the time you need to grieve.) You other people? Build a fire. Burn it all. You don’t need to look at it anymore because it no longer serves your greater good. (Hey! A bonus song!)

2) Get rid of bad mental habits. My son has recently started saying, “I’m so stupid!” after making a mistake. This deflating self-talk is unacceptable behavior, so I make him say two nice things about himself when I hear him utter a disparaging statement. The same thing goes for you. Stop saying you’re fat. Stop feeling guilty for taking a much-needed nap. Stop apologizing for wearing ‘Mom Clothes’ around the house. Stop feeling sorry for yourself because your husband cheated on you. Wash your face; get out of the house. Make a list of all the things that make you absolutely fucking wonderful, and read the shit out of that list every time you try to tell yourself otherwise.

3) Cut out toxic people. If someone dares to tell you, to your face, that they don’t like you, then put your shoes on and walk out the door. Do not look back. Accept any apology, of course, but apologies do not have to equal reconciliation. Here’s why: You can aspire to be the most mentally healthy person on the planet, but everyone – every-fucking-one – has the potential to become toxic when they are in a toxic relationship. Get the heck out of there before the shit from their high-horsed position runs downhill and gets all over you.

4) Take charge of your money. Money is energy. It doesn’t matter if you make $12 an hour or $120; if you aren’t taking control of your financial situation, someone else is taking charge of it for you. That negativity will occupy too much space in your life and drag you down. Create a budget, set clear goals, and your financial decisions will become much more straightforward. The day I decided I wanted to build a home was when it became easier to say no to things I really didn’t need. Er, um, except this perfume. I really did need this perfume.

5) Remember that time is currency. When the pandemic first hit, I worked full time and had my massage therapy practice on the side. As a massage therapist, I wasn’t considered ‘essential’ in the first wave of COVID, so I couldn’t see clients. One night, my son commented that he liked spending time with me after school as we were coloring. We had been finding ways to spend our evening together since I wasn’t seeing clients. I closed my office right away – not because of the pandemic – but because time with my son was more important. Start getting rid of the activities that no longer bring you joy and spend that time doing something that brings greater meaning to you. When you make room for better things, better things will come. (Albeit, a bit ‘Field of Dreams’ – ish, but true nonetheless).

In summary, we often think that we should be adding to our lives for it to be better. I disagree and strongly recommend that you start subtracting. Life is complicated enough without you adding more to it. The less you own, the less clutter you have, and the less time you invest into things you don’t want to do, the simpler life becomes. When you spend time with people that drain your energy, you are not giving the Universe time to expand your trusting connections. Are you ready? I damn sure am.

In closing, here’s your song, Dear Reader. Aren’t you tired of trying to fill a void with the wrong things/people/ideas? I am, for sure. What are you getting rid of in 2022? Pounds? Clothes? A job you hate? That dumb boat? A relationship that sucks the life out of you? I’m curious. Drop me a line in the comments below.

PS…Numbers for last week’s post blew the rest of them out of the water. Thank you to whoever shared the post. If you like this post and think others might like it too, feel free to share it on social media. Hugs! See you next year!

Clean Up Your Act – Five Easy Ways To Get Started

Missouri’s winter usually comes in January and February, so we’ve been experiencing a bit of colder weather here. I don’t mind it, though. These are perfect months for home and self-improvements. January has been no exception.

After watching The Minimalists’ newest documentary (Less Is Now) on Netflix, I decided to accept the challenge offered at the end to jump start my way back into regaining a life of simplicity. The challenge was to give away 465 things over one month. You start on day one, getting rid of one item. On day two, you get rid of two items. Day three, three items. You see where I’m going with this. I challenged many of my friends to do the same thing: Watch the documentary. Do the challenge.

Here’s what one friend said halfway through:

Thirty days is definitely not enough time to get rid of everything I need to, but I do feel less intimidated by the idea of tackling some of the most cluttered areas such as my boy’s closet, the garage, and my craft cabinet. Normally I would get so overwhelmed with going through stuff that I felt defeated and gave up. Forcing myself to ditch stuff has been liberating and it gets easier each day. I’ve started asking myself if it’s worth packing if I moved… that has helped.

Amanda M. – Springfield, MO

But some of us are overwhelmed by the idea of getting rid of nearly 500 items. Except, I don’t think we realize that an old filing cabinet offers thousands of single sheets to meet our decluttering win ratio. As did many of my friends, I found that the overwhelming urge to chuck it all was almost impossible to shake by the fifteenth day. Starting with one item, then two, then three, and so on propelled us into this beautiful world of letting go of what we don’t need.

I’ve written about letting go of emotional baggage, but it’s been a long time since I’ve discussed letting go of actual physical clutter. I guess because I started thinking, “There are just so many ways you can tell people to throw shit away.” But, clearly, from those taking on this challenge there’s still a need to advise and help.

I have LOVED this process and even more that my husband got on board too!

Dedee C. – Republic, MO

Let me be clear about one thing, though. I have little to no emotional attachment to material items. In my home, I can list about ten things I would grab should my house ever catch on fire and three of those are handmade quilts given to me by one person. So that narrows it down to seven items, and as I sat here trying to list them for my satisfaction, I couldn’t even come up with ten. So – my point – I don’t know if I can offer you much to address the psychological issues of holding on to things. I’m just not wired like that. Clutter gives me even more anxiety than I already have daily.

So, how do I do it? How do I easily get rid of clutter? Well, settle in. I’m about to tell you. But first, let me say I’m not perfect. I’m surprised that I quickly found items to discard or donate, but I, too, have been holding on to things. I journaled about why last night, and that’s another blog for another time, but I think I worked through some of the emotional reasons why I had gotten to the point where I was holding on to things I no longer needed.

My advice? Take baby steps. Small actions, taken every day, end up being the way to success. You don’t lose thirty pounds by fasting one day and running ten miles. This requires a series of small steps taken every day consistently to meet that goal. Living a life of simplicity is just like that: small steps, every day.

So here are some ways to get started:

  1. Do the challenge. If I told you to get 500 things to discard today, you’d say to me you don’t even know where to start or that you don’t have time. I’d believe either of those excuses. But, start at the beginning of one month and for each day, get rid of that number of items. And do it in February. It’s a short month.
  2. Pretend you are moving. Seriously. This really does work. People ask me how I can stay on top of this. Well, I’ve moved 18 times in 15 years. It’s hard to get emotional about stuff when you know you have to carry a box containing it. Plus, this Ted Talk always helps me focus, too. I love Graham Hill and Life Edited. He says “Edit ruthlessly.” I agree. Cut. The. Cord.
  3. Start with the easy stuff. My closet is always the first place I start. There’s even a fancy free printable calendar for you. The summary: Discard anything torn, has holes, or in need of repair you can’t do yourself. And by discard, I don’t mean “donate”. No one wants this stuff. Then decide what you will sell, donate, or give away to people you know. This includes things that are dated, no longer fit, or just haven’t been worn in over a year. We wear twenty percent of our clothing eighty percent of the time. So, if you still have stuff left, turn your hangers around so that the hook faces the wall. When you wear the item, rehang it correctly. You can discard whatever is still hanging with the hook facing the wall at the end of six months. You aren’t wearing it for some reason. And you won’t. So bite the bullet and let it go. I wrote about this way back in 2013 and it’s a good reminder.
  4. Move to the kitchen. My kitchen used to be a colossal cave of clutter, which I wrote about here. But not anymore. If you have more than two items of the same thing, you can declutter the extra items. My guy has four rubber spatulas (that I know about). He tells me he needs all of them. This is not true. The truth is, he doesn’t do his dishes every day, and he’s too unfocused to wash a spatula in the middle of preparing his meals. How do I know this? Because I have one. I’ve only had one since 2010, when I got rid of the other six. Is it convenient? Not always. (Love you, baby. Really.) But no one needs six rubber spatulas. No one.
  5. Move to the bathroom. I get that this is a tough one. Makeup and designer face creams are expensive. But I know I don’t need six daily moisturizers. And, well, you don’t either. So start discarding here. I repurposed a half bottle of shampoo by using it to shave my legs, but other than this, I was able to get rid of nearly thirty items.
  6. Check your meds. Expired medications and expired over the counter products can go. Just don’t toss them or flush them. Check with your local pharmacy on the best way to get rid of these items. Sometimes local fire departments will take them, as well as Wal-Greens.

These are quick ways to get started. You have to stay on top of this, and admittedly, I haven’t. So I will do the challenge for two months. I’ve already donated and thrown away over 1000 items since January 1st. And folks, I’m pretty organized. So, if I have this many items…um…so do you. (I get this is a very privileged statement. I will write about that later, too.)

As always, here’s your song for the day. It has absolutely nothing to do with letting go, but if you are cleaning you need a song to get yourself motivated.

New Old Ideas: 12 Reasons To Simplify

I have something to say.  Really.  It’s crucial.  Are you ready???

Since I embraced simplicity, my life has changed.

Yes.  It. Has. Changed. Dramatically.  Radically.  Completely.  Outside of the most unexpected gift of becoming a mother, I declare that saying “NO” to consumerism and vowing to live a simpler life has been the best thing to ever happen to me.

In 2010 I started reading about simplicity.  I kept thinking I needed a change.  As a massage therapist, I had always told my clients that stress is the number one cause of over 90% of diseases in our modern-day.  Yet…I was really stressed.  Rushed.  Tired.  Unfulfilled.  Every New Years past I wrote down my goals:  This year I want PEACE.  PEACE, Dammit!!!  I NEED IT!!!  (Hmmmm….see the irony?)

Then, one night amid my lifestyle-induced insomnia, I came across a blog post by Leo Babauta. From there, I started following other bloggers like Josh Becker and Tammy Strobel. And now I follow several bloggers who, like me, are finding that ‘minimalism’ is more about simplicity…and less about living with nothing at all. Quite frankly, these people became my teachers.  I have so much gratitude for each of them for the introduction to a simpler life.

Last year I was determined to get my finances in order, take a much-needed vacation, and get my mental and emotional health back on track. Looking over the last year (even during a global pandemic) I accomplished my goals. Dare I say that this is the first year I did achieve my goals – so maybe…just maybe…I needed the forced ‘slow down’.

In 2021 I plan to focus on my physical and spiritual health. I haven’t outlined what that will look like eventually or even how I’ll measure that (Cue SMART Goals), but I’m still working through it. I know that simplifying my engagement calendar will be vital for successful goal management. For starters: Every Thursday at 7 pm, I will continue my yoga practice. Boom. Physical & Spiritual with one stone.

Let 2021 be your year.  Whether you decide to consider the concept, are ready to begin cleansing your life of clutter, or even prepared to take it to the next level and help others…Turn 2021 into a year that can change your life forever.  Make it the year to embrace simplicity; to let go; to feel free.  Say yes to relaxation and happiness.  Say yes to getting your life back.

To further convince you, here are 12 Ways (and Reasons!) to Simplify this year:
(Disclaimer:  Some will bring on immediate benefits while some will be worth the wait.  Just be open.)

1. Reduce the physical clutter in your home.  By reducing, you will have less to clean, less to maintain, less to organize, less financial burden, and less emotional distractions.  Owning less eventually gives you ‘more’ in other areas of your life. 

2. Say “No, thank you” to a commitment.  Booked-solid people have no time for rest.  And people who have no time for rest are mean.  Seriously.  They spend that spare 15 minutes folding laundry instead of reading to their children.  They take a 20-minute drive and use the ‘windshield’ time to return phone calls instead of singing silly songs with their kids or merely taking in the sights around them.

3.  Start each morning with these words:  “Thank you.”  Feeling gratitude only expands the reasons to have more of it.  With less to occupy your attention, you’ll be able to see how blessed your life is.  And, if you find it isn’t as ‘blessed’ as you’d like it to be you’ll have the time and energy to find ways to make it more blessed. 

 4.  Simplify your menu.   I mean, REALLY.  In the book, Simplicity Parenting, Kim John Payne suggests making each day the “Fill In The Blank” day, such as Monday-Pasta; Tuesday-Rice;  Wednesday-Slow Cooker, etc.  We typically eat the same twelve menu items over and over. Don’t believe me? Really? What’s your ‘go-to’ meal on hectic days?

5.  Focus on prevention.  It is so much easier to STAY well than to GET well.  You can apply these ideas to your body, soul, material possessions, and bank account. 

6.  Realize you don’t have to live your life the way you’ve been told.  You don’t have to own 2+ cars, a boat, and a 3500 square foot home with a craft room, workshop, and separate living areas.  You don’t have to work in a job you hate.  You can have, be, and do more with your life.  I’ll introduce you to this concept throughout the year, starting with this movie trailer. (Since 2013, I have watched this movie every New Year’s Day to remind me!)

8.  Reduce the clothes in your closet.  Americans wear 20% of our wardrobe 80% of the time.  You don’t believe me?  Well, I’ll have a challenge for you in March that will prove me right.  You wait and see. 

9.  Find a creative outlet.   Hopefully, it won’t be one that encourages you to turn an entire room into a smaller version of Hobby Lobby, BUT in the event that it does you’ll be amazed how much adding creativity to your life breeds happiness.

10.  Schedule nap time.  Or just some downtime to sit in the sun.  Don’t have the time??  Not to sound judgmental, but that’s an unfortunate commentary on your life, and I want to help!  Refer back to #2, and we’ll discuss this more during the year.

11.  Limit your time on Social Media.  Seriously, the drama factor on FakeBook alone is enough to prove my point on this one.  There is no bigger time suck than Social Media. The comparison factor alone creates opportunities for you to be stressed.

12.  Have a place for everything.  Even those pesky clipped coupons and scrapbook paper need a place to rest – and your kitchen counter, isn’t it.  Many of us are working from home now, and our ‘office’ is the kitchen island. Except it isn’t. (Listen again: The kitchen counter/table/island is not your office.) So, get yourself a file box or briefcase and put all that stuff away each night as if you were working from your favorite coffee shop.

I’ll post challenges centered on reducing clutter and improving your life quality over the next year. No worries, they will be simple. (Simple…not necessarily easy.)

So, what would you like help with this coming year? Where can you simplify? Which of the twelve ideas resonates most with you?

Spice Up Your Kitchen by Simplifying

Last week I wrote about waste and my decisions to make my life a bit simpler here in our Sho-Me state home. So far things have been a tad bit interesting, and even a bit emotional, to say the least.

As promised, I met with Grace to come up with a few little lists which I will share with you today and throughout the month. But first, let’s get to the heart of it.

My decision to stop cooking has resulted in the following:

1) I gained five hours of my life back each week. I feel less stress and find I have time to keep up with other things. This is good.

2) I feel an enormous amount of guilt. Each night I watch the Hubster forage through the kitchen at 6 pm only to watch him pop a frozen Country Fried Steak in the microwave. Said Country Fried Steak is then smothered under a blanket of mustard. Is this emotional and social programming? I mean, what kind of wife am I to let my best friend starve to death? Or…do I really believe he will die from the overconsumption of processed foods? Probably a little of both.

3) I’ve lost weight. Salads and whole foods will do that to a person. In fact, rumor has it that if you eat ‘real food’ you don’t really need to count calories anymore. The body is an amazing vehicle that seems to understand exactly what you need, if only it is provided with the proper fuel in the first place.

So far my decision to stop cooking has been both good and bad. I mean, I still cook. I made brown rice and I baked a sweet potato. I’m not a full-on hippie, for Pete’s sake. Even made myself a bowl of cookie dough…of course…I tried to consume the entire bowl before I baked the cookies, but frankly, that’s beside the point.

Anyway. On to Grace’s list to help me clear the clutter from my kitchen!  I asked The Nude Foodie herself if she could only have TEN SPICES in her cupboard, which would she choose? Here are her answers:

(There are other opinions, like this one, but ultimately it’s your kitchen.)

We argued about nutmeg. I love nutmeg. She says “Eh, it’s not really necessary.”  Meh. Silly, Grace. Whateverrr. As you can see, I have lots of work to do in the clutter-clearing arena this week, but I think you will be pleasantly surprised by my results. Stay tuned.

Some are a bit dusty on top. Proof I don't cook.

Some are a bit dusty on top. Proof I don’t cook.

Do You Need More Storage or Less Stuff?

Denise’s Notes: This week’s post is reblogged from Unclutterer. Deb Lee originally posted this on Tuesday and I know it will certainly resonate with some of you in light of what I’ve been writing about for the last few weeks. It definitely goes along with my tongue-in-cheek comments about all the organization tips on Pinterest. You don’t have to organize what you don’t own. 

Raise your hand if you think you need more storage space in your home. Anyone think that if they just had more storage areas, their home would be easier to maintain? Sometimes I wish my home had more closets, especially a dedicated linen closet. But, I’ve found a way around that and, honestly, I don’t need a separate space to keep towels and sheets, which means it’s probably more of a want and not a need.

Of course, if you live in a small home, your storage options may be limited. You’ll likely have to use tried-and-true techniques (maximize vertical space, use under bed storage, hooks, armoires, etc.) and take advantage of creative solutions, like using multi-purpose furniture or hiding things in plain sight. You might even come up with some unconventional ways to keep your stuff, like using a car or minivan (that isn’t needed for transportation) as storage space.

In a recent blog post over at Extraordinary Observations, Storing Private Stuff in Public Space, the author started giving this some thought. He reasoned that it would be very convenient (the vehicle would be parked close to his home) and when he crunched the numbers, he found that it would be a cost effective option, too.

… street parking (public space) is used to store automobiles (privately owned things) for little to no cost (it would cost me $35 per year for a residential permit in my neighborhood). Using a van for storage would cost significantly less money than renting a space at one of those self storage warehouses, and it would be a lot more convenient.

It’s an interesting notion and it seems to make sense from a monetary standpoint. For anyone seriously considering this as a solution, another question comes to mind. Why not reduce your stash so that the car isn’t needed for storage? You wouldn’t have to worry about the types of things you could store in your vehicle (since it’s not temperature controlled) nor would you have to be concerned about someone stealing it. With one less spot to maintain, you’d also have less work to do, fewer decisions to make, and more time to focus on other things. And, you’d have the option of selling or donating your car, both of which come with financial benefits.

Though the benefits of living with less are clear, going through the process is not always straightforward or easy, especially when you have to let go of things that you’re emotionally attached to. When faced with the task of uncluttering and downsizing, it’s important to remain focused on the positive outcomes of reducing the number of things you own (particularly if you don’t use or want them). Keep in mind that you can also handpick who receives certain items which can help put your mind at ease. Of course, simplifying doesn’t mean that you have to get rid of everything. You’re simply prioritizing and carefully selecting which items you will bring the most value to your life.

Ultimately, anyone going through this process will need to answer this question: Will a storage unit (of any type) be a regular and permanent part of your life, or would you prefer to find a way to live well with less?

Six Steps to Cleaning Closets: Doing the March Challenge!

We are a week into the March Challenge and I just want to say a few things about over-consumption of clothing. The truth is, we wear 20% of our clothing 80% of the time. When I first read this, I tested it. I brought out my seasonal clothes, hung everything on white hangers (the infancy stages, mind you, of my infamous ‘white hanger theory’). When I wore an item, I hung it on a colored hanger. Then, at the end of the season, I took note of everything still left on white hangers. I realized I didn’t wear these clothes all season (and there was A LOT!)…so out they went. Now, I do a version of the white hanger theory twice a year. Here is an idea if you don’t have white hangers.

If you haven’t started the March challenge yet (and you know who you are!) here’s how you get started:

Determine what you have.  The first step in your process is to remove everything from your closet. Do this when you have more than just an hour of spare time. Make it the project for the day. It is time-consuming and emotional. I find that a nice, crisp Sauvignon Blanc pairs nicely with this activity. I also suggest bringing in your closest confident who will tell you, in all honesty, if you should keep an item. (My husband once said, “I hate that shirt. It makes you look like a hippie.” Well, even though I like to embrace my inner bohemian at times, the ‘hippie’ look isn’t quite what I was going for, so out went that shirt).

Decide what you really need. Like I’ve said, we wear 20% of our clothing 80% of the time, so use frequency of use as a benchmark for deciding what to keep. You know you love it. You know it’s your go-to sweatshirt on the weekend. You know you look hot in those jeans. Keep them. But some things are only worn on special occasions, and truthfully those items can be paired down. Some would even argue one simple black dress is really all one needs for ‘special occasions.’ (Guys, I don’t expect you to wear a little black dress. But, seriously, all you need is one really good suit.)

Admit the relationship is getting old. If you are still hanging on to an item you used to love, acknowledge that…and be prepared to chuck it. My mother has a Mickey Mouse sweatshirt with a thousand holes in it. I’m pretty sure she still has it because it represents a family vacation. I’m also pretty sure she has photos of that vacation and therefore, Mickey could be thrown out (Mother, I know you read this blog…yes…I’m talking to you). There’s nothing wrong with hanging on to things because it holds sentimental value, but if you’ve still got your prom dress from 1989, its time for your friend to intervene. Pour another glass of wine, remember dancing with that special person to some Richard Marx song…and get rid of it.

Be honest about how you look in it. Does this flatter you now that you’ve lost (um…gained…) 40 pounds? Try it on, get the friend to give it thumbs up or down…and move on. Here’s the only time I would recommend that you set some time to go pick up some classic and flattering pieces of clothing – but only if you really need them.

Consider your life now. Last weekend I realized that all my old work clothes were stuffy business suits from back in my ‘high paid consultant’ days. Now, I work from home and usually in my yoga pants. I kept the black dress, a pair of black slacks, a jacket that matches both, and out with the rest. While you are in your decision-making mode, consider what you do on a regular basis now. “Well, when my child goes to school, I might reenter the workforce.” Okay, great. That’s five years from now. If you wear THAT you’ll look like a dork because it’s 7 years old. Toss it.

Grab those things you love and put them back. Grab those white hangers (or do this instead….). I’ve done this for two weeks. It’s not looking too good for that old Eddie Bauer sweater with holes in it…poor baby. No matter what ‘organizational system’ you choose (white hanger, reverse hanger, Project 333, etc.) make it easy. Avoid a system that is too complicated. Simple is better.

What to do with what is left.

Donate it to charity. Honestly DONATE IT TO CHARITY. I think people who talk themselves into selling stuff on the internet (like on Craigslist or eBay) are just looking for a reason to hang on to something a bit longer. Ugh. Just get rid of it already.

Throw it out. If your item has stains, rips, or ‘just needs a little mending’ do not donate it. Thrift store shoppers do not want your crappy stuff any more than you do. Be considerate. (I made cleaning rags out of my hubby’s old stained t-shirts – thus reducing my need to waste so many paper towels – so you can even repurpose it if you can’t bring yourself to throw it away. Here’s another great idea I’m gonna try!)

Give it away to a friend. Sometimes donating to charity isn’t as fun as giving it to someone who would really like it. I recently had a month-long Give A Way project that was a blast! My silver cocktail dress is going to my step-daughter this week. I’ve worn it one time. It will make a nice graduation dress or ‘fancy dinner’ outfit for her. My son was in the NICU for 8 days when he was born, so when he outgrew his NB clothes I gave them to the NICU in honor of those awesome nurses. Snow suits were recently shipped to my girlfriend in Massachusetts – (hahaha…you are up to your eyeballs in SNOW!!!). Same with several wool hats and scarves.

Last but not least, be gentle with yourself. You can do this. I know you can. It is not easy. It can be hard. Keep going.

Let me know how you are doing…I’d love to hear about it. Comments are awesome!

This Week’s Challenge:

Set a time to do this project now! Write it in your calendar. Call your ‘buddy’ and ask them to meet you for the day to start this project. Gather your supplies (boxes, trash bags, white hangers, um…wine…etc.). Get excited – you are about to take the first step in your life of ‘freedom’.

Announcement:

For the rest of the month, I will be taking time to get some posts ready so that my poor editor isn’t subjected to my lack of planning. Do not fret, dear readers…I will still post but will highlight some great guest bloggers. That way you will still get some really awesome info and be introduced to some wonderful like-minded people in the process. So excited!!

Simplicity Is An Inside Job

Hmmm. Simplicity. What does that even mean? One of the most interesting epiphanies I’ve had over the last two years was the realization that each time I chose to add an activity to my calendar or an item to my closet, I was mostly seeking fulfillment. Looking back it seems like ‘crazy talk’ when I say that out loud, but you see, I always felt there was something missing from my life. What never occurred to me was that somethingwas me. I was missing from my life. The more activities I added, the more responsibilities I accepted, the more possessions I bought only created more of a void. Those things separated me from the stillness I needed to really get to know myself . Finally I started to realize what really mattered to me was spending time with my friends and family, reading a book, writing or putting another spin on my already-fantastic banana bread recipe. Listening to a really great songwriter and getting a super-restful night of sleep were also things I realized I needed in my life to be happy.

Those things, the ones that give me the greatest joy, are the simplest. They don’t require a season pass or a new outfit. They don’t ask me to spend hundreds of dollars or even to clean my house. This may seem simple to some, maybe even a bit boring, but to me they are the lifeline to keeping my sanity.

Simplicity means making room for the things that really matter amongst the noise of life. Some of us are so busy and so caught up with impressing other people that we don’t even know what that means. Linda Breen Pierce’s book, Choosing Simplicity, reminds us that many of the challenges we create – and even some of the health issues we have – are consequences of our belief that we have to have everything. Finding value in what you NEED versus having everything you WANT gives you freedom to say “I choose to relax.” I spent a lot of my life seeking the impressive career, amassing material possessions, and purchasing letters to plug in after my name by way of huge student loan debt. In the end, I realized what I really love to do wasn’t enhanced by any of those things. In fact, it took me 28 years to realize what my 8th grade language arts teacher, Mrs. Childers, learned about me the first week of school. I love to read and I love to write. Neither of those require an MBA nor do they require a 4,000 square foot house.

At some point, hopefully, everyone who feels lost can come to the realization they are missing out on the things they truly value and enjoy in order to live a life someone, at some point, told them they should live. There are a lot of reasons why we believe that line of nonsense,and it takes some longer than others to realize it is just that: nonsense. But, of course, the turning point for many is one simple question: Why are you living your life?

You don’t have to live in the country to enjoy a simpler life. You can own more than 100 things. You can paint your walls any color you desire. You can buy your vegetables at the grocery store. The change to living a more free and balanced – more simple – life comes from within you – not outside of you. Living outside of yourself is what got you into this mess in the first place. Pick a handful of things you really value – and that should be enough to start you on your journey.

If you’ve read through past posts, you know my story. I won’t bore you with it again for awhile. But in the coming months you will hear from some of my favorite people who left an old life behind to pursue the life they truly value. Ken, who left a high stress broadcasting position to open a thrift store; Kathryn, an author who left her full-time job to finally finish her novel; and Liz, a world traveler who bought an $8 wedding dress at the Salvation Army Thrift Store and buys the majority of her possessions from Craigslist so she and her husband can have the resources needed travel to far away lands. My plan for this year’s blog schedule has lead me to some very interesting people and I hope you will be as inspired by them a I am.

Weekly Challenge:

Is there something on your calendar that you just dread? Can you get rid of it? For me I host a monthly database management group (I know, right. Sounds so exciting…!) but lately it hasn’t done anything to light my fire. So, this week I have decided to send out the notice that the meeting is cancelled. Forever. What can you get rid of this week?

And, March is almost upon us. Let’s prepare mentally for the challenge:

March challenge:

We are invoking my infamous ‘white hanger theory’ this month at our home. We wear 20% of our clothing 80% of the time. This means that, literally, 80% of the clothes in our closets are unnecessary. The white hanger theory works like this: Each time you wear something this month from your closet, rehang it on a white hanger. Do this for three months. In 90 days, you’ll see most of your clothes are not on white hangers. Decide with what you can part. Don’t have white hangers? Then try this instead.

5 Lessons I Learned By Making Orange Juice

“The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it.”Thich Nhat Hanh

The baby is sleeping a little later these days which translates into a few hours in the early morning to use as I deem fit. Mostly, I walk around the house looking for things to do because, as we all know, I don’t relax well. But occasionally, I take some of those peaceful moments to be more mindful.

This morning I removed my grandmother’s citrus juicer from its sacred place, grabbed a basket of beautiful organic oranges (a gift from a neighbor) and proceeded to make myself a wonderful glass of freshly squeezed orange juice. This is important to share because I have a perfectly good, very expensive, electric juicer sitting just a few inches from where I spent my time in mindful meditation this morning.

orangejuice

“How silly,” you might think. “You could have had that orange juice in half the time if you would have used that overpriced kitchen gadget.” Yes, you are correct. But I also would have disturbed the quiet of the morning (the overpriced gadget is very LOUD), created a mess with five moving parts I find completely annoying to clean, and…I wouldn’t have looked up from my task to find two bunnies playing in the yard. There is something miraculous that happens when one decides to take the simpler route.

At first, deciding to be mindful can be challenging. But I’ve found in my personal journey to seek simplicity in all things that true mindfulness can be really cathartic. When our attention is diffused we might be aware of something, but not really focused on it. Like me, with the bunnies. I know bunnies play in the morning. I just didn’t know these bunnies played in my yard in the morning. Get it?

Another thing about mindfulness is that it doesn’t take a degree in rocket science to become proficient. Sure, some take it to the extreme and build a hut in the middle of New Mexico to sit for days in formal meditation. Others…well…we make orange juice. I’m just saying that mindfulness can take place informally with everyday activities. Here are some ways I have learned to be mindful – and I hope you’ll learn from these too:

1. Focus on one thing at a time. Corporate America would have us believe that multi-tasking is a skill we need to move up the ladder. In reality, the multi-tasking as it relates to productivity is a complete myth. Resist the urge to do several things at once. In other words: “When walking, walk. When eating, eat.” (Zen proverb)

2. Don’t rush. Remember the tortoise and the hare? Slow and steady wins the race. The same can be applied to making orange juice by hand or with an expensive juicer. Take your time. Be present. Move slowly. Relax and focus. It is hard at first. Keep trying.

3. Forget your to-do list. The less you do, the better you are. My ‘to do list’ became a ‘project list’ after the baby was born. I only attempt one project a day. This way I focus on one thing at a time. Yes, it takes me longer. That’s the point. I also do a better job. (Today’s project: Vacuum. That is quite an accomplishment when living with an infant.)

4. Be present when you eat. This advice comes directly to you from a woman who sits with an infant in her lap trying to cut her food and eat with one hand 90% of the time. Look, I never said I was a Zen-Master, so we all have things at which we can become better. I’ll work on it if you will. One last thought on this: research indicates that mindful eating helps one to actually eat less.

5. Savor your chores. When you become mindful in the daily tasks you really start to learn to notice things you have never cared about before (shall I mention the bunnies again?). I have started folding laundry in the quiet laundry room instead of sitting in front of the television. (Didn’t realize I had so many socks with holes in the toes. Also, my ‘unmentionables’ are looking a bit ratty these days which may explain…um…never mind). Mindfulness while preparing dinner helped me realize my kitchen design was completely wrong for cooking. I ended up moving my refrigerator, microwave, and all my cooking pans to different locations.

For all of you, I encourage you to just keep at it. Mindfulness takes time. Be gentle with yourself. Decide to be completely present for one task today. Just one. Your mindful task will eventually turn into a mindful day and from that…a mindful week. Finally, you’ll realize a mindful life. But you have to
start with something. Maybe with a glass of orange juice?

This week’s challenge:

Spend five minutes each day doing nothing. Be aware of your breath. Be aware of the tension in your body. Be aware of your thoughts…your feelings…your desires. Did you emerge from your five minutes with more insight? More relaxed? More aware of the aches and pains? Take a moment to let me know.

Announcing the March challenge:

We are invoking my infamous ‘white hanger theory’ this month at our home. We wear 20% of our clothing 80% of the time. This means that, literally, 80% of the clothes in our closets are unnecessary. The white hanger theory works like this: Each time you wear something this month from your closet, rehang it on a white hanger. Do this for three months. In 90 days, you’ll see most of your clothes are not on white hangers. Decide with what you can part. Don’t have white hangers? Then try this instead.

Need more encouragement? See how others have taking the plunge and cleaned up their closet:

Tips for Simplifying Closets and Clothes
5 Steps To Decluttering Your Closet
Decluttering Tips From An Aspiring Hoader
How I Decluttered My Closet

PS…I would be remiss to not mention my new editor who has enriched my life in more ways than one.  Please consider buying her book, The Farmer’s Story.

PSS…I started to use ‘amiss’ instead of ‘remiss’ but I knew my editor would shake her finger at me if I chose incorrectly.  So I Googled it.  See how her presence improves me?  We all have someone who makes us better, right?