Holy Soul partial-001“I am neither better nor smarter, only maybe luckier.  And I should be ashamed of scoffing, ashamed of thinking I know it all, because you can know the whole world and still feel lost in it.  So many people are in pain.  And those who mock faith don’t appear to be any happier.  So maybe instead of looking down on things, we should be looking up.  Because, underneath our egos and our attitudes, we all share this: a deep yearning for comfort, and the dream of a peaceful heart.”  ~ Mitch Albom

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Dear Lady Jane: as you begin 2nd grade

Lady JaneYou know that Bon Jovi song that goes, “The boys are back in town, the boys are back in town?” I’m singing, “The kids are back in school, the kids are back in school.” While our summer was pretty easy (especially compared to the amount of dread I entered it with!), I love the beginning of the school year, starting new activities, meeting new teachers, and all the holidays in the fall.

Last week we had a quick meet-the-teacher event at school and I absolutely loved seeing all of my daughter’s friends after a summer away.  They seemed much taller and more mature than they were in May.  In fact, two years ago when we were at the kindergarten orientation, I remember looking at the 5th graders and wondering how these little people were ever going to be that big.  Now I can kind of see it…

big strong legsThere were a couple of parents who were shocked to see how much Sweet Girl had grown over the summer.  And I can see it too.  Mr. B and I have talked about how she is braver and more confident.  Beginning a new camp each Monday really helped her practice going into unknown situations.

And so, while I have said some of these things to her, I would like to share more completely here:

Dear Sweet Girl,

There were a myriad of tiny, almost unnoticeable, changes over the past 12 weeks that have culminated in a “new and improved” you.  Each one was celebrated in its own way, but was really not that big of a deal.  However, when you look at them all together, you are all-of-a-sudden much more mature and certainly more confident than you ever were before.

art handsYou can conjure an entire imaginary audience to watch and learn from your instructional art videos and bath time chemistry concoctions.  I love that you could do this for hours at a time if we let you.  Your creativity and imagination impresses me.

You went from fearing day 1 of a weekly camp, hanging on me, and a few tears… to a quick kiss goodbye.  You have tried and embraced so many new things this summer that I know you won’t be afraid to keep trying more.  Card tricks, the scientific method, dance and music games, working with clay, learning about rainforests… the things you know amaze me, especially when they emerge at times when I can learn something from you.

We went to a few baseball games this summer, and now you are determined to play softball.  We practice swinging and hitting, catching and throwing, and you have gotten considerably good at it.  I am so happy that you aren’t afraid to be terrible at something while you learn to strengthen your skills.  I am impressed with your self-motivation and determination too.

colorful drawers-001We have had lots of house projects going on and you asked if you could redo your room as well.  It went from a pink little girl’s room (dolls, stuffed animals) to a big girls room (chapter books, shelves, loft bed).  You had set ideas of exactly what you wanted and we made it happen.  Even more impressive, you tossed or donated so many of your toys and clothes, being willing to part with things for the first time.  THAT was huge for you!

You are taller, stronger, more confident, and wiser than you were 12 weeks ago.  I know you will continue to change quickly.  It has caused me to pay much more attention than I have been lately.  I want to enjoy your being 7, wanting to cuddle, talking to me about all your ideas.  I am so so glad that I am here to listen, to kiss you goodbye in the morning and pick you up at school, to give you a snack and hear all about your day, to see what you are liking to watch on tv and read about, and to tuck you in every night.  I would not give that up for anything.

Here’s to another milestone year at school.  xoxo, Mommy

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Save the best; get rid of the rest

craft drawers

Thanks so much for all your enlightening comments on my last post, All you need is LESS. We are definitely in a similar place in fighting clutter and determining what we value most.

I am really good at organization.  I can sort and contain, label and stack.  I have done that with my closet, our living room, and our office so often that I was frustrated.  So I decided to toss half of most things.  I have long felt that we have more than we’ll ever need.  I gave (to someone who will enjoy it) an espresso maker that we got 17 years ago (hell0!) and hadn’t even opened.  I donated older luggage.  I gave some furniture to a family who will hugely appreciate it.  We tossed dried out markers, recycled old paint, donated boxes of picture frames, etc.

Some often overlooked categories that I found feel really good to simplify: spices, tupperware, water bottles and plastic cups, towels, night table drawers.

top drawerIt feels so great to have more space for what is left.  And nothing more is needed.  I’m hesitant to buy anything or accept anything that’s going to take up that precious empty space on a shelf.  Our house doesn’t look bare.  It looks more HGTV-like than ever.  🙂

vases coffeeHere’s an example of a probably common struggle.  I bought a rather expensive craft storage system a few years ago.  It’s called a ScrapRack and it’s for organizing and containing the multitude of ephemera by category.  I spent quite a bit of money on it, so even though I decided not to use it anymore, I hate to just donate it because of what they call “sunk costs,” so much invested and not enough use.  But… it’s taking up closet shelf space.  So I had to cut my losses and move on.

junk drawerOur junk drawer was a disaster.  I couldn’t even open of close the drawer most of the time.  And finding what I wanted? Hopeless.  I have a place for each item and now it’s so much nicer.

There are so many benefits of clearing out all the little things that constitute clutter. There’s far less to clean up (and big motivation to return a space to perfection).  You know what you have and where it is so you don’t re-buy something.  It allows the space you have to work in the best way possible… and it leaves lots of empty space for your eyes to rest.  That open space feels peaceful and calm.

Have you had any successes in this?

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All you need is LESS

empty garageBeing AWARE of whatever is causing stuck energy in your body, your house, your mind, etc. is supposed to be the secret to conquering clutter.  It makes sense that examining the underlying why of doing something will help us overcome it.  It’s the old, “what you resist, persists” adage.  Anything that causes resistance becomes your clutter.  Do you avoid folding laundry, making a phone call, telling someone no? Personally, I am currently in some sort of self-blame mode about binging on Girl Scout cookies, specifically Peanut Butter Patties.  Darn those addictive little discs! To help myself, I’ve got to get them out of my house.

Here are a few things I’ve learned about decluttering over the past month or so:

  • For me, being around too many things makes me feel drained.  Maybe it’s because every object that my eyes rest upon causes me to think in some way, and if it’s something that’s out of place, I have to think longer about it.  When there are clean surfaces and items are in their correct home, my mind can focus on other things.
  • Having fewer possessions saves me time.  I know where something is so I’m not searching for anything.  Getting dressed, I have fewer decisions to make.
  • The best question for me to ask when I’m considering whether to keep something is “Does this help me have a meaningful life?” Extra shoelaces – nope.  Exercise clothes – yes (just not as many). Another question: “If my house were on fire, would this be worth running inside to rescue?” Really, those extra pairs of eyeglasses are just taking up space.
  • No more excuses.  The main idea here is that you’re enough.  You don’t need things, even sentimental items, in order to be enough.  Example: I have boxes of photos and cards that I’ve kept for years and I finally decided to digitize them so I could have them organized and have those closet shelves back.  Other things I took a photo of rather than keep the object itself.  (Granted, I’m not finished and they are still sitting on the floor in a corner, but I will!)

So here’s what I’ve been doing, slowly but surely. I began with the mental image of what I want to feel when I’m in my home.  With any project, I work clockwise.  I start with one segment at a time until I’ve done the whole thing.  That way it’s not too big that it’s unmanageable.  It may be one drawer or one shelf but it’s progress!

Give away a few books; donate appliances you don’t use; toss old gardening supplies; go through the pantry; clean out under the kitchen sink; declutter bathtub toys; give away extra mugs/cups; toss old CDs and computer programs; scan/toss old school papers; get rid of old computers and electronics; sort your jewelry. The list can go on endlessly…

This can be personal… maybe you LOVE having all these things around you, in which case it’s fine.  For me, less is far more.

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That little gremlin inside

IMG_3016-001You missed a spot.  You should just take care of that now.  You should pay the bills today and get it done.  You should start a load of laundry.

Why does that little voice always team up with “the shoulds” to tackle even the strongest of us? I’ve started calling it my little gremlin.  It’s part of me, yes, but it’s also separate.  And I know this because I can tell it to hush.

Even wearing my superwoman cape, I still have things undone and that bothers me. There’s just never going to be a time when everything is in it’s rightful place, all tasks are finished, and that voice is going to give me permission to rest.

We all have them.  Pay those gremlins absolutely no attention.  Sing “la, la, la, I can’t hear you” to yourself.  Rather, listen within to what you know is right for right now.  When you let go of the gremlin’s expectations, you leave yourself open for inspiration and new experiences.

Do you have experience battling the gremlins? How do you tell it to chill?

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Dazzling light

dazzling light“Still, what I want in my life is to be willing to be dazzled – to cast aside the weight of facts and maybe even to float a little above this difficult world. I want to believe I am looking into the white fire of a great mystery. I want to believe that the imperfections are nothing – that the light is everything – that it is more than the sum of each flawed blossom rising and fading. And I do.”

-Mary Oliver, House of Light

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