• Love
  • How to Take Your Relationship to the Next Level

    take your relationship to the next level

    It’s easy in the beginning. You fall madly in love. You can’t get the other person out of your thoughts. You can’t wait to see them on the weekend. You buy gifts, go on dates, and do sweet things for no reason at all. Warm, fuzzy feelings fill your relationship.

    And then one day they don’t. You argue, disagree, or need some space. The other person disappoints you, doesn’t meet your expectations, or lets you down. You discover… a flaw. And unless the other person throws some serious red flags, this is the point when you decide whether you’re truly committed or not. This is where the rubber meets the road.

    A committed relationship gives you several opportunities, again and again, to go to the next level. And it all starts with you. You must first be solid within yourself (as much as possible) before your relationship with another can take on added layers and deeper meaning.

    Let’s just say, for now, you’re ready. You’re both ready. So what does it look like to take your relationship to the next level?

    You may be imagining some crazy ass shit like wild sex parties and threesomes or getting married, having children, or buying a house. These are natural desires and dreams for a couple for outward expansion. But there’s an inward expansion that must first be undertaken: trust.

    Trust is fundamental to the health of any relationship. And it’s the ingredient most frequently discarded in pursuit of outward expansion. Many people fail to develop deep levels of trust before getting married, having a threesome, or even having children. Our society pays no mind to the deep bond necessary to make such undertakings successful, yet encourages that young people get married, have kids, and buy a house pronto. But these achievements remain hollow when your relationship hasn’t undergone the natural inward expansion necessary to withstand such changes. The development of trust creates the foundation for the entire future of your relationship.

    Here’s how trust has evolved in my own relationship:

    A couple Sundays ago, my love and I were enjoying the one leisure day we would have together for three weeks. The one day. My guy had to take a bit of that time to meet with his business partner, which was understandable. That had been the routine for many months now. He said it would only take an hour. But it took three. And I was furious.

    In all my furry, I could feel this voice inside me say, “It’s okay. Everything will work out.” But I couldn’t let the furry go. It was so convincing. I stay committed to it, even after he got home. But I knew that I didn’t want it to ruin what time we had left together. Despite how hard it was to let those feelings go, I decided in that moment to trust that it was all okay, and I opened my heart.

    This same scenario has played out over again and again in varying situations over the last several months. I find myself with all kinds of feelings of irritability, frustration, anger, fear, sadness, and doubt. Usually, my expectations aren’t being met. He’s not being the person I want him to be. Situations aren’t turning out how I’d like them to be. And I don’t understand what’s going on. I feel out of control.

    When I feel out of control, I get angry, frustrated, and hateful. I feel insecure. I take it out on him by closing my heart, walling myself off, and hiding. Which only hurts my relationship. Despite, and with deep acknowledgment of, my feelings, I’ve learned that it’s up to me to return to love. And that requires deep trust. Trust in my self. Trust in my relationship. Trust in the Universe and Life. And trust that everything will work out.

    Trust can be hard to define. But I’m going to give it a go…

    Trust means letting go of your negative thoughts and beliefs and expectations about the other person. Trust means choosing to see the positive and expect the best until proven otherwise. Trust means allowing the Universe to work within your relationship and to be the guide. Trust means putting down the walls and defenses to be yourself freely without shame, guilt, fear, or insecurity – or despite these feelings. Trust means allowing yourself to love deeply so that you may be loved deeply in return.

    These deeper layers of trust happen within you, with your relationship with yourself and with your relationship with God/the Universe/Life first. As you cultivate these deeper layers of trust, you find that trust reflected within your most intimate relationships. And all your relationships for that matter.

    From this space of deep trust, which must be cultivated within both partners, you can take new actions to outwardly expand your relationship as a couple. With each new level of inward expansion, a new level of outward expansion can evolve. The process reveals one layer after another on an ever-evolving journey. More feelings. More love. More feelings. More love. The deeper your commitment to one another the deeper you both will go.

    It’s difficult to trust. An open heart is vulnerable. It’s scary. And it’s understandable that feelings of insecurity would arise. Past hurts surface. Future fears confront you. It’s a natural reaction to defend or hide. But that next level in your relationship requires your diligent practice of being vulnerable, heart wide open, with full faith and trust. Whatever the outcome, it’s the perfect experience for you and your relationship. Your open heart ensures the health and longevity of your relationship, at least with yourself.

    In those moments when it’s hardest, choose to trust that there’s something there for you. Enter that vulnerable, soft place within yourself. Meet your partner from that space. Go there together. And share yourself with him or her deeply. That’s how you take your relationship to the next level. From there, expand out with vigor and enthusiasm.

    Where have you closed your heart in your relationship? Where have you built a wall? Where are and in what way are you cowering from the opportunity to take your relationship to the next level? How can you trust yourself, the Universe, and your partner more? And what inward action can you take today?

  • Love
  • The Artist’s Path: An Exploration into Consistency as the Middle Way

    The Artist's Path

    As a nurse, I care for people of every race, religion, sexual orientation, attitude, and family dynamic. Care does not discriminate, nor do I. In taking care of such a wide range of individuals, I’m often surprised and intrigued by what I uncover about the humans I care for.

    One of my patients had a secret talent. After three days of caring for him, I learned from the doctor that the patient was a phenomenal artist. The doctor heard from the patient’s friend. Curious, I approached my patient, “Tell me about being an artist?” He said, “Well, what do you want to know?” I said, “What’s your art? Your medium? What art do you go about arting?”

    He explained that he’s a painter. He’s been painting since the age of four. He can render any image into an exact replica on canvas. He’s so good that he’s had people approach him about creating counterfeit art. They offered good money, but after some thought, he said, “I told them no.”

    It’s no coincidence that as we’re talking I’m thinking about my writing. I’ve been wrestling with my art the last several weeks. I’ve explored many avenues with my writing in the last couple of years but I hit a wall again and again. My writing has slowed to the pace of a blooming flower. I journal with vigor about the need, want, and desire to write. I write words on a blank page. But then never return to them. My publishing rate has dropped to a low level. And I’m turning in circles, wearing holes in my shoes.

    The artist went on to explain that he’d get a build up of energy like, “I just had to paint.” An image would enter his mind and stay. A pressure built in his head. Any new thoughts or ideas stifled in the presence of the one idea that wouldn’t go. Painting was the only answer. “I’d paint for hours or days. I’d get it all out of me. And then it would be gone,” he said. He paints by pressure alone unless someone specifically asks him to make a painting.

    I asked if he could draw me something, since we don’t have paint, but he said he didn’t know what to do. He didn’t feel like it. “No pressure,” I said.

    I walked out of the room and returned to the nurse’s station. Pressure. And no pressure. Inspiration. And no inspiration. The game of the artist.

    The pressure builds to a point that you can’t sit back anymore. You must take action. No matter the quality, you must at least take action. Relieve the pressure. And go on your merry way. But know that the pressure will build again, and you’ll be called back to your art, again and again. Maybe you like the back and forth, the tug-o-war between your logic and your art. But maybe you don’t. The cycle can be broken by adhering to the middle way.

    The Buddha suggests that enlightenment can be found between the extremes. And while I don’t need enlightenment, I desire a path that centers my being, keeps me focused on the heart, and allows me to endure, experience, and explore life in a way that satisfies, heals, and integrates. The philosophy of the middle way can be a source of continual inspiration for any artist, myself included.

    What fruit can blossom from consistency?

    Consistency, or practice, centers the soul. Consistency is a guide, ever returning your attention to the heart of the matter, the why, the work, the play, the life. There’s a quietness in consistency and commitment that allows the flow to keep flowing and life to keep giving.

    The artist explained that his friends and even strangers would praise his work and encourage him to do something about it. The quality of his art is worthy of great galleries and great money. But he reservedly shook his head and said, “No,” time and time again. Despite the urges of the Universe, the sirens calling to him from as close as they could possibly get, he turned away. He engaged in the cycle of extreme creation and extreme stagnation until he reached a point where he no longer created.

    Where could he have been if he had heeded the call? Where would his art be today? What homes and people would proudly boast the art on the walls? What beauty would be dispersed in the world? What inspiration would fill hearts and move souls?

    When you engage in the cycle of extreme creation and extreme stagnation you open yourself to the struggle of the return and the possibility of never returning. It’s harder to sculpt, mold, and transform the puddy of inspiration as it rebuilds itself within you each successive cycle. Inspiration will only call so many times before it leaves you empty handed as the artist who wouldn’t commit.

    I’ve never been a gambler. Why should I gamble with my art? And why should I deprive the world of the beauty and inspiration that could arise by sharing my work? Who am I to think that the world doesn’t need it? Who am I to believe that it’s too hard or not worth it? Who am I to turn down the call to heal the planet at a time when we so desperately need it?

    Answer me this:

    What art are you not creating today that could serve humanity in profound ways?

     

     

    Photo Credit

  • Love
  • How to Create the Life You Desire

    How to Create the Life You Desire

    If there’s a life you’re trying to create, then there’s an easy way you can create it. But for most, you do not realize you can create your life the way you like, and you do not know how to do it.

    When you first hear that you can craft and design your life to your liking you might think of all your problems. And then you set out to dissolve your problems as a way to create the life you want. The whole time you’re solely focused on your problems. Your problems persist. Instead of seeing relief, you see more financial burden, more fights in your marriage, and grumpy kids and unrelatable friends. All while you’re still unhappy. Then you believe it doesn’t work. You give up. You think it’s all a sham. You can’t actually get the life you want. If you could, you would have had it by now, but no proof has appeared – not even a twinkle in the sky to give you hope.

    But you shouldn’t give up because there’s far more to the process than knowing you can create your life. You have to know how to create your life. If you stop with simply knowing, then you’ll fail. You’ll give up. You’ll think you can’t do it. Stick around and learn what more there is to the process. And soon you’ll have the life you desire.

    If you want to create your life, you must know that it’s a collaboration. Yea, you’re working with someone. Not a person or being, really. More like the Universe. God. Source. Your Higher Power. Your Highest Self. You know, that expansive, all-knowing force. The creator of life. Yea, you have to recruit the Creator of Life to help you create your life. This ain’t a solo journey. Can you get down with that?

    So that’s a big step. Well, it’s a big step to learn that you can create your life. But it’s an even bigger step to know that you have to recruit the help and aid of the Universe too. There’s power in this step that shouldn’t be overlooked. Because here you either make it or break it. You’re with it or not. If there’s any inkling of doubt, hesitation, or uncertainty about this step, then you need to figure out what that’s about. Do you struggle with the concept of God? Do you have beliefs about God that could be interfering with this broader, deeper, more supportive idea of God?

    If you can’t get on board with this step in the process, then you might want to stop now. Because this whole thing hinges on faith, surrender, openness, and trust. Those are big concepts and even bigger in practice. If you’re going to collaborate with the Creator of Life, these qualities are necessary to brew up your best life ever. Otherwise, you risk working with the wrong team: the ego.

    The ego plays an important role in human life. Well, we wouldn’t be quite human without it. It’s our personality. It’s how we engage and interact with earth and other humans (since we are spiritual beings having a human experience). But you can’t do much with it, other than interacting with others. Its function was not created to be the source of life. That’s God’s job. And that’s why you need to be on Her side to get the job done.

    So now that you’re with God. You get that God has to be in the picture if you want to be a collaborator, co-creator, of your life. God’s role is very important. Here’s what you can expect. God gathers the forces of nature to bring what you truly desire into physical form in your immediate reality. That means your new best friend, boyfriend, or dog (of their own free will and with the inspiration and guidance of God) are brought to you by the power of God. But not by the power of God alone. While God plays an important role (conjuring unseen forces to materialize in your reality), you have to have a desire for something specific first. That’s where you come in.

    As co-creator of your life, it’s your job to know what you want. Back to what we were talking about earlier. You just learned that you can create the life you desire. So you start to think about all the things going wrong in your life that you want to change. As we’ve already discussed, one thing wrong with what you did here was that you forgot to call on God to be a part of the process. Now the second thing going wrong is that you are focusing on your problems and all the things you don’t want in your life. And that’s exactly how you keep co-creating more of the same. You can’t expect the love of your life to appear when you can’t stop thinking about the broken marriage you’re still a part of. You can’t have a new car if you’re obsessed with talking about the old, broken down car sitting in your driveway. You can’t focus on your problems – what you don’t want – and expect to get what you do want.

    Instead, you must clearly and specifically define what you do want. You want a new car. What kind of car? By when? And most importantly, what will it feel like when you’re driving your new car? You want a new best friend. What qualities do you want in your best friend? What will you do together? And most importantly, what will it feel like when you’re with your new best friend?

    Now take out a piece of paper or open your journal if you have one. At the top of the page, write about what you want. Talk in detail about what you desire. What color? How many? With whom? Where to? And most importantly, what does it feel like to be in the experience of what you desire?

    Do you not know what you want specifically? Maybe you have a vague idea, but you’re having a hard time clearly defining it. That’s okay. Because you can use the most powerful tool of all to assist you in clarifying your desire all while attracting it you from the get-go. What’s the tool? Your feelings. Your feelings are your guide. They tell everything you need to know.

    Start like this: I know I want a new car. What does that feel like? Turn your focus and attention into the center of your body – your chest, belly, neck. All your attention should be on the midline of your body. Here is where you’ll receive the feeling. Sink into the knowing that the solution is available. There’s a car available for you. You’re not sure what kind, how many miles, or whatever. But you know it’s time for a new car and you’re ready to start attracting it to you now.

    Of course, you’ve got to actually need a new car. The desire must spring forth from inside you. It must. You’ve gotten the value out of your old one, and it’s truly time for a new one. It’s called a true desire.

    See you can’t (or at least you can try but it might not work well) attract things into your life if it isn’t a true desire. True desires come from within. They come from being in alignment with God. Here comes that collaboration piece again.

    When it comes to co-creating, you bounce ideas off God. You’re like, “Hey man, I think I really need a new car. What do you think?” You ask God what he thinks. And God says, “Nah, you don’t need a car. Not Yet. There are other more important things you should be focusing on.” So you say, “Okay, God. I get you. I don’t need a new car. But what should I be focusing on? What’s the next step?”

    If you sit with yourself in silent meditation, journal, or spend time in quiet contemplation, God will open your heart to your true desires. You’ll receive intuitions in your quiet time. Someone you know will mention something to you. Or you’ll get an idea from the TV or radio. If you’re still unsure about the specific details, simply focus on defining the feeling. Think of the situation you want to attract into your life. Ask yourself these questions: what is it about that that I want or like? What feeling do I think I’ll get from that? How do I want to feel when I receive that situation or experience?

    It’s more important that you know what feeling you’re going after than what it all looks like. Often what we think we want is different than what would actually feel best and be best for us. So when you go with feelings first you’re going to attract the perfect situation rather than attracting a situation that meets a mental picture but doesn’t necessarily feel right. Once you know what you truly desire. You use that powerful tool (your defined feelings) to assist God in manifesting what you desire.

    It’s a process. Overtime your desire may change or alter based on new information. The information may shift your idea or vision of what you desire. But your feelings should always be the same. These core feelings inform a vision that will build in your mind’s eye. The vision may or may not be clear. What’s most important is the feeling behind the vision.

    In time, as you focus on your core desired feeling, enhance the vision that develops, and stay open to new ideas or opportunities, you’ll begin to see signs that what your desire is coming into form. As doors open, walk through them. Say yes. Take the help when someone offers. Go out and see that car you drove by on your way home from work. Take steps forward all while remaining focused on your core desired feeling. You’ll know your desire has manifested when your core desired feeling is matched by your experience – you get a new car and it feels amazing because you paid in full. Or a new friend reaches out to you to hang out. You meet someone while out on a hike. A family friend emails you about a new job opportunity.

    In time, as you stay committed and focused on your core feeling and intention, your desire will be made manifest. And you will successfully co-create your life with God. But you have to be patient. All good things come in time. This is where you can misstep again. The final step in the process: patience. It could take weeks, months, or even years for the perfect opportunity to manifest in your reality. But simply because it doesn’t arrive on your timeline, doesn’t mean it’s not on its way. And here’s where step two comes in handy again. You have to have faith. You have to continually surrender. You have to remain open. And you have to trust in the process.

    I heard once that manifestation is like being out on a boat that’s coming into shore on a foggy, gray morning. You can’t see the shore. In fact, it feels like you’re still light years away. But you see driftwood. Then you begin to see driftwood with birds perched on top. Soon you see other boats. And eventually, you see the shore. As your desire manifests, you’ll receive small signs or clues that you’re going in the right direction – don’t give up. Stick to your desired feeling. Your feelings are your guides. Every day remind yourself of the feelings. It should feel good, so it shouldn’t be any problem to slip into that good feeling place and coat yourself in the good stuff. Your continued faith is a key ingredient in this process. And without it, you won’t get very far.

    You may even forget about your desire for a while. Because life happens and other things come up. Your focus draws to other things. But you already put your order in for the Universe. So the Universe silently works on bringing your desire to you. Next thing you know, you look up and there’s your desire, in full form, right in front of you.

    What’s most important here is that you know what your true desire is and that you have clearly and specifically defined your desire, right down to the core feeling. And then you follow that with faith, surrender, trust, and openness as you patiently wait for your desire to come about. In the meantime, you live life, you say yes, and you take action.

    So if I had to break it down into a few simple and easy to remember steps, then this is what those steps would be:

    1. Know that you can create the life you desire
    2. You must recruit the help of the Universe
    3. Identify your true desire and core feeling
    4. Embody these qualities: faith, surrender, openness, and trust
    5. Say yes and take action
    6. Be patient
  • Wealth
  • How to Declutter for a Simpler Life – Part Six: Final Thoughts

    I’ve spent the last four months turning my life upside down from the inside out.

    I’ve scavenged every nook and cranny. I’ve touched every item I own. And I’ve asked, “Does this spark joy?” more than 500 times.

    I’ve traveled back and forth from Goodwill to clothing resale shops to electronic stores to my mother’s house. I’ve used dozens of white and black trash bags to discard items. The dumpster has become my friend. What remains are items that I truly enjoy and the 10 lessons I’ve learned.

    10 Lessons from Decluttering

    1.Sometimes you get it wrong.

    After a day of decluttering, I would rest and relax until the next day. Then I’d wake up and re-evaluate my situation. Where am I? How have I done?

    I found that in my excitement or emotional turbulence I kept several items that didn’t spark joy. Or I failed to properly ask the question in the first place. So I returned to certain categories.

    I reviewed the items that remained. And parted with several more things. Until I felt complete.

    I choose not to judge myself. I’m only human.

    So keep in mind, should you choose to declutter, you might also do it wrong, forget a few things, or not ask the right question at the right time. But that’s okay. Because you can always go back.

    2. We often hold onto things out of fear.

    Fear of the future. Fear of not enough. Fear of what others will think. Fear of emptiness and spaciousness. Fear of ourselves.

    Feel the fear and let it go anyways.

    Living in fear is far from inspired. And never leads to a happy, empowered life.

    3. Stuff carries emotional baggage, some of the time.

    You can’t predict what will be the hardest to let go. And other times, you’d be surprised by how easy it is to discard things.

    Remember when I cried over perfume bottles? Perfumes I hadn’t worn in a couple years. But then there were mounds of books I plowed through in minutes. I knew it was time.

    You’ll know, too, when it’s time to let go. And you’ll be stopped in your tracks by things that pull emotional cords.

    4. You’ll just know.

    I get what Marie Kondo means when she says, “You’ll just know.”

    Decluttering is about finding a balance and a knowing with your belongings. It’s about everything you own having its right place in your physical, mental, and emotional space.

    You’ll love what you have. You’ll have less stuff so you’ll care for it more. You’ll put it all back where it belongs. Therefore, your home will be tidier.

    And at the end of your decluttering process, you’ll feel at peace with your belongings. Until you do, you’re not done.

    5. There’s more involved than you might expect.

    It’s not just a matter of getting rid of things. It’s a whole process.

    Collecting everything in one spot from all the locations your stuff could be – all corners of your home, your car, your parent’s home, your friend’s home, or your work.

    Then entering the process of discarding. One item at a time, “Does this spark joy?”

    Then collecting it all to remove from your home. And dispersing all your stuff to the dumpster, the resale shop, your mom or dad’s house, or your best friend’s home. It takes more time than I expected. No wonder she gives you six months.

    On top of that, you can’t predict the emotional impact each session will have. Your emotions will either slow or hasten your desire to declutter. Remember my need for space? Sometimes you have to resolve emotional issues and face fears before continuing. And that’s okay.

    6. Many businesses are unsustainable.

    Most businesses these days are unsustainable. In our consumer and producer world, we believe that we can keep creating “products” to make a living. Yet the living we’re making is destroying the world we live in.

    The belief that we can continually reach for more and more, produce more and more, is unsustainable. But all businesses think about is hitting that next big profit goal without considering the impact it has on the environment – in the short and long term. 

    We buy clothes continuously because there’s a seemingly endless supply (to the detriment of workers in sweatshops in third-world countries).

    Planned obsolescence forces us to purchase the next best gadget. Otherwise, we can’t install the latest app to check our email or listen to music.

    To live in a healthy world, our business practices must be sustainable. Which means our purchasing practices must be sustainable as well. As consumers, we have the power to direct the market. The power of our purchases guides businesses.

    So make no mistake. The power is in our hands.

    7. You can declutter more than physical items.

    Other areas of your life can be decluttered, too. Like your goals and projects. Your chores and daily tasks. Your activities. Your friends. Your beliefs. And your digital world.

    Maybe just start with your home.

    But consider the impact that decluttering can have on your entire life. Simply ask yourself, “Does this task/goal/friend/belief spark joy?” 

    8. Decluttering impacts those around you.

    My boyfriend started his own decluttering process. It’s not the same as mine but he’s inspired to live a decluttered life as well.

    I didn’t encourage him to do it. He simply noticed the impact my decluttering has had on my life – which affects him, too. So now he is joining.

    Also, he has gained a lot of joy from reading my old high school journals. He wanted to keep a few of them. And I let him. About once a week he opens one and reads it allowed. We laugh at how ridiculous I was in high school. And we bond as he gets to know the person I used to be.

    9. You learn a lot about yourself.

    I learned the most when decluttering the sentimental category. It’s as though I forgot who I was over the years. And decluttering helped to remind me that who I am today has ties to my past. My interests and passions can be traced back to my youth.

    Beyond the sentimental, I’ve learned about myself by uncovering my beliefs about stuff. My fears. My emotions. It has been an eye-opening and empowering journey.

    10. You don’t need to buy more things to be happy.

    I don’t feel as a strong an urge to fill my home with stuff.

    It’s easier for me to say no to things. My boyfriend has offered to buy me several home good items that I’ve had on my “want list” for a while. But each time I think about going out to buy something new, I reconsider and realize I don’t really need it.

    So I mostly say no. Unless it would feel joyful to have. This saves us money.

    My purchases are more powerful and thoughtful, and they have greater meaning.

    Finally…

    A major overhaul such as this one only comes every once in a while. Once you’re done you should be good for at least a few years. You should have discarded enough things that your home is tidier than ever. And you’ll mostly likely be far more thoughtful about what comes into your home, too.

    Yea, my home will get messy every once in a while. But it is easier to keep tidy. I have less stuff. And the stuff I do have has its spot.

    Decluttering is not only an overhaul of your belongings but it’s a personal overhaul. It’s an opportunity to re-evaluate your life and your values. It’s an opportunity to align your values with your actions.

    You can confront your habits and choose to change them. And then you can create new habits. Healthier habits. And in the process, you’ll discover that you’re happier for it, too.

    My hope is that you’ve learned about the decluttering process. Not only the physical task of how-to but also the unexpected twists and turns. And I hope you’re inspired to take stock of your life – your belongings, emotions, time, attention, and loved ones.

    How are you spending your precious time? You only get one life.

    Are you shopping every weekend to fill a void? Are you continually cleaning and keeping up with all your stuff? Are you too distracted by all the stuff to spend quality time with friends and family? Have you lost touch with life? With your passions? With what lights you up?

    Maybe now is the time to get out from underneath the stuff, come up for air, and align yourself with what brings you joy. Start a decluttering process today. And send me an email and tell me about how it’s going (writer@pauladjones.com).

  • Wealth
  • How to Declutter for a Simpler Life – Part Five: Sentimental Items

    declutter-sentimental-simple-living

    Alright, here it is. I have made it to the final category of the Marie Kondo method to declutter. It is as big, bold, and intimidating as you might think.

    It took me more than a month to get to this section of decluttering. As you’ll recall from previous posts, I moved fairly quickly through clothes, books, paper, and komono. I enjoyed the process but also needed to create space for myself along the way. I gave myself that space before jumping back in. And this week I was determined to give the last category a go.

    Getting Started

    I started with my apartment. The sentimental items I kept here were limited. I had already collected a small pile of papers (love notes, pictures, gifts, cards, etc.) that I had laying around in various spots. That pile had been sitting beside my desk for weeks, waiting for this day to come.

    I also had a laundry basket full of childhood photos as well as all my childhood artwork and schoolwork that my mother had dispensed a couple months ago. I spent a Sunday evening sifting through these photos and papers.

    I discarded duplicate photos easily. I reveled in the memories of each one while selecting only a few to save. I made a small pile of items to keep and a big pile of items to toss. I collected all my journals and piled them up, too. Not one went in the trash. These I’ll keep.

    “Alright,” I thought to myself. “One pile down. I’m well on my way to being finished!” And then I went to my mom’s house…

    I knew I had some stuff in her attic. Boxes of recent items that I had forgotten about since I moved out. And boxes of stuff from childhood and high school. I took each one down, one by one. All ten of them.

    In the back of my mind, these boxes always seemed less obtrusive than they turned out to be. They seemed like “just a few” boxes in the attic. But I was wrong.

    They contained the entirety of my history as a human in all ten boxes. From birth to high school graduation to my most recent ex-boyfriend. That’s over twenty-two years of stuff (not including the last five years).

    All that stuff had just been hanging out in my mom’s attic, taking up not only her physical space but also her psychological space. Not to mention the amount of psychological space it was taking up for me – unknowingly.

    I put all the boxes around the dining room table, pulled up a chair, and lifted the lid on the first one. I stared into the abyss that was my childhood. Photos. Photos. And more photos.

    Photos

    I knew I loved photography but I never realized I loved it this much. I think I was the only one of my siblings to take photos. If I could get my hands on a disposable camera, I did. And then when I got to high school, I got a non-disposable film camera. I purchased rolls of film and developed them like it was going out of style.

    My love for photography was evident. I had about ten full photo albums. On top of that, I had loose photos. Some still in their packages with the film strips. Others on CDs. I had photos in boxes inside my boxes. I had photos mounted as art. I had photos in all sizes. Photos. Photos. And more photos. 95% of these photos went into the trash.

    Between all the photos, I uncovered my baby blankets, stuffed animals, and Christmas ornaments that my mother had saved. I took out art supplies, forgotten housewares, and college notebooks and papers. And then I tackled my boxes within my boxes.

    Time Capsules

    Growing up, I remember watching movies where children would find tin boxes that held secret treasures. Treasures that unlocked secrets to the past. I developed an obsession for creating these boxes for myself. Time capsules.

    The first time capsule I created was in a wooden box I got when a great-grandparent passed away. It had a lid that lifted on brass hinges with the top to a toothpaste bottle glued to the lid so you could open it. Inside this box, I put a written time capsule. A note to my future self from my fourth-grade self with clear instructions to open on January 13, 2020 (my birthday).

    This note is super special. I have thought about it every year since I wrote it and have always looked forward to opening it. I think I know what it says. But I won’t know for sure until 2020.

    That was my first time capsule. I created four more time capsules for each year of high school. I didn’t have cool wooden boxes that could fit all my crap, so I used shoeboxes. Most of the stuff in the boxes had zero meaning for me today. Literally, just crap. Other things were sweet to find, like notes from friends, pictures of old beaus, and clippings from trips. 99.9% of everything in these boxes went into the trash.

    My photos and time capsules took the bulk of this decluttering session. The photo albums that I found as well as my journals were pushed to the side. I collected these items as well as several others to take back to my apartment. I needed to be at home, in my own space, away from my sister and mother (who sat with me while I decluttered) to complete these final steps.

    Marie Kondo suggests doing the decluttering alone with no music since it is a deeply personal journey. It’s distracting having music on or other people around. I can attest to this. I keep things I wouldn’t have otherwise kept. And I could feel my mother’s peering gaze encouraging me to keep certain things. That’s why I decided to take these final, more challenging pieces home with me. Everything else I tossed was pretty easy to discard. I knew it was time to part. And we did.

    Re-discovering My Self

    What I enjoyed most about this part of the decluttering process was re-discovering myself. I re-learned several things. For one, I loved time capsules. For a person who loved to capture history and lock it away, I’m surprised I forgot this. Another thing was that I loved photography, which I never realized I loved as much as I did, even though I’ve known it to be a hobby of mine.

    These learnings, on top of several others, made this part of the decluttering process worth the entire journey. I initially thought to declutter was a way to enact a newfound philosophy, but decluttering ultimately was a means of self-discovery. I can see how over the years I lost sight of who I was, where I’ve come from, and how I came to be the person I am today.

    I picked up negative beliefs and stories about myself and my past that were obliterated by this process. I’ve seen clearly the amount of love I was given as a child. And I can see all my positive (and negative) qualities in a way that supports who I am today more than I could have ever imagined.

    I can see my talents and natural abilities as they popped up even as a young child and into my teenage years. Which makes me appreciate who I am on a profound and deep level. I feel like I take myself more seriously now than I ever have.

    Decluttering my sentimental items has given me a perspective a new perspective on my life. And if you’ve been hesitant about the decluttering process, I hope that my experience encourages you to jump in with your heart wide open, ready to discover the blessing that is your life.

    More to Go

    I’m still not completely finished decluttering. There are a few more loose ends I need to tie up. I’ll do those in the next week or two and get back with you about the final steps in my decluttering journey. My next post will be my final post. I’ll include my take-aways and leanings from the journey, a recap of the experience, and how exactly I brought this sacred ritual to a close.

    Stay tuned for the next installment by signing-up on my email list. Until next time!

  • Wealth
  • How to Declutter for a Simpler Life – Part Four: Komono Cont

    declutter for simpler life part four

    Honoring Your Need for Space

    It has been several months now since I started this journey. My attention has waned in the last few weeks as I’ve given myself space from the decluttering process. But I’ve returned. The emotional turbulence of the project requires time to assimilate and attune to what’s taken place.

    I’m a big proponent of honoring our individual needs for space and time to heal and renew one’s self. And that’s what I’ve been doing. Yet I learned a lot in my last round of decluttering. In this post, I’m going to share with you the rest of my experience in decluttering my komono.

    If you didn’t read my last post, komono is the Japanese word for miscellaneous items. These are items like make-up, CDs/DVDs, knick-knacks, decorations, wires, pens, papers, etc. These items can add up quickly. And this category contains sub-categories, which can consist of a large portion of items.

    In that post, I discussed the mundane task of sorting paper as well as the emotional summersaults I experienced as I discarded – possibly sentimental – perfumes. Each round of decluttering shows me life’s stability and instability. The ups and the downs. The boring and the lively. This teaches me that objects take up space on all spectrums of our emotional Richter scale.

    With each object we own, we set aside a certain amount of emotional space in addition to psychological and mental space. Each object registers as an emotion from joy to anger to boredom. And, often, we thoughtlessly keep objects that register as fear, obligation, boredom, dissatisfaction, or even sadness. We fail to recognize that these objects no longer bring us joy. And we never stop to contemplate whether or not we have the power to part with what doesn’t spark joy for us. (P.S. We do have the power.)

    If I’m not happy with it, I don’t have to keep it.

    Recognition of Fears (Limiting Beliefs)

    During the komono category, I began to recognize certain fears getting in the way of my letting go. These are the same fears that prompted me to keep what I have in the first place. As I recognized this, I decided to step back and ask myself: what are common fears that come up in response to discarding items?

    Here’s what I came up with (please add your own):

    • I’m being wasteful
    • My family member’s or friend’s feelings will be hurt
    • What will they/he/she think of me
    • What if they/he/she gets mad
    • It’s irresponsible of me
    • It’s still in good condition
    • I might use it someday
    • I might like it again
    • It might come back in fashion
    • I’ve had it forever though
    • I use it… sometimes
    • It brought me joy… once
    • I’ll feel sad if I let it go
    • But others have so little
    • This is bad of me

    In other words…

    • Might, might, might (future-tripping)
    • What if, what if, what if (future-tripping again)
    • Fear of other people’s feelings and reactions
    • Self-criticisms
    • Fear of own emotions

    These are what’s called “limiting beliefs.” Limiting beliefs hold us back from making personal changes. They keep us from expanding into a new level of personal growth. We can’t reach the next step if we allow these thoughts to go unseen and unquestioned. In decluttering the remainder of my komono, I came up against limiting beliefs such as these.

    I can see now that I didn’t get joy from at least 75% of what I’ve kept. The only reason I’ve kept these things is because I thought, “What if I have to buy this again in the future? What if I don’t ever find one quite like this one? What if I like it more next month or year?” Or other thoughts like those above.

    I heard these thoughts bubble to the surface as I cleaned out my patio closet. And in particular, when I reached for the fire starting logs.

    The Unquestioned Fire Starting Logs

    Evan and I have a fireplace in our apartment – that we never use. And yet we’ve managed to get a bounty of fire starting logs. They come from family and neighbors who give them to us out of kindness and simply “thinking of us.”

    Most recently one of our neighbors moved. And she dutifully brought her logs to our front door. I smiled and said thanks, as though it were some kind of departure gift. A “farewell for now.” Or, “Take luck!”

    As I toted them to our patio closet, I reflected on how I haven’t started but one fire in that fireplace – and we’ve lived here three years. Now our living room furniture is arranged in a way that it would be unsafe to start a fire. And I don’t intend on re-arranging.

    I knew we didn’t need them from the moment I took them in my hands. As I walked to the patio closet, I looked down at the logs with a frown on my face. I felt like a sheepish child scooting away from a poor decision. And yet it didn’t cross my mind that I could throw them away. Instead, I stored them in an already overcrowded closet.

    It didn’t cross my mind because I bought into the limiting beliefs that said, “Maybe I’ll need them one day.” Well, those beliefs went in the trash. And so did those logs.

    The Decluttering Continues

    As far as my komono decluttering goes, I’ll be here for at least a few more days, if not weeks. I find myself unable to move forward to the final category: sentimental items. I’m just not there yet.

    I’ve given myself space from decluttering, since it’s a deeply emotional process at times. But now that I’m ready to move forward, I see areas in which I can still go back and declutter further. I see things I wasn’t wholly honest about. Items that can be discarded still.

    As I mentioned in the first post, decluttering can take up to but no more than six months (Marie Kondo insists). So I’m giving myself until the end of June to have this process completed. I think I’ll be finished before then, but that gives me time to comb through previous categories before moving on to the final – and hardest – category: sentimental items.

    Stay tuned for the next post to see if I’m able to move forward!

  • Wealth
  • How to Declutter for a Simpler Life – Part Three: Paper and Komono

    declutter-simple-life-komono

    *This post contains affiliate links.

    Decluttering papers was an easy category for me. Much easier than decluttering clothes. And far easier than decluttering books.

    It made for an easy transition, since decluttering my books excavated serious questions for self-reflection. In fact, it was so easy I almost forgot it was a category. But I rely on Marie Kondo’s book to keep me on track in decluttering and in writing. Since it was a lackluster category all-around, I’ve decided to include komono in this blog as well.

    Sorting papers is as boring as it sounds. You collect all your papers – like lecture materials, greeting/birthday cards, business cards, warranties, equipment manuals, taxes, etc. You place them all out in front of you. And you discard pretty much everything. You throw it all in the trash except warranties that are still in effect, tax information that is still in the seven-year window, other financial or legal documents, etc.

    I’m not here to go into detail about the specifics. But the gist is that you get rid of all the excess paper you’ve kept all these years. That means throwing out the birthday card that Bob gave you that doesn’t spark joy or those notes you swear you’ll review but just haven’t yet.

    So far this has been my smallest and easiest section. I regularly clean out my papers anyway. And at the end of 2016, I tossed all my nursing school materials. So I had already done the bulk of this work. I moved through sorting papers swiftly and moved on to Komono.

    According to Marie Kondo, “komono” is Japanese for miscellaneous items. And she breaks down this category into 10 sub-categories. Which could grow depending on the variety of komono any person has.

    I found it easy to stay within the sub-categories she outlined. The sub-categories are as follows: 1. CDs/DVDs, 2. Skin care products, 3. Makeup, 4. Accessories, 5. Valuables, 6. Electrical equipment, 7. Household equipment/office supplies, 8. Household supplies, 9. Kitchen stuff, and 10. Other things, like spar change, figurines, decorations, etc.

    You go through each sub-category one at a time. I took my CDs and DVDs and discarded what I didn’t use.  Which was easy. I could count on one hand the amount of CDs and DVDs I owned. Now I own one less.

    Then I moved on to skincare products, makeup, and accessories. I broke a few rules here. I lost track of the whole asking if the item sparks joy thing. And I combined three groups into one. I did that because this was basically my side of the bathroom. I just dumped my bathroom drawers and emptied the cabinets onto to the floor and started chucking things.

    I slowed down when I got to my perfumes and was taken on an emotional ride. Another unexpected twist in this process of decluttering. I’m beginning to see a pattern here. Things are going well – super easy, even – then bam! Emotional turmoil.

    In the last few months, I’ve stopped wearing all my perfumes except one. I’ve become sensitive to synthetic perfumes. And the one I still wear does bother me a little, but it smells so good and I bought it in Paris, so I couldn’t stand to part with it. Let alone stop wearing it. But all the other perfumes have taken a seat on the back row – indefinitely. If I wear a scent on a daily basis it’s an essential oil. So I was happy to discard several perfumes that no longer served me. Except three.

    The first one I took out had been in my life since I was a pre-teen. The second one I wore heavily when Evan and I first started dating. The last one was no longer being produced. Evan had hunted it down and bought multiple bottles for me. I still had one unopened bottle remaining. These three bottles posed an unexpected challenge. A tearful and emotional challenge.

    Memories came flooding back to me as I looked at and smelled each one. Perhaps these perfumes belonged in the sentimental section, which Marie Kondo insists on saving for last. But that insight didn’t trigger until later.

    I sat with each bottle individually for some time. If you had seen me, you would swear I had gone crazy as I sat gazing deeply into bottles of perfume on the floor in my bathroom. The first one I knew would be the easiest to let go. It had been in my life so long. It was simply time for it to go. I laid it aside. Thanked it for its years of service. And moved on.

    The second one was a little bit harder for me to let go. It felt like I was letting go of my memories of me and Evan on our first dates. All the late nights, parties, and intimate conversations. It was a wild, fun, and passionate time. But I knew that my body no longer enjoyed the smell. It made my nose itch and eyes water. And occasionally I’d sneeze. I said thank you and placed the perfume in the bag.

    Finally, I got to the bottle that Evan romantically procured. It was a beautiful smell to me – at the time. Now it smells more like alcohol than jasmine. Perhaps due to a combination of aging perfume and changes to my olfactory sense.

    What’s funny is that this smell wasn’t even linked to particular events. The emotion came with the memory of how he surprised me with three full bottles of what was my favorite perfume at the time. It was so romantic and sweet. He’s so romantic and sweet. He always does sweet things like that. I felt like I was letting him down by discarding this final bottle. I felt guilty. I cried.

    I then proceeded to mope around the apartment while my belongings took a vacation on the bathroom floor. I took the final bottle of perfume and set it on my table. I thought I’d wait until he got home and get permission to discard it.

    I stared at it for a while. I wrote about it. I cried some more. Then I started to feel better. And I realized it was fine for me to discard the bottle. I didn’t think anything bad would happen if I did. I gambled that he wouldn’t actually be upset with me. So, like the others, I thanked the perfume for its memories and gently laid it to rest in the discard pile.

    After that experience, I haphazardly sorted through and discarded the remaining goods strewn across my bathroom floor. This is where I broke some rules. I forgot to keep asking if things sparked joy. I simply threw away what I didn’t use. A few days later when I realized I had forgotten this crucial step, I noticed there were a few things not properly sorted. I re-sorted them. This time I asked the right question. And I discarded even more belongings.

    This was only into sub-categories two, three, and four in a 10 sub-category list. Since the perfumes took such an emotional toll, I decided to take a break for a few days. Which is something I suggest, if you decide to embark on the decluttering journey.

    Never push your way through the process without giving yourself ample time to explore emotions and feelings that surface. The whole process is a deep dive into one’s emotional psyche. And it would be unwise to force your way through without honoring yourself in the process. Honoring yourself makes the whole journey worthwhile.

    Stay tuned for next week’s blog about the rest of the Komono sub-categories.

    Each week there seems to be a little gift that anchors the decluttering journey for me. And I’d love to share it with you. If you haven’t already, be sure to sign-up on my email list in the bar at the top of the page. That’s how you’ll stay connected and get these posts directly to your inbox.

  • Wealth
  • How to Declutter for a Simpler Life – Part Two: Books

    declutter books

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    In the last post, I discussed how to declutter clothes. I shared with you how I cleaned out 75% of my clothes. I posted pictures of the before and after. And now I’m on part two – books.

    I was excited and nervous to tackle this category. I felt like this would be easy and much faster than discarding and sorting clothes. And it was.

    One afternoon I took all the books off the shelves and from various rooms in my apartment. It’s amazing where I keep things. I had books in my kitchen – on the counter and in the cabinets. I had books in my laundry room, in my closet, and on my nightstand. I gathered all the books I thought I had. And then I gathered more!

    After I gathered them I spread them out on the living room floor, like Marie Kondo suggests. Then I took each one in hand and asked, “Does this spark joy?”. With this process, I discarded 85% of my books. I filled four extra-large reusable grocery bags. For a book lover, I found this astonishingly easy.

    I’ve had most of these books for a long time. And it was time for most to go. They had served their purpose. I felt no qualms about putting each one in the sack. I knew I wouldn’t be reading them again. And I kept the ones I absolutely loved. I reduced my books to a few that I store at my bedside and a few that I store in the bookshelf beside my desk.

    The day I discarded all my books I was ready to sell them, too! I hopped in my car and took them all to Half Price Books. I collected a small but welcomed amount of cash.

    That was easy. Or so I thought…

    I got home after selling my books and felt waves of emotion come over me. What was wrong? It had all gone so smoothly. And I knew that I was better off without the books. Yet my bookshelves were empty – and I felt sad.

    I questioned my actions and started to wonder if I had made a mistake. Had I done that too quickly? What if I had sold books that I actually wanted to keep? What will I do with my bookshelves now?

    I turned on some music and slowly walked to the kitchen to prepare dinner. It was too late. All I could do at that point was keep moving forward.

    I sat with my actions and emotions over the weekend while I put back all of Evan’s books. But the shelves still looked empty. They didn’t feel as happy. And I didn’t feel as happy. Marie Kondo had yet to talk about this part of the process. I was grieving the loss of my books. I didn’t know what to do.

    Eventually, I decided that all I could do was deal with what was in front of me – my empty bookshelves. I rearranged Evan’s books. And I ensured the remaining decorations looked good in their places.

    From there, I started to contemplate the purpose of bookshelves in a minimalist’s life – in my life. I feared the potential feelings of “emptiness” and the other feelings that could follow. I didn’t know what those feelings were, but surely they would be bad. I wouldn’t know until I parted with my bookshelves – if and when I decide to do that.

    Part two in the decluttering process, although at first easy, prompted deep, thought-provoking questions and reflections about myself and my space. One could say that I had found the “downside” of decluttering and minimalism. But is it a downside if it leads to expansion?

    Yes – I finally had to face myself and my feelings about emptiness, space, and stuff. But my freedom expanded. If the price for freedom is prompt self-reflection and immense personal growth, then I think it’s a price worth paying.

    Many questions came through – like… If I don’t have that many books, then do I even need these bookshelves? If I get rid of the bookshelves, then how will the empty space feel? Should I fill it with something? What would I fill it with?

    As though that were the obvious solution. Yes – I’ll get rid of my bookshelves to then purchase something else to go in that spot. No! That is not the solution.

    That is the consumer mind running rampant. That’s the inherited script of our society, “With more space comes greater responsibility to fill it with more, more, and more stuff!” That is the programmed mentality of the masses. That is consumerism at its finest.

    Just because we have space doesn’t mean it’s meant to be filled. And it makes me wonder what life would be like for people if we all made it okay to have space in our homes, in our minds, and in our schedules. How much happier and healthier would we all be?

    Too often we are told that if we aren’t constantly buying more stuff and filling our time with more obligations and responsibilities then somehow we are wrong. We buy into the belief that we are not enough as individuals unless we can prove that we are able to do as much or more than the next guy. We can work harder, earn more, and buy more. More, more, and more. But what about less?

    What if less were the answer to all our problems? What if we no longer felt obligated to buy coffee at work every day but made conscious decisions to drink coffee at home? What if we stopped going shopping “for fun” and only bought what we actually needed?

    What if we lived in smaller spaces because we had less stuff and no longer felt the urge to continually upgrade? What if we didn’t have to upgrade!? What if what we have now is enough?

    What if we already have too much? What if we all started to see that our lives are overflowing with so much that we could donate 75% of our belongings and not just be happy – but happier than we’ve ever been?

    My books – and the space they left behind – made me acutely aware of the role that space (or lack of it) plays in our lives. We are not a country of poverty, as so many politicians and TV ads would have you believe. We are country overstuffed with things and so devoid of meaning that we are starving for true joy and happiness. So we keep buying. Ads keep convincing us that happiness is in that next pair of shoes or iPhone. But what I’ve learned is that happiness can’t be bought.

    I realize that is about as cliche as cliche can be. But for once it lands on the untouched ground within me. It sinks deep into my heart and belly. I feel the true value of these words. It’s a multidimensional truth that expands beyond simple cliches.

    My clothes and books – and the remainder of this decluttering project – is showing me that I was not who I thought I was. In fact, I was the opposite. Now that I see myself for who I was and who I am today, I have flipped the script. I’ve re-written the rules and redefined what gives me value and meaning. I see now that more stuff will never fill the void. And I understand on a whole new level what it means to be a consumer and how to truly create a meaningful life.

    Questions continued to come up as I moved on to part three of the decluttering project. It felt scary. And I doubted my actions and whether I should continue. But continue is what I did. And you can continue reading about my progress in the third blog post in this series. Until next time… <3

    P.S. Who knew getting rid of books could be so profound? 🙂 I guess knowledge, wisdom, and insight can be found outside of the pages of a book just as much as within em’.

  • Health
  • How to Declutter for a Simpler Life – Part One: Clothes

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    And, we’re off! I’m well on my way to a decluttered home and a simpler life. I started to declutter before I even knew what I was doing. Who knew there was actually a method to decluttering? Well, there is. It’s called the KonMarie Method, developed by Marie Kondo. She wrote the book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing” Now that I know there’s a method, I’m decluttering my home like a champ.

    Decluttering is a necessary part of simplifying my life. And it’s essential for leading a minimalist lifestyle. Closets, drawers, cabinets and other areas become overfilled with personal belongings over the years. I’ve always been one to clean out my clothes and other areas of the home at regular intervals. But these “spot” cleanups haven’t had a huge impact on my psyche.

    According to Marie Kondo, you must declutter everything in one fell swoop. She says that the decluttering process for the entire home should take no longer than six months. Since I live in a small space, it’s taking me no more than one month. It’s going even faster since I already did some decluttering before I knew of this process. I had already decluttered my kitchen and laundry room.

    Now that I know the “proper” way to declutter and tidy, I’m going back based on her recommendations. She says it’s best to declutter on a category by category basis. She suggests starting with clothes. And that’s what I did.

    declutter clothes

    I laid out all my clothes on the floor and couch in my living room. I was stunned by how much stuff was crammed into a little amount of space. She says it’s imperative to take all of the things in one category and lay them out on the floor. And then go through each item individually and ask whether it sparks joy. If it doesn’t, then you toss it. Or donate it. You keep only what truly sparks joy.

    A lot of feelings came up for me during this process. I felt guilt over purchasing an item on a whim that I never wore. I felt good reflecting on good memories. Then I felt more guilt about parting with something a family member gave me.

    I had my kindle on hand. I repeatedly turned to the pages about letting go of clothes. She says not to feel guilty about letting go of certain clothes. She says they served their purpose. Their purpose was to teach me about what not to buy. Or their purpose was the joy of receiving a gift from a loved one. Now it’s purpose is complete. And I can let it go with peace. I felt better about parting with certain items with these thoughts in mind.

    Fears cropped up, too. I feared not having enough clothes by the time this was all done. So, I returned to the book to see what she had to say. She says not to worry. She explains that if I stick to keeping only what sparks joy then I’ll have the perfect amount of clothes left. And if at the end of the day I truly feel I have let go of too much, then I can always go buy a new outfit or two – ones that spark joy. The goal being that what I’m left with clothes I love and will actually wear.

    Once I discarded everything that did not spark joy it was time to put back what was left. This task carried over into another day. In the book, she discusses how to fold clothes, whether its best to hang clothes or put them in a drawer, how to fold socks, how to hang what needs to be hung, etc.

    declutter clothes

    After the whole process, my closet is much lighter. It’s 75% lighter! It feels good. I got rid of a lot. In reality, I really don’t need much. I only need a few nice outfits for special occasions, comfort wear, exercise clothes, and everyday wear. I wear scrubs three days out of the week and workout gear or comfy clothes almost all the other days – since I spend most of my time at home when I’m off.

    To be honest, I did have pangs of fear as I laid in bed that night, scared I might have thrown something out that I’ll miss later. So, I decided to keep the five bags of clothes in my car for up to a month. If at the end of one month, I have not gone searching for something in the bags, then I’ll donate and sell them.

    It’s been a week since I did this process. So far I haven’t missed anything. And I’m happy with the results. My closet is so much lighter. My drawers are organized. It feels really good! Life is all around better.

    I’m happy with the results and excited to move on to the next category. Next week I’ll talk about the next category and share my progress. Stay tuned by signing up on my e-mail list in the bar above!

  • Wealth
  • 6 Reasons Why I Choose to Live a Simple Life

    simple living, minimalism

    Last Friday was my birthday. I spent the day snuggled in bed. I soaked up all the birthday love. And got plenty of rest. I also watched a documentary. It came at the perfect time.

    At the end of each year, I choose a word to brand the coming year. At the end of 2016, the word made itself known.

    It was prompt and clear. But I doubted its truth. I wrote it down and planned to come back to it. Maybe there would be another word? A better word.

    No. This was it.

    What’s the word?

    Simple.

    Simple is my guiding word for 2017.

    It dashed into my consciousness as I imagined my nursing and writing career. It surfaced when I envisioned my home throughout 2017. And I felt it when I tuned into my core desired feelings.

    Before we left for Colorado, Evan and I moved furniture and picked up clutter in our apartment. Our carpets would be cleaned while we were away. Ease washed over me as I saw the space clear.

    After our trip, I put back most of the furniture. I made several changes and left certain areas open. Free of stuff. I felt inspired by the movement of energy and the clutter-free environment. It was hardly 2017 and Simple had made itself known. And it keeps making itself known.

    That brings me to my birthday. There I was sitting in bed, browsing Netflix. In just a few clicks I see, “Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things.” Perfect.

    One hour later my heart engulfed in fire and my tummy swirled with energy. I was lit. The documentary encompassed what 2017 would be for me – creating more meaning through simpler living.

    I know my desire for a simple life reaches into my past. I recently came across a journal entry from my junior year in high school. It read, “I wish I lived in the old days where everything was simple. That way my life would be simple. Simple is all I need.”

    When I wrote that journal entry I believed that simplicity was a way of life that belonged to my ancestors. I believed I wouldn’t be able to achieve it in our materialistic society. At that point in my life, victimhood was all I knew.

    And even though I didn’t believe I could have simplicity in my life then, I now know that simplicity has always been a part of my nature. In 2008, it was natural for me to create spaciousness and simplicity around my college schedule. But by the time I got to nursing school in 2014, something had clicked. I knew that simplicity could be and would be achieved.

    As you can see, I am no stranger to simplicity. Yet this year’s simplicity surpasses anything I’ve experienced. This year’s simplicity digs deeper into my heart, mind, and soul. It returns to the surface as an integrated way of living. This year I’m intentionally applying it to my life.

    After watching the documentary about minimalism, I learned about how simple living could affect me. Simple living affects my freedom, values, connection with people and myself, finances, vision for the future, and the environment. Here’s how…

    1. Physical, Mental, and Emotional Freedom:

    Simple living can create physical, mental, and emotional freedom. We experience mental and emotional freedom as we create physical freedom. How? A clutter-free environment. Less stuff means less headspace and heartspace consumed by that stuff.

    Our stress levels increase as our environments fill with things. Things, things, and more things that we are responsible for. These things are used rarely or infrequently. We may think we need that thing-a-ma-bob to do that one task, but then we use that logic for all one-off tasks. And we end up with a house-full of unitaskers.

    We’ve got a bunch of stuff which do a lot. Too many things to use. Too many choices. Too many choices breed indecision. With so much stuff, we make simple choices complicated.

    On top of it all, the more stuff we collect the more space and time is needed to maintain the stuff and space. All of which are a mental, emotional, and physical drag, whether we are aware of it or not.

    As our space fills with stuff, we feel the pressure of living in a “small” space. We need more room to breath and to experience mental and emotional freedom. We need more physical space. So we work hard, save more money, and buy a bigger living space. But we don’t examine the unconscious consumerism that forced us into a larger space. And the cycle continues.

    We feel mental and emotional freedom for a short while. Then we buy more stuff to fill our newfound space. The mental and emotional blockage returns. And we need more space.

    It rarely occurs that if we just stopped buying stuff and got rid of what we don’t use or value we would have more space – mentally, emotionally, and physically.

    2. Value:

    A simple life is not overcomplicated with a bunch of stuff. As we reduce the amount of stuff in our lives we place greater value on what remains. And whatever enters our lives undergoes greater scrutiny. This means that I’ll only possess things that I value.

    What remains is either practically or emotionally useful. If it’s practically useful, I use it as a tool. And I use it frequently. If it’s emotionally useful, it provokes positive feelings within me. And I take the time to admire or reflect on it frequently.

    The keyword here is “frequently”. If it sits in a box or out of sight for great lengths of time, then I’m better off without it. Otherwise, I intend to use everything I own.

    3. Connection:

    Relationships matter. As we make more room in our lives and allow ourselves to step back and slow down, we see the people that make life worth living. We begin to value their presence in our lives. But we only do that after we’ve detached from our unhealthy relationship with things.

    The first step to living a simpler life is letting go of our obsession with possessions. We think we need more things to be happier. All we really need are quality connections with others.

    Get rid of things in your life. And stop using shopping as therapy. Instead, reach out to your friend or neighbor. See what gem they have to offer. You’ll find that your heart is filled much faster and the good feelings last longer.

    Simple living allows for these connections to happen. It’s a re-organization of value. You begin to properly value objects (see number 2). And you start to properly value people. People should be valued more than things – always. That is the natural order of life. Unhappiness spawns when this order is turned upside-down.

    4. Finances:

    The average American thinks that if they could just make more money they would be happier. Life would be simpler. So they work hard by picking up extra hours or extra jobs. Time spent with friends and family is cut short in favor of making an extra buck. And soon the individual’s health is affected. Now the person has more money but fewer quality relationships, poorer health, and less time.

    Living a simple life means there is no need to chase the extra buck. You don’t need the cash to buy the bigger living space to put all your stuff in that you would need more money to buy. Instead, you see that you can live on less and get rid of stuff to create more space.

    When you stop chasing the money to get more, more, and more, you find you have more. More time, better health, quality relationships – and you’re happier.

    You may even realize you don’t need to work so much. Or that you don’t need to work at that job you hate. Maybe you find you can actually pursue your passion. Like farming, knitting, or writing.

    When you stop chasing the money, you realize how much you already have and how happy you can become right where you are. You can be happy on less.

    5. A Vision for the Future:

    “Simple” gives me a new way to live. It’s like I’ve added new colors to my palette. And I can add different layers to my vision for the future. Now I know that I can have soft pink, fuchsia, or hot pink instead of just pink.

    Before I took on this way of living, I believed that the way forward was to buy a multi-bedroom home with a garage, a new car, and a front and backyard with all the lawn care equipment. And let’s not forget the husband, 2.5 kids, and white picket fence.

    In my own way, I envisioned this for my future. I thought I was supposed to have something along these lines. Even though I read blogs about people living life differently, I still thought that this vision was my vision. I see things differently now.

    I haven’t thought it out fully yet, but I’m excited about the new possibilities a simple life means for my future. What if I want to live in a tiny house? What if I’m okay renting and never buying a home? What if I want to drive my car until it falls apart and then purchase a used car? All possibilities for me now. And all okay.

    As I take on this new way of living, I can get rid of thoughts like, “I’m not good enough if I don’t have all the flashiest, fanciest, nicest new things.” Instead, I know that by living on less I actually have more. I have more happiness, freedom, health, and wealth.

    6. The Environment:

    As I choose to live with less in less space I create less waste and destruction. This is the most timely effect of minimalism. And one that benefits every person on the planet.

    Environmental destruction and global warming are some of the biggest challenges facing modern civilization. A simple life leads to less consumption, thoughtful use of materials, and proper consideration of space. If we all took steps to simplify our lives we could maximize our living spaces, reduce harm to the environment, and work towards harmonizing the ecosystem.

    I won’t go into too much detail about environmental conservation. I hope that it is evident at this point that if you reduce what you use you have less impact on the environment. And it’s clear that humanity has been over-consuming and over-using mother nature’s bounty for far too long. A simple, minimalist lifestyle brings this disturbing habit to a slow crawl.

    In a time when it looks like the world is turning upside down, there’s a driving force that compels each of us to make wiser decisions. Often we feel called to great feats of activism. But sometimes we don’t have the bandwidth to initiate or maintain such feats. That’s when it’s vital we tune into what it is we can do.

    We can open our hearts, listen to our true desires, and act on what we learn about ourselves. As we transform our own lives, the lives of others are transformed as well.

    A simple life offers many rewards, often unnoticed by the average person. Simple living creates space, boosts happiness, and supports the environment. Most of all it creates a meaningful life. One thing we all have in common is the desire for a meaningful life.

    Who knew that picking one simple word could lead me to such a profound shift in lifestyle? It’s a new year. I’m a year older. And my life will never be the same.