After a wonderful church service, the beach calls to me. I drive there with the windows down. When I arrive, I leave my shoes in the car. When my feet first melt into the dry sand, it is immediate relaxation. As I walk the pier I hear different languages spoken. Many are posing for pictures on the huge rocks next to the pier. A big black duck with a orange beak suns on one of the rocks.
Others take pictures of the bluer than normal Lake Michigan water with a purple haze at the horizon. White sails of different sizes are near that horizon, almost as many as the seagulls resting on the water. Someone sits at the end of the pier meditating.
I walk back off the pier so I can walk the shore. The cold water surprises me, but makes me feel alive. The rhythm of the gentle waves lapping the shore seems to match my breathing.
A family of ducks visit a couple on their beach towels. They simultaneously take pictures and try to shoo them away. Children laugh as they splash. An artist uses elaborate containers to create a sand castle.
My feet reach the sand once more. The sand feels warm against my numb feet. Now I walk to the channel and watch the boats slowly go in and out to Lake Michigan.
I am renewed.
Simplicity is not about creating a smaller world with little risk. It’s actually busyness that keeps our world what we think is safe and small. Simplicity allows you to create an expansive world.
By nature I am not a risk-taker. I am conscientious, sensitive and fearful. I know for me, it would be easy to live a very small world that only gets smaller. So one of the questions I ask myself often is, “Am I making my world smaller or bigger.”
When you are bound to stuff and a too big mortgage, it’s hard to take that trip to a new state or country. Someone with a full schedule of commitments, may find it harder to spontaneously help a friend or to wander, just because.
If we keep our lives too full, then we don’t have to accept invitations to something unusual that we may be afraid of going or with someone new. We have a few social obligations we are comfortable with, but don’t expand the circle of friends. But, when do you feel most alive? Often it’s when you go into the unknown.
Recently I was invited to a church in a bigger city that was holding an exhibition of Buddhist relics. I knew I’d had to drive in the bigger city and drive at night. Neither which I like to do. I’ve never gone to a Buddhist anything. But, something inside felt excited about it so I said yes. The opening ceremony was a beautiful interfaith service with invocation, chanting and a reading from something the Dalai Lama wrote. I also was able to have wonderful conversation. The serene feeling from the service lasted days.
When you think of your own life, how many invitations that might have been interesting did you decline because your life is too full of stuff you don’t want to be doing? When was the last time you did something a little adventurous for you?
You cut out stuff you don’t need in your finances, so you can try that new fruit or take that class. Not so you can live the exact same way as you always do.
A simple life may involve a routine, but you don’t have to do the same thing every day, go to the same places, hang out with the same people. You make your life smaller by not trying new foods. By saying no to that stand-up paddleboarding class because you haven’t done it before even though it sounds fun. Besides you have too many other things you “have” to do.
Maybe your heart has been saying it’s time to mentor a child. Luckily you have kept yourself so busy you rarely think of it. It might be difficult or emotionally tiring. Just keep doing what you’ve always done. You are missing opportunities to grow and live life with that spark.
Check in with yourself. Are you making your life smaller or bigger?
In my time class we’ve been talking about how difficult it is not to stay super busy. Often people feel so guilty when they slow down. It’s usually because they are listening to these kinds of beliefs:
- I show my value by how much I get done
- Working hard is more important than who I am
- Imperfection will make me less lovable.
A speaker in my Sunday School class today was talking about playing horse with the grandkids. They don’t care how hard he works or what is does. They love him for him and all they want is for him to be present.
But, you have to work through the programming most of us grew up with to be present, to slow down, to simplify.
We are valuable because we are, not because of what we do.
It’s not better to be a hurried, impatient person just because you get more done.
People love us, but because of what we do or because we do everything right. People love us to connect.
What beliefs do you want to play with sorting out?
My email was getting behind. My project turnaround time was growing. My husband ate pizza for dinner two nights in a row.
I was feeling very frustrated. How did it all get so out of control? I know there was more work because several program launches for clients were happening at the same time. I was also trying to get it all done before we went camping for Labor Day weekend.
But, I can usually fall onto my time systems. Into my head popped a conversation we had in my Project Class about email. Email is quick, fast and there might be a few easy to do tasks in there. Much easier than working on a daunting to do list.
So I was popping into email in between every single task. I’d answer some emails then maybe do an email task that was pretty easy. And back to email.
My projects and important work weren’t being touched because instead of following my to do list I was falling into the email trap.
Immediately I went back to my email processing schedule. Email processing, not email checking. Email checking without processing tends to waste time.
I answer simple emails during processing time and more time consuming emails I put on my to do list for the next day. Quickly I started to catch up on my backlog of tasks because I was no longer interrupting myself by checking email.
When I wanted to go into easy email, I had to remind myself to do what was more important.
Has email sneakily started taking over your time?
You can learn about my time systems in my Change Your Relationship with Time class.
A reader writes, “I am moving and I need advice on how to purge and move only what we need. We have lived in our house for over 20 years.”
Many people in my classes have been saying this too. They will be retiring shortly and want to be more mobile and/or closer to the kids.
But, the whole process can seem overwhelming. 20 years is a long time to accumulate stuff if you haven’t been regularly decluttering.
I would begin the process by picture the next part of life. What do you want from it? What kinds of things do you want to do? What is important to you? Do you want to pick up at a moment’s notice or entertain a lot or spend long parts of the day gardening? Will you be babysitting, having sleepovers with the grandkids, working from home?
Once you are more clear on the next stage, you can see if your possessions will help or hinder your vision.
Keep boxes or bags available for things going to charity. Many charities will come pick your items up.
If you feel guilt over wanting to get rid of something, but don’t think you should – it’s a pretty good guess that it can go. This is not the time to hold onto things from guilt.
You can get rid of some guilt quickly, by returning stuff you have borrowed from people.
Items “just in case” like extras and items you haven’t used but might one day, are good items to give away so you have more room.
This is a great time to let go of projects never completed because you lost interest. It’s a brand new start.
Release those hobbies you used to do, but don’t anymore. Only take with you, the hobbies you love.
If you start with your storage area, you can pack as you declutter. Put like items together, declutter what you don’t need or want and then label the box with the contents and room they will go in.
Next will be out of season clothes, gear, decorations, hobbies.
Piles of paper are great to go through towards the beginning. Most of us have paper we will never look at again. Go through 5 files or 1 pile a day during TV watching or waiting time. Then move onto magazines. You have permission to not even look at them before you recycle. If you really need the information, you will probably look online before going through the magazines.
Photos can be boxed up and stored out of the heat. Duplicates can be sent to other people. Bad pictures can be tossed.
Now you start in specific rooms, beginning at the porch or entryway. Declutter/pack/label, declutter/pack/label. Go through each cupboard, drawer, closet in the room. But, don’t hop all over the place or you won’t remember what you’ve already gone through. Plus, you won’t notice your progress.
If you find broken items, set a fix-it day to take care of them. Don’t move them when they are broken.
What are your best decluttering and moving tips?
People often inquire about or assume that because I advocate for simpler living I must be a minimalist.
For me, a minimalist takes the process of simplifying and makes minimalism the end product. The goal. They may work to only have 100 things. Or a 10 piece traveling wardrobe. Or nothing on the kitchen counters.
It takes a lot of work, thought and energy. You may save some money if you are an extreme couponer, but it also takes tons of time.
That isn’t to say minimalism is bad. If it is fun for you and a passion, go ahead.
I want to be organized, simplified and decluttered enough to live life smoothly. I don’t want to give it tons of attention. I don’t want it to be another thing where I try to be perfect. I don’t want to fall into comparing myself based on how little stuff I have or feel guilty if I have some useless items I like around the house.
I certainly don’t want to pack a 2-week vacation into a backpack. I could use that time and energy to plan a fun vacation.
I only have so much energy. I use simplifying as a way to save energy for what’s important. For me, that’s not counting my possessions.
Photo by: Genevra Kindon
During my academic years, I spent many long nights finishing up an English paper or getting a speech together or studying for an exam. My Mom cringed at Science project time because it would always be a last minute, underwhelming project.
In my early career I did work that was more immediate – writing for a newspaper, making appointments and answering calls.
Then I worked as a graphic designer at a printing company. The sales rep would hand over projects with deadlines of 3 days or a week. I would have 10 projects going at once, from the simple business card to the more complicated brochure. I would start with the most urgent one and not work at all with the others.
Until they became urgent.
Once a project becomes urgent, it’s hard to have time for the back and forth with the clients and sending the faxed proofs for them to look over.
I was completely stressed. I felt always under pressure.
Early on it became clear that I couldn’t procrastinate on projects and I had to find a better way to do them.
I set up a folder system. I began the projects within a day of getting them. I found a way to track the projects.
Though the pace was still fast, I didn’t feel the overwhelm that I used to. I found I had more time to complete my projects well.
Monday I start my very first Pleasant Projects course. If you are having trouble with procrastination and tracking projects, I’d love to help. Check it out here.
Here is a video on the importance of a morning routine and what my routine is:
If you are feeling dry and stale or thinking that your life is nothing but drudgery, a great question to ask is,
"Where is my heart?"
When you disconnect what you do with purpose, your senses or joy, you dry out.
Does your work feel like nothing but to dos that you don’t want to do? If you are working, you must be serving someone or no one would pay you. Who are you serving? Whose life are you making better?
If you don’t like working where you are right now, how can you bring more fun or beauty into your work? Can you organize your space? Can you put something beautiful in the space? Can you wear ear plugs to drown out annoying noise? Maybe you need an aromatherapy pillow. Can you notice how your character is improving in this situation or notice where you are growing?
If you are parenting, do you remember you are trying to bring up kids of character and responsibility? Or just remembering that they are being a real pain right now? Seeing how you want them to turn out pulls you from the daily taking care of kids. You can also try taking part of the parenting time to relax and play with them. So it’s not all work for you or them.
When you do housework are you focused only on, "I have to do dishes AGAIN?" or do you see the outcome of the clean kitchen. Do you think of how you are nurturing you and your family? Or enjoying creating beauty? You can allow yourself to gaze for a second or two in appreciate of the newly polished kitchen table. Using natural cleansers with pleasant scents makes cleaning more enjoyable. As does music.
As you go throughout your day, keep asking, "Where is my heart?" Bring joy, beauty or purpose to whatever you do.
Then see if your life is juicier.
If you need help finding the time or losing the guilt for self-care, join my Simple Self Care class – starts July 14th.
Photo by Mauro Cateb
Sports equipment is not nice a uniform. Often there are balls rolling around. It’s not an easy thing to organize.
Here are some visuals for you:
Ski and other boots:
Balls on Walls:
Have sports, will travel:
For the golfers: