Getting through those winter blues

I was out for a walk the other day, with the little boy I babysit regularly. He’s just starting to talk, so when I’m with him I always talk to him and point out the leaves and the flowers, and mention the colors and the birds we hear and the cows we see (we do live in the Midwest).

This autumn I pointed out how the leaves were changing color and falling from the branches. I stepped on the fallen leaves and pointed to my ear to teach the word “crunchy”.

But now that it’s winter, things are looking a little more dreary than they were just a few months ago.

I looked out at the trail ahead of us and all I saw was brown. And empty, dead-looking branches. Not much to tell him about today, I thought. Luckily I have a repertoire of children’s songs up my sleeve from when I worked in a preschool, so he’s never without entertainment ;).

But I didn’t need to use the songs, because as I looked more closely at what I thought was a brown and boring path, I saw that there was actually still a bit of green in there to be seen. I just had to look more closely.

So I pointed out these little green leaves to him so he could see them, too. And it made me realize, that not only are things not as glum as they seem, but there are small pleasures to be found everywhere. (tweet that)

We saw patches of green, herds of cows, and pairs of birds flying across our path. What started as an unpromising outing had turned into quite a full experience.

I wont kid you and tell you it was as enjoyable as spring. There are still seasons afterall, and it was cold. But I recognized that I had been in a bit of a hopeless mindset because of the temperature. And I had let it make assumptions about my surroundings, and ultimately my outlook on life.

It’s true what they say, to see the world through the eyes of a child brings a whole new outlook. Because it wasn’t until I looked for the interesting things so I could show my little friend, that I saw them for myself.

What might you be missing when you look at your life? I bet there are some interesting things in there that you’ve forgotten about, or have been blinded to by your current outlook. Won’t you please find them? And then share them with the world?

Decluttering my life has brought me peace of mind and relief from the world around me. There’s nothing like walking into the space you created and knowing you have nothing more than what you need. I write articles to help others create that same feeling for themselves.

You’ve done well. Now enjoy.

With the new year quickly approaching, I want to remind you of a few things:

1. You’ve done well. You’ve done well this year. You’ve pushed through things, overcome some and are still working on others. But you’ve done well so give yourself some credit.

2. You’ve done a lot more than you think you have. Looking back at the year as a whole, it can feel like only a few things stand out. We easily forget all the little things we have done, which often add up the most.

3. You deserve to relax and enjoy yourself. And don’t tell yourself otherwise. Relaxation and happiness are not things we need to earn. You don’t need to reach some quota before you’re allowed to have fun. Waiting to reward yourself after you complete a goal is great, but too often we hold out until the big goal is accomplished, before letting ourselves enjoy even the tiniest rewards. Reward yourself for the small steps you’ve taken. Or just reward yourself because you’re wonderful and you deserve it, no matter what you’ve accomplished today. (See points 1 and 2.)

Relaxing and enjoying are different from splurging. Enjoy freely. Splurge occasionally. (tweet that)

4. You have the power to decide how you feel next year. How did you feel this year? What were your predominant emotions? Were you mostly stressed, happy, bored? Of course we experience a range but if one feeling stands out to you, is that feeling something you want to feel again this next year? If not, what needs to change?

5. Everything is a choice. This is something that really hit hard for me this year. I found myself committing to things because “I had to”, only to realize that I actually could have said no. “But I didn’t have a choice,” I found myself thinking. It was when I had that exact thought that I realized, “No. I completely, 100% had a choice. And I always have a choice.” And so do you.

Next year is filled with so many possibilities. Whatever limitations are coming to your mind right now, challenge them. Ask yourself if they must be so, or if you have a choice. You can make next year whatever you want it to be. For that matter, you can make the remaining days of this year whatever you want them to be.

You can.

Now enjoy.

Decluttering my life has brought me peace of mind and relief from the world around me. There’s nothing like walking into the space you created and knowing you have nothing more than what you need. I write articles to help others create that same feeling for themselves.

When Christmas Perfection leads to overwhelm

Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year, and also the most everything time of the year.

It’s the time to eat the most cookies and desserts you’ve had all year.

It’s the time to cook the most elaborate meal you’ve made all year.

It’s the time to get out all the fancy china, with way too many pieces of silverware and all the special serving spoons and butter knives and gravy boats and snowman spatulas, and on and on and on.

(When really your normal set of dishes and cutlery would do.)

You don’t need all those things and all those desserts and all those Christmas cards to write— but yet we write them.

And we stress because we waited too long and now they might not make it in time for Christmas. And the presents still aren’t wrapped and…

You might feel overwhelmed. Honestly I’m not partaking in any of the above (except the eating desserts) but I got overwhelmed just now typing it all out.

It’s not your normal. It’s no one’s normal. So it’s completely okay to feel overwhelmed this time of year. Don’t feel guilty or like you’re just not able to handle it like everyone else is.

They can’t handle it either. Everyone is pushing extra hard this month to get everything done and to make things just perfect.

But I think that’s one of the big flaws. This idea of Christmas Perfection. Maybe it’s how we saw our own parents handle the holidays, where everything seemed so effortless because we were kids and didn’t know the half of it. Or maybe it’s to live up to some Instagram expectation that’s now become our standard.

Whatever it is, this idea isn’t sustainable, and it’s hardly attainable. (tweet that)

We exhaust ourselves by making sure the appetizers are perfectly spaced on the tray, while looking over our shoulder to make sure the right wines are being paired with the right cheeses.

It’s too much.

What if we did Christmas a different way this year? What if we minimized all the plates and little spoons. What if we only made our favorite few dishes and really savored them. What if we only bought half the Christmas gifts and didn’t send out any cards.

What would that Christmas look like? Would it look like a Pinterest fail, or would it actually look a lot closer to how we remember Christmases feeling when we were kids? Carefree, fun, and memorable.

Would we have more time to sit down, and admire our favorite few Christmas decorations we put out this year? Would we engage more directly with those around us, instead of worrying about a half-hearted card in the mail? Maybe we would pick up the phone and call the few people we actually think about on Christmas. Or, maybe we’d have more time to think of more people.

What is your idea of Christmas Perfection? Is it something you can post on Instagram? Or is it something you have to be there to feel? Something only those around you can experience together?

Whatever it is, I wish you a lovely Christmas. And I wish you peace. Peace of mind and peace within yourself. I wish you a slow pace and a happy heart. And lots and lots of dessert.

Decluttering my life has brought me peace of mind and relief from the world around me. There’s nothing like walking into the space you created and knowing you have nothing more than what you need. I write articles to help others create that same feeling for themselves.

The speed you’re not used to

With all the holiday rush and the hundreds of things we think we need to check off our to-do lists, take a minute to read this quote from Paulo Coelho, author of The Alchemist:

paul coelhoSome people go through life like they’re in slow motion. For others, everything is a rushed blur. Most of us fall somewhere in the middle, but have days that lean to either extreme.

The holidays are the perfect time to slow down and savor every moment with family and friends, but usually the opposite gets prioritized, resulting in stress and fatigue. (tweet that)

This time of year more than ever, try and find pleasure in the speed you’re not used to. If you’re rushing more than usual, try and find joy in the experience. See if you can keep up your pace but lose the stress and the hectic state of mind. Embrace that this is your speed this time of year.

Or, if you can, slow down a bit. Go completely counter to what everyone else is doing and really be present this December. You might feel pulled to “do more” or be in ten places at once. But is that what will make you happy? Go slow despite the social pressures. Do what feels right for you. As Coelho says, allow a new person to grow inside of you.

On a related note, check out Sage On Earth, a travel blog I recently found about a family of four who combines simple living with family adventure, “discovering our beautiful world at a different pace.” P.S. They have a beautiful instagram, too.

Decluttering my life has brought me peace of mind and relief from the world around me. There’s nothing like walking into the space you created and knowing you have nothing more than what you need. I write articles to help others create that same feeling for themselves.

Live simply. Feel better.

Bringing you a short quote today that I read in Essentialism:

“If one’s life is simple, contentment has to come. Simplicity is extremely important for happiness.” —Dalai Lama (tweet that)

Decluttering my life has brought me peace of mind and relief from the world around me. There’s nothing like walking into the space you created and knowing you have nothing more than what you need. I write articles to help others create that same feeling for themselves.

A minimalist meditation for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is the perfect time to reflect on what we have and to understand that we have enough. (tweet that)

Here’s a simple meditation exercise you can do today to celebrate gratitude.

Find a spot in your home to sit and just spend a few moments taking in all that’s around you. Look at your home. Look at what’s in it. Allow your mind to recall memories sparked by the different items. Equally allow your mind to recognize when items don’t bring up any feelings in particular, and could easily be removed from your space without any loss to you.

Enjoy the feeling of comfort that gratitude often brings, as we feel safe in our surroundings. This is your home. Whatever it is, you have made it yourself. Whether you brought in the items one by one, or whether you are living in a home that was furnished by someone else. It is your home.

Take note of how you feel as you sit in this part of the house. Are you calm? Stressed? Is your mind racing or at peace? What made you choose this spot in the first place?

Often we become so used to our home, we glaze over the items in it without ever really looking at them since the day we placed them on the shelf. Take this time of Thanksgiving to really look. Look at each item and feel gratitude for it.

If you find with some items that it’s difficult to feel genuine gratitude, take that as a sign you can live without it. Remove it from your home. This time before the holidays is a perfect time to donate items (especially in good condition) to second hand stores and charities.

By passing things on to someone who can better use them, we allow ourselves the chance to feel genuine gratitude toward the things we truly enjoy. Without the unnecessary clutter, we can really see those items which spark fond memories and loving thoughts. Aren’t those feelings what Thanksgiving is all about? Give yourself and your family the chance enjoy them. You might find it becomes one more thing you can be grateful for.

Happy Thanksgiving, my friends.

Decluttering my life has brought me peace of mind and relief from the world around me. There’s nothing like walking into the space you created and knowing you have nothing more than what you need. I write articles to help others create that same feeling for themselves.

Only a few things really matter

I started re-reading Essentialism this week. Essentialism is a book by Greg McKeown about simplifying your life in all areas and prioritizing “the vital few” over “the trivial many”. It’s been recommended by The Minimalists and many others, and was given to me by a close friend.

About a third of the way through is the Essentialist principle “Only a few things really matter.” When I read that again last night, I right away thought about something I’m currently going through. I’m debating keeping one of my multiple jobs, because it’s turned out to not be an ideal fit. My hesitancy to leave comes, I think, from the idea that quitting would be wrong or somehow taking the easy way out. I know the right choice is for me to leave so I can pursue something that’s a better fit, but I haven’t been listening to myself. Instead, I’ve been making it a big deal in my mind and going back and forth.

Reading that only a few things really matter, I instantly realized that neither this job nor the stress I’m feeling about leaving this job are things that really matter. I like to look at the big scheme of things and think, “a year from now, will this even matter?” Usually when I ask myself that, the answer is no. That makes my decision a lot easier. (tweet that)

What are you making into a big deal in your life that doesn’t really matter?

Decluttering my life has brought me peace of mind and relief from the world around me. There’s nothing like walking into the space you created and knowing you have nothing more than what you need. I write articles to help others create that same feeling for themselves.

Your messy wallet, your frazzled mind

I work as a barista in a coffee shop. I see a lot of people come in daily to spend upwards of $4 for a cup full of fat, sugar, and a little bit of caffeine. As they get out their credit card, I notice their pristine manicure. I hear their keys as they set them down on the counter, because they need two hands to dig through their wallet. They’re looking for their customer loyalty card amongst dozens of credit cards, other loyalty cards, and receipts. Shudder.

“Maybe I put it in another side pocket,” they might say, unzipping a part of their handbag and revealing a second wallet.

“I remember you had it the other day,” I offer in support. I’m holding my latte art stamp at-the-ready.

More digging. Some exasperated sighs.

I watch and wait patiently, as this isn’t new for me. “Would you like to start a new card?” I suggest after a few moments, seeing a line form behind them.

“Yeah,” they say. “I swear I have like three other ones at home, I just can’t find them.”

“We can consolidate them if you find them,” I reassure them. And they seem to like that idea.

With a fluid motion I’ve done hundreds of times, I open the cash register, whip out a fresh loyalty card, stamp a leaf, and slide it over to them. “Thank you,” I smile, glad to get them and their stress-inducing handbag away from me.

Do you ever see someone rifling through a wallet, or drawer, or closet, and just feel like you’re in a bathtub of stress that you need to crawl your way out of?

The one thing I feel (aside from relief) as that customer walks away and the next one steps forward, is gratitude. Gratitude for the simplicity I have created in my life, and for the clarity of my mind and the orderliness of my possessions. I see these customers frazzled and can tell that their purses are a glimpse into their life. What chaos to be living with. What extra weight on their shoulders.

I feel sadness as I remember how stressed I was living in a cluttered space. I remember so clearly how it kept me up at night and gave me this sense of urgency even when I was just at home relaxing. I can’t imagine living that way now.

I sure hope those customers climb out of the bathtub and feel the relief soon. It’s so much better out here.

Decluttering my life has brought me peace of mind and relief from the world around me. There’s nothing like walking into the space you created and knowing you have nothing more than what you need. I write articles to help others create that same feeling for themselves.