Letting Go...Embracing Change...

Living the Life I Dream


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“I would rather die of passion than of boredom.” – Vincent Van Gogh

I have friends, many friends to be precise, who annually choose a word to use as a touchstone or a reminder of how they want to live for the year. Over the years, I’ve marveled at the wonderful words they’ve chosen to guide their lives. I love the simplicity and beauty of having just one word to keep in check and stay on track.

For the past several years, as the year’s end approaches,  I’ve watched as one friend and then another announces their annual word. I too have searched for the perfect word to guide my year. Instead, I struggle and in the end am unable to come up with single word for myself.

So while my friends sashayed into each new years with words like “curiosity” and “freedom” and “purpose” and “wonder” and “fierce” attached to them, I trudged along behind them wordless.

It was disheartening to say the least.

A couple of months ago, I was docenting a group of high school students through the art at the High Museum. They were researching a writing project for school and the information I provided would figure into the final assignment. Concerned that I had covered the topic adequately, I checked with one of the teachers to make sure I had hit all the required points. She reassured me that I had and then added, “I really enjoyed your tour today. You’re so passionate about art.”

I appreciated the compliment, and I really loved that she recognized how much I love sharing art with people. It’s true. I am passionate about art.

Over the next several weeks this word “passion” kept coming up. A friend comment on my “passion” regarding a topic we were discussing. An acquaintance noted my “passion” on a particular subject. People began to say things to me like, “wow, you’re really passionate about that” or “I love your passion.” I found the frequency the word was being attached to me…curious.

I ruminated on the word “passion” for a bit. I turned it over in my mind many times. Finally, I came to this conclusion.

I like feeling excited about the people and things which I surround myself. I want to have an “intense desire and enthusiasm” for my life. When I love open heartedly, when I live my life with intensity, when I throw myself body, mind, and soul into what I’m doing, I find it exhilarating even though this level of intensity can be more than a little intimidating.

I placed the “word” on the back burner because “passion” is kind of a big “word” and I’m not one of those people who has a “word,” and I began making plans for 2015. Without giving it any thought, as I contemplated the projects I would take on this upcoming year, I found myself asking the following questions:

  • Does the idea of doing this really excite me?
  • Will this challenge me?
  • Is it something I care about?
  • Am I truly, deeply passionate about this?

Am I truly, deeply passionate about this?

I had to consider that in spite of my resistance (or because of it) that maybe, just maybe “passion” is a good word for me to use as a touchstone or a reminder of how I want to live in 2015. Throwing caution to the wind, I decided “passion” it is and I immediately felt apprehensive and excited and nervous and more than a little scared.

Then I realized that this is just as it should be. If your touchstone, if your reminder for how you live is with “passion” then being apprehensive and excited and nervous and more than a little scared is probably about right. In any event, it definitely  beats bored.

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Lately my life has been full.

My oldest is home with all his worldly possessions after serving five years in the Marines. My middle has taken over the entire basement with his art studio. My youngest, who is wrapping up her last year of high school, is barely contained in her girly suite.

We have four cars with a fifth one in the plans and a two car garage. Getting in and out requires a game of musical cars from time to time. My and my husband’s home offices are buzzing with activity. Then there’s the holidays with extra food, decorations, and gifts being tucked away in every available crevice and corner.

I find myself holding onto things I normally don’t hold onto. Larger boxes to wrap Christmas presents, the set of dishes I haven’t used in several years, towels, pots and pans, and random glasses and bowls. I keep the two benches that don’t have a purpose, chairs that don’t match, a side table I no longer need, and picture frames, lots of picture frames. There’s a tangle of Christmas lights in a box and cache of gift wrap in the upstairs closet.

And I feel full, almost stuffed to uncomfortable. I itch to load it up and haul it away. To clear the rooms. To make space.

Then I remember.

The holidays will come and go and the larger boxes and extra food and gift wrap and tangle of lights will be put to good use. They will induce smiles and laughter. They will bring us together in ways we can’t yet imagine and in their wake create memories we will hold onto forever.

The oldest is making plans to go to college and get a house. He’ll leave taking all his worldly possessions plus one of the cars plus some of the towels and pots and pans and random chairs and picture frames. I hope he finds a need for a bench or two and will be grateful to see things I no longer need put to good use as he starts his new life in his new home.

The middle will move and the art studio that hums along with his creativity will once again become any empty labyrinth of rooms that I won’t traverse. He’ll take a car and a bed and a couch and a television. He’ll take the shelves that hold his cans of paint and the paint covered tables on which he works. The hum in the basement, the artistic energy, will dissipate leaving a void in it’s wake.

The youngest has college in her sites and will be moving into a dorm next fall. She’ll take a car, her clothes, and the futon from the basement. I anticipate that she’ll keep her room here, at least for another year or two, but the stuff she uses everyday will go with her and the room will be a place she visits on occasion and no longer a place that she lives.

And the rest? The things they don’t take? All that remains?

I will load it up and haul it away. I will clear the rooms. I will make space.

It will feel good and a little lonely and somewhat sad.

Full will not last forever.

So, I decide that today I going to overlook the clutter, I won’t worry over items crammed into crevices and corners, and I’m choosing to ignore the things that have not yet been put to good use. Today I’m playing musical cars with a smile as I walk past the shelves that are over flowing. Today I’m enjoying full.

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Decluttering: The First Step

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Decluttering: The First Step

This post is really only for the person who finds themselves being swallowed by their possessions and who sincerely want to change their situation. If you’re happy just the way you are, by all means, carry on.

The first step to decluttering is to stop buying new stuff.

If we really want to get a handle on the stuff we have, we first have to stop adding to it. We have to commit for a month, a week, a day, that before purchasing anything new we will make sure that 1. we don’t already have one, that 2. we don’t have something else that can get the job done just as well, that 3. we can’t wait and make the purchase later, or that 4. we maybe, just maybe, can get by without the item.

Not buying stuff is challenging. Not running to the store to get that thing-we-are-convinced-will-make-our-lives-oh-so-much-better is a difficult habit to break. Making due is not always fun. Not distracting ourselves from the grind of our lives with a trip to the mall to look at pretty stuff and letting go of the high we get from the purchase isn’t easy. None of this is easy. I know first hand.

So, why should we stop buying new stuff?

We stop for the peace and clarity of mind that comes from knowing how much stuff we have and being able to find it when we need it. We stop because having less stuff means we have more money and more time to invest in the people and things in which we truly care. We stop because we want to live lives that are focused on people and experiences, not things.

Easier said than done? Always. A constant practice? Yes. Worth it? Absolutely.

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Making Space

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Making Space

“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.” ~ Lao Tzu

My daughter finally chose her dress for prom. A lovely black and gold number that I’m sure she’ll look stunning wearing. As she finalized the order, she realized she would need new shoes. She has a pair of strappy, silver heels, but they would clash with her dress.

It occurred to me that I might have exactly what she needed. Excitedly, I hurried to my closet and pulled two plastic shoe boxes down from the top shelf. Each box held one pair of shoes. These were my fancy shoes. Since we wear the same shoe size, one or the other should be perfect.

As she tried on the beautiful, beaded sandals, I had to agree, they would clash with her gown. She dubbed the black pointy-toed pumps “ugly,” She was right. They were ugly and not in the style of the minute.

Shoe shopping trip planned, I placed my fancy shoes back in their plastic boxes and tucked them neatly on the top shelf of my closet. Over the next few days, even though they were out of site, I couldn’t keep them out of mind. I questioned myself as to why I was holding onto these two pairs of shoes.

I couldn’t honestly remember the last time I had worn either pair, and even after careful thought, I had no idea where I had bought them or how long I had owned them. I tried on both pairs again and teetered around the house to my husband’s amusement. Neither pair was the least bit comfortable.

Since they were in good repair and I have the space to store them, I argued (with myself) that I should hold onto them just in case something comes up. Every girl needs a pair or two of fancy shoes, right? Finally, I had to admit that in reality if something did come up, I would probably go out and just buy a new pair of shoes.

I’m a professional organizer, and while I’m sentimental, I’ve never even come close to being a hoarder. I throw things that are damaged or stained in the trash. I happily give away items that others can use. I’m on a first name basis with the employees at my favorite donation center. I encourage my clients to do the same.

In the past six months, I’ve redone every closet in my house, my pantry, and the garage carefully scrutinizing every item in each of these places. Tools, hardware, linens, kitchen ware, clothes, pictures, and decor were sorted through and those items we no longer needed were donated, sold, or trashed.

So, as I contemplated my fancy shoes, the ones that made the cut just a few months before, I had to ask myself why I held onto them. Even though they were in perfect shape and even though I had space, there really was no reason.

Then, it occurred to me that if I let them go, I would have extra space in my closet. An entire eight inches of emptiness. Excited, I racked my brain trying to think of what I could put there in place of the shoes, but nothing came to mind.

I realized that I would have to leave the space empty and that is when a deep, deep discomfort swept over my entire body and a knot slowly began to form in my stomach.

I know that in order to bring new, better, and right into your life you have to let go of old, lessor, and wrong. My mantra for the past five years has been “letting go…embracing change.” Yet, here I was with a death grip on two pairs of fancy shoes terrified of the eight measly inches of empty space on the top shelf of my closet that I couldn’t/wouldn’t be able to immediately fill.

I breathed deep. I settled into the discomfort. I stayed with it until it passed.

The next day, I tried on each pair of shoes one last time to confirm that they were indeed uncomfortable and out of date. Then I walked them to the dining room table and placed them there to donate.

I wondered what other things I had overlooked in my recent purge. As I poked through closets and cupboards, more and more items were added. The nearly new red shoes that I promise are filled with invisible razors and make me cry in pain at the very thought of even putting them on for one second, the plastic cup from the car dealership that nobody in my family will ever use, and several pillow cases, their mates lost long ago.

As I pulled each unneeded item, I made an empty space, and each time I felt the discomfort rise in my body, I breathed through it.

I keep going because I know that it is only in the empty space, in the quiet silent moments, in the free fall that begins the minute we let go of old things, old feelings, old thoughts, and old ideas that change can happen.

I’m making space and holding the emptiness sacred and waiting patiently for the change.

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