In several of my annual Thanksgiving newsletters, I have touched briefly on the importance of being thankful not only for all of our blessings, but also for all of our challenges. In recent months I’ve had an opportunity to “practice what I preach” at a deeper level, and sometimes THAT has been a challenge!
After a delightful vacation adventure in Ireland and the United Kingdom (Northern Ireland, Wales, England and Scotland) and a flight delay that caused us to “speed-walk” a long distance to our connecting flight from Dublin to Los Angeles, I woke up the next day and could hardly walk. This was quite a shock as I’ve always been grateful for very strong legs and had recently set an intention to get back to hiking the hills more often as soon as we returned. Yikes!
Obviously I had to do some serious “recalculating.” It was determined early on that I had an acute (and very painful) case of achilles tendinitis in my left leg and that it would take 8-10 weeks to heal. As someone who has prided herself in being very active, athletic and energetic, this took some major attitude adjustments.
For those who have experienced much greater challenges, I can only imagine how hard it would be to adjust to something more serious or long-term. I send blessings, deepest empathy and gratitude to anyone and everyone who has had those kinds of experiences. I’m sure you could teach the rest of us how to deal with both expected and unexpected challenges. Hopefully you could also help us reach a place of gratitude.
In my pursuit of gratitude, here are some of the things I have learned.
Sorting Our Stuff
As we think about having less stuff, and sorting through the things we have, there are lots of ways to approach this. I am now convinced that using the concept of “essentializing” is a huge step in the right direction.
Choose “the best of the best.”
If we identify those things in our home or apartment that mean the most to us, we have a different perspective on the stuff that used to have meaning and no longer does. I believe this makes it easier to decide what to let go of and what to keep, and that we will let go of more than we expected.
With that in mind, here are some things to ponder. As always, take what works and leave the rest.
While living on a boat for a year, where spaces and storage were limited, one of the things both my husband Gary and I kept asking ourselves was, “How much stuff do we really need?” And every time, we concluded, “Not very much!” Wow! These thoughts inspired us to do some more “letting go and lightening up” when we got home. We became very motivated to live a simpler life with less stuff. This has helped us be less stressed and we feel even freer to live our best life.
If you have too much stuff (and most people do), consider the concept of “essentializing.” Think about keeping only the things that matter the most to you.
It differs from “minimalism,” I believe, because in addition to living with as few materialistic things as possible, the focus is only on needs rather than wants. This may work very well for some people. For me, it’s a little extreme. There are things I really want to have with me! And that’s okay!
Two months ago, my husband Gary and I returned from a 13-month “adventure of a lifetime” cruising America’s Great Loop—7500 miles around the mostly inland waterways of the eastern United States (plus Quebec and Ontario) in our own 40’ cabin cruiser that we bought for the Loop. We created many joyful experiences and we also had several challenges along the way, but, as “Loopers” often reminded each other, everything that happened was APOTA—All Part of the Adventure.
Most of my clients do not like dealing with paper, so it often accumulates and becomes overwhelming. Some of them also enjoy saving articles, recipes, images, quotes, cartoons or other papers they might want to read “someday.” If you fall into either or both of these categories, I encourage you to at least pull out the most important papers that come in so they don’t get lost among those that have a lower priority. Set up simple systems so you can find the legal, financial, medical and other data that it is important to keep.
“Out of the chaos comes the new order” is a phrase I’ve often used with clients over the years, reassuring them that, even though we may create some messes while working together, it’s often part of creating the new order.
Now this phrase seems more relevant and poignant than ever as we approach the end of a very unique and challenging 2020. Wow! What a year! And what an opportunity to examine the way we live and the way we treat each other. Hopefully we are finding ways we can not only get through all the challenges, but also rise above them and do what we can to make things better.
Many people are using this phrase right now. Local and national newscasts help us be informed about COVID-19–the symptoms and the local and global statistics, together with things we can do to avoid contracting this virus and to prepare for the impact this crisis might have on us, our families, our neighbors, our work. It has been suggested that the most reliable information is coming from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). These websites offer real-time updates. And, these same updates can stir us up and add to our worries and concerns.
The “Fear and Panic Crisis”
We need to be aware of and learn to deal with the “Fear and Panic Crisis.” Yesterday morning our spiritual leader (Rev. Dr. Frank zumMallen at Awakening Ways Spiritual Community, Atascadero, CA) reminded us of this. He also pointed out that anger, anxiety and panic are all very human reactions to something that most of us have never faced before. These emotions all stem from fear and activate our primitive fight-or-flight-response, which affects our sympathetic nervous system and causes chemical changes in our bodies that lower our immune system. Sometimes it is hard to escape these reactions, especially since they currently run deep in the “collective consciousness,” and every news source can make us more susceptible to these human responses. However, becoming more aware of all of this makes me want to take action and encourage as many people as possible to do so as well.
In more than 30 years of working as a Professional Organizer, it is still apparent to me that most of us have too much stuff. Even when we take time to purge, there’s still too much. Recent travels through 12 western states and two Canadian provinces brought this to my attention more profoundly. We saw mini-storage facilities in nearly every town we went through (mostly on roads less traveled). From my point of view, too many people are willing to pay way too much to store stuff they have no room for in their living quarters. This has prompted me to declare a theme for the coming year of SIMPLICITY! If this is something that calls to you, here’s a process that could help all of us let go and lighten up.
When we think about the word “time,” it can conjure up a number of phrases that make it sound like our enemy—time crunch, time constraints, killing time and, more frequently, ”there’s never enough time.” It works much better if we can see time as our ally and make it work for us rather than against us. So I invite you to practice taking time or making time for the things that are most important to you.