The Minimalists talk about black Friday

I wanted to re-blog the Minimalists’ post Let’s Talk About Black Friday, but theirs is not a WordPress blog, so I’ve included the link to their post below.  Personally, I would rather pay double and buy half as much to avoid shopping on black Friday.  Most things can be bought online now, or at another sale, or even better, not at all.  This link is a killjoy for those who enjoy black Friday, but for the rest of us, here it is:

The Four Agreements

The Four Agreements is such a powerful book, condensed into a quick read. Based on ancient Toltec wisdom, author Don Miguel Ruiz offers up four agreements as a  way to personal freedom(and he goes into detail about what constitutes personal freedom, universally). Each time I reread this book, there are messages in it that resonate and cause me to think how could I forget this?  I hesitated to spill some of its contents here, as a single post about such a masterpiece can hardly do it justice.  There is so much more to the book than the agreements themselves. The author touches on things in between and around and inside the agreements, but for what it’s worth, here’s the list, simplified:

#1  Be Impeccable With Your Word :  Words are powerful. Use them in the direction of truth and love and avoid using them to speak against yourself or others.

#2 Don’t take anything personally: We’ve each developed our own belief systems and are sensitive to that system being challenged. Be aware of this and you will be less reactive.

#3 Don’t make assumptions: Communicate clearly to avoid misunderstandings and don’t assume you know what others are thinking or feeling. Ask. Tell. Communicate.

#4 Always do your best: To avoid self-judgement and regret, do your best in each given moment. Be present and take pleasure in taking right action.

Extreme decluttering

Cleaning consultant and author Marie Kondo has sold over two million copies of her book, The life-changing magic of tidying up: the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing.  She has a three month waiting list for her services and never has repeat clients; when they use her reliable methods, they only have to do it once.  And as soon as people uncover the joy and shift in mindset that living clutter free allows, they typically develop a strong desire to maintain their more minimalist lifestyle.  Tidying is just a tool in moving forward in the rest of your life, but once you begin to use the tool “you are resetting your life”, explains Konda. medium_2541710549

Her book is a fun read and is full of valuable tips and detailed guidance for anyone wanting to try the KonMari Method of simplifying. To gleen the full benefits of her wisdom, I recommend reading the book. But for those who are just curious about  what some of her significant methods are, here is my understanding of the four big ones:

* Do your simplifying all at once.  Attempting to declutter a little at a time just doesn’t work well for most people; you won’t see any immediate results when doing it little by little, and therefore you won’t gain any momentum  Besides, it could take you a lifetime. Think of simplifying as an exciting event, and tackle it all at once. Yup, when you’re ready, jump in and go. When you do it this way, you’ll be feeling the magic in no time. You’ll want to keep going.

*Go through items by category, not by rooms.  You should only have to go through each category once. So when you’re sorting clothes, for example, collect all of your clothes from the house before going through them. Kondo recommends sorting in the following order: clothing, books, papers, miscellany, then sentimental items (pictures, etc).

*Instead of thinking about what you want to get rid of, first decide which things you really want to keep.  Do you need it? Does it bring you joy? If you can’t answer yes to either of those questions, then it goes.

* Discard first, and store afterwards. In other words, don’t try to figure out where you want to keep things until after you’ve discarded all things that you aren’t going to keep.

The magic of tidying dramatically transforms your life,  promises Marie Konda.  And a whole lot of people are discovering that she’s right.

Closet Clarity

I love clothes, but I don’t like the idea of hoarding them.  I only want what I wear and I want to like everything that I own. This past spring, I’d weeded out  any clothes that I no longer wear, but my closet just wasn’t quite organized. I had hangers made of wood, wire and plastic in every color. This, along with some randomness of where each type of clothing was hung, contributed to a visual disorder which can be a subtle yet real energy drain.

So I spent the better half of one day really going through the entire closet. I put my scarves and hats and gloves in hanging shoe holders, and then gathered hangers of the same type and color for different categories of clothing. Dresses on black hangers, shirts on white, and so forth. I hung things in order- pants, then sleeveless tops together, followed by short sleeves, long sleeves, then sweaters. 20141030_102612  20141110_160859

Once the job was complete, I knew every piece of clothing that was in the closet. I didn’t just have a bunch of clothing; rather, I was mindful of what I had and I knew that it was enough.  I had seen, held and hung every thing I could possibly wear, and it made me want to make use of it all, rather than accumulate any more.

When I enter my closet now, I know exactly where to go to find what I want.  A few hours may sound like a long time to spend on a closet, but as far as I’m concerned, I have saved myself future shopping trips to buy clothes I now know I don’t need, as well as given myself a new appreciation for the ones I already have. All of them favorites, neat and orderly, and mine for the taking.

Reading and writing and inspiration overload

It is only six days into National Novel Writing month and already I have fallen off of the book-reading-wagon.  Six days.  I have been writing, I really have.  A lot, in fact. It occurred to me that Julia Cameron’s advice given in her book The Artist’s Way is spot on:  If writers stop reading for a time, they will write more. It’s not to say writers shouldn’t read because they should.  But at some point we have to put down the books and pen our own words, which is exactly what I’ve done for six days.  Once I stopped being such a book pig, I couldn’t stop writing.

But then alas I had to return an overdue book to the library (it was a book by Deepak Chopra and I loved this book. I had such a hard time parting with it; it was a week and a half overdue, and that’s after I renewed it the maximum number of times. It was the kind of book that  had to be absorbed slowly.

During my six days of I can’t stop writing, I also could not get out of my head my next book idea, and a shift I may want to make to this blog.  For reasons I won’t bore you with, this led me to want to read Julie & Julia, written by Julie Powell, the woman who successfully churned a blog-to-book-to movie.  I’d seen the movie, but hadn’t read her book.  So while returning my overdue library book, I found her first book, and her second one, Cleaving.

And since I was at the library anyhow, I picked up Lean In  because I may use the term lean in in a future blog post, as in “lean in to less” or “lean in to midlife“, or something like that.  And if I’m going to steal Sheryl Sandberg’s phrase, I figured I should at least read her book.

So there it is. My confession of I can’t stop reading even for the sake of focusing on my own damn book for one single month.  But the good news is, I skimmed Powell’s Cleaving in one day, and I can set that book aside now.  However, I am rather disappointed  that her marriage was in such turmoil by the time she published Julia & Julia.  Okay, it’s more than that, actually. I was full out distressed for an hour after reading Cleaving. It distracted me to the point of needing to do a google search to find out that they are still in fact together and it tainted my perception of Julie Powells, not that she cares. It’s my problem really, that I am wasting  thoughts on her life, instead of writing more in mine.

Things build on themselves, for sure.  The more I write, the more I want to write.  The inspiration floods me to the point where I wonder if I will get anything else done. But then the more I read, the more I want to read. One book leads to another.  Thank goodness I blocked off specific writing times at least, that leave reading or other distractions ‘off limits’. I guess it’s about balance, or timing, or something else that I haven’t figured out.  I’m lost in a sea of words and ideas and inspiration and I think I might burst.  I just have to make sure I burst onto the page in the form of a  finished draft by November 30, as that is the Nanowrimo goal.

* On Point NPR

Agenda is the new bible

  Let all things be done decently and in order  (1 Corinthians 14:40)

For many years, I  looked at the family calendar hanging on our kitchen wall each morning to stay aware of who had what, when and where.  My kids were good about keeping track of their own schedules, but it helped to know when I’d be the driver for an appointment, or when my husband’s work days shifted, and also to see what my upcoming commitments outside our family were.

Time moves on and kids grow up and now I’ve “graduated” from the family calendar to my own agenda. My daughters have all sung the praises for these books-of-the-organized which have helped them keep track of high school and college assignments, tests, performances, and any other important dates.  I could not live without my agenda are words that I heard uttered more than once in our home, and with utter conviction.

20141101_081457National Novel Writing Month has inspired me to fill my own agenda with the things that would help ensure a successful month of creativity.  Since writing and living well are intertwined for me, what serves one serves the other.  I took my time choosing an agenda, because it had to be the right agenda. It would symbolize order and commitment not only for November, but for the months ahead.  I wanted one with the days written left to write, like a book. I also wanted to be able see a whole month at a glance. When I found the perfect one, I penned in my schedule for the entire month.  At least for me, there is power in writing things down.

Writing group meetings, solo writing time, yoga classes (roughly the same time every couple days to keep it routine) fill my month.   I can glance at my agenda and see clearly when exercise takes place, and when writing takes place . Thanksgiving preparations, attending my daughter’s performance,  and my wedding anniversary celebration all have their precise times.   When it’s in writing, I don’t take it lightly or waste energy deciding what to do or in what order; there it is in black and white.  My agenda is like insurance for the habits and routine I want to live by all month, keeping me focused on my top priorities. 20141101_081348

Here is the most valuable thing I’ve learned:  we can allow life to flow through us, in all its perfect energy, or we can stay blocked.  Each day we are choosing one or the other.  It’s in the big choices but also in the seemingly small ones.  There is a magnificent order in the universe, but to tap into it, it helps to put our own lives in order.  When we do, we feel it and everything works better.  Choosing a plan and sticking to it is no easy gig for some, but figuring out what works best is part of the fun.  So here’s to agendas and the order that they symbolize. Here’s to choices set in ink. November may appear dreary and cold, but it is really full of potential and miracles if we can just make our way into that current.