Chaos without, chaos within

My husband is redoing our whole kitchen.  Yay!  I am so excited to get rid of our ugly cabinets and counter tops and cracked tile floor and replace them with something pretty. It has been the one room I have never liked, and the room that is central to our home. Aesthetics are important to me.

I am jumping for joy inside!

Actually, I am not.

I am freaking out inside.

I know the chaos of the kitchen is very temporary. It’ll be done in a matter of weeks. Or months.  My husband is enjoying the challenge, and he is great about cleaning up the mess as best he can at the end of each day.

He contains the chaos. That is a beautiful thing.

20161002_151416-2But there are some parts of it, he just cannot help. Like the table needing to be put into the living room. And some of the old cabinets needing to be in the middle of the kitchen floor. Oh, and the floor being gone.

There is stuff to do in the kitchen. Like cook. And eat. There are only so many times we can go out to eat in a week. Or a day.

At least my writing room is in our basement.  I get to come down here and deny the mess that is upstairs, until I need to go upstairs. Which is pretty often.

Today has been the turning point, from how fun it is to discuss what color cabinets to buy to can we please just get whatever ones will get here the quickest? 

But this really is not just about me and my kitchen. That’s lame.

It’s about inner and outer chaos. I’ve got both right now and I suspect it may be somewhat universal. I just cannot be that unique. I think that when our outer surroundings are  too messy or too unfinished or too scattered, that is how we all feel inside as well, at least to some extent. 

I am a four year old again, with the rug…ahh tile…pulled out from under me.

I am throwing my arms up at everything now.

Where is my discipline? Where is my productivity? My peace? What is happening to me?

I did not shower this morning. I never don’t shower. I sometimes shower twice a day. I shower before I exercise for crying out loud.

But not today. Why bother?

Today I rolled out of bed and pulled on blue leggings from my pajama drawer. Bright blue leggings. And I went out in them.

I skipped exercising.

I skipped working on my book even though I’d been on a roll for weeks of focusing on it daily.

And it’s all I can do to keep myself from buying donuts for dinner.

My id is out in full force.

I am floundering. I am messy. I am scattered.

Hey, what do you know, I match my kitchen!

Chaos without, chaos within.

I’m amazed I am even writing, because I’ve been otherwise unproductive today.  And I’ve already got a Netflix movie picked out for tonight because why even consider being productive this evening? Today is a lost cause.

The whole week too.

I am afraid I might be downward spiraling.

If God is next to cleanliness, then kitchen chaos is the devil.

The struggle is real.

And though my reaction may sound extreme, I am talking wanting donuts and slacking off here. A little disordered thinking perhaps, but not drugs or other illegal activity. Not even extreme anxiety. But I am thinking of those poor souls who are struggling with those things.

For those people who are in total inner chaos, wrap them in a warm hug.

And for the love of all that is holy, someone please help them clean up their environment. I swear to God it will help. I swear on my kitchen sink.

Which is currently on the floor.

I swear on every marble counter top, on every farmer’s sink and every style cabinet there is. Just clean up the mess. Clear the decks. Bring order and simplicity to the places you dwell in. Then all the angels and saints will shine down upon you, brighter than the brightest kitchen appliance, and brighter than the  brightest blue legging, that ever was or ever will be.

Amen.

 

 

 

Love and Choices

13239029_10209299243580885_6529252908657338580_nTime is marching on a little too quickly these days.  It’s nearly summer and I hardly remember spring, except for my middle daughter’s wedding, the highlight. She and her fiance chose to have a small, private wedding which took place outdoors. It was beautiful and special and a perfect reflection of their love for each other. My daughter’s mother-in-law captured all of it on  video, including the sisters’ speeches which made my heart swell nearly as much as the ceremony did. I’m waiting to receive  the link to this video to share with family and friends who were not in attendance.

And speaking of missing family members, when we first heard of their desire for a very small wedding, I felt a twinge of disappointment. What about all our loved ones who would not be there? But I think we’ve raised our children to “think outside the box” when it’s right for them, and this was one of those times. So in time, I usually feel a sense of relief when they exercise this right. I like to know they are doing what they think is right for them.

One thing I’ve learned from parenthood is how little I know. We can love them a lot and listen to them a lot and guide them, but ultimately it is encouraging our kids to follow their own inner guidance that is the true task of parenthood.

My youngest daughter told me that some of the best words I ever said to her were these:

I don’t know.

It’s your life to live.  What do you think? 

She said it left her with a sense of empowerment and excitement about her own life.

It’s a good reminder. I’m just a parent. Our children are each on their own unique journeys. I don’t want to play God with that.

I love you  and I don’t know.  A suitable parenting mantra, I think.

And the  one and only piece of advice I recall ever giving my daughters about love was this:

Choose someone who loves you a lot.

Life throws enough curve balls and challenges. Your love life doesn’t have to be one of them.

***

Tomorrow is fifty days before my fiftieth birthday, which has inspired me to write exactly that post, tomorrow.(50 Days ’til 50). I considered a series, posting each day leading up to this birthday, but alas need to spend the time editing my memoir which I promised myself would be much more polished by the big 5-0.

Always having to make choices with time; such is life. But getting older makes me increasingly aware of this- that I am in fact making a choice at any given moment.   I guess conscious choosing  is a byproduct of adulting. Maybe that’s all life really is; one choice after the next. Even when things happen to us, we still get to choose, what now?

See you tomorrow!

P.S. *Please visit the site of Sarabeth Matilsky, a most adventurous mom of four. In her latest letter, she takes us through the decision to sell her home and travel with her family, and  details  the massive clearing out that took place.  In a very short amount of time, she got rid of 95% of her family’s possessions. Bam. Now that is how you get it done:  www.lifeisapalindrome.com

Making Room

small_4355223864It seemed that as I made the decision to spend more time working on my book and less time with other things, including blogging and writing essays, I was tested. I had a flood of blog post ideas, a request to write for Mamalode appeared in my inbox as well as an invitation to speak at a conference in the spring.

What should I do? Keep my goal very simplified, nose to the grindstone until I finish the book and ignore anything else that comes my way, including many of my other writing impulses?  Or say yes?

As luck would have it, I happen to be following the career of Mel Robbins. She is currently my mentor, though she doesn’t exactly know it. I think a mentor has to be someone who is not so unlike you that can’t relate, but who has much more of what you are aspiring to. As a CNN commentator and legal analyst our career paths differ hugely.

But she is also an author and a speaker and she loves motivating others with her words. She is happily married, has three children, and lives in the Boston area (me too!) She loves clothes and Martha Beck (so do I!) And I’ll bet she’s organized.

She has a no BS approach to getting what she wants and to helping others get what they want. And in addition to her great practical approach, she has a strong belief in the power of intuition, as I do. Career-wise, she is leaps and bounds ahead of me. But I can relate to her.

Mentor? I guess you could say she is my girl crush. I read her book and watched all of her videos on You Tube. I wanted to hear what she has to say. During one of her interview videos she spoke of saying Yes to all invitations during the first year of her speaking and writing career. She mentioned how one opportunity led to the next and so on, and that saying Yes was what really moved her forward. She advised against either-or- thinking in the face of opportunities and goals. Often, we can do this and that.

So I said Yes to writing for Mamalode (I get to choose how often) and Yes to the speaking invitation (it’s not until spring after all, and will only take up one day). I am saying Yes to my blog post ideas when they come to me (like this one) instead of putting them off until the ideas fade. I can do these things and consistently work on my book.

But only if I keep saying No to other things. I have to stay vigilant of all the ways clutter can sneak in- to my head, my home and my days. Simplifying is a must for me, in order to avoid overwhelm and to keep moving forward.

To refresh my resolve to keep my life uncluttered of things that don’t matter much to me, I watched several videos on minimalism. There are so many out there, and like a junkie, I could have watched them all night.

The Marie Kondo method of decluttering.

Peter Walsch, the professional organizer, writer and media personality.

There are even very young people on YouTube, speaking about how much happier they became when they went from being recreational shoppers and accumulators, to minimalists.

Matthew Williams of LifeEdited has some really cool stuff for city dwellers: http://www.lifeedited.com/about/

Minimizing beauty products, kitchens, closets; the possibilities go on and on. There are videos of encouragement and suggestions for every area of life. But alas, as much as I enjoy them and find them inspiring, I could not watch them all. At a certain point, watching more would be wasting too much time, something that simplifying is supposed to help us avoid. So I stopped when I found a favorite and I am posting it here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2-nMDzccJwc

Andrew Mellen is a professional organizer in New York City. His words resonate with me. I love what he has to say about simplifying, and I think you will too. He leaves a lot of room for personal preferences and values, and the guy makes sense for everyone in my opinion. Although his video is forty-four minutes long, you can get his whole message in the first twenty. The second part is just a question-and-answer session with his audience.

One of my favorite points that he makes is this: If you are embarking on a new path of simplifying or getting organized, you do not have to fit that in your schedule on top of everything else you already do. You simply need to stop doing the things you don’t want or need to do in order to make room for the task of organizing. Here is the link again. I hope you enjoy it! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2-nMDzccJwc

Whether our goal is to get organized or to change careers or write a book or cook more meals or anything at all that we find worthwhile, we first have to let go of all that is not serving us. We have to make room.

When I feel stuck or overwhelmed, I ask myself, what do I need to let go of? Usually it comes to me, and often it’s obvious. I am forever a student on this path.

So I emailed Mel Robbins, commenting on her work and asking her a question about mine. She responded with great enthusiasm, gave me some good advice, and then asked if I would contribute to the research of her next book by writing my responses to ten questions she would send me.

I said Yes.

The Stories We Tell

20150421_193254I have so many things I want to write about, including spring cleaning. I am stubbornly waiting until the weather actually turns spring-like so that I can open the windows and actually call it spring cleaning. Today we are due to get some hail, (yes, hail!)so I continue to walk across my sticky kitchen floor and watch the dust balls grow.

I also want to write about the time I wrote an article on assignment for a magazine. It was about a vision quest in suburbia. Talk about an oxymoron. I remembered the assignment while driving home from writing group last week, after discussing freelance writing. Oh, and there was that, I thought. I’d forgotten about it. And now I want to write about it because it was so bizarre that I have to dust it off and churn the experience into a new story.

And I want to write about writer’s block and how Julia Cameron, author of the Artist’s Way, rescues many writers from this misery. She reminds us, when words become as elusive as water in the dessert, to not call it laziness. Call it fear.

Thank you, Julia Cameron, for reminding us of this when we are blocked. We are not losers! she is telling us.  We are cowards. Believe it or not, this really does help.

I want to write about these things and more, and I will, but I am currently preoccupied with the Moth open mic story telling. I first wrote about my Moth Story Slam adventure in an earlier post here:  https://musingsimplicity.wordpress.com/2015/03/05/the-moth-story-slam-live-storytelling/

Happily, I sold my winning Moth story to an online magazine and am now working on lengthening it a bit, at the editor’s request. They will own exclusive rights for six months, and after that  I can do what I want with it-submit to other publications, blog, etc.

I am still waiting on the date for the Moth Grand Slam where I will compete with ten other story tellers. I think it will be over the summer and I can hardly wait!

In the meantime, I plan to perform again this week at another story slam just for practice, so I am preparing for that, right down to picking out my mothfit

A mothfit is what I now call the outfit I wear to these things.  A small detail, I know, but I reason that it requires at least a little thought.  It should be authentic, and not pretentious. Comfortable, but not frumpy.  Chic, but not shabby.

So after this week, with the story revisions and the Moth Story Slam behind me , I will be free to focus on other writing again.

And it would be great if this coincided with spring making her grand entrance.  Because for me, bogged down by winter’s layers- of clothing, cold, and grime- are dichotomous with writing freely and moving forward, lightly.

Here in New England, we are going to appreciate spring like a blocked writer appreciates fresh words.

When that time comes, I will throw open my windows. I will wipe away any dirt and excess, and clear the way for the sunshine and the muse to come through, light and warming. Because this simplifying thing, it really does work.

Cars and keeping the journey light

Cars have long been a universal theme explored in literary works such as The Outsiders. Do you remember the two groups of teen rivals, the Socials and the greasers? The Socs had cars which represented power, protection and mobility, while the greasers had to travel on foot and were therefore much more vulnerable.

stock-photo-30594346-hands-of-driver-on-the-steering-wheelAnd who can’t relate to feeling vulnerable when our car doesn’t start up, or it stalls on the side of the road? Maybe this is a distant memory of our younger years when we had less control over our lives, or perhaps it happened yesterday. We’ve got somewhere to go and this is our mode of transportation. To lose it is unnerving.

Or how about the elderly driver who has to give up driving altogether? This denotes a loss of freedom and independence. How could it not? They’ve crossed over to having to depend on others to move them from one place to another.

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Dreams of cars symbolize how much control you have over your own life. Are you in the driver’s seat or are you along for the ride as a passenger? Do you know how to navigate from one place, or stage, to the next? Or are you lost?

And just like any other area of life, clutter in a car can take an emotional toll. It’s restricting, slows us down, and in the case of a moving vehicle, can even be unsafe.

Cleaning a car is a simple and symbolic way to take charge of our lives. It’s so much more pleasant to take the journey free of clutter and crumbs. Cleaning out one’s car is a step towards traveling with mental clarity and space. It is moving forward with both hands on the wheel, free of the stuff that bogs us down.stock-photo-36568830-driving-on-an-empty-road-towards-the-setting-sun

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:

http://www.theminimalists.com/?s=black+friday

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.