maryv@shiftyourstories.com

Intentional Living

Intentional Living 2022: Teeny Tiny Actions To Shift Closer To My Big Goals

A new month in a new year signals a return to intentional living— you know, picking up those goals you jotted down last year that didn’t quite stick!

And if you’re like me, New Year’s resolutions can sometimes feel heavy. I mean, we’ve been doing this for a number of years by now. And we’re still at it with some of them! 

But who doesn’t feel there’s always room for improvement in one or more major areas of their life? So we start in January (or December, for the truly organized), dreaming about how things could be (or dare I say, should be, which is even more daunting).

But how many of those ambitious line items continue to be worked as the year unfolds?

Well, after years of pledging to be perfect (and shocker: falling far short), I’ve recognized a flaw with the inordinate emphasis on big.

So instead, I’m choosing an intentional living approach: executing on little actions that can bring my larger goals within reach. And along the way, I’ll be relishing this focus that makes each ordinary day meaningful.

Think about it this way: There are many ways to get from where I am to where I want to be. Some of those ways are direct paths, or habits to do more of. Others are detours, or habits to do less of.

I’m going to focus on incorporating the little habits in my daily life that will keep me on track and offloading the ones that derail my journey!

……………………………………………………………

Today, I’m sharing a few examples of “more and less” little habits that will comprise my 2022 Year of Intentional Living. Because working the small steps feels more sustainable than fixating on the big ones. Feel free to claim any that resonate for you!

living with intention

What I'll Do More Of This Year

The last few months of 2021 had me on a bit of a pause. (Over here if you missed the last post). It was a time where I was sorting out my own living intentions by shifting inward. And by doing so, I observed success with occasional tiny habits that lifted me up and felt empowering. Clearly, it was time to do more of those things!

This is still a work in progress, so I reserve the right to tweak as I go along.

But so far, I’ve drafted a short list of little actions for major categories (work, relationships, mental/physical/spiritual health). They are tiny habits which can yield big benefits when done daily.

Such as:

  • morning journal (brain dump) to release swirling thoughts and to center myself
  • physical activity to get my endorphins flowing
  • mantras to turn around worry (“I’m right on schedule”), hesitation (“do it anyway”) or negativity (“think this, not that”). The last two are courtesy of the brilliant Mel Robbins! 

Being sensitive is both a blessing and a curse for me. It’s challenging how easily my mood can turn on a dime, just by what someone says or does. It’s a reflex.

But what if at the moment when that happens, I train myself to pause? Use one of my mantras? The bottom line is, my reactions are simply old habits that can be adjusted…one day at a time.

And the good news is, each of these micro actions take less than 20 minutes and some are barely 10 seconds! With practice, they become second nature.

The more I do them, the better I feel.

And the better I feel, the better my day goes … boom!

What I'll Do Less Of This Year

On the flip side, I’m restricting what brings me down, feels like a slog, or gets me stuck. Identifying and limiting what I must allow less of …even if the world (or sometimes myself) keeps nudging me to do them.

Who knows better than I what makes sense for my own well being? Each of us is wonderfully unique. It follows that  “one-size-fits-all” / “do what everyone else does” approaches are not always best.

So what’s on my “doing less of” list? 

  • endless audible notifications
  • all-day work marathons
  • backseat driving

There’s a lot to parse here! Let me just say that incessant interruptions really derail my focus and my mood. I’ve long prided myself with my multi-tasking skills—but at what price?

Deep thinking or being fully present in a conversation means something’s gotta give with the electronic pings. The same with stealing time every few minutes to glance at my phone or to scroll a little.

And life balance is essential. My corporate days are over. While writing brings me fulfillment, it’s a blessing that my personal life does not need to constantly come second. Time to break that twitch!

So along the lines of the Pomodoro Technique, I’m not entirely giving up getting several things done….I’m just going to ensure I go deep enough with my main objectives before I reward myself with a little social catch-up!

Lastly, yeah: backseat driving refers to my instinct to control things and direct people. It’s such an ingrained habit that I find it quite humbling to realize how often I do this. Whether I’m right or not, it’s not always appreciated (yikes!). Nor is it always effective. (Time to refer above for the proper mantra!).

Some habits may likely be something I’ll need to work on forever, never quite mastering. But always refining. Like that backseat driving.

intentional living

The Wrap On Intentional Living By Way of Little Habits

Intentional Living allows us to live our best lives.

When we pause to pay attention to what our souls yearn for, we can discover our deeply personal big goals. Then we can create little habits that move us in that direction—one tiny step at a time!

This approach feels so incredibly liberating, powerful, yet doable! Which sounds like a recipe for a sustainable approach to achieving what matters most to us.

The bar is always moving higher on our big goals. But then again, so should we—don’t you think?

………………………………………………………….

For another take on why it’s hard to accomplish big goals, check out this post over here. (spoiler alert: perfectionism is a notorious non-starter!)

Did you uncover a useful idea here? Have some little habits of your own you’re incorporating this year? 

Share your takeaway in the comments below—I welcome your thoughts!

…And thanks for stopping by!

Other Posts You May Enjoy

new year, new me

New Year, New Me: Shifting In A New Direction!

Happy (almost) New Year!

I’ve always relished a fresh start and a new calendar year is just that. Not to say that we can’t recalibrate at any point in time. We can and we should, especially when our souls are feeling confined.

But when there’s an official new beginning right around the corner? It’s thrilling to know we can turn the page. What’s happened has happened— but what will happen next? It’s an opportunity for us to choose!

With this is mind, I’m turning the page with Shift Your Stories. It’s time for a change! After all, a wise woman once said, “Change happens. Life is change. When we stand still, we don’t grow.”Mary V, PopUpPurge™.  So yeah, if I’m going to talk the talk, I should also walk the walk, amiright?

Today, I’m sharing 3 reasons why I’m pivoting with a new purpose.

New Year

1. A New Path In The New Year Feels Right

My heart was yearning for me to make a shift.

One where I share about things other than physical decluttering. Rest assured, that will still be in the mix. I know firsthand that space clearing allows for a calmer mindset and a clearer outlook. And the science is clear about the toll household clutter takes on our mental health (one psychologist talks about that over here). 

But the bigger picture for me has always been about finding Clarity….especially Midlife Clarity, at a time when I have even more freedom to choose my next step. Which opens the door to all kinds of revelations I want to share … like refining our wardrobe, examining our outlook, releasing limiting beliefs, detaching from toxic individuals, uncovering a new purpose or direction or lifestyle … just to name a few! 

In fact, not only are my topics expanding; my website design is starting to reflect the change I’m embracing, too. Hop over to see the site updates made so far over here and let me know what you think!

Additional resources are in the works, as well. I’ll be featuring other Over 50 Women and their newfound midlife purposes. You’ll receive links to their videos and podcasts which provide inspired information for a strong, happy Second Half.

What’s more, part of my joy with writing comes from pairing my words with images that convey the spirit of what I’m thinking or feeling. 

Selecting and playing with photo layouts…enhancing and colorizing them…this makes me happy. So no more stock photos here. Which makes my site so much more Me!

While I am not for everyone, I need to be Genuinely Me. Not an imitation or facade of Someone Else. Just like you need to be Authentically You.

It’s too tiring to be otherwise, don’t you think?

2. I got burned out in 2021...Anyone else?

It hit me this summer.

You see, over the last 5 years, I went from running a downsizing & moving business to providing in-home decluttering services. Then when I blogged and posted on social media about the emotional overlay that clutter imposes, women assumed I was a life coach. So I thought, why not? I pursued getting certified and started online coaching.

After that, because my words were having real impact, I segued into strictly writing during 2020. I published a book: PopUpPurge™ Release Midlife Clutter & Reclaim Inner Clarity. Which led to a dizzying round of promotional activities on social media and in real life. 

By July, I was anxious and burned out. Turns out, putting the brakes on everything was the key to uncovering what I should truly focus on now.

3. I Decluttered The 24-7 Updates

I turned the dial down—way down!

Intel from social media, TV networks, radio, online magazines and newsletters comes in fast and furious. It can choke us if we don’t regulate the volume and frequency.

In our search for clarity and truth, we end up getting overwhelmed and stressed. We spend more time chasing information and less time processing it. The reality? It’s impossible to take it all in!

And I can easily get derailed with too much “noise”. A smart balance between time on and off “the grid” is important for everyone. But it’s beyond essential for me to reflect and reset away from people-y situations, both in real life and virtually!

So I realized I needed to reduce the incoming traffic immediately.

First, I paused my social media presence

The longer I was silent and then just MIA for a while, the more relief I felt. It freed up hours spent composing, posting, scrolling, liking and commenting … which I was shocked to realize in hindsight!

Yes, I made some genuine virtual connections with incredible women. I even met up with a few Influencers in real life. Yet I also scrolled deeper into the rabbit hole as I eagerly lapped up all the airbrushed beauty, the creative reels and gorgeous photos. 

Now I did eventually miss seeing what’s out there. And as I figured out my renewed purpose, I knew I needed to set boundaries before I returned. 

So now I’m dipping a toe back in again, but only as a real person (not a business) who shares about what I see From My Window. I’m not going to write daily but I will show up regularly.

I will acknowledge all comments but have strict boundaries for when I engage. Otherwise, popping on whenever I have a few minutes during the day? Can’t and won’t! That’s how I ended up being on social media All Day Long.

My approach is not what SM will reward. I expect my follower/friend numbers will drop. But the ones that stay and the new ones who arrive? Those will be satisfying connections … true kindred souls. And that’s what makes my heart happy!

Second, I reduced my news sources

I became a news junkie and self-improvement maven without even realizing it.

But again, the sheer volume of resources is staggering. There’s a myriad of excellent material out there. We simply have to Make Choices.

Which, by the way, thank you for the privilege of your attention!

So yes, I pared down what is allowed in my in-box. I also have dedicated times for when I read or listen.

Because while I was out, I reveled in periods of serene silence as I went about my day. I didn’t always multitask with a podcast or news show while I drove, jogged or cleaned house. That felt good and it needs to always have a sacred slot in my day.

And I have renewed gratitude for all the blessings in my life: my home, my health, my family, my close friends and my little dogs. My days felt full though my activities were few.

It’s truly a gift to slow down every once in a while. And so is clearing space  for what matters most!

The Wrap: Heading Into A New Year

Reset…revamp…recalculate…whatever you choose to call it, a new year gives us the grace to be all that we want to be.

Or at least get closer with how to get there.

My shift feels so right that I can’t believe I didn’t take this road before! 

But you know how life is: We can’t see everything ahead of us. And as we make choices, there is always a twist, a turn or a even roadblock ahead.

To keep moving forward, we need to pause and pivot. Occasionally change course. 

Doesn’t mean the current path was wrong. It was just the path to get to the next path! 

We need the courage to trust our intuition and to take that turn when it beckons to us.

I hope you come with me! 

tiny houses

Tiny Houses: A Peek Into The Appeal Of These Sweet Little Homes

Tiny houses are so adorable!

Who doesn’t get the appeal of a life-sized dollhouse? However, there’s more to these compact homes than meets the eye. 

Little houses are the beginning of a revolution in the housing industry.

Consider this: the average square footage of a U.S. home in the 1950s was 983 square feet. Within 60 years, it then almost tripled to 2657 square feet! 

But now, we are seeing this number decline. In fact, the median size of a new single-family home sold in 2020 was 2,333 square feet. 

So why the reversal with growing demand for a smaller real estate footprint?

Curious to know more?

Take a micro break from your holiday hustle: join me with pondering the delightful freedom that comes with tiny house living…at any age.

tiny home nation
danielle rice | unsplash

I'm sharing 3 compelling reasons why a tiny house may fit into your future!

(Oh, and be sure to scroll all the way down to see some fabulous tiny houses…which one is your favorite? Let’s chat in the comments!)

1. The Economics of Tiny Houses

Personal finances are always a major factor in any homebuyer’s decision-making process. 

The buyers of tiny homes vary widely. They are not restricted to Gen X or Gen Z (20-30 year olds)—logical first-time homeowners. Millennials are also in the mix. Many of them delayed buying their first home and they are rapidly approaching 40 years old now! 

When Millennials graduated, they faced the double whammy of a fierce job market and steep housing costs. The economic uncertainty kept them on the sidelines. Renting seemed to be a more prudent choice. And it allowed them to be nimble should a job opportunity require relocation.

  But the same challenges face Baby Boomers, too—often retirees on a fixed or reduced income. Tiny houses can be the solution for both ends of the age spectrum. 

The smaller dimensions allow for high end finishes at an affordable price tag. Certainly, the cost of a tiny house can range anywhere from $25,000 to $180,000+. 

Yet imagine the ability to buy your own four walls for a price tag under $75,000 in a major metropolitan area?  ‘Nuf said!  

2. The Environmental Impact of Tiny Houses

Going green is no longer a trend…it’s a way of life!

 And clearly, reducing our footprint on Mother Earth pays big dividends in preserving our world. Global warming is demanding that we do things differently now. 

Moreover, the savings realized with tiny houses are significant:

  • Solid construction waste is decreased
  • Necessary building materials are condensed
  • Energy costs to maintain the house is reduced

In other words, it’s a win-win for the environment and the homeowner! Just look at this infographic which compares traditional versus tiny house construction. Kinda says it all, doesn’t it!

3. The Lifestyle Possibilities of Tiny Houses

Minimalism, or living with less, is no longer a fad but a way of life. 

When you’ve lived a full life, you will have accumulated lots of stuff over the years. We feel the weight of our belongings every time we can’t find that bill or pair of shoes or book, because we have too much. We don’t even remember what we have when it’s hidden at the back of the closet, in a box or in storage. 

When you live in a tiny house, there’s no room for too much! It demands that you release stuff from a past chapter if it’s just taking up space. It requires that you let go of things that no longer play a role in your daily routine. Instead, you keep only what matters: what you need, what you use, and what you love right now.

Tiny houses can also be a practical option for a second home/vacation home. Imagine the thrill of living in your happy place, whether near the water, on a mountain, or within a vibrant city….at a reduced cost. Less to maintain means more time to relax and pursue your hobbies and interests.

Though your space is small, your life feels large. You have the financial, mental, and emotional freedom to do more. To live large in your current life chapter.

Who wouldn’t welcome that kind of space in their life?

A Gallery of Tiny Houses!

 Here is just a sampling of the infinite number of possible configurations. Which of these tiny houses tugs at your heartstrings?

The last one is technically a travel trailer that I spied near where I live. But seems to me, when you’re camping, wherever you lay your head at night is home, don’t you think?

And check out the videos in the Resource section, too. Hear about Tiny House Living from those who are currently enjoying this lifestyle!

container home
#1 by jed owen | unsplash
california tiny houses
#2 by bob osias | unsplash
tiny home floor plans
#3 by andrea davis | unsplash
tiny house kits
#4 by jed owen | unsplash
tiny houses
#5 by nick karvounis | unsplash
tiny house living
#6 by toh tiny overland house | unsplash

The Wrap

The rap with Mary V

Could a tiny home make sense for you? Tell us what you think.

And thanks for stopping by!

declutter your house

5 Easy Ways To Declutter Your House Now & Still Enjoy The Holidays

Believe it or not, you can add “declutter your house” to your December to-do list and not feel overwhelmed!

Are you thinking, “Surely you jest…I’ve got a ton of things to do before family and friends descend upon me!” 

Well, stay with me: I’m thinking of areas where you can weed out excess stuff and still be ready to toast the holidays with your loved ones!

I know…it’s traditional to begin a new habit on January 1st. It’s a logical starting point for those who make New Year’s resolutions. December is often a final hurrah for eating the cookies, sipping the eggnog or laying on the couch for a Netflix binge. 

Then, when the holidays are behind us, our attention is not pulled in quite so many directions. We can focus on where we want to head next.

But if you incorporate making some small uncluttering decisions while you’re preparing to celebrate, wouldn’t it be awesome to make headway now?

After all, you’re already handling many of your possessions as you prepare your home for the holiday get togethers. 

Where to start decluttering your house can start in those very spaces you’re cleaning and clearing as you prep for your guests.

Read on about five places where you can declutter your house before the end of the year!

declutter your house
laura james | pexels

1. Declutter Your Holiday Decor

Holiday decorating both inside and outside the home is part of many a family tradition. 

When I was growing up, we amassed and displayed a fair number of Christmas ornaments, Santa Claus collectibles and outdoor lights. Some of them were even passed along to us adult children as our parents scaled back. 

If you also regularly transform your home at this time of year, how about setting out fewer items? You, too, could let your grown kids pick and choose their favorites.

Or consider donating some so others who are less financially stable can also create a festive atmosphere in their homes, too. As you’re hauling out and unwrapping your decorations, review which ones are your favorites to keep and which ones can now be shared.

Crating extra space between your favorites will also feature them front and center. Everything you look at will make your heart swell.

And then think about how streamlined next year’s holiday decorating will be when you have less to set up and then store again!

tips to declutter your house
anna tis | pexels

2. Declutter Your Everyday Decor

We generally need to swap out our knickknacks when we display holiday trinkets and decor. 

Instead of simply boxing up all your things temporarily, think about sorting and releasing some of your customary items now. It’s an ideal time to clear out what no longer thrills you, especially if you’re planning to make a move into a smaller space next year. 

Oftentimes, we don’t see clearly what is in our home because we are so familiar with our things. Once it’s time to move it or pack it, only then do we start to look at our stuff with a critical eye.

As you handle each item, is it something that you truly love? Do you use it now? Is it in working condition? Might it be something to pass on to somebody else? 

 Not sure? Then defer the decision for now but at least give the process a chance.

Don’t agonize over the decisions—if your gut instinct is to let it go, do it and move on!

declutter your linen closet
elisabeth smithard | pexels

3. Declutter Your Linen Closet

Who doesn’t set out their nicest kitchen and bathroom towels at this time of year? 

They may or may not be in holiday hues but we display the ones that are in the best condition. While you’re doing this, take some time to straighten out the linen closet or shelves.

We often have many more everyday towels, washcloths and bed sheets than we truly need. Our tastes change as our decor changes. And eventually, all towels become faded, frayed or even stained.

If you do laundry on a weekly basis, why not just keep two or three sets for those in the household and perhaps another set or two for overnight guests? All the rest would be welcome donations at any charitable organization. Animal shelters in particular would appreciate your slightly frayed hand-me-downs!

Enjoy the sight of a tidy linen closet with matching pristine towels in the shades you prefer now! 

declutter the kitchen
andrea piacquadio

4. Declutter A Kitchen Cabinet (Or Two)

For all the bakers and chefs out there, the holidays are a prime time to churn out seasonal savories and goodies.

Baking cookies with my mom is one of my favorite Christmas memories! We had sweet treats by the dozen stored in the unheated breezeway between our house and garage. Someone always had an excuse to go to the garage as a pretext to sneak a few cookies!

These days, my cookie baking marathon is no more. I’ve saved a couple of the treasured cookbooks. And I whip up a couple choice treats. However, I’ve let go of the cookie press, the tin cutouts…even my kitchen-aid (gasp!) but I have other appliances that I reach for now.

Truth is, it’s just my husband and I now and we don’t need all the sugary temptation around us. Oh, I’m not averse to making a few goodies. But the extras go home with my adult son! 

If you, too, are cooking differently, why not weed out cookware and recipe books that are no longer used? Someone else likely wants a new tradition of making Belgian waffles on Christmas Day. 

Me? I’m content with an easy overnight pop-in-the-oven breakfast casserole.  You? Perhaps you’d rather make reservations….go for it!

Declutter your kitchen gadgets in a nod to how you cook now!  

decluttering conversation
askar abayev | pexels

5. The "Declutter Your House" Convo With Family

Our families gather from near and far when the holidays arrive!

Most would agree that seeing our loved ones gathered in real life is the highlight of the season. Sure, there can be some mini-dramas here and there…all part of the deal!

It’s not often that everyone convenes, due to hectic schedules and scattered home bases. So while you’re all together, initiate the conversation about what things of yours they have always admired. 

Parents often assume their kids have the same regard for family heirlooms or mementos but it’s not true. Tastes vary and so does the capacity to incorporate large furniture or collectibles into a new household.

Here’s a short of what they likely don’t want: Top 10 Objects Kids Don’t Want!

Or check out this iconic article from The New York Times: Aging Parents With Lots of Stuff & Children Who Don’t Want It.

Instead of making assumptions about who wants what, just ask! It will help your distribution process when you start paring down in earnest. 

And if more than one of your kids wants dibs on an item, now’s the time to know. 

There are a few ways to resolve this, whether drawing straws, or making concessions on one item in return for another. It doesn’t have to be finalized now. But it’s good intel for future reference.

Above all, don’t take it personally when they feel differently about your stuff.

We each have the right to decide what enters our own homes. And no one welcomes guilt at the door, don’t you agree?

The rap with Mary V

The Wrap: How To Declutter Your House In December

  • Prune your things as you go about your holiday prep routine. You can toss, donate or gift several things in as little as 15 minutes!
  • Initiate a conversation with your adult children to learn what they would like to incorporate into their own homes. You may be surprised with the answers!
  • Your small but powerful head start to declutter your house now can reinforce your New Year’s momentum!
  • Above all, enjoy the one-on-one time with your loved ones!

Your Turn!

  • Do you normally go all out with the holiday decor?

  • Is holiday baking your thing?

  • Do you prefer hosting or making the party rounds?

  • What tradition are you ready to pass on to your kids?

Share your thoughts below …and thanks for stopping by!

charitable donations

Charitable Donations Make The Holidays Merry For All!

It’s hard to ignore the emphasis on material presents at this time of year, don’t you think? It’s one of the traditional ways we show our love to family and friends. Maybe you’d like to cut back on retail excess and focus on the holiday fellowship, instead. But what about the gift of charitable contributions for those we don’t even know?

There are so very many who are less fortunate financially than ourselves. Whether our charitable donations are for soldiers stationed overseas or for domestic abuse families in our own community, there are (sadly) endless opportunities for lifting others up during the holiday season.

Check out these 5 suggestions for sharing the blessings you have. In fact, a few of these ideas will have the added benefit of clearing out what you no longer need or use in your home, too—double score!

charitable donations
image by kaboom.com | pexels

1. Books

Do you have books that you no longer read?

Anything that doesn’t interest you anymore? Or maybe a favorite that could positively influence someone else? As the author of The Book Thief wrote, “Words are life”. 

Many of us struggle with letting go of our books because they seem to define who we are. Yet understand that while they reflect certain interests of ours, we don’t need them sitting idle on our shelves to validate our worth to those who already know us … or to ourselves!

If you’re ready to share some of your collection, consider making charitable donations to your local venues such as:

  • youth centers
  • senior centers
  • hospitals 
  • nursing homes
  • shelters & crisis centers

Donating your time may also be an option. Here’s an opportunity to pack and ship books for our troops abroad: Operation Paperback.

Help foster the imagination and inspire others with the written word!

charitable donations
image by pavel danilyuk | pexels

2. Clothing

While prepping for the next holiday mixer, pull out a few (or several) garments for the charitable donations box.

Our tastes change over time, not to mention our body shape (sorry)!

Rather than hang on to clothes we may (never) wear “someday”, think about donating those items to make room for the ones that you reach for time after time because they truly fit and flatter.

It’s quite eye-opening when we consider that 20% of our wardrobe is worn 80% of the time. How about reversing that percentage: retain what you love and release what you don’t. It will shed clarity on your actual clothing options!

In fact, it’s not uncommon to hang on to corporate attire long after the dress code has relaxed or you yourself have exited the job. 

Donating to an organization focused on those entering the workforce with little funds for new duds would be an awesome gesture! One such charity committed to helping disadvantaged female professionals is Dress For Success.

If you can spare some time, there is also a strong need for volunteers to counsel those building a new business. Share your corporate wisdom with others through Score, a network of volunteer mentors for new small business owners.

Help others climb the corporate ladder and achieve financial security!

charitable donations
image by emily hopper | pexels

3. Towels and Linens

At some point, it’s time to refresh our towels, linens and blankets.  

They wear out over time. They fade or fray. And when our color palette changes, our old towels and bedding get shoved to the back of the closet or drawer. 

Yet those are ideal items for donating to your local animal shelter or rescue group! Grab a bag and pull out the ones you no longer use or care about.

There are countless local animal rescues you can help out. Simply google using the search terms, “animal rescue near me” to uncover your options for charitable donations. 

Or give financially to your local Humane Society and help those who can’t speak for themselves. Any of the stray animal causes would also welcome your time or financial donations, as well.

Help keep the four-legged orphans warm and dry!

charitable donations
image by suzy hazelwood | pexels

4. Toys

Got a spare teddy bear (or two)? 

OK, if you’re over 50 like me, the toys have long vacated the premises! Oh, they may make an appearance from time to time, when our grandchildren visit, but they already belong to those young owners.

Unfortunately, many children lose whatever prized possessions they have when they experience a house fire or when they abruptly flee a domestic abuse situation.

Both local police and fire departments are ideal drop-off sites for donating new stuffed animals. Once again, Google to the rescue! Search using the words, “toy donation drop off sites near me”.

Or here’s another one: Stuffed Animals For Emergencies. And one more noteworthy group to make kids’ holidays brighter is Toys for Tots.

Help children feel secure with your charitable donations when their future feels uncertain.

charitable donations
image by laura james | pexels

5. Pantry Items

Whether you’re clearing space in your pantry or grocery shopping for the holiday meals, consider setting aside some extra food supplies for those who have less.

Hunger affects people of all ages, from the very young to the elderly. An event such as unemployment or a health crisis can quickly lead to food insecurity.

And know that food pantries are especially strained during the holidays so your donations are greatly welcomed. You can search for your local food bank to donate either food or money (or both) here at Feeding America.

Again, if time is an available resource, donating your service in a soup kitchen may be your gift of choice. It’s a real sign of stewardship when we humble ourselves and personally tend to those in need. 

A nationwide resource that provides your local options for charitable donations of both time and money is at Homeless Shelter Directory.

Help nourish those with empty fridges!

The rap with Mary V

The Wrap on Charitable Donations

The drive-through lanes can be long this month at national organizations such as Goodwill. December 31st is the last opportunity for making tax deductible 2021 charitable donations. If you yourself have waited patiently in that giving queue, thank you! 

  • Remember those who are without and consider donating what resources you can
  • Sharing the blessings we have is how a community bonds and thrives

Do you have a tradition of giving back? What charitable donation experience is particularly meaningful for you and why?

Share your thoughts below … and thanks for stopping by!

But First: Plan Now For A Peaceful Holiday Season

If you’re like most, the thought of the upcoming holidays fills you with equal parts of excitement and dread!

After more than a year of lockdown, restriction and confinement, who doesn’t relish the idea of family get-togethers, friends, parties, decorations and presents?

But let’s be honest: there’s a part of you that stresses out…so much to prepare, to buy, to decorate, to bake, to wrap…you name it! Do you find the hustle and bustle exhausting?

Would you prefer a lower key yet fully meaningful celebration?

Let’s take five and think about how we can plan for a peaceful holiday season without losing our composure.  Consider incorporating the following four practices into your holiday routine. 

After all, regardless of your religious or spiritual beliefs, it’s a sacred time to focus on what matters most….to you and what you truly value!

peaceful holiday season
image by lucie liz | pexels

1. Say "No" to Pinterest Perfectionism

It’s so easy to want everything to be just right. 

From the tree and the home decorations to the presents and the menu. It seems there’s an expectation for each and every facet to be perfect. Or else it falls short.

But why does it have to be one or the other?

There’s nothing wrong with having a realistic vision of your gatherings.

So what if the tree is a little crooked? Who cares if your hand towels don’t sport holiday motifs? 

If family and friend time is what matters more to you, then allow yourself to keep things casual. When you plan for the comfort of your guests instead of the fancy wow of your decor, you’ll be less tense. 

In fact, as you haul out your holiday decor, consider paring down your collection.

This would be an ideal time to approach your adult children about selecting which items they would love to receive for their own home. 

Just remember: if they say no, don’t take it personally. Their taste may be different. Or they may truly want to keep their own decor on the minimalist side, as well. Part of a peaceful holiday season means accepting others’ personal preferences, too!

When you retain only your favorites, your set up and take down routine will be much easier—less time consuming. And every item will be sure to bring joy when they’re displayed.

People may compliment a well coordinated theme. But the genuine fellowship is what they will remember with a smile, long after the party has ended.

Circle back to this post for more ways to cut yourself some slack: How Perfectionism Holds Us Back From Clutter Free Living

peaceful holiday season
image by negative space | pexels

2. Prepare for Retail Hype

Oh, my: We barely said goodbye to Halloween and now the Pre-Black Friday sales are in full swing! 

Not to mention it always starts well ahead of Thanksgiving. Even the radio stations and streaming music channels have started up with the 24-7 holiday music.  Poor Thanksgiving has become the red-headed stepchild of holidays.

It’s dizzying how persuasive the ads and promotions can be. Not only should we buy the perfect gifts for family and friends. We are supposed to treat ourselves, too. Half-off, BOGO, Close-out, Clearance….the various sales go on and on…and on!

No wonder January is a sobering month when the bills come due! It’s a financial month of reckoning, to be sure. Not exactly how we’d want to start a new year, right?

How about shunning the retail siren to over-buy?

Start by carving out dedicated time to create your shopping list. Decide who’s on it and what you’d like to gift them. 

One of my favorite suggestions (and not just for the hard-to-buy) is to give experiences instead of things. Perhaps a family outing of some sort?

It can range from a simple night at the movies or an Escape The Room night, all the way to a weekend cruise…you choose! 

Talk about making memories that will last a lifetime. If you plan this correctly, you may just succeed in avoiding the mall altogether!

And with the unending supply chain snafus, how about considering gift certificates for a massage, a facial or a pedicure?

Of course, there will always be the iconic present we received as a child… a beloved doll, a shiny bike or a pretty necklace. Yet if you think back over your adult years, what stands out more: the gifts or the memories? 

What if we plan for the holidays with a focus on “presence” rather than “presents”? Wouldn’t that take a load off our shoulders?

diffuse family drama
image by cottonbro | pexels

3. Diffuse Family Drama

Gathering with the clan over the years during the holidays can be really good. Or really awful. 

If you’ve experienced both or something in between, think about what the conversation was about.

Was the focus on what you were thankful for or what you appreciated in each other? That was likely the positive memory. But if the dialogue veered towards old wounds, unmet expectations or pointed criticisms…yeah, that was a downer.

So what if you prepare for this year’s get together with an upbeat attitude?

How about staying with the present fellowship rather than detouring to past offenses? How about gently redirecting the conversation towards neutral ground when it detours negatively?

When we look for the value that each family member brings to the table, our holiday celebration can be joyful and loving. Save the points of contention for another day, when the issue can be discussed rationally and fairly.

People don’t change just because we tell them to!

Instead, plan to enjoy the finer qualities of your family. Imagine how this can be a peaceful holiday season you look back on with love.

peaceful holiday season
image from pexels

4. Pause for Reflection

End of the year holidays provide a timely segue to plan for the New Year and all the hope it can bring.

Taking time to evaluate how this year unfolded for you has value. Sometimes the regret we have for how we handled (or didn’t handle) things can weigh on us. It makes it difficult to enjoy the holidays when we have nagging guilt or disappointment. Even if we skip this step, those unresolved feelings will continue to hover below the surface until we eventually address them.

But what if we plan for dedicated reflection time about our year without judgment? In other words, what if we are willing to acknowledge our weaknesses and not just applaud our accomplishments?  

There’s no reason to beat ourselves up for our shortcomings. Instead, we can be gentle with ourselves (and others) while appreciating where we are at now.

This prior post can kickstart your 2022 New Year’s planning: Declutter and Downsize: Lay the Groundwork for Really Remarkable Results in 2021!

Remember: We are human and we make mistakes. We don’t always take the best course of action or follow through with our goals.

But consider each and every year as a building block towards the next. 

In the end, our journey is always on-going. Embrace each twist and turn along the way!

The Wrap With Mary V

The Wrap

Take time to plan for a serene and heartfelt holiday season.

  • Don’t let retailers or unrealistic standards dictate how you choose to celebrate
  • Take control by deciding where you can avoid excess materialism 
  • Cut back on the drama by focusing on your family and friends, not the decorations and presents
  • Review your year without judgment and look forward to a fresh new year
  • Breathe! Enjoy a peaceful holiday season

Your turn!

  • Ready to wean yourself from excessive “retail therapy”? How will you minimize the spending hype?
  • What is one of your most memorable peaceful holiday season practices?
  • Do you have family members or friends who won’t understand or accept your wish for simplicity? How will you handle that?

Share your thoughts below ... and thanks for stopping by!

perfectionism

How Perfectionism Holds Us Back From Clutter Free Living

If you’re like me, you have a compulsion to do things well … I mean really, really well!

It’s a habit I’ve had since I can remember. I’ve heard this trait referred to as “being driven”. And sure, it’s served me well with being determined, taking action, and accomplishing what I set my sights on. 

But when “being driven” becomes perfectionism, it can actually stop us in our tracks. We can become paralyzed with taking the next step because we don’t want to make a mistake. Which is really a shame, since there’s often no reason we can’t circle back and edit our initial actions. Or build on those “lessons” and try again.

Never trying may mean never failing. But do we really want to stay stuck in a no-growth safety zone? Or would we actually prefer advancing towards our desired goals? And ultimately achieving them?

Today, let’s break down 3 ways how perfectionism holds us back from decluttering what we no longer need, use, or want in our lives …and consider some small tips on how to get it done anyway.

I generally speak about uncluttering the excess physical stuff in our homes. But ultimately, it’s really our habits formed by our mindset and our emotions which lead to the clutter in our lives.

When we identify and shift the feelings that don’t serve us well, we set ourselves free. Now we can write a new chapter about where we want to head next. Doesn’t that sound enticing? 

feeling stuck
image by ryan mcguire | pixabay

#1: We Don't Get Started

Think about it: the internal pressure to do something perfectly can become so intense, we postpone doing anything.

We talk about how we ought to clear out our overflowing wardrobe. We readily agree that our kitchen cabinets are overdue for a Fall pruning. We know it’s time to plow through our boxes of pictures and photo albums. But our effort stops there.

After all, we really want to nail the effort and do this right. Shouldn’t we first research the best way to declutter? (by the way, that’s over here) And then what to do with everything … Sell? Donate? Toss? What if the kids want some stuff? What if we toss the wrong things? Etc, etc, etc.

You see what’s happening here? We may not consciously think about it but we decide that if we don’t start, we don’t risk the chance of being mediocre with the task. It’s fear of failure—of appearing “less than” that results in the hard stop peril of perfectionism. 

Instead, take a deep breath. Inhale, hold for 3 beats, and then slowly exhale. Now, just begin small. Pick a room and then work on one counter, one drawer, or one closet. Keep it short. With 30 minute sessions, think of how that will add up with making noticeable progress.

And along the way, we can fine-tune our approach. We don’t need to have it all figured out right from the onset. But we do need to get started, right? For a perfectionist, the first step is usually the hardest one to take. So review this post, A Universal Definition of Clutter … and go! 

perfectionism
image by liza summer | pexels

#2: We Struggle With Making Decisions

When we do finally move ahead with clearing space, our things take on heightened meaning.

Pitching ordinary items like mismatched food storage containers or stained clothing is a no brainer. But uncover the stash of birthday cards from your kids, the ugly vase from dear Aunt Susan, or your Rolling Stones T-shirt … now what?

The tension rises in our chest or fills our gut. Our emotions are in a tizzy as we seesaw with indecisiveness over which sentimental items to release. Perfectionism strikes as we struggle to make the right choices. And then when we can’t choose, we stop once again. 

All The Feelings!

While I don’t advocate making decisions when emotions are running high, I do recommend returning to your decluttering session the next day. But right now, pause to assess what you’re feeling. Is it sadness? Worry? Fear? And think about why you’re feeling the emotion.

These underlying emotions warrant a little examination if your space clearing goals are to be achieved. When it comes to sentimental things, it’s common to associate the item with the person or event. So it follows that we are unable to let go of the unused or unnecessary thing. After all, it’s like throwing away our loved one or our past!

But remember: the item was given to or made for you with love. So it’s about the intention, not the actual thing. And no one can take away the memory of the enjoyable things you did like attending that amazing concert. Also, check out this post, How To Release Other People’s Stuff Without the Guilt.

Yet there is only so much room in the house. Focus on retaining a few of the items that best reflect the giver and that you love the most. Savor the memories that arise as you sift through the stuff. And then let go of the rest when you get back at it tomorrow.

perfectionism
image by ron lach | pexels

#3: We Feel the Weight of the Unfinished Task

When the decluttering gets difficult, we tell ourselves any number of stories about why we need to stop now.

Perhaps that we don’t have the time to finish. Or that we have room for all our stuff after all. Maybe even that we’ll get to it another time.

But deep down, we know it makes sense to release things that are hidden in drawers, cabinets, or closets. It’s time to let go of what we don’t use anymore. Time to release the excess throughout the house.

So once again, perfectionism gnaws at us. On the outside, it’s business as usual. But on the inside, we feel conflicted. This is exactly why we didn’t want to dive into such a challenging project!

Now What?

When we start to ruminate about getting this done perfectly, it’s time to pause again for perspective. We can sure be hard on ourselves, can’t we? So take another deep breath here. And adopt a different mantra: progress, not perfection.

In other words, don’t let the “all or nothing” outlook shelve your decluttering project indefinitely. Instead, embrace the notion that this is not a race, and no one is watching or judging you—really!

As perfectionists, we are our own worst critics. And it’s possible that we felt judged a long time ago, when we were very young. It may not even have been over something significant … doesn’t matter. The point is, we adopted the habit of perfectionism to protect ourselves. 

But now it’s time to shake that off because it’s exhausting, don’t you think? Start with little steps. Track your progress so that you can refer to it when you feel overwhelmed. Stick to a decluttering schedule that works best for you and then do it! And remind yourself that you are “right on schedule” when doubt and anxiety creep back in. This post, How To Start Decluttering When Overwhelmed, will also help get you unstuck.

Remember: this is your decluttering journey. You get to set the pace, no one else. And you can also choose to loop back and make new edits as you go. Because uncluttering is rarely a one and done, nor is it a simple linear path.

So take your time. Appreciate the things and savor the memories associated with your stuff. Then make your selections based on what matters most now … and what will get you to your next life chapter!

The Wrap With Mary V
Mary V | Kaitlyn Meyers Photography

The Wrap

Space clearing is not an overnight process so don’t let perfectionism keep you on the sidelines!

When you consider that your things accumulated over many years, you can cut yourself some slack with the timeline to pare back.

Remember to be kind to yourself. Lighten up. We are all perfectly imperfect.

Now start releasing things slowly but surely.

For more inspiration, check out the resources below!

Your Turn!

Where are you at in the decluttering process? Still thinking about it? Midway but running out of steam? Or chugging along? I’d love to hear your triumphs, tribulations and everything in between! Drop a comment below…and thanks for stopping by!

how to declutter your mind

How To Declutter Your Mind And Dial Back Anxiety

Knowing how to declutter your mind when you feel stuck in life is an invaluable skill.

Who hasn’t felt uneasy, troubled, rejected, or generally just awash with angst at some point? It’s not uncommon to feel this way when one chapter of life is winding down (or has already ended) and the next one is yet to be determined. Or when things haven’t “gone our way”. Or even when we feel “on hold”, for example, during a worldwide pandemic! Now what?

Without a defined method to conquer our negative emotions and keep moving, they can overwhelm us and become our new story. We become paralyzed. Or passive, waiting and reacting to what happens next. 

Yet wouldn’t you rather be in charge? Actively pivoting into your next life chapter that you design?

Today, I’m sharing a “get unstuck” approach that helps push anxiety and it’s dubious counterparts out of the driver’s seat.

Learning how to declutter your mind is essential because your mood directly impacts your perspective.

You see, when we don’t have clarity, it’s difficult to have a vision for what we can do. And when we don’t know where we want to go next, it’s hard to move ahead with positivity, curiosity and confidence. 

So if you’d like to replace mental chaos with calm, come join me—let’s figure this out together, shall we?

This post shares 8 tips for how to declutter your mind so you can replace anxiety with serenity

feeling stuck
tirachard kumtano | pexels

1. Release Morning Thoughts

Ever notice how your mind starts churning once you’re out of bed? The crowded overlay of feelings when you wake up immediately dictates how your day’s mood is set (unless you’re stellar at burying and denying those feelings–which is not recommended). Sometimes, your mood is sublime. Other times, it’s a slog.

This is why taking 15 minutes or so to write down whatever is on your mind is the key to clearing out the morning mental clutter. Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way, introduced the term, “morning pages”. (There’s a video link below with Julia herself explaining the concept). It’s a brilliant way to do a brain dump first thing in the morning.

This is for your eyes only so be honest and go ahead: spill out whatever is on your mind. The point is to remove all random, heavy, or troubling thoughts and feelings. Just like phoning a friend, think about the relief when you give voice to what’s weighing on you.

Certainly, you can release some of the emotional clutter immediately by shining the light on it and seeing it for what it is … something to kick to the curb. Other parts you can decide to work through at another time, because they will take more time. Just not right now.

In this way, you clear your morning fog. Now you can step into a shiny new day, untarnished by what you may not have even realized will hold you back. Because our mood takes energy and who has any to spare on negativity?

If you prefer to capture your thoughts electronically like me (’cause I have atrocious penmanship!) check out what I use daily over here: 750 Words.

2. Choose a Daily Mantra

Not only do morning pages allow me to start my day in a more unruffled manner. They can also reveal a timely mantra, or reminder for how to keep negative feelings at bay.

When I realize that a particular concern is dominating my early morning thoughts, I can replace that negative whisper with a positive affirmation.

For example, when I’m feeling stressed about not getting everything done, a useful mantra for me is, “I’m right on schedule”.

Or, when I’m feeling cranky or out of sorts (for any number of reasons), “Lighten up!” does wonders for a reset. And I can thank my son who told me this when he was 10—wise words from a young boy!

Be open to “hearing” which mantras will sooth and reset your mind. Then repeat for maximum effect.

3. Pick Three Tasks

There can be a long list of things we need and want to do. The line items rarely fit within a standard day, right?

Now obviously, there are always non-negotiables like work, meals or showering. Those are a given.

But here I’m talking about identifying just 3 things that you will agree to complete. They don’t have to be massive. They are simply things that should be done at some point and you’ve selected them today.

At the end of the day, it will be satisfying to cross those off the list (I like to use a green marker but any color will do). Maybe it’s the laundry, decluttering the junk drawer (you know I had to work uncluttering in here somewhere!), or following up on an email or phone call. You choose. 

Whether big or small, accomplishments are another way for how to declutter your mind. They have a way of boosting your mood. And they get you out of your head.

how to declutter your life
shvets production | pexels

4. Be Fully Present

Now shift into your day. Release any thoughts or feelings that bring you down. Use your chosen mantra to focus on the here and now!

There is great beauty in the simple moments of the day. But it’s also easy to overlook them and take them for granted.

We get distracted with pesky worries. Or we divert attention to our screens. For more on the power of our attention, read this: A Clutter Free Home Starts With Reining In The Screen Time That Consumes Our Day.

Remember, your morning pages are your designated time to acknowledge what’s gnawing at you. Some of your concerns will dissipate, simply by looking at them and deciding they need to leave. Others will take more time to resolve. But that should occur in your future morning page sessions.

For now, give your mind a rest. You’ve cleared it so that you can engage fully in the present moments of today.

5. Get Physical

Studies confirm that physical activity has a profoundly positive impact on our mood. It doesn’t have to be lengthy or grueling. But as little as 30 minutes of movement definitely gets our endorphins flowing.

Now you may not feel the urge to move when your thoughts are weighing you down. But the best course of action is to not overthink this. Whatever your chosen activity is … walking, yoga, Pilates, or swimming … have a designated time for when you’ll do it. And then stop thinking and start doing.

After all, when we are mired in negative feelings, we are not the best judge of what will soothe us. We may think lounging on the couch and bingeing mindless shows or scrolling social media is all we have energy for … but yeah, not really. Save that for after you’ve done something physical. Use it as a reward, instead!

6. Watch and Listen for Signs

Now I’m a firm believer that there are clues in our everyday lives for how to declutter your mind and uncover your next course of action. We’re just not accustomed to noticing them.

This concept works in conjunction with #4, Being Fully Present. When we open ourselves up to the idea that we are not alone (even when it feels that way), we can embrace the idea that we do indeed have guides all around us.

You see, signs come in all shapes, sizes and forms. It could be something someone says. Or something you see out your window. Maybe something you read. Or a idea that comes to you while you’re driving. 

When we open ourselves up to receiving guidance, it comes. It may take time to recognize when it does, if we are not used to seeing it. Or if we are fixated on things unfolding in only one way.

But one of the most powerful signs we often receive first is to Simply Be. To let go of thrashing about for answers. Because the harder we push, the more elusive the signs become.

Guidance can’t be forced. So when things don’t turn out how we wanted or expected, the best thing we can do is Simply Be. To pause and leave the door open.  And then await patiently for what will arrive.

Believe me, patience is not my personal forte! But I’ve learned that my own timeline can have a slower cadence than I care for, at times. Yet therein I have found some of my most essential and life changing lessons. And the new directions that I headed in were even better than I envisioned.

decluttering your life
andrea piacquadio | pexels

7. Be Gentle With Yourself and Others

When we are hard on ourselves, it can often transfer to being hard on others, as well.

Perfectionism has a way of chiming in when anxiety strikes. We’re unhappy with feeling stuck and so we can be hypercritical of those in our circle.

Once again, your chosen mantra can shift your focus to the present moment. And then this is the time to pay attention to your breathing. Is it shallow? You might even find yourself holding your breath!

So pause. Take a deep breath through your nostrils and hold for 3 beats. Then breathe out through your mouth slowly. This practice helps ground you. And it helps you release the negative inner critic. 

Return to simply being in the present moment, open to possibilities that will appear. Because they will. 

8. Believe Something Good Is Coming

Above all, trust that you are on a good path. It may have taken an unexpected detour or led you to what appears to be a dead-end. 

But buying in to that belief only invites negativity. It blinds you to other possibilities. It holds you hostage and you’ll get stuck. 

However, when you adopt the habit of expecting something good will happen no matter the present turn of events, amazing things will happen.

Firstly, you can return sooner to a positive mood after the initial disappointment. When you feel optimistic, you’ll feel better.

Then when you treat a setback as temporary, it is easier to see signs or find solutions. Maybe even discover a new or better path!

Secondly, you develop resiliency. No one can foresee everything that might go sideways. And life can certainly excel with doling out the unexpected!

But knowing how to declutter your mind of disappointment and unmet expectations will allow you to bounce back quicker. It will make you stronger. It ensures you continue moving ahead, no matter what.

And thirdly, being receptive as opposed to being rigid when it comes to change is an invaluable trait to cultivate. After all, how we see things is just how things look from our own personal, limited perspective.

However, when we broaden our expectations to allow and entertain other possibilities and ideas, then we open up to being in the flow of life instead of resisting it.

Doesn’t that sound so much more effortless and exciting? I do … tell me what you think!

The Wrap With Mary V
mary v | kaitlin meyers photography

The Wrap: This Post provided an 8-Point Process for how to declutter your mind and step confidently into your future

  • Learn how to declutter your mind of negative feelings like disappointment, regret, fear, uncertainty or anxiety by identifying them and calling them out in your morning pages.
  • Embrace the “get unstuck” method described here to take control of how you react and deal with life’s twists and turns.
  • Expect good things to come your way so that you can see the signs around you and the possibilities ahead of you.

related topics & resources to explore

A Clutter Free Home Starts With Reining In The Screen Time That Consumes Our Day

Clutter free living sounds so delightful, don’t you think?

But getting there from where you are right now — does it feel insurmountable and out of reach? You’re not alone!

Achieving a clutter free home after years of living a full life can feel quite daunting. Who has time to undertake such a gigantic project? Yet this is exactly why so many of us get stuck before we even start: we think we don’t have the time to spare.

However, you may be surprised that an extra hour (or even more!) can actually be lurking somewhere in your day. The key is taking an honest look at how you spend your time.

In particular, there are certain habits … like the time spent in front of a screen … which quickly take us down a rabbit hole. Before we know it, 30 or 60 minutes have elapsed. Trust me, we are all guilty of this!

Whether it’s our phone, tablet, computer, or TV, these screens are designed to hijack our focus. After all, we live in an attention seeking society. Grabbing our attention and redirecting it is basic marketing and it’s been around forever, in some shape or form. (Don’t miss the link for The Social Dilemma in The Wrap section below!)

However, today let’s mindfully review the screen time activities that consume our precious time. Then we can see the value of setting boundaries with these habits. Using the newly found minutes, we can make daily progress towards attaining a clutter free home starting today, not “some day”!

Clutter Free
anna shvets | pexels

Today's Post Calls Out 4 Screen Time Habits to tame so you can achieve a Clutter Free Home (and mind)!

clutter free meaning
anna shvets | pexels

Clutter Free Challenge: Social Media Scrolling

Firstly, whether it’s Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, or Clubhouse, each of these platforms is designed to capture and hold your attention.

It’s not unlike college life where there was always a party somewhere, or a group of friends just hanging out. Who wants to miss out on something fun?

And the concept of “followers” or “friends” who engage with and/or share your posts is a powerful boost for your self-esteem. Who doesn’t enjoy feeling popular, wise, funny, interesting, or attractive?

With social media, there’s always something to see, to hear, or to chime in on. Maybe you check in while you’re sipping your morning coffee. Or perhaps you pop on every time you’re waiting for something, or you catch up in between other things you’re doing. So you’re actually on it all day long, right?

Now don’t get me wrong: there’s definitely an upside to social media. You can stay in touch with geographically distant family and friends. You can make new friends all over the world and forge new career or hobby connections. And don’t forget the entertainment angle, either!

Yet sometimes before you know it, an hour (or two) has passed while you’ve been scrolling and chatting—yikes! Do you really know how much time you’re spending on social media? It might be an eye-opening discovery!

We’ll go deeper with how our time is used so hang tight for now.

making space clutter free
anna shvets | pexels

Clutter Free Challenge: Phone Notifications

Secondly, our phones have many clever ways to grab and retain our focus, too.

It could be an actual call, a text, an email, a voice message, or a social media post. Each of these announcements can be customized so we know what is happening, just by the sound of the update. Or we get visual notifications with persistent banners or popups.

And do you feel uneasy when you don’t know where your phone is? Or do you feel anxious when your battery life is at a minimum? There’s that FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) creeping in again!

Also, ever notice how people waiting seem to have their heads down? We’re all looking at our phones instead of simply enjoying the pause of the present moment or engaging with someone next to us. 

What would happen if we didn’t instantly pick up our phone every time it chirped or vibrated? I wonder how much better our necks would feel!  

how to live clutter free
anna shvets | pexels

Clutter Free Challenge: E-Mail

Thirdly checking, reading, and replying to email is a never-ending spiral. It can feel like a full time job to delete spam, let alone plow through endless news updates, sale notifications from merchants, and appointment or bill reminders.

I don’t know about you, but it feels like my snail (physical) mail has substantially decreased while my email has exponentially increased! Yet how much of our email truly needs to be addressed the minute it arrives?

I come across many valuable newsletters and online magazines that focus on current events, healthy habits, or tasty recipes. It’s hard not to sign up for them all.

But how many can I realistically read daily? If I read them all, will the remainder of my day start at noon?!

clutter free mind
snacksinthebackpack | pexels

Clutter Free Challenge: TV & Streaming

Lastly, the plethora of shows and series available on network TV, cable, or streaming services is mind boggling. Once again, we are presented with an overflowing media menu. As with the other screen challenges mentioned, it’s hard to tear ourselves away from what’s before our eyes.

And after a year of social distancing, who didn’t turn to TV for some virtual “connection” with the rest of the world? It may have been mindless pleasure or educational documentaries. But either way, it was a passive block of time on the couch. Then before you know it, it was time for bed (or way past our normal turn-in time)!

clutter free home

How To Set Screen Boundaries

Now that we realize how our screen time can truly overtake our day(and maybe even our night), here are 7 suggestions to control and unclutter the way you use your time.

1. Start with Time Blocking

Each of us has 24 hours every day, so think about what absolutely needs to occur without fail. It will be a slightly different list for each of us.

Diane may need:

  • 6 hours of sleep, 1 hour for morning prep (shower/makeup/coffee, etc.), 8 hours at work, 2 hours for meal prep/eating/cleanup, 1 hour for Pilates/ 1 hour for night prep (19 hours total, leaving 5 spare hours)

Linda may require:

  • 8 hours of sleep, 30 minutes for morning prep, 2 hours to volunteer/ 1 hour at the YMCA, 2 hours for meal prep/eating/cleanup, 30 minutes for night prep (14 hours total, leaving 10 spare hours) 

The point is, we all have non-negotiable daily activities. But we still have spare hours to fill as we see fit. There will be other activities that are also important, but they’re not everyday occurrences.  Think health care appointments, grocery runs, etc. 

So how you spend your remaining time is completely up to you. It will vary, but when you have 1 or 3 or 5 unclaimed hours in a day, how will you choose to use them?

When you time block your day or week, you can see exactly how much time you have. Now you can make informed, deliberate choices, based on the time available and on what matters most to you.

2. Track your Screen Time

Be willing to calculate how much screen time you truly employ. To be clear, if it’s one of your top priorities, then carry on. But if it’s preventing you from doing something else that matters more to you, then consider making a change.

Ironically, there are apps you can use to track your phone usage! Check out the roundup of resources here: Best Phone Usage Tracker Apps. Or simply use your phone timer/alarm to monitor usage … you choose!

Certainly, a little vegging out with Netflix now and then can be a well-deserved break! But generally aligning your actions with your values and goals gives true satisfaction in the long run, don’t you think? Fewer regrets!

3. Turn Off [Almost Every] Notification

Not to be dramatic, but is it necessary to stop what you’re doing, every time you hear a social media notification? If you turn them on at only a pre-determined time, you can catch up then. Or don’t have them on at all. Just see what the platform shows you when it’s your designated screen time.

On the other hand, keep your phone or text notifications on, if you’re concerned about missing an urgent call from a family member or dear friend. In fact, if you assign a unique ringtone to those in your “inner circle”, you can choose to ignore all the rest until you have the time to shift your attention.

4. Keep Screens out of the Bedroom

Reserving your bedroom for sleep or romance is a long-standing feng shui principle. Personally, I do like to read a bit before I turn out the light. But both my phone and the TV are not allowed over the threshold.

Interestingly, the light emanating from electronic screens is challenging for our sleep patterns, as shared in this study from Harvard: Blue Light Has A Dark Side.

5. Use Airplane Mode

I’ve also learned how useful airplane mode can be, even when I’m not flying. When I need all my concentration for a task at hand, turning this on is an ingenious way to minimize interruptions.

I could try to simply ignore the audible notifications, but just hearing them can still be a distraction for my train of thought.

6. Choose Active Over Passive

Having a healthy balance with daily activities makes sense. Lots of screen time means lots of sitting. Sure, you may be interacting in a virtual conversation. But a sedentary day does not bode well for our physical, mental, and emotional well being.

Instead, carving out time for decluttering definitely does wonders as shared in this post: Decluttering Your Life Is Essential for 3 Surprising Reasons!

To be clear, we are talking about changing habits. So it’s going to be a little unsettling to do so. But you will be amazed with how much fuller your day feels, when you are not tethered to your screen! So give yourself time to make the shift … it’s so worth it!

7. Consumer versus Creator

Lastly, I alluded to the pervasive marketing that infiltrates many of our screen activities. Particularly with social media, the longer you scroll, do you feel a disconnect between what you see and what your life is like? 

Not surprisingly, the carefully curated content on social media can often lead to feeling “less than” or “not enough”. It can even have us thinking if we just bought that outfit or beauty product, our life would be better. So much for clutter free living when we feel compelled to buy more stuff!

Now maybe you don’t always succumb to the comparison game (which no one wins) or you aren’t always swayed by the siren song to buy more things. But instead of viewing all the things you could spend money on, wouldn’t you be better off focused on what’s all around you right now?

In other words, how about performing the physical activities that strengthen your body and clear your head? Or spending time in nature? Or engaging in real life with family and friends?

So yes, when you reduce your screen time, you can uncover spare time you didn’t realize you had all along. You can make headway with your clutter free mission. And in doing so, you can go deep with what matters most— to you!

The Wrap With Mary V
Mary V

The Wrap: This Post Shared the 4 common culprits which divert time away from making a home (& our head) clutter free!

  • Take time to figure out what matters most for your daily routine
  • Be deliberate with how you spend your discretionary time
  • Restrict the constant call of consumerism
  • Set yourself free: Watch The Social Dilemma

Downsizing Your Home|How to Manage the Transition with Confidence and Joy!

When you reach the midlife marker, you’ll likely benefit from preparing to move into a smaller space. Who’s still in the house has changed and the same goes for your needs and interests. In fact, downsizing your home can truly amplify the freedom to focus on what matters most to you now! 

But if the thought of an actual move and all the decisions associated with that makes you exhausted before you’ve even started, now what? Do you put it off, delaying until you’re forced to take action? That doesn’t sound too pleasant, either!

The truth is, it’s universal to resist change. Yet if we don’t start the downsizing process sooner than later, it will result in making endless decisions under duress, during a very short period of time.

If you’re unable to make uncluttering choices, others will have to do it for you. Either paid professionals will sort through your personal belongings or your own family will need to shoulder the task. Is that the ideal legacy you envision leaving behind?

To be clear, downsizing your home requires effort and time. However, this is exactly why starting now will position you so much better for how you want your next life chapter to unfold. You have the final word with what happens with your stuff and also where you land. And really, isn’t having control what we all want to retain? 

Today's post shares 9 vital steps that facilitate the process of downsizing your home

how to downsize your home
moose | pexels

#1: The Power of Now

While all of the steps shared here are important, they don’t need to be performed in any particular order … except for this one. Until you start, downsizing your home will be just a good idea for “some day”. And the only way to turn “some day” into “today” is by taking action now.

Why is it difficult to begin? There are any number of reasons for dragging your feet, but it’s usually our feelings that play a primary role: It feels overwhelming. It feels sad. Maybe it feels like work when you’d rather play. Everything entailed with downsizing your home can feel like all of this at once, yikes!

Nevertheless, what’s the most common reason for resistance? We feel like it’s too soon — that we have time. And while that could very well be true, exactly how much time do you have: is it 1 year, 5 years or 20 years? It’s really a guessing game, don’t you think? 

When you realize this, starting now begins to make a lot of sense. And the best way to embrace a new routine is by taking small, deliberate steps. After reading this post, why not spend 15-20 minutes on creating a basic downsizing plan for yourself? Start with a list of the benefits you will realize as a result. And keep tweaking your plan as you hone in on what makes sense for you. Doesn’t it feel good to be in charge of your next chapter?

#2: Declutter Daily

If you’ve been with me for any length of time, you know this one is near and dear to my heart! Decluttering is an incredible vehicle for releasing what is no longer relevant now. It opens up space between your essentials.

And obviously, the nature of downsizing is that your new place will have less square footage. But that’s only in regards to physical stuff. Downsizing your home actually makes room for the time and energy to focus on what matters now. So yes, it’s an expansive activity, when you think about it!

Also, keep in mind that your decluttering sessions don’t have to be all day affairs. 30 minutes a day can make significant inroads with letting go of extra, expired, no-longer-needed stuff. In fact, removing clutter facilitates space planning for your new landing spot, too! 

Refer to this post for what not to haul to your new digs: Downsizing Tips: 5 Big Things to Release & 5 Awesome Alternatives for a Smaller Space.

#3: Design Your Next Chapter

After years of tending to the needs of others … our employers, our families, and our communities … now is the time to contemplate what you want to do more of! How exciting is that?

Now don’t get me wrong: the life choices made were (hopefully) quite deliberate and satisfying. And of course, you’ve carved out some “me time” along the way. But that time can likely start to double or triple once you’re over 50.

It may feel strange to contemplate spending more time in a different way, going deeper with what interests you now. But as you clear space in your home, you can begin to envision what you’d like to explore that you didn’t have the time for, until now. And if you’re married or with a life partner, there will be the opportunity to discover new mutual activities, as well!

Check out this post for more concepts about shifting into your next life chapter: 5 Ways to Harness Your Midlife Transition and Avert a Midlife Crisis! 

when is a good time to downsize your home
cottonbro | pexels

#4: Research Your Options

This is a step that calls for a way to gather ideas about where you’d like to live and how you see that space accommodating your new chapter’s activities. Nothing fancy is needed: an old school notebook, a Pinterest board, or a folder on your computer all work fine. 

Without a doubt, there are an infinite number of places where you could land. It could very well be a stepping stone for yet another downsizing move, as your needs change with age. So think about what would realistically meet your needs and desires for the next 10-20 years. And then go deeper to see where those options are, within the geographic radius you’ve set. Road trip, anyone? 

#5: Documents & Vital Records

Now you may already be super organized with your personal records. But it never hurts to revisit financial and health documents to ensure they are up-to-date and accessible when needed.

Where are you at with the following basic records:

  • A will
  • An Advanced Health Care Initiative (AHCI)
  • An appointed executor for your estate
  • Specific written bequeaths (or have you only expressed your wishes verbally? Is everyone on the same page?)
  • A list of current medications/dosages
  • A list of current physicians
  • Power of Attorney (general or specific)
  • A list of current creditors and account numbers
  • A list of current assets with account numbers

Annually reviewing your vital records will help you and your representative make smooth decisions that reflect your wishes and best interests.

Head here for more intel on the essential health and financial documents which express your wishes when you are unable to communicate them yourself: Caregiver.org resources.

#6: Communicate Your Vision

Once you’ve verified that your financial and health care documentation is in order, who needs to know? Whoever will be acting on your behalf should be kept in the loop.

Certainly, not all details need to be disclosed ahead of time, such as exact account balances. But access to the documentation when needed is crucial so that your wishes can be carried out. Leaving behind an orderly legacy means you will not be passing along an unnecessary burden to your loved ones.

If the conversation feels awkward or difficult, you could handle it as simply as a sealed envelope with the instructions to open in the event of catastrophic illness (you are not conscious or able to make decisions) or death. Or keep it in a home safe but share the combination with your appointed “go-to” person.

I know, talking about end-of-life decisions is not a cheerful or easy topic! However, if you have certain desires for medical care, estate distribution and your funeral/life celebration, you need to relay your wishes.

Sometimes, people think, “It doesn’t matter once I’m gone”, but it does to whoever needs to make those decisions on your behalf. Why not make the process clear? And in doing so, it’s also an opportunity for you to reflect on your own life and how you want to be remembered.

the unexpected benefits of downsizing your home
gary barnes | pexels

#7: Honor Your Past

To be clear, downsizing your home means releasing stuff that once mattered. So it can feel a little disrespectful of where you’ve been and who was there with you.

Indeed, it takes time to embrace the idea that a life chapter has ended. But what if you viewed the process as a time to appreciate your journey thus far? And now it’s time for a new chapter to unfold … and you get to be the author, so start drafting your vision!

As a matter of fact, this approach is known as “Döstädning”, or “Swedish Death Cleaning”. It transforms downsizing and decluttering into a positive process to chart your next move. For more, check out this post: Swedish Death Cleaning: A Savvy Celebration of Life.

Ultimately, our personal belongings are merely representations of our journey and the people who were with us along the way. Yes, some of the memories can fade over time. But the love always remains.

#8: Accept Change Gracefully

Undoubtedly, change is not always a welcome visitor at our door! When we feel content with the status quo, having it disrupted is unpleasant. But ignoring or resisting change doesn’t keep it at bay, does it?

If you think about it, lack of control and fear of the unknown seem to be the common culprits for why we oppose change. Yet we do have power: we can control our outlook, our attitude and our response to the twists and turns of our life journey. 

In other words, knowing that change is inevitable, we can proactively take steps to acknowledge it but on our own terms! That’s where downsizing comes into play. We know that an overly large home and too much unused stuff in it doesn’t support our current or future needs. When we plan for our next smaller space, we control where and what it will be. 

#9: Embrace Your Journey

Lastly, we don’t know exactly what our future holds, do we? But it certainly feels better to remain upbeat and optimistic. And this includes making realistic housing choices for where we are now and where we want to be.

Not everything has to be super-sized when it comes to our material possessions. Imagine if we focused on supersizing our next life chapter instead? What would make you eager to jump out of bed each morning? How can you share your talents, interests and abilities now? What will bring you joy? How can you make a difference today, with your wisdom and experience thus far?

When you think about life in these terms, you’ll continue to appreciate your unique path. And that sounds like a very full life to me, what do you think?

The Wrap: This post reviewed 9 tips that ensure downsizing your home gets going in a timely and effective manner

The Wrap With Mary V
Mary V | Shift Your Stories
  •  Downsizing the family home doesn’t have to be a downer when you view it as a liberating step leading to your next life chapter!
  • Decluttering paves the way to designing a new space with what matters now … here’s any easy way to do it—> A Decluttering Checklist for Better Living Today, Not “Some Day”!
  • Take control and define where you want to land next by starting now!
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