good habits

present moments

Drink In The Respite and Renewal of Ordinary Present Moments

Take five for a new coffee break story!

The present moments feel satisfyingly full when I appreciate what a gift they truly are!

I’m referring to the mundane tasks, ordinary moments, and non-events that are legitimate parts of my day. Those commonplace aspects are invaluable counterparts that let the occasional extraordinary moments and thrilling activities shine. And they also give relief to my active squirrel brain, ha!

Young children and older adults seem to readily grasp the beauty of average present moments. The former are yet unburdened with the business and busyness of life. And the latter are wise to fewer days stretching ahead than behind; they no longer take any time for granted. 

Today’s 2-minute Coffee Break Story celebrates our present moments! If you’re new to these tiny tales, they’re short form reads, 5-minutes or less. You’ll find links to prior #coffeebreakstories below.

For now, refill your cup, sit back, relax, and enjoy!

present moments
Image by Artem Beliaikin

Present Moments Matter

Present Moments
Mary V's Happy Place

Coffee Story Wrap On Present Moments

We are served selected slices of other people’s stories all day long. It’s easy to get caught up in 24-7 cajoling to constantly be in motion with something exciting, admirable, or new. Sometimes, it makes our own ordinary days feel lacking. I don’t buy into that (any more), nor should you! 

Slow down. Breathe. Step mindfully into your day.

Focus on your commonplace present moments and you’ll start to treasure just how invaluable they are.

+++     +++     +++

Make room for this soulful contemplation of the ordinary by the extraordinary Eckhart Tolle. His calm delivery lowers my blood pressure!

Head here to catch up with the kickoff of Coffee Break Stories. 

And thanks for stopping by!

personal health

Better Personal Health Journeys with Carolyn’s Community

Feeling our best matters, especially as we enter our 50s and beyond. Who doesn’t want to continue living a vital life? Which is why managing our personal health is super essential.

Yet how long was your last convo with your primary physician? If it was over 30 minutes, you’re lucky—the average PCP exam in the USA is less than 20 minutes!

Did you leave with a new diagnosis or health alert, armed only with general instructions? Or a new Rx (or two) for managing your medical status quo? Again, you’re not alone! Were you satisfied? Fully informed?

This is not intended as a condemnation of the medical community. Medicine has morphed into big business. Doctors and nurses are equally frustrated with the charting and coding activities that monopolize and divert from patient time. And the growing emphasis on monetizing a fractured health care system has led to abbreviated appointments and a lack of adequate patient education. 

So now enter my friend, Carolyn: She and thousands of other certified health coaches are filling the growing gap between the medical community and the patients they serve.

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ALERT:  Carolyn and I are not doctors or mental healthcare professionals of any kind. All medical statements by either Carolyn or myself in this post are for informational and entertainment purposes only. It is not intended to be professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care providers.

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Personal Health

Carolyn is the fourth in my monthly Midlife Stories series, which introduces Everyday Women Over 50 pursuing a life chapter that brings fulfillment and joy.

These are unfiltered accounts of women living life on their own terms. They’re doing what they are curious or passionate about— not what social media or anyone else tells them they should be doing! Isn’t that what we all want to achieve?

I have links below to the prior posts for this series if you’re just joining us now. But meanwhile, sit back and hear all about my friend, Carolyn, a savvy health coach and emerging personal health community builder!

How Personal Health Issues Led To Health Coaching

Carolyn’s mom actually played a pivotal role in her quest for nutritional well being. Growing up, there was no hint of processed food in the house. While Carolyn laughingly labels her mom as “a health nut ahead of her time”, there was good reason: a history of heart attacks for the 50-year old males  on her dad’s side!

While she looked longingly at the Ding Dong cakes or other sugary treats in her classmates’ lunch boxes, she had to make do with a small bag of raisins (yeah, that got tossed!). Then Carolyn broke free of the restricted food environment when she attended summer camp. She was in (temporary) nirvana, filling up on Wonder bread and margarine.

But when her folks showed up for Parents Day, they had to bring her new clothes, one size larger—whoops! Yet that didn’t alter her subsequent resolve to follow a more relaxed eating regimen once she left the nest.

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More Personal Health Issues Cropping Up

Fast forward to life in the Boston suburbs with her husband and growing family. After an initial career in marketing and advertising, Carolyn chose to be a stay-at-home Mom. The complexity of juggling the busy schedules of four active young girls in combination with an outside career was too daunting, especially since her husband traveled abroad extensively for his own career. However, she nails what being a SAHM really means: 

“Unpaid, equally stressed and busy, in order to spend more time with my own kids!”

In other words, she wore many hats for many years, volunteering on numerous school committees and community boards, plus chauffeuring to  and organizing various extracurricular activities and field trips. It was during this time that Carolyn developed IBS symptoms, which she is convinced were stress-induced. Lifestyle and diet are also classic major contributors.

And then her children started to exhibit allergies and ADHD. In fact, nationally, there were more and more reports about the rise of allergies, asthma and a new diagnosis of autism.

The more she read, the more she became convinced that she had gone overboard with allowing junk and processed food in her pantry. Mom was right! (side note: Carolyn’s dad is now in his 80s—more proof about the impact of good nutrition.) So yes, it was time for a change!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Searching for Personal Health Resources

Happily, Carolyn was able to get her IBS symptoms under control. Thanks to her newfound passion for eating right, she had already done extensive research on ways to mitigate IBS symptoms on her own.

Next, she consulted with a well-known physician, who concurred with her conclusion. He handed her a stack of prescriptions and a $5.00 refill coupon. 

 Yet rather than immediately relying on drugs, Carolyn wanted to start with incorporating some small yet powerful everyday dietary and meditation habits first.

But when she shared her desire with the doctor to postpone the drug regimen, his immediate response was, “If you don’t take these, then we’re not working together!” 

Time to get a second opinion— and so she did! Fortunately, the next physician was amenable to a “wait and see” stance. Carolyn was prepared to take the prescriptions if her lifestyle changes were insufficient. As it turns out, her IBS side effects were effectively wrangled, woohoo!

This experience was evidence of a belief that Carolyn fully embraces: we can exert a certain amount of control over our own personal health by mindfully tweaking our lifestyle choices. 

“Genetics loads the gun; environment pulls the trigger” —Francis Collins, M.D., Director of NIH

And so yes, because of this experience…a lack of medical resources (time, attention and information) for her as an individual patient…she shifted into a new life chapter. Health Coach Carolyn was born!

body acceptance

Carolyn's Coaching Philosophy

Once she earned her first Health Coach certification in 2010, Carolyn was on her way to creating her own unique method for helping others with their personal health journeys.

She attended numerous lectures and logged in hours (and hours) of research. Her Masters in Psychology combined with additional intensive courses on functional medicine has resulted in a very positive, client-centric approach.

As she puts it,

“I don’t tell people what to do. I listen. I look for their strengths in order to learn how those can be applied to their health concerns. I’m by their side, encouraging them with making small steps.”

In other words, she has no preconceived remedy or path for new clients. For Carolyn, it starts with being a companion. And that’s what she does in personalized, one-on-one sessions. Some of her clients are referred from a local physician, who readily acknowledges the gap she fills.

Then, as a way to spread the word about the unique role that health coaches play, she launched a podcast in 2020. Carolyn was completely new to the whole podcasting platform, but she dug in anyway!

Wellness While Walking Podcast

Each episode focuses on sharing 30 minutes of encouragement and education while her listeners are exercising (walking). What a brilliant concept! And she has the perfectly modulated voice to deliver a quality listening experience (my unbiased opinion, hehe!) She also includes a variety of guests.

Shameless plug: Be sure to check out episode 94, Swedish Death Clearing With Mary V.

While her daughters mostly thought of her as “Mom”, they did take notice of her coaching commitment. Carolyn overheard one them saying to a friend, “You can try new things, even if they are hard at first. My mom started a podcast at 57!”

Her topics cover a broad array, from organizing your home (lowers stress), mindset, and meal prep, to breaking the twitch with alcohol, productivity, and purpose.

When you think about a lifestyle approach for better personal health, there are all kinds of things we can do to feel and be better. And it all starts with taking small steps.

personal health steps

Her Vision For A Personal Health Community

Like the rest of us, the recent pandemic stay-home period was a wake up call for Carolyn, the Health Coach. When “meh” was sarcastically voted the word of the year in 2021, it epitomized our spirit, languishing in separation from others. With that, she knew creating a community for helping improve personal health was an essential undertaking.

So this is exactly her latest wellness endeavor, which is currently a work-in-process. I don’t want to give away too many details ahead of the launch but it will be another ingenious mashup of online group meet-ups and one-on-one coaching sessions. 

Designed with a lifestyle-driven concept, her community will welcome all age groups because issue like getting rid of household toxins, reducing inflammation, or getting better quality sleep are universal topics.

Carolyn is convinced that  strength and support can and should be found in community. The rampant fragmentation we are all witnessing in the world today makes her wince.

In her own way, as a compassionate health coach, Carolyn strives to bring people together for better wellness. I, for one, have faith in her…and I think when you meet her, you will, too!

midlife stories

The Wrap on Personal Health with Carolyn

Together, we are better!

This truly summarizes Carolyn health coaching philosophy. And little steps go a long way for improving our personal health and well being. 

As a self-described “card-carrying realistic optimist”, who better to have by your side, cheering you on!

And you’ll never be alone, when you’re part of Carolyn’s Community. As she envisions it, 

“I will be the maestro of this orchestra. Each member has their own instrument to play. Together, we will create beautiful music!”

In her “spare” time, Carolyn loves word games, dance class, funny talking IG dogs, and time with her family.

Where to find Carolyn?

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Where to meet the other Women Over 50 featured in this series:

♥ Got thoughts about what you read here? Drop a line below … And thanks for stopping by!

(Note: images of Carolyn and her IG posts were created by her & stylized by this author)

listen

Listen: Be Known As A Great Conversationalist By Saying Less

“The best way to understand people is to listen to them.”—Ralph Nichols

Shaking his head, David grimaced as they cruised past a pan handler at the traffic light near the end of the highway exit ramp. “What is with these people? Why doesn’t he just get a job? Everyone is hiring these days!”

Nina glanced over as she tensely replied, “I always give a few dollars. How do you know what their situation is?”

“I know our tax dollars fund lots of agencies who can help, Nina!” David retorted. “How do I know this guy isn’t just scamming us?”

“I really don’t like when you assume the worst about people!” With each word, Nina’s voice got higher and tighter. “Would it hurt us to give a little? We never really know their situation, do we?”

David rolls his eyes and wonders how Nina can be so naive.

Nina sighs and questions how David can be so unsympathetic.

Impasse alert!

I’m not gonna say who’s wrong … but what if our process is?

Have you ever had a conversation like this that just goes South? I know I’ve had more than I care to remember!

We don’t see each other’s point of view because we are deeply entrenched in our own. Even a compromise can feel dissatisfying for both. There’s a whole lot of eye rolling and sighing going on everywhere, don’t you think?

And other times, you’re not even focused on the same issue. There’s back and forth sparring as you each insist on what the “real” point is. You know, the old “it’s not me, it’s YOU that doesn’t get it” clash.

It’s so distressing because we all want to be heard and understood.

Yet we actually can converse peaceably, even when we don’t agree … because 

“It’s not about being right. It’s about getting it right.” — Elizabeth Spelke

3 Listening Tips

  1. Start with recognizing an impasse is forming

Certain things trigger each of us. And then we automatically revert to a defensive position. We don’t budge. We are consumed with the feelings that descend and the words we reflexively utter reflect this unexamined state of mind.

So when someone insists they are right … when their body braces and their voice rises … when they adamantly repeat their take on things— these are clues!

Stern body language and high emotion make for a toxic combination.

Time to back off.

Equally important: pay attention when these clues describe us!

Unless we’re in a dire situation requiring action, is it really worth escalating as we go round and round? Is anyone really listening to the other? Does anyone really relish that? What does that accomplish?

   2. Next, gather more context

Adopt an attitude of curiosity. Are we sure we grasp what the other person is saying? Where is it coming from? What has been their experience? What additional intel would help us better understand their position?

Ask them to tell us more. “That’s interesting. Why do you think/feel/say that?”

Then—let’s stop talking. Start listening.

An open mind is comfortable with inviting a different perspective into a conversation.

   3. Now, end with smile

This is the moment to let it go! If we didn’t come to an agreement, that’s fine. If there were mutual questions that enabled both of us to expound on our positions, ponder that.

Our final words? “Thanks for sharing.” or “I never thought/felt about it that way.”

And now? (brace yourself)

Let them have the last word (I know, I know, argh!). But consider this: it’s actually a power move on our part.

A well-time pause can speak volumes

Wow, what just happened here?

By paying attention to emotional and physical cues, we step back timely and focus on how they see things. When others are wrapped up in their own point of view, they are not poised to entertain ours—yet. Now politely give them the platform to provide their rationale thoughts (or irrational feelings). Whether we agree or not, let’s thank them for sharing. Let’s indicate they’ve given us something to ponder. And then? Let’s ponder it! That’s how we learn!

And now, imagine if David and Nina had followed this suggested 3-step process. Perhaps their conversation could have ended like this instead:

David winked at Nina and marveled at what a wonderful listener she was!

Nina smiled lovingly at David and thought, “What an idiot he is!” NO, scratch that! She thought, “David always shares ideas that I hadn’t considered before!”

Hey, I’m just being realistic that we may still agree to disagree! But why fan the flame of division? 

Sometimes things are better left unsaid, no?

After all, being more gentle with each other recognizes that

“We’re all rough drafts of the people we’re still becoming” —Bob Goff

listen

The Wrap on How to Listen

As Dr. Joyce Brothers says, “Listening, not imitation, may be the sincerest form of flattery.”

Who doesn’t feel the world can be an incredibly noisy place? Particularly when it comes to social media, everyone is seeking attention. Hardly anyone seems to be listening … to be available to others. Maybe this is one of the reasons we find social media to be so exhausting.

And divisiveness only gets deeper when no one takes the time to listen to the other side. Yes, it can feel painful to hear a view that may be radically different from our own. But when we pay full attention, we can discern non-verbal clues about what seems to be important to someone else. It may very well be a shared value. But we won’t know unless we truly listen.

Multitasking is often the culprit when we aren’t fully present. Circle back here for a reminder to look up from your screen!

Or listen here for a powerful Tedx talk on listening!

What do you think? I'm listening!

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

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
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