clutter

Minimalism. Hard Work. Big Rewards.

Work is love made visible. – Kahlil Gibran

Though my outside circumstances are pretty rough, I’m in a great place internally. A big part of that is because I’m working very hard at being a better person. I honestly flinch to write that. Work hard? At being kind and caring and honest and sincere? Aren’t we supposed to just “be” those things naturally? If we are, I’m screwed.

Enter minimalism. As I began the action of reducing my things, I learned early that it is not an easy process. It’s taking a long time because I don’t want to just throw it all away. I’m a curious person. I want to explore why I hold on to things and why I feel the need to let go. Minimalism has become much more about the internal work than the external process of eliminating stuff.

I feel like I’m finding important pieces of myself buried beneath my collection of clothes and old beliefs. Pieces I told myself that were worthless because I had to “work” to make them shine.

The process fascinates me. I examine an old toy. Then I examine the belief that rich people are all assholes. Odds and ends I’ve collected on my journey so far. A lot of it is a bunch of crap. There are days when it’s not fun to decide what to do with a box of baby clothes or my scraps of religion.

But it is worth it. For the first time in my life, I’m learning to like myself. What a treasure to find on my quest for simplicity.

A few days ago, I remembered an interview with Kris Carr I’d seen years ago. She is a fabulous woman. Please check out her documentary titled Crazy Sexy Cancer. She is a survivor and an inspiration to many. She said something that stayed with me and as I grow into my new identity as a person with less baggage, I’m ready to embrace those words. Please watch the video below to hear her response when asked how she stays so positive (the answer is within the first twenty seconds of this clip).

I’m ready to work hard at being a better person. I’m ready to let go of my belief that the good stuff in life comes easy and without effort. So far, all the good stuff in my life has come because I’ve worked for it. All the miles under my feet. All the love in my life. All the joy in my heart. All the light in my soul. Yes, they are gifts but if I don’t nurture them and work to make them grow, then they are as worthless as I once believed I was…

Thank you dear reader. Whoever you are. Wherever you are. As you read these words, know that I wish great things for you, my fellow traveler along my simplicity quest. I’m honored that you would walk with me.

Shine on,

G

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Minimalism and Liposuction

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“I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
– Robert Frost from The Road Not Taken

Have you ever tried to lose weight? I have. You set your goals, you visualize a thinner, more muscular you. You work hard. You count calories or cut sugar or carbs or whatever. At first, it’s so easy because it’s so fun. Every minute spent working out feels like you are getting closer. Soon, your favorite clothes will fit again, your skin will glow, and everyone will ooh and ahh over the new, fabulous you. You’ve got your eye on the prize there’s no stopping you. But then maybe months weeks down the road did you start thinking oh eff this! I’m getting liposuction!?

Everything turns to rubbish. Your once-beloved salad combo makes you want to gag. Your favorite exercise guru has grown horns and uses her/his pitchfork to remind you of how you just need to work harder. Maybe you’ve lost a little bit but you still can’t zip your old jeans. And then you really must decide if it’s worth it. I call it the liposuction crossroad.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood…and I chose the one with all-you-can-eat chocolate cake and potato chips.

No I didn’t (though I do love chocolate cake and potato chips). It took me a year to lose twenty pounds. Not four weeks or even four months. A year. This post is not about why I wanted to lose twenty pounds. It’s about minimalism. Really. It’s about my decision to not take the easy way out.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood…and I chose the one with fewer processed foods and trails for running.

When I was about ten years old, I had a teacher tell me that I always take the easy way out. Ten. Years. Old. It was like a curse in a cheesy movie. Only she failed to tell me how it could be lifted. I had to find the “cure” on my own. I took her words and lived them and fought against them. I still do. My antidote for the curse is a constant dose of gratitude and forgiveness when I think of her. (And I think of her every time I hit those cruxes in my life.) I have to ask myself if I’m choosing the easy way out.

Here on my simplicity quest, I am at my liposuction crossroads. I just want it to be over sometimes. Throw it all overboard and get on with it. I want instant clear spaces and hours and hours to write and dance and run and think. I’m tempted to take a few boxes back up to the attic. The Minimalists, and Leo, and Courtney have become like my old Daisy Fuentes workout video. Irksome reminders of how far I have to go. I’m one phone call away from telling Clean Sweep to come and make it all better. Or go on a shopping spree.

Then I’m ten years old again. I see my teacher’s face. I hear her words. And I have to ask myself if I’m going to let this curse affect my simplicity quest and my desire to fully embrace minimalism. Will I take the easy way out by quitting?

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood…and I chose to take the wide open path marked by rows and rows of incinerators and shopping malls.

Not really.

I take a deep breath. I go for a run. I watch the clouds roll by overhead. I remember how much I’ve sorted through already. How good it feels to see the empty space where a box of stuff used to be. Stuff I don’t need and stuff I’ve thought about and sorted and pushed out of my life. I think about how having less of that stuff means having more time for the important things.

I remember that there are others who have chosen the more difficult path to simplicity. I find strength in their stories. I am not alone…

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood…and I took my ten-year-old self by the hand, gave the finger to the curse, and grabbed another box from the attic.

Minimalism and Buried Treasure

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“It’s never too late – never too late to start over, never too late to be happy.”
– Jane Fonda

As I sift and dig through the past, I find that I’ve collected a lot of things I don’t need – physically and mentally. Junk. Weighing me down. Slowing me down. Since my last big epiphany regarding minimalism and mental clutter, I’ve learned to enjoy the process a little more. For the first time ever, I’m living an intentional life. I’m less afraid of what I’ll find because I know that on the other side is freedom.

Recently, I found two bits of treasure in my digging. Little things to a stranger’s eye. But worth so much in my heart. After years of setting them aside, they just got buried beneath my busy life. I don’t know what to do with them yet. I’ve moved on so far that they are dusty and old. I’m older. But I believe that it’s not too late to live your dreams.

Both are from a distant past. But both remind me that my simplicity quest is not about getting rid of everything. That’s actually pretty easy. The hard part is deciding what to keep. Sifting through junk and dreams to find out what matters most to me. Belly dance matters. Love of writing poetry matters. I found the hip scarves in an old, unlabeled box in a cabinet this morning. The love of poetry I found in a coffee shop last week. Unfinished dreams worth keeping…

(Because of this post I decided to go ahead and post the poem I wrote. Lauren’s is the only blog I follow that is about writing. She is sincere, encouraging, and seems to know what she’s talking about. She inspires me to be a better writer. So Lauren, if you read this, thank you…)

Open Mic Night

I’m mesmerized
by this woman’s voice.
Whatever it is that real singers
with real talent have,
she’s got it.

Everyone knows it
in this tiny coffee shop –
a room full of broken souls.

So clear, so rich
her art reaches out.
It’s so pure…

I will never sing like this woman.

After twelve years
of public school choir
and many more years
singing Chain of Fools in the shower
I still don’t have what she has.
Even if I hired a tutor,
reserved an auditorium,
and sang with all my heart,
I could not come close
to what she brings.

Something inside me is angry.

Envious.

Not because she can sing.
But because she doesn’t have to look
to find her magic special something.
She just opens her soul
and there it is.

And me?
I’m still searching.
While I write.
While I run.
While I see the perfect beauty
in the faces of the people around me.

And someday,
when I find it…

I won’t hold back.
I’ll sit on a stool
on life’s little stage
in some remote corner of the world;
room full of strangers.

I will open my soul.
Whatever I’ve found
will shine out
and light up the night.
A reminder to all
to keep searching…

It’s never too late
to find your voice.

Stuff and Love

20130718-112020.jpgAs I lighten my load and explore many negative emotions associated with the process, I’ve learned that sometimes, the joy comes later. That’s the good news for me and for anyone else experimenting with minimalism. The joy isn’t always there right away. Well, not for me anyway. I second guess myself a lot. So this process is not any different…

I’m still working through the stuff I put up in the attic when I first started My Simplicity Quest. It’s a lot of stuff. But every day, I take down a few things and decide to keep them or get rid of them. So far, it’s just that. Making a place for the things I decide to keep and converting my boxes of old pics to digital copies is for later. Next year, probably. I must keep it simple or I will quit. I know because that’s what I’ve done in the past.

Some of the stuff is easy to toss in a box labeled “Donate”. It’s not useful, beautiful, nor does it hold special meaning for me. But other stuff is not so easy. I’m getting better. Taking a picture before I send it on helps.

I used to think I loved some of my stuff. But as I sort through all of my personal possessions (and endeavor to be honest with myself) I learn that it’s not the stuff that I love. It’s the people I associate with them. It’s the memory it represents. It’s the way I use it in my life. Stuff is just a reminder of love. My guitar reminds me that l love music. My dad’s old Dunhill lighter reminds me of his pipe and his cigarettes and the way he liked to smoke them while reading the paper. My dresses remind me that I love to feel girlie.

In a big, fat cheesy way, it’s all about love.

Yep. I went there.

(Don’t you love how you start out with an idea about what you want to write and then when you begin it grows into something else? It’s like some strange magic. It only happens when I get to the page and put it out there.)

I had a different title for this article: “Take a Picture. Say Goodbye. Let it go. “I was going to write about finding a picture of a an old backpack. How it made me happy to see it instead of sad. I had details to share about how my identity was wrapped up in that bag and all the happy memories I associate with it. The difficultly of letting it go because it was falling apart after years of use. The joy in knowing that I made the right decision.

But I guess my heart needed to know why I felt that sadness and why I felt that joy. My head and my hands gave me the answer through the process of writing. It’s about the love. Not the stuff.

Thanks for traveling with me along this path. I am quite the corny companion. But if you’ve read any of my other posts, you already know that. And you are still here. I think that’s awesome. Cheers to you and the love you find on your journey…

A Dream Deferred…Is Liberating

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What happens to a dream deferred?

– Langston Hughes

I am itching to “make it” as a travel writer. By “make it” I mean make money (even though I know it’s not about the money). I go places. Maybe not across the world with one backpack and a laptop. But I love road trips and I see adventure everywhere. And I want to share it through writing and fun photos. Lately, I’ve been researching travel writers and I even set up a skeleton profile on Matador.com. But every time I went to the page I felt something was “off”. Something inside me just wasn’t flowing into the travel articles I was writing attempting to write – even as practice.

So I unplugged from my life, did a few sun salutations, and searched my soul to find that nagging feeling. In minutes, I found clarity. This is not the time for me to be a travel writer. Oh, I know…”you gotta reach for your dreams while you can” but how can I reach for some of them when I’m bogged down in an attic half full of junk? My biggest dream is to live a minimalist lifestyle so that I can spend more time spreading sunshine. I want to get better at being a loving person (I have so far to go on this one). I want to live my goals and “do my thing” without any nagging voices inside me.

I need minimalism for my soul as well as my surroundings.

I wrote “Travel Writer” on my list of someday projects, closed my browser tabs telling me how to be a better travel writer, and exhaled. It felt so good. Like I had been carrying extra weight in my life’s backpack that I had not noticed. I went through a box of giveaway stuff with new zeal and pleasure.

I don’t know what happens to a dream deferred. But I’m going to continue on my simplicity quest to find out. This is my dream for now. Thank you for letting me share it with you. Cheers!

The Closet Countdown: Weekly Update #1

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It’s been a week since I started The Closet Countdown. I decided to revive my running and do some part-time nanny work at the same time. Um. Should have included a few more sport items and probably could live without the “nice” dress I included “just in case” I needed it. Oh well. I’m learning.

I found a top I thought I loved but really I just kinda liked it because it coordinated with my other stuff. Decided to let it go. Now I’m living on 54 items. Figuring out how to “make it” on “just 54 items” feels very much like a first world problem.

My easy-grab and wear-anywhere favorite is my black Merrell Lily dress. By far. Hands down. No question about it. Hell, after this is over, I might just sell the rest of my clothes, buy more Lily dresses, and go from there. I wore it for a Fourth of July event as well as a casual memorial service. Even though I rave about the Lily, I do wish it had one thing: pockets. Perhaps with all the time I’ll make for myself by getting rid of stuff (including other, unfinished craft projects) I’ll make some modifications. Or why not dream big? Design my own line of minimalist travel clothing? First the junk, then we’ll see. 🙂

As I explore minimalism and figure out new ways to simplify my life, I re-learn over and over again that it’s about balance. Too much stuff is a pain to take care of. Too little can create different problems. Like needing to wash laundry more often. I hate running such a small load but I need my clothes to not smell like my morning run. Or the hours on the trampoline playing superhero robots. I don’t mind hand washing stuff in the shower but that’s kind of a pain too when I’m trying to make my shower time quicker. Like I said, first world problems…

It’s been a good week. I’m still glad I’m doing this because I’m learning quite a bit about myself and my choices.

As always, thanks for reading. I appreciate you and your time. Cheers!

P.S. If you want to read previous posts (and see a few pics) please check out The Closet Countdown page.

Best Tip for Clearing Closet Clutter: Hell Yeah!

“No more yes. It’s either HELL YEAH! or no. .” – Derek Sivers

If you don’t love it, don’t keep it. It really is that simple. But when you first embark on a simplicity quest of your own and you get to your closet, nothing seems simple. What about that dress you are going to fit into again someday? Or the skirt your mother bought you but the color looks terrible with your skin tone? Or that awesome, expensive designer shirt you found at the thrift store for only $2 that does not fit right? The shirt you wore to that special event that has a hole it in now?

To help you start out, check out this blog post by Derek Sivers (super cool guy who started CD Baby). He’s talking about the bigger picture of time commitments and hiring people but I apply it to my wardrobe (and life and minimalism) all the time. It makes culling and shopping so much easier.

Take an afternoon and go through all your clothes. Rate each item on a scale from 1 to 10 on how much you love it. Not just like it. LOVE it. It fits and flatters perfectly, is in good condition, and you love to wear it. Keep all of your 9s and 10s in your closet and put all of the 8s and lower on your bed or the floor. Now go look at your closet. It now contains only clothes you LOVE. The colors and fit and style that you want to represent to the world as you. Unique, beautiful you.

Here’s the fun part (and where I probably part ways with some other minimalists): do whatever you want to do with the stuff on the bed. Get rid of it. Hide it in you closet. Pack it up in boxes and hide it in your attic like I did. It’s your call. You don’t have to decide what to do with your dad’s old T-shirt today. You just need to see what it’s like to live with a wardrobe that you love for at lest 40 days.

You will be amazed how you feel about yourself and the world around you with this seemingly small change.

When you go shopping and you are in the dressing room with your pile of maybes, apply the Hell Yeah principle. Even if the price is amazing and you’ve always wanted one. If it doesn’t make you say Hell Yeah! about it when it’s on your body, forget it. There will be other bargains. Other treasures along the way that you will wear and wear with pride because you love everything about it.

Slowly. Very slowly, I am applying Hell Yeah! to other areas in my life due to the fact that it works so well in my closet. It feels good to have even a little bit of control and contentment in a life. It’s addicting and I want more of a Hell Yeah! life.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. I wish you an amazing, Hell Yeah! journey…

PS Use the above tip to help you decide what to keep for The Closet Countdown. 🙂

Minimalism + Cleaning = Awesome

In my teenage years, I was a clutter junkie. My poor carpet suffocated beneath a thick layer of random clutter and dirt. I hated cleaning and I certainly hated putting away all my stuff. Oh how adulthood changes us. The kids in my life don’t believe me when I say I am a recovering slob.

I found a surprise treasure along my path to simplicity. Minimalism makes it easier to to clean. I read about how nice it is to be able to take better care of things because you have less of them. I missed the part where that had to do with the floor.

Now I’m addicted to vacuuming. In the one room where I have focused my simplifying efforts, the carpet almost sparkles. It helps that I love my Dyson vacuum cleaner but I just can’t get over how much floor space I easily clean. Joy. Pure joy.

The less stuff I have, the less furniture I need to store the stuff. The less furniture I have, the less time it takes to clean it. Dusting is so much easier on the surfaces I have completely decluttered. I’ve simplified my cleaning products so it’s usually just a quick grab and go and I can make one room gleam with beauty in a matter of minutes. This is not true for all the rooms in my home but I’m getting there.

The road I chose to get this far was pretty long and winding. But it was worth it. Having one room that is easy to clean encourages and inspires me to finish the job and expand my hard-earned skills into other areas.

I say it all the time but it really is the little things that make a big difference.

If you are on your own simplicity quest, don’t give up. Do what works for you to stay on the road. If you do, you might find unintended treasures along the way. Like the joy of vacuuming. 🙂