I think that as humans we are more willing to change something when it becomes too uncomfortable not to. This could be a habit, a relationship, an occupation; anything we have accepted as ‘good enough’ in the past.
Signs will have been there, perhaps for a long time, that something is amiss, inauthentic, or just plain not right for us. But it seems to me that it will often require reaching a painful threshold before we take action, speak up, change, set new goals or let go.
Life is so much simpler if we pay attention to the signs. We act sooner, waste less time and feel more in alignment to our true selves. Yet is takes courage too.
I have been very fortunate in motherhood with three wonderful, grown daughters whom I adore. Mother’s Day is a happy, celebratory occasion for me.
But last night as I was going to bed, I was thinking of all the moms who have been alienated from their children after a contentious divorce, as my mother had been when I was just four years old (the topic of my memoir-in-progress). I personally know a few of these mothers, and occasionally hear from others whom I’ve never met. They are loving, kind, deeply saddened mothers who desperately want to reconnect with the stolen hearts of their children.
I will not go into detail about ‘attachment-based parental-alienation’ because it is beyond the scope of this blog post (*It happens to dads too). But what I do want to tell you is that last night, without overthinking it or even pre-planning it, I reached out to a large number of these parents on a private online group, and shared my heartfelt thoughts with them. I just couldn’t let Mother’s Day go by without offering my understanding, empathy, and love. And they deeply, sincerely appreciated it.
What does this have to do with decluttering or minimalism? When we are doing our best to get rid of all that does not serve our best lives, including old beliefs, fear, and overthinking our heart’s desires and impulses, often what comes through are the most natural, aligned and effortless words and deeds.
As of yesterday, I added some much-needed structure around finishing up my memoir. I am in the editing stages of my memoir, but have gotten stuck there for so long, I had to do something different.
I suspect the only one to take longer than me to finish writing a book is Joy Imboden Overstreet. I learned through the #amwriting podcast that she ended forty years of procrastination when she finally published her book, The Cherry Pie Paradox last year. Yes, you read that right; forty years! Joy is in her eighties and described the great sense of relief she felt once she did it. Can you imagine? I can.
So to try and end my own procrastination, I joined a May Day Facebook group in which we authors will check in with each other every Monday for the month of May. It won’t be as motivating as hiring a book coach like Joy did, but it will help.
So, with the loose but added structure of my May Day accountability group, my task at hand for the month of May is to make progress every single weekday, whether I feel like it or not. Clear and simple, day by day, I am committed to moving forward. I just know I meant to have my memoir out into the world before I am eighty.
This is the day of the Boston Marathon, a race that takes place every year on Patriots Day in Massachusetts. I grew up just down the street from the start of the race, so it was tradition to see the runners off every third Monday of April. In later years, both of my sisters ran the race, along with an uncle, a niece and a handful of other people I know.
A half marathon is definitely my limit for running, and when I ran The Old Port Half Marathon in Portland, Maine last fall, I gained valuable insight. When my youngest daughter enthusiastically suggested I join her in the race, I went with my very first instinct which was to grab the opportunity. Had I paused long enough to consider the likelihood of failure, or the dread of running on days when I really didn’t feel like it, I would’ve said hell no.
Once I committed, I knew I did not stand a chance of finishing the race without a structured plan to train. I had rarely run more than three miles at a time, so this was new territory. I found a beginner’s training plan online and simply followed it like a recipe. And on race day, I met my goal of finishing.
I don’t necessarily see any more half marathons in my future, but because I had been following “the recipe” for months prior to the race, I kept Sundays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays as my cardio days. The habit was in place.
The experience highlighted my need for structurein facing any challenge, or creating any habit that is important to me. Without it, I set myself up for failure. I believe this insight is what led to my intermittent fasting which I wrote about here: https://danalaquidara.com/2022/03/07/minimal-monday-4/
It is also why I recently joined an accountability writing group in which we check in each week to demonstrate our individual progress.
Left to my own devices, I can be unfocused and unproductive. Alternately, creating structure around my goals – imposing some deadline, accountability, or “recipe” to follow – I stand a chance of succeeding.
Recently, I had the opportunity to be interviewed for a podcast about healing. This particular episode was about the ways in which decluttering can be a tool for healing. I can easily talk about simplifying as a means to free up your space, mind, calendar and creativity. I am a fervent proponent of the many benefits; the freedom, the momentum, the lightness….
But when asked to speak of decluttering as a practice for healing, I have to take a deep breath. The topic goes straight to my heart and conjures up the experience of navigating my own core wound. Indeed, I do believe that decluttering is a tool for allowing and uncovering what needs our attention. Freed from distractions and clutter, we are left to face ourselves, to come home to ourselves.
The conversation took that deeper dive, and if I had to summarize it in one passage, it would be this:
I love the momentum that takes place while decluttering. Clearing off my writing space by putting some books back in a bookshelf led to me organizing the whole bookshelf. A few books got donated and the rest are now properly categorized. I no longer feel the need to keep my desk cluttered with writing books because if I need one, I know exactly where to find it now. Simplifying one area often leads to a desire to simplify another area. Best of all, as tolerance for clutter decreases, clarity and inspiration increases.
Iam so very grateful for the 5-star review I received on Amazon yesterday for The Uncluttered Mother! I appreciate each and every reader, and I hope my book continues to inspire moms of all agesand stages.
Somewhere in Germany, a young man named Rahul Yadav, from India, is pursuing his PhD in engineering while his heart is also very much in the social sciences. His new podcast, Q-T.A.L.K.S, is his own project and unique contribution to society. Q-T.A.L.K.S stands for Quest for The Adventure of Learning and Knowing through Stories. I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Rahul on the topic of my book, The Uncluttered Mother.
Several years ago, I worked at a college as an academic coach. My students needed assistance with organizing their workload, breaking down large assignments into logical small steps, making lists and recording important dates in their academic agendas. Sometimes I would help them with assignments such as writing papers, but mostly my job was to help them with executive functioning skills and meeting goals.
Their parents were paying the college a premium price for this coaching, and for some of them it worked very well. But for many others, there was a glaring problem that was getting in the way of their success.
The goals weren’t theirs.
One particular student comes to mind (though there were several). He had wanted to go to a film school in California with his best friend. He was a kid who did not make friends easily and this friendship was important to him. They shared a passion and he lit up when talking about his dream. His friend went off alone to this California school and my student talked about it with a mix of excitement, longing, and resignation. His parents wanted him to go the more practical route of this traditional school and so here he was. Unmotivated. Sad. Bored. No matter how detailed we made his agenda, no matter how much encouragement and perfect to-do lists I gave him, he would return to our next session with very little crossed off his list. He would make the least amount of progress towards “his goals”, and carry the same sad look in his eyes. There was no joy, no energy, no flow. The most alive I had seen him was the day we talked about what he really wanted to be doing.
Isn’t it true for all of us that working toward someone else’s goal is like swimming upstream? A goal we think we should go after, rather than the thing that our heart is calling us to try may lead to some success, but at what cost? And more importantly than what we are doing, is who we are becoming while doing that. Are we meeting challenges with optimism and courage, growing and changing, or are we on automatic pilot to attain the goals that we don’t even recall truly having a longing for in the first place?
My student’s parents were well intentioned and I certainly understand the fear and desires of a parent. It is scary to let go of control and honor our own or our child’s heart desires. But we have a finite amount of time on this earth, and our desires, curiosities, and interests are seeds planted within us like precious breadcrumbs leading us along our journey. How many of us jumped on a path that was never our own?
The more we can silence the fears, the distractions, and the doubts, the clearer the path becomes.
I struggle with digital clutter. Every now and then I get a handle on it by deleting all remaining emails and unsubscribing to a few things. I spend a lot of my writing time at the computer and when I am finished, I don’t want to spend more time on digital decluttering tasks. But I know that part of the answer lies in keeping up with it; in not letting my digital life get out of control to begin with.
I am embarrassed to say how many emails I currently have in my inbox. The sheer volume is simply because I have not prioritized keeping my online quarters clean and manageable. In short, I’ve been a digital slob.
There is a lot of good content online these days and I’ve fallen into the trap of thinking I can keep up with a lot of it. But in reality, like most of us, I have limited time each day to read, listen to, or engage in others’ online work, no matter how enticing.
The good news that I keep returning to again and again is this: The most important voice we will ever listen to is our own. A thousand subscriptions to newsletters, email updates or any other fabulous content will never, ever be enough if we can’t hear our own voice. Too many distractions, too much input, will crowd out our own intuition. Clutter – even the good kind- will dilute our own knowingness until it fades far into the background of all the other people’s voices and words and suggestions and opinions that we have hoarded.