Let Go the Heavy Things

You will find that it is necessary to let things go; simply for the reason that they are heavy. So let them go, let go of them. I tie no weights to my ankles.”  C. JoyBell C

This is one of my favorite quotes lately. The first time I read this quote, it was on a minimalist site, so I interpreted it in terms of the process of release that comes with purging ‘stuff’. The quote is actually about practicing forgiveness. Those two can be very tightly linked. We often need to forgive ourselves or someone else while we let go of our heavy “things.”

We have all kept some “thing” in our life even though it weighs us down. Those things range from thoughts, beliefs, behaviors, emotions, people, places, all the way to our stuff. Yet, most often when we talk about letting go, or purging, we tend to only address the “stuff”. Those tangible items cluttering up our physical spaces. 

But what about the other things weighing us down? What about our out-dated thoughts? Hand me down beliefs? Our habits and behaviors? Our emotions? Keeping any of those heavy things that no longer serve to do anything more than weigh us down is a waste of energy.

Energy that would be better spent in so many other freeing ways.

Today, I purged some of those heavy things. They looked outwardly like seasonal stuff and clutter. But tied up in those holiday knick knacks and brick-a-brac were some pretty strong emotions. Those emotions weighed me down more than the boxes weighed down the shelves upon which they were stored. Not all of the emotions were negative either. For example, in the boxes I sorted today were many representatives of “firsts.” First high school graduation, first college graduation, first house. And there was forgiveness. Forgiveness to myself that I was parting with these things that no longer brought me joy and even forgiveness to others for any number of situations.

In the purge pile were collections, as well. Baubles that were once a pleasantry but became an obligation. An example of this was a collection of 3” ceramic Crinkle Claus figurines. I began collecting them in 1996. I still remember seeing my very first one on the shelf in the store as I passed by. If I pause for just a moment, I can almost smell the candles from the shop, feel the chill in the air. But, that one piece turned into an annual collection. A new Crinkle every year. And when they stopped making them, the collection became hours on eBay trying to find the perfect next one. Putting them up and taking them down was a chore. Clearing the every day items from the curio cabinet, cleaning the cabinet, wrapping and unwrapping the figurines, positioning them just so … it could be an ordeal at times. The fun from that first purchase was gone, lost in the effort to display something that had no meaning to anyone in my family except me. That collection? Became heavy. I parted with all but the first one.

We can do that, you know? Keep only the ones that bring us joy. It is our choice. 

Bring us joy. Isn’t that what this season is about? The ‘holiday season’? Yet, it seems that this is the season that seems to weigh us down all by itself, before we even consider all the other everyday kind of weights and heaviness. This season, from fall into the new year has the ability to weigh even the most joyous of us down. 

This season is so heavy that I can hear the weight. I see it in the feeds of my social media, in the memes and gifs that are posted and reposted. I hear it when speaking with friends. I hear the weight as questions, though they aren’t always presented as such. Digging through the noise and the clutter, I hear the weight in questions such as these:

Am I gifting enough?

Am I generous enough?

Did I attend enough events, tend the right relationships, visit enough family?

Am I …. enough?

The competition to keep up with The Joneses kicks into high gear this time of year. Earlier and earlier each year. We feel like The Grinch if we aren’t consuming and shopping and wrapping and baking and hosting and and and ….

This is also the season when we tend to neglect ourselves. Our mental condition, our physical health. We don’t make room for ourselves because we are too busy loading up with the weight of other obligations.

Some also have people who add to the weight. Use words, emotions, baggage, history against us. Guilt. Obligations. Debt. They try to give us their heavy things or tie us into their drama. They entice our children with pretty baubles, loud advertisements, special events against our wishes.

Or maybe we think we have no one. Maybe our heavy thing is loneliness. 

Heavy things.

Let them go. All of them.

Make yourself a priority. Make time for you, your health – mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical. Nurture yourself. When you are nurtured, you are able to choose – wisely – which things belong to and with you. Which things you can hold without them weighing you.

This is your permission slip. Put down your heavy things. Pick yourself up. Put yourself first.

Let go the heavy things.

Simplicity and the Holidays – Quick easy ways to declutter the kid’s play area without temper tantrums

I read and receive questions about this topic a lot this time of year. Or I hear mom friends of mine discussing how they spent the morning cleaning their child’s (children’s) room in preparation for the hoards of stuff that will be descending upon them here shortly.

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In my opinion, this is one of the best times of the year to begin a quest for simplicity or even just decluttering. It is also one of the best times of year to establish new patterns. This is our opportunity as parents, care givers, guardians of the future to provide our children with lifelong skills in responsibility, decision making, honesty, and possibly generosity. You may even inspire a child’s creative nature. My son pilfered the hand of one action figure that he didn’t like, took my super glue, and attached the hand to his favorite action figure whose own hand had been damaged. If I had been purging without him there, the favorite toy would have gone to the recycle bin and been sorely missed. And the other action figure would still be clutter in my house. It’s two years later and that is still a favored toy. Though it is now completely handless. It has also been given a sharpie marker beard and the uniform has been painted a different color.

This is your opportunity to cultivate in kids of all ages a change in mindset from one of loss, where people are “getting rid of” their things, to one of generosity, freedom, cleanliness, you put your own positive spin as it applies to your family. Think about it, wouldn’t it be super nice to donate those unused or gently used toys to the children’s hospital? Or to some other local organization that will welcome and relish the items? Does your city have a homeless shelter? Or a Women in Transitions center? Often the children in these places have nothing. Or, do like I do and garage sale the items and use the funds to pay for family adventures.

Does your child have a friend who adores that toy that your child doesn’t like? Have your child wrap it up and gift it. Who decided that all gifts are new? Recycling and up cycling is better than the recycle bin any day!

You get less clutter, they get a sense of ownership, pride, and maybe even friendship.

I recommend not purging their things without their involvement. In our house, we set the timer and go. If a toy is calling too much attention, we set it aside. Short bursts work best. Ten minutes, fifteen maybe. When the timer dings, we are done. He knows before we start that it will be quick and painless. Try to do a few of these short bursts every week until you get where you want to be. I never toss his stuff for him. How would you feel if one day you opened a drawer and someone else had thrown away your things? I may be alone in this, but it feels disrespectful. How will they learn to respect other people and things if we don’t teach them?

I also give my son a finite amount of space. When the space is full ‘stuff’ has to go.

We practice the ‘one in, one out’ rule. If either of us wants to bring something into the house, some thing (or things) must go out.

We also have some maintenance ‘rules.’ Even the visiting children know (and usually follow) these rules. If you get a toy out, you must put the toy back BEFORE getting out another toy. Yes, even when there are ten boys in the house. I remind my son that he is responsible for his things and his home and that it is his job to make sure his friends respecting that. We have one or two boys who are also no longer invited over to play. At my son’s choice. He was tired of how they treated him, his things, and even other friends.

Another great opportunity to clear the clutter every day is the nightly clean up session. We make a focused, conscious effort every night to spend the last fifteen minutes picking up. Usually there isn’t much (see maintenance above), a book laid here, the blanket mussed, a glass or something can feed the clutter bug. We also have the opportunity to assess things at this time. For example, if a toy was broken during play that day, it doesn’t go back into the toy box. We determine if we can fix it, if we can we set it aside for the next day. If we can’t, it gets tossed, by the kid, that very night.

This can be a chance to learn about value. Recently, my son used gift money to purchase a much sought after Batman action figure. He thought nothing of spending the $11. I thought the doll looked cheap and chintzy. I tried to guide him to a different doll, but he was having none of it. He bought the Batman. The Batman was broken before we got home, less than 15 minutes later. A waste of $11? Not necessarily. It gave me the opportunity to show him why I had known that the doll would break (although, that was MUCH sooner than even I had expected). Now, he knows what to look for in the design of the toy, how the joints are put together, etc. Now when we go to stores, he instigates a conversation before spending his money. The broken doll didn’t even make it into the house, by the way. I gave him the option of returning it or putting it in the recycle bin. He decided it wasn’t worth our time to drive back to the store. He also, without any guidance from me, said he had paid good money for his lesson. Proud momma moment right there. Time value can be a difficult concept to teach, but he is getting it.

What about the gifts?
If you are trying to reduce the volumes of ‘stuff’ coming in, this is my gentle reminder to you that you control your own purse strings. Set a budget and stick to it. Identify a set quantity of items. Agree to experiential gifts rather than material ones. The options are endless.

What about family? My parents/spouse/ex-spouse’s parents/aunts/uncles/WHOEVER go crazy buying for the kids every year!”
Yep, I get this a lot. A lot, a lot. And have the same situation over here. I suggest a conversation. Why are they buying so many things? Is this how they are trying to connect with your children? If so, suggest an outing. Find a common interest. For example, one of my parents recently went to an aquarium that he thinks my kiddo would love love love… when he asks what gift he should get, my answer is going to be “Let’s spend the day at that aquarium!” For a few years, it was tickets to a baseball game.

There are a multitude of sites and posts that offer suggestions on this one, so I won’t go into too much detail. Some quick suggestions include:

  • Memberships to gyms, museums, children’s museums
  • Pay the sports club dues – this one can be a great way for out-of-town family to ‘participate.’ They can’t be there physically to experience the events, but they are there in thought for every one.
  • Gift cards to places the kids like to go – locally we have a indoor/outdoor go kart place, an indoor trampoline center, movie theaters, water parks, etc.
  • Weekend trips
  • Day outing to someplace special
  • A day together making something

Just to name a few.

And don’t be afraid to return gifts or re-gift gifts. Giving is truly for the giver. If the giver insists upon giving something you don’t want in your home, it does not need to come into your home. Period. This may take some grace and finesse on your part, but it is your home. Have in it only things you value. If someone in your family is renowned for their awful gifts, maybe it’s time to have a family chat.

The List
I come from a list family. We make lists for everything, but especially for gifts. List making can be a helpful tool in the decluttering process. Make the list with your child. Pull pictures out of magazines and toy circulars or wherever. Then sit down and have a chat. When my son made his list, we had a great conversation. He made his list, we reviewed it. We both know which items will most likely come from which grandparents. We agreed that there will be no “stuff” gifts from me. We are getting into hiking, camping, and backpacking. His gift, with his agreement and a family discussion, will be his very own Camelbak pack for our trips. He likes this idea because he knows that we will spend time together using this gift. Whereas most of his gifts are things I can’t do with him. Normally, I wouldn’t share with him exactly what the gift will be, but these packs are not cheap. I wanted to make sure he was interested in doing the activities before I bought the gear.

What the list does for you is to give you some perspective on how much stuff is likely to come into the house. (To know how much needs to go out beforehand). It gives you a talking point for those relatives that feel they must buy something. You can also hopefully avoid duplicates by giving different pieces of the list to different gift purchasers.

There are so many ways to take control of your clutter, your home, your life. I hope these few tips here help you get a head start on this up coming season.

What tips do you have or have you read about? What has and has not worked for you in the past? I would love to read about them in the comments. Leave me a note, I read and reply to each and every one.

There must be people …

I – am a techie. I love my technology. I love to be connected …. via technology.

If you are a shop, manufacturer, service provider, government agency, whatever… with whom I can interact over the internet, I love love love you. Make it easy for me to do what I need to do when I have time to do it. Give me that freedom. I will think you are awesome sauce. I will praise you to the heavens. I am not even asking for a user friendly site (though that is certainly nice).

But please, for the love of my sanity, there must be people.

Things go awry. Sometimes, despite my best efforts not to, sometimes I need to speak with a person.

Trust me when I say this, I will avoid it if at all possible. I really will. But you can’t plan for every contingency. And if there is some random, weird nuance, some unusual question, some anomaly … I, I will be the one to find it. And when that happens, please do not make me surf the net, cycle through endless automated prompts, or other tech-wise solutions.

There must be people.

Yes, yes… I know some of you offer me other solutions. But do you really want an unhappy tech girl with a big mouth and fast fingers tweeting about her concerns? No, probably not.

There must be people.

I am not even asking for nice people, though they are preferable. If they are nice to me, I promise I will be nice to them. I won’t call them often, as rarely as humanly possible.

Just … please … people.

/rant off.

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No Longer a Victim

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Improvements

I will admit it. I have been a yeller. I bottle up my anger without even realizing it and when I reach the boiling point, it all topples over and out, like a volcano. I have yelled when I feel like I am not being heard, as if increasing the volume will make the words more clear somehow, better understood. I have yelled when the words were instructions, given, accepted, understood and then ignored. I have yelled when I felt taken advantage of or neglected or less than or or or… I have been a yeller.

It is one of my least favorite traits about myself. It is also one of the ones I have worked hardest to understand and change.

And I have. For the most part. And I didn’t even really notice …. until one morning earlier this year.

Quick debrief of that morning, not because I need to share, but because in hindsight, it is actually pretty funny:

The day after a long holiday weekend, the Kid decided to sleep in a little. Due to the holiday, we had also neglected our practice of preparing for the week ahead: aka – set out the clothes the night before.

The Kid comes down, late remember? And proceeds to tell me that he has no clean pants in his drawer. Which is really interesting because I finished what I thought was all of the laundry just the night before. So where were all the jeans? In a heap in the corner of the room. NOT (wait for it) in the laundry basket. And of course, I didn’t ask him to bring down the heap for washing, only the basket (duh, mom!)

I did what any ‘Mother of the Year” award front runner would do… I sent him to pick through the pile, find the cleanest pair, and wear them. Oh, and of course, bring down the heap for washing.

The Kid retrieves the cleanest pair of jeans from heap and brings the heap down. I have the washing machine all ready to receive said heap of dirty clothes

Th Kid sits for french toast breakfast (oh, there…. your wheels started turning, you just realized where this is going)

Yep, we’re going there, Kid flips syrup. All over table. chair. floor, shirt, and jeans. Maybe a little on one of the white dogs, but I can’t deal with that much reality.

Me? I’m standing at the counter working on something on the computer. Look down as I open my mouth to yell at the kid, I see the title of the article that just pulled up … an article about yelling … at kids. (That is what I call The Big Universe or TBU.)

 

yeler

 

Pause. Breath (deep, lung filling)

Calmly, quietly, I dig another pair of jeans out of the heap (which fortunately had not yet made it into the washer), kiss The Kid on forehead, send him for a new shirt and begin the arduous process of cleaning syrup from the kitchen…. and dogs….

Yelling? No yelling. A year earlier my day would have been trashed. So would his. There would have been tears (more mine than his) and hurt feelings. Worse.

But that morning there was a smile. A kiss. And a confirmation that I know it was an accident. Accidents happen.

I didn’t tell him that had the bus not been coming up the street at that precise moment, he would indeed be the one cleaning this up. But that’s okay, he will get his turn someday in less years than I like to realize and when he tells me about it, I will smile and tell him I still love him.

And we get the lesson learned, one of many that I’m sure will come to me … by golly, the clothes get laid out the night before.

And I, am one step closer to overcoming a nasty and unnecessary habit. Before I can teach him to have the same habit with his children.