Minimalism...when all else fails, Kiss! Keep it simple, sweetheart!

One of the most interesting and relevant buzzwords of the day is "minimalism." And, it is frequently misunderstood, ill conceived, and too quickly dismissed.

The very thought of living with eight plates and four white shirts, for example, has absolutely no appeal to me; and, yet this is a choice that some people make and it suits them. I would not feel joyful, nor would it be practical for me to live so sparingly. Yet, it is just what some people need and want. And THAT is really at the heart of minimalism, choosing to live with what YOU truly need, want, and love.

And, if this is true, then minimalism is not a tick in the box or a "thing to do," but rather a lifestyle of "living with intention" that will evolve and grow to suit you personally.

In the spirit of minimalism, I offer a short list of guidelines for setting down a path of intentional living. 

 

 

Keep what you “love & need”

 

Integrate your “wants” based upon your  space, time, budget & priorities

 

Share, sell, or discard the remainder

 

Sort & organize your spaces & schedules

 

When the work of redefining your spaces and belongings is done, you are left with a sense of order, harmony, joy, and peacefulness. At least, that has been my experience. You are free to move on to the work of living and being truly present in the world. Beginning a more intentional life is just a kiss away.

Personal Organizer

 

Best regards as you ponder if this choice suits you!

Jennifer xox

 

Vacation Mentality...simply clearing a path to enjoy your daily travels

Have you ever wished that everyday could be a vacation day? What if that that sense of calm and relaxation could become more of a daily experience? I know I would say, "Yes, please!"

A recent conversation with a customer had me thinking about vacation mentality. She fell in love with a dress at the store where I work part-time. I could see it in her eyes! When I offered to take it to the fitting room, she declined the offer saying that she would buy it in a heartbeat if she was shopping for vacation because it was "truly the perfect dress." Cut, color, quality, comfort were all 10 out of 10. 

She continued to say that she would never spend that much money on herself for everyday use even though she admitted that she could picture herself wearing it for different events and activities and could see the styling options that made it a versatile garment. 

I couldn't stop thinking about this. Some of my favorite outfits and go to pieces in my wardrobe are garments that I have chosen for vacations and travel. They are comfortable, fit well, are versatile, and are a breeze to launder. And, yes!  I do wear them frequently! The cost per wear makes them the best values in my closet! Even the plaid rain boots that I bought for a trip to Ireland, although rarely worn in southern California, add a little whimsy on those rare wet days. 

This train of thought led me to ask myself, "What if we approached daily life from a vacation mentality?"

Hear me out. I'm not suggesting that we stop working or cleaning or preparing food at home. But what if we were to streamline our decisions as if we were packing and planning for travel? Would this be the start of a shift toward more enjoyment in daily living by living with a little less.

Del Mar Beach, California

Del Mar Beach, California

I propose that we test out my theory with a three practical steps that will clear the path to finding more joy and contentment in your daily routine. 

1. Clear the clutter in your handbags, briefcases, backpacks, cars, trunks, night stands and keep only what you really need and use in those places. These are hot spots that grow if untended and can weigh you down and spoil the ease of movement that is otherwise possible. Think back to the last time you traveled. Carry just what you need.

As for me, my car console looks something like this: sunscreen, phone charging cable, a non-perishable snack, water bottles, a book, and a few quarters for the rare parking meter that still requires your pocket change.

My handbag ritual looks like this: I remove receipts and take them to my desk, add one lipstick to suit the mood of the day, sunglasses, a small Emory board, cell phone, wallet, Advil, and an epi pen (bee stings).  Years of schlepping too much has led to neck strain and I am proud to say that I have finally learned my lesson. I now carry a smaller, light weight bag and love the freedom this allows.

All summer long I keep beach chairs, towels, sunscreen, a sunhat, and flip flops in the trunk of my car for impromptu stops at the beach. Yes! I live minutes away from the ocean and have found a favorite stretch of sand where I sit and listen to the waves even if only for 30 minutes.

2. Review and purge your clothing. There are many books and articles explaining the benefits of a limited, capsule wardrobe.  I personally like clothes and costuming too much to limit myself solely to 20 or so garments. Although if I'm being completely honest, I wear the same 20 pieces mixed and matched 80% of the time. I suspect this is true for most of us.

Wear colors that look good on you and make you feel like a million bucks! Keep pieces that work well together and give you options for styling. Remove the items that no longer fit, that are worn and damaged, that you no longer like, that you haven't worn for a year or more, and move seasonal clothing to garment bags or to the sides of your closet making your "capsule" more accessible.

When you have a few minutes and the inclination, play a little with accessorizing so that when you are rushing off to an event, you can leave with confidence knowing that you look put together. Those predetermined, go-to outfits are a God-send on tightly scheduled days.

Once you clear the clutter from your closet, notice what is missing to complete outfits and if it's in your budget, go shopping for those pieces, just like you would if you were preparing to leave on holiday. You will be less distracted by things you do not need with a clear agenda for shopping. Vacation mentality!

3. Savor what is special to you by using it every day. Keep only what you truly love, that you need and use, and that makes you happy whether they are photographs, seashells collected from a special trip, your expansive collection of books (I get it), or what ever "sparks joy" for you.

Do you still use your chipped old dishes and keep your favorites for company? Why not use your favorites everyday to make every meal special?

Why not take your coffee in your favorite travel mug to your favorite park or beach and savor a few minutes rather than rush off to the next task? Isn't that what we do on vacation?! This simple pause in the day can be just the mental rest that you need.

Removing the unnecessary leaves you with what you do need, want, and love, front and center and visible in your life. Just like when you go on vacation, you are free to cherish the day and get on with whatever you have planned.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Breaking the cycle of overwhelm...critical first step in taking back your life, ADHD or not

Whether or not you live with ADHD, there is benefit from today's blog post. I hope that you will find a golden nugget in this discussion and break your cycle of overwhelm. We all have them.

Palace at Versailles, France 

Palace at Versailles, France 

 

One of my favorite resources for those learning to manage their ADHD is called, "Odd One Out," by Jennifer Koretsky. She describes life from her point of view in a simple, clear manner and then breaks down a plan for success that makes complete sense to me.

If you have not read it, and have the good fortune to know someone challenged by this neuro-atypical brain style, I highly recommend spending the two hours it will take to read her book. There is benefit to improved understanding whether or not you live with ADHD. I guarantee that most of you work with people challenged by this brain style. You can be of great service to them and to yourself.

In the meantime, I will fast-forward you to the critical first step.

Ms. Koretsky describes the first step in managing ADHD as this: to break the cycle of overwhelm. I agree.

I have known this to be true for many years and, have found it to be a critical first step with all of my clients and in my personal and professional life whether challenged by ADHD or not. No matter what has led a person to feeling overwhelmed by the clutter in their homes, office, and heads, "breaking the cycle of overwhelm," is the key to taking charge, moving forward, and finding less stress and more joy in day to day living!

Sounds simple, right? The challenge is in recognizing that you are overwhelmed, stepping back long enough to acknowledge your feelings, and then choosing to focus your attention upon one thing. Your most important or nagging, worrisome space.

I am frequently hired to "help sort a few things." This invariably means "come help me dig my way out of the detritus of the past 20 years and find the golden rings buried in the ooey gooey center of it all." And, I LOVE what I do. Truly!

My clients feel overwhelmed. There is no question about it. And, if I am completely honest, I have been known to experience a momentary sense of overwhelm when I first arrive. But this feeling quickly passes because I have learned to break the cycle of overwhelm but placing my focus upon what is most important to them. I always work from this perspective.  

For me this has two layers, emotional health, and safety. Yes, I am a safety girl. Grounded and sensible. And, I LOVE a 1000 piece, 3-D puzzle. So I can see past the messes and piles of stuff towards the potential and possibility of a healthier, less stressful environment for my clients to live and work. They have asked me to help them declutter, to make sense of their things, to let go of what no longer serves them well. We do this one thing, one space, one room at a time. And it works.

My advice to you, if you are looking at your home or office, and you want or need a change, but feel overwhelmed and are unsure where to begin, start by asking what is stressing or overwhelming you the most, and begin there.

Get rid of what you don't need unless you cannot bear to part with something.  I urge you NOT to organize what is really unnecessary. Throw it away, donate it, recycle it, give it back to its proper owner, but do not let it take up permanent residence. It is crowding out what is important and adding to your mental clutter. 

For those of us with ADHD, keeping everything in sight is a common strategy for finding things. This is not the most effective strategy in reality, because over time it becomes difficult to distinguish what is important from what is not.  If you have ever spent 20 minutes looking for something that is right in front of you, you know what I am talking about. 

I beg of you, put things away that have a designated drawer, cupboard, closet, or space when you are done using them. If you always put things in the same space, you will create habits that make it easier to find your stuff over time.

You may have items of value and may hesitate or hold on to them for later. This is a double edged sword. Keeping things for a garage sale or to resale can bring a sweet little chunk of change. And there is definitely a time to do this. But sometimes, especially in those truly overwhelming periods of your life, it is more freeing and more gratifying to "just let it go," now. The sooner the better. If you are asking for help, wanting help, looking for change, then you ARE ready. 

Organizing Solutions San Diego

Give it away, throw it away, bless someone else with it. Let go of what no longer serves you. Put things away. Keep only what you need and use, and love. ADHD or not, break the cycle of overwhelm.

Your peace of mind and your new, healthier, less overwhelming life is waiting for you.

 

photography by Jennifer Raphael

 

 

 

 

Planning, for less stress and more joy...May the Fourth be with you.

Forgive the corny pun from the girl who learned to love Star Wars after watching the movie several times one summer.

If you are wondering how it can be May already, then you are not alone! I hope that this warp speed delivery to May 4th has been a whirlwind of lovely experiences, work that fulfills you, opportunities to spend time with the people you love, and the expectation and hopefulness of good things yet to come.

If not, then fear not. A little forethought and planning can help reset your course and launch you on your way to new adventures and dare I say, more joy in the present moments. And isn't that what life is all about?!

As I prepare to travel to New York City to assist my daughter with her move home for the summer, I am reminded of pre-summer planning when my kids were younger. Each year about this time, I would ask each of them a few questions. I will share them with you now with the hope that you may find inspiration as you plan your summer months' adventures.

What is one place that you would like to visit near home?

What is one place that you like to visit that is far away? 

Which friends do you want to invite for playdates/sleepovers/adventures?

Name one adventure with each family member for a special day.

Name 3 books that you will read.

Their answers varied from year to year. But the traditions of choosing with whom and how to spend time was a habit worth developing. It paved the way for magical, memorable summers. 

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These questions helped focus my attention and planning for the summer months upon what was truly important. These plans were fluid and open to change, but gave a substance and foundation for setting schedules and budgeting.

You might find a similar strategy helpful. Be forewarned though. You might just feel like a kid again...with a grand sense of possibility, anticipation of summer adventures, and a much needed shift in focus.

Less stress and more joy, may you find. 

 

 

Closets, and cupboards, and shelves, oh My!...What to do with15 minutes.

It is raining and cold today, or should I say, "It is cold for Southern California?" We have been known to complain if we cannot wander barefoot in March.

Dare I say, it is a perfect day to tackle a project that you have been avoiding? 

Do you know what lurks behind your closed doors? Those doors hide the yet-to-be-discarded, might-use-it-someday, will-get-to-it-later, someone-dropped-by-and-I-needed-to-hide-it-quickly stuff of life. And those things crowd out what is important to you by making the space tight and less functional. 

These are spaces that can be tackled one shelf, one cupboard, one box, one closet at a time. One rainy day at a time. One, I have 15 minutes and I want to finish something useful in this time, time.

Being the remove the band-aid slowly kinda girl, I am okay with slow and steady wins the race. You have my permission to set a timer, or set a boundary to the physical space that you are going to tackle. Gather bags and boxes for sorting, and begin!

Choose the space that nags at you the most. A sweet reward awaits you.

I suspect you have a closet that fits this parameter. Why? Because, in my experience, and yes, this is anecdotal, closets are a great place to push things and easy to avoid. We all have them, and they tend to fill up as if by magic.

And because they nag at you, decluttering and reorganizing an overstuffed, no longer easy to use closet feels richly rewarding upon completion. It is that simple.

Know for certain the purpose of this space. If a closet is for cold weather gear, then that is all that belongs there. Designating spaces for "like things" makes finding them easier, makes upkeep easier, and makes letting go easier.

You can see that you have 15 red sweaters when you keep your sweaters together in the same space. Maybe you LOVE all 15 and will choose to keep them. Maybe you didn't realize that you have that many. Maybe you just realized that you do indeed have the sweater you sister insists that she loaned to you.

Remove things that no longer fit, that are damaged, that no longer serve a purpose in your current life. Remove what belongs elsewhere. Remove the items that make you cringe. I know you have them. We all do. And remove what doesn't belong in that space. 

Admittedly, the space that has been nagging at me, is my son's closet. I can hear you all laughing. Upon my request that he do some spring cleaning, he begrudgingly agreed to "work on his closet." He had good intentions, and has removed six tee shirts over the past two days. Sigh!

Since he is an adult and it is his room, there are boundaries and limits that he and I have agreed upon. So while I was just delivering laundry to his room today, and listening to the hailstones pelting his window, I spent 15 minutes sorting through the shirts in his closet. That's it. I quickly reviewed two, two foot sections of his closet in 15 minutes. He has already discarded what he no longer wants in that section, at least for now.

And then, like anyone who has ever worked retail, I lined up everything by color, sleeve length, and material weight. The space is calmer and I expect he will remove a few more pieces when he sees how many, many, MANY gray and black tee shirts that he owns. Ultimately, the decisions are his, but will be less overwhelming because I have removed heavy coats to the coat closet, empty coat hangers to the laundry room, and dirty clothes to the hamper. 

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As I write, the El Nino rains have resumed. And, since it is my day off, I think I will stay inside and tackle another closet. Happy Monday!



Everything I need, and nothing that I don't...beginning with the end in mind

 

I listen to many genres of music, but one of my favorites is country. For me, the lyrics are plain, sweet truths and often get to the heart of what matters. One that has caught my ear many times is, "Homegrown," written by Niko Moon, Wyatt Brown, and Zachary Brown. The lyrics sing joyfully of having just what you "need and nothin' that you don't." I like that! 

What if you were to begin with the end in mind and expect to find joy with less stuff? Would you feel inspired to reevaluate your surroundings, home and office, and to consider letting go of what no longer fits into your current life?

What if I told you that having just what you need and truly want in your life opens up your spaces and redirects your energy toward what is important to you?

It is now the second month of the new year. What will you do with your space and time? How do you get to the place of joy with less?  

It is easy to become overwhelmed when you look at the big picture, especially if it has been a long time since you spent time organizing your home or office. I am going to give you a few guidelines  to help you stay focused on your goal with a manageable first step.

Clear your surfaces and open storage spaces. 

A lot of unnecessary items congregate and fill up surfaces and open storage/shelves until they are overflowing and the room no longer functions in a way that pleases you. And let's be honest, facing the clutter and disarray is stressful, anxiety producing, and even shaming.

I have a client who didn't used to take the time to file or purge no longer relevant materials. He is a busy man, and his time is best spent doing what he does best.  The problem was that there was nowhere to sit in his office, and no surface for a notebook during meetings. This is not ideal when you have daily meetings with staff and colleagues. Keeping surfaces clear on a regular basis has made a huge difference in the function of his work space. 

Keeping surfaces clear for the work that needs to be done there, whether it is peeling carrots for dinner or taking notes and brainstorming the next big project at work, is critical.

Before you start, grab 4 boxes or bins and label them…Trash, Donate, Recycle, Relocate

I find it helpful to begin at one end of a counter and then work clockwise through the room. That way I don’t jump around and miss something. 

Here are a few questions to ask as you touch each item.

            1. Is this item useful, relevant or important to me?

            2. Do I use it in this room?

Sounds obvious, but things have a way of migrating into other parts of our homes, offices, and lives. If it needs to stay in the room and has a designated place, put it away. If not, then put it in the Relocate box. If the answer is "NO" and it is no longer relevant or useful in your current life and does not have a purpose in the near future, it either goes into the trash, the recycle bin, or the donation bin. You decide.

Clearing your open spaces is a practical first step. You will be greeted by clear, calm spaces every time you enter the room which may be just the encouragement you need to look behind the closed doors.

Organizing Solutions


But that is a next step. And, we will get there, one thing at a time.

           


Four agreements for less stress and more joy...happier holidays may require a little shift in thinking.

Whether you celebrate Christmas, as my family does, or any of the beautiful cultural traditions that we find in December, the Winter Solstice is a time of year that can increase stress if we allow the goal of perfection to guide us.

You know what I am talking about…the perfect gift, the perfect outfit, the perfect party, the perfect meal, the perfect guest list…you get the idea.

What if you were to strive for your own version of excellence and to let good enough be good enough? Could this shift in thinking shift your experience of the holiday season? I say, “Yes!”

Home Organizing Solutions

About a year ago, I read a book called “The Four Agreements,” by Don Miguel Ruiz. In his book he describes four basic principals for approaching your life. His words are simple, yet profoundly important and applicable to daily life. I find them inspiring and since it is the season for sharing, I will share them with you now.

#4. DO YOUR BEST

Yes, I am beginning with the fourth because it is my favorite. It allows us to be human, does not expect perfection, and implies that forgiveness is near at hand. If we operate from a place of always doing our best, we are free to focus our energy from our strengths and, I hope, to feel less judgment with the results.

With guests due to arrive in two days, I have a festively decorated home, my gift shopping is finished, and gifts are wrapped. But I have NOT shopped for the food yet, and have one bathroom out of order. Not ideal with a house full of people, but a small problem in the scheme of life.

I can stress about it, or I can let it go. This year I will grocery shop with the crowd but make the best of it. The food will be fresh, and it will be good enough. And, as they say, “Many hands make small work.”

Doing your best means letting people know what is helpful, and then actually letting them help. Let them do their best and you will multiply the joy in the day.

#3. DON’T MAKE ASSUMPTIONS

If there was ever a time to ask questions, it is now. This could be as simple as asking guests about food allergies, or your daughter what she wants most for her holiday feast.

Since everything revolves around food with my family, it is imperative that I find out what people expect to see on the table. Lord help me if Elizabethan Carrots or brussel sprouts are not on the menu this year. I assumed that people would prefer traditional, pumpkin pie for dessert, but it is a unanimous “no.”

So this year, dessert will be an ooey gooey chocolatey goodness from a recipe to be discovered and executed by my daughter. And, it will be more than good enough.

#2. DON’T TAKE THINGS PERSONALLY

This has got to be one of my biggest challenges. I am a fixer. So when things are not going well, I blame myself and set out to fix them. Folks, I am here to tell you that we cannot solve all the world’s problems in one day. And many things are not ours for the solving. And that includes the many moods of the people surrounding you.

Although this season is supposed to be “The Most Wonderful Time of The Year,” many people find their losses less bearable and sadness harder to tolerate. And, you may be on the receiving end of someone’s bad mood or unkind words. Don’t take it personally, and yes, I am telling myself this as well.

By not taking it personally, you are free to hold on to your own happiness and to share your joyful spirit with others, which might just lighten their load a little.

And just in case, you need a little visual inspiration, I highly recommend watching, “Elf.” This has become a family favorite for good reason. “Smiling is our favorite!”

#1. BE IMPECCABLE WITH YOUR WORD

This is where things become complicated. To be impeccable with your word requires that you be honest AND kind, honest, but NOT disparaging, honest, but NOT hurtful. A tall order, but sets clear boundaries for choosing new language.

To be impeccable with your word also means to keep your promises. When you say no to one more thing, you are saying yes to what is most important to you. You honor your choices and commitments, and the people involved know where you stand. We cannot be everywhere at once nor can we do everything asked of us. So we must dig deep and become honest with ourselves about what is most important.

When we do this, the answers become clearer, we are grateful for good enough and cherish the present moments just as they are. After all, we are here to do and give our best. 

My very best wishes for happiness as you celebrate the holidays with your families and friends. Will see you in the new year!

Love,

Jen

Letting go of clutter...what you might NOT be expecting

We all expect our homes and offices to look cleaner as we purge and declutter the excesses of our lives. The visual impact of order is calming for many people. These people embrace the process of decluttering and clearing the cobwebs.  

But, it can be worrisome and anxiety producing for those of us who are comforted and accustomed to being surrounded by our many belongings, and who have strong attachments to stuff. There is no shame in preferring that someone hold your hand and guide you through the process of letting go. Do what works for you.

Recent work with a client had us working our way through some of the MANY boxes in her garage. After about an hour, she suddenly, and to my surprise and pleasure, became quite animated. She threw her arms wide, began dancing, and shouting, "THIS is SO liberating; it's SO cleansing!"

She had made the decision to let go of some of the stuff that no longer serves a purpose in her life and was experiencing the joy of making space for something else. Together we overcame the fears blocking her path and were able to accomplish a lot in a short time. 

Letting go opens up space mentally and physically for what IS relevant. The value of the stuff of our lives, ebbs and flows. But letting go is not always as easy as it sounds. 

I recently made the painful decision to remove a tree in my backyard. It was too big for the space, had an unstable root system, and sat too close to our house as well as the neighbor's.  With predictions of a wet winter looming this year, taking it out safely without damage to our property made perfect sense. Simple, right?! No longer needed; remove it. Period. 

But, I have looked out my windows at that tree every morning for 13 years. I watched it grow, as my kids grew. Funny how stuff, and trees, can be a metaphor for life. As I begin a new chapter in my life, I am making space for something new and for changes that extend way beyond my garden.

IMG_5481.jpg

What I didn't expect was how good that open space would feel to me. I feel a new serenity and sense of anticipation.  My home feels bigger somehow, and is lighter, literally. And, the empty space where once there lived a tree is now a cozier spot for my hammock. As much as I love birds, I do not miss having 100+ birds perched in the tree over my head as I sip tea and read a book. Need I say more?!

As I prepare to save and publish this piece, it has begun to rain. I can no longer see the mountains in the distance, just the mist and my back yard, full of promise for planting roses, no doubt, and, for daydreaming from my newly discovered quiet place.

Let go of what you no longer need. You may be surprised at what you find.

Travel planning off the beaten path...The Who, what, where, when, and why of it all.

I have traveled alone and with friends, with my husband, and later, my ex-husband & kids (yes, really!), pregnant, and solo with my children at every stage from infancy to adulthood.  What I know for certain is that each trip brought happy moments, adventures, and, yes, challenges to finding joy. Such memories!

Being the resourceful (stubborn) woman that I am, although I find anticipatory planning is critical to my comfort, I also find it equally important to be adaptable and find ways to enjoy and cherish my travels along the way. On those rare trips where the challenges overwhelmed me, I learned valuable insight into what I truly need to be happy when I travel. I would encourage you to search your heart for the same discoveries. It will make your travels all the richer for it.

No matter who I travel with, where I go, or what hiccups we meet along the way, I have noticed a few common threads that have made it easiest to relax, immerse myself in the present moment, and to return home refreshed. 

1. Know why you are traveling.

Sounds simple enough. But honestly, you are setting yourself up for anxiety and conflict if you cannot answer this simple question: "Why am I going?" Following someone else's list of "must sees" can be a recipe for disaster. If you are fan of art, then entering 30 art museums may be your version of paradise.

If you become bored after the fifth Monet then daily visits to art museums does not belong on your list. If seeing sculpture but no paintings is what makes your heart sing, then skip the sections of the museum that do not interest you. There is no one right way, just your way! It is YOUR vacation. So honor your own agenda.

Before leaving for my recent travels to Ireland, someone asked me "Why Ireland?" My initial, silent response, was "Are you kidding??" But it is a fair question. We are all drawn to different places and experiences.

Ireland is one of the most beautiful and inviting places that I have visited.  The Irish exude a fierce pride in their hard fought independence and anguish over memories of centuries old losses. Yet the Irish are some of the most genuine, and generous people I have ever met.

Keem Beach, Achill Island, Ireland 

Keem Beach, Achill Island, Ireland 

I was traveling with my son, cameras in hand. We agreed that our focus would be seeking local lore, megalithic tombs,  ancient fortresses, and majestic coastal views. Ireland was the perfect place to venture with these purposes in our hearts. We have family history and living relatives there, connections that called us to explore for ourselves. It is liberating to let go of someone else's to-do list and to focus upon what makes your own heart sing! 

2.Keep it simple, Take Time to linger- WHAT YOU DO MATTERS

Again this seems obvious, but an overly ambitious itinerary doesn't leave time to savor unexpected discoveries. I had booked two nights on a working farm near Kilkenny, called Lawcus Farms. It had wonderful reviews on Trip Advisor; but they honestly didn't come close to describing the magical essence of the place. I felt an immediate ease and sense of calm upon entering this beautiful place and as if I was leaving family after only two days with Ann-Marie and Mark. We came home with much more than beautiful photographs, in part because we did not hold tightly to a prescribed itinerary. We allowed time to linger.

Lawcus Farm, Stoneford, near Kilkenny. There is a mixture of humor, history, and sentiment in this home. I was deeply moved by a personal photograph in their kitchen with this inscription, "if it is meant to be, it will not pass you..." Lovely.

Lawcus Farm, Stoneford, near Kilkenny. There is a mixture of humor, history, and sentiment in this home. I was deeply moved by a personal photograph in their kitchen with this inscription, "if it is meant to be, it will not pass you..." Lovely.

3.Travel off season WHEN you have a choice.

If you have had the luxury of traveling off season when places are less crowded, then you know how wonderful travel can really be. It is easier to find lodging, the lines are shorter, and wait times for entering points of interest are almost nil.

Knowing that you can change your plan without consequence is attractive to many people. Booking lodgings as you go can be freeing, and safely done off season. That said,  I have found that knowing where I am staying each night allows me to relax and enjoy the daily excursions. Even traveling off season, having my lodging arrangements in place gives me a framework for my travels and the peace of mind to become immersed in the moments. 

After a long day of explorations and driving on some of the tiniest roads known to man, (okay I haven't been on every road known to man, so this COULD be an exaggeration), we arrived in Strandhill, Sligo. There are no street lights and very few signs to guide you. But I had booked a bed and breakfast inn ahead of time. All I had to do was find the white house with the dormer windows, IN THE DARK, on a country road barely wide enough for two cars. Yup! 

Needless to say, I phoned the inn and spoke with the couple who run it. I was asked what landmarks I could see...really!! It was pitch black but I finally passed a pub, clearly marked, and shortly after, the church where he asked me to stop and wait. Five minutes later he drove up, flashed his lights and escorted us to our destination..white house, dormer windows, warm welcome! 

Megalithic tomb, Carrowmore, Strandhill, Sligo, Ireland                       

Megalithic tomb, Carrowmore, Strandhill, Sligo, Ireland                       

 

4.Know WHERE TO STAY-When in doubt, find a Bed and  Breakfast Inn

I highly recommend Bed and Breakfast Inns when traveling, especially when journeying to a foreign country. The proprietors know the local lore and sites and will recommend good restaurants and alternate routes that take you past incredible sites that are not always found in your typical guidebooks. You are guaranteed a warm, hearty breakfast, interesting conversation, and a warm welcome upon your return from your day's adventures.

One of the locals at Park South Bed and Breakfast Inn, Mallow, Cork

One of the locals at Park South Bed and Breakfast Inn, Mallow, Cork

Choosing places where my own family have stayed in the past made sense as I was making reservations. Having a trusted advisor recommend a place so far from home was reassuring. And, we were greeted like old friends. Charming!

5.know who you are with and your own limitations

No matter how much you enjoy the person with whom you are traveling, travel requires patience, consideration, give and take, and a good sense of humor. Having open communication and a willingness to compromise are critical. Discuss ahead of time with your travel mates their most important agenda items. 

Know each person's requirements for privacy, and factor those things into your itinerary as well. It is up to you do your own homework regarding dietary restrictions and medications before you leave for your destination so that it doesn't weigh heavily upon everyone else.

At the same time, know that unforeseen illnesses and injuries are a part of daily life no matter where you are. Be prepared to slow down if need be and accept this change as an opportunity to linger or read that book that is at the bottom of your suitcase.

Finally, remember that you are a guest whenever you travel. Be grateful for the opportunity to immerse yourself in another culture and know that please and thank you are welcome sounds in any language! 

Sláinte! 

 

 

 

 

    

Decluttering...let clearing the clutter open up space for healthier living

Wouldn't it be great if decluttering could lead to better emotional and physical health? If you thought that clearing your homes and offices of the things that no longer need you and that you no longer need could be a catalyst for healthy changes that go beyond a productive workspace, a tidy little kitchen, or a streamline closet, would you be intrigued? 

Clearing clutter and making changes that streamline homes and offices have had benefits that extend far beyond what I imagined when I first embraced the idea to share my experience and knowledge with others. No, it has not cured cancer or osteoporosis or the myriad of mental and physical health challenges that people struggle with daily.

But it DOES lead the way to  calmer, more grateful, authentic living, by making it easier to access what we truly need in our environments. By simplifying our surroundings and living with less, we have more time to savor what is most important to us. And that feels great amidst the struggles of what ails us.

Here are three places to begin this process:

YOUR KITCHEN 

If the kitchen is the heart of the home, then it should inspire and invite us to prepare healthy food that nourishes and loves us. If you are tripping over 40 things to get to something way in the back of a cupboard, how likely are you to reach for this item on a regular basis?

Time is precious, so keep what is truly important and vital within easy reach. This means purging the old, perishable (way, way, way past its best by dates) foods, the overflow of free stuff that you never use, and the broken pieces that clog your cabinets.  This also means getting rid of the "turned out I didn't use it, want it, or need it" things. For me it was a pasta maker. I used it once or twice, and then it took up valuable real estate. It was a wedding gift from a dear friend; but, it had already served its purpose. Was a fun toy in the early years of marriage, but I learned that I prefer easy, packaged pasta...or eating out.

For you, it might be your ice cream maker, your counter top mixer, or a four-slice toaster. I LOVE my mixer and use it often enough that it has a special place on my counter. My family eats toast daily, so that is an EASY decision. But, hey, some people don't eat toast. So a toaster could be a dust collector. My ice cream maker is in a cupboard for once in awhile. I cannot remember the last time I made homemade ice cream, but it's 95 degrees today, so it might be a good day to bring it out. There is nothing quite like homemade, frozen yogurt or ice cream.

Bottom line, if you have tools of the trade that you don't need, love or use, share them, donate them, let them go.  You may find that cooking and eating at home is more enjoyable with less clutter; and let's face it, you have a lot more control over what you feed your body when you eat from your own kitchen. As you clear the clutter, you will have more room for mindful, healthy choices that suit your current lifestyle and needs.

Your Closet

Why would decluttering your closet make a difference to your health? Think back to the last time you traveled and didn't overpack...or maybe, you came pretty close because you had choices and everything that you needed with a little overflow for unexpected weather and activities, and it worked.

Having a closet that is streamlined and works for your current life can feel so liberating, and reminiscent of vacation that you want that feeling all of the time. Seriously! Who doesn't love that feeling of having just what you need and then getting on with your day? Do you see where I'm going with this? 

It is a great time of year to review what hangs in your closet, purge what is worn out, stained, no longer fits, or that you no longer feel good in. Just get rid of it. I promise, you won't miss it. 

Some of us see a sea of black, white, and grey. And that's okay. For some of us, keeping it simple makes choosing an outfit painless. I love knowing that everything in my closet looks good together and that I have the accessories that I need. A mostly neutral wardrobe allows me to pop my favorite colors or those that the fashion color of the season dictates. Just be sure you are not adding clutter. Only add what makes your heart sing!

If you tend to be a little more adventurous with color, and shapes when you travel, perhaps, your true self is calling out to you. Listen to her. Maybe this is the year to get rid of the excess and styles that you no longer need, use, or love (sound familiar?) and, to add more color. 

I have a friend, you know who you are, who rocks color everyday. It matches her personality; she is a joy to be around. And her style suits her. And that is the point...be true to yourself, keep it simple, whatever your style. Then getting dressed every day will no longer be a chore. You won't be digging through the over abundance, to find an outfit. You will get dressed for who you want to be today and can get on with living authentically and with less stress. And, isn't that the point of all this.

 

Your Quiet Place

Finally, as you clear the clutter, look for one space in your home or office where you can carve out a quiet place. As you rid yourself of what no longer serves you, you may find the perfect space opens up. It could be a chair by a window that has soft light in the afternoon, or a table overlooking a hummingbird feeder.

Whether you dedicate a whole room, space in your backyard, or a little corner of one room, isn't as important as the act of allowing yourself this space at all. It is there to remind you to pause and stress less.

My quiet place is the sofa in my front room with a table next to it holding books, a candle, and a few throw pillows . It is away from the television, has a view of a pretty tree, and lots of natural light. I love being in this space and feel the tension of the day melt away any time I pause there.

Whatever shape it takes becomes a haven to center yourself, to feel peaceful and calm. Healthier. Keep it simple and in your style, so that you feel inclined to linger.

And, promise yourself that it will not become a place to deposit detritus. Find a way to create a space in your office as well, even if only a corner of the room, as a visual reminder to center and calm yourself during the stresses of your day, and to reassure you that more of this waits for you at home. 

Creating uncluttered spaces that work well for you open you up for a greater sense of health well-being, and this is a good thing.

 

As always, I thank you for stopping by my website and for reading my blog. I hope that you find inspiration or a single idea that makes a difference to your health by leading you toward less stress and more joy.