Decluttering Our Lives

Perhaps you have heard of Marie Kondo and her television show and book called “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.”  The gist of her show is to go into people’s homes and teach them the joy associated with decluttering.   This intrigues me because, having moved recently, I am so aware of the amount of “stuff” that accumulates over the years.  Stuff becomes a burden when drawers are so full it is impossible to find the one thing I really need.

Kondo teaches her clients to simplify and improve the quality of their lives by letting go of any items that do not bring joy into their lives.  For example, she has clients pile all their clothes on a bed, go through items one by one, asking if this item sparks joy.  If not, the item is discarded.  The result is a closet with clothes that are easy to find and desirable to wear. The overall effect of using this method throughout the house and garage is a sense of a new beginning that is orderly and simple.

Her method reminds me of all transitions.  Major changes start with letting go before one can move into a new beginning.  This is certainly true of the retirement transition but applies to others as well—emptying the nest, having a health decline, moving into assisted living, etc.  There is a need to let go of what served us well in the past but no longer fits our needs or desires.

Letting go is not easy.  Often letting go of material things is symbolic of letting go of a part of our lives that we once enjoyed.  A few years ago, I decided it was time to let go of my golf clubs that had been taking up space in the garage.  Because of an arthritic shoulder, I had not golfed in four years.  Still it was hard to admit to myself that my golfing days were over.  Instead of pretending I would take up the sport again, I made space for my new bike—an activity I can handle and enjoy.

I look at this as a metaphor for all the transitions in the aging process.  We may realize it is time to let go of life as we have known it.  Usually there is a period of denial until we face reality.  “This big house and yard are really getting to be too much for me.”  However we are slow to let it go because of the joy and memories attached to our history in this house.  When the burden becomes too heavy, we decide to let go.  Not easy!  We know what we have had but do not see clearly what new opportunities the future may hold for us.

Again, I am speaking from experience having recently downsized from a large corner lot and house to a smaller townhouse in a neighborhood association.  It was a great house in a nice neighborhood.  The transition—buying one home, selling the other—was a painful process and a lot of work.  However now each day that it snows, I am grateful that I don’t have to shovel.  I won’t have to worry about yardwork in the spring and life has become simpler.  The change has opened up more time to read, write, and pursue my hobbies.

The process of letting go according to Kondo should be governed by that which brings us joy.  Many people older than I are golfing because they enjoy it.  Others are enjoying their gardens and yardwork.  On the other hand, some may be hanging on to properties, responsibilities, or activities that have lost their allure.  When making life decisions, the key question is “Does this (blank) still bring my joy or is it a burden that brings me stress?”  Another great question is “If I were not spending my time and money on (blank), what might I spend them on?”

Whenever we make a decision to let go, it is beneficial to follow another one of Kondo’s counsels.  She advises that we express our gratitude and bless that which has served us well, whether it be a set of old golf clubs or a house we have enjoyed.  We bless the past and look forward to what life has in store for us.

Living with the Sorrow

I am one of many trying to figure out how to live in a world that is so full of anger, sorrow and negativity.  It is hard to read the newspaper or watch the news without feeling some despair.  This is accompanied by feelings of hopelessness.  What can I do to make a difference?  I don’t want to adopt the hateful speech and manners of those whose ideas I oppose.  That just adds fuel to the fire.

I did find a poem that lifted my soul and reminded me that nothing we do is inconsequential.  We either increase the love and kindness within our world, or we diminish it.

 

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,

you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.

You must wake up with sorrow.

You must speak to it till your voice

catches the thread of all sorrows

and you see the size of the cloth.

 

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,

only kindness that ties your shoes

and sends you out into the day to mail letters and purchase bread,

only kindness that raises its head

from the crowd of the world to say

it is I you have been looking for,

and then goes with you everywhere

like a shadow or a friend.

–Naomi Shihab Nye

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our Search for Meaning

Seventy years ago, Victor Frankl wrote a book titled Man’s Search for Meaning.  It has been a popular book ever since.  There appears to be an ongoing hunger to find the deeper meaning on life.  One might argue that the need to find meaning is more acute now than when the book was written.

Distracted living abounds.  We are constantly bombarded cell phone, TV, radio, online messages and a constant barrage of advertising from every angle.  Silence is rare.  The connection to nature is limited for many.  Deep conversations are uncommon.

Eventually, most people who live on the surface notice a sense of emptiness. They ask the question, “Is this all there is?”  This is the critical meaning question.  It is challenging because it cannot be answered with an app.  It cannot be delivered express from Amazon Prime.  There are no quick fixes for this question.

The path to find meaning is unfamiliar because it requires quiet reflection, focus, and deep thinking.  It is an inward journey that is like a foreign land to those who live on distractions and acquisitions of the latest and the best.

Those of us in the Third Chapter who have slowed down enough to pursue the inward journey have an important contribution to make.  We can model another way of living that demonstrates values that are not dependent on things and endless activities.  We are in a position to share the wisdom that comes from reflecting on our lives.  Things that at one time seemed so important fade.  Rather our focus is on such values as love, faithfulness, sacrifice, and service.  Empathy and compassion take the place of judgmental thinking.

Studies have shown that, in general, older people are happier and more satisfied with their lives than young people.  My theory is that is because we are more likely to have shifted inward to seek and find the meaning of life.  It is a great place to be!

Coming Events

I will have the privilege to present a program call Journey into Conscious Aging twice during the month of April in Omaha.  When I have done this before  people have given me positive feedback.  It is a day of reflection to look at the “Third Chapter” with new eyes.  Please consider attending or help me spread the word.  If you already attended this day, how about some feedback in the comment section?  Click on links below to see the flyers for the two dates.

Journey into Conscious Aging flyer & registration form

 

Journey into Conscious Aging flyer & registration form (1) (1)

Savoring That Which Nourishes

At the beginning of a new year, there are many who decide to pay more attention to what they are eating, hoping to drop the pounds added over the holidays.  It is so easy to mindlessly eat whatever catches the eye, whether we are hungry or not.  Instead of savoring food we just consume more and more because of boredom, depression and inattention.  At least that is my experience.

Parallel to this experience, is the consumption of junk food for the mind, heart, and spirit.  We are bombarded by advertising, mindless television programs, gossipy magazines, and all manner of frivolous conversation.  The intake of all of these does nothing to enlarge our hearts or educate our minds.   These are giant time wasters that lead us away from doing anything substantive with our days.  This can be especially problematic when we no long have full time work or many obligations that fill our time.

I want to be clear that I am not saying the entertainment is a waste.  Good art, whether it be music, drama, or good comedy, enlarges our thinking and reaches us on a heart level.  Sporting events can also energize and amuse us, often enhancing a sense of community.  Games and puzzles keep our minds sharp.

By mindfully choosing to spend our time on such activities that we can savor and enjoy, we grow as persons.   My mind is stretched by choosing to focus on worthwhile reading, fiction or non-fiction. Savoring poetry warms my heart and animates my imagination.  Spending time in silence gives my spirit a chance to thrive.  Listening to good music lifts my spirits.

As I prepare for Lent, my plan is to decrease my intake of junk food for my body and my mind.  Fewer carbs and more vegetables.  Less Facebook and more solid reading.  Less TV and more meaningful conversations.  By choosing that which nurtures my whole person, I find I am better able to handle the challenges life inevitably sends.

My Own Liminal Time

In any transition, we recognize there is always a liminal time–that is the threshold between what was and what will be in the future.  My life experience of that past month is the physical limitation of a broken wrist.  It is healing well and will be fine.  Still I sense that I am having an experience that pushes me into another life phase–one in which I cannot rely on my body to be fully functional without pain.  It seems that in recent years, if it is not one thing, it is another.

I confess I do not like it!  My mind and spirit are vital and I have much that I want to do.  I do grieve the loss of physical strength, flexibility and energy, while being pain free.  Meanwhile I am communicating a message to others that this can be the best time life–if we so choose.  The Third Chapter is meant to be the climax–the fulfillment of a life well-lived.  Now when the daunting challenge is mine, I need to walk the talk.

So here goes some self talk:  “Where do I focus my attention?  On that which I can do or that which I cannot?  Maybe my golf days are over (have not been out in four years) but I can still bike (after my wrist heals.)  Maybe yardwork is too much now.  I will hire help and enjoy other activities instead.  Maybe pulling a camper is too daunting now but there are rental cabins and hotels.  There are other ways to enjoy travel and the outdoors.”

Does this conversation with self echo your own?  It usually boils down to focusing on our abundance instead of our scarcity.  It is something for us to remember going into the Thanksgiving season.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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