Time Is My Constraint

Clock showing the timeThe year I started high school, the ever-amazing a cappella group Take 6 released the album So Much 2 Say. While it’s been years since I listened to the album (although I’m enjoying listening to it once again on YouTube as I write this), a few of the lines of the 30 second intro track often pop into my head:

So much 2 say
So little

Time is the indefinitely limitable durational
Within eventuality distinguished from infinity
We hath not much time and yet we have

So much 2 say

I feel like this almost every day.

So much to say. So little time.

In the shower, on the treadmill, during meetings, in the woods, as I’m trying to sleep… Ideas and words and whole paragraphs form in my head. Begging to be written down, but often forgotten because there is no time. No time to get to a computer or a journal and spend 20-30 minutes writing it all down.

And even less time to choose words carefully, to craft delightful sentences that tell the reader, “I care enough about you to take the time to write well.”

This is the kind of writing I want to do: Writing using rich vocabulary and sprinkled with clever similes. Writing that is like a song for the soul. Writing so delicious readers can’t stop tasting it.

This kind of writing requires time. Lots of it. A colleague asked me yesterday how I find time to write. “I write on Saturdays,” I told her. “And in the wee hours of the morning.” It’s not easy.

I feel time greedy. I want more of it. I want undisturbed long chunks of time when I’m not exhausted from a full day of work in a windowless office in front of a giant screen.

I want to reflect on the book I just finished. I want to share my intentions and ask about yours. I want to explore how we live in this world—the decisions we make and why.

I want to inspire readers to take action for personal wellness, social justice, and a sustainable future.

So much to say. So little time.

In order to find time, I made a “Not to Do” list the other day. It was difficult to come up with this list, because I’ve already eliminated so much non-essential from my life. However, I can do less. I can say no—let people down. Not be as helpful. But is that what I want? I don’t know.

For now, I’ll set goals to gain more flexibility and freedom. And write when I can. Because I have…

So much 2 say.

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Moving Beyond Decluttering

Road - moving beyond declutteringI love decluttering. I love choosing a messy drawer, emptying out the contents, wiping it clean, and putting back only the things I want to keep. The rest goes in the trash, in the recycling, or in my Goodwill box. It’s an activity I gladly pursue, even on my Day of Rest, because it doesn’t feel like work.

But why do we need to declutter in the first place?

That’s the question I will wrestle with in this post.

The Rise of Decluttering

Decluttering has become a big thing the last few years. Clearly, we’ve all done some amount of “cleaning stuff out” in our lives. When we were young, we outgrew clothes and toys and passed them on to younger siblings or cousins or friends (our our parents did). When we moved away from home, we probably cleaned out some of our childhood, because it wouldn’t fit in the car taking us to college or our first apartment. It was part of the normal cycle of life.

However, when I hear the word “decluttering,” I think of an activity that is needed because we accumulated too much stuff, which is a little different than cleaning out clothes you outgrew (you really needed it when you bought it). And I think that’s why decluttering is all the rage now. As a society, we’ve gotten to a point where we have so much excess stuff that decluttering is a requirement to maintain balance or—in some cases—to fit more stuff.

Ongoing Decluttering

I first heard the term “decluttering” on Zen Habits. It resonated with me immediately. I had decluttered before I even knew there was a word for it every time we moved from one place to another. For example, when we moved from Texas to Tennessee in 2002, we sold most of our baby gear and at least fifty stuffed animals (and gift bags and other things not worth moving) at a yard sale.

(Once I got so carried away that I threw away my husband’s cell phone charger. Oops.)

But I never stopped to think about why I frequently had to clean things out. It was just another thing that needed to happen. It was normal. And since I actually enjoyed the process, I didn’t question it.

Goal: End the Need to Declutter

However, as fun as decluttering is, it’s really a symptom of a big problem. A problem of buying things we don’t need. A problem of buying cheap products with obsolescence engineered right into them. A problem of buying fashion that is not in fashion the following year.

A problem of consumerism—of excessive consumption.

While it’s good to do a one-time, huge decluttering event to get down to the essentials (can happen over the course of days and weeks and months, if need be), our ultimate goal should be to adopt a buying habit that eliminates our need to declutter.

This is difficult to do in our consumer-focused society. In fact, you could even be called unpatriotic if you stop shopping and “stimulating the economy.” It takes guts. However, speaking from experience, it’s amazing when you do it. The habit of buying only what you need (or really, really love) simplifies life immensely and saves a lot of time (shopping, browsing, deciding, unpacking, exchanging, mending, fixing, dusting).

My Last Decluttering Event

I realized I hadn’t been adhering to my buy-only-what-you-need philosophy when, the day after Christmas, I instinctively started looking for things to clean out. I found I had a decent amount of decluttering to do! My friend Jackie spurred me on with her 28-day Clean Out and Get Rid of Something Each Day challenge. (Community decluttering is even more fun!)

I admit, it’s been a blast. I even sold my first item on eBay—a pair of golf shoes that had been sitting on my closet shelf since we moved into this house almost four years ago.

But this will be my last major decluttering event. A last hurrah of lingering consumerism. I’ve finally realized that a decluttering habit is simply a side effect of a want-based shopping habit.

This doesn’t mean that decluttering is a bad thing—absolutely not! However, it’s a means to an end—a way to create space in your life and eliminate distractions. Space to focus on being instead of buying.

I’m ready. I’m moving beyond decluttering. I feel freer already.

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Book Reflection: The Art of Non-Conformity

Right after Christmas, I always get into a total clean-out, organize, evaluate my life mode. I have a primal urge to clean out drawers, get rid of stuff we don’t use, and create schedules. As part of the 2014 version of this, I went through my Amazon wish lists* and did a major purge in all categories except one (Mental Health – 61 books – it was too much to tackle at the time). My process went something like this:

  • Do I still want to read it? No – delete; Yes – next step…
  • Do they have it at the library? No – keep in wish list; Yes – remove from wishlist and add to Evernote list of books to read with information about where I can get the book.

I was excited to learn that a handful of books were available to borrow in Kindle format. I read more books on the Kindle, because it’s what I use when I’m on the treadmill, so I’m always looking for ways to keep my Kindle stocked.

The Art of Non-Conformity coverAll that is to say, that I was thrilled to learn that Chris Guillebeau’s first book, The Art of Non-Conformity, was available to borrow for my Kindle. Chris belongs to a group of talented bloggers who have figured out how to make a living on their writing. But beyond that, he’s done some other remarkable things, such as visit every country in the world (wow!).

This book is really about waking up, figuring out what you want to do with your life, and making it happen. Sounds simple, right? Actually, it’s not that hard if you start out this way. That’s why I encourage young people to embrace simple living right away. “You’ll have so many more choices,” I tell them. Once you’re stuck with a mortgage, credit card debt, and expensive cars, non-conforming is more difficult, but by no means impossible.

Chris’ book inspired me to aim higher and get serious about my goals. I would love to write for a living, but keep thinking that I’ll have to wait until we pay off the mortgage in thirteen years. Maybe not. My resolve after reading this book is to continue to pare down the non-essential so that I can focus on great work, or “legacy work.” Chris calls this the “to-stop-doing list,” and I’ve been making these at least yearly for the past several years. However, this time, I need to be more brutal and not worry as much about what people think or who I’ll offend.

To find your quest, Chris suggests answering two questions:

  • What do you really want to get out of life?
  • What can you offer the world that no one else can?

Powerful questions. I’d like to know your answers!

As a writer, I was also inspired by Chris’ 1,000 words/day standard for measuring his “most important work.” As I’ve been in the trenches of editing Her Lost Year, I’ve been slacking off on writing. 1,000 words/day might be a bit ambitious for me, but 500 should be doable (this post is already 500+ words).

Finally, throughout the book is woven a thread of compassion and social justice, which I love. Life is not worth living unless we are contributing to making the world a better place. Chris has figured this out and now he spends his time helping others figure out their own paths of adventure, freedom, and service. I admire that.

I’ll leave you with this great quote from the book:

“Unreasonable,” “unrealistic,” and “impractical” are all words used to marginalize a person and idea that fails to conform with conventionally expected standards. My response is that the world needs more people who fail to conform and refuse to settle.

*Due to my next, super-secret book project, I will be weaning myself off of Amazon, so the clean-out was also in preparation for that.

P.S. Check out my Kickstarter updates for details on the progress of Her Lost Year.

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My Three Words: Less Is More

New Year 2015A few weeks ago, I received an email from Chris Brogan with the subject line “Get Ready for The Three Words Experience.” I quickly scanned the content (December was soooo busy!) and latched on to a paragraph that read:

At the beginning of every year since 2006, I’ve been challenging people to come up with their Three Words, a method for building your year’s intentions and focus around three words that mean something to you.

Challenging. Intentions. Focus. I like those words. I decided I wanted to participate in the 2015 Three Words Experience. So I swiped left on my phone to be reminded of this email closer to the new year.

At the time, I didn’t know what my three words would be, and I quickly forgot about it as holiday activities consumed my life—in a good way. After Christmas, I started my annual ritual of reflecting on the past year and planning for the year ahead. I cleaned out my file cabinets. I wrote down recommitments. And I kept coming back to three words for how I wanted to experience 2015:

Less is more.

It’s such a cliché, but it’s the truth. In so many ways.

I want less meaningless obligations, so I can have more time for spontaneous, meaningful action. I want to spend less money to have more freedom. I want to work less and play more.

Less is more also ties in to many of my recommitments for 2015:

  • Spending less time on email & social media and more time on my most important things.
  • Buying less (only what I need), which ties into…
  • Wasting less for a more healthy planet.
  • Having less places to be to provide room for natural movement (e.g. biking to work).
  • Doing less and being more through mindfulness practices, both formal and informal.

Even though I have a new, brilliant idea every few days, I’m going to apply the less is more principle to projects in 2015. I’ve narrowed it down to four (maybe five, still deciding…):

  1. Book launch of Her Lost Year.
  2. Parenting book club focused on raising emotionally healthy children.
  3. My daughter’s high school graduation.
  4. Moving my daughter to college.
  5. To be announced.

Finally, I want to arrange my life around these non-negotiables, not the other way around:

  • Contemplative practice
  • Moving in nature
  • Enough sleep
  • Eating real food
  • Writing
  • Reading
  • Making music

In The Art of Non-Conformity, which I’m currently reading for free on my Kindle, Chris Guillebeau reminds us that life is short. Here’s the truth: I’m about to turn forty-one. I’m pretty much done with doing more just to please others or to make people like me. I’m ready to be even more intentional and focus on the things that matter to me and my family.

I’m ready for a year of less is more! How about you? What are your intentions for 2015?

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And on Earth Peace

Peace to You!

Amidst the hustle and bustle of the season. Amidst shopping and baking and cleaning. Amidst stress, anxiety, and moments lost.


The message of this season is peace. Peace on earth. Peace around you. Peace in your heart.

I recently heard a speaker say something along the lines of:

If you lose money, that’s okay. If you lose health, that’s a bit worse. If you lose peace, you’ve lost a lot.

This holiday season, find peace. Peace of mind. Peace of heart. Peace of body.

I urge you to unplug, be present, cherish moments, love yourself, eat good food, go for walks, laugh out loud, and give yourself a break.

Peace to you,

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