Category: Decluttering & Simplicity

Redefining Christmas

Redefining Christmas

I’m sitting in my living room this evening feeling grateful for the little things. All day, I’ve been trying to be okay with Christmas being different now, and not really knowing what that even means or what Christmas will look like from now on. This is the first year of celebrating Christmas without my parents and without their house as the center of our family get-togethers. Last year doesn’t count because we were too busy getting ready to sell their house, which involved so much work that it still makes my head spin when I think about it. On top of all that, I was sick with a really bad cold, so my adult children spent Christmas with their dad.

This year is different.

Our circa 1840 house is really small and cannot even begin to accommodate a small family gathering that includes a toddler who spends every waking hour exploring. My daughter, who lives with little Ava in a small apartment an hour away, doesn’t have a car. So the solution we came up with is to have our family celebration at the home of my ex-husband and his girlfriend (who live close to my daughter) so we all can be together in a space that can host a holiday celebration that includes a very active toddler. 

For the most part, those in my small family circle aren’t buying gifts this year, and that’s okay. It’s not too different from any other year, and it’s not just about financial circumstances because values are also a factor. I’ve never been into the consumer aspect of Christmas and would always make most of the gifts for my children or give them art materials. Christmas wasn’t so much about the presents as it was about being together. My favorite Christmases were when I had the kids for Christmas Eve, and we’d have a dinner movie theater in the living room. I’d make our favorite holiday foods from a menu we created together, and we’d watch a few Christmas movies and (in the earlier years) track Santa’s whereabouts.

This year, I mostly want to give the gifts of food, art, and creativity materials, but I’m feeling like there’s still so much to do with only one more day until Christmas because the snow and ice we’ve had for the past two days put a damper on shopping for missing ingredients and supplies. But the down time has given me a chance to pause, reflect, and simplify my expectations for what I can accomplish in the next 24 hours. 

My mom was the one who made Christmas feel like a really festive occasion, a big deal. She loved buying presents, decorating their house and two Christmas trees (one real, one artificial). My mom was the spirit of Christmas in our family! For the most part, the store-bought gifts and larger ticket items (such as American Girl dolls) were under the tree at my parents’ house. 

But that’s not the case anymore, and my lack of consumerism really shows now because my mom isn’t around to cover for me! I feel some pressure (coming from nobody but me, of couse) to carry on my mom’s spirit of Christmases past. But without a home that can accommodate a family gathering, no space for a Christmas tree, and a very modest budget this year, it’s not realistic – and it’s also not me. A portion of my parents’ Christmas decorations are in boxes in my storage unit, but I don’t even have space to display them. 

I’m trying to be okay with this – with Christmas looking very different than it used to.

Earlier today, I spoke with my daughter to firm up holiday plans and told her I’m more interested in presence than presents but feel I should do more to make Christmas even a little more like it was when my parents were alive. She told me she was feeling guilty about not being able to buy presents for anyone except Ava. Seems we were both falling into the trap of thinking what we could do wasn’t enough.

We reminisced about Christmases when my parents were alive, and then she told me she can’t remember the presents she received at my parents’ house but remembers the feeling of everyone being together. We agreed that is what Christmas is really about. And we agreed to be gentle with ourselves and not put pressure on ourselves to do any more than we can do. 

In past years, I recall seeing lots of posts and pictures on social media of friends having big holiday celebrations complete with beautifully decorated trees and lots of presents. This year I’m on a 30-day Facebook fast and probably will avoid Instagram for a few days around Christmas, as well. It’s nice to see smiling faces and families celebrating together, but it’s still a sensitive time of year for me as I adjust to not having my parents or their house in the picture.

But let’s not allow our expectations for Christmas (or life in general) to be influenced by social media images. There is another reality.

Every day I work at the library, I’m in contact with many people who are homeless, and they keep my ideas about what Christmas “should” be like in check. They remind me of how much I have, even if it doesn’t look like much compared to the Facebook pictures and my assumptions of how other families live and celebrate. I realize that just showing up and being together is enough. It’s not the presents. It’s the presence that matters most. And we should be really grateful for everyone who can come together and celebrate with us. Thank God my daughter survived the car accident she was in over the summer and is alive and able to celebrate with us. 

There is a library patron who reminds me of my dad. He’s 88 years old, and we have developed a special bond. It makes me so happy to see his face light up when we interact.  Last week, he gave me advice about running cold water at the end of a shower, to close my pores. The only other person who ever told me that was my dad. I know little bits and pieces of this man’s story and am eager to learn more. Yesterday, he told me that a female relative (a cousin, I believe) invited him for Christmas, and he was happy she did because otherwise he would have spent Christmas alone. I had no idea! A week ago, I gave him one of my calendars along with a card referring to him as my favorite library patron, and now I’m thinking that might be one of the only gifts he will receive – which makes me so glad I gave it to him!

I’ve been thinking of him a lot today and am appreciating that I have family to be with on Christmas. Many people don’t. It can be difficult for divorced parents who alternate holidays to not celebrate with their children on the actual holiday. The years when we can spend the holidays together are special and not to be taken for granted. It doesn’t matter if you have a tree or any gifts under it. It’s the togetherness that counts. 

So please enjoy the company of your loved ones, and don’t put stress on yourself to have your holiday celebrations be anything more than what they are. Being together with whoever is able to show up is the greatest gift of the season. Anything beyond that is icing on the cake. 

May your holidays be filled with gratitude and love. And may you focus more on the love than any absences, and more on what you have than what you don’t. May you find a sweet perfection in what is.

© 2017 Susan Meyer. All rights reserved. To use any or all of this article, include this exactly: Susan Meyer (SusanTaraMeyer.com) is a photographer, writer, clutter coach, feng shui consultant, and mindfulness teacher whose work is infused with a deep interest in the nature of mind and appreciation of the natural world. She lives on the Hudson River in Upstate New York.

Four Bags and a Canon in D

Four Bags and a Canon in D

Yesterday would have been my mom’s 80th birthday. Well, I suppose it still was. She just wasn’t around to celebrate with us – in the physical sense, anyway. Instead of going to my parents’ house (which was sold earlier this year) for a birthday celebration in the evening as we would have in a parallel universe, I lit up her miniature Victorian Christmas tree in my living room, sorted through a bag of her clothes, and shared some memories with others who loved her. And not just family. Facebook is pretty great for things like that.

Something kind of magical happened on my drive home from work last night. My mom LOVED Pachelbel’s Canon in D. She always made sure it was played during family weddings. We played one of her CDs with many different versions of it in her room at the hospice house the night she was dying, and it created such a peaceful, sacred atmosphere. I can’t recall ever hearing it on the radio, but when I turned on my car radio during my evening drive home, it was playing – which brought me to happy tears because it was her birthday, and I felt her presence in that music.

Music, dreams, and license plates are the biggest ways I feel my parents’ presence, as if they are popping in to say hi. Over the weekend, I turned on my car radio, and “Frosty the Snowman” was playing as I sat at a traffic light in town. I don’t tend to linger on Christmas music stations, but my mom loved everything Christmas, including Frosty (which I remember her playing on piano), and before I had a chance to change the station, I noticed the license plate on the car in front of me read: FROSTY. I kid you not. 

Even though it’s a silly children’s song, it was a compelling synchronicity. It wasn’t until a couple days later that I thought about the lyrics: 

Frosty the snowman
Had to hurry on his way
But he waved goodbye saying, 
“Don’t you cry
I’ll be back again some day.”

And then I cried tears of yes because those simple words touched a nerve. When pancreatic cancer struck, my mom did have to hurry on her way, and I know she wouldn’t want us to grieve and cry because she was such a jolly, happy soul who spread joy and kindness everywhere she went. 

Was there a message in that song and something more to it than pure coincidence, or do I think too much? Prior to considering the lyrics, I just couldn’t stop thinking about the synchronicity – kept coming back to it – because, even though I originally attributed it to coincidence, it wouldn’t let me go. It seemed like there was something more to it. Something personal. It was a nagging feeling I had. At any rate, hearing a few seconds of the song made me think of my mom, and that brought a smile to my heart. And that’s good enough. But in my heart, I think there was more to it than that.

A couple weeks ago, I finally took four huge bags of my mom’s clothing out of my storage unit, and they have been taking up space in my studio (a.k.a. the enclosed porch) ever since. I’ve had to navigate around them countless times a day. Last night, I finally dragged one of the bags into the living room to prepare the clothes for donation.

They still carried the scent of my mom’s fresh, clean laundering. As I looked at and smelled each article of clothing I took out of the bag (while the Pachelbel Canon played in the background), I really felt her presence. I examined each article of clothing carefully and considered whether I would want to keep it. Virtually every item was from her favorite store, Talbots, and she had really nice clothes, but nothing I’d wear (aside from one Christmas sweater and two jackets I set aside). So I took my time buttoning every button, checking every pocket, and feeling my mom’s energy in each blazer and blouse I held in my hands. Some of the clothes brought to mind certain photographs or memories, which I paused to remember: her working in her garden, celebrating Christmas, going to work, dressing up for parties and social events, vacationing with my dad. I wanted to make sure every piece of her clothing was in good shape before delivering it to the next stop on its journey. Because my mom’s clothing meant a lot to her.

This afternoon, I delivered the clothes to a bustling consignment/thrift shop that donates all proceeds to the local hospital where my mom used to volunteer, playing guitar and singing for the patients she visited on her rounds. She’d always wanted to be a nurse and started nursing school when my children were very young but enjoyed the career she was in and wanted to spend more time with her grandchildren, so she didn’t finish the program. After she retired from her career with the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, she took up guitar, and it quickly became her passion. Her volunteer work at the hospital was a fusion of her lifelong desire to work in a health care setting and her lifelong passion for music. Donating her clothes to a place where they would benefit the hospital felt right and filled me with the joy of giving. 

My rented storage unit is filled with my parents’ belongings that I didn’t want to dispose of in a mad dash when we sold the house earlier this year. It allows me to take the time to go through their things mindfully and let them go in a way that feels right, one bag or box at a time. This is the week to give my mom’s wardrobe a proper sendoff. And that is how I spent her 80th birthday. By the end of the week, all her clothes will be gone and hopefully will make a lot of people happy – just like she did. 

© 2017 Susan Meyer. All rights reserved. To use any or all of this article, include this exactly: Susan Meyer (SusanTaraMeyer.com) is a photographer, writer, clutter coach, feng shui consultant, and mindfulness teacher whose work is infused with a deep interest in the nature of mind and appreciation of the natural world. She lives on the Hudson River in Upstate New York.

Little by Little

Little by Little

There have been a number of times this fall when I’ve begun to write something that felt sharable. However, throughout the month of October, I devoted my free time to traveling around Upstate New York and Vermont to photograph fall foliage and didn’t end up publishing anything. There were several experiences I wanted to write about, such as soaking up an amazing, positive vibe at Sandy’s Books and Bakery in a little town called Rochester, Vermont (en route to a waterfall I wanted to photograph) and having deep conversations with strangers that bordered on magical. Meeting my new tribe of delightful, kindred spirits with whom I will participate in group retreats on a regular basis over the next three years for the purpose of personal and spiritual growth. Personal revelations and challenges. Observing the first anniversary of my dad’s passing. Traveling twice to Watkins Glen to achieve my big photography goal of the year: photographing waterfalls on the gorge trail when the fall colors were at peak. The thrill of anticipating that just around the next bend, I would be standing in the scene I’d seen so many stunning pictures of through the years – and how exhilarating it felt to arrive at that spot. 

 

But the moment that really stands out for me and that I feel inspired to write about now is a much “smaller” moment, when I pulled in my driveway one breezy morning after walking the labyrinth down the road and noticed what appeared to be a butterfly circling gracefully around the backyard until it finally landed in the grass. As it soared through the air, I thought I could make out two wings but then noticed it wasn’t a butterfly after all. It was a leaf! The tallest tree in the backyard was releasing some leaves, and I found it really inspiring. I sat in my car for a while watching the tree let go of its leaves and noticed it did so in spurts, despite the constant breeze. It wasn’t a continuous process, and it didn’t release only a few leaves at a time. It seemed there were moments of letting go of a flurry of leaves all at once, followed by a resting period. A few minutes later, another flurry, and then more rest before it would be ready to let go of more. 

Even though it didn’t let go of its leaves at all once, it’s the season of letting go, and the cycle had been set in motion. The leaves the tree put out in the spring to capture and photosynthesize sunlight were no longer useful to the tree because it was time to simplify and prepare to rest for the winter. To turn inward. The tree was focused now on letting go and soon would release all its leaves, resulting in a colorful carpet of leaves covering the backyard. 

I love to observe nature and discover what it can tell me about myself and about human nature. On my way home from the labyrinth that morning, I drove by the storage facility in which I’m storing many of my parents’ belongings. I’d intended to have a yard sale during the warmer months this year, but it didn’t happen because I had other priorities. This is my year of deep decluttering in all areas of life, and after decluttering the house completely during the first quarter of the year and doing lots of digital decluttering, clutter clearing my car, etc., it felt like I took a break, much like the tree in my backyard. But when I drove by the storage unit that morning, I reminded myself that I needed to resume my decluttering pilgrimage, beginning with my mom’s clothes. Perhaps taking that one step would get me back into the swing of letting go of stuff that has outlived its usefulness in my life and was only taking up valuable space.

I’ve been renting the storage unit for nearly a year now, and it has given me the gift of time to deal with my parents’ belongings that weren’t sold, donated, or disposed of when we sold their house back in January. I can’t put a price tag on that gift of time, especially since my home has no usable storage space for sentimental items. I stayed away all summer while attending to other matters, and it was hard to return when my son went back to college. When I raised the big, metal door for the first time in a while and was greeted by a roomful of things that are no longer needed by loved ones, I experienced deep sadness. However, I sat with the sadness and was present to it, and eventually it shifted into a sense of comfort as I sat on my parents’ living room sofa and smelled familiar fragrances that I hope will never fade away. And that’s probably why I don’t mind paying for the storage unit. Grief has no timetable, and I have no usable storage space in my home, so it’s not something I’m going to fret about.

My mom hasn’t needed her clothes in 3 1/2 years, and we’ve all had a chance to go through them to take what we want. When she was alive, she’d regularly donate clothing she no longer wanted to a local community organization. Her clothes were a big part of her identity. She loved having nice clothes to wear to social events. My mom was a very kind and classy lady who liked to look her best and always was dressed with a big, warm smile. And that’s why the huge bags of her clothing are still in my storage unit. Getting rid of them feels like letting go of a significant part of my mom – even though I realize she is not her clothes, and she would not want them in bags in a storage unit. She would want them to be worn by women who would appreciate them. 

Last night, I had a dream in which I was with my mom and wanted to talk with her about something that has been problematic in settling the estate. But in the dream, it seemed she was still alive, and it didn’t make sense to talk about her being dead when she was still alive, so I asked her if our “future selves” could have a conversation. Then I told her that she had passed away 3 1/2 years ago and that Dad passed away a year ago – and then I couldn’t say anything more than, “And I miss you so much!” because I was crying so hard that I was aware that my dreaming body also was crying. We gave each other a big hug before the dream ended.

I woke up from that dream ready to write this blog post and donate my mom’s clothes this week.

With the tall tree in my backyard as my mirror, I acknowledged that I’m spending this entire year (and beyond) doing what the tree was doing that breezy, October morning: letting go of what no longer serves me to make room for new possibilities when the time is right. Decluttering my life has been the most amazing process of enLIGHTENment. Probably the deepest letting go I’ve experienced this year relates to the habitual thoughts in my head – much of which was inspired by getting rid of physical things but some of which wasn’t. Thoughts and relationships are what I was busy clutter-clearing when I wasn’t going to the storage unit. Buddhists call it establishing “right relationship” to them, and it is very liberating! Decluttering your life is a profound act of mindful self-compassion or what I like to call tender, loving self-care. Self-love is not selfish. It benefits everyone. When you honor your most authentic self, you’re putting good energy into the world. And when you do it well, letting go is done with love, grace, and gratitude.

So, yeah… I have my work cut out for me inside that storage unit. But it will get done, one flurry of letting go at a time, and with grace, like that leaf I mistook for a butterfly sailing so exquisitely around the backyard on its journey to the ground.

© 2017 Susan Meyer. All rights reserved. To use any or all of this article, include this exactly: Susan Meyer (SusanTaraMeyer.com) is a photographer, writer, clutter coach, feng shui consultant, and mindfulness teacher whose work is infused with a deep interest in the nature of mind and appreciation of the natural world. She lives on the Hudson River in Upstate New York.

 

What She Wanted

What She Wanted

When my mom was alive, before any holiday or birthday she would ask me what I wanted. I almost always answered that I don’t need or want anything. My mom liked material things, and I tended to rebel against that and distinguished myself from her through my response to that question.

But it was true: I wasn’t interested in things or clothes. Never went on vacation. Didn’t watch TV. I bought the wedding dress for my first wedding off the rack at Macy’s for $70 only a week before the big day, and I just wore my favorite outfit for my second wedding. I was content where I was, with what I had. My maternal grandmother would comment that she and I were very much alike because we didn’t need fancy things. Give us the wind in the trees, and we could be content. In fact, the last time I visited my grandmother at her home before she fell and went into a nursing home for the last couple months of her life, we sat on her front steps appreciating the sight and sound of the wind in the late summer trees. I loved that, at the end of her life, she found contentment in something so simple and ordinary and that I could join her in that space.

It seemed my mom always wanted more. She loved going to the mall, even if only to look (which I totally didn’t understand because the only time you could get me into a mall was if I had a specific, unavoidable purpose). She grew up poor and was determined not to live that way as an adult. She started working right after graduating from high school and, with the exception of taking some years off to raise children, kept working until a few years before she passed away – at which point she retired from what many would consider a rather glamorous job at a performing arts venue.

She was so generous every Christmas and experienced obvious joy in giving gifts to everyone. Anytime she’d give me money for my birthday, Mother’s Day, or just because, she would tell me to make sure to get something for myself and not spend it on household bills or anyone else. She wanted me to treat myself. Occasionally I would, and more often I would intend to, but inevitably somebody would need something, and I would pass on getting something for myself because the gift was needed elsewhere.

A year or two after my mom died, I was downtown and walked past a shop that had something in the window that captured my attention. Normally, that doesn’t happen because I couldn’t be less interested in shopping. (Retail therapy is not in my self-help repertoire!) I can’t remember what the object was, but when it caught my eye, I felt sad that my mom wasn’t around to ask what I’d like for Christmas…because she was the only one who ever asked, and this time I would have had an answer. And it would have made her so happy that I had an answer!

I spent two full months this year decluttering my home completely. After getting rid of all the stuff I didn’t love or use, I focused on making my home a sanctuary aligned with my authentic Self. I looked around the house and received clear insights about what could make it feel more like I wanted it to. I had received some insurance money after my dad passed away in October and bought some things to elevate the energy of our small, 1840s rental home: a couple Japanese shoji room dividers to create closet spaces where none existed, several plants, a standing desk converter, a digital photo frame loaded with hundreds of my images – things like that. I also finally did something I had wanted to do for many years, which was to wrap some silk vines around the railings on the stairs and weave fairy lights through them. So magical! Now, everywhere I look in my house, my eyes rest on spaces and objects that are beautiful, useful, and/or intentional and that bring me joy. Everything else is gone! It’s an amazing feeling.

However, as I mentioned in my last post, there was one final thing that needed to be upgraded: my bed. The bed I had been sleeping in was tiny and uncomfortable, and when we moved everything out of my parents’ house, I claimed the bed from their guest room, which seemed like an improvement. But it, too, was small and didn’t feel quite right, and eventually I discovered it was more than 20 years old, which was at least twice as old as the bed I previously had been sleeping on. A few weeks ago, I was lying on my bed looking at my vision board hanging on the wall and was drawn to a picture of a large, comfy bed. That’s when I convinced myself to let go of the hand-me-down beds and buy a new one. And with that purchase, my home improvements felt complete.

This morning (Mother’s Day), I got out of bed and created a Mother’s Day altar, which I’d never done before. I clipped some lilacs from a tree in the yard and put them in a vase my mom used for lilacs she clipped from our yard when I was a child. I also placed on the altar her funeral candle and a Mother’s Day card I’d just made, along with a crystal heart and a small turtle with the words “Live with joy” on its back.

Living with joy is my Mother’s Day gift to my mom, wherever she is. Isn’t joy what mothers ultimately want for their children? It’s what I want for mine.

Two years ago, grief felt enormous, as if it penetrated all the way down into my bones. I can’t remember ever feeling sadder than I was during May two years ago when my first Mother’s Day without my mom and the anniversary of her passing were complicated by additional losses. But time really does heal. And having the energy to finally take charge of my home and make it beautiful, uplifting, and joyful was both a big deal and a milestone. It felt like stepping out of the dark forest I had been wandering in since my mom passed away.

I have to believe she would be happy for me because the journey I have been on since February is one of learning to love and value myself and ramp up the joy by creating a sanctuary to support my vision of my best self and who I want to be moving forward. In other words, it’s a process of reclaiming my life. I have created a joyful, uplifting infrastructure from which to create my future. That infrastructure includes details such as:

  • an elegant, crystal pitcher of local spring water on a small table in my bedroom (found when clearing out my parents’ home)
  • red, silk roses in a vase next to my bed
  • a bed tray for having tea and reading a nourishing book before falling asleep
  • an aromatherapy diffuser for creating a lavender-scented bedroom to facilitate sleep
  • a comfy pillow that wraps around my entire body

And that’s just the bedroom! At night, I look forward to “lavender and rose” time with lavender aromatherapy and rose tea while reading or listening to something nourishing so my last impressions of the day are positive and empowering. That’s important because they are what my unconscious mind will marinate in for the next eight hours!

None of these items would have crossed my mind back when my mom asked me for gift ideas. I didn’t think of them until I cleared my home of clutter and reflected on what would make me feel comfortable, joyful, and loved – which is exactly how she wanted me to feel and was the intention behind her gift question. As I decluttered the objects and spaces in my home, a powerful, parallel process took place inside my head that rippled into other areas of my life. The work I have done in my home this year is an act of tender, loving self-care that grows from my mother’s love, for which I have immense gratitude.

The special touches in my home feel like what you would put in place if you were expecting an honored, beloved guest. Throughout the course of decluttering and uplifting my living space, I have become my own honored guest and best friend, which is no small thing coming from someone who used to have a strong inner critic. What parent wouldn’t want that for his or her child?

So, Happy Mother’s Day to my angel mom! My light is bright again, and I think it’s the best gift I can give you because it’s what you always wanted for me.


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© 2017 Susan Meyer. All rights reserved. To use any or all of this article, include this exactly: Susan Meyer (SusanTaraMeyer.com) is a photographer, writer, clutter coach, feng shui consultant, and mindfulness teacher whose work is infused with a deep interest in the nature of mind and appreciation of the natural world. She lives on the Hudson River in Upstate New York.

The Magical Journey of Clutter-Clearing

The Magical Journey of Clutter-Clearing

Honestly, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. But my intuition assured me it was time and that the effort would be well worth it.

I had borrowed Marie Kondo’s little book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, from the library while we were in the process of clearing out my parents’ house at the beginning of the year. I read bits and pieces of it, but life was busy, so I put it aside.

After we closed on my parents’ house, I landed back at my own house where I hadn’t been spending much time, and when I opened my eyes, I didn’t like what I saw or how I felt in that space. It felt cluttered and chaotic, and so did I every time I stepped through the door. It was hard to focus or have a clear sense of direction when I was home. I had the feeling that my real life was buried somewhere beneath all the clutter, and I was determined to excavate it. So I picked up the book again and declared February to be my month of Divine Decluttering.

On February 1st under my mentor’s guidance, I created a bagua (feng shui) map and realized the space that was most chaotic in the house corresponded to the area of my life that was in greatest disarray. Incredible! So that’s where I started, beginning (as Kondo suggested) with my clothes. I collected every article of clothing I owned and made a massive heap on the living room floor. It felt overwhelming, but I knew I had to do it. I held every single piece of clothing in my hand, one at a time, and asked my guiding questions:

  • Does it spark joy?
  • Is it uplifting or draining?
  • Does it support an old, outworn self-concept or the current way I envision myself and the life I am creating?

And that’s what I have done with every single object in my house, including utensils, papers, CDs, personal care items, spices, plastic containers, photos, cards, letters, and absolutely everything else. No fork or pen was left untouched! At this point, I only have two more rooms to go before the whole house is decluttered. However, I could feel a positive energy shift immediately, on day one.

Decluttering the house was a gift I decided to give myself in honor of my 50th birthday. My intention was to have the house completely decluttered by my March 1st birthday. But by the time my birthday rolled around, I realized I’d need another month to complete the process because I’m diving in so deeply and allowing emotions to arise, tears to be released, and revelations to be recorded as I let go of what has outlived its usefulness in my life.

Something powerful happens when you hold an object in your hands and connect with its energy. Clearing clutter has uncovered deeply hidden emotional clutter, relationship clutter, mind clutter, and so much more. With each room I clear, I feel more aligned with my higher Self and my vision of who I am, the life I want to live, how I want to feel, and who I want to spend my time with. It feels so amazing to be surrounded by objects that support that newly awakened vision. This is the journey of a lifetime that ranks right up there with becoming a mother. It is a soulful process that has transformed the home I felt ashamed of into a sanctuary brimming with vibrant, inspiring, peaceful energy.

It is the most incredible feeling to look around, and everything my eyes rest on is there because I want it there. Everything is intentional. Along with letting go of personal possessions, I am releasing outdated concepts of who I was in the past that no longer fit with who I am now and who I envision myself becoming. There is “art and heart” all around me now, which is who I am! My home has become an authentic expression of my true self, simply as a result of mindfully clearing away the clutter!

How does clutter-clearing create such profound inner shifts? Here are some examples and highlights of how it has worked for me.

Clothes

First, I decluttered my coats and washed ones that I didn’t want to put back dirty. I got rid of some of my mom’s coats that might have worked for her but didn’t work for me. I thanked them for serving her and for making her happy and comfortable. Then I put them in a large, plastic bag that I brought to the collection bin for a secondhand store run by a local church. Same for a fleece sweater my mom gave me that never really worked for me. As I put the sweater in the donation bag, in my heart I thanked her for always wanting me to be warm in the winter. I need not hold on to things a deceased loved one gave me, as a souvenir of his or her love. For example, some of the gloves my mom gave me are quite worn now, and it is okay to let them go. She wouldn’t have wanted me to wear worn-out gloves, and because of how she loved me and gave me the gift of warmth, I can now do the same for others…and for myself.

I discovered right off the bat that deep decluttering is a process of taking a good, honest, conscious look at everything in my life and determining what I really want going forward and what needs to be released with love and gratitude. Now I don’t have to weed through closets and drawers to find what I want to wear because everything that doesn’t feel good or bring me joy is gone. And I have my clothes folded neatly in drawers (using Kondo’s method that I learned from YouTube videos) so everything is visible. I also discovered some treasures buried beneath all the rubble!

Kitchen

I didn’t plan to work on the kitchen next, but one thing led to another, and before I knew it, the contents of all the kitchen drawers were in a huge pile on the kitchen table. Clearing the kitchen felt overwhelming at times because there was so much to go through, and I knew it would take about a week of hard work. When overwhelm threatened to bring me to a standstill, I imagined how great it would feel to have the kitchen clutter-cleared and then had the energy to keep going!

During my kitchen clutter-clearing, no utensil was left unexamined. I held each fork in my hand to ask if it sparks joy, and some were discarded immediately. There’s one with a rose design on the handle that I don’t find beautiful, nor do I necessarily love the shape of it compared to other forks. Yet holding it in my hands brought tears to my eyes – tears for the family that no longer exists and all the meals we shared together. Even though it doesn’t spark joy, and aesthetically I don’t find it particularly pleasing, I decided I need to hold on to this fork for now. It seems to want to stay with me.

Since both my parents and my last remaining grandparent all died within the past six years, I have inherited a lot of household items, including two sets of electric beaters – one from my grandmother and one from my mom. Which one to keep and which one to let go of? When I held my grandmother’s beaters in my hand, I felt her spirit very strongly. It made me happy. She loved to bake and cook, and it reminded me of family get-togethers at her house. My mom’s electric beaters might be in better shape or possibly better quality, but when I held them in my hands, aside from knowing they belonged to my mother, I didn’t feel anything. So I decided to keep my grandmother’s beaters. I feel my mother’s spirit come through other objects much more strongly.

Clutter-clearing is an opportunity to ask many probing questions, such as when I decluttered the cabinet where all the plastic containers were stored haphazardly. After getting rid of anything without a lid and reducing my collection by about 50%, I posted an “after” picture on Facebook. A friend commented that she stores almost everything in mason jars, and that got me thinking…

I use mason jars for food storage, too, to some degree. But I never made the connection between getting rid of plastic containers and using more mason jars because they are stored in completely different parts of the kitchen. So why am I holding on to so much plastic, when I don’t even like plastic? Is it because I can use those containers when I make food for other people? How often do I do that? Is that something I want to do? If so, why am I not doing it more? How can I do more of it if it’s important to me? So it’s a matter of looking at what I hold on to and why and asking questions about why I’m not living in accordance with the vision I have for things in my house. Then it’s a matter of either getting rid of the vision and the stuff or making some adjustments to the way I live my life.

Books, Binders, and Papers

Although I dreaded it, it wasn’t so difficult after all to get rid of my teaching materials. Actually, it was a joy! A master’s degree should not be a life sentence if the work no longer calls to you. I held on to some arts and crafts ideas for young children because I want to do them with my granddaughter. And I ended up keeping my mindfulness and social-emotional activities because that’s where my heart still is. If I ever were to do any kind of teaching or work with children in the future, it would be around mindfulness, social-emotional learning, and/or art. That became very clear to me as I clutter-cleared papers and books.

I also got rid of papers that served as reminders of difficult times. I choose not to carry them around with me anymore. It feels so good to be free of them!

Stairs

No area is left out, however small or seemingly insignificant – like the stairs, for instance. I have a wall gallery of family portraits going up the stairs that hadn’t been touched in years and was collecting dust. I decided to only display photos that spark joy. I love my daughter, and yet there is a certain time of her life that was so very difficult, and it showed in her eyes. I didn’t want to see her in that way anymore, and I can only imagine how it must have been for her to visit and see pictures from that time of life on display. So I took down the ones from that era and framed a stunning portrait of her when she was very ripe with child and filled with excitement and hope. And putting up the first framed portrait of my granddaughter was a big deal in itself. Now the wall gallery on the stairs has come alive with new vibrance. In addition, I took a good look at the potted plants on the stairs, which had become more or less invisible to me, and repotted most of them so that they are more vibrant and alive now, too.

Bathroom

The one and only bathroom in the house is the room that has undergone the most dramatic transformation of all. The bathroom has issues, and we reached a point of throwing in the towel, presumably when my mom became ill. The composition of our well water combined with the materials the bathroom fixtures and appliances were made of required much effort to keep the bathroom clean. The bathroom was an embarrassment that prevented us from inviting company over. When visitors would come, we dreaded them asking to use the bathroom. It was that bad.

It was when I was scrubbing the toilet and bathroom floor that I acknowledged how out of whack my life had become and vowed to never, ever, EVER let it happen again. It took repeated treatments of some nasty, heavy-duty chemicals that I wouldn’t otherwise use to make things right again. I experienced myself shifting into a more empowered state of being and atoning for the ways in which I have gone astray after my mom died. As I scrubbed away the mineral buildup, grime, cobwebs, and dust, I acknowledged that there are things that have become normalized in my life that never should have been, and the toilet was a perfect metaphor. I vowed that I will never live like that again. Since I have experienced how bad it can get, from now on I will be more mindful and proactive – in the bathroom and in my life!

AND YET…

Even though I have gone passively to places I never want to go again, I realize the importance of accepting that I went there, rather than passing judgment and dragging around shame. My biggest takeaway from the spiritual retreat I went on last month is that in order to truly be in a relationship with another person, you have to see him clearly for who he really is and accept him completely. Many people are in relationship with their partner’s potential rather than the actual person, and when you are able to see through your illusions and desires to change someone, you finally can start being in relationship with the person. Once you see clearly who he is, you are empowered to make wise, healthy choices about the relationship.

It’s the same with your relationship with yourself. If you are relating to your potential, you might not accept yourself (or even allow yourself to see yourself) as you are and get stuck in self-judgment and believing you need to change rather than understand what’s really going on. When you keep your shadow material unconscious, you’re not free to embrace and be nourished by your wholeness, which allows for greater insight and understanding. If instead you can take a good, honest look at yourself and accept everything you find (a sense of humor helps here!), you are empowered to make wise, healthy choices about living your life in greater harmony with your higher Self. The truth really does set you free, and what I’m talking about here is the difference between being self-righteous and being self-aware and loving.

Heck, I could have written an entire essay on clearing and cleaning my bathroom.

I realized early in the process that focusing on elaborate room makeovers and applying feng shui remedies distracted me from clutter-clearing and slowed down my momentum. Nonetheless, the bathroom needed more TLC before I could move on. I put up a new, more subdued shower curtain, removed the stained glass paint from the window (which felt even more like penance than scrubbing the mineral deposits from the toilet) and replaced it with mini blinds, added some plants, replaced rusted shower shelves with something much more aesthetically pleasing, took down the mildewed over-the-door organizer that housed personal care products (after decluttering its contents down to about one-third) and replaced it with over-the-door towel hooks, put a two-foot tall shoji folding screen around two stacked wood crates used for storage, put up an attractive accent mirror, added an aromatherapy diffuser and candles for relaxing baths, and asked the landlord to install a new medicine cabinet to replace the rusted eyesore we had grown accustomed to.

Though the bathroom in this circa 1820s rental house still has significant issues and limitations, it was like I had waved a magic wand at it! I made the most of it, and now it, too, sings with fresh, new energy! Hallelujah! We can have company over again! This will delight my son when he’s home from college.

Cards and Letters

Kondo advised decluttering in a certain order because some things are harder to part with than others, and you need to strengthen your letting-go muscles. Personal mementos such as cards and letters fall into that more advanced category.

The happiest discovery: A birthday card from my dad with a very simple, loving message that sums up our relationship. We might not have understood each other or had much in common, but the bottom line is that we loved each other, nonetheless. (And the gift is that loving someone who was so different from me makes me less likely to pass judgment on others whose beliefs are in such opposition to how I view the world. It humanizes the “other,” for after all, even though my dad and I didn’t see eye to eye about the world, he truly was a sweetheart who didn’t harm a soul. But I digress…)

Decluttering cards and letters helped me to clarify and appreciate relationships. My grandmother would carefully select cards, and her cards and messages, along with my parents’, mean a lot to me now that they’re gone. Going through cards and letters also inspired me to take time to acknowledge others – their milestones or simply to say hi and let them know they matter – by sending cards. It’s something I want to get back into the habit of because it’s special to receive a handwritten card. I sent out two cards of appreciation this week to important women in my life, to reactivate those relationships. It was a joy to put them in the mailbox!

The most amazing, woo-woo find: A birthday card from my parents that brought me to tears. The inside read, “Always remember what a wonderful person you are and how very much we love you.” For some reason, that message touched me deeply. It was exactly what I longed to hear from them. A little later, I was looking through more cards and came across the exact same card that they gave me another year. It felt like the universe or my parents underscoring that message. The next morning, I found a third copy of the same card! I am the oldest of three children, and perhaps my mom bought three copies of the same card with the intention of giving one to each of us. However, I ended up with three of them! It felt like a message they really wanted me to receive, and finding three copies of the same card after they passed away was no small thing.

Photos

I thought it would only take a few hours to clear one small closet, but instead it took a few days to go through the boxes of photos, cards, and letters stored in it. As with utensils, I left no photo untouched! Clearing photos made me conscious of how I want to redefine myself. I don’t need to accept anyone else’s definition or perception of who I am. I am completely free to sculpt my own definition of myself. For example, I can discard any pictures that don’t represent me as I want to be represented. Goodbye to anything that is embarrassing or shameful or just not the me I want to be.

When I looked through pictures of me throughout my life – many that I received from my parents – I wished I could go back in time and tell my younger self to lighten up and not be so serious and perfectionistic. I reflected on where that came from and generated compassion for myself and anyone else who might have contributed to my attitudes towards life and myself. That’s the kind of healing that can take place when you clutter-clear in silence, without any distractions, as Kondo recommends. You face yourself head-on and can set yourself free.

I’m especially interested in keeping pictures that express someone’s spirit and pictures that support family stories that we recount with joy and humor, whether it’s about a particular event or time of life. For example, I kept pictures of my children (who were voracious readers) reading at the breakfast table. And some pictures might not be as much about the people in them as the spaces we inhabited. I’m holding on to some pictures because they show the interior of my grandmother’s house, my childhood homes, or other homes I lived in, to remind me of long-forgotten details that contribute to the feeling of the spaces.

Another note about photos: In the process of clutter-clearing, you can photograph objects instead of keeping them and create an album of memories that takes up much less space than it would to continue storing the items. I anticipate doing a lot of this when I clutter-clear the rented self-storage unit that houses many of my parents’ possessions that I didn’t have time to go through before closing on the house.

Putting It All Together

Clutter-clearing has set in motion the most amazing transformation I’ve ever experienced. It is so empowering! I guess sometimes things have to become a literal mess before you become motivated to turn them around. I expect to have the entire house clutter-cleared by the end of the month. But there’s so much more! After I finish decluttering the house, I intend to turn my attention to decluttering: my car, the rented self-storage unit, the garage, my computer, my phone, and my online photography portfolio. I have it all mapped out on my 2017 wall planner. This is my year of massive decluttering. And it’s not just stuff. It’s everything. I’m going to the core of the clutter and eliminating it once and for all.

Being mindful now keeps me in this new energy field and prevents me from reverting to the old, cluttered, chaotic life. I don’t ever want to go back to that! So I mindfully fold each piece of clothing with appreciation rather than toss it mindlessly in a drawer or pile. After a month and a half, my clothes are still folded beautifully, and the kitchen cabinet housing the plastic containers remains orderly. Once my house is entirely decluttered, I will just have to keep on top of the routine cleaning.

Here are some other insights and realizations I’ve had during my clutter-clearing journey:

  • I discovered treasures I didn’t even realize I had or had forgotten about because so much other stuff got in the way.
  • I realized it’s draining to look for something I like/want by having to sift through all the other stuff.
  • I acknowledged that I am in a different phase of life now where things that once felt right to me no longer do. (And that’s okay!)
  • Even if I never wore a particular article of clothing or pair of earrings, I need not regret spending the money because it supported a vision of who I once wanted to be – and therefore served a purpose.
  • I’ve become conscious of everything I’ve been holding on to and why – and have let go of so much after asking questions I’d never asked myself before. This is profoundly healing and enLIGHTENing!
  • I realized I’ve let some things slide that really bothered me. And when you allow that to happen for years, it creates a big mess and lots of resentment. So the clutter-clearing process has awakened me to the necessity of standing up for what is important to me and not just letting it go and just “dealing” with it. The outer, physical world is a reflection of our inner world and relationships.
  • I find that I am attending to matters immediately rather than putting them aside to deal with later, like mending clothes that need a patch or button and dealing with items on my to-do list more promptly. Just get it done! Don’t put things off because that only contributes to clutter (including head clutter). Take care of it promptly or just get rid of it.
  • Even if I made it, I don’t need to keep it!
  • I discarded so many nature photographs that I once thought were pretty good. It allowed me to see how my photography has improved over the years.
  • I got rid of a number of large objects that were in the way and literally collecting dust and serving no purpose, that had become more or less invisible to me. The elephants in the room all of a sudden became visible!

If you haven’t yet experienced the magic of clutter-clearing and are intrigued, I highly recommend Marie Kondo’s book. She promotes a quick, all-out, down and dirty approach to clutter-clearing because:

When you tidy your space completely, you transform the scenery. The change is so profound that you feel as if you are living in a totally different world. This deeply affects your mind and inspires a strong aversion to reverting to your previously cluttered state. The key is to make the change so sudden that you experience a complete change of heart. The same impact can never be achieved if the process is gradual.

An intense and committed pace has worked wonders for me, for the very reasons she stated above. I had reached a point at which things had become unacceptable and had to change. I had momentum from clearing out my parents’ house, so I already was in that get-it-done-quickly mindset. On the other hand, my mentor, Denise Linn, invites us to experience clutter-clearing as a pilgrimage rather than a sprint. She is less concerned with efficiency and speed than with making it a deeply soulful and regenerative process. And I have to admit that I’ve let other areas of life slide temporarily so I can declutter my home so intensely. I have not been active in my online photography and business development classes or publishing blog posts, which are also very important to me. But in order to be more focused and productive in my home, I needed to clear the clutter in a big way and make it a priority.

However, I am really just beginning the clutter-clearing process. There is much work yet to be done and so much to learn, and I can’t even imagine what it is going to feel like by the end of the year, though I expect it will feel like the positive shift of a lifetime!

© 2017 Susan Meyer. All rights reserved. To use any or all of this article, include this exactly: Susan Meyer (SusanTaraMeyer.com) is a photographer, writer, clutter coach, feng shui consultant, and mindfulness teacher whose work is infused with a deep interest in the nature of mind and appreciation of the natural world. She lives on the Hudson River in Upstate New York.

Fifty by Fifty

Fifty by Fifty

Hello, dear ones! It’s been a while.

The last time I published a blog post was after I finished clearing out my parents’ house nearly two months ago, in preparation for closing on the house. After that, I took a little breather and then embarked on a mission to clear my house of clutter, for life had become chaotic in recent years, and even more so with my dad’s health crises last summer, his death from Legionnaires’ Disease in October, having to attend to estate matters, and the quick sale of his house (my childhood home). Caring for my own house had gone by the wayside, and when I finally landed back home after the house transaction was completed in January and opened my eyes, so to speak, I felt like Rip Van Winkle waking from a long, enchanted sleep.

My life had changed dramatically in the 8 1/2 years since we moved into this small 1840s house on the Hudson when my youngest child was entering fifth grade, and particularly in the last few years. Now my son is in college, and my daughter has a daughter of her own, which of course makes me a grandmother.

My grandmother and parents passed away, a close relative came out as transgender, family dynamics shifted considerably, I resigned from my teaching career, and I was approaching my 50th birthday and menopause. So much water had flowed under the bridge in front of my house (literally and figuratively), and the point is that my house had become quite cluttered and overgrown with possessions from previous chapters that were no longer relevant. This had a strong, adverse effect on the energy inside the house, which felt confused and in disarray.

When I stopped and really took a good look around, I realized things needed to change. It was time to regain control of my life and home so they would better reflect the current vision I hold for my life, and I declared February to be a month of deep, divine decluttering. I envisioned a clutter-cleared home as a birthday gift to myself that would feel amazing. I’m about halfway done at this point and intend to write more about the remarkable process soon. But anyway, that’s how I’ve been spending my spare time over the past month and a half and is why you haven’t heard from me!

Yesterday I turned 50, and it was the best birthday ever! I had given a lot of consideration to how I wanted to celebrate this milestone birthday and planned activities that spanned a week and a half, including:

  • An astrological reading with someone I’d been wanting to have a reading with for years
  • Creating a “spirit lantern” the evening before my birthday, which coincided with the new moon and Losar, the Tibetan New Year (I sell this kind of custom-made lantern in my shop)

  • My first adult birthday party in nearly 30 years.

In addition, I had a dream about an old friend and housemate from my 20s that prompted me to get in touch with him after more than 25 years. I stopped by the old homestead on my way home from the retreat center, and the visit resulted in a hefty dose of post-retreat, birthday week magic that left me inspired and uplifted in so many ways. Experiencing the wildly creative and aesthetically and energetically incredible heaven on earth he had created both indoors and outdoors over the past 30 years was powerful beyond words. That visit was a sweet surprise that helped me to recover some parts of myself that I had forgotten about. It left me determined to infuse my life with more joy and play.

In another stroke of birthday magic, yesterday I received from Artful Ashes a beautiful, glass heart memorial that was made with some of my parents’ ashes (the white swirls). It arrived on my birthday, of all days!

One of my retreat goals was to compose a letter to my one-year-old granddaughter, for her to open and read later in life. In the process of doing that, I ended up creating a list of 50 things I’ve learned as a result of my 50 years on the planet – wisdom I want to pass on to my children and grandchildren. I finished the list on my birthday and offer it with love and sincerity as  my birthday gift to you. I’m sure your list would be very different, based on your own personality, experiences, and “issues”, but here’s what I came up with, based on mine… [UPDATE: It turns out the following list is the first draft of my handcrafted book, 50 by 50, that is available in my shop!]

  1. Your most important relationship is the one you have with yourself (your Self). It is the basis for all other relationships. The health of all other relationships depends on the quality of your relationship with yourself and the extent to which you accept all parts of yourself. Your relationships with others are ultimately reflections of your relationship with yourself, and the way you relate to others is a reflection of how you relate to yourself. If you tend to see the worst in people, inflate their flaws, and find them deficient, perhaps you need to work on your own, inner critic and loving yourself. Until you have a healthy, loving relationship with yourself, it will not be possible to have a healthy, loving relationship with anyone else.

  2. Stop compromising on what you really want and then blaming it on not wanting to disappoint, hurt, or inconvenience someone else – because those who truly care about you would want you to be happy, and it’s not fair to put that kind of burden on anyone or to give away your power to make decisions about your life. You don’t need to ask anyone for permission to do what you know is right for yourself. Claim responsibility for your life, and do it!

  3. When you experience rejection, don’t turn it into a story about your self worth and convince yourself that you’re not good enough and should give up what you are trying to accomplish. Resilience is every bit as important as talent, skill, and capability. Trust that you will find the right opportunity at the right time and that any door that did not open for you simply wasn’t right for you. You have no idea what the powers-that-be were looking for. It might be something very specific, such as a particular style or chemistry. Don’t ever let what you perceive as “failure” define you. More likely, it is about whether or not someone or something is truly a fit for you. It is a blessing not to be bound to a person or situation with whom your energy, values, etc. are incompatible. Believe that something even better is in store for you!

  4. If you really want something, don’t give up! You hold a key to a door that will only open for you. All you need to do is find it. Even if everything seemed to go wrong today, tomorrow might be the day when the universe aligns, and you will find yourself drawn to the right place at the right time, interacting with the right people.

  5. No person, situation, achievement, or anything outside of yourself will provide abiding fulfillment, happiness, or peace of mind. This includes finding your soulmate, having a nice house, well paying job, or successful career, being able to go on exotic vacations, etc. Such states of minds can only be generated from within. Any satisfaction that is dependent on external factors is only fleeting.
  6. Relationships and love endure beyond physical death. There are so many ways our loved ones reach out to us! We just need to pay attention.

  7. People really don’t care so much about what you do or don’t do. They’re busy with their own lives! You are only the magnified center of your own universe, not anyone else’s, and this is good news because it takes off a lot of pressure! Worrying about what others think about you is perhaps the greatest impediment to living the life you were made for and fulfilling your unique potential.

  8. It is empowering to take responsibility for your role in situations and relationships! Thinking of yourself as a victim, blaming another person for wronging you, and holding him responsible for your happiness and peace of mind is disempowering. Accepting your responsibility and claiming your power sets you free and feels great. So does forgiveness! Holding a grudge is like ingesting poison. and forgiveness is the antidote. 

  9. The people who seem most confident and sure of themselves are often the least so. Don’t be fooled by appearances.

  10. You don’t need to save the world. Start with saving yourself by doing your inner work and evolving, and then the benefits from that will ripple into your world. Begin within.

  11. Our parents and grandparents are human and therefore imperfect. They are learning just like we are, and chances are they never intended to hurt us. We need to forgive them for the mistakes they made, just as we will want our own children to forgive us for the mistakes we inevitably make. We are not here to be perfect, and we cannot hold anyone’s imperfection against them.

  12. It is impossible to please everybody, no matter how talented, successful, or enlightened you are. Don’t even try.

  13. When people criticize you, take what is useful, and let go of the rest. So much of what others say – including their opinions of you – is more about them than about you.

  14. Do what you love. And if you love it, don’t give it up for anyone, for that is far too great a sacrifice. Don’t give up on your own talents and passions in order to be more appealing to someone who doesn’t value them. Be faithful to what lights you up and ignites your creative passion. Instead of trying to make yourself more attractive to a certain person, put your energy into pursuing your dreams. Then you will be more attractive to people who are more compatible with your vision of who you want to be, and that is who you really want to attract, even if you don’t realize it. Doing what you love is one of the most attractive qualities of all.

  15. Don’t listen to the voices that insist you won’t succeed at a certain endeavor. If it really calls to you, you owe it to yourself to pursue it or risk spending the rest of your life regretting that you didn’t and wondering what might have happened if you hadn’t listened to the naysayers.

  16. Trust and follow your intuition. It is your internal, navigation system that keeps you aligned with your True Self and saves you a lot of pain and suffering.

  17. Strive for authenticity, not perfection. The greatest perfection you can achieve is to be more fully yourself.

  18. When you feel inclined to walk away from someone or something, be really honest with yourself about whether you are truly done and complete with it or whether you are deferring to fear, avoidance, or the hopeful delusion that the grass is greener elsewhere.

  19. Make decisions based on love, not fear. Never allow fear to be in the driver’s seat!

  20. Cultivating gratitude can transform your life. It is a powerful practice.

  21. You can’t change another person. You can inspire someone to change or support him in his effort to change. But if somebody does not want to change, there is nothing you can do to change him. And you need to be okay with that and let go of your need to “save” him (and consider what motivation is behind that need). Focusing on helping others can be an excuse for not doing your own inner work. Believing someone needs to change is arrogant and belittles him. When you can see through your illusions about who you want someone to be, to the reality of who he is, you can choose between accepting him as is or releasing him with love because who he is doesn’t fit with the vision you have for your life. Both options are much healthier than being in a relationship with someone’s potential rather than the actual person.

  22. Don’t beat yourself up for not doing better or accomplishing more. Instead, consider your desire to improve yourself as movement in a positive direction.

  23. Every now and then, it is useful to consider what has outlived its usefulness in your life and to let go of those things (including relationships), to make room for something new and wonderful to come in.

  24. You are enough as you are, right now. Don’t let anyone (including yourself) convince you otherwise. You are worthy of love simply because you exist. 
  25. I used to think there was one, true vocational path I was created for, and I needed to find it or my life would be a waste. But there are so many different ways to shine your light in this world. So many possibilities! You can do it in whatever job or situation you find yourself in. And if you find yourself unable to bring your light to your job, then you need to seriously consider releasing yourself from it or changing the way you relate to it – because you were made to shine!

  26. It is never too late to engage with a creative passion or learn something new. You don’t have to disrupt your whole life and accumulate a lot of debt by going back to school. You need not make it your career. You can find a way to do it on some scale, whether through volunteering or learning on your own, just like my mom took up guitar in her 70s and was able to reconcile her lifelong love of music with her unfulfilled dream of being a nurse, by playing guitar for hospital patients as a volunteer.

  27. When you are considering what vocation to pursue, be honest with yourself about what is most important to you. For example, if living comfortably and having the finer things in life is most important to you, you might want to think twice about pursuing a career in a low-paying or risky field (like social work or the arts). If creativity is most important to you, then you must find the courage to live a creative life rather than stick with what feels “safe”. Have the courage to specialize if there’s something you’re really passionate about, rather than take the generalist, “safe” route that covers all bases. There is always a way to do what you feel called to do, even if you don’t make a career of it. And sometimes not making a career of it or demanding that it pay your bills allows you to enjoy it more.

  28. There is guidance all around us. All we need to do is ask for it and be open and receptive to it. Synchronicity is one of my favorite forms of guidance! 

  29. If you’re feeling down or off, focus on the basics. Are you getting enough rest? Movement? Good nutrition? If not, start there.

  30. You weren’t supposed to know back then what you know now. It doesn’t work that way. So give yourself a break, and be grateful you know it now, without second-guessing what your life might have been like if you had learned it earlier.

  31. Nobody’s life is perfect, no matter how it appears on the surface. Everybody has issues. Other people’s issues might be very different from yours, but they certainly have them! So don’t spend any time hiding behind a wall of shame erected by your perceived faults. So many people have parts of themselves or their lives that feel too shameful to admit to anyone. Things they never imagined they’d experience and that even cause them to question their goodness and worth. But telling the truth to a trusted person often reveals that you are not alone (you never are) in what you are feeling and experiencing. Sharing like that can release you from the shackles of shame. I have experienced so many things I never imagined I would – things I would have judged others for had I not “been there, done that” myself. As a result of all my experiences, I have developed greater compassion for others and am someone people can be open and honest with, without being judged. Everything we experience offers us a gift or opportunity, if we hold it right.

  32. Don’t pass judgment on what you don’t understand. If you truly understand someone, you can’t help but find something to love about her. Everyone has reasons for his/her behavior. But that doesn’t mean you need to take on someone’s problems.

  33. Our obstacles, challenges, handicaps, etc. are in our lives for a reason and have gifts to offer us. They serve a purpose and are perhaps our greatest teachers. This includes difficult people.

  34. The things that are most important are not things.

  35. You can be grateful for the blessings in your own yard and also seek to experience new horizons. Find something to appreciate and enjoy wherever you are. Don’t make your happiness dependent on being somewhere else. You won’t be happy there, either, unless you carry happiness inside you.

  36. Do not guilt yourself into living in poverty because other people in the world have so little. With greater abundance, you can do more good in the world. You don’t have to choose between being “spiritual” and being prosperous. You can be both. It is more about the attachment you have to money and material things and whether you attach your self-worth and happiness to your possessions or bank account balance.

  37. Jealousy is perhaps the most misguided and unproductive emotion of all. 

  38. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else. You have your own, unique talents and style. Other people can inspire you, but believe in yourself, and shine your light without worrying how you measure up to anyone else. The world needs you to shine your light. Don’t keep it inside!

  39. Since we and our loved ones are not guaranteed tomorrow, don’t leave any kind or loving words left unsaid. Don’t hold them in or put them off. Let your heart speak when it has something to say, for tomorrow might be too late.

  40. Don’t take yourself or life too seriously! Never underestimate the value of a good sense of humor and the willingness to look like a fool every now and then.

  41. The company you keep matters. Surround yourself with healthy people who believe in you and encourage you to be the best you can be. Stay away from critical, cold-hearted people and those who stomp out your light.

  42. You are so much stronger than you think.

  43. It’s often easier to forgive and have compassion for others than it is to forgive and have compassion for yourself. This is where we your work lies, and it is important and worthwhile work. “Love your neighbor as yourself” works both ways! Don’t deny yourself the gift of forgiveness and compassion.

  44. A pretty/handsome face is but a crumb compared to the banquet of a kind and loving heart.

  45. Sometimes the Universe provides you with an alignment of factors that creates the perfect storm for you to challenge yourself and grow.

  46. There is a big difference between your inherent worth and your sense of self-worth. What you accomplish and how you are treated by others are reflections of your sense of self worth. They do not reflect your true worth. Love yourself enough to teach people how you deserve to be treated.

  47. If you find yourself in a situation or relationship that feels wrong, there is always a way out. If you can’t come up with any options, ask for guidance. Even pray for guidance! Pay attention to what appears, and have enough faith to take the escape chute the universe sends your way. It is a great relief to free yourself from something that feels wrong.

  48. You are a more powerful co-creator of your life than you can imagine, and your imagination is the key to it! “Mind over matter” is for real. Have fun experimenting with manifesting what is in alignment with your true Self. Be very clear about what you want, and imagine how it will feel to have your wishes fulfilled, as if it is a present reality. You could begin with manifesting small things like parking spaces and work your way to bigger things. Creating a vision board can help!
  49. Your true Self cannot be defiled by anything of this world. It is indestructible.
  50. This, too, shall pass.

And with that, this very tired birthday girl is heading to bed, hoping to write very soon about the magical journey of clutter-clearing!

© 2017 Susan Meyer. All rights reserved. To use any or all of this article, include this exactly: Susan Meyer (SusanTaraMeyer.com) is a photographer, writer, clutter coach, feng shui consultant, and mindfulness teacher whose work is infused with a deep interest in the nature of mind and appreciation of the natural world. She lives on the Hudson River in Upstate New York.

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