Thursday, January 22, 2015

let it go

I am just shy of 10 moves in 10 years, though if we move by the end of this year, it will be 10 for 10. It seems the fall brings me to my knees: packing boxes and wrapping up my stuff for another jaunt into the to-be-settled & sorted.

Ashley, it's January, why are you talking about fall.

Well, as it stands, we moved in the fall, and even though it's January, I'm still unpacking. Two households into one means a lot of letting go, a lot of purging, a lot of sorting and, certainly, a lot of throwing out - because, yes, in some cases, I have been moving garbage. What the heck? Read: old paperwork. This mad-drive to simplifiy is an old theme for me. I won't do it for you, but I imagine that if you looked back through my writings, you'd come upon a "what do I have all this stuff for" post every year or so, likely in fall, while or before or after I took all my stuff from one place to another.

It's taken me a long time, and there's still more to go, but I've finally gotten sick of looking at my things. Maybe magic happens on the eve of THE DECADE OF MOVING, wherein the emotional gag-reflex ties itself to the items long-carried.

Every time I move, I sort. I purge. I wrestle with my nostalia. I throw out a lot of stuff, and give away households worth of belongings. This time, I finally managed to purge myself of the excessive amounts of paper that had been ruling my life. Two giant boxes of recycling & shredding later, I'm down to a teeny file box of must-keeps. Shall I tell you I had paperwork from 2002 in the ranks? No, that would be too embarassing. I'll keep that to myself. What I will tell you is this: they're gone, and I feel free. As Margot Starbuck puts it, in her article (linked below),

               "releasing physical objects from my home has had the spiritual effect of putting me
                in proper relationship with the ones that remain: though we have to wash bowls more
                often, we have enough; though the pantry is no longer jammed with all the extras I
                used to buy, we have enough; though there aren’t extraneous rows of pillows on my bed,
                there are enough.  ...“enough”—which used to seem so elusive—has come into
                clearer focus..."

Why do we have so much stuff? It's non-essential, weighted, and messy. I have things I've moved with me for a decade, guys, a full decade, that haven't come out of the box, photos of people whose names I no longer remember, clothes I haven't worn but can't seem to give up. No more.

I've been keeping a mental compliation, of The Most Effective Things I've Heard or Read on how to Keep Belongings SIMPLE:

1. Beautiful. Meaningful. Functional.
Anita let me in on this methodology a number of years ago, and I've been happily chewing on it ever since. It really helps me  >> OBSESSIVE NOSTALGIC <<  approach my belongings & memory boxes. Does the item in my hand meet at least 2 out of these 3 criteria? Yes? Keep. No? Go.

2. Touch everything only once.
I read this one recently (though I can not find the article), and admittedly, it's rather difficult. If I pick up the item in the basement and it goes upstairs, it means I go all-the-way-upstairs and put it where it belongs. If I open the backpack I deal with the papers one time, the lunchbox one time, the calendar one time. If I'm moving laundry out of the dryer to make room for a new load, I fold that dryer load immediately and then I put it away immediately so I don't have to touch it again. Maybe it sounds simple, but in reality, I'm rather famous for, and rather crippled by, "I'll just put this here for a minute"-itus. Slowly, I'm breaking free from my clutter-forming habits. I'm not there yet, but I'm working on it.

3. Clean the corners.
My husband told me this, early on in our relationship. He knew, then, about my penchant for hibernating in paper and memories. I was particularly overwhelmed one day, buried underneath all of my stuff, and he said something to me that his Nan used to say to him: Clean the corners, and the middle will clean itself. I probably laughed, but through a crack in the pile I was under, I saw a corner; it was a corner I knew what to do with. So I cleaned it, though it didn't feel like much. I did that a few times. Before I knew it, the madness in the middle had sorted itself out. I don't claim to know how it works, but it does.

Keeping it simple, since simplicity is today's theme, I'll stop there. Here are two brilliant writers that have swifly kicked my rear:

1) "I’d not recognized the weight I’d been carrying—of paying for the stuff, and caring for the stuff, and storing the stuff, and moving the stuff around in the front hall closet so I could reach the other stuff behind the first stuff." Margot Starbuck, Stockpiling Treasures in my Junk Closet.

2) This entire website:

A final word, though it's obvious: most of the world has less than you. In your drive to simplify your life (yay!) don't throw your re-useable things away. Give generously, and be inspired to give generously, by the many organizations near you that are hands-on & available to those who need/don't have everyday essentials like clothing, household items, & furniture. Look for: shelters, women's, men's, & children's organizations, youth workers & organizations that support our youth, and refugee organizations. Plenty around, plenty in need of the stuff cramming your hallways.

photosource: pinterest.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

all you can do

In a world of chaos,
on a planet drawn to anxiety,
there is too much to take

so each morning we wake,
and as the planet spins us, we
might feel at a loss

but all we can do
is the right thing

view more: Charles Santoso

Thursday, January 1, 2015


Where do I start this year? Well-intentioned, happy, loving the peace that comes with resolution. Looking and lifting up. Thankful for little pauses. This new year feels like a fence-peek, a tip-toed glance at the top of the counter. What's up there? What's next? Curiosity lives here: nothing about me will change unless I do.

Instead of resolutions, that classic list of Things I'm Going to Fail at This Year, Too, maybe I resolve instead to chase after resolution itself. Let the old songs fall and end as they should. Leave arguments and pride for someone with more time on their hands. Follow-through on the life I have imagined. Less hesitance and check marks, more living.

May this be a year of string-cut-Yesterdays, present Todays, hopeful Tomorrows. May this be a year where people and nature take more of our sight than the screens have been. More love and less angst. Open arms and strides forward. More of what you want to try, and less sticking with what you're already good at. Lived dreams and fulfilled promises. Light: sunrise, hearth, fuse, wherever you most need it.

Let this year be good to you. 

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

three hundred and sixty five

When you break a year down into days, it doesn't seem like much. Three hundred and sixty-five is not very many, especially when you think of all that can fit in the half-of-it during which we are awake. This year, and each day in it, spilled over with what filled me, us, the schedule, up.

2014 began and with it came a ring unlike the others. Boyfriend turned Fiance. Girlfriend turned Bride. Certainty now had a public symbol, one I wore on my left hand. Rings like these bring in a rush of everything: peace, joy, purpose. There's planning to be done and beauty to maintain and tradition to honor. Through the rush, we kept our eyes on each other. Through the pressure building, we held each other's shoulders up. Our hands did part to do the work, but they always came back together. For this, I am humbled & grateful.

I haven't written about our wedding day just yet. One would think - and I did, too - that marriage would be my main reason to speak, before and once it happened. But actually, I've been having some difficulty fitting our day, and especially our relationship, onto a page, inside some alphabet and letters, marked with the dirt of grammar and structure and limited time. The sound of clicking keys, pen on page, pencil led a-marking; I love them all. But none of them can tell you what it meant to marry my husband, and what it means to me to be his wife. I suppose if you could crawl in here, camp out in the deep reaches of my soul, breathe the fresh air he moves into my spirit; maybe then you'd grab an inkling. But it would still lack. He doesn't fit in a sentence, paragraph, page, poem, book series, library, planet. When time rushes on, we keep our eyes on each other. Though pressure likes to build, we hold each other's shoulders up. If I have to pick between anything and him, I choose him. When I do have to go away, I bring what I can of him with me.

This year has been good and blessed, but each day has brought its own version of groundwork. You can not build on sand, and so we've found ourselves sifted. Sometimes a little, sometimes all at once. We've watched our community both rally and reel, as birth and death, each in their own turns, take breaths. We've felt our grip on each other tighten, both with gratitude and, if we're honest, fear of loss. I've locked myself away and opened my heart just as swifly; so fickle is my hope, for humanity, for myself. I've been gracious and I've been rude; I've been a mama bear and I've bitten my tongue, and I've acquired a taste for the mouth-blood earned by restraint.

Even more, I've watched my family and friends navigate these days, dark and light as they are. This year, in its fullness, is done now. The good things, the anchors, we keep in celebration. The bad can not be reversed, though some reversals would save us. What we didn't do wasn't done. What we live for will find our hearts mended, if we live well; our buried desires will stay where we put them, for now.

What did come from this latest set of three hundred and sixty five? Every time the morning unwrapped itself, it became something. Each day is a package full of moments, and we caught things in the snare of time well spent. Sure, some things have slipped, but if you look at your net you'll see it is glittering; most of what you need is right here. We miss those who are gone (oh god, do we miss them), but so much of what they gave us is found when grace, in turn, finds us. Grace finds us in the still-here hands of those we love.

2014 was the year of the knee-bend.  Humility, gratefulness, turmoil, beauty, prayer: much of what was experienced kept our limbs on the ground. As we carry on with what 14's days gave us, we send a kiss into the wind of what took place, as we ready ourselves for another year.

It only takes twenty-four hours to spin the planet. Just think of how much change could be headed our way.  So much good to be found in this next set of days; let's help each other look for it.