• Less Clutter. Find out to get rid of clutter.

    19 Practical Paths to Less Clutter

    (3 minute read)

    “Death by clutter is the worst. Slowly our lives are suffocated one item at a time until we are buried in our belongings, yet we remain.” –Jamie Cearley, PhD

    So many of us recognize we have too much stuff but we get lost in how to get rid of it. Where do we start? How do we get past the emotional hurdles? For others of us, we manage to clean out, and then clean out yet again only to find our closets crammed a few months later. How do we stop the reappearance of stuff and have less clutter?

    Here are 19 practical tips on how to have less clutter:

    1. Start slow. Start with one drawer, one box, or maybe an area of high traffic like your kitchen countertops. If you go on a rampage of haste and your emotions are not prepared, you will miss your stuff.
    2. Realize things are not memories. As part of emotional preparedness, learn how to manage those sentimental items you just can’t part with.
    3. If you don’t collect anything swell. If you do stop. Next, let everyone know you no longer collect.
    4. Choose a set number of hangers for each closet. No more clothes than hangers. Then, if you get something new, you must toss something old to open up a hanger for it.
    5. Identify a charity you can embrace. Organizations such as, literacy advocates, churches, and animal rescues are great examples. A charity using your stuff for something you feel is important will make giving easier.
    6. In short, stop buying more stuff. Here is some help.
    7. Collect stuff into a box you consider is trash, not worthy of giveaway. Now, set the box in a place where you won’t see it. Next, set a date on your calendar for the day before the trash pickup day. When the day comes, if you haven’t needed anything in the box throw it away. Do not open the box! In a like manner, the same strategy works for giveaway boxes.
    8. Don’t cleave to things just because they are useful. For example, don’t keep one glass even though you broke all the others. Sure the glass is still useful in principle but not in practice. Likewise, if you don’t drink coffee you don’t need a bunch of unmatched coffee cups collected over the past 20 years.
    9. Junk mail is the enemy. Solution, keep a trash and recycle bin in your garage. Sort mail into each before coming into the house. Similarly, make sure when you order online, uncheck any boxes to receive catalogs or email. When ordering online use an independent email you have created for this purpose only. Websites like aol.com and gmail.com offer free email services.
    10. Beware free stuff. It often costs more than you could ever imagine.
    11. Learn how to sell on ebay and/or Craigslist.
    12. Locate a local consignment shop for furniture and accessories. The shop here can often sell items I purchased years ago for more money than I paid for it. Now there’s a way to make you feel good about getting rid of something.
    13. Take jewelry you don’t wear to a local pawn shop. Your aunt’s old turtle ring could line your pocket with unexpected cash. In a word, delightful.
    14. Get rid of furniture with storage. Coffee tables with drawers, bedside tables with drawers, and excessive shelving are temptations to keep and store more stuff.
    15. If it is living under your bed it needs to go. Scary, scary stuff lives under beds. Crazy amounts of dirt collect under a bed. If you have allergies wouldn’t it be nice to be able to sweep under your bed? If you don’t have allergies wouldn’t it be nice to be sure the boogie man is not generating from the dust beasts under there as the clock strikes midnight?
    16. Determine to have less clutter on the floor. I have found having the floor areas clear makes for easier cleaning. I have managed to do this in my laundry room, pantry, and a few closets and it is delightful.
    17. Set a “Buy a new one, ditch and old one policy.” Like clothes hangers, but apply this to anything from underwear to vehicles. After all, if you are not willing to ditch the old one, perhaps a new one isn’t needed or even wanted.
    18. Consider the time and sacrifice an item is requiring. Is it stealing from you? Is this where you want your time, money and energy to go?
    19. Never buy a house with a basement. My gramps used to say, “A basement is a large hole in the ground where you put stuff you should have thrown away.” A wise man he was.

    Finally, when you are busy executing these tips take note of the time, energy, and emotional effort getting rid of stuff is demanding of you. Let it sink deep into your consciousness. The next time an item tries to make it into your house, or shopping cart may these thoughts beam bright in your mind and cause you to consider the costs. Ask yourself, is this new bit of stuff still something you want? Or would you be happier with less clutter?

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  • Silence: Do You Hear It?

    (4 minute read)

    “Only when you are silent, will you realize there is no silence.” – Jamie Cearley, PhD

    I used to talk a lot. I would jabber about things that didn’t matter. Few people listened. Now that I am on the farm full time I spend most of my days alone, silent, but not in silence. No, far from silence, what I notice most is the intense banter of nature and humanity. They shout at me if I will just shut my mouth and listen with my whole being.

    Luther Standing Bear of the Lakota has been credited with saying, “Silence was meaningful with the Lakota, and his granting a space of silence before talking was done in the practice of true politeness and regardful of the rule that thought comes before speech…and in the midst of sorrow, sickness, death or misfortune of any kind, and in the presence of the notable and great, silence was the mark of respect.” This tenet of good behavior was no doubt the reason for the white man characterizing him as a stoic; giving him the undue labels of dumb, stupid, and unfeeling.

    We could use more meaningful silence in our culture. Since experiencing more silence I have been noticing there is an awful lot of noise in our lives. Even while pumping gas there is a TV screen blaring at me. Can’t I even pump gas in peace? Restaurants can be obnoxious too. I tried to take my mother out for a nice dinner recently. There were no less than 9 TV’s all on different channels in sight of our table. On top of this visual noise there was music playing. As if it couldn’t get less peaceful the servers broke into song and dance 3 times during our meal. So much for good food and conversation.

    Kenny Chesney has a new song out entitled Noise. The lyrics speak of wanting to be heard above all the noise in our world; the phones, TV’s, radios and a host of other noise makers. Kenny is right on target with one exception; he claims we can’t turn it off. You can turn it off. Our culture would hear its citizens better if we turned off all the noise.

    Here are 4 types of talk you might overhear if you turn off all the noise and listen:

    1. Natures chatter. The outdoors is anything but silent. Indeed, far more boisterous than my laboratory or office cubicle ever was. Yet, somehow the hustle and bustle of nature is far more soothing and serene in its ordered chaos than the mayhem of the work place. A pair of Red Tailed hawks screaming in their high pitched tone busy building a nest, ants communicating by laying intricate paths of pheromones, never making a sound, water droplets falling long after the rain has ended in an random chorus, these are the types of music nature plays day and night. Nature provides a never-ending song that somehow brings a feeling of peace and belonging.
    2. Body language. Have you ever tried hearing with your eyes? Horses by nature are non-vocal. This is true of prey animals in general. If you are on the menu, don’t announce your presence in the kitchen. To compensate, they are masters of body language. Flicking ears, giving “looks” in their never ending measure of each other’s leadership. Horses have some 17 discrete facial movements. Researchers have compiled these movements into facial expressions. Horses can also read human facial expressions.  You might say body language is the universal language of life; birds fluttering away at the approach of a coyote, a crow dive bombing a raptor, or deer curled up in an open field, saying all is well. The body language of humans can be just as clear. “Hear” with your eyes the smiles, the outstretched arms, and the gaze of their eyes. If you listen you might hear faint screams. The wants and needs of others will become clear. Listen to the silent cries for help; the folded arms, the lack of eye contact, or the slouching shoulders. While scientist don’t agree on the exact number of facial expressions a human is capable of, most would say between 6 and 27. Whichever figure you accept there is a great deal to listen to.
    3.  The consultation of yourself. If you are silent for long enough, you might even hear yourself. Perhaps the most difficult challenge for humankind is to see ourselves as we are. This may be in part because we never stop talking to ourselves and listen. To reflect inward requires silence.
    4. The wisdom of those older and more experienced. You cannot learn when you are talking. Listening to people who have navigated this world longer than you can help avoid a great deal of trouble and sorrow.

    A simple, rich life is one with less noise. It demands silent time. A quiet time in which to examine and refocus priorities, to listen to others, and to take in the world around us. Teach yourself and others to savor silence. Yes, you can turn off all the noise making contraptions, close your mouths, and see what you can learn from listening in silence. Warning, silence is addicting. You’re going to love it.

    “To enjoy silence, you must first be silent.” –Jamie Cearley, PhD

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  • How to Have Better Rotten Days

    (5 minute read)

    There are good days and there are bad days, and this is one of them. – Lawrence Welk

    Some day’s life stinks.

    Yes, I know the utopian quotes. “The only difference between a good day and a bad day is your attitude.”

    I often wonder who came up with that and what their life was like. I figure they either died at a ripe old age of 3 or uttered these words while under the influence of some illegal substance.

    While attitude is a contributor to making a day seem good or bad I refuse to believe we can “will” all days to be good. There are some days, no matter how hard we try to make them good, reek of rottenness. On days like this where not even an iron will can turn them to bliss we need something more.

    First let’s look at some common factors that make for rotten days:

    1. Poor decisions past and present. Yesterday’s decisions can make for rotten days today and far into the future.  With every bad decision our opportunities for the future narrow. Worse yet, for some mistakes, every day is payday. Make thoughtful decisions. Consider their long term ramifications. No decision is inconsequential. What’s more, the decisions of others can spawn some rotten days for us as well. Those who decide to drive drunk or text while driving are two examples where others can engender some rotten days for others.
    2. We are part of the cesspool of humanity. This is one of those moments when you hear your mother whispering in your mind, “Life isn’t fair sweetheart. The sooner you realize it the better off you will be.” I am not sure parents say that anymore. Maybe they are too busy reciting quotes about every day being a good one instead. The bottom line is, the actions of others affect us, sometimes for good and sometimes for bad. Being the victim of a crime, or the child of an abusive parent, is no fault of your own. The consequences we all as a society pay for criminals are astounding. Taxes, security systems, police forces, legal fees, prisons, even the cost of keeping lights on all night in places of business as a deterrent are just a few of the cost involved.
    3. Entropy. The second law of thermodynamics tells us there is a gradual decline to disorder in all systems. It doesn’t take a scientist to figure this out. Just consider your laundry. That smelly something in your refrigerator or those wrinkles developing on your skin are all signs of entropy. Some days everything just seems to fall apart all at once. Thank entropy.
    4. Nature. There are times when storms come in a quite literal sense. Statistics would show it is implausible for a tornado to strike the same family three times.  Then again, statistics are many times equal to bologna. Tornadoes have hit our home three times. Two of those events were in consecutive years. I remember saying when the second one hit, “Well, you can’t get any closer than this one without some serious damage.” The following year, a somewhat smaller tornado did in fact tract a few hundred feet closer to our house, taking out a small barn, yet leaving our house unscathed. Nature can make for some blissful days, but it can bring some rotten ones with fierce rage as well. There is nothing quite like an act of nature to generate some serious disorder.
    5. Time. Time dictates that we grow old. Sun exposure, wear and tear on our joints, and genetic mechanisms all deliver a verdict of decline and death.

    If you are saying to yourself at this point, “Wow, this chick has gone big time gloom and doom on us with this blog,” wait, there is good news.

    There are concrete ways you can make even the rottenest of days better.

    Here’s how to have better rotten days:

    1. Prepare your finances for rainy days.

    Have a rainy day fund. How big should it be? It depends on many factors such as your age, lifestyle, amount of debt, job opportunities available in your field, mobility, how many dependents you have, and your financial goals. As a good rule of thumb, calculate your cost of living for 6 months. Remember to factor in extra expenses that will come with unemployment such as insurance coverage. This amount of money should be enough for a rainy day fund. Still can’t picture what this looks like or how to go about getting it? Check out this guide from Vangaurd for more information.

    Consider in what forms rain will show up. I am always taken aback by the level of surprise some people have when bad things happen. I have heard advertisements for appliance insurance for example. The sales person states that a clothes washer breaking can drain your savings. For this you need insurance costing about $700 per year. I dare say if you were to put $700 a year in a savings account you would have plenty of money to fix whatever appliance was in need of repair or replacement with money to spare.

    Stuff breaks. Remember entropy? Vehicles, houses, appliances, even our own bodies break. Expect it. Be ready to pay for it.

    Having the money available to weather these storms will make it easier to sing in the rain when it comes.

    1. Prepare your emotions for:

    End of life. There is little that can make for a more rotten day than losing a loved one. While it is impossible to prepare for such a loss there are some actions that can help in coping with a loss.

    Grief classes can enlighten us ahead of time about some of the possible effects a loss may have on our lives. Knowing even a little about what to expect can be helpful.

    Attending funerals can keep a healthy recognition of the frailty of life at the forefront of our minds.

    Have frank discussions with your loved ones about end of life.

    Make sure your spiritual life is in order. Be at ease with who you are.

    Loss of stuff. Don’t get too attached to your stuff as it just might get blown away one day or go up in flames. How attached to your stuff are you? Does your stuff own you? The less attached you are the easier it is to see it go.

    The life you have chosen. Set your expectations in accord with your chosen lifestyle. For example, living on a farm means higher maintenance than living in an apartment. Orthopedic surgery as a career choice will bring quite different demands on a person than say computer programming. Consider the downstream effects your lifestyle choices will have and prepare to cope. All good things come with a price tag of sacrifice. Be sure you are willing to make the sacrifice demanded by your life choices. Again, having realistic expectations will lessen disappointments and limit unpleasant surprises down the road.

    1. Prepare legally.

    Most states require some form of insurance on belongings such as houses and vehicles. In addition to these a life insurance policy with a high enough value to get those left behind out of debt and on their feet can bring some peace of mind should disaster strike. Having a Will or trust is of equal importance.

    Also, consider a Living Will stating under what conditions you would accept life support, or resuscitation. Put in writing how you would like a terminal illness handled, desired limitations on treatments and under what circumstances you would want these treatments limited to palliative care. No one likes to think about these types of situations affecting them but if they do, having these documents in place can not only ease the stress of the patient but also of their family, friends and caregivers.

    No matter if today is rosy or rotten strive to be grateful and make the most of it. Accept that eventually rotten days will come. Accepting this reality and preparing for them can turn even the rottenest of days a little more rosy.

    The less stressful your rotten days are the sooner you can bounce back to enjoy the rosy ones again. They will come as well if we are patient and looking.

    May your blissful days be bountiful; your rotten ones rare and both be carefully prepared for.

    Press on.

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  • Quotes to Contemplate March 28, 2016


    Have you ever thought about whether what you know matters? Read how to start de-cluttering your mind.

    Start turning your existence into a life. 
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