celebration · family · home

Merry And Bright

acceptance · celebration · family · home · letting go

A Perfectly Imperfect Holiday

It is far too easy to fall into the trap. You know the one. Cozy and festive ideas taunt us from magazine articles, advertisements, television shows, store displays, social media, lifestyle blogs, movies, and more. And we believe we must do them – all of them – if we are to experience the perfect holiday.

I have been there. I tried to design the artsiest card, give the coolest present, bake the yummiest cookie, decorate the prettiest tree, serve the tastiest meal, create the warmest memories. Sometimes I succeeded. But many times I failed – not in celebrating the season, but in reaching my unattainable goal of perfection.

My pursuit of the perfect holiday did not leave me euphoric or in a perpetual state of joy. It left me feeling inadequate (I could never reach the ridiculous standards I set), frustrated (my constant efforts to keep up made me anxious and ever-reaching), exhausted (I never stopped moving and neglected to care for myself), and disconnected (my quest clouded my ability to be in the moment).

And when I reflect on those years where I tried so hard, I realize how much I missed. In my hurried and determined haze, I lost precious time with people and the chance to create cherished memories. There was so much more I could have done. More fun. More laughter. More hugs. More love. More conversations. More connection. More time. More everything.

I stopped the frantic search for what could never be found.

I let go of unrealistic expectations so I might hold onto what mattered.

I chose to celebrate perfect holidays in the most imperfect way. Here’s how:

1. STOP COMPARING, START ENJOYING: We are meant to be different and stand out so why do we try so hard to mimic what other people are doing? Why do we believe their ideas are better than our own? This is your holiday to enjoy, not someone else’s. There is no right or wrong way to celebrate – find what works for your family, schedule, finances, and beliefs. Appreciate the world you create rather than one manufactured by another.

2. LOSE GUILT, FIND MEMORIES: Some people like to go all out for the holiday while others prefer something more low-key and simple. You should not be ashamed or embarrassed if you do not celebrate to the extent of another person. Discover what makes your family appreciate the season whether that be filling every second with activities or spending quiet moments at home. The holidays will be more memorable if you do them your way.

3. RELEASE FANTASY, EMBRACE REALITY: Often the greatest moments and memories are created when we do not organize or plan them. There will be crooked ribbons and wrinkled gift wrap on packages, awkward family conversations over dinner, houses that never seem clean enough, and burnt out lights on the tree. Messes are inevitable. Expect them. Welcome them. Making room for the chaos will ease the stress when troubles arise.

We all know perfection is a myth and yet we still try to achieve it. Why? Because we want the magic.

What we fail to realize is the magic is already there. It does not come from having the finest of anything or being the greatest at everything. The magic comes from within – our homes, our hearts, ourselves.

The best we can do is often what others want and all we need.

This season, find your joy. Make memories. Make moments. Make merry.


Photo by freestocks.org on Unsplash

daily life · family · home · letting go · simplicity

10 Rules For A Simplified Space

My earliest memory of when I got it was when we needed to move out-of-state – fast. This was not our first move nor would it be our last, but it was the one that taught me to let go.

My husband and I were leaving behind our first “grown up” home, a newly built sprawling two-story. We tended, loved, and spoiled it. We bought items to decorate and entertain, things we thought would be great just in caseif we ever, or when we might. And in those weeks leading to the actual move, I realized we had too much. I began a major purge, moving methodically and ruthlessly from room to room until I had bags and piles of items to sell or donate.

And once we moved into our new home with the things we actually used and settled in with little stress, I noticed the satisfaction (and peace) that comes with letting go of excess.

That was almost fifteen years ago, but it took awhile to realize I had become a minimalist {by definition, a person who favors a moderate approach to the achievement of a set of goals}. I follow a strategic, yet flexible plan to managing my surroundings. I am not obsessive nor unrealistic, and I am far from perfect.

I have simply learned to be aware.

My closets and drawers are not overflowing. My cupboards and pantry are not disorganized. I do not have to search for an item. In fact, I know everything that is in my house at this exact moment. I knew I had mastered my version of minimalism when a friend visited our home, looked around the garage, and asked, “Where is all of your stuff?”

I simply try to minimize clutter while maximizing the bulk of my time. And while there are countless guides out there (from which I gleaned my favorite tips), these are the steadfast habits that work for me.

MY HOUSE RULES
1. ONE IN, ONE OUT: Whenever something comes into the home via shopping, gifts, or random acquisition, I ask A) do I want to keep it? B) if I keep it, what can go? If option B, I seek an even trade (i.e. a shirt for a shirt) but any item will do. THE GOAL: Create a balanced living space and prevent things from piling up.

2. MEMORY LANE: Family members often request I take or store something of sentimental value. If I do not have use or room for it, I am unafraid to say no. However, I will take things I can display every day as a reminder of a loved one or put to good use. THE GOAL: Do not confuse the memory of an item with its value.

3. PLACE FOR ALL, ALL IN ITS PLACE: When I bring items (groceries, purchases, etc.) into the home, I put them away as soon as possible. As for paperwork, mail, or receipts, I either throw, file, or note to follow-up before the clutter overwhelms. THE GOAL: Put items in their rightful place. If there isn’t a place, create one.

4. LIKE THINGS TOGETHER: I group similar items in the same area (all sport items in the garage, all jackets in one closet). This system develops a sense of what I have and what I use. It also avoids duplication and simplifies tasks like shopping and cleaning. THE GOAL: Ease the task of managing your space.

5. OUT OF SIGHT, OUT OF MIND: I have a perpetual donate/sell pile in my basement where unwanted items go. If I am unsure about something, I put it in the pile. Often I forget I have it and willfully let go. I donate/sell twice a year and when I sort the pile, I rarely reclaim an item. THE GOAL: Give yourself time to let things go.

6. ONE AT A TIME: If you are hesitant to get rid of things or unsure where to begin, go slow. Look for one item to trash, donate, or sell each day. Or try One Room A Month or One Area Per Week. Work at your own pace but keep it measurable. THE GOAL: Break the process into pieces to make it less daunting.

7. 80/20 CLOTHES: The idea? We wear 20% of our wardrobe 80% of the time. Lose the items that do not fit, need repair, are impractical, do not match your current lifestyle, or still have tags. Simplify your mornings, re-sell designer brands, and regain your confidence. THE GOAL: Wear what makes you feel good.

8. FAMILY AFFAIR: My husband has learned to appreciate the fact that we do not have a lot of clutter. But, I have also learned to allow him to let go at his own pace. Forcing someone to minimize their surroundings never works. It only makes them resentful. THE GOAL: Share strategies, be patient, and appreciate any cooperation.

9. CHILD’S PLAY: Dealing with children is a delicate balancing act. Kids tend to keep and hoard it all. They become possessive and believe everything is valuable. I have worked around this by focusing on and teaching my son the first rule of One In, One Out because even trades are the easiest to explain and maintain. Other things like his bobble-head collection and baseball cards are not subject to the rules, however. I never pressure him to get rid of something he treasures. Young kids may not grasp the concept so ease into it. Older kids should be able to understand the meaning of letting go vs. holding onto things they love. Guide their decisions but give them final say. Do not openly question their choices and be sure not to press them to give up too much. In our family, we go through certain items like clothing at set times (seasonally) so he knows what to expect. Toys and games are done over holiday break when he can take time to organize his space the way he likes. THE GOAL: Encourage lifelong habits while giving them the freedom to choose.

10. COLLECT EXPERIENCES, NOT THINGS: Allowing material items to consume valuable time, attention, and energy leaves little room for the activities and people we love. If you find yourself overwhelmed by the task, seek the help of a therapist, professional organizer, or friend. THE GOAL: Have stories to tell, not stuff to show.

It is never too late to start (or start over), and establishing steady habits now will make it easier in the long run. Even the smallest change can reap huge rewards. Try mastering one rule, then another, and another. Seek to replace the things with people and activities that bring you joy. Realize how living with less can lead to so much more.


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~Inspired ME, Joyful BE


Photo by Soroush Karimi on Unsplash

family · home · obstacles · parenting

A Simple Life, Complicated

I am a self-proclaimed minimalist which means I like to simplify my surroundings, tasks, and schedule. But I am also a realist. I understand that sometimes in life, we need to complicate things.

Case in point: Our son has been asking for a dog for a solid year. From last year’s birthday to Christmas to this year’s birthday. It was obvious he was not giving up, and it would likely be the first item on his upcoming holiday wish list.

My husband and I did not want a dog as much as our son did. In fact, we have had a dog in the past and know what is involved. However, after much parental discussion, we came to this conclusion: We would get a dog.

After searching and inquiring and finalizing all of the necessary steps, we adopted this sweet little guy.

He is old enough to understand the rules yet young enough to keep up with our family. He is a power snuggler and master at stealing hearts. He came from a rescue organization, was in foster care, and needed a home.

He needed us. But perhaps more importantly, our son needed him. He needed things only a dog can give.

Responsibility – Our son is at that magical age (13) where he should be held accountable for more than good grades, sports practices, and lawn mowing. Thus, he has already been designated Head Dog-walker.

Companionship – As an only child, our son has friends at school, in sports, and around the neighborhood. And while he is excellent at being in his own head and enjoying alone time, he deserves a reliable buddy.

Understanding – Our son has already bonded with the dog which will hopefully put him on the path toward unconditional love, patience, and compassion for those who do not always treat him right.

I admit I will struggle with the extra time, effort, and general stuff that comes with dog ownership. But as a parent, we often have to bypass our wants so our children might get what they need.

I will try.

Try to treasure the moments when my son is sad, and the dog makes him smile. Try to cherish the times my son feels alone, and the dog provides company. Try to appreciate the moments when my son seems unsure, and the dog gives him confidence. Try to value the times my son requires comfort, and the dog provides that and so much more.

And hopefully one day far in the future, I will look back and remember how much I tried. Tried to do my best to help my son along. Tried to be patient. Tried to shine as a role model. Tried to teach my son the challenging parts of life can bring the most joy. Tried to show he is strong enough to navigate this difficult world.

I will never stop trying. And because of this, I choose to complicate my simple life with a small dog who will change our everything in a big way.

 


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~Inspired ME, Joyful BE


Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

family · goals · parenting · self

The World I Want For My Son

My son starts school today. There is little fanfare when you are “middle school, been-there-done-that.” And yet, we still had an exciting morning of early alarms, first day photos, hurried breakfasts, good-luck hugs, and rushing to the bus stop. There will be old friends and teachers to see, new friends and teachers to meet. Familiar hallways, different classrooms.

It is a time when anything – and everything – seems possible.

In reality, it is the calm before the storm. Within days, we will rush through homework and dinner to attend sports practices. Weekends will be filled with more practices and games. There will be deadlines to meet, schedules to follow, and stress to bear. But within the chaos, all will seem predictable and safe.

At least I hope so.

More and more as a parent, I find myself wishing for an easier time. When I was my son’s age, life seemed simpler. Yes, there were problems. After all, it was the early eighties. The war on drugs was beginning. Jobs were lost. The Cold War was in full swing. People were abused, abducted, and killed in senseless crimes. Families were broken. Yet the troubles then did not seem so great compared to what we face now.

Maybe it is because I was just a kid myself. Maybe it is our globalized worldview or the pervasive 24/7 news cycle. Perhaps the blame can be put on technology and social media.

Maybe, just maybe, it is the same as it ever was.

All I know is this: I worry more. About human trafficking, opioid overdoses, nuclear war, economic instability, cyberbullying, hate groups, terrorist attacks. Everything seems so intense right now. And though I am typically optimistic, I feel stuck in a never-ending state of frustration. Frustrated the fear of what might never happen is taking over the joy of what is actually right in front of me.

I wish my son could experience a world free of heartache or pain. One void of ideological division and without violence or war. But in truth the world has never been like that.

As parents, we are tasked with so much it is easy to become trapped in the sheer overwhelmingness of it all. Advice comes from every side, as does the criticism. We want to be informed, do everything “right” so we might avoid mistakes and judgment. That, of course, is impossible. We will never know everything. We will fail (a lot) and sometimes be judged. That is parenting.

In the end, our sole purpose is to raise compassionate, self-sufficient, productive adults. And while we do that, we are to provide a soft spot to fall.

And so, this school year I will focus on bringing peace to my own little world. I will allow my son to be a kid awhile longer, to linger in the innocence of a life where the only worry is whether his baseball game gets rained out. There will be plenty of time to fear things when he is an adult, a parent.

For now, I will simply continue to …
-provide a haven, a safe place where he can freely discover who he is and who he hopes to be.
-encourage him to open his wings and spread them as wide as they go so he can explore.
-show him there is more good in this world than evil even when others try to convince us otherwise.
-set an example by treating people with patience and respect regardless of what they do or believe.
-remind him to be kind, embrace differences, and lift others up.

I will continue to tell my son … 
-when everything seems wrong, seek what is right.
-if something bad happens, counter it with good.
-when someone else runs from a challenge, walk toward it.
-if others are selfish, give of yourself.
-when seeking direction, be the leader.

Show this world that you will not give up. You will not give up on yourself. You will not give up on others. You will not give up on happiness. You will not give up on peace. You will never give up. Because even though life outside may seem cruel and unfair, the world you create inside – for yourself – can be one of joy.

CREATE YOUR OWN WORLD. One where you feel …

SAFE. Surround yourself with people who care about you.
LOVE. Give your heart to those who cherish you.
CONFIDENCE. Spend time with people who encourage you.
VALUE. Be with those who appreciate you.
PRIDE. Find the people who support you.
WORTH. Determine your own standard.
CONNECTION. Share your time and energy with people who deserve it.
ACCEPTANCE. Befriend those who respect you.

In the quiet moments, when I wonder if I am doing too little or making the wrong choice, I will be sure of one thing. I loved my son more than enough. I loved him without question or condition. I loved him with my whole heart and beyond. I loved him so much that I wanted him to thrive in an imperfect world so he might one day be the change and the light to drive out darkness whenever it came.

The world I want for my son is the one he creates.


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~Inspired ME, Joyful BE