letting go · renewal · self · simplicity

The Bright Side Of Going Dark

These past months have been difficult. Not in the crisis-horrible-things-happened kind of difficult. But more in the way of stressful.

Fall is always a busy time for us. My husband resumes heavy work travel, I resume full-time writing, and my son resumes a hectic school and sports schedule. I know I am not special. Everyone, especially parents, struggles with the daily demands of basic living. But the thing I know is this: I can manage extreme multitasking and chaotic days for a while (and thrive!), but there always comes a breaking point. One where I must say no more.

This is when I go dark.

When many people think of the dark, they become anxious and scared of the unknown, fearing what might lurk in the shadows. Others may see it as a depressing state or one where negativity lingers. It is different for everyone but for me, it means stepping back.

I view it as a way to reset.

Texts, phone calls, emails, messaging, news feeds, social media, surfing online, television, movies, gaming. We become so caught up in the “keeping up” it can overwhelm and consume precious time that could be better spent elsewhere.

GO DARK: When staying current on news, in touch with family and friends, and up-to-date on my author and writer tasks takes a toll, I step out of the virtual world and into the real one. I go dark online by reducing social media logins, unsubscribing to unnecessary blogs and news feeds, and powering down devices. Decreasing an online presence and replacing it with in person interactions or conversations not only improves relationships, it nourishes the soul. It also allows for activities we love or time to care for ourselves. A few extra unplugged minutes every day can change everything.

We all feel guilt for not doing enough – for our family, friends, home, job, church, school, community, ourselves. And thanks to external pressures by society, we begin to believe something is wrong with us, that we are somehow failing when we aren’t doing all the “things.”

GO DARK: I try to weigh the value of each new task or activity and seek to prioritize. But when I become caught up in the doing, I pause and ask what really matters. I go dark socially by putting family needs first, being realistic about my ability as an introvert, and ignoring the fear of missing out. Simplifying schedules by keeping the important things leaves more room for real appreciation and a sense of peace. Being in the moment might seem like a luxury but it is definitely within reach. We can do it all – just not all at once. And if we cannot do it all, let something go so we might fully embrace something else.

Too often we place importance on external things – big and small – regardless of their true worth in our lives. It is easy to fall into the trap of making lists and intricate plans or acquiring items in an effort to reach some unrealistic fantasy of how things should be.

GO DARK: I cannot do everything well and when I try, something inevitably suffers. With the holidays and sports ramping up, I know I must release the image of perfection. I go dark personally by freeing myself from unattainable goals, eliminating unnecessary tasks and clutter, and focusing on what brings true joy. By ridding ourselves of the excess we create space for meaningful relationships, cherished memories, and peaceful moments. Strive for imperfection. Decide what goes and what stays. Realize letting go does not mean doing without. Yes, some things might be gone forever but what matters will remain.

It is important to know when to retreat into the dark. And when you do, go willingly and with purpose. Reclaim your time, rediscover who you are and what you want life to be. Do not be afraid to turn out the lights because when you turn them back on, life will shine brighter than ever before.

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~Inspired ME, Joyful BE

Photo by John Silliman 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.

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

acceptance · confidence · daily life · letting go · simplicity

The Power Of NO

This week I said NO to 5 things that were not already on my schedule. Why?

1) I had too many other non-negotiable, everyday activities (i.e. have-to-dos, need-to-dos, family, home, work, appointments, errands, etc.).

2) I knew that doing the everyday things + these 5 extra things + whatever unexpectedly popped up would have required me to give more than I had to give.

I realize I cannot do it all. More importantly, I no longer try.

Saying NO is not easy for many people. I have little problem doing it. In fact, my first instinct when I am asked something is to politely turn it down. Perhaps this is a major quirk of being an Introvert and a Minimalist all rolled into one. I am severely protective of my time, particularly the rare, free time.

My knee-jerk reaction might be NO, but sometimes I honestly and truly have to say NO so I can:

1) maintain my sanity
2) focus on what matters

Release the guilt of putting your family, your needs, and yourself first.

When we say yes to everything, we never really give our full attention to anything which can = lost memories and disconnect.

When we say yes though our heart screams no, we give away pieces of ourselves which can = anxiety and frustration.

When we say yes to things we do not want to do, we give away irreplaceable pockets of time which can = anger and regret.

When we say yes because of pressure, we give away our control which can = resentment and powerlessness.

Sometimes we must say YES because it is simply the right thing to do. We have compassion for others. We make promises to keep. We have commitments to those we love. We make goals and carry dreams.

But, the next time your instinct questions whether to do something, stop and ask: Why are you thinking of doing it? What are you sacrificing to do it? What are the ramifications if you say no? What are the benefits if you say no?

Saying NO may seem like you are letting someone down or missing out, but it can also bring opportunity.

A chance to:
-enjoy the things you do rather than rush through them
-complete the things you have to do with purpose, detail, and pride
-free up time to take care of yourself
-have cherished, ‘do nothing,’ memory-making moments with the people who matter

The benefit of letting go of the non-essentials is that we make room. Room to pause, reflect, plan, think, rest, relax, appreciate, love. Rather than chasing whatever might be coming next, recognize what is right in front of you.

These are your moments, live them on your terms. Consider saying NO so you can say YES to something better.

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~Inspired ME, Joyful BE

Photo by Gemma Evans on Unsplash

daily life · letting go · simplicity

What We Really Need

I am smack dab in the middle of a family vacation and while I enjoy the quiet moments and downtime with my family, there is a voice in the back of my head screaming I NEED TO 

… set up two orthodontic appointments, make a list for back to school shopping, clean out my inbox, have the oil changed and car washed, write 3 blog posts, finalize a book outline, get back on a full-time writing schedule, arrange a doctor visit, organize my work files, I NEED TO … I NEED TO … I NEED TO!


Family. Friends. Work. School. Home. Health. Hobbies. These days our plates are so full – overflowing with tasks and responsibilities – it is easy to become overwhelmed, frustrated, and even distracted.

Personally, I do not mind having things to do and a sense of purpose. But when they infringe on my family time, my fun time, my chance-to-relax time, my VACATION where I am supposed to get-away-from-it-all time … I become seriously annoyed.

These days with my husband, son, and extended family are fleeting. They are irreplaceable moments which might become memories. I refuse to allow everyday demands to taint them. I NEED TO …

… focus on my son’s smile when he tells a silly joke, squeeze my husband’s hand a little tighter when we walk side by side, cheer louder as we watch our favorite major league baseball team, linger longer over a delicious dinner and relaxing glass of wine, savor the memory of our recent family reunions.


seek to experience and explore new things
break away from daily demands whenever possible
put down our phones and other technology
give the people we love our full attention
make time to treat ourselves – often

Life NEEDS to be lived on our terms rather than directed by duty. Believe me, the to-dos will still be there – if and whenever we get back to them. The moments, however, will not.

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~Inspired ME, Joyful BE

acceptance · renewal · self · simplicity

When You Hit A Wall, Lean Against It

This summer has been a lot tougher than I care to admit. For although we are officially on summer break, much of it hasn’t really felt like summer or a break.

My son loves sports – as in he could practice, play, watch, analyze, and research all day. And because he loves sports, he loves participating in a variety of camps. I register him for some because they are worth the time and cost. They also provide an opportunity to hang with friends, be coached at a different level than during the school year, and simply have fun.

And so it is that my son and I have very different views of summer. He prefers warp speed. I prefer slow and steady. He wants to compete. I want to relax. He likes places to go. I like no schedule. He seeks to be challenged. I seek serenity.

Of course I believe immense value comes from activities and experiences. But I also believe occasional boredom, having absolutely nothing planned, and stepping away from the crazy can be equally rewarding.

Any moment – grand or not – can become a cherished memory.

My struggle? Surviving cancer often makes me believe I should hold onto everything with a grateful heart while at the same time I should let go of whatever is a waste of time and energy and just … live.

I want every moment to matter – both for him and for me – which is why I often do things I do not necessarily want to do. As a parent, my son’s happiness automatically becomes my happiness. In a strange way I have to do things I do not want to do in order to get what I ultimately want … joy in the everyday.

The problem? For the first five weeks of summer we were on a tight schedule. And while I loved seeing my son do the things he enjoys, I tried to do too much. Even worse, when I reached my limit, I (stubbornly) kept going.


The solution? Pause. Reflect. Remember the magic summer can bring. I will make the most of the next five weeks. Our little family has already enjoyed one vacation – glorious days exploring, relaxing, and simply being together. Up next is another trip filled with family and fun. And in between we will do a little of something and a whole lot of nothing.


Sometimes we must give in to the demands, feel overwhelmed, and push ourselves to get through busy or difficult days. And other times, we might have to say yes when we really want to say no, especially if it comes to pleasing the people we love. The key is realizing when we have reached maximum capacity. Yes, it takes strength to keep up with it all, but it takes even greater strength to release the guilt, take care of ourselves, and break away.

If you have hit a wall, lean against it.

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~Inspired ME, Joyful BE

acceptance · confidence · self · simplicity

7 Ways To Simply BE

Sometimes I wonder what is wrong with me.

In any given day, there is that inevitable moment: the one where I realize I am dropping the proverbial ball.

I want to do all things. BE all things.

A wife who dotes on her husband so he might realize how amazing he is, how much he is loved, and how wonderful life is with him in it.
A mother who expertly walks the delicate balance between tough and pure love while teaching her son how to succeed, fail, respect others, challenge himself, dream big, be realistic, and thrive in this crazy world so he might one day change it for the better.
A daughter who is not too wrapped up in this current life to appreciate the woman who gave it to her.
A sister who never forgets to thank her siblings for the memories, laughter, and unconditional support.
A niece who feels blessed to have funny, loving, caring, and giving women who are not only aunts but friends.
An aunt who loves her nieces and nephews as if they were her own children.
A friend who has time to listen, help, advise, laugh, and simply be there when needed.
A writer who understands the purpose of her words and the need to share them.
A woman who is all things for all people – one who never wavers, has the right answers, provides eternal praise, rarely criticizes, never hurts another, does not judge, always knows what to say, puts herself first, dresses impeccably, maintains a spotless home, prepares gourmet meals, never forgets an appointment/grocery item/to do item, is always on time, and all the while making it seem effortless.

Of course, this is a fantasy. Succeeding in one area of my life often means I am struggling in another. And to be honest, I am okay with that. Struggle is a part of life and as long as I am not failing completely in any given area, then I am fine.

It simply is not possible to be all things to all people all of the time. It is not only unrealistic and exhausting but impossible to perform at top speed and perfection every minute of every day.

I have learned to give myself two beautiful gifts: patience and compassion. And once I willingly accepted those gifts, I realized something: I am everything I hope to be. For even when I am not consciously performing some act to prove it, I am all of those things. They are part of me.

I have not lowered my standards, but I refuse to set too high of expectations. I no longer push myself to work toward something I will never master. More importantly, I do not even want to. I have learned:

7 Ways To Simply BE

  1. FACE REALITY – Take a ruthless look at your schedule and decrease the load wherever possible. Do not be afraid to say no! If letting things go is not an option, work to make it more manageable by simplifying tasks.
  2. BE PROACTIVE – Beware of the trap, the one where you juggle multiple things and seem to be doing well. Inevitably, a ball will drop and when it falls, it will fall hard and possibly shatter. Look for ways to lessen the stress before it is too late.
  3. SET PRIORITIES – Sometimes one area of life will require all of your time and effort. Focus on health, family members, education, career, etc. as needed. And once life is on track, carefully widen the circle to include the people and things you missed.
  4. REACH OUT – Let others know when you are overwhelmed. Ask for patience (or forgiveness). And if someone offers, do not be afraid to accept help.
  5. ANALYZE – Is leisure time being used wisely? Technology can be a huge benefit but it can also be a tool for procrastination or avoidance. Cutting back on screen usage (TV, phone, computer) can free up time for health, quality interactions, a hobby, etc.
  6. DIVIDE AND CONQUER – Consider working on one area of your life and once it is under control, move onto another. The nice thing here is that you completely focus on something you hope to organize and improve for a short time and then once it has become easier to manage, you tackle another one with equal and dedicated attention.
  7. ACKNOWLEDGE – Realize how much you actually accomplish. It is pretty amazing when you look closely at the things you do during one day. Make a comprehensive list – include everything, no matter how small. You will be amazed at all you do. An added bonus? It will show how time is spent and reveal areas to improve or simplify.

Balancing every aspect of life is not easy and as we pass through each new stage, the path only becomes more difficult to navigate. Even when life comes at us fast and hard, however, we can enjoy it. The key?

Show yourself kindness. Be patient and compassionate. Discover how to live this crazy, beautiful life on your own terms. Just BE.

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acceptance · health · letting go · simplicity

Master The Art Of Letting Go

I have been letting go of a lot lately. In truth, I have been doing it for years. It is not always an easy or smooth process. Too often, I find myself caught up in a cloud of worry. What if I make a bad decision? What if I hurt someone’s feelings? What if I follow the wrong path? What if? What if? What if?

What if we simply let go of…

THINGS: Where is all of your stuff? one friend asked when he visited our home. I am a lover of beautiful, useful, and sentimental things. I am also a minimalist. Letting go of clutter is not as difficult as one might think. With some practice and guidelines, I consistently maintain a large, lovely home and active family without much excess. This is a wide-reaching topic, so stay tuned for a future post.

OBLIGATIONS: I say no whenever necessary. If it does not fit into our family view, I refuse. Sometimes, I must say yes when I want to say no because well, that is just the way of life. But when I do, it is on my terms. Consider the options. Do not agree out of guilt. Say no to certain things so you can say yes to something better.

TO DOS: I am a list maker – daily, work, seasonal, etc. I am also a wish-list maker. I create grand, sweeping, dreamy lists of everything I would like to do. The secret? When I am done, I go line by line and slash and burn. I cross things off without doing them because I understand my reality. In the end, I am left with the priorities, the things that matter, and a lot less pressure.

DREAMS: Sometimes I have to pause and re-evaluate what it is I really want. Daily demands, previous choices, time constraints, finances, and more can have a major influence on what I hope and envision. Taking stock of where I am in the present moment helps determine where I get to be. Dreams can be changed. Dreams can be postponed. Just never, ever stop dreaming.

EXPECTATIONS: I have made the mistake of expecting too much – from myself, my family, my friends. And when I did, I was inevitably disappointed. It is nearly impossible to match the conversations and interactions I create in my mind so I have stopped doing it. Try to take things as they come and be in the moment because when you just do life, it often amazes and exceeds any expectations you could have set.

PERFECTION: I try to do the right thing, make good decisions, and be the best version of me. But I still have moments when I push myself too far, believing I can control A if I just do B and when I do, things will be perfect. Of course, perfection is a myth and once I remind myself of that, I go back to being perfectly imperfect. 

REGRET: There is not much I regret and the things I have regretted, I made an effort to correct. If you struggle with the after-effects of a bad decision, release the guilt and shame. Direct all energy into fixing whatever is wrong. And if you cannot correct the mess you made, lighten the emotional load by giving yourself the gift of forgiveness.

INDECISION: Making a decision can be difficult, especially if the consequences seem high. Once I make a decision, however, I rarely go back. I have the ability to embrace it, move forward, and give everything I have. One tip? Sit with the idea for a bit before actually committing. If your head and heart are good with the prospect of a new direction or change, follow your instinct and go with it.

PEOPLE: This one is difficult. Even when we know someone is harmful or no good, we tend to hold on. It is human nature to believe we can somehow alter a relationship if we simply try harder, do better, explain our side, convince them, or love more. But the hard truth is: some people are not meant to be together, whether in marriage, family, or friendship. If someone is perpetually negative, demeaning, unsupportive, emotionally unavailable, spiteful, mean, or abusive, it is time to leave. Letting go of toxic people is not an act of cruelty, it is an act of self-care.

TIME: With every passing second, I let go of something precious – time. Cancer scared me enough to realize just how important each moment can be. Yes, I still waste too much time doing stupid things. It is impossible to fill every minute of every day with grand experiences. However, I am hyper-aware of how irreplaceable most of my life is and protect my time every chance I get.

There are countless areas where we can learn to let go – fears, self-doubt, judgment, hate, anger, the list goes on. We are all a constant work in progress. Try one area at a time, then tackle another. With practice, it will not only become easier but welcome. You might even enjoy letting go once you feel the weight lift from your shoulders and the ability to focus on what truly matters. And if you ever feel stuck or unsure … listen to your heart. It knows when to let go.

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