Archive for Spirit

Tidying Up

In our effort to downsize our stuff so we can upsize our lives, my husband and I both read Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Art of Tidying Up.  (We checked it out from the library—no additional clutter.)  Like many “self-help” books, I ended up skimming a lot of it.  Sometimes people have a great idea but when they try to explain their ideas in a book, they end up repeating themselves and adding a bunch of fluff to make it long enough for a book.  This was the case here.  Plus she asks that we thank our socks and assign feelings to inanimate objects, and that was a little challenging for me.

If you haven’t read it yet, here’s a synopsis you can read in a few minutes.

The Rules

Ms. Kondo suggests that the process of tidying up starts with letting go of things you no longer need.  It’s easier to organize and be tidy with fewer things.  Here are her rules for sorting through your belongings:

  1. Discard then organize.
  2. Do it all at once.  Dedicate a couple of days, and just get it done.
  3. Sort by category, not by room.  Gather everything that belongs to that category from every room, and sort through it all at once.
  4. DO NOT start with mementos. It’s too easy to get distracted, and you need some practice letting go of things with less emotional attachment first.
  5. Sort your items in this order, and this order only:
    1. Clothes
    2. Books
    3. Papers
    4. Miscellany
    5. Mementos

In the book, Ms. Kondo explains her rationale for these rules, provides stories and examples, and gives more details and suggestions, but this is the gist of it.  Then she makes suggestions about how to organize and store things.

The Ah-Ha Moment

For me, the most helpful take-away from the book was this:

Keep only those things that speak to your heart.

That was a revelation, and I don’t know why I hadn’t figured this out on my own.  How many times had I “purged” my closet, only to leave that blouse hanging there that I never wore because I thought I should wear it, but I never pulled it off the hanger to actually wear.  If I asked myself, per Marie Kondo’s suggestion, if it sparked joy, I would clearly say no.  So as I sorted my belongings, and even when I was considering buying new things, I would ask myself if that item brought me joy.  If not, it was given away, thrown out, or never purchased in the first place.

She also points out that at some point the stuff in our homes brought us joy and/or served a purpose, even if that was a few minutes of excitement at the cash register.  This simple concept keeps us from chastising ourselves for having things we don’t need or want, and it give us permission to let them go if they’re no longer bringing us joy.

Our Experience

Did we use her rules as we downsized from a 2100 square foot home to a 900 square foot apartment, and now to a 200 square foot motorcoach?  No.  We’ve been slowly downsizing over the last couple of years, and selling the house was another big push.  Honestly, I don’t know if we could have done it all in a couple of days.  And we’ve been thankful we had an intermediate step between the house and the motorhome.  Still, I can certainly see the advantages to doing it all in one fell swoop.

I can say it’s liberating to not be tied down to so much stuff.  We won’t have to hire movers or rent a moving van when we settle down.  We won’t need to rent or buy a large home to store all our stuff.  It allows us more flexibility and the ability to be more mobile.  When you live in a tiny space (especially a tiny space that moves) you learn to be more tidy and more organized, to keep everything in it’s place.

And you learn you don’t really need a lot of stuff.

Now is the Time

Our Gap Year adventure is beginning!

Thor Ace 27.1 | 1CL

When I last wrote about Gap Year, we hadn’t decided when it would happen.  We knew the earliest it could possibly get started was after our youngest child left home, but we didn’t know if we’d be ready right then or not.  And when my husband got his dream job a few years ago, I was sure he wouldn’t want to leave it after only a couple years.  But the reality of working for a big company set in, and the honeymoon ended.

Since I wrote that Gap Year post back in 2011 we’ve lost some family members that were way too young, had coworkers that suddenly passed or developed life-threatening illnesses, and both of us lost our fathers.  It reinforced the notion that our time here is limited, and we don’t know how limited.

With the housing market starting to recover, we thought we could sell our house without too much pain (that turned out to be true).  My mom is still living independently, we’re healthy, our kids our healthy, and we don’t have any grandkids.  The planets had aligned—there was no reason to put it off.  The longer we waited, we knew the greater the chance that any one of those things could change.

The Plan

We sold our house, bought a motorcoach, and quit our jobs.  We said goodbye to San Diego and to our family and friends there.  After I finish up one last week of work in Las Vegas, we are heading to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, then on to Lake Powell.  After that the plan is to have no plan (or at least minimal plans).  Here is what we do have planned:

  • Stay out of the snow
  • Drive no more than four hours a day and only in the daylight
  • Hike, hike, hike
  • Spend Christmas with Mom in NW Arkansas
  • Experience Mardi Gras in New Orleans
  • Spend our 10-year wedding anniversary in Niagara Falls
  • See the fall colors on the Eastern Seaboard
  • Drop in on friends and family whenever possible on our journey
  • See as many national parks and monuments as we can
  • Find opportunities for Kelly to do Scottish country dancing
  • Go back to work for a few years before retiring

We have a long list of places to see, but no itinerary.  It’s a challenge for me to set out on something this big without a definitive plan, but it’s also part of the adventure.   By not making a bunch of reservations in advance, we have the freedom to stay a little longer or follow recommendations we hadn’t considered before.  It’s an opportunity to practice letting go.

The Blog

One Conscious Life will become more or less a travelogue now.  I may still write posts about frugal living, healthy eating/cooking, personal finance, eco-friendly living, and being of service because these will always be topics of importance to me.  But this blog is about to become more personal than before, and I won’t have a set posting schedule.

The best way to see pictures of our adventure, and to have more up-to-date information on where we are and what we’re doing, will be to follow our Facebook page, “Dave and Kelly’s Gap Year” at

We hope you will follow us on our adventure, either here or on Facebook (or both!), and that you’ll actively like and comment on our posts and make suggestions about places we should visit.

Why I Stopped Blogging

After a year of being a blogger, posting three posts each week (I only missed two posts), I decided to stop.  That was a difficult decision for me.  I’m not a quitter, even when I probably should be, and I was proud of what I’d done.

Writing was supposed to bring me joy, and for a while it did.  But the bottom line is that it became a grind.  I came to dread Sunday nights when I needed to have my big Monday post written.  What was the topic?  What was the angle?  What was my unique viewpoint?

The recipe posts were a little easier, but maintaining the spreadsheet in which I tracked the cost of all the food we purchased so I could cost out my recipes was extremely time-consuming.  Imagine going through your grocery receipts every week and recording the cost and weight/volume of everything you bought, and later weighing and measuring and calculating so you could provide cost per serving information.  More grind.

Although I was proud of what I wrote, I didn’t think I was bringing a particularly unique perspective to the topics my blog covered.  There are thousands of bloggers out there—many of them very good.  I just didn’t stand out.  My blog wasn’t sticky; I didn’t have a hook.  Which is probably why….

Nobody read my blog.

Not even my mom.

Still, I didn’t want to give up on the idea of having an outlet for my writing should I feel moved to write.  And I wanted to have something in place for posts about our Gap Year adventure.  So I’ve maintained the site to keep my options open.

In the driver's seat

Why I’m Starting Again

Just like when I started One Conscious Life 4 ½ years ago, I’ve got big life changes underway.  It’s not time to start posting about that quite yet, but it has caused me to think about my little blog again.  It’s time to rethink the purpose and content of my blog, reset my expectations, and get to writing again.  (It’s NOT time to restart the grocery spreadsheet.)

As I’m inspired, I may post something periodically while I rethink and repurpose 1CL, but it’s definitely going to be a more casual, inspiration-based posting schedule.  I hope you’ll check back in and see what happens.

Love Song

Sunday night I was listening to music as I prepared dinner, and one of the songs that came on was a love song that a friend of mine had teased me about liking. It’s a chick song, sappy and romantic.

It was my friend’s contention that songs like that are silly and unrealistic, much like chick flicks. (You’ve figured out this friend is male, right?) You know, I didn’t argue with him because I don’t really disagree with him, not completely anyway.

There have been times that I have tried to fight what I now call “my chickly nature” but I’ve largely given up that fight. Hugh Grant’s got a new movie in which he plays the same character he always plays? I’ll watch it. They’ve turned another Nicholas Sparks novel into a movie starring impossibly fit and good-looking actors? Let me just grab some kleenex. Some pop band has a new hit describing undying love to a catchy beat? Here’s my 99 cents.

I think men are opposed to these kinds of sappy romantic songs/movies/books because they feel it sets a pretty high standard to live up to. I’m just projecting here, but I’ve heard how some women talk, what their expectations are, and that’s a lot of pressure for men to perform. And even a more mature, level-headed, and experienced woman who may not “expect” her man to wax poetic about how her body is a wonderland, is probably still hoping he feels that way. And wouldn’t it be great if he let her know? Yeah, it would be so much easier for men if other men didn’t put these things out there in the universe for them to be compared to.

What occurred to me as I sipped a glass of wine and made chicken cacciatore was that these songs and movies make it hard for women too. No, I’m not talking about the unrealistic expectations they place on their men, setting themselves up for disappointment, but the unrealistic expectations they put on themselves.

Because I think the truth is, women aspire to be the kind of women that inspire the devotion and adoration expressed in sappy love songs—-and that’s a pretty high standard too. It’s amazing the lengths some women will go to to be loved. The Little Mermaid, afterall, was willing to give up her family and the life she knew, even changing the very essence of her being for the man she loved. Even women who don’t go to those lengths may still do and sacrifice a lot for the love of their husbands and family.

So should we abandon the romantic ideal since very few seem to be able to live up to it? I don’t think so. If men and women are striving to be more loving and lovable is that such a bad thing?

Thanksgiving Gratitude List

‘Tis the season of gratitude and thankfulness. And I’m a big fan of gratitude as a spiritual practice and a mental health aid. It’s practically a law of nature that in any particular moment, I’m okay. When I can live in the now, I feel a lot better. And one of the tools I use to live in the now is gratitude. Even in the worst of times, there is always something to be grateful for.

So with Thanksgiving just a couple days away, I thought I would write about the top 8 things I’m most grateful for today.

8.  Living in San Diego

With the exception of a few years, I’ve lived in San Diego County all my life. I love it. We do plan to leave here when we retire so that we can enjoy a lower cost of living, but I love my hometown. And it’s not just about the weather (although that is part of it). In the span of a couple hours you can go from the beach, through a major city, through the mountains, and into the dessert—or to another country. The tourist attractions that we take for granted, our beautiful harbor and beaches (beautiful, not warm)—they’re all things to be proud of. I could go on, but you get the point.

7. Living in the United States

With the recent election season, I think this one’s been on my mind more lately. Despite the contentious nature of this election, after the votes were counted there was no violence or armed uprisings. I try to remember (and to remind the kids) that that’s not something to take for granted. In a broad sense I feel safe here. I don’t worry about cops or militias breaking down my doors. If someone takes or damages my property I believe I have recourse. I generally know what to expect from my government and law enforcement. These are important aspects of freedom and security that I think we often overlook.

6. Financial Security

It gives me great peace of mind that we are not living on the edge financially. This is no accident, of course. We’ve managed our money and our lives so that we could have our financial peace of mind, and I’m grateful for that.

5. Loving Friends

I have a group of friends that I know I can count on, that love me unconditionally. I don’t get to see them as often as I would like because everyone’s so busy, but I know they’re there for me as I am for them.

4. Clean Water

I am so incredibly grateful that I can go to any number of faucets in my home, turn the handle, and get endless potable water. That’s just not true in so many parts of the world. When I visited the Clinton Library, I found a cool glass bottle for storing and serving tap water like some restaurants leave at your table. Proceeds from the sale of the bottle benefit, an international organization dedicated to getting access to safe water for everyone. I wish I’d bought more to give as gifts so I could help remind other people how fortunate we are.

3. My Job

I’m grateful to have a job. And I’m grateful that it pays well, isn’t stressful and awful, and that I don’t work long hours. I get to work with smart, dedicated, funny, (mostly) friendly people. Being employed, of course, really helps with that financial security I’m also grateful for.

2. Health

I am so thankful for my health and the health of my kids and husband. Life means health crises at some point, but right now we’re all healthy, and I’m so, so grateful.

1. My Husband

There is not a day that goes by that I am not grateful for having found my husband, for having him in my life. I could write a whole sappy post on this topic, but that’s not the point (and really none of your business). Suffice it to say he’s the #1 thing I’m thankful for this Thanksgiving.

What are you grateful for this year?