How To Plan An “UN-Planned” Day

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Estimated Reading Time: 2.5 minutes

Recently, I had the unexpected joy of a day off. My first inclination was to carve out a block of a few hours to work on my organizing business. It was a perfect opportunity to get in some business reading and writing, I thought.

But then I heard a still, small voice.

Be free today.

Wow. What a concept. A free day!

Wait, what exactly does that mean? For me, that meant not committing to anything in particular, but remaining open to where the Spirit leads.

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Free time is an essential part of life. So often we can overschedule our days with chores, errands, driving the kids to soccer that we forget to actually block off time on our calendars to simply do what we please.

Plan an “Unplanned” Day.

This is exactly what my husband and I do every Sunday. We keep our plans light, say, like a trip to the movies or just drive to nowhere. Keeping Sunday free is our way of being together, to make sure we connect.

But rarely do I get a day where I have zero commitments to anything on my own. And so, when the opportunity came, I grabbed it. I planned an “unplanned” day.

Where you are led

Where Did I Go? What Did I Do?

The beauty of planning out my days in a planner is that I get to focus on my values because they are written down in full view, everyday. Categories such as Family, Home, Business, Spiritual, Health and (temporarily) Holiday, are daily reminders of what is truly important in my life.

I write tasks/errands under these categories on a weekly basis so that if I don’t get to, say, buy Christmas stamps (Holiday) on Monday, I don’t have to feel too bad, I can get them on my next day off.

And so, while my planner was opened, I listened to where Spirit was leading me. It turns out, I got a LOT more accomplished, and in different areas of my life, by listening to God, than if I had simply blocked out the time on my calendar:

Family–I maintained family relationships by picking up the phone just to chat.

Spiritual-In addition to my daily devotions, I did a whole lot of knitting. Knitting is a great spiritual act, since we usually knit for others. As a Catholic Christian, I am called to live a life of service.

Business-I even got to write a cool blog post!

Holiday-Bought these fabulous and historic Christmas stamps. Also wrote out Thanksgiving cards to family and close friends. And since I wasn’t out running around in “busy-ness” I was able to enjoy all the little ghouls and goblins who came knocking at my door asking for tricks or treats.

Health-With a cup of hot coffee in hand, I took a walk down by the bay.

It occurs to me that had I NOT planned to keep this day unplanned, the promptings of Spirit would have gone unnoticed and instead, I would have felt some vague longing for something more.

For help planning your day or any other organizing needs, contact me at kim@godorganizing.com

Visit my website at www.godorganizing.com

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Mental Clutter

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What happens when long-held ideas about our stuff suddenly meet a challenge not faced before?

This is a crucial question every professional organizer must have in her arsenal. The truth is, there is no single  answer because each client responds differently to challenges.  Some may respond positively: “Gee, I never looked at it that way before!” Others may have a bit more of a struggle: “I know it doesn’t fit, but it was a gift. I can’t get rid of it.”

Change is hard. It’s even harder when we are asked to change something that is dear to us. It might be a gift that we inherited from our parents that might serve someone else better.

Or we might be attached to an idea. Maybe even a very long-held idea. Perhaps even one  shared by many people. Then something happens–an agitator comes along and calls into question what we’ve held most dear.

We can choose how we respond. We can either pause and reflect about our long-held beliefs and thoughts, OR we can build a wall and hunker down in our thinking. The choice is ours. Maintaining our way of thinking without self-examination is obstinacy. Pausing to reflect is discernment. This is the crux of good, orderly direction.

Obstinacy makes us unyielding and rigid. Discernment keeps us fluid and present to  what occupies our mind. When we cling to ideas that no longer work, it becomes mental clutter.  When we are willing throw our thoughts and beliefs under the microscope, truth emerges. We may have to change our mind, or may find out we’d been right all along. It may just be the right thing to hold on to a gift from our mother even though it doesn’t work or fit. Only discernment will tell us the truth.

Recently, the idea of what it means to be patriotic has been under scrutiny. We may have long-held beliefs about patriotism and how best to display it. Like a gift we get from our mother, we can choose to respond in two ways: we can either hunker down and decide to never get rid of it because it is against our beliefs to do so, OR we can pause and consider our options. Perhaps the gift we got can be better used elsewhere.  Maybe it’s best to keep it for ourselves. Sometimes it’s best to express our patriotism by standing up for what we believe in, other times it’s best to kneel. Only a discerning heart can tell.

I’m not sure that I would’ve made the decision to kneel like the NFL players did. I would’ve considered whether or not the message got lost behind the action. I may have taken a different action. But their decision is theirs and I can only assume that it was done with discernment. It is not a wrong action, because it’s never wrong to stand up against injustice. Or kneel.

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A Life of Esteemable Acts

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It used to be that I would do one of two things to make myself feel better–either I would overeat or I would spend money.

I overate to the tune of being morbidly obese with a BMI of 41 and I overspent in the thousands. With the addiction to compulsive eating and debt to income ratio on the rise, I hid perfectly well in society. I was fat and so were you.  My debt matched yours.

With the higher weight and the higher debt came the greater shame and embarrassment. I crawled into a meeting for people addicted to compulsive overeating. I put down the food.

Five and a half years later, I still weigh and measure my food and instead of being morbidly obese with a BMI of 41, I am at a healthy weight with a BMI of 21.

No longer is there shame attached to my eating.

Today, I pay my bills. No longer do I throw them away in the hopes that the creditor will forget all about it. Yes, I really used to believe that. It makes perfect sense in a world where burying your head in sand seems like a good idea.

My husband, in all of his wonderfulness, does not know this part of me. He finds it hard to believe that I used to be that way, despite the evidence of what I’ve shown him (pictures, defaulted student loan notices, etc.) He knows me as the woman who keeps a clean and organized home, sticks to a regimented food plan, goes to meetings a few times a week, and pays the bills on time (mostly).

What happened? How did I go from being a slothful glutton to an organized and detail-oriented person?

A few years ago, a special woman entered my life. We talk everyday, I tell her what I’m eating for the day, and we talk about life in general.  She is a decade younger than me, but we have similar backgrounds. Our mothers are Irish, fathers Italian. We’re both bad at being Catholic, but love the Church warts and all. Our mothers were alcoholic. And we both have the disease of compulsive overeating.

One day, she said to me, “All the positive talk about ourselves and taking our inner child out to play is all bullshit. Want to know how to build good self-esteem? Do esteemable acts. Get your ass up out of bed every morning. Don’t overeat. Be honest.”

It’s really that simple. Today, my list of esteemable acts has expanded to include other areas.

Be available to those who truly want (not need) my help.

Shut up when they don’t.

Pay my bills on time.

Spend within my means.

Save for my retirement.

Save for a house.

Show up for work on time and ready to do the job.

Tell my husband I love him.

Write.

 

Do you want better self-esteem? Do an esteemable act.

What Do We Value?

 

Would you pay a monthly access fee if it meant seeing no ads in your Facebook feed?

This was the question I posed recently to a Facebook group. Not immune to sales pitches, my home page was inundated with ads for stuff I really want but do not need.

Those shoes look really cute.

That’s a nice comforter, how much?

Scores of people responded, all with a resounding NO!

I began to question the authenticity of my minimalist journey. How could I even entertain the idea of paying for an already free service?  Doubts abounded.

Then a curious thing happened.

Someone else, with questions about minimalism, asked her fellows about paying someone to clean her home.

Almost everyone who responded said they hire someone to clean. Some had people come in several times a month, others once in a while. These were some of the same people who refused to pay a small monthly fee for social media use. Yet they were willing to pay at least four times that much to have someone clean their home.

What’s going on here? Are minimalists inconsistent? Sure. We are just like everyone else. We struggle, sometimes confusing wants with needs, like with love. Are we hypocrites, giving lip service to a life with less, but not really living it? Perhaps.

These thoughts and more crossed my mind as I read through the responses to this woman’s question.

Perhaps we’re not asking the right questions.

Perhaps we should be asking something more fundamental–what do we value?

If that’s the question, then it makes perfect sense for a minimalist to pay someone to clean their home, yet not want to shell out the bucks to skip a few ads, and vice versa.

If we value a clean home, but cannot do it, then paying someone to help clean it adds value to your life (not to mention you are helping another person make a viable living).

If we want to eliminate visual clutter and reduce the temptation to buy objects, then paying to have the ads removed can be a valuable service.

Minimalism isn’t about spending less money. It’s about using money as a tool to greater freedom.

 

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Joshua Becker, Becoming Minimalist

PS…I found a great Firefox app for blocking Facebook ads–free!

 

 

When Gift Giving is About Us

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We are not as generous as we think we are.  A bold statement, I know. Controversial, even. And true.

A gift is something that is freely given, no strings attached. Even the expectation of a thank you diminishes the generosity of the giver.

How often did I expect something in return for the gifts I gave this Christmas? More than I care to admit. For example, this year I gave my husband gift certificates to a local movie theater. He can choose to take me, or to take his friends. It’s his gift, he can do with it as he pleases. Or so I’d like to think. However, yesterday, he was uncomfortable in his seat.  This is what I said:

“Don’t complain.”

Here is what was in my head:

Don’t complain because I gave this to you as a Christmas present. You should be grateful.

Pow! There it is, the invisible string!

Thankfully, I did some self-editing and didn’t say that. Still, it severely diminished the generosity of the gift, even if my husband never experienced the full tug of the string attached to the gift.

True gift-giving, which has absolutely no strings attached, is a really tough practice, but is ultimately very freeing. It frees us from resentment, expectation, and disappointment.

It also frees the recipient from obligation.

Wait, what?

If we give a gift to someone shouldn’t we expect a thank you? And if they don’t like/can’t use it,shouldn’t we expect them to at least return it for store credit?

Nope.

Even the expectation of a thank you or a gift exchanged for something they like/can use/fits better, etc. is a string attached. I like to call these attitudes “no strings that are actually strings.”

Here are some examples:

Expectation of thanks (already mentioned). Of course we should always give thanks for a gift received. And teach children to write thank-yous.

Expectation of use, including gift cards. Even gift cards are becoming increasingly exchangeable.

Expectation of an exchange for something they like/can use (already mentioned). Well, if they don’t like what I bought I hope they return it to get something they like.

Expectation of no complaints (ahem!) See above

Expectation that they will think you  are awesome because of this fabulous gift you gave them. We want them to like us.

And ultimately, the expectation that they will love and keep the item because you have given it to them. Period.  No matter what we say to the recipient, we still want them to keep the gift. We’ll think less of them if they don’t keep it.

All of this brings me to my next point:

Invisible strings make receiving gifts much harder than it should be.  A gift, freely given, is never a burden, and should never come with restraints. I put a condition on my husband yesterday when I told him not to complain about the theater seats. This is wrong.

This year, I really didn’t want much for Christmas, but I know my family wants me to open up presents for Christmas, so I suggested gift cards to yoga and knitting classes, some consumable items like luxury soap and gourmet olive oil and balsamic vinegar. These are things that I love and will use. Some family members told me very simply they don’t like to give gift cards, even if the recipient loves them.

Okay, so, in addition to getting the gifts I already suggested, I also received some beautiful sweaters. None of which I needed. Rather than returning them to the store to get something else I did not need (true, I could return them and get store credit toward a future purchase) I decided that I would donate them to a local parish outreach. Why shouldn’t poor women wear beautiful clothing that also keeps them warm?

This decision was not without it’s controversy in my house. While I have absolutely no desire to hurt my family’s feelings, I do want to extend their generosity. They have so generously given to me that I want to pay it forward and perhaps brighten the day of someone who only gets secondhand clothing.

And should they so desire, they can throw the clothing away, no strings attached.

Our Minimalist Wedding

Minimalism was not our intention. My husband has a small family, so not a lot of guests on that side. The focus on my end was just to keep it simple. Truth be told, I couldn’t be bothered with all of the planning, headache and heartache.  I’d seen enough of that in the various weddings I’ve attended or been a part of for the better part of 3 decades.

No thanks.

We both agreed that we wanted something where our guests could feel at home. Where they could chat and laugh without having to scream over loud music. Where they could get their clothes dirty with food stains. Where children could frolic in the pool or in the backyard.

Oh, and we had to have two weddings. First, there was the civil ceremony in the Fall. Our parents are in their eighties and it was important for us to have them witness our vows. The Church wedding would take a few months and we had to schedule pre-Cana sessions, a kind of counseling for those getting married in the Catholic Church.  These sessions could take a few months to complete. So a civil ceremony was the answer. The mayor of a local village came to my sister’s house and we had a small luncheon afterwards. It was beautiful.

The “big shindig” took place the following Summer. At first, we were going to have a cool food truck cater the party in my sister’s backyard, but they were busy, so we went with a more traditional caterer. Which was fine, since we were also able to hire two wait staff.  So far, the wedding costs were a few hundred dollars.

Since there is a pool in the backyard, I insisted on hiring a lifeguard. This protects both my sister and her husband financially as well as protecting swimmers. It was a good investment, and we hoped we did not have to make use of it. Thankfully, we did not. This added another hundred or so. So far, the wedding cost is still under $1,000.

My two wedding dresses were bought at a national designer discount store for less than $60 total. The Fall dress was an awesome fuchsia and the Summer dress was just that–a Summer dress, white with lace.  Inexpensive white sandals and a handmade lace shrug from Etsy completed the outfit, for less than $200. The hair clip was from a dollar store.

My hair is naturally wavy, so all I did was step out of the shower and let it dry naturally. The bangs I styled.

The makeup was what I wore daily.

My husband bought his suit and shoes.

Still, the wedding so far costs less than $5,000.

We rented tents, tables, chairs, and portable toilets. The table linens were donated from local restaurants. Hey, it helps to have a sister who is known in her hometown.

We decided not to hire a professional photographer. What we wanted were those candid shots gotten only from friends and family. Turns out a friend decided to bring his professional-grade camera and played photographer for the day. Later, we printed out those pics on shutterfly, and POW! a cute little wedding album for less than $100.

My brother-in-law provided live music for us, for free. Free and priceless.

The alcohol served was a gift from my sister, as were the simple centerpieces.

Bouquets and boutonnieres were bought from Bunches Direct a few days before the wedding.

The cakes were bought at a local big box retailer.

Did I mention the wedding and engagement rings? Mine are sterling silver with cubic zirconia. The hubby’s is a simple sterling band. Just a couple of hundred dollars for them.

Our honeymoon will be a weekend at Wellneste Lodge this coming June. I bought it as a Christmas gift to my husband via Groupon. The cost? $250 for a two-night stay.

The whole wedding cost between $5,000-$6,000. Where we live, $20,000 is considered inexpensive.

We kept asking ourselves, “What’s more important, the wedding or the marriage?” Of course, it’s the marriage. So why waste so much time and effort, not to mention money, on something so temporal as a wedding?

On the big day, it rained a little and the lifeguard got sick. I shrugged it all off. My sister said to me, “I’ve never seen such a relaxed bride.” Of course. The wedding already happened, we were joined in union. The party afterwards was just a celebration of that. Stuff goes wrong. Stuff goes right. Why worry?

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The Fall Wedding. The shoes were actually given as a birthday gift from the matron of honor the previous year.
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The Summer Wedding. Husband used the same suit, just a different tie.
For those who want to see the back of the dress.
For those who want to see the back of the dress.