Small Conceits

Musings. Stories. Poems. From where I stand.

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Grab a long tape measure piece of string and a friend or family member.

Find a large room in your home — your living room or family room; maybe a clear spot in your basement or garage. Or go outside, if you must. But I suspect most of you have a big enough space in your home.

Have your friend stand in the middle of the space, holding the end of the string or tape measure. Pull your end out to 20′ and slowly walk in a circle, your friend turning with you. See the circle. Feel the circle.

Now, imagine:

  • Where would you put your bed?
  • How would you create a miniature kitchen?
  • What furniture would you need to carve out a comfortable place to sit?
  • Where would you store clothes? Your dishes? Your books?

Never mind the bathroom for now. Just the living space. Focus there.

Ask yourself: What is truly necessary to live a life of contentment?

My yurt, at the Home & Garden Show, awaiting disassembly and delivery.


The Quest for Home, Part 2: Usable Mountain Land

“This isn’t going to work. We’re outta here.”

We’d just crossed the sixth one-lane bridge between the property we were driving into the mountains to look at and anything remotely resembling a town.  Six opportunities to be stuck on one side of a washed-out bridge or the other — going in or, more worrisome to me, coming out. Visions of not being able to get to a hospital spun around in my head.

My brother, John, didn’t take his eyes from the hairpin turns of the road I was cautiously navigating. “I don’t know why you didn’t turn around at bridge #3 when you first started saying that.”

I shrugged without looking at him. “Have you seen anywhere to turn around?”

“Good point,” he replied as a car whizzed past, its driver seemingly unconcerned that the two-lane road in the direction he was heading folded in half at the edge of a drop-off, then plunged up a blind hill. Maybe he was out of milk and eggs and had thrown caution to the wind, I silently posited.

I found a nearly-vertical driveway with a wide enough un-gated mouth to turn the 4Runner around without falling off into a ravine. It had a pretty decent view of the road snaking past it. Down below us, across the road, a cabin nestled in a sunlit clearing, the postcard version of all the similarly-nestled cabins we’d passed along the way. The cabin’s idyllic surroundings raised at least three flags for mistakes people make when buying rural land that formed the basis for my aversion to bridges. I peered as far up either side of the road as a I could, took a deep breath, and stomped on the accelerator, just as another car shot through the curve. I wasn’t comfortable with the margin by which we missed colliding but was thankful for it, nonetheless.

I risked a quick glance at my iPhone, where Google Maps was now showing us backtracking our route. The app had long since given up any active navigation and had simply been painting a blue line across the screen in the direction of the route it had chosen for us. As we retraced the route, the blue line became grey, indicating we were on the right road, which was a good thing, as I’d been so busy negotiating the crazy curves and hills that I wasn’t sure I could reverse the turns I’d taken on the way in without help.

“Google was showing we only had 10 minutes to go,” I smirked. “The listing said the property is 30 minutes from Asheville. I wonder if they confused 30 minutes with 30 miles.”

“The way people are driving up here,” John replied, “30 minutes and 30 miles are probably the same thing.”

Refining My “Requirements”

Western North Carolina’s rural landscape steals my breath away. Mountain coves hold in their embrace a patchwork of beautiful, rolling farmland and dark, stately forests stitched together by hair-raising two-lane roads. I found myself smitten with the area the first time I drove through it.

Just over a year later, having come to the realization that I’d been delaying a long-held dream to live more simply, more in sync with nature, I decided to make it my home.

However, driving through a place is far different from taking up residence. I was just now getting a taste for the challenges of mountain living. Although I plan to live off-grid in a yurt, I do not plan to homestead or live as a hermit, so there are a few modern conveniences, such as grocery stores, that I’ll still need access to. Because my plan also includes rental yurts for “glamping” — a trend that combines aspects of a camping experience with the ease of a bed-and-breakfast — I want to be reasonably close to restaurants and other attractions, without my guests losing the feeling of staying in a mountain retreat. And, frankly, at nearly 54 years old, I have to consider how likely it is that I’ll be able to age in place. I don’t want to build my dream only to find myself too frail to maintain and enjoy it.

Yes, it’s a tall order. My requirements, in fact, completely blew my budget for the land purchase itself because finding such a property requires more acreage than I’d anticipated. Not only were covenants and restrictions a potential barrier to living the way I wanted to live, but so (apparently) was finding land that was both accessible and level enough to build on.

“Usable Mountain Land”

“This is a great piece of property,” Pat, my realtor breathed, turning to take in the cleared knoll at the top of what, for me, was a nearly vertical climb up a goat-path attempting to pass itself off as a road. “You could cut in another 15 feet or so, all the way around, and you’d have a nice homesite, with room for solar.”

On the climb up, necessitated by the fact that Pat didn’t think his minivan would make it up the unimproved road — which the boulder jutting out of the center of one of the steeper rises validated —  he’d pointed out patches of less-crazily tilting ground. To my eye, these were mere ledges jutting from a forest that vaulted skyward. He’d point at one ledge or another, telling me, “You could put a guest yurt there…and one there…” I tried to imagine my guests struggling up a rutted drive, parking their vehicles on a narrow switchback, and hauling their gear or suitcases across a walkway spanning a deep rift in the earth before arriving at a yurt perched on a deck that jutted over the sharp drop.

I pictured my elderly parents afraid to visit.

The knoll was lovely, and the perc testing conducted by its current owners indicated that at least four people could live up there full-time. A broad stream bubbled along the bottom of the parcel, by the road, so water was plentiful. I wondered what kind of power would be required to pump that water all the way up to where we were standing, and what it would take to get any kind of pressure.

“You rarely see mountain property with this much usable land,” Pat said after a moment, grinning enthusiastically. “This is really sweet.”

My heart sank. If this was what usable mountain land looked like, and it was beginning to look like it was, based on our explorations that day, I had no idea what I was doing.

Later, at dinner, I shared my fears with my brother and his wife, Kim, who had come up to join us from their home in South Carolina.

“Maybe I should give this up,” I lamented. “Maybe I’m not cut out for mountain life.”

In fact, maybe, I thought, I am completely off my rocker and should be staying put, safe in my sweet little house in the city.


The Quest for Home, Part 1: Covenants and Restrictions

“Can I help you?”

While the lovely North Carolina drawl riveted my attention, it wasn’t what first attracted it. That dubious honor went to the tall, slender form of its speaker — a silver-haired man clad in jeans and a button-down shirt, emerging with leisurely grace from a silver Mercedes — even before he spoke.

After a few fleeting seconds of entertaining, then rejecting, less appropriate responses, I managed to collect myself enough to say, “Perhaps, if you’re the property owner.”

“I am,” he said simply, extending his hand and introducing himself as Hugh.

My brother John and I were casually looking at a few properties before I was scheduled to meet with my realtor, Pat, later in the day. I hoped to get a preview of what was available now that I was ready to begin my search in earnest, and we’d been trying to locate the first property on my list, a partially-cleared 11-acre parcel. Confused by the addresses, I’d pulled my old 4Runner into a cutout in the road, parking it up against a farm gate where a rutted drive ran between a sizable pond on the one side and a sunken field on the other. As we gazed down at the field below us, I remarked to John that if that was the acreage, I’d have to pass. It didn’t look like it would take much for the pond on the other side to spill over the retaining wall and flood the field. We couldn’t be sure we were looking at the right parcel, however, because the realty sign was missing, and addresses for undeveloped land are approximate.

“Addresses out here aren’t as orderly as they are in the city,” Hugh commented in his soft, southern accent. “We make the numbers up as we need them.” He also explained the missing realty sign: The listing agent had gotten sideways with a local mining company by defending homeowners whose properties were damaged by illegal blasting activities. The company’s employees retaliated by making it difficult for her to do business — including stealing or destroying her signs any time they found one. My brother and I exchanged a glance.

“But this isn’t the parcel you’re looking for,” Hugh continued quietly, the loud, incessant barking of penned hounds across the road nearly drowning him out. He swept his arm up and away to a parcel adjacent to the land on which the dog run sat. “It’s that one.”

A sunny meadow nestled into the embrace of a woods, running more-or-less gently down to the road but vaulting sharply up into the trees at its opposite end. It was beautiful, but I wondered — neither for the first nor the last — what it would take to balance a structure on the slope. Hugh had bought the property, as well as the one on which we were standing, as a “buffer” for the rest of the neighborhood. Over a decade ago, a developer expressed interest in the land, planning to put a trailer park on it. Hugh, a retired Christmas tree grower, wouldn’t have it. He’d purchased some 25 acres to prevent the developer’s progress. I thought of the dilapidated trailers and shacks we’d passed on our way up to this idyllic meadow. Less than picturesque, to be sure. Which begged the question Hugh asked next.

“And what do you plan to build on the property you buy?”

I took a deep breath, inwardly steeling myself before levelly replying: “I plan to put a yurt on it.”

Blowing My Land Budget

When I’d started my search for land in western North Carolina, more than a year prior to meeting Hugh, I’d told my first realtor (Laura) I wanted a three-to-five-acre plot, partly wooded, with a mountain view. I wanted enough space for my own yurt as well as two or three guest yurts that would become a source of income, as well as guest quarters for visiting family and friends. Using my sister’s three-acre lot as a guide, I determined that a similarly-sized lot would afford me a little privacy without putting too much distance between myself and my guests.

Linda obliged me by sending links to listings within about a 25-mile radius of Asheville, which I hoped to make a kind of hub for shopping, eating out, and social activities. Being reasonably close to Asheville would be a bonus for yurt renters and guests, as well, since it’s a sought-out destination for everything from brew pubs to fall color tours to tours of the Biltmore Estate. But I also wanted to be far enough away from the city for my home to feel like a retreat into nature.

And, so I’d explored the area, mapping out routes to the listings Linda sent me, taking notes about the tiny towns and rolling countryside, getting a feeling for this place I was considering making my home. I thought a lot on those drives: about the kind of neighbors I hoped I’d have; about driveways and right-of-ways; about mountain views and valley vistas; about forests and meadows and streams. I dreamed. I planned. I learned.

Before I knew it, a year had passed, and I had a new realtor, Pat, whom I’d contacted and with whom shared my vision. I was still readying my house in Indianapolis for the market when he sent the first set of listings. I was over the moon when I sat down to open them. And then…

What the heck?! Ten acres? Eleven? THIRTY???!!!

I fired off a (slightly testy) email, reminding him what I’d asked him to find for me. He responded to my email with a phone call — as he (thankfully) so often does — and patiently explained.

Smaller plots, like the ones I sought, are generally situated in or near developments, where covenants and restrictions apply — and, while defaulted loans and estate sales happen, those plots are quickly snatched up. So Pat was sending me listings for at least 10 acres to help me realize my stated goals for the property. They were twice the acreage I’d planned for, more than twice what my projected budget would allow. But they were more likely to afford me the flexibility I wanted.

As long as what I wanted didn’t conflict too drastically with the aesthetic of where I planned to buy.

Covenants and Revisions

At the mention of a yurt, Hugh’s face stiffened, almost imperceptibly.

“I think you should drive on up the road there,” he suggested, tightly controlling his tone and indicating the ridge behind us with its big homes and beautiful approaches, “and see what we’re trying to accomplish here.”

“That’s a good idea,” I replied neutrally. “And I’ll definitely do that. But it seems you have…hesitations. Maybe you’d do me the favor of sharing them?”

Hugh let out a big sigh, then expressed concerns about how yurts would look from the road and what they might lead others to believe they could bring into the area — implying that I’d be setting a bad example.

“You know, Hugh,” I said carefully, “I don’t have to plunk a yurt right in the middle of that meadow. In fact, they’re devilishly difficult to cool in the summer, and I like my privacy, so it would actually be better if I tucked it back in the trees, away from view.”

Hugh pursed his lips and squinted at the tree line. “So we’d really only see it in the winter…”

“Exactly,” I told him. “And, you know, I’m certainly not opposed to planting trees and shrubs to screen people’s view. I love beautiful landscaping. Living in a yurt won’t change that.” I spent a few minutes painting a picture of my vision, of the need for beauty and for living in closer harmony with whatever land I bought, about the value of leaving some spaces natural. When I paused for a moment, Hugh offered to drive me up the ridge to show me where I would cut my driveway in from the road. My brother and I jumped into the truck with Bodhi, who had been waiting patiently for us, and we followed Hugh’s silver Mercedes up the rise, away from the ear-splitting racket of the neighbors’ hounds.

Later, in Pat’s office, we reviewed the listings he’d sent me, eliminating some of them because they were too remote, too hard to access, had too many bridges to wash out between the grocery store and me. As he clicked through the links, he found a listing for 11 acres of partially-wooded land.

“Well, that one’s out,” Pat said with a little grimace. “There are covenants restricting what you can build there. It has to be at least 1600 square feet, and…”

“What’s the address?” I interrupted. He told me.

“Oh, Hugh’s place.”

Pat cocked an eyebrow at me, and my brother cut in. “Yeah, he’ll be fine. Denise had him changing the covenants for her by the time they were done talking. It took her 20 minutes.”

Pat raised both his eyebrows at that, then laughed. “Really?”

John shrugged with feigned casualness. “Yeah, she was a bit off her game today.”


The Long Road to Minimalism – Grand Finale

As I’ve been doing my purging, I’ve been fussing about the difficulty of the exercise on Facebook. At some point a little while back, I realized that in addition to my emotional attachments to books, I also seemed to be struggling with paring down my sock collection. Well, ok, “collection” is a strong word, implying a kind of intentional acquisition, when in actuality my sock drawers (yes, plural) filled more organically than intentionally. Still, when faced with discarding some of my socks, I found myself getting teary-eyed. “Oh,” I’d sniff sentimentally, “these were the socks I wore when hiking the Badlands of South Dakota.” (Then I sniffed physically, and into the waste bin they went. But not all my choices were that easy.)

In one of my sillier Facebook whine-fests, I asked people to supply me with arguments — in poem form — for ridding myself of excess socks. I got many good responses, but this one from my sister-in-law was my favorite. I asked if I could share it, and she graciously gave me permission. I give you…

One Sock, Two Sock, Red Sock, Blue Sock

By A Seuss Wanna-be (Kimberly Arlia)


One sock

Two sock

Red sock

Blue sock


Black sock

Blue sock

Old sock

New sock


This one has a little cat.

This one has a little bat.

Say!  What a ton

But socks are fun!


Yes.  Some are red.  And some are blue.

Some are old.  And some are new.


Some are worn.

And some are torn.

Some you outgrew.

And some Bodhi likes to chew.


Why are they

Worn and torn?

Outgrown and chewed?

HEAVENS KNOWS – your mother spews!


Some are thin,

And some are f a t.

Some are missing

Taken by a rat?


From there to here, from here to there,

Funny socks

Are everywhere.


You see them come.

You see them go.

But now you need

To shop no mo’


Pair them up.

Take a day!

Got a hole?

Throw away!


Organize, stow away!

Make it neat.

Socks are a treat,

For pretty feet!



“I’ve been framed.”

For more on my sock trials and tribulations, visit my story on Medium: 12 Steps to Minimalism (alternately: The Sock Incident).


The Long Road to Minimalism – Part 2

I took a deep breath and stepped inside what hours ago been the home of a dear friend. The lingering intensity of the smoke smell created the impression that the house was still smoldering. The worn wood floors already warped with the water damage, and the blackened walls, combined with the boards we’d just finished putting over the broken windows, made the interior murky and dark. On my right, just inside the door, was the floor-to-ceiling bookcase I’d often envied. All of those wonderful books, reduced now to charred corpses with unreadable spines and disintegrating, water-logged pages. Irretrievable.

Years later, reflecting on the emotional and spiritual toll the fire had taken on her, my friend told me, “I realized, after the fire, that my things owned me, not the other way around. I won’t ever let that happen again.”

Discarding the Stuff that Held Me Hostage

I’ve been on a journey of…well, discovery as I prepare myself for living in a yurt. The yurt itself is simply an approach to bringing my lived values into better alignment with my stated values. I’ve always perceived myself as someone who valued simplicity and sustainability.

Then I take a look around at all my stuff. And I realize I’m being held hostage to modern convenience and all of its material trappings.

So the past year or so, I’ve been focusing more on discarding my excess belongings. There are a lot of them. Some of these belongings are things I picked up because they were “cute” or “fun” — but served no purpose except to collect dust. Others have been gifts from friends and family — highly appreciated but loved less for themselves than for the givers. Still others have simply been duplicates — the outward manifestations of a scarcity mindset, where one of an item is never enough because…what if? After watching T.E.D. Talks about minimalism and reading blog posts about throwing stuff away and even purchasing a book, I finally found an approach that worked for me.

I was a Tasmanian devil, stuff flying in every direction and landing in boxes for donation or to be gifted to friends and family members who said they wanted some of the things I discarded. I even sold a few major items — yay, me! It was glorious. Freeing. With every box I carried to my truck, I felt lighter. A minimalist lifestyle was soon to be mine!

Then I slammed right into a brick wall: my books.

The Things We Own and the Things that Own Us

My books mean more to me than some members of my family. (Sorry, Uncle George, but I can’t keep you. I’ve found you a nice, new family in Newark. Here’s your suitcase. Pretend we never met.) In fact, some of my books have moved hundreds of miles with me — twice — because I couldn’t part with them. And I’m not talking about a box or two of books. This is a book collection that has its own zip code. (Slight exaggeration.)

From Arthurian legend to sustainable living; from paper-craft to poetry; from contemporary Native American literature to philosophy and yoga and drawing and cookbooks…the list of topics and genres covers a broad territory of human thought and activity. My books define and describe me; they entertain and inform me; they ground me. They’re an important part of my identity. They evoke emotions that no electronic version can mimic, much less replace. I love the smell of them, the weight of them in my hands, the way I can thumb through their pages and rediscover them again and again. I’ve made notes in many of them, conversations with myself that remind me of who I’ve been and by what paths I became the woman I am today.

My books aren’t just “things,” I thought. They’re an extension of me. My books…are my history.

It was this last insight that provided me with the perspective I needed to let them go. History is important — we need it to ground ourselves and to connect with vital parts of who we are. But I’m not building a history. I’m building a future, and I need to find other (less space-consuming) ways to stay connected with my emotional past. Why was I carrying around the books I’d collected for the PhD I’ll never finish? Why did I hang onto that “must-read” when I knew I didn’t want to, so I never would? How many of those gardening books did I really refer to — and why was I keeping the ones that weren’t already dog-eared and dirty and worn with years of use? Did I really need to hang onto all that Shakespeare, or could I simply Google the bon mot I wanted to quote, when the need arose? (Yes, I’m serious. Don’t judge.)

Slowly, I began unwinding the tentacles that were strangling my heart and freeing myself of the weight of my literary history.

Thinking Inside the (Moving) Box

As the weeks went on, I sold or donated the books I realized I no longer loved — or, in fact, never did love. The books that still had meaning to me but no longer had a real use, I gave to friends I thought would enjoy them. (And they can feel free to donate or sell them as they choose.) I’m setting a target for only a few boxes of books instead of the library I’ve been lugging along with me every time I move. Every time I hold a book in my hand, I try to separate myself from it and focus on how I feel about it, all by itself.

I still have shelves and shelves to empty, but my paring-down now makes me more intentional about how I define words like love and need. I’m learning to hang onto what I truly treasure, those things I retain for themselves and not for some perceived obligation or the wistful memory of a path not followed.

I’m learning about traveling light, without the drag of a past I no longer need. I want to own my things, not be owned by them.

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The Long Road to Minimalism – Part 1

I’ve cleaned off one shelf, can I clean off another?

I’ve emptied a drawer, can I empty a cabinet?

I’ve freed up a chest, can I free up a closet?

Can I live without this spoon? Yes. This bowl? No. This shirt, these shoes, this necklace, this book case, these videos, this mug, this plant, these sheets, this rug, this sofa, these pillows, this blanket…this complicated and over-full life?

Over the past 12 months, as I’ve prepared for life in a yurt, I’ve slowly purged my belongings. I’d been trying to get organized off and on for several years, with only marginal success. I knew I’d need to adopt a minimalist lifestyle, at least on some level, in order to live more freely. But I was having a hard time getting my de-cluttering efforts off the ground. I’d read articles, bought books, tried systems. But I always seem to get bogged down. What if this document is important later? I might be able to use this ugly, ill-fitting t-shirt for yard work… For months, I struggled with everything: media, shoes, kitchen utensils…you name it. Desperate to make some kind of progress, I tried the “Japanese method for tidying up.”

My Resistance to Eliminating Clutter

In The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, Marie Kondō suggests a very different, very disciplined approach to de-cluttering. The central tenet of the book seems, at least to me, to be focusing — in this case on the things, not their location in the house, which is the traditional way of tidying up and often results in nomadic, rather than reduced, clutter. Focus is not my strong suit, to put it mildly. So, the approach made sense, at least on the surface. I set off to give her system a try. And almost immediately failed.

Discard by category, not by room? Right. I ended up wandering the house aimlessly, distractedly looking for all the items in the category. By the time I found them all (or remembered what I was looking for when I started), I was too tired to care. And what if I missed something? Or mis-categorized it? Hopeless.

Hold it in my hands and see if it sparks joy? Heck, I’m not even sure I know what it is. Or was. When it was attached to the thing it belonged to. When that thing was in working order. Soooo…I’d better hang onto it. In case I ever find that one thing again and need the…whateveritis. (Back into the drawer it went.)

Tidy all at once, not a little every day? OK, but if I’m gathering all of the items in a category in one space so I can look see what-all I have, I’ve just rendered that table/sofa/bed unusable while I (inevitably) agonize over my decisions. And she’s telling me it might take six months to complete the whole process for all our possessions? Some of us have day jobs!

I seriously thought Kondō was a nut-job.

As time slipped by, and the pressure to get my possessions under control increased, I started panicking. Why was I struggling so hard? What, really, was my underlying resistance to discarding my belongings? The answer was simple, if not easy to resolve: My anxiety and scarcity-thinking (“what if?”) were holding me back. I was continually delaying, even avoiding, making decisions, and the wheels fell off the whole process as a result. It was frustrating.

The 20-Foot-Diameter Motivator

So, how would I get around this barrier to my successfully becoming a minimalist? Oddly, it was the practicalities of moving into my dream home — a yurt in the mountains — that provided me with the clarity I needed: What will fit into a 20-foot-diameter space with no closets?


Sobering, right?

And an effective motivator. I took a deep breath and dove back into my clothes and shoes — one of the “easy” categories, for me, since I have few emotional attachments to my clothes. Soon, I was carting boxes off to Goodwill a truckload at a time and paring down to the bare essentials like a pro. I was even managing to work for a living as I sorted! Clothes, kitchen utensils, jewelry, shoes — gone. Board games, craft supplies, sports and leisure equipment — all of which had been gathering dust in various and sundry closets and corners and plastic storage containers– found new homes.

I dug deep. As I did, I felt lighter and freer. But I still had — no, have — too much stuff.

Multiple Passes: Cheating at Tidying Up

At some point, I realized that Kondō and I have different goals: She focuses on tidying; I’m focused on gutting. So, while her system is extremely useful, it stops somewhat short of the degree of minimalism I’ll need to achieve if I’m to preserve the open spaciousness a yurt offers. I also have to walk a very careful line between keeping just what I need to live and making my life uncomfortably Spartan. Financially, I won’t be able to replace things on a whim, so my selections for the discard pile must be carefully considered. And I’m too old and soft to comfortably go hard-core with my minimalism, making my task harder, in some ways, because I can’t — or won’t — just ditch it all and walk off into the sunset with nothing but a backpack and my dog.

Nonetheless I’m making progress, albeit by cheating a little. With my 20-foot-diameter motivator firmly in mind, I’m making multiple passes through my house, category by category, sometimes mentally earmarking items for later removal. This process often involves packing items away for a few weeks to see if I go looking for them later. If I do, they come out of the box; if I don’t, they get hauled away. Furniture items need to stay in place until I’m ready to move, although some of it will be donated rather than come along for the ride. So I’m not clearing my house all at once, but I’m making steady progress toward the end goal.

Onward, Despite a Hitch or Two

I still have significant challenges to face. For instance, although Kondō strongly cautions against adapting her system to our personalities — the very personalities that created our cluttered environments to begin with — our emotional attachments are real (and valid) factors in our ability to follow the program. My emotional attachment to my books (and, even more strangely, my socks) must be processed and dealt with, which I talk about in Part 2 of this post. (Books, not socks. I really, really don’t need to discuss my socks…)

In the meantime, I keep doing my research into composting toilets (They don’t all stink!), grey-water catchment systems, solar power…and all of that stuff, much of which lives (or will live) on my Pinterest boards.


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Making Space for Abundance

Some Eastern philosophies hold that the only way to attract abundance is to make space for it. This means clearing away the old, the unwanted — those things that no longer serve you or that resonate with the past and prevent you from moving forward.

Tomorrow is the last new moon of the year, and this is a time of clearing for me in preparation for new forms of abundance.

I’m clearing away physical, emotional, and spiritual clutter. I’m packing up those things that tie me to patterns that no longer serve me — habits of mind and beliefs about myself and the world.

It’s hard going. As I pick through my closets, I am flooded with memories and feel old attachments spark. I have to fight with myself to toss things into the bin or the donation pile.

Oddly, it’s the same with my mental and emotional clutter: I am attached to it. This habit protected me when I felt vulnerable. That way of thinking keeps me safe. This lie I tell myself helps me fit in.

But they’re all shackles — the shoes I don’t wear, the books I’ve already read, the myriad of strategies I’ve used to keep myself running in place instead of moving forward into something healthier, happier, more soul-full. The world taught me to hang onto things, in case of a rainy day, a downturn, a catastrophe. Because we all know those things happen. It also taught me not to dream, to imagine, to desire. Because we all know those things are silly or impractical.

Well, I’ve lived long enough with caution. I’m pulling boxes and bags of stuff out of the dark corners of my home and my soul. And I’m carting them away. It’s taking time and effort — and a lot of boxes and bags — but it’ll be worth it to breathe more freely, move more easily, dare more boldly.