Happiness: It Really is an Inside Job

The other morning I went to answer an email from a friend who asked how I felt that day, and I started to type “I feel tired”, but my fingers never hit the keyboard, for I realized in that moment I didn’t feel tired. I’d been typing “I feel tired” for I don’t know how long, but, really, tired had nothing to do with how I felt.

How did I feel? I didn’t feel happy. Wow! Talk about a light bulb moment. Not being happy. That realization hit me like the proverbial ton of bricks. I didn’t know how I came to that state of “not happiness”. Unhappy didn’t cut it. Not happy seems more accurate.

But why? Why did I not feel happy? I didn’t really know and didn’t really want to think about it. Over analysis and Over thinking—I do too much of both.

Instead I decided I’d do things that make me happy. I’d go get a manicure, read a book (I’m lucky my job involves reading!), just breathe. I need to do more of what makes me happy. I’m the only person responsible for making me happy, so I’d better go do something about that.

I’m not sure if this realization comes from decluttering or meditation or that really great yoga class I went to Wednesday night, but I do know I’m grateful for it. Grateful for so much. I started off the year making a joy jar and writing down one thing each day that made me feel grateful. Or a moment that made me smile. I haven’t been filling out the little slips of paper lately in spite of the very cool things have occurred.

I’m putting a slip of paper in the jar tonight.

As I sit her looking around my sitting meditation room I see pictures, some of the past. I’m not sure I want those pictures there anymore. It’s not that they don’t remind me of happy times, but, for now, I want more of a blank slate. New memories. New happiness. It’s not about obliterating those moments. I’ll always hold them in my heart.

But, for now, seeing life as a “tablas rasa” makes me smile, makes me look forward to the magic. I want that. I want more magic. I want more miracles. And I will work for all of it.

And BTW, once I had my realization I no longer felt tired…..

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My 2016 Joy Jar

 

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CLUTTERED SPACE, CLUTTERED MIND: CLEARING SPACE FOR CREATIVITY

MY DECLUTTERING EXPERIENCE

I’ve been sitting here for awhile trying to start this blog. I managed to do in two weeks what the experts say could/should/would/ought to take six months. “When the student is ready, the teacher appears.” In my case I didn’t expect the teachers who came my way. The teachers who showed me love, and not the kind you find in a bottle.

I’ve thought about decluttering and organizing for as long as I can remember but somehow never really did it. My dad always had papers and books and everything everywhere, including the floor. My dear sweet friend Sharon, who was like a second mother to me, had so much “stuff” in her house she could barely move around it. I saw what they needed to do but I never looked at my own house, my own external space or internal space for that matter.
Decluttering isn’t just about giving things away. It’s more about clearing away emotional cobwebs, letting go of the past. I’m letting go of mine, but I couldn’t start until ready. My dad was never really ready, but his Parkinson’s forced him to be ready. My friend Sharon’s cancer forced her to be ready.

By the grace of the universe I don’t have their illnesses, and I don’t want to wait for one to force me to be ready. I didn’t know I was ready really until one day in December the light switched on. Some people did something for me and didn’t expect anything in return. It wasn’t the first time people helped me, but somehow this time it clicked. This time I decided the time had come.

The time had come to love myself. Somehow I intuitively knew I had to start with my apartment. I had to convert my living space to a space of joy and love. I wanted to come home every day and feel happy. But how to do this?

I’d been hearing a lot about Marie Kondo’s book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, so I went to Barnes and Noble and picked it up. Before buying it, I tested it out in their café. I skimmed the book and got to the part where she wrote “Throw out anything that doesn’t spark joy.” That clicked and I knew what I had to do.

THE PROCESS BEGINS (in the closet)

I went home and decided to start with my meditation/reading room. (BTW, I don’t follow Kondo’s advice directly. I broke her rules and decluttered to fit my personality. I also read other people’s ideas too in order to find the keys that worked best for me.) I wanted to feel a sense of peace.

The closet in that room also looked messy, so I took just about everything I could and placed it in the center of the room. Bit by bit I looked at each item and if it didn’t spark joy I tossed it in the trash pile or in the donation pile. I ploughed through Christmas decorations, books, tchotchkes, pictures—it felt like it would never end.
A plan started to form: I’d start putting my Christmas decorations in the closet. This also meant I’d have to take down my Christmas tree early to formulate the desired space. I gathered all my decorations and started placing them in the plastic bins. I kept most of my decorations, except some I’d found at the 99 cent store. Those didn’t have value and I knew I could replace them. Or find better ones.

Once the decorations were all nestled in their spaces, I could formulate a plan for the remaining items: office stuff, papers, and pictures. All of those found new more organized homes. The closet took shape and started to look so much fresher and cleaner.

NOW FOR THE REST OF THE ROOM

The books didn’t prove as difficult as I thought. I looked at each book and kept the ones that made me smile. As simple as that. I placed them by category on each of the shelves. I even created a special shelf for my school books, so I would be able to find them without thinking.

I cleared off shelves, dusted them. Looked at all the things I bought that had once meant something to me but now just collected bunnies. I thanked each thing for the joy it brought me. I got that from Kondo and from another organizing book I’d glanced at. Show gratitude for all the things around me. That really helps keep me in a happier frame of mind.

The more space that cleared, the greater the peace felt within me. I could sit in the room and feel the stillness, just feel it. I spent over a day on this room, finishing at 2a.m. with a quick vacuuming. But the job had just started…..more remained.

Before and After Pics of the Meditation/Reading Room

THE BEDROOM AND THE BEDROOM CLOSET

Clothes. I love clothes. I love wearing clothes that make me feel pretty, but that feeling had gotten lost in the masses of materials in my closet and in my dresser and in my nightstands. I hardly ever opened my dresser, so what did I keep in there anyways?

As it turns out I kept some books and stuffed animals in the nightstands. They’d probably been there since I moved into this apartment several years ago. The books I moved to the bookshelves in my meditation/reading room. The stuffed animals I placed on display as they bring a smile to my face.

The clothes in my dresser I pulled out and put on my bed along with the clothes in the closet. I have buckets of clothes and they can make or break my mood. Some of the clothes I had to try on to figure out my feelings, but if I even hesitated I threw the clothing out. Well, I should say I put it in the donation pile.

Kondo really hit the nail on the head with the “sparking joy” idea. We wear our clothes all day. They are a part of us. They ought to bring joy.

I created space in my drawers for underwear, properly rolled, and socks, differentiating between the pretty socks and the functional socks! I love socks of all kinds! Then I did something I’ve never done before. I put my tank tops in my dresser, rolled up. I’m not sure I’ll keep this up, but for now it creates more space in my closet and gives all the clothing more breathing room. The clothes do seem happier having more space.

I put my fancy Princess dresses in the closet along with most of my other dresses and skirts. After I put all the clothes back in the closet I took the hangers I didn’t really care for and put them in the donation pile. Happy clothes deserve to be put on happy hangers!

I also organized my hats and fascinators on the closet shelf, so I can see them now.

All this has created quite a freeing transformation. I’ve always been a smart dresser, but now I find it so much easier to select an outfit that will make me happy and shine—after all, a princess needs her bling! Since I’ve organized and tidied my closet I’ve received more compliments on my outfit choices. My clothes haven’t changed, but I do believe they feel happier!

Before and After Bedroom Pics!


THE HALLWAY CLOSET

I managed to develop a strange relationship with my hallway closet. I put towels in there. I also put workout clothes and yoga supplies and other assorted junk. It became a dumping ground of sorts. I put stuff in there that I’d use some day, the type of some day that never really comes.

I knew I wanted a functional linen closet, a place where I put towels, a place where I had plenty of room to put towels. I also had more Christmas decorations and I needed a place to put those. At this point it would be the hallway closet or buy a couple more plastic boxes.

Kondo mentions in her book the need to visualize a space before you start to organize. I have a craving for travel, a strong craving, so I knew I wanted a spot for travel necessities—my way of telling the universe that I desired travel.

I had cleared out my dresser and created a place for all my work out clothes and yoga gear so that meant the lower part of the cabinet could function as my linen closet. I found I didn’t use most of the stuff in the upper cabinet so I decided one shelf would be for travel items and the top shelf for Christmas stuff. Oddly enough, I think there’s more stuff in the hallway closet now, BUT I know what’s there and it all has a purpose!

THE DREADED KITCHEN AND DINING AREA

I say dreaded, but it wasn’t as bad as all that. I’ve gone through my pantry before, but this time I made a big decision. I wanted more space on the counters. MUCH more space. The pantry is big but the shelves are deep, so I crafted a plan to make space for the Vitamix and the juicer in the pantry, near the front of the lower shelves.

On the upper shelves I placed the items I used the most near the front of the shelves and other items toward the back. On the high shelves I placed some kitchen holiday items. This tactic garnered me more counter space, making it easy to prep foods. I like to cook and need to do more of my own cooking, which requires space.

In the week since I created more space on the counters I have found it much easier and more enjoyable to prepare meals. I’ve even done more early planning! Imagine that! As I write this my breakfast for tomorrow awaits me in the fridge. This will make it so much easier to get ready for work in the morning.

I also needed a spot where I could place items that I need to deal with in the short term. I don’t have an office space, and I didn’t really want one in my reading meditation room. I had a printer stand that could be re-purposed. When the last printer died I realize that maybe I didn’t need a new printer. I need to print so few things that it really didn’t make sense, so I’ve decided, for now, not to buy one.

I thought about donating the stand, but then realized it would make the perfect spot to place a plant and hold a few short term items. I put in in the corner of the dining area. As I look at it now, it holds, on the bottom shelf some items that I need to take to the post office soon. The top has the plant a few other items. As long as I keep an eye on it and take care of things once a week or so, it will serve its purpose. The key will be dealing with those items. Looking at it now makes me happy, so I know it’s the right decision.

I do not aim for perfection. I aim to feel more organized, less cluttered and to have some space in my physical environ that will lead to greater space in my creative and emotional environ.

THE LAUNDRY ROOM

Ever since I can remember I’ve wanted a laundry room. I love that this apartment has a laundry room, albeit a small one. It’s not that the room itself had a lot of clutter. It just wasn’t organized. Stuff piled on top of the washer and dryer. Kitchen appliance boxes rested on the upper shelves.

I didn’t quite know what to do about the laundry room until I read a tidbit in Kondo’s book. She recommended that people throw out appliance boxes. I thought to myself “she’s right.” I can buy boxes if and when I move. I had each appliance for more than a year. Plus I liked the idea of having space.

Once I decided to throw out the boxes I felt such a sense of utter glee! I had SPACE!!!!!! I cleaned that space—shelves get dirty after four years! And then I took my selection of bags and organized them. Bags to hold recycling. Bags to use to carry things. Dust pans. A shelf that used to contain empty boxes now had a FUNCTION!!!!!

I love the feeling of having a fully functional laundry room, where I can walk in and know where things are that I like to use on an almost daily basis. There’s freedom in that. Real freedom.

THE CAR

Ah yes, the car. This task proved to be much easier as I really just had to empty out the stuff that had gathered for the past couple of months: mostly gym clothes—not stinky ones though. Well, at least I didn’t think they were stinky! Other assorted papers (receipts and such) had managed to gather there. How? I don’t know……..

The day I took the stuff out, I put it all away. I laundered the clothes; I went through the papers. I didn’t take one pile from the car and allow it to pile in the apartment.

After all that I took the car to the car wash. The car felt very very very happy being clean. So did I.

POST-APOCALYPTIC THOUGHTS

My apartment was never really that bad to begin with. But it was never really that free either. I didn’t know where things were. I would spend time in a stupor sometimes just looking at things wondering how to really fix it. I think people can read all the books they want; when the time comes for you to tidy/organize/declutter, you’ll know it and you’ll make it happen however it works for you.

Maybe you’ll read books and ideas will strike you. Find ways to organize that make you happy. Find what works for you. I did, and here are some tips that worked for me. Maybe some will work for you!

NANCY’S BEST TIPS FOR A HEALTHY DECLUTTERED AND ORGANIZED HOME (adopted from some of the decluttering books and websites I’ve read)

  •  Pick one space in your apartment/house/office that would bring you peace and start there! Maybe it’s one room; maybe it’s a corner of a room; maybe it’s a mantel. Choose one area. That’s what I did. I started with my meditation/reading room. When I finished it, I enjoyed the peace so much that it inspired me to keep going!
  • Adopt Marie Kondo’s advice and if an item doesn’t “spark joy” donate it. Dispose of it.
  • If possible, as soon as you have one bag full of trash or items to donate, take it to the trash or donation bin. That will help you feel a sense of accomplishment and will prevent second guessing.
  • If you haven’t used an item in 6 months and don’t have a plan to use it within the next year, then donate it. If it’s a sentimental item, find a place to display it. My dad and I shared a love of Get Smart, the Don Adams/Barbara Feldon tv show, and I have a Get Smart lunch box, so I’ve placed it on a shelf in my reading/meditation room and have positioned it so I can look at it when I’m sitting in my recliner.
  • Only keep toiletries that make you feel happy and make you smile. After all, your body houses your soul!
  • As you complete each task, take time to stop and appreciate your efforts and the joy your new clear and happy spaces make you feel.
  • Create a ritual that celebrates your new space. If you believe in sage, then burn some sage. Or burn some new candles or incense. Or simply thank each room, each space that you occupy. Be grateful. Express gratitude.

I’m just a couple of weeks out of the decluttering/cleaning/organizing project. As time goes on I’m going to compile more tips and ideas that have worked for me. The real joy and challenge (maybe!!) will be in maintaining the new space and in experiencing the new creative avenues that will open up in my life.

Watch the YouTube video of my clutter free apartment: https://youtu.be/9zdTgd6tjxU

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What’s in a Number?

Yesterday I had almost 7,000 photos stored on my iPhone. Right here. Right now. I have 995. In my efforts to clear my space I realized I also needed to clear my electronic space. 

How many selfies did I need to keep? How many pics of Disneyland or of skylines did I really need? At some point keeping all those photos in one spot meant I didn’t have the ability to enjoy them. It also meant I probably spend too much time taking photos and not enough time being in the moment. 

Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE taking pictures. I ENJOY taking pictures. I intend to keep taking pictures. BUT I also intend to change how I take pictures. Continually attempting to capture an image means I may not actually enjoy the moment. 

There’s also something to be said for creating mental space. I believe.  I really believe my life has so many more possibilities than the eye, than this eye can see. I need to create the space for those possibilities to flourish though. 

A cluttered space does not equate with a welcoming space. I believe I can create the life I want. I believe in so many things. But I need space for those things to flourish. 

So now that the space is there I sit in it and see what comes. 

And every time I say that I find ways to create more space. 

Onward and Upward!!! 

Here are some pictures I STILL have on my iPhone5 (with 64gb–so plenty of space!!!):

   
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
   

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A Newfound Strength

I didn’t always speak my mind, especially when it came to problems with goods or services. I remember feeling as though I didn’t like confrontation. One time, at the age of 17 or 18 I received a horrible haircut, really short on the sides but long in the back. They had a name for it, but I don’t remember. I do recall that I didn’t say anything to the hairdresser about my unhappiness. I’m sure I smiled and said how much I liked it. I’m sure I felt the unhappiness for days.

I sit here trying to think of other incidents where I didn’t speak up for myself. There used to be many, but, for whatever reason, my mind draws a blank.

At my heaviest, I could barely fit in booths. Actually I found it quite painful but I’d sit in booths because the people I was with insisted on it. How could I explain my situation without shame?

I’m writing this now because the smallest of situations happened the other day, and I spoke up. I’d gone to get my hair cut and colored. After the stylist finished I went to the bathroom and that’s when I noticed one messed up spot, and I knew I had to say something or it would bug me. You might notice. My friends might not notice, but I would notice, but I had to figure out how to handle this with politeness.

Then it came to me. I walked out of the bathroom, went over to my stylist, and asked nicely, “do you see this messed up spot here?” She looked and saw it and offered to fix it then and there but my hair already looked so nice that I didn’t want her to fix the color spot then and there, so we agreed that I’d stop by after work this coming Thursday.

The example is a small one, but the bigger victories come from smaller ones. Build up to the big victories and they will last. That’s how we build a strong sense of self.

My friends always comment to me that I don’t have a problem returning things, and that’s true, but I built that up too. If I buy a product I expect it to fulfill its promise and if it doesn’t then I respect my time and money enough to return it. I once returned a pair of underwear that ripped the first time I wore it. I bought several pairs just like it and they lasted, so I knew the problem had to do with quality.

The last time I bought a car, I went into the dealer with my own financing and that saved me from so much of their BS. Plus I ended up with a better deal from them. There can be and are so many situations in life that present us with opportunities to shrink or rise and we can allow pebbles to annoy us or to serve as stepping stones to a happier life.

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With Eyes Wide Open: Staying Present in Yoga

I like to keep my eyes closed to escape my thoughts. Or so I think. When I meditate I close my eyes to center myself. In the hot room they tell you to keep your eyes open, and, while I’ve always heard that I haven’t given it much thought.

Sometime I like to close my eyes to “feel” my body move rather than see it, but, in actuality, my mind wanders in those moments to problems/situations/people ever present in my psyche. I’m not feeling my body move. I’m not even in the room in those moments.

A few weeks ago in class, the instructor called me out for closing my eyes during practice. I’m glad she did. I started observing my thoughts when my eyes would be closed versus open. When I close my eyes, my thoughts turned toward subjects that did not affect my present moment. They detracted from the moment actually.

EVERY TIME I shut my eyes I left the room and transported myself elsewhere. I’ve watched and observed this over the past few weeks. Then I started making a concerted effort to keep my eyes open during class and to focus on the image in the mirror. Sometimes I find this difficult to do because I tend to judge myself, but the judgment has lessened with time.

With eyes open, I’m in the room, in my practice and I can more readily hear instructions and apply those instructions to the pose. Sometimes I’ll end up concentrating on one portion of the instruction, but that’s okay because I’m still IN THE ROOM.

I have found that keeping my eyes open during savasana also helps me stay present: IN THE ROOM. Let’s face it. All the things I think about when I close my eyes can’t be changed or altered by my thoughts in those moments. In fact they may actually be solved by my silence, by my lack of thoughts. Sometimes the best ideas have come through moments of silence. Days of silence.

I’m in a conundrum about a little something at the moment, and I’ve decided not to think about it for a week or so, and I’ve found that the silence feels so good, so nice. I know the solution will present itself soon. I can’t force it. I don’t want to force it.

I digress, so it’s back to the hot room. The more I keep my eyes open, the more I’m actually there. Present. Willing to work for change. You see when my eyes are closed and I’m in the past or future, I’m not working toward change. I’m accepting what is. I don’t want what is. I want something so much better. That means I’ll keep my eyes open in class. Be present in class. Be present outside of class. BE PRESENT. NOT PAST. NOT FUTURE. PRESENT.

With that comes awareness and peace and a greater openness to all the possibilities unfolding before me. The next time you are somewhere (the hot room or another place) where you need to keep your eyes open and you feel tempted to close them, watch your thoughts, be an observer, and find your way to keeping your eyes open. You’ll be glad you did!

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Piles of Expectations

I sat down tonight intending to write a blog on the benefits of keeping one’s eyes open during yoga—I tend to close mine. I also thought about making a video on how people who can’t do traditional sit-ups (ME!!!) can work toward doing sit-ups. However, I also decided to go through my journals (remember, I’m decluttering?) and I decided I’d let go of the past by throwing away journals or removing pages that didn’t bring me joy.

As I started going through journals, I came across page after page after page after page where I wrote long dialogues about being afraid of not meeting others’ expectations. I would spend pages writing notes that described how I knew that certain changes were right and necessary for my health and well-being but I felt too afraid to make them because I didn’t know how I’d take it if people didn’t love me anymore.

I’m not joking here. I didn’t want to disappoint people. I put my perceptions of their needs ahead of my own well-being.

There are ways growth in individuals is evident and obvious, and there are other ways that can’t be seen. This can’t be seen, not really. I wasted so much time in my life thinking about others’ reactions. Why? Did I not value myself? Did I not love myself?

I could ponder these mysteries forever, but I don’t want to. I do, however, want to appreciate the changes within me. When I rip up and dispose of those journal pages tonight, I’m leaving behind more pieces of behaviors that will no longer be a part of my life.

I write this with a profound gratitude for where I am at now, for the ability to make choices that bring me joy. The more joy I experience, the more I’ll be able to radiate that to others.

Peace out.

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Before and After Pics…..of My Truck

Or rather of my late dad’s truck. The past couple of months I’d gotten into the habit of leaving stuff in there, figuring I’d take care of it later….well somehow later didn’t happen and this is what the truck looked like yesterday:



I decided when I started this decluttering project that it would extend to all areas of my life. It’s so easy to just leave things in cars to take care of later.

I’m almost finished with my project so later is now. Yesterday I took everything out of my late dad’s truck and brought it into my apt and ……sorted it out and put it all away. Some went to garbage. Some needed laundering–like gym clothes.

And now the truck looks like this:


 One more piece of the puzzle complete. I wanted to take the truck to the car wash this morning but it rained a bit so washing will have to wait until tomorrow. Actually, it’s more about vacuuming.

But tomorrow will be here soon enough!

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