Posts Tagged ‘joy’

The Year of Decluttering and Finding Joy

Posted in Alabama Living on December 20th, 2015 by Lanier Isom – Be the first to comment

For all decluttering warriors….

This year at the beginning of the year, I started a decluttering process with Katie Rogers. Our goal was to make considerable progress throughout all areas of my house. Katie subscribes to Marie Kondo’s philosophy. I’d never heard of her, but since then, everywhere you turn there she is! Katie and I worked in three-hour chunks for several weeks to accomplish most of our work before the Chinese New Year in February. We made great progress, and I’ve continued throughout the entire year to go deeper and deeper with my “stuff.”


 Decluttering is a birthing:

Decluttering is a process and by looking at your stuff, seeing what place it holds in your life and why, and by letting go of some of your stuff, you are giving birth to a new identity. As Anais Nin writes in her diary in 1944, “If one changes internally, one should not continue to live with the same objects.”

Each particular items requires a different send-off:

It’s interesting what happens to certain pieces or things. Some stuff you throw away immediately without hesitation, others you donate to the right place, and even others, you let sit for a while. For instance, Katie will challenge you to wear that red pair of shoes you’ve never worn, and if you don’t do so within a week, it needs to go. On the flip side of that are a few things I thought I wanted to give away I simply found a new spot for where I saw them in a new light and where they could be better appreciated.

The Garage: Before

The Garage: Before

Like babies dictating when they will enter your world, some item determine when they will leave you.

Some items stick with you for a bit longer until the universe responds with the best outcome for their new life. The dollhouse I grew up with and my mother had also played with growing up was something I struggled with. I finally made the decision to find a new home for it when I admitted to myself my daughter was growing up so fast she was already past that stage, and it made absolutely no sense to hang onto for that elusive day she may or may not have a daughter. I then texted several of my cousins numerous times, but for whatever reason, we couldn’t connect and it continued to sit in my garage until I went to a family party and another cousin came up and asked me about the dollhouse. He wanted to build one just like it for his grandkids. He was the perfect person to honor, treasure, and enjoy it so he came and got it the next day. Now it’s been given a new life and several happy girls are playing with it the way I used to enjoy it, and my mother did.

The Garage: After

The Garage: After


I struggled with things I kept that were given as gifts to me. I had as sense of obligation to keep them and felt guilty even thinking about getting rid of them. But what I realized is that when I saw that particular thing and it did not give me joy and only triggered a sense of resentment, it wasn’t worth keeping.

Declutter’s remorse.

I made a point to discuss what I was doing with my family, but there was a moment when I felt like I gave away something I shouldn’t have and it made me terribly uncomfortable. In fact, I had serious anxiety about it, but eventually after some time passed and several discussions with family members, I realized it was okay. A mistake hadn’t been made. Instead, difficult decisions had been faced. When I stopped avoiding what was right in front of me, I forced others to deal with their stuff as well. Sometimes, this wasn’t always pleasant!

What is the true currency of your life?

When you go through this process, you are faced with the issues of assigning and defining what is of value you to and why. You start to see how your sense of self worth is tied up with material objects. You are faced with the issue of ownership, and even the role you play in your family dynamics. I have played the role of archivist and museum curator and with that the task of collecting and maintaining lifetimes. This is a role I decided I needed to redefine and even let go off.

My storage unit before we cleared it.

My storage unit before we cleared it.

The experience counts, not the ribbons.

Somehow I had a handful of patches from my mother’s high school swim team. She’s 83. She told me to throw them away. This was all about the same time my daughter was collecting ribbons for her horse show championships. Lots of ribbons. They hang around every wall in her room. She’s twelve. By the time her horse showing career is done who knows how many ribbons she will have earned. Will she hold onto them? Do they matter? Yes and no. What matters is the courage, faith, strength and life lessons she’s learning from caring for an animal, facing physical challenges and emotional obstacles.

My storage unit after we finished.

My storage unit after we finished.

When we consider letting go, we can “see” our stuff honestly.

We “see” our stuff again with a deeper understanding. Hugo still had a trophy he earned for a pass and punt football challenge in 1974 when he was eleven. The first place winner had a chance to go on TV and meet “The Bear,” a memory emblazoned in his mind to this day as a highlight of his life. At the time an African American kid had won first place, but for some reason he couldn’t remember the boy had been disqualified on a “technicality.” Holding the trophy in his hand and reminiscing, he realized something he intuitively felt as a child. This was Birmingham, Alabama, so what Hugo felt as a child, he only now could articulate as an adult: That prize couldn’t be bestowed upon a black boy. First place was given to the white boy instead.

Your stuff will not save you from experiencing loss.

“Death is the stripping away of all that is not you. The secret of life is to die before you die – and find that there is no death.” Eckart Tolle

When you face your stuff, you face your mortality. No matter how hard or long we hold onto the things that define us we will be erased, traces of our lives die with us. Our scribbles are lost. Our lives become artifacts in a dusty store, discards on a trash pile in a landfill, a quaint relic on someone’s shelf who collects antiques. There’s nothing I or anyone else can do to stop the passage of time, to stop myself from dying and disappearing, to prevent the losses I must endure


There’s always beneficial or non-beneficial energy and beliefs connected to your stuff. The process can be therapeutic when you understand why you are really holding onto something. This can make you cry, laugh or get really angry.

When you shift in healthy ways, you can inspire others to shift.

I am much more aware of what I purchase and why, and I ask myself do I really want to bring this into my house and life?

Anything anyone else, especially furniture, someone had a sense of ownership over, I want out of my house.

Anything you keep in storage is “hidden debris,” those unconscious feelings you aren’t willing to look at yet.

The books in my house were the hardest tackle.

The books in my house were the hardest tackle.

I gave a way endless boxes of books.

I gave a way endless boxes of books.












A couple of more videos with Katie to share:

Starting at the Bottom of the Mountain

Posted in The Writing Life on October 28th, 2013 by Lanier Isom – Be the first to comment

Overcoming resistance to write is one of my greatest challenges. Even when I’m excited about what I’m doing and eager to work on it, I seem to find a million excuses to avoid the actual act of writing.

Why is our resistance so great? Dani Shapiro writes in her new book, Still Writing, “The page is your mirror. What happens inside you is reflected back. You come face-to-face with your own resistance, lack of balance, self-loathing, and insatiable ego—and also with your singular vision, guts and fortitude. No matter what you’ve achieved the day before, you begin each day at the bottom of the mountain.

Over the years, these are a few truths I’ve learned:

Show up daily.

Even a few words are better than none. Something about touching pen to paper or fingertips to keys daily, ruminating and focusing your energy, even just the tiniest bit, nurtures the process and keeps the magic flowing.

Write with joy.

Tell the critic to skeedaddle. Enjoy the process. Seriously. It’s not dental surgery. To do so, establish rituals to help you dip and then plunge into the creative well. Have a cup of tea, play some quiet music, light a candle, take eight deep breath and repeat your favorite mantra. Do whatever it takes to create a sanctuary where you can honor the process and find joy even as you struggle to discover the story or flesh out the character.

Silence the inner critic.

Theo Nestor made a comment recently: Write past the self-doubt. It sounds so simple, but it’s HUGE. Quiet, or ignore that nagging belief born of your most insecure, childish self that you’re not good enough.

Write regardless of fireworks exploding around you.

Whatever natural or manmade disaster plaguing you at the moment, and it’s most likely the “flea bites” of life—sickness, interruptions, distractions, bills, another predictable family or friend drama—that will derail you, don’t let it. If you wait for the perfect moment, you’re doomed.

Write about what you care about most deeply.

Follow your heart as far as subject matter. If it sings to you, then you can make your words sing for the reader.

Do not censor yourself.

You can do that later when you revise. Tell your truth. Speak it loudly.

Find a good editor.

Not your spouse, a writer friend or family member. Find a professional.

Do not pay a bit of attention to family, friends or society when it comes to your writing life.

No one wants you to be a writer. How dare you live a creative life when the rest of the world has to punch the time clock? How dare you take time and attention away from other more important people, tasks or responsibilities? No one wants you to be a writer for a million different reasons, so you will have obstacles thrown your way beyond the practical considerations of time, energy and confidence. I’m sure you’re quite good at sabotaging your own commitment to write, but when others throw shame, guilt, indignation and a raised eyebrow as you try to retreat for a little while to write, it’s easy to say, “Okay, what the heck. You’re right. I should be doing something else more productive.”

Endurance and faith are the keys to living the life of the writer. Don’t give up. Ever!


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