March is National Nutrition Month! I have had an acute interest in nutrition for nearly 16 years, and as a result I’ve devoured books, magazines, shows, and websites to gain more information. This month I’m sharing my knowledge and enthusiasm with my husband and my sister. Since we had a few weeks before our move to Bend, I offered to be a health coach to my sister who wants to get healthier before an incredible European vacation planned for September. My goal is to make a big enough impact on how my sister feels while eating whole, real foods that she will want to continue eating after I leave. Follow me (Vitality in Focus) on Instagram or my Facebook page to see what we have been eating for dinner.
Vegetable fritters are amazingly flavorful. I paired these with a green salad.
Respite or Reprieve
With my husband in tow, I am spending the month of March in Henderson, Nevada with my sister. She is the middle girl in our family and older than me by 17 years. While that may not matter, I think it helps paint a picture if you don’t already know us.
The drive to Nevada started off very snowy. We couldn’t wait to find sunshine and dry roads.
It’s an incredible opportunity to get warm and dry and a chance to focus on our health and our work with fewer distractions. Especially since February was a huge distraction that, as a result, put this blog on a back burner. Read Moving and Mounds of Memorabilia to find out why.
This picture was taken on a day hike at Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area near Las Vegas. The weather here is unseasonable warm. We are getting our wish for warmer, dryer weather.
3 Weeks to Build New Habits
One of my goals while we are staying with my sister is to help her cultivate healthier eating habits. You may know that research supports the philosophy that it takes 3 weeks to build a new habit. As luck would have it, that’s exactly how much time we have here.
I think that Romanesco is quite possibly the most beautiful vegetable. I chopped it up with zucchini, lightly steamed it and served it on top of quinoa with a dollop of satay sauce.
The fact that March is National Nutrition Month is serendipitous. Whether you call it “clean eating” or “real foods” or “whole foods” the idea is the same. Cut out the crap! Eliminate all of the processed foods with additives, artificial anything, preservatives and ingredients you don’t recognize or wouldn’t stock in your pantry. This is the foundation for our healthy adventure.
A really good chicken soup starts with homemade bone broth.
We are implementing the menus and recipes from the 21 Day Food Matters Program. The meal plan is based on gluten-free, highly nutritious recipes with a balance of alkalizing greens, proteins and healthy fats. In general, it’s a guide for those who want improved health. We each have our own goals. I’d like to experience better focus and clarity, increased energy and reduce the headaches I get almost every day. My sister wants to improve her fitness, focus and resiliency. We are both looking to be joyfully alive. Rob’s goals are to be fit, focused and energized. Focus appears to be on all of our lists. Did you know that what you eat has a correlation to how well you can focus? Eating a diet full of additives, preservatives and artificial ingredients can cause brain fog.
A lovely lunch with homemade gluten free bread and homemade hummus. We topped it with watercress and cilantro with carrots and celery on the side to dip into the extra hummus.
Half Way Point
We are half way through our 21 day eating journey.
The meal plan, recipes and shopping lists provided in the 21 Day Food Matters Programmake the planning easy. I’ve made a couple adjustments to fit our schedules, but we have kept to the recipes given in the program. We start every morning with a tall glass of water enhanced with the juice of half a lemon. I send my sister off to work each day with a lunch box packed with a green smoothie for breakfast, lunch, snacks, four bottles of water and a couple of detox tea bags. Dinner is nearly ready in the evening when she comes home. This morning as she left she said to me, “I’m down another pound and I’m happy!” While she has a weight loss goal, I hope she discovers that eating a diet of foods as close to their natural state as possible makes her feel better. I know it works for me. While not knowing that he was going to have a health coach, Rob has fully committed to the program. His body fat percentage has dropped 1.5% in just nine days.
For easy to-go lunches pack your salad in a Mason jar.
Quinoa Tabouleh is one of our favorite lunches on the Food Matters 21 Day Program.
Essential Kitchen Tools
My sister has a well equipped kitchen with many of the necessary tools of the trade. However, when I started cooking in her kitchen there were a few items missing that I couldn’t cook for a month without.
A good sharp chef’s knife. This essential for all the chopping required when cooking with fresh ingredients.
A fine mesh sieve for rinsing beans, rice, quinoa.
Ball mason jars. I’m using a 32oz wide-mouth jar to pack salads for her lunch. I also like these small jars to portion nuts & seeds, hummus and snacks.
My Vitamix blender came with me. I couldn’t get through three servings of smoothies every morning without it. It is the best blender I’ve ever owned. It can be used for salad dressings, soups and more. I like this one (6500) because it has the automatic “smoothie” option.
The other tools that I use daily when cooking are ones she had.
A sharp pairing knife
A small cutting board
A set of measuring cups and spoons
A set of nesting prep bowls
A citrus juicer The one pictured is her’s, however, I really like the handheld squeezers. This particular one is stainless steel so there isn’t any paint to chip off like the yellow one I have at home.
Ingredients Not Calories
In honor of National Nutrition Month I challenge you to take the rest of March to focus on your nutrition. The easiest place to start is in the produce section of your grocery store. Increase the amount of fresh vegetables you eat. Make them a larger portion on your plate than any other item. In addition, read labels and eliminate my list of deal breakers. If a product has any of these ingredients listed on its label it will not make it into my shopping cart.
Trans fats, partially hydrogenated oils
High fructose corn syrup
Artificial flavors, colors or sweeteners
Sodium nitrite and sodium nitrate
Dried fruit with sulfites
Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
Soy (because I have a sensitivity to soy)
Those are my deal breakers and a good list to start with. Of course when eating out I can’t control this, but I can control what I buy. In general, I look for ingredients I recognize. You know, the ones you might have in your pantry and would use in your own cooking when starting from scratch. As a result, when you focus on eating real foods there’s no need to focus on calories. Finally, my attention has recently been drawn to a few others that should be eliminated. These include, Potassium Bromate, Propyl Paraben, Aluminum Additives, BHT & BHA.
National Nutrition Month
I’ll come back with a report on how we did at the end of the month. Happy National Nutrition Month!
What can you do to up your nutrition game? What are your health goals? Are you a label reader? Do you have any “deal breakers” when you are shopping for food?
Another favorite lunchtime meal is this Waldorf salad. The dressing uses yogurt instead of mayonnaise. Perfect for National Nutrition Month.
Of all the things I’ve saved through the years memorabilia has to be my downfall. It’s a crazy obsession I have and one my husband will never understand. Memorabilia includes souvenirs I collected on trips, boarding passes, brochures, rocks, shells, foreign coins, postcards etc… My memorabilia was also programs, awards, report cards, certificates, team rosters and schedules, calendars, birthday cards, Christmas cards, art work, school work, more cards… it’s endless. It takes up a lot of space and during all of our downsizing, packing and moving it has created way more stress than it’s worth. Carting all the memorabilia from one place to the next is a burden.
Packing up my home office for the second time. Notice, in the foreground, I’m still filling a bin with memorabilia to recycle.
On the Move Again
At the beginning of February Rob and I were presented with the opportunity to lease a condo in Bend, Oregon. It is in the exact location we’ve had our eyes on for a couple years. It’s near the river trail we love to run. We’ll have a view of six mountains, and it’s within walking distance to shopping, restaurants and breweries. Skiing on Mt. Bachelor is about a twenty minute drive away.
Bend is an active outdoor community that fits the lifestyle we want for our future. As empty nesters and with both of us working from home, moving away from Portland was possible. However, it wasn’t an easy decision. Portland has been our home for most of the past twenty-five years. Our friends and community connections are in Portland, therefore, leaving is emotionally difficult.
Change is an Opportunity
Ultimately, we decided that change is an opportunity for growth, and new experiences are exciting. This one year lease is a trial period for us. We will see if living in Bend provides us with more opportunities to live the active lifestyle we want and to experience life with a smaller footprint. At the end of the year we can reevaluate and decide if we want to make Bend our home, try another location, travel around the country in a Sprinter van, hike the Pacific Crest Trail or move back to Portland.
We spent February continuing to purge even more of our belongings including some furniture. With this move we truly are downsizing. I wrote about our move and the process of getting rid of things after Christmas in the post STEPS ALONG A PATH TOWARDS CHANGE from January 19, 2017. https://www.vitalityinfocus.com/steps-along-a-path-towards-change/
At that time we only downsized by about 600 square feet, but this move to a condo will give us almost half of the space we are used to. To prepare for less space we sold furniture and decorations. We donated countless car loads of stuff we no longer need or have room for. I spent a weekend scanning and recycling twenty-two years worth of saved memorabilia from traveling, school, cards, awards, sports, and summer camps. Needless to say, moving twice within two months is exhausting. It consumed our time and energy in February.
These two bins were overflowing at the beginning of my beach weekend. What’s left are a few things to save and a little more to weed out.
5 Lessons I’ve Learned from Saving Memorabilia
I have learned some important lessons while sorting through my mounds of memorabilia. I’m not kidding about the mounds. The amount of paper I saved over the years was astonishing. I’m a scrapbooker. In fact, I sold scrapbooking supplies as a home based business for twelve years. I saved everything from birth announcements to teeth (eww) and ticket stubs to Christmas wish lists. Anything that I thought would help me tell the story behind my pictures when it came to writing about all of our picture worthy experiences was stuck into a file. I realize that not everyone has this compulsion. If you are one of those people who doesn’t save and hang onto things then you might laugh at my lessons. You will have no use for them because you were blessed with the ability to live in the moment and not attempt to hang onto the past. Your job to downsize someday will be much easier and less emotional than mine has been. Now that I’ve lived through the storing, organizing, filing, moving, moving again, digitizing, tossing, etc, here’s an enlightened approach that I wish I had figured out 22 years ago.
1. Make a decision right away
Don’t file everything thinking you’ll weed it out when the time comes. There’s an old adage; “Out of sight out of mind”. I think I was out of my mind for saving some of the things I did! Teeth? Really? Oh, well I have a laughable picture of them now.
The problem was, I knew how full my files were. I knew I had piles tucked here and there. I knew there were some bins in the attic full of memorabilia. Just knowing they were there was stressful. Thinking about the time I needed to organize and put all of these memories into albums with the pictures made my heart race and my chest tighten. I almost needed a paper bag to keep me from hyperventilating. I could have saved myself a lot of angst and time had I just been more selective to begin with.
2. Weed It Out Every Year
At the end of a school year pick out a few pieces of your child’s work to show their academic progress, writing, and artistic style. Keep a couple of pieces that touch your heart and remind you of your child at that age. Take a picture of large items and get rid of everything else! I kept school lunch menus and the teacher’s weekly reports from Keaton’s entire first grade year! Yes, I kept too much.
3. Don’t Save Every Christmas Card You Receive
Send the Christmas cards to the recycling bin in January! The stack of all the Christmas cards I saved could quite possibly have reached three feet high. This goes for most other cards as well.
4. Scan and Take Pictures of the Important Things
A good scanner can be your friend. Set aside a few hours in January to go through everything you saved the previous year. If you follow 1-3 there won’t be so much. Thin it out even more and then scan what you can. Save the scans in the folder with your pictures from the year or the pictures from that event if you sort that way. As I said earlier, I spent a weekend with girlfriends at the beach scanning some “treasures” that I pulled out from two big bins. I love my scanner. It is an Epson flatbed scanner that scans photos, documents, negatives with a high enough resolution to make enlarged prints. It also allows me to make color fixes on faded pictures. You can take pictures of three dimensional items or those larger pieces of children’s art work.
5. Don’t Save for Some Day
Don’t save something just because you think you might do something with it some day. I can almost guarantee that “someday” will never come. When it came down to it I never had the time to get to all of those scrapbooks that I imagined in my head. I have many completed albums that we enjoy now and then. It is fun to reminisce and look back at the photos and stories that document the events and adventures of our family. However, in the grand scheme of things how important is it to remember the price of a movie and when you saw it? I think that time spent in the present is more valuable. The experiences we had as a family are a part of us and important memories are there without the pieces of paper that show what we did. When you save it all the decision to keep or toss has to be made all over again. Of course, it is easier when you realize you don’t have room to save those things and you are exhausted from sorting through it all. Toss it! You’ll feel a little lighter and a little less stressed and more capable of enjoying the present.
Why did I feel compelled to save it all?
Did I think I would forget without the memorabilia? Mostly, it came down to scrapbooking. I thought I could write a better story if I hung onto the details. My big life lesson here is that the time in our lives is precious and slips away much too quickly. Fill your time with what is truly important.
Are you a saver or a tosser? If you are a tosser I’d like to know your secret. If you are a saver what is the most embarrassing or ridiculous thing you have saved? For me it is my children’s teeth and school menus. Or, maybe it’s the bandaid from Rikley’s first shot and the sticks from the popsicles Keaton ate after his adenoid surgery. I told you I was a compulsive saver. One last take away, I don’t need the bandaid to remember how I cradled Rikley’s head and sang into his ear when he got shots.
Thank you for reading I would love it if you’d leave a comment.
When children are young the focus of their birthday is on the party with friends; invitations, theme, games, decorations, cake, gifts….. And maybe a separate celebration with family. I always tried to make my boys feel special on their birthdays, but a lot of work went into the celebration.
When children get older and celebrate their birthday away from you it’s different. For me, I get more reflective and sentimental about their life. I realize how much my life was enriched by them, and I wish I could go back and do it all over again. That’s what I’m doing today on my first baby’s 22nd birthday. He is far away, but he is very present in my heart and mind.
This post is in his honor, but also for all the moms out there who are missing their children.
Cheers to My Son on His Birthday
Cheers to this day, January 31st, the day when I became a mom. It’s the day when my life was changed beyond my comprehension and in ways I could not believe possible.
Cheers to this tiny baby whose light head rested softly in the space between my neck and shoulder.
Cheers to this baby who snuggled in my arms and cried when I put him down.
Cheers to this baby who climbed before he could walk and who started walking at ten months old never to slow down again.
Cheers to this toddler who moved ever so quickly and whose hugs were given on a quick flyby as he chased after another adventure.
Cheers to this little boy who transitioned seamlessly when we moved to England. Cheers to this little boy who, without hesitation, let go of my hand to join a new group of classmates.
Cheers to this boy who learned to read and comprehend math so easily. Cheers to this same boy who loved baseball and soccer and always checked to make sure I was watching.
Cheers to this boys who cultivated strong friendships, loved his family and was a positive role model for his brother.
Cheers to this boy who embraced life with vigor and excitement and who played with such passion.
Cheers to this kid who had more than his fair share of scrapes and bruises. Cheers to this kid who announced so valiantly that he thought it was time to make yet another trip to the ER to stitch up the newest gash in his skin.
Cheers to this teenager who shares my love of skiing and who races down the slopes while flying, twisting and turning off jumps.
Cheers to this young man who has compassion for others and deep loyalty to his teams.
Cheers to this young man who graduated from high school with high respect from his teachers, family and friends.
Cheers to this young man who left home to pursue a higher education and continue his passion for playing soccer and lacrosse.
Cheers to this man who grew up much too fast and will graduate this spring with a degree in Physics and Math.
Cheers to this man whose hugs are now longer and stronger than ever.
Cheers to this man whose sense of humor warms my heart because it is so reminiscent of his grandfather’s.
Cheers to this man who will always be my little boy, full of spirit and action, love and dreams!
Happy birthday, Rikley, as you turn 22 I know your future is as bright as you. Always know that you are loved beyond measure and my pride for you is monumental. Thank you for all the joy and memories you have blessed my life with.
PS. Remember to call home.
As the mother of two boys I’ve had two fears. The first is for their safety as they fearlessly tackled physical challenges. If you have boys you know what I’m talking about. They’ll climb on counters and jump off, luge on a skateboard down a steep neighborhood road, or sail off of every jump they can find on a ski hill. The second is that they will move far away and never come home to me. Now that my nest is empty the second fear is becoming greater than the first.
What are some of your favorite memories of your children?
Remember to subscribe to my email list to get my menu planner. Thank you for reading!
Paprika-Lemon Chicken with Sautéed Kale and Quinoa Tabouli is Hit Dinner #10 in my recipe journal. I started keeping a journal in my kitchen three years ago. Whenever I “wing” a meal that everyone likes I write it down in my journal. I wish I had started doing this many years ago because my journal would be filled by now. Before starting the journal I’d throw something together for dinner, all of my guys would like it, but I didn’t write it down. I thought at the time that I would remember what I had created, but unfortunately I never did. Even with my journal I’ve missed recording some great meals because I got busy and thought, “I’ll write it down later.” Needless to say, “later” never comes. I am learning that I have to do it in the moment or else it doesn’t happen.
Why Dinner Menus?
There is a reason why I want to record the entire meal. I experiment with recipes all the time, but then I also have to come up with an idea for the side dish. We get bored with steamed broccoli, or I fall into a salad rut. When I make a dinner where every part comes together, I want to remember what I made so I can do it again. My dream is to write a cookbook based entirely on seasonal dinner menus that are simple, fresh and easy to prepare. Of course they have to taste good as well.
Paprika-Lemon Chicken with Sautéed Kale and Quinoa Tabouli
This Paprika-Lemon Chicken was our dinner Sunday night. I already had the buckwheat soaking in a Mason jar because I had planned to use it in a salad. However, I had forgotten to thaw the salmon and as a result didn’t have a complete dinner plan. When Rob called me from the market to see if there was anything I needed, I thought for a moment, and then asked him to get a couple boneless chicken breasts. While waiting for him, I cooked the grains and pulled a bunch of veggies out of the refrigerator. I do my grocery shopping on Mondays, so by Sunday it’s time to use up whatever is left. We had a red pepper, red onion, cucumber, parsley and garlic to make a tabouli style salad with quinoa and buckwheat. I also found a bunch of kale that needed to be eaten. Bingo! I had my dinner plan.
I should probably call it Quinoa-Buckwheat Tabouli, but that was too long. You could do this with any grain. I wanted to try buckwheat, which is naturally gluten-free, and I like using quinoa. Quinoa is actually not a grain even though we prepare it like a grain. It’s a pseudo-cereal loaded with beneficial vitamins and minerals, and it’s high in protein.
Cook the buckwheat and quinoa each for about 15 minutes. It’s best to soak the buckwheat prior to cooking to make it easier to digest and allow you to absorb more of its vital vitamins and minerals. Put the buckwheat in a glass bowl or jar in the morning, add warm water and then cover the container with a clean kitchen towel. It can sit on the counter until you are ready to use it. Rinse the quinoa and soaked buckwheat before cooking. I cooked mine separately, but you could try cooking them together. Use enough water in the pot to cover buckwheat and/or quinoa by about two inches, bring to a boil, then simmer for about 15 minutes. The buckwheat should be tender but not mushy, and the quinoa should have little white halos around them. Quinoa comes in different colors. The kind I used was a mix. When done, rinse under cold water and combine in a bowl. I used about a cup of each of the cooked quinoa and buckwheat and the rest I stored to use in a soup later in the week.
Traditional tabouli is more parsley than anything else. I’m not a huge fan of the flavor of parsley but it is a great herb for digestion and detox. Use the amount that suits you. Sweet peppers and cucumbers are among the “dirty dozen” fruits and vegetables that you should absolutely buy and eat organic. This is because they have some of the highest pesticide loads even after peeling and washing. Just to be clear, I don’t peel red peppers, but I will peel and remove the seeds from cucumbers in salads. They aren’t as bitter that way however, you lose some of their nutritional value.
Chop the vegetables and combine them with the quinoa and buckwheat. Stir in 2 TBS of extra virgin olive oil, a TBS of raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar and a TBS of fresh lemon juice. Taste and adjust the oil and acids to your taste. Finish it off with a pinch or two of sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper.
This is going to sit while you cook the chicken and kale. The flavors will have time to settle in and get all happy together. Taste again before serving and adjust the seasonings to your taste.
I used two boneless, skinless chicken breasts for the two of us and we had some left over. Put the chicken breasts between some plastic wrap on top of a non-wood cutting board.
Before you start pounding the chicken with a meat mallet smash three cloves of garlic on the cutting board you used for the veggies. You could do it with the flat side of a chopping knife but, since the mallet is out I like to give the garlic a good bang with it. The garlic will be used with the kale so peel off the thin papery skin and set it aside.
Pound the chicken until it is about a 1/4-1/2 inch thick. Peel off the top layer of plastic wrap. Season the tops of the chicken breasts with a pinch of sea salt, a tsp of smoked paprika, a couple turns on the pepper mill and a 2 tsp of fresh lemon juice. Turn them over and do the same on the back side.
Heat the avocado oil over medium heat until it will move easily around in your grill pan. Add the chicken breasts and let them cook for 4 minutes.
Start the Kale
While the chicken cooks wash and de-stem one bunch of leafy green kale. Heat another TBS of avocado oil in a separate pan over medium heat. When you can swirl the oil around to coat the pan add the smashed garlic cloves.
It should be time to turn the chicken.
Doesn’t that look good? It will be a nice golden-red color. Set the timer for another 4 minutes for the chicken and start cooking the kale. After cooking the second side, remove the chicken and let it sit for 5 minutes before slicing into strips.
When the garlic starts to brown swirl it around in the oil and then add the kale. Be careful, if your kale is still wet from washing it the oil will spit at you. I try to add the kale all at once to cover the pan surface. Turn the kale over as it cooks so that it wilts evenly and doesn’t burn on the bottom.
The kale will be nicely wilted. Before serving sprinkle it with a pinch of sea salt and a drizzle of lemon juice. I’m amazed at how little there is once it’s wilted. Rob and I will eat the entire bunch in one meal. I could eat kale like this every day. I love it! Adjust the salt and lemon to your taste buds.
Paprika-Lemon Chicken with Sautéed Kale and Quinoa Tabouli
There’s your Paprika-Lemon Chicken with Sautéed Kale and Quinoa Tabouli dinner. Plate it all up and enjoy!. I happened to have some pomegranate seeds that needed to be used, so I topped the tabouli with those and chopped raw almonds for added crunch. These are optional additions.
Yields 2 servings
Paprika-Lemon Chicken with Sautéed Kale and Quinoa Tabouli
1/2 a chopped Cucumber, peeled and de-seeded if desired
1 cup chopped parsley
2-3 TBS Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 TBS Raw Unfiltered Apple Cider Vinegar
1 TBS fresh Lemon Juice; or more to taste
Sea Salt and Pepper to taste; a pinch or two
8 raw almonds, chopped
Pomegranate Seeds; optional
FOR THE CHICKEN
2 skinless, boneless Chicken Breasts; pound to 1/4 - 1/2 inch thick
1 tsp Sea Salt
2 tsp Smoked Paprika
1/2 - 1 tsp Ground Pepper
4 tsp lemon juice
1 TBS Avocado Oil
FOR THE KALE
1 bunch of Leafy Green Kale; washed and de-stemmed
3 Garlic Cloves; smashed and peeled
1 TBS Avocado Oil
1-2 tsp fresh Lemon Juice
a pinch or two of Sea Salt
For the Tabouli, put the buckwheat in a pot and cover it with 2 inches of water. Bring the water to a boil, turn heat down to low and simmer for 15 minutes. The buckwheat should be tender but not soggy. Rinse it under cold water in a fine mesh sieve and add to a medium sized salad bowl. Rinse the Quinoa well and then cook in the same way as the buckwheat. Rinse it under cold water and add to the bowl with the buckwheat. Mix in all of the chopped vegetables. Add the oil, vinegar and lemon juice and stir. Taste to see if you want more lemon juice or vinegar or if you need to add more olive oil. Sprinkle with a pinch of sea salt and a few grinds from a pepper mill. Stir and set aside so the flavors can blend while you prepare the rest of the meal.
For the Chicken, mix the salt, paprika, and pepper together. Season both sides of the chicken breasts with the mixture. Then drizzle the lemon juice over the chicken using about 1/2 a tsp per side on each breast. Heat the oil in a grill pan over medium-high heat. When you can swirl the oil around to coat the pan add the chicken. Cook the chicken for 4 minutes on each side. Let it sit for 5 minutes before slicing into strips.
For the Kale, heat the avocado oil in a pan over medium-high heat. When the oil swirls easily in the pan add the garlic. Stir the garlic, flipping it over until it is lightly browned. Add all of the kale to the pan. Be careful because the hot oil will spit at you as the water from the kale hits it. I like to use tongs to turn the kale as it cooks so that it wilts evenly and doesn't burn. It should take only about 5 minutes to wilt down. Drizzle with the lemon juice and sprinkle with a pinch or two of sea salt.
I’ve been taking steps along a path towards change. I’m not talking about the kind of change that jingles in your pocket or falls between the seats in your car. I’m talking about the changes that happen in our lives. Life is all about changing, and change is all around us. It’s inevitable and little changes happen every day. It’s the big changes that challenge us, create stress, make you struggle and make you realize what is truly important.
Sometimes the path looks dark and lonely.
“Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” John F. Kennedy
What I’m learning is that change isn’t necessarily bad, It’s just different. Most importantly, it’s our response to change that determines its impact. It’s a path we all travel, and one thing I have learned from all my years of hiking is that there can be a lot of beauty at the end of a particularly challenging or scary path.
“Life ain’t always beautiful. Sometimes it’s just plain hard. Life can knock you down…but the struggles make you stronger and the changes make you wise. No, life ain’t always beautiful. Tears will fall sometimes. Life ain’t always beautiful, but it’s a beautiful ride” song by Gary Allen and written by Tommy Lee James and Cynthia Evelyn Thompson
A Decision for Big Change
In my blog post, Obstacles; Two Weeks to Declutter, I wrote about our decision to sell our home of eleven years. We started the process in September with the goal to be out of it by the end of the year. While we were excited with the sales process and getting a step closer to our empty nest simplifications, I now realize just how much stress this change brought on. Add in Thanksgiving and Christmas, which we hosted, and you could say we had the lion’s share of stress.
For me the best way to handle it all was to break it up into parts and take on one piece at a time. First, we dealt with selling the house and the work of getting it ready, an Open House, inspections and the appraisal. Second, after we had a signed agreement, we started to conquer getting rid of the things we didn’t want to move. Next, we packed up things we didn’t need for the month of December and I focused on being ready for Christmas. Finally, on the day after Christmas we begun the final packing and moving.We were completely out of the house on December 28th.
The Steps I Took
Most of my stress came from making decisions on what to keep and what to get rid of. Then there were decisions and work that went into how, when, and where do we disperse SO MUCH STUFF! These were the steps I took.
DECIDE ON WHAT TO KEEP AND LET THE REST GO
Selling our house was an opportunity to have less clutter in our lives. Rob and I started to look around at new places to live. We asked ourselves, “Where do we want to be?” Since we are not currently tied to a location for its proximity to work (we’re both working from home) or school boundaries we, could quite literally go anywhere.
In her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, Marie Kondo suggests to her readers that they should have a very clear picture in their head of what they want their living space to look like and what lifestyle they want. My picture does not involve a big house with lots of rooms. It used to, but now I want less space to manage. I want more time to do the things that bring me happiness and the activities that bring vitality into my days. My vision of our empty nest is one where we will have the ability to do more while having less.
So, we went to the Portland RV show in November and dreamed of working while traveling the country in a Sprinter Van, which appeals to me on many levels. Then we started to look at condos in the Portland Pearl district. I saw a couple I liked and this gave me a concrete visual feel for what less than 1500 square feet looks like.
Kondo’s philosophy is to keep the things that bring you joy and discard everything else. So with the vision of a small and clutter free space in my head and the questions, “Does this bring me joy?” and “Will this fit in my new space? resonating, I filled our garage with items to discard. Fortunately for Rob he is still on the keep list.
2. DECIDE HOW TO GET RID OF THINGS
We decided that a garage sale should be our next step. We already donated a closet full of clothing in August. However now, given the amount of items we had, it seemed reasonable to try to sell what we could in a garage sale. December first doesn’t’ seem like the wisest time to hold a garage sale, but given our timeline, we couldn’t wait for spring.
I have amazing friends who jumped in to help me sort, price and organize it all. As we did this I came upon some items that have more value than what they’d get at a garage sale. I saved these to post on sites like Nextdoor, Craig’s List and maybe Ebay. We worked for four days and this is what my garage looked like when it was all set up. We could not have pulled this off without the tireless help of friends.
Even though our garage sale was a December success, we were still left with an enormous amount of STUFF!
3. REEVALUATE AND COME UP WITH ANOTHER PLAN OF ATTACK
Anyone who has had a garage sale knows that not everything will sell. Therefore, you must have a plan on what to do with what remains. You certainly don’t want it back inside your home! I identified some items that I thought could sell at a local consignment store and took those there. We donated boxes and boxes of items to charity. Then there are the higher value items that I set aside for selling online. It’s a long and arduous task. Even with everything I cleared out to sell and donate there was still plenty left inside our home. When it came time to move we were surprised by how much we had to pack up and take with us.
Looking Forward to the Changes Ahead of Me
We decided to rent a house close by and take some time to evaluate our next step. It’s a lovely home, and although it is smaller that the one we left, it is still much bigger than where we plan to land. So, as I continue to weed out the things I don’t use or that don’t speak to my heart, I’m keeping two thoughts from Marie Kondo in my head.
“No matter how wonderful things used to be, we cannot live in the past. The joy and excitement we feel here and now are more important.”
“Does it spark joy?”
I truly believe that the whole process of clearing away the clutter will bring new energy to my life and help me live with vitality. After all, my goal is to live well as long as I possibly can. Taking steps along a path towards change, and meeting the challenges along the way with an open mind, is one step towards achieving my goal.
What challenges you most when trying to tidy up your home? Are you currently challenged by a particular change in your life? I’d love to hear from my empty nest friends and how your empty nest has changed your everyday life.
Leave a comment and be entered into a drawing to win a copy of Marie Kondo’s book. You can share this post on Facebook to earn 2 more entries. If you follow Vitality in Focus on Facebook like this post and leave a comment there for another entry. I will draw a name on January 26, 2017.
About the Pictures
The pictures in this post were taken during our recent heavy snow storm. This kind of snow is very rare in Portland. After the snow fell we were graced with days of sunshine and cold temperatures. The snow lasted a week and I enjoyed every day of it. These pictures were taken on a walk through the Tualatin Hills Nature Park. My fingers were numb, but it was worth every step I took.