Steps Along A Path Towards Change
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.
SAYING GOODBYE, AGAIN
And they are gone again, sigh. One of the hardest things about being an empty nest mom is saying goodbye to my children, all over again, each time they have to leave. I know it is difficult for the empty nest dad as well, because when Rob and I drop one of our sons off at the airport we ride home in a mostly silent funk. We are both sad to see them go. However, we know they are spreading their wings, gaining their independence and are off to do great things.
This is a view of Portland on our way to the airport.
TWO TRIPS TO THE AIRPORT
This week their flight status was questionable and the commute to the airport was tenuous. Keaton’s flight left on Sunday evening. Fortunately for us, the worst of the ice storm, that hit Portland Friday evening and early Saturday morning, was over. The freeway was clear of ice and the traffic was light. As a result we had one of our fastest rides to the airport ever.
Today was Rikley’s turn to leave. Even though the snow storm ceased two days ago, the aftermath of the epic snowfall was still very much present. Our travel time was much longer, but the end result was the same; a big strong hug and a quick kiss on the cheek goodbye. Of course I have to remind them to call, text, be good, be safe, have fun (but not too much), and to let me know when they have arrived safely.
We had a slow drive on snow and ice today.
OUR NEW NORMAL
Did I mention that they are gone again? After leaving Rikley at the airport, Rob and I drowned our sorrows in a latte and a shared almond croissant before getting back on the ice chunked freeway. We moped around for the rest of the day but, tomorrow we will get back into the rhythm of our new life in an empty nest. We will embrace our new normal! Of course we will also start to plan our spring trips to visit our boys and watch them play in a few games of lacrosse. I can’t wait! Is it spring yet? From the view outside my office window spring is a long ways off. sigh … I guess I’ll just have to get used to the fact that they are gone again.
I’m enjoying the snowy view from my office window.
Life happens and sometimes there are obstacles in our path that we must remove before continuing on our way. Or we must learn to work around the obstacles like the trees above that are finding a way to grow on and in between the boulders in the rockslide.
I knew that our empty nest would feel big with just the two of us living in it. For days after we returned from taking Keaton to college I expected him to come through the door after school and ask me, “What time is dinner?” I missed his usual question at breakfast, “What’s for dinner?” Without him here our home was big and empty. We love this home that holds eleven years of memories. It’s large size has allowed us to host extended family members at Thanksgiving and Christmas. We have slept as many as 10 for four nights at Thanksgiving. We finally have the backyard we’ve been dreaming of. We have completed most of the updates we wanted. I knew at some point we would sell. I just didn’t think it would be so soon.
One of the many great attributes of this house is its abundant storage. It has amazing built in storage throughout. The bad thing is that it has enabled me to put off making decisions on whether or not to discard things. I can always find a place to put whatever it is out of sight and not worry about it. This has made my downsizing job much more difficult. I have a friend who always had the rule in her home that if something new came in then something had to go out. I wish I had adopted her rule years ago. My husband really wishes that I had followed her rule.
I knew we wouldn’t stay in this home forever. I knew we would sell and move sooner than later. Our personal goals go beyond this house. I thought I would have a year or more to prepare. At a minimum I was thinking six months of paring down, going through everything and making decisions on what to keep. However, with the housing market in our favor, we decided to put the house up for sale in September.
With this target I had just shy of two weeks to go through every room, every closet, every cupboard, every drawer and an attic in our 4,000 foot house with the task of sorting, tossing and organizing. It was daunting; both physically and emotionally exhausting. When I work under pressure with a looming deadline I get focussed, put on blinders and everything else in life gets put on the back burner. This probably isn’t the best tactic because even running, the one thing that clears my head and controls stress, was put off.
A year or so ago I bought The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. My plan was to read the book and then start on a systematic process of purging. I thought I could learn how to emotionally detach from objects in my home that weren’t important. I knew I could part with many things, but I also knew that it would be difficult. The book sat untouched on a shelf, and I continued to save everything.
With no time to even start the book, I needed to find a way through this huge self-built barrier. I realized I had to throw perfection out the window. That’s not easy for a Virgo. Making the “right” decision for every item was unrealistic, especially since we didn’t have our next house lined up. I focused on job number one, getting the house ready for show.
First, we rented a 10×5’ storage space. This is where we put some things that we knew we wanted to keep but don’t need in the house right now. I also decided that after the house sells we will need to have a large estate sale. There were things I could box up now that we will sell later. I went through every room and removed all the personal photos and collections that were visible. Then I put out some of my autumn decorations. I decorated much more sparsely than my normal style.
When it came to closets I removed excess and had three categories; keep, sell, and garbage. I did this for linen closets, hall closets, and bedroom closets. From our master closet we removed this huge pile of clothes that became a fantastic Goodwill donation. We filled six medium sized packing boxes.
I love walking into our closet now. It is organized and void of clothes we weren’t wearing. About two years ago I started the practice of turning my hangers around on January 1st. Then at the end of the year I could tell what I hadn’t worn that year. This helped me weed out some clothes each year, but there were some pieces that I rationalized into keeping. They might be needed if the right occasion came. This year in January I put rubber bands on the hangers of pieces I hadn’t worn in 2015, but I still thought I should save most of what I hadn’t worn because the right occasion never came. Well this time I was ruthless. I decided to get rid of anything I didn’t truly enjoy wearing or wasn’t necessary. I told myself that if the “right” occasion hadn’t come for several years then it’s likely it won’t ever come, and if it does that piece of clothing will be dated and not something I will want to wear. I wish I had taken a before picture because my after picture is spectacularly different.
This morning I started to read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and within the first 35 pages Marie Kondo explains why I am so thrilled about my decluttered closet, and why I am now taking a little time each day to keep it this way. She says that when we make a profound change it triggers a different mind-set and touches our emotions. There is relief in having less to keep tidy. The feeling of being overwhelmed dissipates. Have you ever made a huge change in a room, your pantry or garden where you just can’t stop looking at it? Do you keep going back because it brings you joy to see the transformation?
There is a lot more to do, but our first goal, to get the house ready to “show”, is done. Once the house sells the process of paring down our belongings to less than half of what we currently have will be another daunting task. I do believe that once the process of downsizing our empty nest is complete I will feel relief from owning less, have freedom to pursue a new purpose and time to focus on wellness.
Have you had to do something similar? What was your process? How did you decide what to keep and what to let go of?
The following are five tips that I feel helped us cope with all of the emotions around taking our boys to college and separating from them.
- Before You Go: Let your child be in control of the details. They will soon be in control of their schedule, need to communicate with their professors, plan their social activities and in general, navigate through a whole new environment without daily help from you. I believe, as parents, we need to let them practice before they get to campus. Keaton scheduled his TB test at the doctors office, asked for his medical records and then confirmed that the university health center received the information they requested. He let us know the schedule for move-in and orientation. He was our navigator on the trip from leaving the house all the way to finding his dorm. We relied on him for all the important details which gave us reassurance that he will be able to manage everything without daily reminders from us on what needs to be done. Maybe this is all obvious, but I think it’s hard as a parent to remember that our college kids are legally adults.
- Getting There: Road trip there or take a family vacation before going. Not everyone can drive their child to college, especially if they are heading to a different coastline. We were fortunate to be able to road trip with our boys. Three years ago we packed the SUV to the brim and started a five day family adventure to Beloit, Wisconsin. We didn’t realize what a blessing this time in the car would be. Up until the morning of our departure our son, Rikley, had a full social calendar of saying goodbye to his friends and girlfriend. The road trip let us have uninterrupted family time. We visited Mount Rushmore and the Badlands on our way, listened to the same music and talked. When we arrived on campus we had one day to move into the dorm, get his ID, find his mailbox, open a checking account and attend several scheduled orientation events. At 5:00 the college had an outside ice-cream social, and at 6:00 announced that it was time for parents to leave. The whole day had been a whirlwind of activity and the goodbye came too quickly. We were thankful that we had so much time together the previous five days. So, this year when it was time to take Keaton to Bozeman we knew we would drive. It was a shorter trip and only the three of us, but we had him to ourselves for two days. If driving your child to college isn’t an option consider taking a family vacation as close to departure as you can.
- Moving in: Give them space but stay close. Last Wednesday, after moving Keaton into the dorm and a final trip to Bed Bath and Beyond, we left the campus in the late afternoon. We didn’t have to say goodbye, just “Have a good night and we’ll check in with you tomorrow.” The next morning Rob and I drove about 30 minutes out of town and went on a couple of hikes. Rob did some fishing and I took pictures. We texted with Keaton a couple of times but didn’t actually see him. He was busy with orientation meetings, and we wanted to give him space to make personal connections and start building friendships. On Friday we spent half the day fishing and taking pictures before we met Keaton at his dorm. I wanted to get a few pictures with him around campus and see how he had settled into his room. We spent less than two hours with him, but it assured us that he was finding his way, making connections and settling in.
Saturday morning came and we picked him up for breakfast. We imparted our final words of wisdom on him over eggs and coffee and talked about his plans for the weekend. Then it was time for us to say goodbye, get out of his way, and leave town. We didn’t get to have that kind of time with Rikley and I felt more comfort leaving Keaton because of it.
- Saying Goodbye: Trust them with making good choices. As parents, we have to believe that we have raised our children to be responsible, keep themselves safe, and be true to themselves. Now is the time for them to show us what they’ve learned over 18 years, and we have to trust them. I was fine through breakfast and it wasn’t until we pulled up in front of Keaton’s dorm that I started to choke up and tears filled my eyes. It was an immediate reaction to the dread of hugging him one last time and letting go. Of course we will still worry about how he is adjusting. Is he making friends? Does he like his roommate? Is he eating well? Is he getting enough sleep? Does he like his classes? Is he happy? I know he will do well, and I have the peace of mind knowing that he is intelligent and capable of taking care of himself.
- Coming Home: Take a detour on the way home. Rob and I are both planners. With our hectic work, school and sports schedules over the past decade plus, great planning helped us make it all happen. So, with a day of extra time on our hands, we did the unexpected and did not drive straight home to the big, empty house. Instead, we asked ourselves what could we do that was for us? While some of you may think of a spa, seeing friends or family, or exploring a new city, we drove along a winding road that followed a beautiful river and the route of Lewis and Clark. Our destination was the Wallowa mountains. We’ve backpacked there a few times and love the area with its clear creeks, mountain lakes and granite peaks.
We picked an 8 plus mile hike along Hurricane Creek for Sunday. It was strenuous, very scenic, and served its purpose of distracting us from the inevitable empty nest. If we could have we would have spent more time there. Three years ago, Keaton, Rob and I had a 5 day journey back to Portland. We picked a different route and traveled through Colorado and Utah. We lingered a bit at Colorado National Monument and in Arches National Park. If you can, I highly recommend a detour on the way back to your empty nest.
Dropping your child off at college is tough. I hope you can take something from these simple tips that makes it more memorable in the right ways.
If you’ve taken a child to college what kind of tips would you give to others? I’d love to know what made the experience easier for you. Please leave a comment below.
In life, change is inevitable. Sometimes it’s gradual and sometimes it crashes into our lives like a wave on the beach in a storm. Sometimes we know it’s coming. We anticipate it and can prepare. Then there are times when change completely blindsides us. Today I’m starting this blog writing about a change in my life that I’ve been able to mentally prepare myself for. However, that doesn’t make it any easier.
My youngest child graduated from high school in June. I knew this day was coming and although I mourn the end of his childhood, and desperately wish I had a rewind button, I celebrate. Mentally, I’ve been trying to prepare myself for a new role and purpose. For 18 years my job has been focussed on raising my two boys, keeping a home and making sure my family is well fed, clean, emotionally supported and loved. Now, with less food to buy and cook, fewer clothes to wash and a schedule void of school and sporting events, I have time to pursue my passions and find a new purpose.
Tomorrow we load clothing, dorm supplies, a bike and my excited son into our car and drive 750 miles to Bozeman, Montana. I’ve done this before. My older son is attending college in Wisconsin even further from home. I know I will cry and my heart will ache. I know I will cling to him for one last long hug. I also know that we have raised him to be a responsible, caring and independent young man. This is the journey that we’ve hoped for him.
In nature animals and plants have to adapt to change in order to live. As humans, some of us resist change and others embrace it. I don’t want to be set in my ways. I want to learn new things and grow from those experiences. I want to focus my attention on living with vitality.
This blog is my journey on embracing the changes in my life, adapting, pursuing passions and finding purpose, wellness and joy. I hope to inspire and motivate my family and friends (you!) to do the same. My goal is to live well longer. I will be sharing what works for me as I try new things, like meditation, and get back to other activities I’ve set aside, like yoga. I will share simple recipes that make eating healthfully easy. I will read about nutrition, wellness and mindfulness then report on what works for me and have suggestions for you to try.
Please join me on this journey of discovering health and purpose. Whether you are an experienced, new or will be an empty nester I hope you will find some golden nuggets that you can apply to your own life, and live with vitality.
If you are an experienced empty nester what advice do you have for me and others? If you are new to the empty nest what are your plans for dealing with the change? What are your health and wellness goals? Please leave a comment below, and please share.