A Simple Trick To Declutter Your Life and Prioritize Your Soulfood

A Simple Trick To Declutter Your Life and Prioritize Your Soulfood

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become more picky about how I spend my time. I spent my first 22 years doing things I thought I wanted: taking dense course-loads, working mind-numbing internships, and spending time with halfway friends. Of all my commitments, few genuinely lit me up inside. Most were voluntary “responsibilities” - Clutter - that I thought would advance my career or get me one step ahead in the world. (What I was racing towards, I’m not sure. I hadn’t yet realized that life was not a race.)

After a while, I burned out. I was sick of working toward goals that morphed into something grander the moment they came within my reach. I realized that I had a choice: I could spend my life robotically trying to achieve a nameless “something greater,” or I could intentionally design my life for present-moment happiness. (You can imagine which one I picked!)

I felt like I was waking up from a trance. For the first time, I was giving myself permission to declutter my schedule and design my life on my own terms (which now directly informs my women’s transformation coaching work.) Since then, I left my work in politics to become self-employed; bucked social norms and quit drinking; and left a permanent address behind to become a digital nomad. 

Decluttering my life has been a constant learning process. In a culture that rewards non-stop motion and falling in line, sometimes we forget that we have deciding power over how we spend our time. It's as important for us to declutter our mental space as it is to declutter our physical space - our closets, our bedrooms, our backpacks, and beyond - so every six months, to keep my priorities aligned with my values, I like to take a step back and declutter my life with my Life Jar. Here's how:

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Everyone's Doing The Best That They Can.

Everyone's Doing The Best That They Can.

My favorite coaching principle is this simple truth: Everyone is doing the best that they can with the resources they have. Adopting this principle as my own has radically changed my relationships to others and to myself.

This idea has been explored by a myriad of religious, spiritual, and wellness practitioners, including heavy hitters Brené Brown ("All I know is that my life is better when I assume that people are doing their best. It keeps me out of judgment and lets me focus on what is, and not what should or could be") and Deepak Chopra ("People are doing the best that they can from their own level of consciousness"). 

At first, this is a hard concept for many of us to swallow. It threatens us in a culture that constantly urges us to do more, to be better, and to excel. To many of us, "I'm doing the best that I can" sounds like complacency - like an excuse. But what if we took a step back from the infinite growth paradigm that informs our culture's value system and considered - "What if, right now, there is a limit to what I can achieve? Can I be okay with that?"

I first stumbled across this idea a few weeks after I quit drinking in 2016. It was a challenging time for me. In the absence of alcohol, I watched my anxiety soar. I stayed away from bars and clubs to avoid temptation, but then felt guilty and "boring" for spending Saturday nights at home. When I met up with friends who'd previously been drinking buddies, our interactions felt stilted. I knew sobriety was the healthiest choice for me, but I was frustrated by the ways it impacted my ability to be as social as I once was.

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poem: touch(love)

poem: touch(love)

i. collarbone
if i starve, will you love me better?
i’m so hungry all of the time.
no peanut butter, no milk, no pasta
i tiptoe on the scale like a ballerina and trace my collarbone in the mirror
i’m an archaeologist digging for love, but
i only find bone.

ii. lips
i’m so lonely. i get tired of performing.
i just want to escape for a while.
alcohol loosens my limbs and limbers my lips
gives me permission to scavenge for scraps of touch(love) 
beneath the naked moon
to eat greedily from the hands that feed me.
i’m so hungry all of the time.

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One Year Sober, 10 Silver Linings

One Year Sober, 10 Silver Linings

Today is my one-year Sober-versary. I’m sitting on the carpeted floor of my apartment in oversized sweatpants, a mug of tea to my right, the November sky out the window to my left. When the seasons shifted, I paid homage to autumn by candle-making - deep auburns, browns, and yellows - and now they flicker quietly, illuminating a collection of mismatched ceramic vases from garage sales; periwinkles and snail shells from the New Jersey shore; my favorite books.

Calm mornings like this are relatively new to me. They’re a trademark of the sober lifestyle I chose one year ago today, and they - like so many of my new routines and simple pleasures - are sacred to me. Sobriety has reshaped my life in ways I never could have predicted. This journey that I assumed would be difficult, isolating, and painful has been replete with silver linings. Though I never formed a physical dependence on alcohol, I abused it from day one. My five-year relationship with drinking was the origin of many traumatic memories, painful injuries, toxic relationships, and though I didn’t realize it then, my deepest wellspring of shame. So in November 2016, after five years of drinking, I made the difficult decision to quit...

What began as a commitment to avoid hangovers became a commitment to getting in touch with my heart, a commitment to living in the present moment in spite of discomfort, and a commitment to experiences and people that make me feel fundamentally nourished and safe.

The way I see it, we’re not incentivized to kick an addiction until we begin to believe in a brighter alternative - an alternative that feels more inspiring and satisfying than the addiction. When I quit drinking, I knew that if I was going to permanently resist the buzz of booze, I needed a compelling alternative waiting in the wings. These ten silver linings are my alternative:

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Love As The Foundation Of Social Change

Love As The Foundation Of Social Change

I retaliate against these [modern political] crises with love and community. It’s the only path that aligns with my values. It’s how I feel I can be most impactful.

Hurt, fear, anger, blame, violence, and the reduction of other beings to less-than-human are the tendencies underlying modern public debate. We can’t make the paradigm shift we need - right at the very roots of our hearts and culture - without building a foundation of change upon something radically different.

Aggression and division have developed a stronghold on modern, mainstream social justice communities. Folks who are not angry, unwavering, “renouncing,” and “calling out” are told they are not doing their duty as activists. But what about our duty to build a better world - not by shouting over evils, but by loving, caring, and acting compassionately in our communities?

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poem: Watermelon Days

Days like this feel stolen
like we swiped them from Nature’s basket overnight
while she slept soundly. 
Chins buried earlobes-deep in that swollen green rind,
jawlines sticky, grinning guiltily
we devour every morsel of this day.

We can’t contain this particular joy.
The type that fills our calloused soles with
phantom mountain landscapes,
our womb’s ripened nerves with
sunbursts, 
the echo
of unblemished sprites’ feet on new earth.

We all unfold
to stolen days like this.