Conscious Spring Cleaning (and Conscious Consuming)


Have nothing in your home that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful. —William Morris

With Spring here, it is yard sale season in the Eastern US. Yard sale season always gives me the opportunity to clear out the things we no longer need and pick up the things that we do at rock bottom prices. One of the things I appreciate about living here is the myriad of opportunities we have to recycle and reuse items that we, or others, no longer want or need. In a culture with so much desire for, and access to, stuff, there is a lot of opportunity for waste. So when I have a chance to sell or donate something or to buy it used, I always choose those options over buying things new or throwing things away.

This year’s clearing out has a new dimension, in that my family and I are moving abroad for the forseeable future and are working to pare down our “stuff” to a few suitcases and a few boxes to be stored in a friendly garage. As I went through each closet and cabinet, I tried to be as unsentimental and practical as possible. Winter clothes – Donate. Big toys – Donate. Wine glasses – Donate. But when I got to my children’s books or their “Big Bear,” a big stuffed bear in their room, the memories attached to these items gave me pause and made me realize how easily “things” can become infused with memories and how downsizing “stuff” can also mean downsizing cherished memories. But on the other hand, six years ago, when I packed up for another move abroad, I packed things in boxes, put them in storage and haven’t looked at them since. So the practically of removing sentiment from the process is reinforced by the knowledge that most of what we don’t encounter on a regular basis can become relegated to the attic of our minds and easily forgotten. And of course, we can always take pictures to keep the memories alive.

The benefits of decluttering, conscious consumerism and conscious recycling (whether giving away, selling or recycling in the most common definition) are numerous. For many people, clearing clutter not only opens space in their homes and offices, but can also create space in their minds and their days (with less time devoting to cleaning, organizing and finding “stuff”). Buying or finding used items and selling, donating or recycling old items keeps them out of our landfills and benefits our environment (and often, your bank account).

There are many posts on the process and benefits of simplifying the “stuff” in your life. Zen Habits – as you now know as my go-to blog for advice on life – has posts specifically on Decluttering and another on more broadly Simplifying Your Life. For the more sentimental among us, Barrie Davenport of Live Bold and Bloom has a post on How to Simplify When You Really Love Your Stuff.

The following links are opportunities for recycling, donating or buying used in your communities:

Freecycle is an online forum for users to ask for or donate wanted items in their local communities. It started in the US, but has expanded across the world. Check the link to see if there is a group in your community.

Craigslist is a free online classifieds site which provides opportunities to post wanted items or donate or sell unwanted items. Craigslist also has a section for posting yard / garage / boot sales. Also started in the US, this service has expanded worldwide. Check the link to see if there is a group in your community. When using either of these sites, please take necessary precautions to protect yourself and your family, such as meeting in public areas and taking a friend along.

Miss Minimalist provides an extensive list of donation sites for specific goods for readers in the US. Other sites are listed on a post on Apartment Therapy.

Happy Spring Cleaning and Thanks for reading!

What about you? Do you have any great go-to sites for free-cycling, donating or buying used?

(Photo Credit


Conscious Meditation

Buddha Tree

The gift of learning to meditate is the greatest gift you can give yourself in this lifetime.”Sogyal Rinpoche

I have wanted to cultivate a regular meditation practice for years. I have started and stopped, tried and failed, found inspiration and lost it. I even spent 10 days at a Buddhist Meditation retreat in Thailand. But I have never set aside enough time, fostered enough motivation or followed through with my desire to sustain a regular practice. Yet now, on my journey to live a more conscious, mindful, life, it seems all the more important to commit.

There are so many reasons to meditate. According to Belle Beth Cooper What Happens to the Brain When You Meditate (And How It Benefits You), meditation quiets your mind; it helps you focus; it helps you to be more creative, compassionate and empathetic; it improves memory and reduces stress. In her Psychology Today Article, This is Your Brain on Meditation, Rebecca Gladding, M.D. explains, in detail, how a regular practice of meditation physically reshapes the connections in our brain, leading those with regular meditation practices to be calmer, less reactive, more empathetic and more balanced in their responses and perspectives.

Yet even with all of this scientifically based reasoning, I find it difficult to sit down for 10 to 15 minutes a day and just do nothing. I am a task-master. I worship at the temple of productivity. A day when I clean my house, cook a healthy dinner, write a blog post, spend quality time with my family and knock a few other things on my to-do list is a happy day for me. I am very conscious of this aspect of my personality. And yet it is just this aspect that I would like to soften through meditation. I would like to be able to sit for a moment without thinking of all of the things I should could be doing. I would like to be more focused and not thinking constantly. I would like to be able to relax and just be.

But it isn’t easy.

As a runner, if I don’t run every few days, I feel a physical pull to get outside, stretch my legs and put some distance between myself and the confines of my four walls. Running exercises my muscles and clears my head. I would love to have that feeling, as a “meditator;” that physical need for regular practice, for mental cleansing.

So I’m committing here, in this post, to finding at least 10 minutes each day to begin a regular meditation practice. Armed with Zen Habits’ Leo Babuta’s 20 Practical Tips for Quieting the Mind and  Goodlife Zen’s Mary Jaksch’s guidance on what to do when things come up for you during your meditation practice, I’m ready to begin…

…doing nothing.

If you are interested in beginning or reinvigorating a regular meditation practice, there is so much going on right now to encourage people to meditate.

Oprah Winfrey and Deepak Choprah have launched a 21-Day Experience called Finding Your Flow that began on April 14 and continues through May 4. Their site offers daily guided meditations on a theme with a free registration.

In May, Mindful Magazine is starting a Mindfulness in May campaign that offers a month of daily guided meditations and interviews with practitioners in the fields of meditation, science and health for a fee of $25 with proceeds going to clean water initiatives around the globe (You have to register by May 1).

America Meditating is an initiative by the Meditation Museum in the D.C. area to encourage people to pause at 7:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. each day for a moment of peace and contemplation.

The Insight Meditation Center in California offers recorded talks, articles, newsletters and other meditation related resources. You can access the homework for their Six Week Mindfulness Meditation Course HERE.

Thanks for Reading!

What about you? Do you have a regular meditation practice? If so, do you have any tips or insights for beginners? Are you a beginner or interested in beginning a regular practice? If so, I’d love to start a conversation and share experiences.

Conscious Appreciation of the Places We Call Home


Look at everything as if you were seeing it either for the first or last time. – Betty Smith

In the past 15 years, I have called eight different places “home.” Before moving on to a new place, I always find myself appreciating my surroundings more, knowing that I won’t be around to appreciate them much longer. As I ran through my neighborhood the other day, I thought about what a shame it was that I often wait until I know I am going to lose my surroundings before developing a more regular conscious appreciation for them.

My current home is in a safe, quiet, friendly community. Not everyone has the opportunity to live in an environment with open green spaces, free of litter and debris, where they feel safe to let their children play. I do and for that I am grateful.

Leo Babauta of Zen Habits posted the 10 Essential Rules for Slowing Down and Enjoying Life More. I think many of these can be applied to developing a habit of appreciating our surroundings.

Here are a few things we can do to bring a more conscious appreciation to our environment:

1. Do Less – When you’re walking, walk. When you’re running, run. When you’re driving drive. Use this time to notice your surroundings and appreciate them.

2. Disconnect – It is hard to be aware of what is around us when we are on the phone or plugged into an ipod. Shutting down for a moment, can bring you more awareness of where you are and what is going on around you.

3. Be Present – Take a moment to cease the chatter of your mind and take in the world around you. Express your gratitude for the positive aspects of your environment.

4. Move Slower – When you find yourself rushing- walking fast, driving fast – when you don’t need to or have anywhere you need to be. Slow down and look around. Take a moment to appreciate where you are.

5. Breathe – Use your breath to help you to slow down and bring you into the present moment. If the air is clean, notice it and be grateful. We often take things like clean air for granted.

6. Appreciate Nature – If you have green grass, trees or animals in your environment. Take a moment to appreciate their place in your life, especially during the changing of the seasons.

7. Find Pleasure in Your Senses – Take moment to notice what you see, smell, hear and feel. Use your senses to heighten your conscious awareness of your environment.

8. Bring Awareness to Your Blessings or Fortunes – There are many people in the world who life in unsafe, unclean, undeveloped environments and if you don’t, take a moment each day to cultivate gratitude for the blessings in your surroundings.

Thanks for reading!

What about you? When was the last time you took a moment to appreciate your current surroundings? Is there anything you feel especially fortunate to have in your life?