Category Archives: Lessons from Less

Why is moving so hard? The struggle to lighten up, give up, and let go.

Moving out — moving on

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

Everything changes.

I just emptied an apartment full of furniture, things, stories, and stuff. I carried couches, desks, and pieces of furniture up and down (and up and down) many flights of stairs across hilly San Francisco. I donated 600 books and gifted them to friends across the city.

Moving is so freeing and yet so hard.

And I wrapped up a life living in this beautiful home, this beautiful city, with so many good friends.

"We're making space for new adventures," my husband reminded me. "Don't keep anything you don't remember you had in the first place."

But it's so hard. The labor of moving everything. The memories.

Moving is exhausting. The energy of lifting, analyzing, purging, and letting go — it's no small task. When I got overwhelmed recently in the pile of stuff that somehow accumulates around one's home, I went online in a desperate plea to my minimalist friends — "Help!" I said, "How do I do this?"

Joshua wrote back a simple truth — and it made me laugh:

"You are not your dishtowel." — Joshua Fields Millburn

Right. Right!

I am not my things.

I get to keep the stories, the memories, the transformation. My life is not a couch. My memories are not held inside of a sofa.

When I got back to New York this weekend, I decided to continue the cleansing: we piled up four more bags of books and clothes and cleaned out our home. More and more, I'm inspired by lightness, ease, minimalism, and letting go -- letting go of past stories, details, habits, and junk.

Why do we each need to keep our own personal bookshelves? If I need a book in the future, I'll borrow it or get a digital copy. I trust that the world will have this information, regardless of whether or not I house the words within my own tiny square-foot home. I do not need to own hundreds of books to continue to thirst for knowledge.

“There are two ways to be rich: One is by acquiring much, and the other is by desiring little.” — Jackie French Koller.

“Simplicity involves unburdening your life, and living more lightly with fewer distractions that interfere with a high quality life, as defined uniquely by each individual.” — Linda Breen Pierce

What is the weight of holding on to all these "things"?

Plus: what is the weight of carrying around a hundred books I haven't read yet? The oppressive weight of "should" on my shelf must hold substantial weight in my mind, pinning me down to past wishes, thoughts, and dreams.

What if I free up that shelf space -- mental, physical, karmic? Send those books to places they will be loved and cherished, rather than collecting dust in my own life? Root to rise, my yoga mantra. My roots come from my community, my connections, my spirit. My rise comes from weightlessness, expansiveness, ease. If I hold on to unread books, I hold on to unfinished committments. A bookcase full of shoulds and one-days and look at what you haven't done staring down at me in my morning meditation.

“Any half-awake materialist well knows – that which you hold holds you.” — Tom Robbins.

The sadness of leaving + the freedom of space.

As I prepared to leave San Francisco, my home — my only permanent residence for most of my waking life — I kept tearing up about the friends and the people I would miss. Would giving up my home and apartment mean I could never come back? And then my friend Leah reminded me that I'll always be back. The cool whispers of San Francisco's foggy oceans will also be one of my homes.

"You're family here. We'll have space for you whenever you return. It's not about the couch. Just come, whenever you want. It can be easy." 

And I remember that I get to keep all the stories, all the memories. I so grateful to this beautiful coastal city and to the rich community of people I have met over the years. I love it here.

And I love what's next, even if I have no idea what it is.

Let go of what's not serving you, even if it's as innocuous as books. Make space for your future self. 

To adventure, creative living, the sharing economy, and change.

And as Carol Pearson writes, to a new story, to a new narrative:

"Most of us are slaves of the stories we unconsciously tell ourselves about our lives. Freedom begins the moment we become conscious of the plot line we are living and, with this insight, recognize that we can step into another story altogether." —Carol S. Pearson, The Hero Within

To an adventure. To freedom.

For more quotes on simplicity and minimalism, check out Joshua Becker's list of inspiring quotes on minimalism — many of which I used as part of this essay. 

Are you minimalist enough? An experiment in giving up clothes for a year.

As a person with an apartment that has hundreds of books, I sometimes feel like my efforts to de-clutter and reduce the number of things that surround me aren’t enough. In my efforts to reduce clutter and consider minimalist–or simplicity–as a strategy, I began to doubt my efforts in being minimalist. And the thought begins to creep in: I’m not minimalist enough. What follows is the result of a year-long experiment in giving up buying clothes.Continue Reading

“You can have everything you want.” But also: “You will never be enough.” Two cultural themes that need to be reconfigured.

Are we being taught to want everything and never be happy with anything that we get? Why these two cultural mindsets don’t serve us–and how pervasive they are in our everyday lives.Continue Reading

20 lessons from starting a project, part two: launch week.

I’m breathing again, having just launched our website project this past week. Everything was set to go live early in the week – launch campaign emails, final website tweaks, coordination with the team, announcements to be sent, facebook posts, advance tweets. I woke up on Wednesday morning grinning from ear to ear – the firstContinue Reading

The lessons you need most, learning the hard way, and big dreams: part 1

I’ll be honest, My face hurts. It might be from the lack of sleep, or the fact that my face is currently crushed against a table in a coffeeshop, where I’ve inadvertendly placed my head down for a quick snooze, and now I’m covered in drool and blinking rapidly trying to regain a sense ofContinue Reading

Finish early.

Don’t stay late. Go home early. Do less. Seriously, take most of the things off of your to do list. Here are some words to live by, when hiring and managing people: “I’m more impressed by the person who can get it done in 6 hours – and go home and rest – than the person whoContinue Reading

Guest Post | Reprint : On silence and the clutter of noise, by Dave Ursillo

“Devoid of the clutter of noise, we are nothing more or less than in existence; we are because we are and the universe is because it is. Engulfed in simple silence and nothing, the mind is quiet, the heart is open, and the Soul becomes clairvoyant; this is the bliss of nothingness.” – May 2010, TheContinue Reading

If you don’t commit, it won’t happen.

Commitment is key. Commitment is everything. Commitment means “I say yes,” and “I’ll do this,” and, more importantly, it says “I know what I want.” When you commit to something, you say yes. You make priorities. And by making priorities, you also say no. You say no to things that don’t help you reach yourContinue Reading

Savor things + go slowly

I am the worst offender of this. I’m so rushed doing one thing, thinking about the next thing, that I forget what it’s like to just BE in the moment. I have scheduled time to tightly and packed my life so fully, that sometimes I try to swim faster just to get out of theContinue Reading

Go to bed early.

There is no substitute for good sleep. Just get into bed. Stop doing what you’re doing. even if you don’t feel tired, get into bed early. Tomorrow will be better for it. Today will be better for it. Now will be better for it. Even if you read for a bit, chances are you’ll goContinue Reading