Tag Archives: familiarity

Live Simply in 2019, March Mantra: Re-Examine The Familiar

Friday, March 1, 2019

Live Simply in 2019. March Mantra.

Most of us yearn for familiarity. All we want is the safety and security that comes after routines have been established, relationships have been solidified, and the terrifying phase of the unknown has transformed into the familiar.

Our brains, in attempts to conserve energy, begin to ignore what has been deemed non-threatening to survival. It’s smart, really. Makes plenty of sense from an evolutionary standpoint.

But this kind of autopilot familiarity can be a breeding ground for complacency, for lost perspective, and for lingering unhappiness.

The shift from being tuned in–a mode in which we’re aware of how we feel, how a space or relationship or job makes us feel–to tuned out–a mode in which we lose our ability to actually see the reality and decipher what it conjures in us emotionally–happens in an instant. Without our knowing it’s happened, we’ve shifted from aware, perceptive, and insightful to resigned, in denial, or numb.

This is why people live among clutter for years. Why individuals stay with unhealthy partners. Why dutiful employees continue to punch in to thankless jobs day after day after day.

We forget that we have to continually turn our eyes back on.

Take a step back. Take three steps back. Blink a bunch of times. Admit that the version of reality you’ve been governed by all this time might just be one limited snapshot. There might be an almost-unlimited number of alternative perspectives from which to consider the scene.

Then the feelings start flooding in. Don’t send them away. Listen. Listen to the annoyance that comes up when you look at the crack in the ceiling–the one you’ve looked at every night for the past 2 years–and actually see that crack. Recognize the anger and overwhelm that comes when you analyze the true state of the closet you’ve gotten dressed in for the past 5 years and realize nothing about it makes you feel good. Acknowledge the exhaustion you’ve denied for years that’s the result of an inefficient, inauthentic routine.

Maybe there’s a better way to do things. Maybe there’s a smarter way, a kinder way, an easier way. Maybe your couch doesn’t have to go on that side of the room. Maybe there is a way to fit exercise into your weekly calendar. Maybe you actually can pursue your purpose. Maybe the solution to the problem is so much Simpler than you’ve made it out to be. Maybe all that’s needed to reinvigorate, correct, and release is to re-examine your familiar.

Dismiss all your preconceived notions. Shut out all your assumptions. Close your eyes and open them as if for the first time. Tell me, what do you see? 

Monday’s Meditation: On What Weighs On You (That Doesn’t Have To)

Monday, August 14, 2017

There are plenty of my clients whose spaces are severely cluttered. They aren’t “hoarders,” (different needs; different service) but they are headed more towards that direction than not. The excess of stuff in their homes is obvious. The piles are high. The corners are crammed. The contents of the closets are spilling out into the rest of the rooms. The reasonable storage capacity has long ago been exceeded.

They are embarrassed, sometimes even ashamed, to show me their space, knowing full well how evident it is that they have willingly lived in such a state for as long as they have. That they desperately need to make a change is unquestionable.

But there are just as many other clients I work with that have lived with a truly modest amount of clutter and lack of organization. Their closets aren’t filled, their rooms aren’t packed, but each room contains things they’re aware they don’t need or want, and none of it is beautifully organized. They’ve called me on the hunch that their situation might possibly be improved. But ostensibly, they could live for years more without picking up the phone.

Interestingly, although the perceived level of need is not the same, the level of relief that both types of these clients feel after we’ve worked together is identical.

The severely cluttered clients feel utterly relieved to have finally tackled the tasks that have been weighing on them for years. The modestly cluttered clients feel utterly relieved to have tackled the tasks they never realized were weighing on them as much as they were.

Our ability to acclimate to a set of circumstances is both impressive and dangerous. What we are able to tolerate is a testament to our resilience. Our internal wiring (when healthy) seems determined to regulate contentment in the face of all varieties of hardship and ugliness.

But our ability to acclimate can also be the biggest obstacle towards change. We forget that life doesn’t have to be as complicated as we’re making it. We stop evaluating whether our methods are the most efficient ones. We stop asking ourselves, “how much is this bothering me?” And, “how much better could I feel if this were improved?”

Whether the circumstances of our lives are packed to the brim or merely sprinkled with clutter (in all its variations) is irrelevant. The presence of anything that derails our freedom is enough to substantiate a change. The knowledge that anything in our possession isn’t being cared for properly is reason enough to seek a better way. The curiosity about how great it could be is cause enough to explore.

One person’s stuffed garage can be another’s disordered sock drawer.

What weighs on you, weighs on you.

But how long it does is up to you. 



Monday’s Meditation: On What We See & My Dead Tree

Monday, August 29, 2016

perspective is everything. familiarity is blinding.

The tree in front of my house is dying. Actually, I think it’s already dead.

It’s a small tree–a young tree–with birch-like bark and almond-shaped leaves and it’s directly in front of my house.

My desk is positioned against the window, and its street view often lures my eyes away from the screen in favor of languid people-watching. Since the tree is directly in front of my house, directly in front of my desk, it is centered squarely in my field of vision.

I spend most of my non-client hours staring at that tree is what I’m trying to tell you.

And I’m also here to tell you that up until a week ago, I had no clue it was dying. Dead.

I was sitting outside, blogging in the sunshine, when my neighbors arrived home.

“We were just noticing that tree looks like it’s a goner,” one said to me, after we’d exchanged pleasantries. “Too bad.”

And then I looked at it, this tree I’ve been staring at for hours, for days, for weeks, for going on something like two or three years now, which is when I got this desk and moved it directly in front of this tree, this tree that’s etched into my brain; I looked at it and saw they were. “Oh! Wow,” I said. “Yeah.”

It’s the height of summer, after all, and the trees on either side and all around it are dense with leaves as green as peas. In comparison, my tree looks a spindly old man. Most of the branches have yielded their adornment, and the rest are gingerly holding on to some orange-brown rigor mortis leaves. It’s a terribly sad sight, this tree of mine, so sick and skeletal in the melody of a late summer afternoon.

“How long’ve you been like that, buddy?” I want to ask. “When’d that happen, anyway?”

Because as for how long its been dying, or been dead, I can’t say.

Whether the process has been gradual or happened overnight, I’ve no clue.

But I’m telling you: it happened in front of my eyes.

There’s a point I’ve been trying to make around here since the very beginning of this blog, an argument as to why clutter happens and pervades for as long as it does; a warning. My tree is merely the latest illustration of the way in which familiarity is blinding.

What we look at most is what we begin to see the least.

It isn’t because we’re lazy or inattentive to the details, but that we can only be attentive to so many details at a time. To conserve energy, our brains like to let the scenes of our everyday blend together, to take them as a given. Unless there’s something shockingly strange amongst the scene, we hardly see it at all.

Our brains are like Gmail filters, really, that, by default, send all those non-novel sights and sounds to some de-prioritized folder that we almost forget exists. What it shows, first and foremost, us are the differences, the new developments, the unfamiliar.

And all it takes is a little peek, a slight shift, or a neighbor, to remind us of what we’ve gone slack on remembering: the details of our everyday are still there. They may need our attention. They may be in trouble, may be sick or dying or completely dysfunctional.

The only chance we have at taking care of them is by enabling ourselves to see things clearly, once again, through the constant introduction of change, big or small. And, too, we awaken our vision by inviting outside perspective to help guide us when the terrain has become, for us, all too familiar, and, therefore, ironically unnavigable. Then, we need only pose the question: “what do you see?” to have every obvious realization come hurtling our way.


*Side note: Tree, soon to be RIP, is standing in front of what is now, ahem, my old house. Because I bought a house, Simply family. That’s the big news of the day. And yes, this is shaping up to be a real grown-up of a summer, what with that certain trip to Greece and now this latest real estate development. If there’s an adulting award, I really hope one of you nominates me. Tune in next week for my pregnancy announcement (JUST KIDDING), which is certain to put the odds in my favor. But seriously, this move may mean posts are spotty or non-existent this week. Fear not, I’ll be back right quick.