Life Editing: Simplification in Practice

As appeared in Brass Clothing’s blog on June 16, 2016.

Simplifying, minimizing, downsizing. The trend of streamlining our closets, our homes, our desks, and even our diets is on the rise. We are encouraged to edit stuff, belongings, physical items. But what about creating “Yes” piles, “No” piles, and even “F*ck No” piles for your life? After going through a divorce at the age of 30, this has become my new approach. I decided that I could take the same approach of minimizing my belongings to the next level. My time, my weekends, my travels, and my priorities are selected to craft an authentic, genuine expression of who I am at my core. Here’s how I started to edit my life and decide what experiences and people I will, or will not, pour myself into.


HOW IT ALL STARTED.

To make a long story short, I felt utterly alone sitting in a room with the person to whom I was married. I knew deep down inside that I wasn’t being authentic. Eventually, I came to terms with the fact that I had felt this way for quite some time. More importantly, I knew I would always feel this way unless I made a change, so I made some hard decisions and got a divorce. I can only speak to the journey I went through, but in the process of being candid with myself and my predicament at the time, I found that I knew I shouldn’t have gotten married in the first place. I knew a little over two years into the marriage that I had stayed too long. I knew I wasn’t growing. I knew in my current state, life was passing me by. I knew there were hard conversations I was avoiding. I knew, that with him, I wasn’t me.

I was familiar with Marie Kondo’s principles of decluttering, but it wasn’t until months after my divorce that I seriously read her work and realized I had been utilizing her philosophy. I began editing material items, time, priorities, and a whole lot more. Now, I spend more time with friends, travel, experience new things and meet new people. And I even started paying for things to make more time for these things. For example, I pay someone to mow my lawn. I pay someone to rake my leaves. And I stopped buying things that require dry cleaning. Let’s be honest: ain’t nobody got time for that.

Many things in life demand our time and attention: family, friends, obligations, careers. Basically, everything that comes with being an adult and putting your big-girl-pants on. It was difficult for me to figure out who and what is most deserving of my time and attention. So, I started asking myself this question:

“Does this support who I am, loud and proud? Loud. And. Proud.”

Here is how I determine if something fits my ‘Loud and Proud’ principles:

  • Quality input makes for quality output. Food. Movement. Sleep. Knowledge. Company. Thoughts. The list goes on…but they’re all simple and essential.
  • Find your tribe. Life is short. Get the right people on the bus. Get the wrong people off the bus. Drive that bus down the road. No one is going to do it for you.
  • Feed the fire. Grab your “Yes” pile and go. Do. Simplify. Create. Listen. Be. Grow.

Going through this decision-making process requires you to be brutally honest. It demands that you have uncomfortable conversations with yourself and others. It can be hard. And I don’t necessarily have words of encouragement. Except to say that candid sh*t is good sh*t and it’s a process, ongoing and, I’m pretty sure, without an end.


Court2

PUTTING THE PRINCIPLE INTO PRACTICE

I did the work to figure out what mattered to me. I made “Yes” piles, “No” piles, and “F*ck No” piles. Concerts, yes. Genuine people, yes. Good, local food, yes. Cable, no. Limited TV options at $8 a month, no. Yoga and more yoga, yes. My ex-husband…I’ll give you one guess. Jeans that make you feel anything less than fabulous, no. Drinking champagne with your girlfriends on a lake on your paddle board while watching the sunrise, YES. And at the top of my “Yes” pile? A trip to Costa Rica.

I had a yoga retreat booked to Costa Rica earlier this year. Unfortunately, it was canceled, but I didn’t let that stop me from going. A trip to Costa Rica was going to happen, solo or not. I was determined to go, I just needed to buckle down and figure out how I was going to make it happen logistically.

I haven’t traveled much internationally before. With the confirmation that Costa Rica is generally safe for solo female travelers, I knew I could figure out the rest. I am also aware of my limitations. I fully admit to being directionally challenged, to the point I can’t back my way out of a paper bag. So I did do a bit of research into the safety of public transportation. I also looked up a handful of places on Airbnb and pulled the trigger on one. It wasn’t your typical popular tourist location, but it looked oh-so-gorgeous and perfectly simple. A one-room cabin perched at the top of a mountain.

Court4 (Priime Cold Rain)

Getting there required a two-leg plane ride, taxi to the bus station, a three hour bus ride, decent reliance on the Google Translate app, a handful of bus station empanadas, yet another taxi, a quick stop at a local grocery to pick up the one remaining bottle of champagne, and then, finally getting dropped off on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere. The final leg was a winding road that went a couple miles up a mountain. I arrived dirty, smelly and with a newfound appreciation for a good number of things, myself included.

Court3 (Priime Cold Rain)

Over the course of a week, I hiked about 50 miles, swam under the Aquiares waterfall, rafted down the Pacuare River, rode horses, the list goes on. Being near the equator, Costa Rica has about 12 hours of daylight, starting before 6:00 a.m. and ending around 6:00 p.m. I had intentionally perched myself two miles up a mountain without a car. So, I shared dinner each night with my hosts and spent the remainder of my nights reading, like a total nerd. And it was fabulous.

I left Costa Rica full of gratitude and respect, a feeling you will often experience venturing into the unknown. Respect for things like water, because living with a rainwater-fed system for a week, during a period of drought, forces you to conserve by taking military-style showers. Respect for my physical ability, because I was able to experience the trip to its fullest due to good health. Respect for my surroundings, because Costa Rica values and rewards conservation and preservation of land, allowing nature to take its appropriate course. And my-oh-my is it ever beautiful. And finally, respect for the “Yes” pile, the continual process of purposefully editing my life, and remembering to value the journey.

Court1 (Priime Cold Rain)

Through all my night-time reading while on the trip, one quote stuck with me most. It is from Cheryl Strayed’s book Tiny Beautiful Things:

Put yourself out there with as much transparency, sincerity and humor as possible.

Amen. A-freaking-men. This is what I strive for every single day. But reading that sentence, in a cabin, on a mountain, in Costa Rica, reinforced that I should damn well continue editing my life to its most genuine, authentic core.

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