December 14: Saying ‘no’ to busy

“We know the world tells you to do more, be more, and hustle more, not to mention the pressures of being successful measured in terms of how busy you are. But what we’re learning is that living in busyness without the balance of fun only leads you down the path of burnout. With that comes exhaustion, frustration, poor decisions and lack of joy.” 

— Nourished Planner
Photo at

There is no month like December for the pressure to hustle more, do more, give more, be more. Which is probably why everyone is always so stressed out all month long.

This is just a reminder to ourselves that we’re drawing our own target this season (remember THAT post?) and we don’t have to be busy for the sake of being busy, or jolly for the sake of being jolly, or do anything that detracts rather than adds.

The world may be telling us to do more, but we don’t have to listen.

P.S. This is the first year in … well, since I was in college, probably … that I’m not feeling the Christmas card / annual Walker Family Christmas Form Letter. So I’m not going to do one. It’s pretty freeing, knowing that the world isn’t going to end because we take a year off.

December 12: Don’t take anything personally

“Don’t take anything personally. Nothing others do is because of you. What others say or do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.”

— Don Miguel Ruiz
Photo by Sabri Tuzcu,

Oh, I like this very much. This is taken from Ruiz’s book, “The Four Agreements.” I take everything personally, even though my first reaction is always one of stunned disbelief (ARE YOU CHALLENGING ME?). Well, I don’t like feeling stupid and I hate being wrong. And even though I know that when others lash out or try to manipulate my emotions, that it’s about them and not me, it can be hard to remember.

So today we’re going to try to remember. And while we’re at it, let’s try not projecting our own reality and agenda on others as well. (T-Dub, this means laying off the judgmental bullshit!)

Everyone just be cool, okay?

December 10: Permission

“Sometimes we need permission to enjoy the good stuff even if other things in our lives or the world are stressful, hard, scary or otherwise crappy. Things can be stressful AND joyful, hard AND heart-warming, scary AND funny, crappy AND cozy. We get to enjoy the good in the midst of the not so good. We get to enjoy the good stuff anytime we want.”

— Courtney Carver 
Photo by Rudolpho Marquez,

This is just too real — it’s interesting, December, because it can be outwardly happy and inwardly miserable. And that’s what I took from this quote: That THAT is okay.

Things are great and things are terrible, and that’s just the way it is.

We can still enjoy the good stuff the month has to offer. I’m giving myself permission today to enjoy the holiday lights that have sprouted in windows downtown, to sit in my favorite coffee shop and just soak up the vibe there, and later to curl up in a blanket and read — preferably with Johanna and the kittens nearby. The crappy stresses can take the night off.

December 7: Finish every day and be done with it

“Finish every day and be done with it … You have done what you could; some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. To-morrow is a new day; you shall begin it well and serenely, and with too high a spirit to be cumbered with your old nonsense.”

—Ralph Waldo Emerson
Photo by Oliver Kiss,

Emerson wrote the above in a letter to his daughter. I cannot even tell you how much I love this. Maybe because it’s something I struggle with.

I have a hard time letting go of the day’s events, judging from how my mind spins as soon as I go to bed. So whatever happens today, I’m going to let it go by this evening. Because I’ll be “too high a spirit” tomorrow morning to be weighed down by this pointless crap.

We may or may not succeed in beginning the day “well and serenely,” but we sure as hell can try.

December 4: Make your own target

“Instead of shooting arrows at someone else’s target, which I’ve never been very good at, I make my own target around wherever my arrow happens to have landed. You shoot your arrow and then you paint your bulls-eye around it, and therefore you have hit the target dead center.”

— Brian Eno
Photo by Kris Atomic,

This seemed like another excellent sentiment that we can pull from all December long. There’s this huge mystique surrounding the holiday season and a list of “shoulds” that spans miles and miles.

But THIS year, we create our own target. I’m going to spend some time today really honing in on how I’d like December to look and feel (I wrote a bit about that HERE). I’m going to pick three activities that the Walker Four enjoy and schedule them on the calendar so they don’t get lost. And I’m going to let go of those things that don’t add joy.


Holiday decoration declutter diary: Operation Cedar Chest part II

I woke up Sunday morning ready to kick some ass on the holiday decoration decluttering front. Since my first foray into getting rid of excess holiday decorations — namely peeling off the first layer in the ol’ cedar chest (that depressing post is HERE) — I’ve been mentally preparing myself for layer two.

I was pleasantly surprised when I opened the chest back up, though. I had done more last week than I’d thought, and it was great to realize I had much less crap to deal with this time around.

Bean was instrumental in the process.

I had an epiphany of sorts as I was emptying out the chest again: That it’s guilt that has been holding me back from achieving my dream of using the chest to store blankets and quilts. I probably wouldn’t have figured that out without reading comments on the Dec. 1 December Wishes post, which is why, my internet friends, I am now giving you all a virtual hug.

Once it was emptied, I dusted it inside and out, got the very quilts I’d been wanting to store in there for years and years, and PUT THEM IN THE CHEST. Then I closed the lid and wondered what the hell had taken me so long when it was so simple.

Well, maybe not simple. I did have everything that was in the chest now strewn around my bedroom. And what made it worse is that I opened up a hidden cupboard that’s above my wardrobe and emptied that thing out, too.

Well, that was anticlimactic.

Because between the chest and the cupboard, that’s where I store all the stuff that I don’t know what to do with … like my old college papers, the cups and saucers to our original dish set, wallpaper fragments, broken items and other such heirloom pieces. (Ha!) But I had that epiphany on my side this time, and it was time to let go of the guilt:

Guilt over not liking what was given to me, or not fixing what was broken, or wasting the money on some knickknack, or potentially hurting someone’s feelings.

As if that wasn’t hard enough, something I recently realized about my decluttering method is that I like to make piles because I want to get my crap, I mean treasures, into the right hands. Even though I know there ISN’T a perfect scenario and have, in fact, counseled against doing that very thing.

Seeing piles everywhere is overwhelming, disheartening and stressful. It’s December, you guys, so I gave myself a gift instead:

I discovered recently that our town has a Goodwill donation outlet. So on our weekend grocery trip, Johanna and I made a quick stop. A kid actually came out to the car to meet us. It took two minutes and then we were back on the road. I felt such a huge sense of relief as we drove away. Like, I’m actually getting somewhere with this project. That’s amazing.

I now have my favorite fall decorations in one bin in the electrical room, I’ve got blankets in my cedar chest (don’t give up on your dreams, kids), found Eric a white elephant gift to take to his office party and … um, well, still have some Christmas decorations that I need to sort through, but overall, I’m feeling SO MUCH BETTER about the state of the union. 

The real test will come, I suppose, when Eric brings all 12 or whatever Christmas boxes we have downstairs up when we start decorating the tree. But I’ve got a couple of weeks before I have to worry about that.

I suppose it’s good to go through this process periodically, just to remind myself of how far we’ve come on the minimalist front, as well as how difficult it is to purge — which is why we need to make careful decisions on bringing items into the house in the first place. The lessons just never stop coming.

December 1: Forgive yourself first

“Forgive yourself first. Release the need to replay a negative situation over and over again in your mind. Don’t become a hostage to your past by always reviewing and reliving your mistakes. Don’t remind yourself of what should have, could have or would have been. Release and let it go. Move on.”

— Les Brown
Photo by Nong Vang,

This seems like a very good way to start the December Wishes series. Because December is crazy and mistakes are going to happen. It will not be as jolly as we want it to be. It will be hectic and insane. Our kids or parents or friends aren’t going to react the way we want them to, to the things we think they’ll love. We will revisit old hurts and mourn how things turned out.

And it’s all okay. We are going to forgive ourselves for any missteps and move on. This month is too short for all that nonsense anyway.