When Will We Reach the Top?

So it's nearly midnight and I can't seem to turn off my mind.  So what do I do?  Head out to the computer and start "writing"...not entirely sure that's a good idea but we'll see how this goes...

In my quest to reach the top of Mount Laundry, I've realized today what a daunting task I've set out for myself.  I feel like I've finally made it about halfway but as I stare back at base camp, I can't help but feel like the higher I go, the more difficult it's going to get.

You see, I'm doing much more than washing, drying and folding clothes.  Who really blogs about that anyway?  Okay, well, maybe I would but right now I'm not.  In addition to staring blankly at what could literally be hundreds of articles of clothing, I'm also purging and sorting and organizing so I can forever free myself of the black hole of chaos that has become my basement laundry room.  How can three people have so many clothes?  Especially considering a good portion of them never get worn and many of them don't even fit.  Hmmm....

Why I'm also finding this project so challenging is because, truthfully, I'm tackling much more than a laundry problem.  In my quest for personal enlightenment, I've been trying to dig deeper into the reason why we have so much bloody stuff in the first place and some of the reasons I'm coming up with seem a little unsettling to me.

What is really missing in our lives that creates this incessant need to purchase more things?  I'm only brainstorming right now but I'm going to throw out the possibility of boredom, greed, jealousy, competition, unhappiness, loneliness, plain stupidity?  I'm not quite sure the real reason yet but I do aim to find out eventually.  Maybe it's a combination of many of those things?

No matter where you live, life can become really lonely if you don't consistently reach out to those around you and confirm who and what really matters.  One day it could feel like all you have is your washer and dryer to keep you company and surely to God we can say that clothing really does not matter that much.  But what happens though when those you're reaching out to do not reach back?  Then what?  Do you fill the void with things?  And if so, how do you break that nasty spin cycle?

So I will reiterate, I'm most definitely tackling much more than a mountain of laundry here.  And as I said, the further I get from base camp, the scarier the top is looking.  But, nobody likes a coward so up we go.  You can guarantee I will let you know when we've made it to the summit - and hopefully by then I'll have some more answers, too.

Up Next: Project Five - The Green-Eyed Monster in All of Us


The Way Things Were...

Mere hours after I arrived at my Mom & Dad's place on Friday, the snow and wind started and virtually did not stop until late Sunday.  It was a really nice visit being holed up inside for the weekend, safe from the elements and warm with the modern luxuries that I no longer take for granted.

This is the third winter that Chris and I have been co-owners of 15 acres of mostly untouched, natural forest at the end of Babette Road...just outside of Athabasca, AB.  A joint purchase we made with my parents in the spring of 2009, we started out with a couple of campers and a small little clearing adjacent to a cutline that offered natural space to stretch out and be one with nature.  Fast forward a couple of years and my parent's "side" is now equipped with all of the modern niceties that a soon-to-be retired Grandma and Grandpa should have.  A beautiful home with power and water and HEAT...and satellite television to stay in touch with some of the more important things in my Dad's life: CTV News and Hockey Night in Canada of course.

Our "side" in mostly untouched as of right now with the exception of a small clearing about twice the size of a campground at Gregoire Lake.  It currently houses our camper and a firepit...simplicity at its finest.  Really simple life would find a tent instead of the travel trailer but propane heat and insulated walls allowed far more "camping" time with a young infant last spring, summer and fall.  Chris and I have had many discussions about what we wanted to do with our 7.5 acres of paradise and we used to think we wanted to build our dream home - complete with country kitchen, sunlit porch and all the toys to go along with life in the country.  Our definition of "dream home" has slowly been evolving lately and by this fall our ideas were transforming from big and awesome to simple and cozy.  When I think of the summer cabin I'd now like to have, I think of my Great-Granny's old house in Owl River.  I aspire to be as strong as my Great Grandmother was and if I can live half as long as she was alive (103 years), I'd consider myself blessed.  Only until the last year or so of her life, she lived in the most simple, quaint little house in pretty much the middle of nowhere and without electricity or running water.  The funny thing I learned after her passing was that her house was always wired and ready to be hooked up to the grid but she just never felt the need for it.  Her infamous wood stove was her only source of warmth on some very cold, cold nights and she lived happily and peacefully...a strong relationship with her daughter and her God.

She really is my inspiration and when I now think of my dream home, I envision the fun we had at her house camping every summer when we were younger and the memories I'll always have because of it.  Far more than any material things could ever give me.

In the wisdom of The Minimalist Mom, "Do we want our children to grow up in a home where it’s always about the next thing to buy or the next thing to upgrade?  Or, do we want them to grow up in a home where being good citizens and spending time with each other are the focus?"

I think it's safe to say we all know what the answer should be.

Up Next: Project Four - Mount Laundry


Mindful in McMurray?!

According to Wikipedia, several definitions of mindfulness have been used in modern psychology.  My favourite one being:

"Mindfulness refers to a psychological quality that involves a kind of non-elaborative, non-judgmental, present-centered awareness in which each thought, feeling, or sensation that arises in the attentional field is acknowledged and accepted as it is."

Wow.  That last bit...  Yeah, I can't say I've been following much of that lately...much to my dismay.

I'm heading out on the road in a couple of hours to visit my brother in Athabasca.  Today is his birthday!  Since I won't be home for the next three days, I decided I would focus my minimalist efforts inward and reflect on some of the ways I can de-clutter my mind.  After a very nice, "zenned-out" sleep last night, I woke up thinking about what I've been missing  Right before the holidays, I was really getting into defining what my own practice looked like and now that I've been cleared for physical activity (damned babies once again), I can't wait to get back into the downward dog of things...lord knows my tight hamstrings and constant headaches could use a little TLC.

One thing yoga always reminded me to do was be mindful.  To be aware of all of the awesomeness around me.  To enjoy my drive home across "the dreaded bridge" after every class because I was alive - and able to drive.  And driving across said bridge would enable me a better glimpse of the beautiful Athabasca river as it began freezing for the winter...and if I stretched my neck...just enough...I could catch a glimpse of the nicest hole at Miskanaw Golf Course.

I've stopped doing that lately.  I usually recognize my lack of mindfulness when I find myself getting sucked into that negative mentality that rears its ugly head all too often here.  It's a domino effect really and one that I must always be aware of...always.  Otherwise, I find myself bashing my hometown with the rest of them and grasping at ways to "move to the country" and live in Athabasca - something my family did and something I've been finding myself itching to do whenever I get's a great excuse really.

It's no wonder so many people have a hard time getting settled in Fort McMurray and why you hear so many complaints at first.  I believe wholeheartedly in the premise that "home is where your heart is" and many who have just moved here haven't yet found that heart.  So we need to give them time.  Most of my "heart" moved down the highway and out of town last a 4th Generation McMurrayite, that is something I didn't think I'd ever see happen.  So I can relate...but I can also push through and accept my new situation as it is and not let it get me down.  My hope is that all the newcomers to town realize that, for whatever reason they want/need to be here, it is a good place.  You just need to be aware of all the beauty around you (in the nature, in the people and in the opportunity) and know that you'll find that heart real soon.

My goal for the next three days is to get back to that place.  That awareness.  To start practicing yoga again and remind myself daily why it's great to be alive and well with a roof over my head.  To be thankful for the many opportunities at my fingertips and to seize them with an open heart and focused mind.

Up Next:  Project 3 - Back to Nature


Helpful Hint: Reserve the Bedroom for Sleep & Sex Only

I watched an episode of Dr. Oz many moons ago and was thankful that I followed almost all of his tips for getting a restful night's sleep.  Anyone who knows me, also knows that I have NEVER had a problem sleeping...that was, of course, until Joleigh came into my life.

Realistically though, I can't blame the state of affairs of my bedroom on my dear daughter...although that would be really easy.  When Chris and I were married in 2007 (yep, five years this summer), we made the choice to remove the television, cell phones and other electronic distractions from our bedroom.  It has served us well and I was proud to say we still hadn't had a TV in our room until about August last month of pregnancy.  With my blood pressure rising, an increasingly sore tailbone that I could no longer sit on and an order of bedrest...I caved and proceeded to have a Criminal Minds marathon complete with a/c, pillows and blankets to get me through to the bitter end.

Unfortunately, nearly TWO years later, the stupid thing never left.  Until today that is!

The Minimalist Mom recommends going through your house one room at a time as a way to decrease your chances of getting overwhelmed.  I think that was my problem so many times before.  Have you ever decided you were going to "spring clean" and, at the end of the day, your house looked messier than when you started?  I vowed to focus only on our bedroom and attached bathroom and I did just that.  The TV is gone.  The cell phone chargers are gone.  The extra movie cases and Canadian Tire money and old Oil Barons game stubs have found new homes as well.  All that's left is our bed, our night tables, our dresser and the two electronic devices that we unfortunately cannot part with - the baby monitor and the alarm clock (I'm not sure which one I hate more).

I can already feel a small weight lifted off my shoulders when I walk in there and smell the fresh linens...and I'd be willing to bet the $131 American dollars that I found that I will be sleeping like a baby tonight with nothing but peace and love around me...not junk.

Disclaimer: To those who think sleeping like a baby means long, lavish hours of undisturbed sleep...think again...and don't have kids if you can't accept that.

Up Next: Project 2 - Making Time for Mindfulness

Giving Up Stuff!

I finished reading this blog post from Russell Thomas and sat there on my couch, scanning the corners of my living room and taking inventory of all of my own electronic rat's nests.  "Gross!" I thought to myself as this has long been a battle I've been losing.  So I turned to my trusty friend google to seek help in solving the problem.

My first search, computer cable organizers, returned over 2.5 Million results and I soon realized that this is obviously a global problem.

So I decided to dig a little deeper (knowing what my real problem was anyway).  "How to declutter your life?" was the first question I posed.  Then I got brave.  "How to simplify your life?"  Eventually, I came across this blog, The Minimalist Mom, and I finally felt like I hit the jackpot.

The Minimalist Mom's slogan at the forefront of her blog is what really resonated with me.  A rich life with less stuff.  This is a concept that I've been talking with Chris about for a few months now (I have yoga and, ironically, Russell's wife Heather to thank for that).  I made my first attempt at minimalism this past fall by clearing out my kitchen cupboards and donating half of my unused dishes and cutlery to a college student.  I thought to myself, "Why have 16 of everything when we NEVER have dinner parties?!"  Unfortunately, that was about as far as I made it but I have a sneaking suspicion that the entire journey that I am now embarking on may be a series of baby steps...especially where my husband (aka King Pack Rat) is concerned.

I had to propose this idea in such a way that Chris would be on board, supportive and maybe even participative.  I started by roughly tallying up all of the STUFF we could sell on Kijiji and Ebay and various other consignment stores and he liked the sound of the extra money he could make out of this.  Then...after work this evening he asks, as he's rummaging through one of many junk drawers in our house, "You know that big pack of playing cards I bought from Costco last time?  Do you have any idea where they are?"  Really?  Reeaalllly?!  That statement alone proves that we have a problem.  First of all, who buys playing cards in bulk when they go to Costco?  Oh, oh, and who would likely go buy another pack because he can't find the current ones he owns and he really, really needs them for lunch break tomorrow.  Yes, I feel like I just finished my interview for A&E's Hoarders but that's why I'm here...haha!

So while ideas and announcements were made all over facebook today about who was giving up what for the Lent season this year, I decided that I was going to give up STUFF...and laziness, too, but that's an entirely different post.  I'll be using The Minimalist Mom's website as my bible/instruction manual and I'll be keeping track of it all here so friends and family can call me on it.  So when Easter rolls around in 40 days, all of you should be able to visit my very simple, streamlined house with zen-like qualities that I know will make our lives better for the long haul...even if we are eating Easter dinner on paper plates!

Up Next: Project 1 - The Master Bedroom