Dream Big

“What’s your dream?” she asked me.  I explained that I want to have an organizing business.  That it will be in NY in the warmer months and NC in the cooler months.  “Dream bigger,” she said.  I thought that was big enough, but I added that I’d like the business to give me the time and money to travel.  But that was a cop out – I already live a life that gives me the money and time to travel.  “Bigger,” she said.  I was stumped.  “Think about it and get back to me,” she offered.

I didn’t specifically sit and ponder the idea.  I knew that it would come to me eventually though.  And it did.  I was taking a class and the question we had for homework was, “If money were no object, what would you do to with your talents for the kingdom of God?”  Don’t let the God thing stop you if you’re not into that.  The crux of the question is how are you going to use your talents in this world?  Our instructor specified that the question didn’t say that we had all the money in the world, it just said that if money were no object.  In other words, if you didn’t have to work to pay your bills.

I love these questions.  I didn’t have to think about my answer.  My heart told me and I put it down on paper.  I wrote this:

I would travel around the country visiting friends.  Seeing where they live – through their eyes.  Spending a couple weeks, maybe longer.  Help them declutter and give their stuff away.

When I shared my answer with the class, the instructor said simply, “You could do that.”  Yup.  She was right.  I could.

Then it all kind of came together.  My college teaching was over for the semester and I had opted not to teach over the summer.  My high school tutoring was coming to a close in a few weeks.  And the only work I had that would continue into the summer was a consulting gig that I could easily walk away from – not abandoning my client, but I had just figured out that all they hired me to accomplish was nearly complete.   In fact, I had just had a meeting with them and they said, “What else would you like to do for us?”  How great is my life that I have work where they don’t tell me what to do, but ask me what I’d like to do?  Well, I fed them an answer, but was really thinking, “I don’t want to do anything else with you.  I accomplished what I came here to do and it’s time to move on.”  Such is the curse of consulting – though you sell yourself as a temporary solution, they always want you to stay forever.

I haven’t left them yet, but I liked that the option was there.  And then it continued to come together.  The tiny house.  On wheels.  With a garden in the bed of the truck from which I’d pull it.  I’d drive the thing around the country helping people to declutter and simplify.  The friends in Pennsylvania who said I could park it in their backyard and help declutter an office.  The friends in Rhode Island who want to hire me to help in their houses, and a local librarian in their area that wants me to give my decluttering talks while I’m out there.  My mentor who said, “Oh yes – that would definitely work,” and then proceeded to give me even more ideas, encouragement, and support.

So what’s your dream?  Go ahead.  Think about it.  Then dream bigger.

Putting Yourself First

Tonight I’m teaching a class at my local library.  It’s the second in a series given by the Clutter Clearing Companion (that’s me!).

The first was last month.  The topic was paring down your stock of books.  The timing was perfect as the library was having a book sale two weeks later.  We had about a dozen attendees and, based on what they told me after the class and what they wrote in their evaluations, they learned a lot.

Tonight’s topic is clothing.  Specifically, I’m focusing on closets.  I will confess that prior to 7AM this morning I was not prepared.  I woke up and knew that I had two things to accomplish before 8AM: my morning walk and preparing for my class.  In the past, I would have scrapped the walk in favor of doing class preparations.  But I know how much better my days are when I start them with a walk, so I took off – and accomplished both tasks, in less time!

How did I do this?  As I was walking, I started teaching the class in my head – literally going through everything I would say.  I should explain that “not being prepared” for my class was not really true.  I had all the ideas in my head, I just hadn’t put them down on paper yet.  But I find that if I talk through it first I get 1) a dry run done and 2) it’s easier to put my outline on paper.

So upon my return from my walk, I had a good portion of my talk outlined in my head.  So I opened up my computer and in 10 minutes had my outline down.  Then, I wrote this blog post.  And it’s not even 8AM yet!

Here’s the thing:  I put myself first this morning.  I knew how important my walk was, and I didn’t let other things I needed to get done stop me from doing it.  And in putting myself first, I inadvertently got my other tasks accomplished!  Oh how I love life’s lessons in action:)

A Retreat

Today I’m off to the Rhode Island coast for a weekend retreat with my favorite sisters.  I’m not sure if it’s appropriate to have a “favorite” order of religious women, but oh well.  God understands.  I know this because he tells me.  Doesn’t that make me sound like one of those little kids in the scary movies who says she knows the house is going to blow up because the voices told her?  Well, in real life it’s not like that.  I consider God the voice in my head.  You know – the one that tells you…well, I don’t know what he tells you.  But he tells me it’s okay not to capitalize pronouns when talking about him.  And lets me off the hook about a lot of things that growing up Catholic made me feel guilty about.  My favorite thing is to make him laugh.  I do that a lot.  You know that saying, “If you want to make God laugh, make plans”?  It’s true.  I make him laugh all the time.

Anyway, I must get packing.  One of these days I’ll figure out how to get the pictures off my phone so I can post one of this place.  Picture three story circa 1950’s inn sitting on a rock ledge.  Over the rock ledge?  The ocean.  Picture going to sleep at night hearing the ocean.  And if I’m lucky, they gave me a room overlooking it:)

“You don’t own a house, a house owns you.”

Yesterday, on my morning walk, a woman stood waving to her daughter as her daughter’s school bus pulled away.  She said hello to me as I approached her driveway and I stopped to tell her how adorable I thought her house was every time I passed it.  “Ugh,” she sighed.  “Every time I look at it, I think of all the work we need to do.”  “Well, you can’t tell that from here,” I said.  And as I walked on I thanked God that I decided not to buy a house a few years ago.  I want a house to bring me comfort and peace – this woman’s house didn’t seem to provide that for her.

I’m not saying all homeowners feel this way, but in my informal poll I find it’s a dominant thought.  There always seems to be something that needs fixing or updating.  My friend Lois says, “You don’t own a house.  A house owns you.” I wonder if I’d have the same feeling if my house was only 130 square feet? I’m going to start figuring out the answer to that question:  On June 17, me and mom are taking a trip out to Ohio to go see a Tumbleweed Tiny House!

“Can I invite your father or is this a girls trip?” my mother asked.  “We can invite dad.  But only if he promises to not shoot down my idea of living in one of these things,” I replied.  I wasn’t sure at that point if this was one of those ideas she was going to ease him into for me, or if I had to do it myself.  “He is good at asking questions,” my mom offered.  “Yeah, that’s true,” I said.  “I’ll just have to bring a bottle of wine.”  I handle dad’s driving much better with a glass of wine in my belly.

I was chatting with mom in the office of her house yesterday when we heard dad’s pounding footsteps upstairs.  We were looking at the web site for the Tiny Houses and as I heard dad come down to see what we were up to I said to Mom, “Did you tell him yet?”  “No,” my mother said.  I was in a fabulous mood, so figured I’d throw my idea out to my dad and could handle whatever reaction he had for me.  “What are you two doing?” he called to us as he walked down the stairs.  My family is one in which you don’t have to be in the same room as a person to have a conversation with them.  Or even on the same floor for that matter.  “Looking at Tiny Houses,” I said as he peeked into the office.  “Oh yeah?” he said as he turned around and went back up the stairs, off to accomplish his next task.  The man never sits still.  Or stands still for that matter.

“Mom and I are gonna go see one on June 17.  Wanna come?” I asked, following him.  He looked at me and wrinkled his face into a look of amusement and thought.  I could see his brain saying “This sounds just crazy enough to be fun.”  “Oh really?   You’re gonna go see one.  Hm.  What day is that?”  “A Thursday,” I said.  “We drive out on Thursday – but we have to get there  by 7 cause that’s when they close, and they don’t open again til 11 on Friday.  So we just see it on Thursday and then drive home on Friday.”  “So we have to leave early in the morning on Thursday,” he said.  My father loves leaving early in the morning.  He meets friends for coffee every weekday before most people’s alarm clocks have gone off.  “Not too early,” I said.  “It’s a seven hour drive.  We could leave at 9 and still have plenty of time.”  If he was disappointed we’d leave two hours later than he liked, he didn’t show it.  “A quick road trip to Ohio,” he pondered.  “Yeah, that sounds good.”

So on June 17, I’ll pretend I’m an only child and hop in the car with mom and dad for a quick little trip.  Will keep you posted:)

Dreams and Reality

My piano teacher has a masters in psychology.  This probably explains why I refer to her as my therapist.  Maybe “sage” is a better word.  Anyway, we were talking about dreams the other day and she explained that she did some coursework in dreams for her graduate degree.  She said they were required to list all the items that appeared in their dream when they woke up, then immediately go back over the list and, for each word, write next to it the first word that comes to mind.

As a lover of ideas, I wanted to try this.  I did so this morning.  Here’s my list:

Tornado                               Disheveled

Bathroom                            Stable

Mom                                     Hold On

Andy                                     Let Go

Coffee Shop                        Security

Two Floors                          Options

Book                                      Pleasure

Canadian                             Difference

Small Town                         Comfort

Owners                                Relaxation

I’m not sure someone who doesn’t know me or the dream can necessarily get the significance of this, but let me just say that I was blown away by this exercise.  (If you’re curious about the actual dream, see the end of this post).  What was so incredible was that this is my current state of affairs summed up in ten words!  Life feels like it’s going to get a little disheveled, and then I’ll have my stability back.  Note the dichotomy in that, and in the next two phrases: holding on and letting go.  Actually, there’s dichotomy all over this list!  I want some security, but lots of options.  I want to surround myself with things that bring me pleasure, but I also want to experience all sorts of differences.  And have a place that gives me comfort and relaxation.

Here’s the thing.  Traditionally, I would have said the money was because I watching a show last night where someone was given three hundred-dollar bills.  And the Canada thing is because I’ve thought of spending a few weeks in Quebec City this summer.  The book was because I’m constantly checking to be sure I have a book with me, or that I didn’t leave it somewhere.  But to think the whole thing has this whole other meaning – how wonderful!



In part of my dream, I was in a house with family and a friend and saw a tornado on the top of a far off hill.  I screamed throughout the house for everyone to take cover in a bathroom, assigned some people to go to the upstairs one.  While sitting in the bathroom downstairs with my mother, I thought maybe I didn’t see it correctly, so I stepped outside the bathroom door to check and that’s when it started.  I ended up holding onto the doorjamb and my mother, but made it through.  In another part of my dream, I was in a coffee shop.  I was given change at one point in three hundred-dollar Canadian dollars instead of American ones.  They were closing up, and I was on the second floor of the shop when I realized I’d left the book I was reading downstairs.  They let me back down to get it.

A Tiny House…and A Garden?

“I just can’t see you driving a truck,” said my mother the other day during our discussion about the possibility of me buying or building a Tumbleweed Tiny House.  What’s a Tumbleweed Tiny House?  Well, basically it’s a hundred (or so) square foot house you tow around and plop down wherever you want to live.  Then, when you want to move, you hitch it up to your truck and move.  As in, you move your entire house.  Which is not that difficult when it’s only a hundred square feet and on wheels.

I was thinking this might be the solution to my always-wanting-to-live-somewhere-new problem.  Instead of renting apartments all over the place, I just own a very tiny house that I can tow around.  I can be visiting friends in Lancaster, PA, visiting family in Charlotte, NC, or spending a couple months out west working at a National Park, and no matter where I am I can always sleep in my own bed every night!

What I love about my mother (among many things) is that she didn’t bat an eye at the tiny house idea.  She just got into the practicalities of it.  This is what she does: she never shoots down my ideas anymore, just asks questions to 1) satisfy her own curiosity and 2) make sure I’ve thought it all through.

Mom was right (which doesn’t surprise me so much anymore).  I’m not the truck-driving type.  But it looks like only a truck or an SUV can tow my 5700 pound house.

I wasn’t too thrilled about becoming the owner of a truck, but then I heard a story on NPR that got me thinking it might work out quite well.  They were interviewing a guy who lived in NYC.  He had a pick-up truck.  And you know what he put in the back of it?  A garden.  Yup.  Isn’t that fabulous?  So now, not only could I move all over the country but I could even have the garden I’ve always wanted!

Now I need to take a step back here…and figure out if I can really live in 130 square feet.  So my goal (hopefully before the end of the month) is to go see one of these tiny houses in Bike Town, OH.   Then I’ll have the answer to that question.  I’ll keep you posted.