Posts Tagged ‘mindfulness’

Konmari with Kids: Is it Possible?

Wednesday, February 17th, 2016

KonmariLate last year, my turn finally came on the wait list at my local library for Marie Kondo’s book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. I’d been wanting to read it for some time (apparently not enough to just buy a copy though); despite purging before moving halfway around the world recently, I still felt like my family and I had too much stuff. The mere thought of it stressed me out. Anytime you needed to clean (around my house, that’s pretty much anytime), you had to clean and move stuff just to clean more stuff. I felt more and more like I was spinning my wheels and something had to give.

Enter the book, and it’s brand of Konmari magic (Konmari, or KM for short, is the term the book and it’s aficionados use for the process). It’s not necessarily a book on minimalism, but more a mindset change. Basically, you have to think about every item in your life and decide if it “sparks joy” for you. If it doesn’t (and doesn’t spark joy by it’s mere usefulness, like a washer or oven might), it doesn’t belong in your life and must go.

Sounds easy, but things get tricky when you find out the rules of Konmari also state that you cannot KM another person’s belongings. Like, say my husband has a terrible old beer logo t-shirt that’s so busted the armpits now have built-in ventilation. My complete lack of joy seeing that t-shirt doesn’t mean I get to toss it. He has to decide on his own if it sparks joy for him.

Still, easy enough…unless you have kids. Kids are rarely mentioned in the book. My four-year-old is a Tasmanian devil with his clothing and the KM way of folding (yes, there’s a special folding method she recommends. Sounds terrible, but I swear it works great) absolutely would not stand a chance with him. Also, his four-year-old faculties are not mature enough to be able to go through his own toys and belongings the way the book describes.

So, what’s a well-meaning Konmari-ing parent to do? You could give up before you even start, and maybe even write a scathing commentary condemning anybody who dares suggest that keeping baby gear and outgrown clothing for future children is forbidden by this book (it is not). Or, you need to use the tools the book teaches you to work through this mindfully (and ultimately, mindfulness is the desired outcome of this methodology).

For me, Konmari and my kids’ belongings and baby gear still meant going through each item, but the joy sparking bit had to be considered from multiple angles with this stuff. Is the item broken (and if so, will it actually ever get repaired)? Do I have attachments to it for non-joy sparking reasons (I have this issue personally with items that were gifts, particularly from special people in my life)?

If it is gear that I am storing for future use, I have to consider the condition of the item as well as its practicality. Kondo reminds the reader periodically that storing items has an ultimate flaw of hiding them, which leads to forgetting the item and it never being used again. So for me, being a thrifty hand-me-down fan, I had to get real with myself with not only what I was keeping, but also if I was being realistic on its usefulness down the road, and also I had to be able to maintain some sort of system to not forget about or lose the item when it came time for its re-use.

Honestly, I think that not only does having kids NOT preclude you from applying the Konmari method to your own life, it is even more beneficial for families because we have more people living under a roof, and therefore more stuff. More stuff owned by people that aren’t yet capable of taking care of their belongings independently.

Being mindful while going through all of your belongings demonstrates just how much stuff you have accumulated, stuff that you don’t even know you had and don’t care for. This leads to mindfulness in the future as well, as you will start to think about each item you plan to buy and decide if it sparks joy for you.

For me, I found that part of the reason having so much stuff (that wasn’t being used or loved) stressed me out was because I felt bad about all of the money that had been spent on it. It allowed me to reassess a lot of priorities in my family and personal life too. It really has been a life changer, not just a change to how I fold my socks.

Meaghan Howard is a stay-at-home mom to two boys and is currently living in Japan. She enjoys running and eating (of course those two things are not mutually exclusive), and now finds that throwing out worn-out running shoes sparks joy because of all of the miles they have provided. 

3 Easy Ways to Harness Inner Peace

Thursday, July 19th, 2012

Let’s be honest…motherhood is hard work! Caring for small children is enough to completely frazzle even the most calm and collected spirits. As mothers it is important for us to develop strategies to nurture ourselves while we meet the continual demands of our children. The following 3 tips are easy and quick activities you can infuse throughout the day that will help you feel more grounded and centered.

1. Take your pulse – I actually mean to literally take your pulse. Put two fingertips on your wrist or on your neck and allow yourself to feel the rhythmic pulsation of your heart beating. You may even close your eyes and count the beats. Taking your own pulse helps you to re-connect with your spirit and feel at peace in the moment.

2. Breath Awareness – There are several different ways to practice breath awareness. What does it mean to practice breath awareness? It is simply being aware of your own pattern of breathing and  focusing entirely on your breathing. As moms our minds are often bombarded by a running to-do list. We also spend a great deal of mental energy wondering if we are mothering effectively and challenging ourselves to parent “better”. Breath awareness is an opportunity to let go of all that and just breathe. I have developed a habit of practicing breath awareness when I am putting my children to sleep. This used to be a time when I would lay beside them impatiently waiting for them to drift asleep so I could get started on my “to-do” list. My anxiousness would grow as each minute ticked by and they were not yet asleep. Meanwhile my “to-do” list would continue to grow even longer in my head. I finally realized the nervous energy I emulated likely prolonged their bedtime slumber. By practicing breath awareness I not only help myself approach the night feeling more calm, I also help create a more peaceful sleep environment for my children. Furthermore I ultimately approach my “to-do” list with a great deal more clarity and efficiency after 10 minutes of breath awareness.

3. Be Mindful – Not to be confused with being mind-full where your mind is full of thoughts regarding past and future events. Rather mindfulness is when we are completely present in the moment. When we are fully aware of our surroundings and allow our senses to be fully engaged, we feel more relaxed and at ease. Just as there are many ways to practice breathe awareness there are also various ways to practice mindfulness. One simple place to start being mindful is while eating. As moms we are so accustom to shoving a handful of food in our mouths here and there throughout the day to meet our hunger needs that the thought of actually sitting down to enjoy a meal is kind of a fantasy. However enjoying food can be a great way to practice mindfulness and bring a sense of peace. You can start with something as simple as peeling an orange. As you peel it, allow yourself to be immersed in the sensations of such a mundane and routine activity. You will develop a new appreciation for a simple task that you’ve probably completed a ton of times before but never paused to actually experience it. Young children are masters of mindfulness so an easy way to deepen your practice is by observing and engaging with them!

What do you do to help you stay calm and collected during those hectic periods of motherhood? Would love to hear your tricks for maintaining a peaceful spirit and energy in your home? 

-Sarah

3 Simple Pre-Conception Preparations

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012

Congratulations! You are thinking about getting pregnant! :) The period in a couple’s life when they are hoping to expand their family is certainly an exciting time. While it may be a little ways away for your family, there are things you can do in advance to optimally prepare your body for carrying new life and it’s never to early to start!

Make Healthy Food Choices: Nutrition is probably the number one most important thing you can do to prepare your body for a healthy pregnancy. The awesome part of this is that it is something you can completely control; what you put into your body is 100% yours to decide! Of course eating well is important for everyone no matter what phase of life, but it is especially important for women during their childbearing years. If you want to make changes to your current diet, my suggestion would be to ease into it. Drastic dietary changes are often only temporarily sustainable efforts. Perhaps start by simply adding more whole foods into your diet? One idea might be to start your morning with a green smoothie? It’s a really easy way to get in a ton of nutrients. Another factor that influences healthy food choices and the relationship we have with food, is the common belief/misconception that healthy foods don’t taste good. If you believe that then you are less likely to select a healthy food and go straight for the junk foods which you know tastes good, right? Who woudn’t choose something yummy over something bland and tasteless? Eating is supposed to be a pleasurable experience! However I assure you eating healthy can be delicious, succulent, invigorating, and pure decadence! If what is healthy to you is boring, perhaps experiment more with foods and flavors? You might also try imposing more mindfulness into meals as described in this post. Another mental shift in eating is to focus on how foods make you feel after consuming them; really looking inward and examining how your body responds to foods. You might discover that healthy foods help you feel more vibrant and energetic as well as provide clarity of mind.  By attributing those positive qualities to the foods we use to fuel our bodies, we change our relationship with food. No longer does a donut look appealing…it starts to look like something that is going to make you feel heavy, sluggish, and unfulfilled. By changing the way you eat before getting pregnant, you are filling your body with optimum nutrients needed to grow and nourish a healthy baby. And you are setting yourself up for continued healthy food choices during pregnancy and postpartum. Pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding are a lot of work for your body and properly fueling your body can positively impact all three!

Increase water consumption: While this goes hand in hand with healthy eating, it is definitely worthy enough of separate mention. Water is quite healing and restorative to our bodies. Through large consumption of water we can help remove toxins from our body. One great way to start your day is to drink a large glass of water upon awakening. You have likely went 8 hours or so through the night without consuming any water so your body would graciously welcome a large glass of water each morning. Try to figure out a way throughout the day to have water readily available and accessible to you. Often this means carrying a water bottle with you. Investing in a quality water bottle that is easy to fill, clean, and drink from is definitely worthwhile as it is likely to directly impact how  much water you consume. By increasing water consumption during the pre-conception period, you are setting the stage to do so during your pregnancy. Staying properly hydrated during pregnancy can actually prevent some pretty serious medical issues. Something as simple as drinking water can change the course of your pregnancy, so bottoms up! :)

Be Active/Exercise: Again when you consider how much work carrying and birthing a baby is on your body, having a healthy strong body becomes even more important. If the idea of exercise means going to the gym and hating every minute of it, then of course you won’t be motivated to do it. However if you open yourself to the idea that there are hundreds of different ways to be active, you might find a type of exercise you actually enjoy such as hiking, biking, roller-blading, skiing, running, dancing, power-walking, yoga, volleyball, softball, tennis, swimming, surfing, etc. If exercise is infused into a recreational hobby, it becomes less of a ‘chore’ and something you are actually passionate about and willingly/happily devote time to. In addition to the direct health benefits of exercise, by engaging in physical activities we become more attune with our bodies which obviously carries great advantages during pregnancy and childbirth.

What are some ways you prepared for pregnancy? Would love to hear your ideas!

-Sarah