Dump that Detritus!

August 2, 2012

Are you grappling with a toxic situation in your life? Maybe it’s a so-called friend who is not only unreliable, but only ever calls you when she needs something. Or maybe it is a work environment that spells poison. Perhaps it is your house that is bursting at the seams with too much stuff.

Whatever it is, it’s time to dump that detritus.

You all know I’m a fan of living life without baggage, whether it is your long-suffering negative relationship with time or with actual clutter that’s filling your halls and walls. Energy is meant to flow. Trapped energy not only frustrates, it also constipates.

Make a list of things you could do without. They can be material items, relationships or habits. Take one action step toward liberating yourself from it every day. Some things might take longer to remove than others. Be patient, but stick to your plan.

Once you’ve made a commitment to toss your trash, you will soon be free of it. And in the process, you will become lighter, freer and happier than ever before.

I promise.


It takes a village to raise a child and since I have no village (that is, extended family within three hundred miles) per se, there are certain things I’ve had to do to get creative. In the early days when we first arrived to Germany where I spent the first ten weeks without a car, friends or furniture with two children ages 3 and 1, I spent every moment I could leading or participating in a toddler’s playgroup above the firehouse. It was my saving grace because the kids got to play with toys for a few hours. And I got to see, well, people.

Then they went to preschool, then school and now high school. And in the interim I have gotten creative about delegating certain family care chores because that village is still needed, especially now.

After months of delibration, consideration and desperation, I finally hired a cleaning lady. And although she has yet to clean a single thing, I like her already. During her interview, she was unphased by my teen’s, shall we say, behavior? She gave me a hug and said, “I know. Mine’s five and it’s the same.”

As I showed her about the house, we engaged in some small talk. Suddenly we looked at each other and said, “You look awfully familiar.” It turns out she waitresses at a local place where I went for the first time recently. Who know that the extension of my village was so near?

So you see, dear friends, sometimes help is closer than you think. Reach out and touch someone today. It takes a village to raise a child.

It takes a village to live.

My grandmother lived in a house she called The Enchanted Cottage. As a child, I considered it an enormous fairytale castle with secret passage ways (closets) and rooms that each had a name: the French Room, the Pretty Room, the Inn. She segmented her house into stories, in which you might encounter magic within the four walls of each one. Even her wildlife, the squirrels, had names. She fed my hungry imagination the right amount of fantasy that remains with me to this day. Thanks to her influence, I was allowed to preserve a child-like wonder from which I create every day.

Enchantment isn’t something we adults think about much. Intellectually, we know forests don’t have fairies (although of this I am not certain. Maybe one day I’ll tell you about an encounter I had with large trees and a giggling friend. And no, there were no mushrooms involved!). But every time I enter the woods, I half-expect a gnome or pixie to greet me. It’s the energy of the place that lulls me to that special place inside. The trees speak. I listen. And what I often hear is a calling beyond words.

Enchantment may be harder to find in urban settings. My grandmother was from New York City so her rural Connecticut home felt like a refuge from too many years in an urban environment. But even in a place as vast as New York, you can find enchantment if you’re with the right people.

Ultimately, enchantment resides within us. If you can cast a spell in any area of your life, whether it be work, a relationship or, like my grandmother did, a home itself, you will have created something sacred.

And who knows what influence that could have on the world?

The Cleanliness Code

July 18, 2012

Filth is something I’m very familiar with. I grew up, after all, on a horse farm with barnyard cats, half-feral dogs and enough land to scamper gleefully without seeing another person for miles (or so it seemed). But as I have gotten older with a home of my own, I have grown to appreciate the serenity of spotless surfaces gleaming reverently in the sunlight.

While they say cleanliness is next to godliness, it is not the divinity I seek in order, but more an expression of the love of place. When we care for our things, we extend a warmth and respect for our surroundings and ourselves. It is as if our environment mirrors what is going on within us (I am fully aware of the level of chaos a teenage mind must experience. Daughter’s room says that so nicely!).

At a trade show recently I found the funniest doormat that read: “If you’re not God, take your shoes off!” I can hear myself saying that to my kids. Can you?

For years I battled a disorderly desk, but lately I have found even here a sense of calm. It is as though my Universe has rightly aligned itself. All tops are spinning on their axes. All is well.

If your life is overtaken by clutter, take a closer look at what you need to release. Everything holds energy. Do you want that kind of energy around you? The Cleanliness Code dictates that you let go of the baggage. If you do, your world will find a new order. And you, my friend, will have the smoothest surfaces to prove it!

The Clearing

June 11, 2012

It all started with the blue dress. My daughter and her best friend begged me to take them shopping so, never being one to say no to some leisure, I carted them to the mall in Ingolstadt. Pressing some cash into her palm, I told Daughter to use it wisely. She winked. I wasn’t sure whether to be worried or laugh. I chose the latter.

With time on my hands, I browsed various shops, read a book, then got pulled into a store as if by magic.

As with many things in my life, the blue dress called out to me.

“You must take me home with you.” I drew nearer. Was it really talking to me? Now I know textiles don’t talk, but this one was definitely saying something. I found it hard not to listen.

“But I don’t need you,” I whispered into the clothing rack. A few eyes around the store fell upon me. I tried to ignore them.

“Trust me,” the dress whispered back. “Yes, you do.”

I tried it on to be sure I wasn’t losing my mind. It gave me a hug. I could feel it. So I pulled out the cash and bought it. Full retail price.

When I got home, I took one look at my closet and realized I couldn’t possibly hang this beautiful thing next to so many drabby clothes that smacked of compromise, reason and bargain-hunting.

I started pulling out all kinds of clothing that I really couldn’t stand. Dresses my dear, fashionable sister handed down to me that never really quite fit, clothing I bought on an impulse because I thought it made sense at the time, handbags with stained interiors, and one thigh-high stocking whose pair must have gotten lost in the shuffle at some point. A question formulated in my mind.

“Do I love it?” If the answer wasn’t yes, I dumped it.

Not everything I tossed was old or thread-bare: a sweater I only wore once, a scarf someone well-meaning had given me, an old jacket I donned a dozen times. Other items I kept: a cocktail dress I wore to George H. W. Bush’s Inaugral ball (which, by some miracle, still fits), the dress I wore to the theater the night Princess Diana died, a twenty-four year old Victoria’s secret night gown that has seen more tears than I can tell you.

If clothing makes the woman, then I have set myself free.

The message was obvious. We all need to engage in space clearing in our lives. Whether they are physical things, bad relationships or harmful habits, each of us can start anew by making room for new possibilities. Sometimes all it takes is a moment to listen.

Thank you, blue dress. You were right. I needed you more than I realized.

**Editor’s Note: Not sure how to space clear? This post will tell you.

It was an investment. It really was. Husband and I braved one of trickiest times at Aldi – the lawn furniture sale that went live at 8 a.m. this morning.

For you non-German readers, you may not know what that means. It involves manuveuring large aluminum chairs, tables and chaise lounges in impossibly small spaces with more customers than products. Think Tickle-Me-Elmo at Walmart on Christmas Eve.

We’d been pushing off the purchase of lawn furniture for years. Going on our fourth summer in our now-not-so-new house, we arose at the crack of dawn, sent the children off to the school bus stop, and drove, grim-lipped and in silence, to the nearest Aldi.

The result? My foot got run over by several shopping carts, my thumb got smashed at the check-out line (only once), and we got every piece we were looking for.

Here’s the visual. And yes, both of those carts are mine. Along with the very, very large and unwieldy table-in-a-box stacked behind everything else.

Pretty comical, right? This store takes the artificial scarcity approach. They literally sell out of their seasonal items every Monday and Thursday. And I wouldn’t have done it, except Husband looks so cute in his apron.

And we needed somewhere to sit. In relaxation. Until the next seasonal sale with items we’ve put off buying until we have no alternative.

If you’re like me, you get the natural urge to purge at the first spring tweet you hear. No, I’m not talking about Twitter tweets. I’m talking about the birds that signal it’s time to sift, cull and throw out all that junk you’ve been harboring all winter.

The Chotchky Challenge author Barry Dennis offered up this guest blog post on decluttering that I just couldn’t resist publishing here. Having just undergone ‘the hurl and toss’ of old stuff myself, I invite you to declutter so you’re heart can be a’flutter with the newness of the season instead of caught up in the soul-sucking drain of a home filled with useless junk.

7 Decluttering Tips to Feed Your Soul

by Barry A. Dennis

Adapted from his new book, “The Chotchky Challenge”


The more junk you continue to tolerate in your life, the more stressed out, irritable, and burdened you will feel. I call this junk we accumulate “Chotchky.” Chotchky is anything that crowds, intrudes, clutters, or in any way distracts from our soul’s highest purpose.

Be aware, Chotchky is a shape shifter. It can be anything. There is a fuzzy line and as soon as something crosses it, it has become Chotchky. I call it the “line of excess.” Anything in excess is a hindrance to our life. Like wearing a lead coat all day and wondering why were so tired. In this way, were all wearing lead-lined coats and don’t even know it.

Take the Chotchky Challenge. Start to become aware of everything in your life that has crossed the line, release it, and feel just how light and free it’s possible to be.

Here are some of the easiest places to start decluttering and clearing away Chotchky:

Your bathroom. What percentage of your hair spray, hair gel, toothbrushes, toothpaste, hair colors, soap, makeup, lotions, shampoos, over-the-counter medicines, prescriptions, and vitamins have crossed the line? It’s bathroomotchky! Go through your drawers and cabinets and get rid of everything that’s collected dust. Empty and recycle the glass and plastic containers.

Your closet. It is not uncommon for people to feel overwhelmed by their bulging closet and actually say, “I have nothing to wear.” Crazy, huh? That’s how confused we have become. I call it “apparelyzation.” Use this rule of thumb: your closet should never be filled to more than 80% capacity. Put all those clothes, shoes, socks, and accessories you haven’t worn in the past year in a bag and deposit them into the nearest Goodwill or Salvation Army bin.

Your cupboards. How much food do you feel is truly empowering you, and what percentage is “foodotchky?” Get a big “glad bag” and throw away everything that doesn’t contribute to making you feel happy, healthy, and energized. If the junk isn’t there, you soon won’t miss it.

Your storage spaces. Do you have corners of your garage or basement that are filled with things you haven’t used for years? Drawers that overflow?  Or worse, do you have a storage unit somewhere else that you actually pay for each month? It’s time for a sale. Sell it all, and if there’s anything unsold you can put on it your curb with a sign that reads “FREE.”

Your media. Be careful what you allow onto your Internet menu. Every website is an affirmation, every search is a meditation, every chat a prayer. All of the information you feed to your brain through TV, movies, YouTube, and such seems normal. But is it soulful? We are bombarded by excess information. If Mozart, Da Vinci, and Thomas Edison had been distracted by Facebook 5 hours a day, would they have found time to express their genius? Informotchky is insidious and clutters the most precious storage space we have, our mind!

Your calendar or ecalendar. Are you wasting your time with peopleotchky–humans who don’t support you, believe in you, and may actually encourage destructive behavior? Life is short and your time is precious. Make sure you surround yourself with true “Soul-Mates,” friends who support your very soul. Anyone who doesn’t has become excess!

Your consumption. Finally, start to be more conscious about the things you acquire. When you are at a store and you want something, or you’re offered a piece of cake after a large meal, ask yourself, “Do I really need this? How will this feed my soul?” The more conscious you are about what you purchase and consume, the happier and less encumbered you will feel.

As you begin to get rid of the Chotchky surrounding you, you will start to notice that your heart feels lighter, and your mood is brighter. You will find you have become more focused and clear. Your priorities rise to the surface and you suddenly have the time and energy that was always missing to channel into your heart’s true desires. It is truly liberating.

Besides, at this stage in the game, the less we consume the healthier we become in body, mind, spirit, and earth. As we take this challenge we reach what may be the highest state of consciousness possible, that of “liberotchky,” the complete and total freedom from all things Chotchky! (Any similarity with the former flamboyant pianist is unintended. Although he did wear a lot of blingotchky. Coincidence? I think not!)

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Barry Dennis is an internationally known inspirational speaker and spiritual teacher. His new book is The Chotchky Challenge: Clear the Clutter from Your Home, Heart, and Mind…and Discover the True Treasure of Your Soul (Hay House, April 2012). Learn more at www.BarryADennis.com.