To build or destroy—this is the choice we have with our words every day, the watershed moments we face in those often undetectable pauses before we open our mouths (or keep them closed).
What are some tips for those involved in a family business, directly or indirectly? How can families maintain their family bond amidst the often tricky dynamics of running a business? How can family members best deal with emotions that can arise when members feel a threat to their power and place in the family, or their self esteem? Here are 4 proactive ideas to consider.
I always know where I am in my life, within my self, by looking at these three areas in my home: my closet, my desk, and my refrigerator. If I am neglecting my self in some way, or feeling overwhelmed, I’ve learned it’s time to start emptying and organizing. Bit by bit, I begin sorting and cleansing my way into a sense of control and confidence, outside and in.
According to the wisdom of Kabbalah, our home is a manifestation of our soul — a place to park our soul at the end of the day. We want to use our home as a reminder of how our consciousness should be. It’s up to us to create the energy in the home and to make it a reflection of us. Creating balance and order around us helps us do the same in our consciousness. Author and home organizer, Regina Leeds, puts it more bluntly, "Your crap and your clutter is what's going on inside of you." Don’t we all know and feel that!
This month, nearly every major publication and network is talking about author, Marie Kondo and her Tidying Up series on Netflix. Who doesn’t agree that tidiness makes us feel better? And yet many do not grasp the extent, and the far reaching impact positive impact of decluttering? So what are the benefits of creating order in our home? And what is the best approach to declutter with joy and balance (and that we can sustain)?
The Psychological, Spiritual and Relationship Benefits of Tidying Up
We know it from experience, but research confirms that those who move from clutter to tidiness experience not only a decrease in stress but an increase in their ability to process information and to focus on their goals. Order also helps us feel more creative, hopeful and more confident we can achieve our potential.
Order can awaken it’s own brand of simple joy. We find a serenity that comes with less stuff. The key is balance. While it can be a happy and beautiful experience to buy a new dress or gadget, or to treasure a sentimental item, there’s a flip side to “too much” and not being sensitive to how each item affects us. Without balance, and developing what Marie Kondo describes as an empathic sense of what sparks joy, we can stuff ourselves into emptiness and guilt.
Even if it doesn’t reach the proportion of a full blown hoarding crisis, too much stuff can easily become an addiction, a distraction, an escape from connecting with our bodies, our loved ones, our pain, our self and the truth within our soul. We are energy seekers by nature, and in a consumer society, it’s easy to turn to the illusionary solution of accumulating more stuff when it’s something much deeper that brings lasting joy. Decluttering opens up the space to connect from within—or as my daughter, Andrea Glik, LMSW, likes to say, “come home to yourself.”
In our relationships, chaos in our environment can easily get in the way. In large part because it’s harder to connect with ourselves much less another. Ask anyone with young children about this one. I remember that time in our life, back in the day, and listen to the struggles of many young couples who can’t seem to catch up. Not only from the hectic and relentless running around of those little joy machines, but just from the mess and disorder itself. It can be difficult to find that open space to connect. The key is finding a way to make the tidying up process light and fun, and not just on the shoulders of one person. It’s about creating an attitude of empathy, gratitude, and mutual care towards your home, your items, and especially the people with whom you live and love. So now let’s talk about the how …
Best Practices for Tidying Up
According to Marie Kondo’s Konmari method, she recommends the following rules:
RULE 1: Commit yourself to tidying up.
RULE 2: Imagine your ideal lifestyle.
RULE 3: Finish discarding first.
RULE 4: Tidy by category, not by location (e.g.,clothing, books, papers, kitchen/bath, sentimental)
RULE 5: Follow the right order.
RULE 6: Ask yourself if it sparks joy.
Here are 7 Tips to not only help make the tidying up more joyful but also SUSTAINABLE:
1. ACCEPT YOUR OWN RHYTHM
Make perfectionism the first thing you discard. Each person is unique and that’s in the beautiful design of our universe. While some decide to make the clearing and tidying process an intense and concentrated project, I find that each person needs to find the rhythm that works for them.
As most of us do, I wear many hats and I continue to make choices that demand from me, stretch me and require constant change. This makes my days and sometimes evenings quite full. That being said, I can’t say that full time organizer fits in my hat closet. So what works for me is to grab snippets of time wherever I can. One fridge-drawer here, one under-the-sink-cabinet there. Maybe it’s the sock drawer before work and the underwear drawer after. Usually mornings work better for me because clearing out and tidying up often requires more decision-making energy than we realize. Sometimes there’s a time for going all in and devoting full days, but I don’t recommend the all or nothing mindset.
2. MAINTAIN BALANCE
While a neat house reflects a person who takes good care of themselves, too neat can show obsession or lack of presence or warmth. I suggest reflecting within, using the extremes of “mess” and “over-neat,” as a gauge for where you are.
3. CREATE A SPACE THAT REFLECTS YOU
Our home should be a reflection of us, not who we think we should be or what others think. When decorating, organizing and tidying, ask yourself, “IS THIS ME?”
4. AWAKEN MINDFULNESS AND COMPASSION
The Kanmari method is most well known for the invitation to ask oneself, “Does this item awaken sparks of joy?” Answering that question requires listening within and being present in the moment without any judgement about what you might hear. Try inviting self-compassion and self-acceptance, right where you are now. Also consider carefully you’re personality and attention style. Some are organically orderly in their way of processing information and life. Others are more expansive in their attention span, and this can affect your relationship with the space around you. So please be gentle with yourself if consistency and keeping order is naturally a struggle.
5. WORK ON LETTING GO—OF ITEMS AND EMOTIONS
When cleaning out our things, its a powerful opportunity to listen to our feelings, especially when we find ourselves having difficulty letting go of items. Pause, take a few deep breaths and pay attention within to the emotions the item brings up or what you’re feeling at the very idea of discarding it. The idea isn’t to feel forced to give precious things away. We must honor our truth when it’s useful, authentic, joyful or meaningful for us to keep an item in our home, in our life.
That being said, oftentimes we hold onto things for less than joy-sustaining reasons. For example, you might feel guilt for not having used an item enough, or fear of not having what you need at a later time. Maybe your ego voice is bombarding you with should’s or I need this to feel good enough. Remind yourself, You are always enough. Sometimes we don’t let go of an item because we don’t realize the drain on our consciousness that keeping it really causes, especially if it’s from a person we need to move on from or some other aspect of our past.
You might need to add soothing and cleansing rituals to support your tidying journey, especially to make it a way of life. Examples include: opening a window, lighting a candle, burning sage, spraying essential oils. If you’re really struggling to let go, a counselor or close friend might offer the support and strength you need. Whatever it takes to help you LET GO— whether of the items that do not spark joy or the emotions that keep you stuck. Remember, on the other side of letting go awaits your new and more joyful, loving, and authentic life.
6. SAY THANK YOU
Every living thing or object contains sparks of the Light of Creation itself. Many spiritual pathsteach this beautiful idea. When clearing items away, I love the idea of openly thanking the item for however it served you before you say goodbye. This can assist with the letting go and moving forward into your present life, with newly refreshed goals and dreams.
7. TIDY WITH RESPECT AND UNITY IN MIND
One of the gifts Marie Kondo brings to tidying up is the unconditional respect and acceptance she injects into the process— towards the tossed away items themselves, towards oneself and towards the others in the home.
In the Down-sizers episode, Marie shares, “It’s very important when you’re tidying to respect each other. Having a family of my own, and being a mother and I think the things in our house and all the family members in a home kind of function the same way. We each play a role and we only have a limited amount of space and we all need each other.”
“We almost break up every year after Christmas,” my client announced. “We go to multiple Christmas’s, and at the end, we’ll declare (if we’re not breaking up) ‘next year we’re leaving town.’” The holidays can be a loving, joyous time for couples, and yet, they can run our stress high and patience thin, trigger old family issues, highlight our different needs and approaches, and quite honestly awaken the “what about me” consciousness. All this can add up to a massive wedge in our most important relationship.
Sometimes our greatest angst comes from the gap between our expectations— the “should be’s”— and our reality right in front of us. Difficulties and unmet expectations are not only normal, but an inherent and valuable part of our “growing upward” in life. We become better, stronger from the challenges we face, especially when we own them! We create deep fulfillment when we dive into the darkness and bring out the Light. And anyone in a deep and lasting relationship should know the hard earned and quite miraculous process that it takes for two separate souls to un-peel their ego layers to become one.
Preparation is key for couples to navigate their relationship during the holidays, and this starts with a commitment to going into the holiday as partners. Many outside forces can invade your togetherness but the more you prepare, the more protected your bond will be. I like to suggest openly identifying the potential sources of strain or conflict that the holidays might pose. COUPLE EXERCISE #1: Take a look at this list below and scope out any hot buttons. Then use THE 4C APPROACH to strengthen your partnership.
List of Potential Stressors
Increased work load, feeling overwhelmed and not clear about how to divide and share the added tasks
Socializing differences (I don’t want the party to end vs I can’t wait to go home)
Loyalty to your family and pulled about dividing time among each side, and step families
Differences in culture, religion, or spirituality
Emotional pain and lack often stirred up from childhood making us more vulnerable and reactive
Certain people we are anxious to be around, like In laws or parents or siblings
Financial strain and different values on how much do we spend on gifts/food
Alcohol and the need to talk about consumption
Additional compounding life challenges like illness, loss, financial bills or work uncertainty
The 4C Approach to Closeness During the Holidays
1. CONSCIOUSNESS: Take Control of Your Holiday, Don’t Let the Holiday Control You
I learned from the great Kabbalist, Rav Berg, that “consciousness is everything.” Meaning, the seeds we plant with our thoughts and intentions directly influence what will grow and manifest. The first limiting thought to challenge is, “I don’t have control over my relationship, my holiday, my happiness.” Catch this one quickly and replace with, “I create my relationship, my holiday, my happiness.” Let’s take the client I spoke about earlier, who has made great strides in claiming her power. She now approaches the holidays as a spiritual growth game. Her intention has moved from how can I change my family or get them to love me to how can I see the good, be more compassionate and learn to listen. Further, how can I wake up and first thing, appreciate my partner. I love this story of taking control of your holiday, your relationship…your life.
2. COMPASSION: Accept Yourself, Your Partner, Your Reality With Love
Acceptance and compassion go hand in hand, and paradoxically, they provide the best platform for making personal changes and inspiring others to change. To embrace and be with your self, your beloved, and your unique reality together— with acceptance and trust that for good reason, you need to be here in this moment—this opens your heart, and you can just feel the lightness pour in. If you’re feeling heavy or emotionally reactive, a pause is a must. Sometimes that means stepping away from your partner, taking a shower, going for a walk, looking at the sky, sharing in some way—these can all shut down the limiting force of the ego and make room for the bigger picture. Set your intention to awaken compassion within, beg if you have to, and do for yourself that which brightens your soul. I’m a huge fan of self compassion. As Louise Haye says so well, “Loving others is easy when I love and accept myself.”
3. COLLABORATION: Go Into the Holiday as Partners
When we choose to invest in a committed relationship, our lives become interdependent. Our togetherness becomes an entity. If one partner’s gain puts a hole in the galley, then the whole relation”SHIP” goes down. This puts us in a vulnerable position, because we must create a oneness when we often have divergent needs or desires. But this is the beauty in the dance of love and intimacy—navigating our own individuality alongside our growing capacity to care more for the other’s happiness than for our own. Taking it one step at a time, we can use the holidays to begin negotiating and taking turns when our own dreams and desires don’t line up. This collaboration can center around conversations (be careful they’re not “controler-sations”) on the following kinds of topics:
Effectively sharing and negotiating the additional workload common during the holidays
Respectfully considering the traditions and values from each partner when creating your own
Balancing the religious and spiritual meaning and practices associated with the holiday
Showing care and support when our partner’s are stressed or emotionally vulnerable. “This means being supportive, even if you think his or her perspective is unreasonable,” (Dr. John Gottman)
Being sensitive to personality differences when it comes to attending parties and gatherings
4. COMMUNICATION: Calmly Make Sure Both Are Heard
One of my favorite communication exercises to do with couples in my practice is the Dream Catcher by Dr. John Gottman. It’s a turn taking, structured exercise that with great practice and self control can become more integrated into how we relate to our partners. Rather than pushing our point, calling the other out in some way, the focus is on creating a safe haven of authenticity where each partner feels seen and heard. The listener spends around 10-15 minutes asking questions like:
What do you feel about this issue?
Is there a story behind this for you?
Does this relate to your childhood or background in some way?
What do you need with this issue?
Tell me why this is so important to you?
What do you wish for?
What would be your ideal dream here?
Is there a fear or disaster scenario in not having this dream honored? having this dream honored?
Is there a deeper purpose or goal in this for you?
COUPLE EXERCISE #2: Pick one of the hot buttons that stood out from the list of stressors above and take turns being the speaker and the listener. The problem might not be solved, and that’s okay. The purpose is to care enough to catch one another’s real dream and desire. Many need a counselor to help prepare them for this level of listening. You’ll know you are ready for this exercise as a couple if after your heart is filled with love and you feel closer.
When humans bond with animals, wonderful things can happen, particularly for those whose pets who become true “companion animals.” Two camps of humans seem to exist: those who get it and those who don’t. Why do animal bonds make such a strong impact, what can we learn from them, and how can we best take care of ourselves at their passing.
Whether it’s about who does more or who makes more, or maybe it’s who works the hardest or who is in better shape. The bottom line is that while couples yearn to come together as one, the human ego has a pesky way of allowing competition to invade the safe haven needed for love to deepen and grow. Here are some common competitive scenarios I hear about:
Some splits between parent and child come from something sudden or dramatic, but most broken ties develop gradually and stem from misunderstandings and less extreme, albeit hurtful, interactions. Let’s talk about what hope there might be if you are estranged from your parent or child. Here's what I recommend…
When a new couple reaches out for help, almost without exception, it quickly comes to light that the problems in the marriage, in large part, stem from this repeated proclamation, “Well, the kids have always come first.” Now here they sit on the counseling couch, and to some degree in a marriage run empty with one or both feeling neglected, unloved.
We are all faced with a myriad of challenging life circumstances, enough to make anyone feel anxious, insecure or overwhelmed. The truth is, we are not here to simply live a life of stillness and stagnation. To taste real satisfaction and freedom, we are here to overcome, grow and transform. So how do we deal best with times of great stress and stay connected to joy and peace along the way?
Even though we know romantic comedies are great for lightness, fun and open-hearted laughter—and are not meant to depict real life—we are still influenced by what we see, unconsciously deeming movie love as normal love. So enjoy and laugh away but be mindful of the messages about love coming through.
According to recent studies, a large majority of partners deemed smartphones and other technology devices as the cause of greater relationship conflict and dissatisfaction, and for many, this included lower life satisfaction as well. While our smartphones offer tremendous obvious benefits, including staying in better touch, they have also introduced unprecedented barriers to human connection, within ourself and between each other. Awareness is the first and essential step to creating motivation for change. Then I'll share 4 Simple Changes to keep ourselves in better balance.
Strengthening our connection with our fathers--directly or indirectly, physically or metaphysically--opens important channels of success and happiness in our lives. From all sides of the family dynamic, read on for some suggestions to consider to help fathers and their children create a stronger connection.
Of all our family ties, the mother-daughter one tends to remain important through adulthood. With life expectancy ever increasing, we mothers and daughters will only continue to spend more of our lives together as adult women. What a great opportunity to invest in making this bond an even greater source of strength and growth.
Inherently tricky to navigate for many, in-law strife shows up most especially between mothers- and daughters-in-law. And pouring into the mix the degree of conflict and division from our unprecedented election year 2016, the views and dynamics among all family members- especially in-laws, makes for quite a vulnerable time. Here are some tips to help make the holidays and this relationship go more smoothly this year, and from now on.
While this election season has stirred up an especially bitter brew of indignity and conflict, one common bond crossing the political and gender aisle is the election stress. The American Psychological Association just released a new survey indicating that more than half of American adults are either very or somewhat stressed by the 2016 election.
Teens need a healthy attachment more than ever during this trial and error phase of life. The more we stay close and connected to our teens (not to be confused with hovering or controlling), the better we can support them emotionally. Through our attachment, we equip them with a compass as they find their own truth and strength, and decision making power.
We all love to weigh in when in comes to critiquing others' parenting moves and styles, but ask most moms and dads in the thick of raising young people today, and even the brightest, most confident among us will admit (at least privately) that it's the hardest job on the planet. Parenting is not a black and white business, and is certainly not for sissies.