Clean and Clear: Ways to de-stress for less.
June 19, 2013

By Kristen Forbes
As the weather gets warmer and the days grow longer, you may think you’ve missed your chance to get into the spring cleaning spirit. But as the tips below illustrate, there’s no bad time to start taking care of yourself and getting organized. It may seem counterintuitive, but investing time in the things that bring us joy can help streamline our lives. Here are five (inexpensive and often free) ideas to help you declutter your mind, find balance, and offer the world the best possible version of you.

Learn to Care for Yourself
Kristen Maus is a registered art therapist and certified professional coach in Portland, Oregon. She works with clients to help them realize the value of self-care, an act that’s all too easy to neglect when life gets hectic. “As a life coach whose practice focuses on helping people look at all aspects of their lives in order to restore balance, I believe self-care should not be the trump card, thrown in as a last resort in the hopes of righting the capsized boat,” says Maus. “No, self-care is the daily use card that prevents the boat from capsizing in the first place. This card can help you practice saying kindly but firmly, ‘no, thank you’ to those life invitations which deplete you, and ‘yes, please’ to those which inspire you and allow your best self to sparkle. Decluttering the ‘shoulds’ on the social calendar allows more time for the pursuits that feed you. And if you’re nurtured, you can feed the other relationships you value in life. The boat stays upright.”

Before Andrew Todhunter graduated from AULA’s MFA program in 2011, he taught writers
about meditation for his senior lecture. “It works. It’s a tremendous tool,” says Todhunter. “It reduces internal turmoil. Whether you’re a writer or an athlete or a cop or a parent or in a relationship – and the hardest relationship you’ll ever live is with yourself – meditation serves everything. It deepens compassion and gratitude. If you reduce the noise and chatter and spend time in the stillness, if you can relax in that and be more present in that, all of these things that serve us deepen.”

Join a Sports League
Owen Turnbull of Portland, Oregon, is a member of not one but four recreational soccer teams, two of which he manages. “I participate in soccer instead of joining a gym because the workout schedule is set for me,” he says. “The games are scheduled ahead of time and I am committed to going to them and planning the rest of my life around them. That way I cannot put off working out and staying in shape. It also forces me to get away from work and the stresses of everyday life on a regular basis. If I had a gym membership, those stresses would be used as an excuse not to go because I think I am too busy.”

 Rethink Your Clothes
AULA Urban Sustainability student E.dali Pollard purchases the majority of her clothes (and many of her housewares and furniture) from thrift stores. “When you change your perception about thrifting,” she says, “things in front of you look different.” Not only does she seek out exquisite and unique items that reflect her own style, she also wears her social justice activist hat (and sleeves, and shoes) at all times. “When an item that has been around for a long time is still here, that is a testament to the workmanship and labor that went into it,” Pollard says.

Jason Adams of Boston says the time he spent in his twenties volunteering as a Big Brother and a Playtime Activity Leader (PAL) for Horizons for the Homeless enriched his life. “I really enjoyed this time,” he reflects, “because I felt like I could just let go of all my ‘real world’ issues and just be a kid. I also had a sense of pride that I was doing my part to help society and to improve the lives of others, and that certainly energized me as well.”

Decluttering, AULA-Style:
Tips from staff and faculty to rejuvenate your life.

Christopher Freeman (director of Financial Aid) annually donates clothes he no longer wears to out of the closet or Goodwill. He organizes his books, music and movies, gets rids of items and gifts he doesn’t use, checks the dates on his canned and boxed foods, and finally dusts and vacuums. “I try not to hold onto items just because someone I care about gave them to me,” he says. “If I’m not enjoying/using/interacting with it, it goes into the Goodwill bin.”

Gilda Haas (core faculty, MA in Urban Sustainability) stays centered through three guiding activities: a morning writing practice, long bike rides, and mindful meditation.

Charley Lang (associate faculty, BA) is inspired by the great outdoors. “Nature and the earth de-stress me,” he says. “I spend a lot of time in the garden – especially this time of year – getting dirty, communing with the trees and flowers as they bud. I just planted my first Sequoia. Nature has an amazing sense of renewal.”

Martha Longley (executive assistant to the president) practices transcendental meditation. “It is something that can be done upon waking in the morning, during a quiet moment at work or in the early evening upon coming home from work,” she says. “It just has to be prioritized and scheduled into one’s day.”

Josh Williams (director of Student Affairs) has six ideas for decluttering:

1) Pursue an old hobby.

2) Sign up for a local class through your city. “City classes are inexpensive, not a large time commitment and a great way to meet new people.”

3) Minimize social traffic by temporarily deactivating social media. “Sometimes less is truly more.”

4) Cook yourself and a guest a nice meal.

5) Stop multitasking. “If you’re always focused on accomplishing multiple tasks, you’re not going to be able to focus on yourself.”

6) Find time to be silent. “Normally, the quietest part of our day is bedtime, but it doesn’t have to be. When commuting, turn your radio and phone off and enjoy the silence.”

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