Last week found me celebrating my birthday in Ireland. As you may know, it’s been my desire for a while to travel to Ireland. While I’ve visited England many times to visit my husband’s family I’d never taken that short hop to Ireland. For the past few years I’ve been drawn to reading books about the power of the Irish landscape and its people, of the “little people” who inhabit the land, and of the sacred sites that have drawn people for thousands of years. How did I come to spend a weekend in Ireland? And what does decluttering have to do with the trip? Read on.
January – My Favorite Month
I love the month of January. It’s a fresh start, a clean slate, a time to look forward. It’s month full of possibilities. But like Janus, after whom the month is named, it’s also a time for looking back, to taking stock. And for me it’s also a time for decluttering; for looking at what no longer serves me or makes me happy – and releasing it. I need space to grow – and the decluttering clears physical and non-physical spaces.
I’m continuing to declutter my house, looking at objects and asking when the last time was I used it, or whether I like it, whether it fits in with the feeling I want my home to have, whether it’s outdated or no longer fits, etc. And the more I clear, the freer I feel. I love books – and buy way too many – and I’ve held onto them even though I don’t re-read them. So, I’ve begun to gather the books that I’ve liked reading but know I don’t have to hold onto them. They are new books that have only been read once. I’ve decided to begin to give them away and not hold on to them.
I equate the clutter with holding way too many things in my hands –and this holding prevents me from receiving anything new. As I drop these things from my hands, from my plate, etc. I open myself to receiving. I want my living space to be a sanctuary. I want to feel rested, restored, and renewed in my home. I want to be surrounded with a few things that make me happy. And I want a lot of clear, open space – in my physical life and in my calendar. For example, I’ve begun saying no to speaking engagements that feel like a chore.
Hygge and Deluttering
Some of you have asked me to write a little more about hygge. I’m reading How to Live Danishly and really enjoying picking up tips on how to incorporate it into all aspects of my life. Hygge asks you to look at the space you inhabit and make it as cozy as possible. It recommends having several light sources that scatter the light in a room, surrounding yourself with books you like, having comfy blankets and pillows. It’s minimalist in its décor; there is no clutter. And there are lots of white candles. Like the New York Times, the Washington Post also recently featured an article on hygge. And if you’re near Philadelphia, there’s a brewpub on Fairmount Avenue called Bar Hygge.
There’s only so much space in your home or office or calendar. I encourage you to let these things serve you instead of the other way around. Make your living space warm and inviting. Make your workspace inspire you. Let the activities on your calendar nourish you instead of deplete you. Declutter in small bits. Do a little bit every day. You might declining an invitation or clean out one drawer in your dresser. Each little step brings you closer to creating the life you want and the space that helps you flourish.
One thing I’m trying to eliminate from my life (mental decluttering) is the concept of putting things off for another time. I’ve come to realize that life really is unpredictable and quite short. I’ve put off doing so many things because I held onto the false notion that I have all the time in the world. I don’t – and neither do you.
January found me in England for the funeral of my dear mother-in-law, Rosemary, the matriarch of her family. It was a bittersweet time. The service was beautiful and touching. She had a beautiful voice and sang in many local choirs. One of the choirs showed up unexpectedly and sang at her service. And her six great-grandbabies brought such joy to the day. My husband, Martin, and I stayed in her house for the week we were there, surrounded by her life in a way. Her books, her apron, her sheet music were all where she left them. I cherished my time with Rosemary and I truly miss her.
The Trip From Hell
As we were planning our trip to England for the funeral, it was cheaper for us to fly into Dublin and take a short flight to England instead of flying directly to England. Martin suggested spending a few nights in Dublin on our way home over my birthday weekend.
But the trip was met with such calamities that we almost didn’t make it to the funeral or to Dublin. To quote Martin, “You couldn’t make this stuff ( a nicer word than Martin used) up.”
The day we were scheduled to fly to Dublin it snowed. And snowed. And snowed. And the heater in the house broke that morning. PSEG managed to come out to fix it before we had to leave for the airport. We arrived at the airport 3 hours ahead of our scheduled flight. And we sat in the airport. And sat. And sat. Until we finally boarded at midnight, 4 hours late. And then the pilot came on and said there was a problem in the cockpit and by the time it would be fixed he would be over his hours. So the flight was cancelled. And, due to the snow, they informed us that there were no available flights to Europe for four days.
Because we had to attend a funeral, the airline suggested we wait until the ticket counter opened in the morning to try to get on a standby flight.The ticket counter opened at 3:30am – so we waited only to be told there we might be able to get a flight out on standby but we had to return closer to the flight time of 8pm. So we went home only and managed to find the last 2 seats out on another airline that evening – to London. So, the tickets for the connecting flight from Dublin to Manchester, England were not able to be used.
Flight #2 took off on time! And about 2 hours into the flight an announcement was made that we were being diverted back to Boston for some repairs. But because the plane was full of fuel for an international flight, a landing was a bit sketchy – so we were going to be met my emergency crews (ambulances and fire trucks) in case the brakes caught on fire. After landing safely and having the repairs made we took off – only to arrive in London too late to make our connecting flight to Leeds, England. So be booked another flight to Manchester, England.
But, our luggage never made it to London. Luckily we had packed our clothes for the funeral in our carry-on luggage.
We made it to Manchester (without luggage) and caught the train to Martin’s hometown. We settled in for the hour ride. At this point we had been traveling for 48 hours. And then the train stopped one station short of our destination. We were told the train could go no further due to a problem on the tracks.
We got off the train, without a cell phone, and had to find a pay phone to inform Martin’s family as to where we were. It was late in the evening. cold, and rainy. We were tired and defeated. But, Martin’s brother-in-law picked us up and deposited us safely at our destination.
Which is long way of telling you how I came to visit Ireland for the first time. I think it was the combination of having attended a funeral, been met with traveling disasters, and taking stock of my life on my birthday, that as I sat in a pub (the Hairy Lemon) on my birthday listening to a live band, I made a promise to myself that I would no longer defer doing things that I’ve wanted to do. I realize that I can do things in little increments to get to where I want to go, to do what I want to do. While I only spent two days in Ireland and not the two weeks that I’ve been dreaming of – at least I made the first of what I know will be many trips to Ireland. By suggesting the weekend, Martin showed me how to think outside of the box – and how to declutter limiting thoughts; houghts like I have to spend a long time in Ireland to experience it. And thoughts like if things aren’t going smoothly they aren’t meant to me. Sometimes, we are meant to plow through those rough patches, meet those challenges, and not give up. Whew.
I’d love to hear how you’ve been spending these first few weeks of the new year. Have you had a desire to declutter? Is the concept of hygge of interest to you?
As we close out my favorite month of the year I wish you warm nights in the sanctuary of your home and a new calendar to fill with activities that bring you joy!
P.S. The photo is of my clearance candle holder from Anthropologie filled with white Ikea candles.