Peeking Beneath The Pile

Header image via creative commons license: Source

You know how sometimes, when the right question appears, the answer seems to smack you in the face?

David over at Raptitude (a blog to which I subscribe and read every post), wrote a post that stirred something inside of me: 

"Whatever is normal to us becomes invisible, no matter how counterproductive, and we’ve simply become accustomed to tracking too many ongoing concerns in our heads.  .... As information and entertainment become more abundant, mental clarity becomes a more unusual experience. To get it back, we need to become unusually stingy with our time and attention commitments, by either finally fulfilling them or finally dropping them, instead of letting them pile up unresolved."

So it's no surprise that when a dear friend, Maia Duerr, asked the question, "what promise can I make to myself?", the answer was obvious.


Don't let things pile up.


That includes:

  • To-do's
  • laundry (clean or dirty)
  • sticky stuff on the kitchen counter
  • regrets
  • emails 
  • crumbs on the floor (seriously - I hate walking around in bare feet and collecting yesterday's dinner on my heel)
  • paper piles
  • un-said "I love you's"
  • dreams (particularly unrecorded and un-lived ones)
  • shoulds
  • magazines and books (the latter being possibly my only exception that I might allow myself...but I'll try)
  • internet bookmarks
  • commitments
  • tabs open on my browser
  • the "later"s that I promise my children ("mommy is working; we'll play later")
  • clothes - ones that don't fit and even ones that do
  • shoes (tricky when you wear a size 11 - I tend to hold onto anything that FITS)
  • body aches
  • produce + healthy pantry goods that get overlooked in place of cheap + easy
  • toys (even the adorable stuffed animals)
  • weight (the unhealthy, wine-and-late-night-chips kind)
  • excuses

The problem is, is that (like most of us) I've already let a lot of these things pile up. I'm sitting on mounds of them, trying to run a business, raise a family, and maintain a household while running over piles of ever-deepening crap.

As anyone who's ever run over sand dunes will tell you, it takes a LOT of energy.

At this point, even a promise to not add more to them will not make life any easier, unfortunately. Even day-to-day tasks feel challenging and exhausting as I navigate thousands of un-read emails, scoop away the crumbs my kids leave after every meal, and STILL try to make my art, sell it, get weekly newsletters out, plan family trips, ... you know, keep life going as it is on top of all of these ignored piles

Because of this, I have to make two major changes:

1) stop adding to the piles

2) work on the piles that exist.

And that is going to require a LOT of SPACE, a CHANGE OF PACE, LETTING GO, and many more "NO"s.

I've created a long, random list of things I WANT to have in my life (because it's important to focus on the positive, not just the negative...or what I need to eliminate).

Alongside that, I've created a long, random list of practical ways to do all of the above.

Here are just a few.

I want more:

  • time in nature, less time on electronics
  • attention given to my children - not because they asked, but because they are there
  • planning and presence with cooking and eating
  • spacious time to hand write letters to friends and send birthday cards
  • (etc)


To accomplish this, I'm experimenting with:

  • 5 minute blocks of conscious-time on Facebook (not cutting it out, but greatly limiting my time so I don't fall mindlessly into the news feed)
  • tying up loose ends (unanswered emails, projects I've been avoiding - making significant progress daily on this. this includes letting go of some of these projects, with apologies to those who might have been waiting, without guilt)
  • Drinking more water (at least 72 ounces a day) and less wine (three glasses maximum during the school week)
  • Read emails as they come in - and either "star"if I can't reply right away (no more than 10 "starred" emails allowed in my inbox), reply, add to my calendar, file, or delete
  • walking more (aiming for my 10,000 steps a day, as measured by my FitBit toy)
  • (etc) 


Every time I consider this, I feel as though I breathe a bit easier.

My chest loosens, the tension in my jaw and around my brain eases, and my shoulders drop just a bit.

Can you even imagine the results as I continue to practice it? 


For those who are curious, I can't promise what this means for "BeingBreath", though I know that I will not be giving up my online presence. You'll get to find out as I do.


For what this might mean for you:


Your life looks different than mine. Your piles are bigger, or smaller, and made of different things. How you decide to deal with them is certainly up to you.

But I invite you to begin by working on your Excuses pile.

Whatever you are saying to yourself as you read this about why you can't do this, whatever follows, "must be nice for her, but I have to.... / but I can't...." - start there.

As the saying goes,



Begin with a commitment.

Comment below and let me know: What is one pile you'll acknowledge (sometimes even that is enough) and/or start to reduce?


Here's to both of our paths .... and living Pile Free.