January 1

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New Years Detox: Less is More

By Jessica Allen

January 1, 2019

Detox, emotional management, wellness

Happy New Year!

We woke up to the thickest fog we’ve seen here in a long time. The morning behind it is beautiful, and as the fog slowly lifts it’s clear we’re in for a lovely day.

Isn’t that what New Years is? A symbolic lifting of last year’s fog and a bright walk into a fresh set of 365 opportunities?

Sometimes you’re still in the thick of your fog, and if that’s where you are, grab a friend with a flashlight to help you through. There is no rush. There are lessons learned and strengths built there.

But if (and when) your fog has cleared, you’re likely starting today with the same lighter and expectant spirit I am. You’ve left a whole lot of life in the year behind, some treasures, and some you’d care to forget. And while absolutely nothing has changed but the hands on the clock, today is a welcome invitation to breathe a little easier, dream a little bigger, change things for the better, and believe again in the fantastic potential of yourself and other people.

A holy miracle has happened upon this place this morning – all the creatures are still asleep. And since I’ve selected “Create” as my 2019 Word, I am hiding at my kitchen table doing just that before my merry band calls me to play.

In the background are glasses and cookies left on the counter from last night, and beyond that a month’s worth of Christmas cheer (read: clutter) that is begging for clean-up. It’s evidence of all the fun we had and memories we made, so I’m grateful for it, but it’s making me twitch a little more every day so I guess it’s time to pack it up.

I always feel better starting a New Year with an actual clean slate. That strange week between Christmas and New Years is always a fun time to decide what that clean slate will look like on January 1st.

And this year, after researching detox/juice cleanses for a chunk of time longer than I’m willing to publicly admit, that’s one thing that’s not making the list.

Not just because I’m still feeding a tiny human, or because it’s crazy expensive, or because the DIY versions require equipment I don’t have, or because I have good alternative nutritional systems already in my pantry and fridge, or because the idea of putting beets in ANYTHING makes me gag. 

I decided against it because it’s just one more thing that needs keeping.

Ironically, we like to make it a lot of work to reset our bodies to their most simple biological “factory settings.”

We – I – tend to complicate any other reset, too. 

Nutritional plans, personal coaching, planners, study workbooks, audio subscriptions, you name it – someone’s trying to sell us a product for every area we’d like to improve.  We’re bombarded with pressure and advertisements from every direction.

All these tools are GOOD THINGS.  But it’s easy to go broke and waste valuable time “fixin’ to” instead of actually doing.  

So instead of fixin’ to add one more thing into my mind/body/spirit, I’m going to choose my select few tools wisely and streamline it all.

In short, I’m not going to juice cleanse. 

But I am in desperate need of a detox.  Not just physically, but mentally, emotionally, and spiritually too. I’m aiming for less.  Less junk, less fake food, less sugar.  Less bread (uggggghhhhh), less soda, and more water. 

Yes I know, the ultimate goal is to eat this way all the time so we never need a detox.  But sadly, I really like cookies and cheeseburgers and Diet Coke… there’s always room for growth!

I understand physical detox matters tremendously.  I want to be healthy enough to be the kind of human I want to be in every area of my life.  To avoid inflammation and disease and live to 100, and to be a model for my children of healthy behavior and a healthy relationship with food. 

Even more important though is the detox for my mind.

Funny enough, in a mental detox the same rules still apply.  Less junk, less fake food, less sugar.  BETTER daily bread – quiet reading, good podcasts from sound voices.  Less media.  More real nourishment.   Replace the bad with something good and you’ll never feel the void.  The addiction to bad stuff (yes that addiction is real – negativity and “shock value” media feeds the pleasure centers of our brain thereby creating a craving and then an obsession) will fade as we create better, new habits of feeding our mind good stuff. 

The last thing any of us need is more.  Our bodies and minds get sick as a result of the excess.  Too much noise, too much comparison, too much greed, too much stuff.  Extra voices and opinions telling us what we need and what we should look like and who we should be and what should make us happy.  Excess speed and suffocating competition.  Distractions from healthy thoughts and good sleep.  Too much stress. 

Start with physical detox – and it’s not just nutrition

I have learned to recognize my need for a good all-around detox when my stress climbs to feel-it-in-my-bad-shoulder levels.  I’ve also\ learned my stress buttons – super important for anyone who wants to function at a higher level – and they’re pretty basic, I think.  Clutter, feeling unheard, feeling like I’ve fallen behind or can’t keep up, and feeling defeated.  Now that I’m looking at that list, 99 percent of my stress is feelings-related.  Is that normal?  I bet so. 

So in a house with 2 work-from-home parents, 2 businesses, 2 school-age children, a newborn, and a dog, every single one of my stress buttons is being pushed by someone or something pretty much all the time. 

Our physical space contributes in sneaky little ways to our stress level.  Ever sit next to an obnoxious class mate or co-worker, or guy in line at the post office, or lady on a plane?  Or break out in a sweat when you catch an episode of Hoarders?  You know exactly what I’m talking about. 

One stress factor triggers another, then another, and before we know it our senses get overwhelmed and we short-circuit.  We snap at the co-worker, or we yell at our spouse and kids.  We feel better in the moment because we vented, but it didn’t really solve the problem, and then we feel terrible for the way we behaved and and start the whole cycle all over again. 

The good news is that this is a pretty easy detox!  It just takes awareness, a decision, and a plan.  

My typical personal space stress-out and melt-down process looks like this:

“WHOA the kitchen is a disaster.” (clutter button)

*instantly gets mad at all the humans who left things in piles on the counters*

*storms through the room sweeping things into more piles*

*gets out of breath and frustrated* (can’t keep up button)

“I am terrible at this.  Why even bother?”

*gets even madder at my humans who don’t even notice my rage* (unheard button)           

*quits trying* (defeated button)

*eats those cookies we left out* (all buttons pushed simultaneously)

“THIS IS THE WAY IT WILL ALWAYS BE.”

So I’ve gone from my best self to a raving defeatist lunatic in 10 seconds or less.  I’ve thought mean thoughts about the people I love most and even meaner thoughts about myself.  And I’ve eaten 300 calories simply because they were there.  I know I am not the only one who does this.  It’s toxic.  We make memes about it and joke about “mommy needing a glass of wine” but it’s really not all that funny. In that one scenario, bad thoughts derailed every area of my wellness and it’s time to stop the madness. 

Physical detox: kill the clutter

So my New Years detox started with a good brain dump of “to-do’s” that were all “to purge.”  Closets, cabinets, drawers, toys, shoes, paperwork, extra spices (why do we have 4 jars of chili powder?), expired or bad-for-us food in the fridge and pantry.  It’s all leaving my house.  Not all today… these are little projects I’ll tackle one-a-day. 

I’m terrible at organization, but I have brilliant friends who know what they’re doing.  For really good insight on streamlining and living simply, visit my friend Lacey at https://simplequietmama.com/.  She’s brilliant and her zen will make you breathe easier in one little click. 

Clutter makes me anxious.  I’m married to a cluttery person who literally doesn’t see or feel bothered by piles.  So the less stuff there is to clutter and pile up, the easier and more free I feel. 

We’re not minimalists by any stretch (see above regarding my cluttery person).  I love the idea of a capsule wardrobe but it’s never going to happen here.  We used to do “days of the week” toy bins – it was AWESOME when my kids were little – but that’s low on the priority ladder in this particular life season. 

These purging projects aren’t extreme.  But they’re going to help me order my space and eliminate the stress/anxiety of clutter on a regular daily basis. 

Just pick a place and start

The first and gnarliest task on the list was my closet. It was really daunting but very freeing.  I made up my mind I was going to do it, got the baby cozy in his little rocker, put on a favorite old Robert Earl Keen album, and went to work. 

I knew it was going to be a task but what surprised me was how much emotional attachment I had to these clothes.  Feelings, thoughts, memories attached to a shirt or a dress.  I have one dress I’ll never wear again but keep forever in the back of my closet.  Everything else though?  It’s gotta go.  There is no sense holding on to things that simply bring clutter and chaos to my life. 

I know it sounds crazy but something hurt in my little world, folding things and placing them into bags to donate. 

Me and myself had a little holy reckoning over certain pieces.  And I had to make my brain tell my hands what to do.  “You don’t wear this anymore.  Fold it and put it in the bag.  But I spent money on it.  It still fits.  I think it still works with those pants.  NO DON’T TAKE IT OUT.  It’s time to say goodbye. Walk away from the bag.”

Some things were just silly, like most pairs of my tall stilettos I love.  My back can’t do it anymore and they’re just collecting dust.  A little sad, but okay.  Fine.

Other things were harder.  The shirt I wore to a particular event.  The dress I wore to conduct and felt like a million bucks in before I found out I was pregnant.  Even tougher: pieces and outfits I wore when I felt great about my body but sick in my soul.

Sometimes stuff is just stuff.

But sometimes stuff is a cancer… physical weight that places an emotional weight on your spirit, holding you back and tying you down in ways you don’t realize.

I purged a lot more baggage than just my clothes. 

Kind of a paradox, isn’t it?  In one tiny project, I built a little more of my best life by cultivating less.  I let the bags sit there a couple days so I could go back through the closet one more time.  Not surprisingly, it was easier today to pull out another 10-15 pieces that really needed to go.  It felt good.  And I can’t wait to tackle the next assignment.  Thank goodness it’s simpler… just the sock drawer.

**My criteria for “keepers” in the closet were: Does it fit properly RIGHT NOW, do I feel confident and beautiful in it, and is it unique from anything else I already have?  If it didn’t fit all 3 criteria, out it went.

Emotional detox

There’s definitely some emotional detox that comes with physical decluttering.  But there’s magic that happens with an intentional emotional detox.  Not quite as physically demanding, but even more important than my closet, is my emotional and spiritual life.  What thoughts, ideas, relationships, commitments, and unrealistic expectations are standing between me and my best and most present life? 

This is a harder list to make, because it inevitably means saying no and changing my behaviors and potentially (likely) disappointing other people.  The people-pleaser in me wants to cry over that idea.  When it comes down to it though, we are going to disappoint people no matter what we do.  This is life.  So wouldn’t we rather make decisions that at the very least don’t disappoint ourselves? 

Setting boundaries and saying no is hard and feels yucky.  It took me lots of hard knocks that that “hard” feeling is way less painful than the feeling of disappointing myself by committing to something I know I should never have.  Overextending myself pushes that worn out can’t-keep-up button and sends me tail-spinning, and then I’m no good to anyone.  It’s a tricky subtle little pattern that still causes me heartache when I fall into it.  Interestingly, when I DO remember to interrupt that pattern of too much yes, it brings me peace and stillness.  In that moment, I’ve accomplished a little mini instant detox by simply avoiding the stress to begin with. 

You don’t have to make a giant announcement or anything.  It would be kind of jerky if you did, anyway.  Just know what brings you peace, and what doesn’t, and make decisions accordingly.  And just because you’re saying no in this particular season doesn’t mean it’s no forever.  You were given a mind so you could make it up and change it. 

Kind, honest, and firm ways to say no:

I wish I could. 

Count me in another time.

Please keep me in mind for the future. 

That sounds so fun, but I’m not able this time.

No, but thank you for thinking of me. 

Not this time, but thank you for asking. 

No apology needed

One of the greatest lessons I learned from my dad is that we do not owe anyone an explanation for saying no.  Some of us struggle with this concept and practice more than others. Just decline politely because no one believes our sputtery excuses anyway! 

Mental detox

This is the time of year it’s easy to find great book lists, podcast lists, music lists, etc. to change up your mental diet too.  Bill Gates put out a book list, Barack Obama tweeted an everything list that I’m dying to dig into since much of it’s new to me, NPR’s Book Concierge is great, and Oprah’s got an annual book club.  Often your favorite podcast personalities or mentors or authors will have recommendations within their work. My favorite trick is to just jot down titles that sound intriguing and research/order them on the spot because otherwise I will forget.  It doesn’t matter where you find material. Just find it.

Because we’re not too busy to digest good stuff.  Wake up 30 minutes earlier, carve out 30 minutes before your errand or lunch, or do whatever you have to do.  Read an actual book, or load it onto your tablet, or choose the audio version. Our minds are worth it. 

Read stuff that aligns with your beliefs, read stuff that challenges them, read things you like, and try something new.  I love personal development books but my brain needs new food from time to time.  Biographies are my absolute favorite and historical fiction or non-fiction is always fun.  Read something funny and light, because life doesn’t have to be so darn serious all the time!

Flag articles you run across online and then actually read them.  Research an idea or term you don’t know anything about or educate yourself on a concept/current event you don’t understand.  Find a few new podcasts that you can listen to in the car or while you’re accomplishing mindless tasks throughout your day.

As I fill my mind with better food, less junk, the by-product is that I find myself less distracted by noise: junky media clamoring for my attention, social media that from time to time makes us all feel less-than, hyped up political propaganda that screams the world’s falling apart.  Your mind is only as good as what you feed it.  So give it good food and it will start producing better thoughts.  The better you think, the better you live, and the better you live, the better everyone else around you will live too. 

To make this even more fun, set aside a nook in your home to enjoy reading or listening so it’s a place you want to go to.  A side table with room for a coaster, plant, light, and a little stack of books.  Maybe that’s a New Year’s project that could set you up for a mindful, growth-focused 365 days.  I love my little reading and prayer chair nook.  But it won’t surprise you, it got cluttery.  It’s on my list.  If there’s only one place that gains some order, that little sanctuary should be it.

We don’t need another thing.  We have so much.  And where we have too much, it’s time to minimize.  Create less to live more. 

We’ll breathe better for it.

HP,

J

What streamline and detox projects are on your list this week heading into the new year?  Drop a comment to share any tips you have – organization is an always-learning area for me!

Jessica Allen

About the author

Jessica is a writer, musician, entrepreneur, wife, and mom. Jessica's mission is to write "real" - shining light into the dark places of the tough stuff we all experience. She and her husband Jack live in Houston, Texas and have weathered the storms of grief, infant loss, adoption, and a marriage that almost fell apart. Jessica and Jack have four children: LJ in heaven, Grace, Jackson, and Elisha.

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  1. I’m working on cleaning out my closet (started earlier over break) and organizing the basement. A lot of things need to go, and the clutter is starting to make me twitch, too. I’m almost to the pony of throwing it all away.

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