by Rachel DeMille

Beginning Again

inigoA favorite movie has a scene where one of the characters has lost his way, and, following the counsel of a trusted advisor, he goes “back to the beginning.” It is there, he knows, that he will find his guide again and get new direction for what is to come next.

I love January! Energy is so high all around me, in almost everyone, to recommit to good goals, to abandon habits and ideals that no longer serve us, and to follow a path of higher achievement. We go, each in our individual way, and together in spirit, “back to the beginning.”

Some time ago I blogged about a personal retreat that I did to help me reorient myself as I went back to the beginning for clarity, motivation and direction.

Because a couple of you asked, I’ll share some brief notes on:

How I conducted my Personal Retreat….

I got the notion a couple of days ago that it was time for a Retreat.

As you might know, in our book, The Phases of Learning, we describe 55 Ingredients for a home that fosters optimal development, self-education, family unity, preparation for a productive life, and happiness.

Some of the most important of those are:

  • The Six-month “No”
  • The Six-month “Purge”
  • The Six-month “Inventory”

The “No” consists of considering all your time commitments, both inside and outside of the home, and prioritizing them–including kicking a bunch of them off your to-do list.

You just say “No” to them.

It often helps to have a sounding board (a spouse or friend, who’s not so emotionally involved in the projects you consider you have no choice but to do), because they can help you reconsider the ones you’re holding on to that you shouldn’t.

The “Purge” is just like the “No,” except that in place of prioritizing your time, you’re prioritizing your space, so to speak.

You go through your home and/or office and simply get rid of the things that don’t have an adequate ROI (return on investment), meaning they aren’t worth the time and effort of keeping them in good repair, constantly putting them in their place, or constantly trying to find a place for them–or they simply don’t serve a significant purpose in helping you achieve your values and goals.

In lay-man’s terms: Haul a couple of boxes to the dump and a whole bunch more to donate to charity.

Anything’s fair game–clothes, toys, books, pots and pans, videos, computers, cars…you get the picture.

The “Inventory” is the time you take to consider your stewardships, or the “hats” you wear.

This one is hopefully a little bit streamlined with the “No,” as you have let go of a few that you thought you couldn’t, but found the power to do.

This process is described in detail in the book linked above.

I found that by putting my relationships in a sequential order it helped me to get clarity on how to proceed:

  1. God
  2. Me
  3. Wife
  4. Mother
  5. Friend
  6. Teacher
  7. Homemaker
  8. Business Owner

Once I had this list I then listed out the activities that I felt were meaningful for each relationship, and then I considered how an ideal week might look that had these activities accounted for.

It was a sort of backwards way to do a “No,” and I found that my difficulty right now in my life was not that I had commitments or activities that didn’t belong on my list, but that I wasn’t approaching my roles in priority order.

I needed to tame some “urgent” things and subordinate them to “important” things.

That right there brought me such peace and optimism for my coming days.

After the “No” I proceeded to the Inventory.

I listed each member of my family that I mentor and then let the thoughts flow on what I needed to do to be more inspirational, to meet their needs as a mother and educator, and how to get out of their way so they could be effective self-educators.

For some it was a list of three simple things; others was a more elaborate process that sort of helped me define my role, my optimal interactions with each, and what boundaries I needed to keep within in order to facilitate their success.

tennis-ball-rebound-1aNote: This is not a “To-Do” list for the child, but for me. Sometimes (usually) less is more, and knowing what the “sweet spot” is for each child is a great feeling.

Now I have a plan (involving large trash sacks and leftover boxes from Christmas) to purge three remaining spots in my home that tend to be my time-wasters and order-spoilers.

In one case, I’m going to gather up all the extra in a particular child’s room.

Then I will them go to the closet, shelves and drawers to take out anything that’s not perfect for them.

Then they will be able to go through the stuff I stole off the floor and retrieve the things that both suit them perfectly and have a place in their room. Everything else is now somebody else’s (read: dump or thrift store).

One thing we’ve learned is that if it’s junk, empty space is better.

If they’re too short, holey or stained, not having any extra jeans is better.

Because before you know it the Universe takes note of that vacancy, and the sense of abundance that created it (meaning you’re not fearful or “scarcity-minded,” causing you to hoard things that are not good for you–and you believe that you’ll be fine without them), and in no time at all, good things replace the junky ones.

I love the peace, the breathing-space, the head space that comes from all this purging. And it leaves me with “the right kind of vacuum,” meaning that I have more time and space for creativity, quality time, attracting new opportunities, etc.

I hope this helps, and I encourage you to share your own ideas for a successful Personal Retreat in the comments!

xoxo rd

Click here to see Oliver’s take on the same process >>