Avoiding Exposure to Less Than Ideal Environments and Situations, and Creating Peaceful, Conducive Atmospheres

See?  Just go to Hawaii!, and for the most part you don't have to worry about any of it!

I kid.  Sort of. 

Making changes in these areas made a HUGE difference for me when I started to pull back from the life I'd built before I moved to Hawaii, and once I got there.  There are certain things that become "expected" of us in certain areas of our life, whether it is actually something we enjoy or not.

Among the most obvious:  the houses where we live, the places where we work, the type of job we do, the people we associate with, our hobbies, and the way we interact with our environment.

As far as living environments, it includes the actual geographical area (location), the type of neighborhood (urban, suburban, rural), the style of house (condo, apartment, huge mansion, tiny home, single family, etc.), the interior of the house (decorations, focal points, etc.), the actual atmosphere inside the house (energy level, comfort level, flow, etc.), and finally how fulfilling your home is for you.

The way we earn our living is similar:  where and how far from home, type of work, size of office, atmosphere, and fulfillment level.

The people we associate with also play a huge role in both our personal, daily environments as well as the situations we find ourselves faced with.  Partners, family members, friends, neighbors, coworkers, teachers and students, church or spiritual group members, acquaintances, and random interactions all make up a significant part of our lives.

Related to the people we associate with are the hobbies we take interest in.  These can be the basis of our daily lives, the frosting on top, or our ultimate goal as far as what we're aiming for in life.  The types of hobbies we choose (or that choose us, as the case often seems to be) can give us energy, hope, friendships, and set the stage to reach our life's path.

I added the way we interact with our environment because I believe that how in touch with nature we are is directly related to our health, happiness, and fulfillment.  I grew up near Chicago, and I definitely understand not being able to get my feet on the bare earth when the windchill is -70F (not an exaggeration).  But even on those freezing days, I can appreciate the beauty of frost and snow.  Preferably from inside a nice, toasty home ;)

For me, there are two major components to both avoiding potentially harmful environments or situations AND creating a peaceful, conducive atmosphere:

  • LEARNING what our actual likes and dislikes are, enough that we don't just "go with the flow" when presented with something we aren't sure of*, and
  • Giving ourselves PERMISSION to put our comfort and needs first and saying NO.*

*Both of these comes with a MAJOR CAVEAT, and that is that the majority of personal growth, in my experience, comes from living OUTSIDE THE COMFORT ZONE.  The way to tell where that sweet spot is?  For me, it's all about INTUITION, about being open enough to following where you're lead, and reading the signs along the way.  And, truthfully, practicing it.

Changing my Space

"Protecting my space" has become huge for me in recent years.  Once I finally got to Hawaii, I had inadvertently given my self the much needed physical and mental space that I needed to begin the path towards really figuring myself out.  I can remember having people ask me for my opinion on something as mundane as lunch and quite literally not having one.  I had no clue what I wanted or needed back then...and it's a hard way to live.

My physical environment changed drastically, from Chicago (in winter) to Hawaii.  For me personally, I always had horrible allergies...and I found that the ONLY thing I was allergic to in Hawaii was vog (volcano fog for the uninitiated).  Rather than sitting in traffic for two hours every day in Chicago, I was driving across the Pali twice a day, opposite of traffic (just go and see it for yourself...WAY different, actual stress relieving for me type of commute).

I've mentioned here that I lived in 8 places during my short time in Hawaii, moving on average once a month.  Obviously, housing is very expensive there, but I finally found my ideal, affordable place:  a small, 2 bedroom apartment with gated parking just over the highway from downtown Honolulu.  I could see the ocean.  There was no a/c, no internet, no apartment phone (and I did not have a smart phone).  The apartment itself was exceedingly neat and minimal.  The no clutter appearance and lack of technology/connectivity was perfect for me--very calming, simple, conducive to keeping the rest of my life in order. 

My job in Hawaii was part of the career I'd rather fallen into, not chosen.  Rather than focus on the fact that I wasn't doing what I wanted, I put my attention on the parts of the work that were exceedingly fulfilling.  I was also beginning to earn enough so that I could save up and eventually go back to school to do what I really wanted to do at the time (Anthropology).

I was able to redefine the parameters of many relationships and prior friendships, because there was such a huge physical distance as well emotional space between us.  That in turn helped me realize the kind of people that I actually wanted (and needed) in my life...and I was very blessed to find them at my job.  It helped me bond even more deeply with my family, who were so far away.  And, when the time came, I knew when a certain person came back into my life that he was who I wanted.

It seems so easy to sum it up here, but the entire process was a long, difficult, and at times heartbreaking path.  I struggled with depression, with not knowing HOW to change and how to MAKE changes.  My salvation during this time was spiritual.  I started reading books written by Eckhart Tolle and Elizabeth Gilbert.  I was a part of a Bible study group that I loved.  I learned how to do EFT, or Emotional Freedom Technique.  I did these often without knowing WHY I was doing them; I just continually sought these types of things, knowing that they were somehow helping me.

There was a period of time after the massiveness of 2009 (the move to, and from, Hawaii, my divorce from a tough situation, my reuniting and marriage to my husband, and getting pregnant by late 2009), that I fumbled.  After my son's birth in July of 2010, we moved from the East Coast of Canada to the West Coast.  We were flush with love, with each other, with our new and perfect baby, and frankly we had more money than either of us had ever had. 

We ended up renting a house that was way too big...which we then filled with new crap and crap from our families that we didn't want but didn't know how to not accept.  We spent money and our house filled with clutter.  And my health began to tank in earnest.  I was severely allergic to the mold in the house.  When we moved to California in 2012 we had increased our "stuff" from one single pallet to nearly 14k pounds...which is the max weight that the military will move. 

We knew clutter was an issue, but didn't have the time or energy to fix it.  The house we moved into in California was a solid 300 sq feet smaller.  Between our second son's birth in 2012, our move, and my failing health, and my husband's busy life, our "crap" got relegated to our garage.  And there it stayed.  We made various attempts at getting it under control, but weren't successful. 

This is where we realized the absolute truth behind the "Your stuff ends up owning you," and the "There are two ways to get rich:  either make more or need less," statements.  We also realized that while we were on the same page with clutter and finances, we had very different methods of getting there. 

Fast forward to 2014, and another move.  Our house here in FL is even smaller, albeit not by much.  We lost about 100 sq feet, and a half a garage BY CHOICE.   We could have afforded a bigger house; we chose not to.  We set our intention to get it right, with both the house and now the technology as well.  Unfortunately, my health continued to suffer until I ended up with a severe illness in March of 2015 that put me in the ICU for 6 days.  Although I didn't feel like I needed a wake up call, just the energy to make MORE changes, that period of my life has become very meaningful to me.  It was time to again make some major changes, but I didn't know HOW or WHAT to change.  Except the obvious. 

Within a few short months we'd purged 3 car loads of stuff.  A small dent, but a dent nonetheless, especially considering that the hubs was deployed for three months and I ended up undergoing a MAJOR surgery in June of 2015.  The decluttering petered out for the rest of 2015 as we switched focus.

We began renovations in the Fall of 2015, and then I got pregnant again.  I (we) made some pretty hefty realizations about the direction I (and we) want our family to go in as far as "stuff".  We're now looking at another deployment as well as a birth, and bam, we have the makings of the perfect storm of decluttering, minimalizing, all around absolute NESTING spree. 

And yeah, I'm gonna milk that for all it's worth.  Clutter in our house seems to clutter our relationship.  And even the kids get touchy when the house is a mess.

For all of my husband's fantastic points, he is simply way too busy to do much at home outside of the renovations, most of which he is doing himself.  Admittedly, our local-ish Gramps (my dad, who lives about 4 hours away) has been an incredible source of help and expertise for all things renovation related (he is, quite literally, a master builder).  Either way, the decluttering was going to fall to me...and I need reinforcements.

So, the combination of my nesting capacity (huge), our completed renovations, our decided direction (pretty much, just get rid of it...I am not a person who finds things "spark joy" in much of what I own--if you are, that's awesome--, but I'm still not getting rid of my kick ass blender), and couple that with my mom's upcoming visit (grandbaby!) as well as her capacity to both get things done (seriously, the woman can't stand still...me yelling, "stop wiping things!" is very common to hear when she's around) and light a fire under my ass...pretty much the rest of the clutter doesn't stand a chance.  Yes, this includes our already awesome yard and garden, and yes, I'll post pictures and updates!

Well that was a shit ton of jumbled ideas and info, yeah?  Moving forward.

Personal Environment Management:  Focus

Sounds so strict!  I mean simply the not physical environment we find ourselves living in.  Things like emotional contentment, the maintaining satisfactory states in our relationships and so on, which can be affected by various personal stressors:  health (including general and personal environmental toxins), finances, as well as ones we've already touched on like work and school.  

Happiness is relative, so the biggest thing is finding what makes YOU happy.  Some people know, some don't.  I didn't.  I had to dig deep, open up, research, and try tons of things until I began to figure it out.  And it changes, sometimes often.

Financial health is one of the main stressors in a marriage.  Hubs and I are, and have been, pretty much always in agreement on financial priorities.  Sure there are annoyances (another essential oil or book for me, yet ANOTHER set of earphones for him), but we set out our finances early in our marriage and kept up with it until we started the renovations in the house we own now.  Renovations apparently snowball.  But it's coming to a swift end with his deployment, and since we have another two and a half years left here, we can build our savings back up.

A trick for me as far as spending is disassociating from "things" in particular.  I've never cared much for fashion, but there are certain things I feel better while I wear them (not maternity clothes...).  I have bought a new shirt "because I needed it", only to realize I didn't like it in particular and could have easily made do with something I already had.  Then starts the guilt for having spent money.  So I stopped buying stuff unless I'd waited about a month and STILL wanted it.

And for another monster topic:  detoxing the environment we're in.  Some of this is bigger than a family of individuals, but a lot of it is within our reach.  Specifically, things like the type of paint we use in our house, our cleaning products, our personal use products (including actual detoxing supplements), and of course REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE, REPURPOSE, and RELEASE.  We vote with our dollars, and we research thoroughly before we buy.  No one is perfect, for certain, but a little bit of effort can go a long way. 

Quick Notes:  Give yourself permission to seek out your likes vs. dislikes, and to make decisions that will set you up in a positive environment.  You are allowed to say no.  Set your intention, and follow your intuition, give yourself every opportunity to be fulfilled while feeling good enough in your own skin to take those types of chances that can set your soul on fire.

Highlights, or where I put my focus when managing my environments:

  • Geographical location (well, within reason, since husband is military)
  • Type of neighborhood:  we prefer a decent yard and garden, so suburban or rural area
  • Style of house:  Single family house, right now we're in a 3 bed, 2 bath, but we'll have 3 kids soon so we may bump that up for our next move.  We stick with approximately 300 sq ft of living space per person, plus another 300 sq ft for our dogs/storage/office areas.
  • Home interior:  we love clean lines, minimal furniture and decor, yet comfortable and calm spaces.
  • Yard:  play space for kids and dogs, and a garden with both fruit and veggies AND flowers!!
  • Work:  I work from home doing something I love.  My husband's career affords us this opportunity, and frankly, we move too often for me to be able to have a typical career at a brick and mortar workplace.  I spent a lot of time designing what I wanted to do with my work to support what makes me happy as well as meets our needs as a family.
  • Hobbies:  We intertwine our love of the outdoors with our hobbies with gardening, hiking, walking, swimming, etc.
  • Family:  We make family time a priority within our nuclear family by limiting technology at home and planning time with each other.  We also set boundaries within our family as well as with extended family.
  • Friends:  We are discerning in the types of friends we choose to spend time with as well as who we expose our children to.  We also monitor our children's friendships.
  • Schools:  The school my boys attend was a carefully researched, chosen, and finally exceedingly "lucky" spot to get into.  Moments like that are  synchronicity in action to me, and that is what proves to me we made the right choice.  My upcoming certification course was very carefully chosen as well...and I went through several tough decisions that didn't feel quite right before this literally landed at my feet.
  • Finances:  Know what's better than having more crap?  Having the money back that you paid for it in the first place.
  • Environmental, home, and personal detox
  • Health:  In a general sense, pretty much everything we do is chosen to nourish our bodies, minds, and souls, as well as our environment.  The food we eat, the products we choose, all of it, we choose intentionally after heavy research. 

*And a side note:  Don't be afraid to seek out help.  If you can lean on help, do so.  Life is big and messy, and everyone is struggling with something.  Offer your help in return; everyone is an expert in something!

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