The Voice Within
A blog by Mary McDowall
Netflix provided me with a really boost creativity.
Now that’s a statement you probably don’t hear all that often. I know that I like to escape into a Netflix binge of drama or comedy. It can feel like a brief reprieve from the demands of life. More often than not it can become an energy drain and a means of procrastination.
Lately, I have been watching shows that inspire me creatively. My favourite is a BBC show called Money for Nothing. Three items are saved from the “tip” and recycled, up-cycled or re-purposed and sold for a profit. The creative brilliance of some of these transformations is amazing.
So much so that I felt inspired to challenge myself to a little upcycling.
I had a problem in mind – a better containment system for my cats’ kitty litter box. The commercial solutions were over $100 and not necessarily made with the best materials or craftmanship.
I planned a little idea scouting excursion to a local second-hand furniture store. My version of a kaizen small reward, and found this.
A red cedar blanket chest with hand carved details.
To be honest it wasn't what I was looking for - but it was the only item that came close. So I bought it and took it home.
Now I did have some doubters or at least one. It can be hard to have your creative spark dampened and so I held my idea lightly and shared my vision with only a few.
I took my time and throughly enjoyed the the transformation process. Painting the inside first, then the outside.
Adding a flash of colour.
Holes were drilled in the back and the inside customized.
Now my cats have a high class lavatory and I have a better functioning and looking feline necessity.
That was fun! Thanks @Netflix.
I wonder what will inspire me next.
The concept of clutter has been on my mind a lot recently. In part (in full disclosure) because I am co-facilitating a Creative Clutter Clearing: KMI Master Mind™ on this topic. However, clutter is also very topical in the media these days and clutter clearing is proliferating as an industry with books, TV shows, YouTube channels, courses and even coaches aiming to assist.
We live in a climate of excess. According to a study in a slate.com article written by Tom Vanderbilt, “One in 11 American households … owns self-storage space—an increase of some 75 percent from 1995.” And that was written in 2005! A 2017 9.4% SSA Self Storage Demand Study found that 9.4% of Americans rent a storage space. And I bet that stuff doesn’t bring happiness or a sense of accomplishment. Probably quite the opposite – as now it needs to be insured, cleaned, kept safe, and now stored.
As I look around at the stuff I have accumulated over the years – and if I’m honest, still accumulating - I dream of a simpler life. I watch Tiny House and minimalist videos. While these inspire me, they seldom sustain any significant momentum towards clearing my own excess of stuff.
And my clutter, isn’t just visible. It has spilled over into digital clutter. My iPad, cell phone and computer now need additional digital storage space. My email inboxes and e-folders are in constant need of purging. And then, there is my schedule and the thoughts I carry around in my head of things to do or that I could do.
My clutter left me drowning in piles of paper, puddles of despair, feeling immobilized and overwhelmed.
I started getting together with other people who are dealing with their own clutter issues. We gather online, learn tips, tools and techniques that can be explored and experimented with. We listen to each other, ask questions and draw out solutions that are personal and practical. We hold space for each other to set intentions and take action as we keep each other gently accountable. We also share giggles that keep the process upbeat and fun. We also take time to celebrate the Aha moments and small accomplishments.
But best of all, is the sustainable momentum that acts, as one participant describes, as “a gently propellant”, making it easier to keep going. After all, my clutter didn’t materialize in a day – and it is going to take more than a day to minimize it.
If clutter is something that you struggle with – consider joining our merry band of creative clutter clearers. Click here to get dates and details.
This is based a blog I wrote last year but never posted. In 2017 I committed to emptying a drawer or a shelf each month. The results - read on to find out.
My most empowering achievement in 2016 was … drum roll please … an empty drawer.
Yup, you read that right.
In the fall of 2016 I co-facilitated Creative Clutter Clearing: a KMI Master Mind™ with fellow facilitator Donna Mills. A KMI Master Mind™ is process focused, and so I wanted to document my process of the tool, The 1/3 Rule, to share with the members during our Tips, Tools and Techniques segment.
The aim of The 1/3 Rule is simply to reduce the contents of a space, a closet or a drawer by 1/3. The space I choose was my bedside dresser which has 3 drawers. I emptied everything out, threw away a bunch of stuff, sorted and found a different home for some items and then returned the remaining items to the dresser.
Then, I decided to reorganize the space a little further. I decided to leave one drawer completely empty. I can’t remember exactly why, perhaps it was just a way to illustrate The 1/3 Rule. Either way that empty drawer became a huge source of empowerment.
It was like a delightful little secret – a source of calm, control, an inspiration, a reminder that I can conquer my clutter. Occasionally, when the world felt like it was closing in I would just open the drawer to marvel at its expansiveness.
Life happens … one day in 2017 I opened the drawer and stuff had found its way back in. Ugh
That’s when I decided to start The Empty Drawer Project. I decided that each month I would empty one drawer or one shelf in one room of our house. A month gives me amble time to choose my target, plan and implement. As of January 2018 I have 7 empty spaces plus I have eliminated an entire display cabinet and a set of shelves. A few other spaces have been significantly reduced in stored items.
What’s my bigger why? This challenge helps me to move towards my dream of building and living in a much smaller house. To be able to live a more simplified life that has less stuff to look after and be responsible for and more time for doing what I want. Less frustration at not being able to find things and less time to spent on cleaning and more on living.
Are you downsizing? Adapting to an empty nest? Perhaps you just want to feel a greater control over your surroundings. Whatever ever your reason you aren’t alone in your struggle clutter. And you don’t need to deal with it on your own. I invite you to check out latest online series of Creative Clutter Clearing: a KMI Master Mind. Join us for one, some or all in these independent sessions.
Happy New Year, dear reader.
Do you set New Year resolutions?
Do you choose a word of the year or start a new venture in the first week?
I do choose a word/phrase of the year – or rather I let it choose me. For 2018 it is Open Delight. I have yet to unpack the deeper meaning behind this choice, but then I have a whole year ahead to see what reveals itself.
And yup – I’m a new venture kinda girl. This year I am taking my Ayurveda and Yoga Coaching certification with Carrie Hensley, and offering one of my own along with Kathy Kane – Your Creative Edge 2018 for women entrepreneurs.
With regard to New Year resolutions, I’ve tried to release the need to set them – but I still think about them. It’s hard not to. This year I came up with a combination of resolution/intention and ideal day all wrapped up in one. I call it My Elegant Eight for 2018.
These are eight things I would like to strive to meet each day.
How do you greet the New Year so full of possibilities? Comment below - I'd love to hear your process.
Wishing you a wonderful New Year.
How boring life would be if everything were predictable.
In 2014, Pema Chodron gave the commencement address at her granddaughter’s graduation, which was then turned into a beautiful book called Fail Fail Again Fail Better: wise advice for leaning into the unknown. It is based on this quote from Samuel Beckett.
“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”
As a former A++ personality with extremely high (likely unrealistic) expectations and perfectionistic tendencies, I grew up, like many, thinking failure was bad; something to be avoided at all costs. Ever hear the phrase “failure is not an option”? Hmmm in real life, failure is not only an option, it’s a reality and it‘s a good thing if we know what to do with it.
Failing means you tried. Failing means you were courageous and brave enough to risk failure while striving to succeed.
It’s what you do with the failed attempt that matters.
Recently, a launch my business partner and I had planned meticulously failed to attract any customers. My initial response was, “What did we do wrong?” But that only lasted a minute or so and I soon turned the question around and asked myself, “What did we do right?”
Acknowledging what we did right was not just a feel-good exercise. It brought awareness to the things that we can do more of the next time.
Ahhh - the next time. Disappointment, discouragement and that yucky feeling of rejection can feel daunting. It’s what stops a great idea from seeing the light. It’s what results in shelved plans and projects. Lost and unrealized dreams.
Pema Chodron points out that James Joyce replaced failure with mistake. And she re-phrased his words like this:
“… mistakes are the portal to creativity, to learning something new, to having a fresh look on things.”
Creativity is something I understand and can lean into.
Failure is also a time to look at the mistakes, not with shame but curiosity. What’s worked before? What else might work? What was in our control and what was just circumstances beyond our control?
Failure can be a huge energy drain or it can be a learning opportunity. And it’s always our choice. So, I think I’ll don my audacity suit and try again, even if that means making more mistakes.
Of the four foundational blocks of Kaizen (small thoughts, small questions, small steps and small rewards), I think small questions are my favourite. They are instant energy shifters. When I’m feeling stuck or find myself resisting something, a small question can quickly shift me into curiosity mode. I like to ask, what can make this task easier or more enjoyable? Or I will ask myself, what’s worked in the past? And what else could work?
Three things I love about small questions:
1. A small question is a great place to start.
Kaizen is a philosophy and a positive, engaging way of being that creates consecutive success moments - leading to sustainable momentum towards your goals. Any goal or journey starts with a first step, no matter how large or small. What I love about small questions is that they can be a first step. Asking a small question engages my imagination and my brain as it seeks to find answers. This activity sparks energy and excitement to start my project or endeavor.
2. A small question doesn’t need to be answered right away and will produce multiple answers.
Small questions are like brain candy! Ask a question and then let it go. The brain will begin to ponder and percolate away in the background as you go about your day. It will search for an answer and then another and another. Often the first solution isn’t necessarily the best. It might be the most common or the most comfortable, but it’s not always the best. Asking a small question over time will produce multiple responses and shift me into what Benjamin Zander (The Art of Possibility) calls possibility thinking.
3. A small question is always asked in the positive.
Small questions act like mini-mental pep talks because they are always asked in the positive. Wording the question in positive language results in positive solutions. And positive solutions are less likely to raise feelings of pressure and overwhelm. What is one thing I can do, right now, that will move me closer to being finished? What is something that’s worked in the past? How can I make this easier and more enjoyable? These questions give me a little surge of hope and build momentum.
Small questions are a powerful tool. And asking small questions is both an art and a skill that can be improved upon with practice. Small questions are a key part of KMI Master Minds™ and the KMI Master Mind™ Facilitator Certification training.
Comment below and share your experience with small questions. What are your favourite small questions? What do you love about them?
I started blogging for a couple of reasons. First, it was the consensus that if you have an online business you need to blog. Even if no one reads your posts somehow through the magic of metadata you will be promoting your business. Since I haven’t blogged in almost 8 months, I guess that wasn’t motivation enough.
However, the topic of blogging came up again today in a group discussion. This time it was combined with the topic of how to share your passions in your authentic voice. This can be an especially hard thing to do for an INFJ that truly values her privacy. This brings me to the second reason, and full circle back to my initial post in which I wrote: “… to release my voice within to join others around the world who are sharing their inner voices.”
A blog, even one that no one reads, can be a place to share my thoughts and ideas, my passions and pondering in my authentic voice. I am releasing the need for it to be profound, polished and even professional. I am ok with letting this blog be a place for my personal expression of things that are important to me and, hopefully, hold value for others.
What will I blog about? I’m passionate about ideas and creative thinking. About the tools that help to shift thought patterns and find new ways to look at familiar things. Some of the ways I find new possibilities are through master minds and immersing myself in the creative process. And I use my training in Kaizen and Kaizen-Creative NLP to coach myself and others.
As I write this I realize that these are areas where my personal and professional passions merge. I have just discovered the power of this intersection in sharing my authentic voice. It’s the perfect place to park my soapbox.
What makes it easier for you to share your passions and pursuits, personal or professional, in your authentic voice?
My father, WJ McDowall, was an amazing teacher. He was a high school teacher by profession, but he was also someone who knew how to teach. He taught his students how to learn, not what to learn. I know this because I was lucky enough to have him as a teacher in my last two years of high school.
At the beginning of each year he shared his ideas on marks and marking. He told our class that he
I'm literally seeing with new eyes thanks to my new eye glasses. About a month ago I was really struggling with my eyesight. Prone to worrying, I thought I might be getting age related cataracts. An eye exam revealed that my eyes are in great health but that somehow I had missed an eye exam and my prescription was four years old. New lens were required and why not get new purple frames too.
Seeing with new eyes though is an old concept. Sometimes referred to as beginners' eyes, it is the ability that we all have to look at something familiar as if for the first time. To see it with wonder and curiosity, delight and discernment. This is a great skill to practice. Not only can it be fun and add freshness to your day, it helps to crank up your awareness level. When you are dialled into awareness ... that's when the magic begins.
Several weeks ago, I took a look at the topic of awareness in the context of some serious social issues—sexism and racism.
This led me to thinking about awareness in my everyday life.
About 15 years ago, my husband and I were thinking of moving. We spent a lot of Saturdays and Sundays visiting realtors’ open houses. (This was before the days of expansive virtual tours; what we knew in advance consisted of square footage, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, and a photo or two in a newspaper ad.)
These homes were ‘staged’ to show off each house to its best advantage. Surfaces were clean and clear, walls were freshly painted, faucets and fittings were brightly polished, and accessories and paintings were artfully scattered about. We’d grab an information sheet, stroll through the rooms, and try to imagine ourselves living in that space.
After these open house visits, it was always a faint surprise to come home. We would look at our own surfaces, walls, faucets, fittings, and accessories. And our own kitchen, floors, and artwork.
It was a time of both appreciation and mild horror. In all of our open house visits, I never found a kitchen, coved ceilings, or hardwood floors—indeed, a house in general—that I liked better than my own. However, I also saw, with newly critical eyes, the shortcomings in our home—chipped paint, smudges on the cabinets, and cluttered drawers and countertops. After looking with dispassionate eyes at all of those houses for sale, I wondered what someone walking through my house would think.
It can be a challenge for me to back up and look at my own home with objectivity, especially when it comes to my possessions. To address that issue, this spring, my business colleague, Mary McDowall, and I created and facilitated a clutter clearing mastermind. It’s based on the unique KMI model, which combines personalized attention with the Kaizen philosophy of small steps to big changes.
That mastermind experience has gradually shifted the way I deal with my stuff. The tools, resources, and group interaction the mastermind provided gave me the push I needed. It was a gentle nudge towards creating an environment that suits me. And as a co-facilitator, my issues weren’t even directly addressed! Such is the power (and collective benefit) of this process.
If clutter is an issue for you, I invite you to explore our KMI Mastermind, Creative Clutter Clearing: 10 C’s to Move You from Chaos to Calm.
Donna is a, IIHA-Certified Hand Analyst, Certified FranklinCovey, ARTbundance and Kaizen-Muse Creativity Coach, KMI Master Mind Facilitator and Creative Clutter Clearer. You can learn more about Donna on her website www.printsonpurpose.com.
I share how I see the world through everyday topics that connect me to my creativity - my challenge with clutter, master minds, ideas, strategies and process - mostly though the lens of my kaizen training.