Sticks in a bundle are unbreakable. ~Kenyan Proverb
It was on the 11th day of shelter-in-place that the dishes in the sink, crumbs on the counter, and a smear of Nutella on the refrigerator door finally got to me. I pulled out a piece of paper and hastily scrawled:
“Colleagues/Students, Your mother does not work here. Please clean up after yourself. Thank you, Karen L, CEO, Casa de Canyon.”
I pulled the role of blue painter’s tape out of the drawer and used it to attach the note to the refrigerator. I put the roll of tape back where it belonged and the Sharpie back in the drawer that held the pens and pencils and pushed lightly, the drawer sliding back on the silent gliders, closed softly.
Every morning, my older son made himself a cup of coffee; when he finished, he would leave it on the counter. My younger son enjoyed making his breakfast; sometimes, it was eggs over-easy, other days, it was Nutella spread on an Eggo waffle. He would leave his dishes and utensils on the counter.
I appreciated the fact the kids were taking care of themselves in the morning, but I was tired of asking them to put their dishes away and tired of loading dishes into the dishwasher and sweeping crumbs off the counter.
“Really?” my husband asked when he saw the sign.
“Really,” I replied.
After a few days, the boys were getting used to putting their dishes in the dishwasher and tidying up the kitchen. Each time they “forgot,” I called them back into the kitchen, point to the offending item, and then to the sign. Within two weeks, cleaning up was nearly automatic for them.
During shelter-in-place, my need to be more positive and productive is more important; it gives me a feeling of control when things seem to be out of control – like not knowing when shelter-in-place will be over. My need for a community is even greater.
On April 4th, as I sat with my journal, the words: “community, accomplishment, and grounding” spilled out onto the page. I wasn’t sure why I had written them, but looking at them, I knew it was a message.
Community. Accomplishment. Grounding. Community. Accomplishment. Grounding.
My next thought was, “Helping others.”
Community. Accomplishment. Grounding. Helping others. Community. Accomplishment. Grounding. Helping others.
I got up and went to the kitchen to make another cup of coffee. The note I had put up on the refrigerator caught my eye. That’s when I knew what I had to do.
I rushed back to my office, pulled open my laptop, opened Facebook, and created a post:
“Friends – Many of you know I have been pursuing minimalism for several years and have written about getting rid of things like my kids’ artwork and my wedding gown while keeping things that I appreciate and use.
Since we are under Shelter-in-Place until May, I thought I’d set up a 30-day declutter challenge group to help those who want to downsize, minimize, and declutter their homes. Each day there will be a quick 5 to 15- minute decluttering project – super fast, easy, and manageable – and it is one of the methods I used when I started cleaning out.
I will start the group on Monday, 4/6, so comment if you’d like to join and tag others you think may be interested.”
I clicked “Post” and then went back to the kitchen to retrieve my coffee.
I had no idea who would be interested, and I figured a few of my friends would join. By the time I returned to my desk, there were several notifications:
“Sounds good – I’m in.”
“Sounds great! I’m in”
“Count me in!”
“Yes, please, help me, oh wise one️!”
The notifications continued to come in, as friends asked to join.
Suddenly, I felt energized, hopeful: I was back in my community.
I confessed to the group that the 30-day challenge is the first one I’ve done in a Facebook group. I was honest, explaining I was having fun building the plane as it flies.
My neighbor asked me, “Why? Why are you doing this, Karen?” and while I set it up to stay connected, to motivate, and to inspire others, they are also inspiring me:
“I am finding things to cook in the fridge and the freezer.”
“When I declutter, I feel better; it creates a sense of calm and reduces stress.”
We are more than 50 members and seven days into the challenge, each day when I write my morning challenge to the group; during the day, read their progress and see their pictures; and finally, when I post a recap of the day and share some ideas, I am smiling. I am no longer feeling disconnected or alone.
“Mom, can we take this sign down now?” my younger son asks, pointing to the refrigerator.
“No, not yet,” I reply, looking at the note.
“Why not? We’re cleaning up. I don’t need a reminder,” he said.
“I know, but I like the reminder,” I said. My son gave me a puzzled look and left the kitchen.
The note was never for them; it was there to help me find my way home.