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The unbearable lightness of decluttering

The unbearable lightness of decluttering

Jun 19, 2015

By NATHALIE HARDY | Yamhill Valley News-Register

Behind the Picket Fence


Whenever I embark on a decluttering odyssey on the home front, people are all like: “You’ll feel great! Free! Lighter! Relieved!” 

Lies. All lies. 

What I actually feel is overwhelmed, sad, stressed, guilty. And wishing I had my bed back, but more on that in a minute.

On the other hand, I’m determined to push on this time, for once. I’m not alone in that, either.

A glance at any magazine display proves many are searching for The Answer to getting things organized once and for all. Also, apparently, for tips on how to lose 10 pounds fast, right after you bake the delicious cake featured beside the model who doesn’t look as if she’s had a bite of cake since toddlerhood. But I digress.

If such projects were simple, everyone would promptly set out to accomplish them. In that event, there would be no billion-dollar industry based on our collective desire to neatly contain our chaos. 

I’m still toward the starting line of my mission: Organizing Everything 2.0. But I’ve picked up some things that might be helpful to those considering such a task. Adopting these concepts makes me feel both inspired and confident that this is the year.

I’ve said it so many times, I’m not even mentioning it to my family members anymore.

So far, the only thing they’ve noticed is that when they don’t put their own stuff away, it seems to disappear. Soon, I trust they’ll connect the dots. They’ll realize that when I say, “Feel free to pick up the stuff you want to keep,” I mean it.

As for your own stuff, if you’re going to the trouble of sorting through a collection of decades and hauling much of it away, it’s worth asking yourself: What’s the point? What’s the goal? To feel great? Lighter? Free? Relieved?

Once you’ve done that, and you’ve found a worthy answer, step two is to commit to making decisions quickly.

My friend is a professional organizer. One of the many things she taught me is to realize the biggest hurdle is simply an inability, or unwillingness, to make decisions. 

As a result, I’ve been living buried in an avalanche of good intentions, unrealistic expectations and unfulfilled wishes. 

My closet is literally stuffed with clothing. And yet, frequently, I lament I have nothing to wear.

By that, I mean nothing fits. Or a button is missing. Or some other action needs to be taken, but hasn’t been taken in approximately five years. 

The first decision I made is to make my spaces reflect my current, actual reality. So, in this life, at this moment, my reality is that I have two small kids and I got a C in home economics.

That means, it’s time to free myself from the pile of things needing mending, because that’s not happening.

Goodbye, good intentions. Hello, space. And freedom!

Then, there’s the fact that I seem to have a lot of three-dimensional memorabilia. For example, I’m hanging onto some clothes because I want to be the person I was when I wore them last.

The truth is, that girl is gone. Today’s me doesn’t dress like that.

So, goodbye, overalls. I don’t care how much fun I had wearing you. I don’t even care if you’re coming back into fashion. For me, you either belong on the farm or in the early ’90s.

Asking myself “What is my attachment to this?” has been helpful in this process.

One of my first tasks was weeding the boys’ closets. They tend to wear whatever’s on top in the drawer. So why are those drawers overflowing with stuff, much of which is several sizes too small?

There are two reasons, really: First, managing children’s clothing is the bane of my existence. Second, quite honestly, I don’t want to confront the reality that they have long since outgrown their footie pajamas.

It helps to keep in mind that sometimes things look way, way worse than actually turns out to be the case.

I thought I would motivate myself by piling everything on my bed, reasoning that I would have to move it before going to sleep. But I got distracted with a lot of other things, like work and meals, and discovered the couch is a cozy size for me.

Still, a mess in motion — one headed toward resolution, at least in my mind — is much more tolerable than a mess at hopeless rest.

As I tackle this challenge, I have designated an “action area,” with boxes for the obvious: recycling, rummage sale, return and the refuse heap. You can call it the garbage pile, but I’m attracted to alliteration.

I also have boxes for things requiring an action, like being fixed. But as that pile grows, it becomes ever clearer I’m not going to take any action on it in this lifetime. That makes it easier to put a picture frame I bought but never used into one of the other piles. 

Pro tip: If you have kids at home, keep this area off limits to them. I have to smuggle broken toys out of the boys’ rooms, as if I were trying to get black-tar heroin across the border. Nothing sparks a child’s interest in a long-forgotten toy like seeing it in the “donate” pile. 

OK, so maybe people who’ve successfully completed a decluttering mission aren’t lying about how awesome they feel afterward. It’s just that it takes going through some harder stuff to get there. 

The more I learn to let stuff go — including regrets about wasting money or failing to ever follow through on good intentions, in addition to actual belongings — the more I begin feeling lighter. Relieved even.

To see the original article go here:

Summer Roots to RoofsRoots clip June


Nathalie Hardy recently published her first book, “Raising the Hardy Boys: They Said There Would Be Bon-Bons,” which is available at local bookstores and online. To contact her, visit

Nathalie Hardy recently published her first book, “Raising the Hardy Boys: They Said There Would Be Bon-Bons” available at local bookstores and online. Hardy writes in the margins of her life with two little boys and a husband who understands deadlines come before dusting. To contact her, visit Hardy writes in the margins of her life with two little boys and a husband who understands deadlines come before dusting.

Let’s talk about feelings. Really.



In this week’s What’s Working edition (for archives click here) I’m focusing on a few things I do to help foster conversations about feelings with my boys.

Talking about feelings: everybody’s favorite thing! Wait. No.

My research shows people think about them way more than we talk about them. And we also want our kids to talk about them even though, ahem, we do not.

So … be warned these activities require your participation, patience and leadership. This isn’t just for parents, either. This is for people who want to foster good conversations and trust with children to pave the way for long-term engagement.

Here are a few things that work for me:

Take a Bite:

So easy it’s shocking. It’s fun to start with something they don’t like so they KNOW they have a choice NOT to take a bite.

Kids + choices* = good thing.

*Offer only choices you can live with, i.e. do you really care if she takes a big or small bite? Do you really care if it takes twenty minutes instead of ten to eat dinner? Do you really care if he eats his peas before his potatoes?

Here’s how to play:

Look around the table and in an enthusiastic voice (kids are good lie detectors so this can’t be through gritted teeth) ask “Who wants to play ‘take a bite?’” Then as they look at you just start the game.

“It’s like this … take a bite if you like spiders.” (Make sure you play too, so if you don’t like spiders, don’t take one.)

“Okay … take a bite if you like ice cream.”

Take a bite if you like swimming.

Take a bite if you like Hello Kitty.

Take a bite if you like Minecraft.

Super easy. Watch them get through a bowl of dinner while giggling at each other.

 This works because you're spending precious time talking about little things that matter to them. You are showing them you pay attention, that you care and that you also can still be surprised by them. And they by you. 


Working from oldest to youngest, work your way around the table to share a highlight and a low point from the day. It’s important to make it just one that comes to mind or stands out at the moment because trying to think of The Best Part or The Worst Part of a day can paralyze the conversation as children (and adults!) try to come up with The Right Answer.

Really, it’s just a conversation starter but if you haven’t played this before you might be surprised at the little, interesting things that come up. To tell you the truth, I learn even more about my husband’s day-to-day life during these rounds of highlight/lowlight than I do the boys’.

The key to this game working is to be willing to be open and honest yourself. Note: this would not be a good time to mention passive aggressive digs. For example, my true lowlight was an exchange with my spouse but the point of this exercise is to build and strengthen relationships and not create awkward silence.

So if I were playing right this minute my turn would go like this:

“My highlights so far today are getting an extra morning snuggle with Jake and that Sam made his breakfast and did his dishes. My lowlight so far is feeling nervous about a doctor’s appointment.”

Sometimes there is follow up and questions but usually we just keep going around the table – kind of like if you’ve ever been to a 12-step meeting one of the coolest, weirdest parts is that there is an open sharing time with no cross-talk.  That means no one one-ups you, no one minimizes you, no one tries to talk you out of how you feel, no one advises you:  they just listen. They just hear you. It’s a beautiful gift.

 Talking Time:

This is a part of our bedtime routine. We snuggle the boys and and with the lights out we have talking time. Sometimes they pick a theme, like an upcoming trip or holiday, sometimes it’s about random parts of the day. Sometimes it’s big stuff: how old will I be when I die? (Luckily that was one time Matt was doing it and he answered perfectly: at the very end of your life.)

Something about the dark and safety of a snuggle is disarming. Something about knowing they have this time with you to count on paves the way to good conversations.

Last night was a tough one because Sam wanted to debrief on something he observed that falls into the category of “adult things.” I let him tell me what he thought, how he felt about it and validated his feelings. It is okay to love someone and be sad about something they do or say. It is okay to be mad, it is okay to be confused. And someday we will talk more about the details, I promise. Your dad and I love you and your brother more than anyone in the world, no matter what. And then I stopped talking. Super important part right there to make room for whatever they have to say. Or just to ponder in silence.

After a few minutes he said, “Mama? Promise to tell me the truth? I promise not to be hurt or mad.”

Gah! Not. Ready. Glad it’s dark. Just buy time until we figure things out…. “Yes. I promise.”

“Is Santa real?”

Oh. That was even harder than the one I was bracing for. That’ll have to be it’s own post entirely. I told him the truth. No spoilers here though just in case. And by the truth I mean I answered specific questions and concluded with “You can believe for as long as you want.”

“Okay, thank you.”

But usually things aren’t quite as deep. But the point of spending time in the shallow end is so we can handle the deep. You got this.

As far as how long to do this … it’s good to set a fairly consistent window of time so they know how much time they have. I usually start wrapping up with a back scratch or some tapping so they can relax into sleeping through the whole night. (I can dream, right?)

If you find this post helpful, I’d love for you to share it with your people. This is a topic I’m passionate about and I’d love to hear your experiences if you already do these, or after you try a few!

And … a feeling-free tip:

Summer Fun Hack:

Pour leftover juice/shakes/water with berries into these cute popsicle molds. Freeze.

Send them outside to eat them.

Everyone who brings the container back can have one tomorrow.

(I found that lids attached are clutch.) *



Nathalie Hardy recently published her first book, “Raising the Hardy Boys: They Said There Would Be Bon-Bons” available at local bookstores and online. Hardy writes in the margins of her life with two little boys and a husband who understands deadlines come before dusting. To contact her, visit Hardy writes in the margins of her life with two little boys and a husband who understands deadlines come before dusting.

*Affiliate disclaimer: I tend to keep Nathalie’s Notes ad-free, you’re welcome! Though I sometimes promote products I whole-heartedly endorse. If I am ever paid to say so, I will disclose that. Not just ‘cause it’s the law. I get a few pennies when people shop on Amazon through my links/store. Thanks for your support!

(If you’re buying books please consider ordering through your local, independent bookstore! A few of my favorites: Chapters in Newberg, Third Street Books in McMinnville, Cloud and Leaf in Manzanita, Book & Game in Walla Walla and Powell’s in Portland.) 

The designer for the cute details in the photo above is Meghan Mullens. Check out her work here:

People before politics, goals and other dreams



I. Love. Goals. 

And accomplishing them. 

And I want to celebrate you doing that too! 

Leonie Dawson on goals_edited-1

Here's a little show and tell video kicking off my intention to share more with you about that process. I've been asked by many of you to share more of the process stuff behind my work ... so here it is in all it's random glory, ha! 

I've been loving working with Leonie Dawson's workbook* even though some of it is completely NOT my style. My friend Magda of Ask Moxie fame turned me onto Leonie's awesomeness and I'm so thankful.

I bought it at the very end of December with the best of intentions. And then it sat blank in one of my piles - you know how that goes, right? And then I felt this stirring to take a closer look. I'm so glad I did!

A loud part of me was all: It's JUNE. The year is half over. Why start now?

And then this whisper reminded me: It's just June. There are SIX months left. 

What am I waiting for?

What are you? 

xo friends,

- Nathalie  


Nathalie Hardy recently published her first book, “Raising the Hardy Boys: They Said There Would Be Bon-Bons” available at local bookstores and online. Hardy writes in the margins of her life with two little boys and a husband who understands deadlines come before dusting. To contact her, visit Hardy writes in the margins of her life with two little boys and a husband who understands deadlines come before dusting.

*Affiliate link ... I write like it's my hobby but I love paying my bills on time, too. I only support products I myself adore. 

Back against the wall



Back against the wall

June 2, 2015
By NATHALIE HARDY | Yamhill Valley News-Register


It took 20 minutes to walk my 5-year-old two blocks to pre-school. It took twice as long to get him up, fed, dressed and out the door.

He didn’t want to wear the school’s field trip shirt. And he wanted to eat his snack right then, on the walk to school, because he refused to eat what I made for breakfast.

I ran through all my Love and Logic options by the end of the first block. At that point, I told him if he didn’t start walking to school I would pick him up and carry him in a way he didn’t like.

He crossed his arms and stared me down as if to say: “Oh, yeah?”

So I picked up that 40 pounds of stubborn and carried it the rest of the way. I was determined to keep my promise, even with him screaming about how mean I was being.

As a thank you for being so consistent, he kicked me in front of the teacher. So I picked him up and put his back against the wall and we had a brief chat about that.

Surely there were better ways to handle that, but in that moment, I was fresh out of them. It was the only way I could put my hands on him without physically hurting him. I love that kid too much to let him get away with that sort of nonsense.

But truth be told, my back’s up against the wall, too. I’m at a place where I find it hard to breathe.

Small things overwhelm. I’m not my best self these days — not even close. 

I literally lost my ability to breathe recently, and ended up in the emergency room. I ignored little signs suggesting some self-care was in order and instead pushed further and harder toward who and what I thought others expected me to be. 

And as a reward for that choice, I came to a moment of understanding I never thought I would reach. 

I get now why some people quit and find a way to check out. Sometimes it really is just too damn much, and you find yourself without the reserves, stamina or ability to move forward.

Those extreme feelings may not make sense. But in that moment at the bottom, nothing does. 

I’ve come to understand it’s a slippery fall down the rabbit hole of depression and a long crawl out.

For me, the path back to health and a sound mind is paved with grace. For me it’s about learning to let go of what isn’t important and embracing what is.

For me, it’s about making the profound shift to take care of myself first, so I can take better care of the people I’ve been entrusted with. After all, my boys deserve the best of me, even when they’re pushing my buttons. 

One of the hardest things about acclimating to motherhood was the realization that my time was no longer truly my own. Not in the shower, not while sleeping, just never. That came as a shock.

While my boys were really young, it was appropriate to be responsive to their needs utterly without fail. But it gradually became a habit.

As I was putting myself back together after my little stint in the hospital, I realized one thing I could change, and change immediately, was putting myself back at the center.

At 7 and 5, the boys are old enough to find me if they need something. They can wait a few minutes while I finish what I’m doing.

Eventually, I will tend to their request to prepare a snack, tie a shoe, find a lost object or whatever. Better still, they can learn to do that for themselves, if I let them.

It sounds obvious, I know. But like I said, my hovering over them became my default mode, without even realizing it.

There will, obviously, be some growing pains as we adjust. But I can already tell this is going to work better for me.

I’m going to take back some of my time to tend to little things like sitting down to eat properly, instead of shoving fistfuls of this and that in my mouth as we hurry here and there. 

Let me preface this next part by assuring you that I’m physically fine now, at least for the most part, and I have a medical bill to prove it. 

One minute, I was standing at the counter, chopping sweet peppers for a stir-fry. Then came a stabbing pain in my chest. I felt the sensation of a hand squeezing my heart, as if it was wringing out a towel.

I became dizzy and began struggling to catch my breath. A series of textbook heart-attack symptoms followed. Finally, my dad, a retired cardiologist known for telling us “You’ll be fine!” at every opportunity, suggested I call 9-1-1. 

I fretted, telling my husband I thought I ought to, but then, maybe not, because it could just prove a big waste of money. “Funerals are expensive, too,” he said in his oddly comforting way.

It turned out my heart was fine. I was just suffering from asthma. And two hernias. And a bout of anxiety and depression.

I share this here, in such a public way, because I’m tired of so many of us suffering unnecessarily in shame and silence, smiling to mask internal turmoil. Frankly, I think we’re all a little bit broken, one way or another. 

I almost had an actual heart attack when I opened the hospital bill. But maybe that’s just the right-sized price for the reboot I needed to take self-care more seriously.

If you heed my message, good for you. It’ll save you a few bucks. 

I’ll have you know, I’m totally keeping my pair of beige, $3,000, skid-safe, one-size-fits-all socks as a memento.

I plan to wear them after soaking my feet and painting my toes. Who says self-care stuff can’t feel good?


*p.s. If you want to be twinsies without the hospital tab, you can pick up a pair of these sexy socks for the reduced rate (?!) of $34.93.


Hospital socks


Nathalie Hardy recently published her first book, “Raising the Hardy Boys: They Said There Would Be Bon-Bons” available at local bookstores and online. Hardy writes in the margins of her life with two little boys and a husband who understands deadlines come before dusting. To contact her, visit Hardy writes in the margins of her life with two little boys and a husband who understands deadlines come before dusting.