Decluttering a Life

April 2nd, 2024 — 10:36am

Lately I’ve been thinking about stuff — what I buy, why I buy it, what I want to hold on to, what I want to let go of. Beneath all this lies a deeper question: “What is enough?”

I have too much stuff. I want to live a less cluttered life — a less stuffed life. I want more space in all ways — body, mind and spirit — and home involves all three. (I know this problem is a luxury to have, and there are billions of humans for whom too much stuff is a dream.)

My mother was a master collector of tchotchkes and took enormous pleasure in her things. Carved elephants, a porcelain flapper doll wrapped in silk and feathers, a silver shoe shine box brought home from Marrakesh, an ornate meerschaum pipe brought home from somewhere. My mom loved acquiring things, but she rarely let go of anything. When I’d visit, I was amazed at how filled her home was. When she’d visit me, she’d ask. “Where are all your accessories? Accessories make the home!”

Not for me. I may not have had many “accessories,” but my home was kind of a mess. Stuff piled up. Home is a reflection of our lives and ours have seen a lot — the birth of our children and raising them to adulthood while both of us worked full time. A neat home seemed to escape my ability. Clean enough was the most I could aspire to. 

Our sons have recently moved out and they are now living their adult lives. And so we are transforming their childhood rooms, one into a guest bedroom and the other into a yoga room. Stuff needs to be shed. Not only theirs, but ours. Homes are not frozen in time — they’re living, changing things, and I want ours to be a reflection of the lives we live now. I want to honor the past, but I don’t want to live in it.

As our sons tossed and donated and put their precious childhood memories into labeled boxes, I began to shed too: books, clothes, furniture, and yep, tchotchkes. I’m letting go of things that no longer resonate or have personal value while loving and honoring what remains: the huge absinthe-green and black art deco vase that belonged to my great grandmother, the gorgeous Russian samovar from 4 generations back, and my mother’s plastic potted dancing daisies that twirl to “In the Mood.” I laugh every time they twirl. Things don’t need to cost anything to have value. 

What is enough? For poet David Whyte, whose poem is below, it’s “these words. This breath. This opening to life.”  I’m not quite there yet, but maybe one day. For now, I’ll keep shedding and invite in a quieter, more spacious kind of beauty. I’ll keep asking the question, “what is enough,” so I can more fully love what’s left.



p.s. If you are moved to try your own writing practice, the same practice I use in Women’s Writing Circles, I’ve included simple instructions below.


NEW!: Yoga & Writing One-Day Women’s Retreat, Saturday, April 27, 8:30 to 4:00 PM, with two sessions each of writing circles and gentle, mindful yoga, a sumptuous vegetarian lunch, all on a beautiful country property in Sebastopol, CA. I will be joined by my former colleague, Kaitlin Quistgaard,  mindful yoga teacher and former editor-in-chief of Yoga Journal. $225 or $195 if you register by April 6th. Space is limited to ten women. Please email me at dayna@daynamacy if interested. More information at and


Writing Practice: 

You can do this practice solo or with a trusted friend.

What you’ll need:

Ten minutes of quiet

A pen

Some paper or a journal. (I recommend pen and paper instead of your computer. It is a more visceral experience.)

1. Set your timer to ten minutes or have a clock handy.

2. Read the poem below out loud.

3. Choose one of the jump off lines from the poem:

  • These words are enough
  • This breath is enough

Or you can use an alternate line: It’s Tuesday [or Wednesday or Friday…] here’s what I know:

4. Read the poem aloud one more time —then…

5. Begin writing. Pen doesn’t leave the page. Keep your belly soft. Say yes to what arises. If you’re stuck use the line, “Here’s what I want to say”… and keep writing.  When the time is done, put the pen down. Take a few deep breaths, then…

6. Read your piece aloud to yourself. Reading aloud helps your words land in your body. (Or read to a trusted friend. If reading in pairs, please do not comment on your friend’s writing. Simply acknowledge non-verbally, like nodding your head or prayer, hands. This is part of creating a safe space.)

7. Take a few breaths. Your practice is now complete.

Enough by David Whyte

Enough. These few words are enough.
If not these words, this breath.
If not this breath, this sitting here.

This opening to life
we have refused
again and again
until now.

Until now.

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