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Life in Napa | The January Garden & Starting a New Chapter



So, yes, I disappeared again for a few days. That is because I moved. Again. This time it was a bigger deal, as it was not just a matter of loading up the car, grabbing the pups and heading to the next beautiful destination. This time I signed a lease for a whole year, and had movers empty my three, yes three, storage units. Now my new apartment looks like a storage unit, or three in one. I posted a brief iPhone video on my personal Facebook profile, and it gathered about thirty comments from friends who said essentially the same thing: Yikes!

Yet, let me tell you, I am not a hoarder. These were all things I needed, used and loved while living in two-or-three-bedroom apartments in Honolulu. Now my life has changed, and it is time to sort through everything and, well, possibly get rid of at least half. I had already sold a lot of my furniture before leaving Hawai’i. Now I am proceeding with selling what was left, because my taste has changed completely, and by the time I will be ready for my own home – meaning not one I am renting, but one that is just the way I want it, I will start from scratch. Except for one piece, a super comfortable and unique armchair that is going with me everywhere.




Tomorrow I will Skype with my Mum for the first time since moving into the new Napa digs. I will do so from my iPhone instead of the desktop, so I can give her a visual tour of the place and show her just how much stuff I am dealing with. She is the declutter champ extreme, worse than me, to the point that she sometimes gets rid of things she shouldn’t. I will let you know what she will say, though I can make a pretty accurate prediction.




I have to admit: even though I had planned this, and felt really good about the decision, when the movers were finished bringing boxes in, I felt overwhelmed. I actually felt a little scared, too, and made sure there were two clear escape routes. Luckily we are on the ground floor, and we can always jump out of the bedroom patio. The bedroom, by the way, I have retained as my oasis. There is a little clutter in it right now, but that is because I have not yet put things away into the closet, as I have not yet had time. It is Friday afternoon, the movers happened on Wednesday (it took all day, with a 4:30 am wake up call to avoid the worst of traffic), yesterday pups and I moved out of the lovely Cottage in the Garden, and this morning I had an appointment down in Marin. I just set up the computer an hour ago.

But after this weekend, the bedroom will be just a place where to rest, do yoga, play and work away from the looming piles of boxes. Yes work, because my computer is temporarily set up there – or I should say here, given that is where I am, sitting on a tangerine zafu, with the keyboard and monitor set up on a box. All in all not too uncomfortable; but certainly temporary, until I can find my desk and put it back together. After ten moves in fourteen years, I can assemble furniture like an Ikea pro.


Budding-Flowering-Quince-Bush-Napa-California Budding-Flowering-Quince-Bush-Napa-California


I learned about the multi-layered power of decluttering some years ago as part of my Intuitive Feng Shui and Space Clearing certification course with the wonderful Denise Linn. I plan to employ the basic teachings of that, which boil down to: use it, love it, or get rid of it. Then, during a middle-of-the-night message exchange that helped dissolve some of the overwhelm I was feeling, my friend Sally from England (hence the middle-of-the-night thing), gave me another tip, summarized from the recent popular book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Sally said this tip takes things one step further, by having you look at something and see if it brings up joy. If it does, it’s a keeper. If it doesn’t, it will be a keeper for someone else.


Budding-Flowering-Quince-Bush-Napa-California Budding-Flowering-Quince-Bush-Napa-California


Outfitted with all these tools, I shall forge ahead undaunted and with ruthlessness. I know clearing out our old stuff (aka, our history) can be cathartic. However, I think I have an advantage on my side: most of these things have been in storage for two years, during which time I have only accessed or needed a few, and really only missed a few more, like my art supplies, my kitchen utensils, and some of my cookbooks. Given that I have lived quite well without the rest, the cleanse shouldn’t be too abrasive. And my shredder will be busy. As soon as I can find it, that is.




First steps on the agenda: bedroom closet, bathroom + linen closet, and kitchen. Those three are empty spaces I can fill up with what I am keeping. That should start to make a dent. I have also decided to temporarily rent a small storage unit here in Napa to hold those things I intend to keep, but do not need every day, or every week, but that are bulky and take up space which I need right now to sort out other stuff. This to help deal with the inevitability of “you have to make a mess to tidy up”. And my current one-bedroom apartment is too small to make more of a mess.

I am talking about things like suitcases, the temporarily empty boxes that usually house my computer, toaster oven, juicer etc., and which will be valuable by the time I am ready to move next. Once everything is sorted, I will reclaim everything and let go of the storage unit. A cost of, say, $75-90 a month in storage is not the same as almost $700, which is how much space I needed before.

Shocked? Yes, well, I was not expecting to be storing it all for quite so long.




Staying put for a year was a suffered decision. Half of me felt the need to ground somewhere, and have a place from which to work on a series of long term projects I have had on the back burner for a while (including sorting out my stuff). The other half yearned to keep on going, with a list of places to explore for which two arms put together are still not long enough. But once the decision was made it felt good, really good, so I know it was right.

I will continue to explore from here. I have barely scratched the surface exploring Napa Valley, Sonoma and the rest of the wine country, and there is lots more within a few hours of driving distance, like Tahoe and Yosemite, just to mention a couple. And when the year lease is up… well, I will see where I am at and decide. I have been really good at listening to my soul, and going with that flow lately. It is working well, so I intend to keep going.




By now you are probably wondering what all of this has anything to do with a January garden. Nothing, other than showing you photos of what is going on in the Napa garden (the one I was staying at until yesterday) in January was much lovelier and more inspiring than photos of piled up boxes and a cluttered room.

However, I may create a page dedicated to my decluttering process, complete with photos and weekly updates for those of you who might need the inspiration to do the same. Maybe my process will help yours.




Back to the garden: winter in California is relative. Other than a few early mornings touched with frost, it hardly ever snows away from the Sierras, and the freezing temperatures do not last long. What can be observed here during a January walk in the garden is what in places like Minnesota or Pennsylvania doesn’t show up until possibly April.

Here you see a few winter roses, with the deeper colors of the season, heavenly bamboo covered in early morning rain drops, the first tentative forsythia buds on an otherwise empty bush, and the first buds in a cluster of blooming quinces. I love this time of the year. Nature is poised for rebirth, and each day brings a change, even if just a tiny one. So much potential.




“Breathe it all in. Love it all out.” ~Mary Oliver



If you are looking for more personal inspiration and more in the Napa garden series, here are a few more you might enjoy:



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