Clean Counters  Clear Mind

Clean Counters Clear Mind

I have lost track of the moments spent standing here at my kitchen counter working.

The days flow together now in a swirling symphony of similarity. “Corona time” is a lot like reservation time. A mystical stream that defies greenwich accuracy.

“Corona time” is punctuated with family, friend and work calls, Zoom meetings and online endeavors. There are breaks to pick guitar, eat, make beds, grind coffee, hug and water garden seedlings.

Most days are peaceful, flowing. Occasionally there comes a tightness. Three meals a day prepared in the very same space where 2 people are set up to work can create issues.

Each meal prep can result in a pile up of dishes, containers, coffee cups and a few random project papers all mixed together. Most days we clean up as we go. On days when meetings are tightly scheduled the unaddressed pile can become a focal point for pent up frustration.

Too much caffeine perhaps, tense words, silence, then a scurry of activity cleans and sends objects quickly back to their rightful homes.

The counter returns to neutral space. Danny and I return to our respective work corners. The tension subsides.

For the moment the kitchen is neutral and asks nothing of our brains. Nothing of our emotions.

As someone who works on the internet from home, my world is filled with outward pulls and distractions. As a result, I want to have less and less to ponder in my immediate environment.

Am I the only one ? Or are we all noticing being inundated with carefully staged and curated home decoration blogs and lifestyle posts that celebrate clean and clear surfaces in modern and minimalist environments?

Even in the blog space we are being told to keep it open, lots of white space, shorten paragraphs, make it graphic, clean, more photos and less text. Why? Because they say we readers cannot attend.

We have become skimmers in order to survive the onslaught of information.

The pile on the universal counter is mounting……….

In my Functional Feng Shui workshops I meet people who are either becoming aware that their home environment is having an effect on their life story or conversely that their life story is being played out in their environment. A classic chicken or the egg scenario.

In the middle of the workshop I ask the participants to lay on the floor and place themselves virtually in the center of their home. With closed eyes, I ask them to relax and let their mind simply wander to a room or area of their home that feels like it is messaging them.

Once they have discovered that hot zone. I have them move to that space in their meditation and spend some time there noting their body and mind sensations. I also ask them to reserve any feelings of judgement of self around the “state” of this area. To simply observe and feel.

Most often people are called to areas that are in need of de-cluttering. Areas of high traffic, high activity and disorganization.

As participants slow down in the meditative process they note distinctive feelings of unease in their body as they remain in the space. They also notice that they have learned to dissociate or shut down those anxious feelings in order to co-exist with the room in its current state. To be able to get on with life and ignore what is in their daily line of sight.

These pushed down feelings affect them but in a less linear way. The indirect feelings of guilt, shame, overwhelm, avoidance, procrastination, and perhaps accompanying low self esteem or depression are felt but not traced to the source.

“Clutter can play a significant role in how we feel about our homes, our workplaces, and ourselves. Messy homes and work spaces leave us feeling anxious, helpless, and overwhelmed. Yet, rarely is clutter recognized as a significant source of stress in our lives.”

Ralph Ryback, M.D.

The upside of this exercise is that it becomes a motivating force for the participants. It seems that everyone goes home with a new found need to de-clutter and reconfigure their target space.

It appears that carrying any extra emotional load is something we humans would rather not continue if there is truly something we can do about it. And there is.

“De- cluttering” an area is of course the first physical step in minimizing the amount of decisions one must make in a day. Even the decision to constantly ignore a space is an intentional thought that continuously takes up time and space in our daily life.

One of the first powerful conclusions I have had around clear counters, clear mind is this:

Order equals no decision and no decision helps free up head space.

When I come up with a plan for a space I can relax. This means simply that I have figured out how to store things in a space that is both intuitive for me and sustainable for everyone else who lives in the space.

Personally I don’t want to look at everything I use in that space all the time so I might keep those objects near, say in a basket, but hidden from my equally over-cluttered mind.

It can take numerous tries to find a “pattern” of organization that works in a space. I simply try and fail until I find something that works that I can maintain.

I am also a fan of recycling objects so that budget doesn’t have to dictate whether you have a zen like home. There are storage containers, baskets and containers galore in thrift stores just waiting to be brought home and utilized.

In my days as a movement teacher , I delighted in arriving at my studio early in the morning and walking through the door to 1200 sq. feet of nothingness. Padded floors, white walls, one painting, no mirrors and a completely fresh canvas on which to “paint.” (sounds a bit like a happy asylum doesn’t it?)

I could literally walk in the door and actually start dancing through my class plans for the day. I didn’t feel the need to tidy up or make any decisions.

There was nothing to do before I could start “doing.” I could leave the outside world and flourish in my little “bubble”. There was “room” for creativity to happen.

And here we are in April of 2020. A time and space where creating a bubble takes on new meaning and urgency.

I designed my studio space intentionally. Like me, my first clients of the day were working mothers who were attempting to fit exercise and meditation into their tight schedule.

The last thing that I wanted for them or myself was to walk into a busy or cluttered space. We women are far too triggered by such things.

I did not even install mirrors as I knew these lovely women could just as easily be distracted by images of self. Something else for the mind to chew on.

As a grand experiment that space “worked”. I noticed a palpable “de-compression” for my clients in that glorious studio.

A virtual out breath. Quite transformative. And what was good for the goose (me) was equally as good for the gander.

This is the best way to think about the effort it takes to clear a space. It can be of immeasurable benefit to the wellbeing of all who share life and home with you.

Before stay at home orders were in place in Colorado we had a friend visit. Without judgement I can simply say that he lives in a very complicated household. There isn’t a corner or a space of that huge home that isn’t filled with something.

As he walked into our home I could immediately feel some discomfort. He surveyed all the open space and the simple interior. It was easy to read him as he took a seat and put his feet up. He was fascinated by the lack of “stuff.” He actually commented on it at one point.

As the visit went on I watched his body fall into almost a trancelike relaxation. I thought he might actually take a nap. It was sweet and telling.

And from a lifetime of more versus less, I could so relate.

What area of your home is talking to you today? How can you listen with no self judgement. Simply listen…..

Stay tuned for more on the discussion. I would love to hear your thoughts and comments.

5 Universal Benefits of the new “Telecommute”

5 Universal Benefits of the new “Telecommute”

A share with the world from our home office at 7,986 feet.

Let’s just say we Coloradans are people who are generally on the front lines of what’s trending in health wellness and wellbeing. Despite our desire to seek trending wisdom we still look to the tried and true when it comes to maintaining a healthy body and mind. Due to our unique altitude and our rugged individualistic nature as a people, we generally tend toward three things.

  • Daily doses of sun
  • Outdoor physical adventures
  • Fexibility and diversity in work and schedule (so that we can get more of the first two items)

On the latter let’s just say we modern mountain folk like it flexible enough to take advantage of a weekday opportunity to carve it up on the slopes or paddle it out on the river. Our children have grown up witnessing this “here and now” mindset and many have entered the workforce and are now helping to lead the charge.

Slowly, steadily and behind our ” front doors ” we have been calmly creating a new work landscape that is leading the lifestyle revolution. And now the rest of the world is about to taste of this most glorious little secret.

Today, in an unfamiliar landscape of global pandemic this revolution may be moving from a slow roll into a full blown race as we seek economic solutions that address our new prescribed directive to “camp out” at home.

The Innovate “State.”

In an analysis of the 2017 US Census, Haven Life Insurance Agency reported Colorado as the absolute number one state for “work-at-home-employees”.  The report goes on to show that just over eight percent of adults in Colorado work from home. The average in the rest of America is only 5.2 percent.

Photo by Patrick Tomasso on Unsplash

This measure was taken three years ago and does not even include entrepreneurs. Recently Amazon ranked Colorado as  4th in the Nation for startups based on their online sellers. Many of these startup companies are founded by full or part time telecommuters who don’t show on the survey data.

In a changing climate where employees may find themselves suddenly working from home we would like to highlight some of surprising perks that we (and others) have discovered about the new “telecommute.”

1. Better Health

We all know that energy follows attention. If your attention is on the road in an extended commute well so is your “energy.” And that is time and energy that is irreplaceable in a busy day.

In a study Conducted by Christine Hoehner, Carolyn E. Barlow, Peg Allen, and Mario Schootman, results showed that long commutes are associated with ”higher blood pressure and bigger waistlines”.

This is the first study to show that people who commute long distances to work were less fit, weighed more, were less physically active and had higher blood pressure,” said Hoehner. “All those are strong predictors of heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers.

Photo by Bruno Nascimento on Unsplash

The “Justified” Reward.

In addition to being sedentary in the car, we are usually on the way to being just as sedentary in the office. We could add in convenience or fast food as another bummer component to such a commute. Stopping by a cafe or gas station on the way to work to grab our “morning treat” can temporarily placate us in that insatiable need to reward ourselves for our “daily grind.”

Theres also no doubt that its easier to make healthy choices for lunch and snacks when you are eating from your own pantry. Let’s face it, who hasn’t been lured by the call of the Krispy Kreme box at a morning office meeting?

It’s hard to stay true to your intentions when someone “lovingly” plants a tray of home made cookies at the water cooler. Trust me its not that home workers don’t have chocolate stashes, It’s just that we get to choose how and when we want to indulge.

The “Stand -Up” Workday.

In the hours that it takes to write a blog you could witness both Danny and I changing position numerous times. (you might even witness a few air squats ).

We may stand for a meeting and a phone call and have standing locations for our typing tasks as well. Like our ancestors who spent their days moving from one activity to the other we try to mimic that active flow and take full advantage of our ability to use the whole of our space and the whole of our bodies.

Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash

This kind of opportunistic approach to computer work really helps in our daily burning of calories and in supporting our continued flexibility and mobility. Granted we aren’t out plowing the fields but we have been known to stack firewood and do outdoor chores on a break.

We know movement also increases blood flow to our brains and vital organs which has become an increasingly important personal goal to us as we watch our three remaining parents age both physically and mentally.

In our telecommuting household we have set up an exercise room on site. (zero commute to the gym) Somewhere in the 3:00 to 4:00 PM hour we pack up our computers and head to exercise. (Remember we start working between 6 and 7AM.)

Our stripped down gym requires us to be creative and try new ways to get after it. We have incorporated weights, bands, balls and a TRX system to mimic some of the exercises we used to do on machines.

Photo by Jesper Aggergaard on Unsplash

Working out as a couple or team also provides a little bit of healthy pressure when one or the other of it wants to opt out. Although truly it is a relief to move our bodies after staring at a screen for 8 hours.  Most of the equipment in our gym is second hand and has already been paid for in the savings of monthly membership fees.

Now that the weather is getting warmer we’ve added walks back into the routine which is a wonderful way to decompress and share notes from the day. This also provides a natural dose of Vitamin D, so necessary for optimal body and mood functioning.

Right now we can’t get away from mentioning disease transmission and spread in office and gym situations. Less density = less transferrable illness equals less sick days. And that is equally applicable to the common cold or flu as well as the Coronavirus.

2. Autonomy and Self Satisfaction.

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

While telecommuting has been the norm for many entrepreneurs it can also offer amazing emotional benefits to those who work for others. For people who can work remotely, even some of the time, the emotional and spiritual perks are noticeable.

There is no doubt that we humans need to feel that we are trusted and perform better when we do.

The “Un-driven” Worker

The mythologies around low productivity amongst “un monitored” workers is just not true and there are plenty of studies to prove it. It seems in fact that those who work at home actually work more hours and are happy to do it in order to continue their remote  worker status.

In our at home office there are days when we find ourselves typing away at 6PM hardly aware that we might need to stop and eat..

There are other days we start at 6AM and and push till 3PM so we can close up the computers and fire up the motorcycle. After an hours ride we may come back and answer emails for another hour or two but theres a smile on our faces that would warm any employer’s heart.

We are fully in the game and we are filled up by feeling of self governance that is uniquely satisfying to humans.

Photo by Timotheus Fröbel on Unsplash

For new telecommuters it can take a while to enter this “flow” when one is used to dictated outside parameters such as set work hours. “Break Guilt” subsides once workers get in touch with their own internal rhythyms and find a working style that supports them in a healthy human way. Our experience is that you begin to trust yourself in this new expanded time frame as you see and experience your own up-leveled productivity.

The Intentional “Connection”

There is something refreshing about leaving office politics behind. Telecommuter get plenty of opportunity to connect to each other for meetings and work projects but those interactions seem to have a more focused flavor than informal gatherings around the copy machine.

There also seems to be a great leveling force and a shared desire to make this remote thing work. Of course like anything related to technology there can be glitches but creativity and emerging options for communication can provide options.

Recently in just one work day we met with people via Facebook, Zoom, and Maestro Conferencing. Amazing!

The virtual “connections” made during the day fill our social emotional need for relationship and provide laughter, compassion and occasional moments of frustration. The full range. The one noticeable element missing is “touch” so we do make sure there are opportunities for that as well.

Photo by Shane Rounce on Unsplash

In this moment of  prescribed “social distancing”  there must still be the ability to gather in small family or friend groups in order to keep this vital human need of physical touch alive especially for the solitary remote worker.

For parents basing from home can also solve critical issues around schedules, sick children and school activities. It can still be a juggling act but there is no doubt that knowing you can operate from home when a child is sick can reduce stress significantly. At the time of this writing most schools are cancelled so families may be navigating different waters with their children and finding novel ways to keep them busy and occupied in the new structure of a “work day”.

3. Serious Savings.

Photo by Kat Yukawa on Unsplash

In a recent report Flexjobs came up with significant figures on telecommuter savings. Check out their figures on where you might find more cash left in your pocket.

  • Gas – Hallelujah! – Estimated Savings $686 per year
  • Car Maintenance – Yes, we do have to walk out and give our “Bessies’ ” some reassuring pats from time to time. They are “docked” most days of the week. Estimated Savings $786 per year.
  • Dry Cleaning and Laundering. – Zoom meetings only require a decent shirt. Pajamas are quite acceptable on the bottom. It’s time to ditch dry cleaning anyway for the sake of the planet. There are pro eco alternatives such as “wet cleaning” Estimated Savings $500 to 1,500 per year.
  • Lunches and Coffee. Granted a lunch out can be fun and believe me we do engage from time to time. Most days we just take a break and make a great lunch. We do spend more on higher quality meats and veggies that aren’t processed or packaged for convenience. We customize our lunches with our dietary preferences. My preferenece would be Keto-ish and his, well Texan-ish, might be the descriptive I would use. Coffee. We grind it and we press it, a few times a day! Estimated Savings $1040 per year.
  • Workplace Wardrobe. – Say no more, this is where comfortable tops the list. Your savings could be even higher in this category if your fashionista tendencies rule your normal office attire. Estimated Savings $925 per year.

Another place of significant savings that was not included in the study is that of location by design. Getting to chose where you live is a real blessing of remote work. In our case we choose a less expensive and less dense rural area that is only a half hour from a well appointed town. The takeaway? We feel like we are on retreat every time we look out the window.

Photo by Kat Shuford

The “Way Back.”

Many small communities who have lost workers and young people to urban centers are finding ways to bring people back with all sorts of incentives for both employers who can create remote jobs and for employees or entrepreunuers who might be attracted by tax breaks or startup grants. Check with your state to see what’s being offered.

In Colorado there is a new program that serves up cash incentives to those companies that create jobs for telecommuters who live in less affluent and less populated counties. This may prove to be a wonderful way to interject some life back into small towns and provide affordable housing for workers.

The “Driven” Consumer.

I would like to add that less driving has also impacted our “casual spending” We humans are of the visual sort and there is no doubt that driving by a large chain box store can revive a vague longing for something we thought we needed (?). We have to admit we get a little urge to grab a coffee every time we drive by our favorite cafe.

Now when we get into town we are still prey to these influences (and yes, we do want to support our favorite local businesses) but now planned trips might be once weekly as opposed to every day. This one trip is so full of “must do’s” that “want to do’s” fly out the window. Overall less driving seems to equal less unnecessary acquisitions which keeps more money in our pockets (and less plastic floating around in the environment.)

4. Real Planetary Impact

According to an article by Kelly Strain for PGI, a part-time telework policy could make a sizeable impact on our shared planet.

Photo by Elijah Hiett on Unsplash

In citing this 2019 research by Global Workplace Analytics Strain notes that ” if everyone with the ability and desire to work remotely did so just 50% of the time, the greenhouse gas reduction would be the equivalent of taking the entire New York State workforce permanently off the road.”

The article substantiates this by saying that 29% of greenhouse gas emissions come from the transportation sector. Strain also says that reversely, “if existing telecommuters started driving to work right now, we’d have to plant 91 million trees to offset the resulting emissions.

Consequently less people on the road should positively affect the amount of convenience food packaging. that ends up on the roadside and in the landfills.

5. Shared Experiences

Granted not all people who telecommute live with others. For those of us who do, whether it be with a partner or a child, aging parent, friend or relative there is an opportunity at hand for deepening the relationship through more shared experiences.

As a young girl I remember little about my father except that he was absent the majority of the time.

Photo by Jonathan Borba on Unsplash

Dad’s work was a mystery to me and even occasional visits to his fancy high rise office downtown provided little in the way of clues as to what he actually did in his time away from our family.

In contrast my husband has weekly online meetings with a fellow worker who has multiple children. As I am typing away at my station I can hear wafts of piano music and tiny voices in the background. There is an occasional question that must be answered and then the activity commences. That home is thousands of miles away from ours but I can feel a sense of family unity and harmony that is visceral to my being.

The Great “Equalizer”

I have been in online meetings where a mom will be nursing and taking notes, a father will be proudly bouncing a toddler on his knee or a beloved dog will tear across the meeting backdrop. A scream, some tears and an occasional meltdown could also be expected as part of the agenda.

These small intimate moments give us insights into the shared and collective humanity of our teams and employers. This real life stuff can bind us together. Co-workers, employees and clients suddenly become more rounded and multi dimensional.

The “Work” that Binds

Through this new interconnected paradigm my husband has been able to initiate a work project with his daughter who lives in Idaho. This tele-family collaboration is rich and so fulfilling for both of them as they stretch their relationship into an entirely new context.

As for Danny and I we get to share our work life highs and lows in real time. ( I have been known to break into a techno fueled happy dance over a particular win or problem solved ). As a couple we know each other’s worlds, clients’ and collaborators’ and this adds texture and depth to our shared conversations and understandings of one another.

Photo by Matias Ilizarbe on Unsplash

It isn’t all smooth sailing but when we do lock horns we tend to address it and find solutions quickly as we are aware of the mood of our combined shared space. We are also aware of how this kind of “togetherness” has grown us in our ability to communicate and navigate in an expanded and satisfying model of marriage.

The “Touch” Factor

This daily shared experience is a richness my parents never experienced. And ultimately my father’s work initiated extramarital affair ended his 25 year marriage with my mom. Who is to say this separation of their individual worlds was the cause, but who is to say that it wasn’t?

An Opportunity

Photo by Joan You on Unsplash

Today on March 20th, 2020 we are swimming about in the uncertain longterm impacts of “holing up” at home. In Colorado, the Nation and the World we are experiencing mandates that require full or part time telecommuting as part of the new “normal.” It’s our sincere intention to point out that a perceived loss could be an actual gain across so many areas of our lives.

We are not ignoring the pitfalls or concerns that accompany this kind of lifestyle overhaul. Rather we are staying in the possibilities of a potential societal reform that could have major impacts on the wellbeing of workers, their family structures and the Planet Earth.

Recent events are fostering amazing creativity on the parts of many of our friends and members of the community at large. Just today we talked to one friend who has taken her piano lessons completely online and most retail businesses near us are offering online ordering and “curbside” delivery rather than shutting down their brick and mortar locations. This is changing day to day as the definition of “necessary worker” becomes the boundary line by which we may gather in certain states. Even so, we see human ingenuity finding ways to navigate these ever changing roadblocks.

We are poised on the precipice of untamed possibility when it come to helping life and work co-exist in a seamless and more satisfying way.

For those of you who have experience or thoughts on telecommuting or remote working we would love to hear what you have discovered. !

Photo by Oliver Depaen on Unsplash

Our combined voices may be truly inspiring to those who are experiencing upheaval and change in their work life at this time. The perks we have experienced as telecommuters have enhanced our life so much that we would be hard pressed to give them up under any circumstances.

If you would like more info on living, loving and yes, working in Colorado, you can learn more at Western Life Real Estate. We would love to introduce you to our special part of the world ! Who knows, you may find a new home base here for your telecommuting endeavors.

If you like what you’ve found on these pages, let us know. We’ll be sharing more soon.

Take Care,

Welcome to our Western Life Blog Page

We are Living Simply and Working from Home in the Colorado Mountains.  We have a lot to share about our choices and hope that our blog can inspire you on your journey of self discovery.  In today’s world there is an increasing awareness of ones ability to create a life that is in alignment with our personal beliefs, goals, dreams and yearnings.

 Choosing a place to live is one of the key pins in this creation.  Both Danny and I have been through many phases of our life, raising children, working and moving many times in order to meet the needs of that particular
“season” in our lives. As topics In this blog we are going to explore the deeper aspects of consciously creating a more simple life and how it affects our choices in where we settle and what we do once we get there.  To loosely quote Duane Elgin who has been studying this kind of simple living for decades we are going to use this forum to unpack such things as:


  • Time and how to get more of it for things you really love
  • Changing your buying tendencies and becoming aware of consumption
  • Spending little or no time commuting.
  • Re-installing your natural rhythms by spending more aware time in nature
  •  Eating a higher quality diet and cooking more of your own meals
  • Developing your interests with less distractions
  • Slowing down in an overwhelming world
  •  Decluttering and re-creating your home as sanctuary.
  • Becoming more self reliant and resourceful
  •  Finding the balance of self care and nurturing with work, family and community interaction.

So stay tuned as we take a look at all of these benefits of Living, Loving & Working at 7,986’ feet. No matter where you currently reside you will find support and wisdom here that can be applied to your life.

We all know that we are ultimately seeking happiness and satisfaction. These basic elements of human longing are of course fed from within and from our environment and choices.

“According to history, quite a few times simple man turned out to be the significant man.”

― Amit Kalantri, "Wealth of Words"

You might want to explore Duane Elgins book, “Voluntary Simplicity”

Until Next Time!