Less | My Branches Need Pruning Again | AKA: Do I Ever Learn My Lesson?

Less is my word of the year and it has been a thought-provoking and exciting one. It is endlessly flexible and has so many facets that can be applied to my life. So far, I’ve written about how I’ve been focusing on less clutter, less spending, less waste. But one area of Less that’s been on my mind and I haven’t written about is how to embrace doing less and simply being. As Mosscap reminded Sibling Dex in A Prayer for the Wild-Built: “It’s okay to just LIVE.”

I wrote about pruning my branches last March. It was inspired by this paragraph:

“When a Japanese gardener “prunes open,” Marsha explained, he or she cuts away not only dead branches and foliage, but also often a number of perfectly healthy branches that detract from the beauty inherent in the tree’s essential structure. Pruning open allows the visitor to see up, out, and beyond the trees to the sky, creating a sense of spaciousness and letting light into the garden. It also enables an individual tree to flourish by removing complicating elements, simplifying structure, and revealing its essence. The process of pruning open turns the tree inside out, so to speak, revealing the beautiful design inherent within it.” – Pruning Open The True Self

The idea is simple and will be familiar if you’ve read 4000 Weeks: Time Management for Mortals by Oliver Burkeman: no one can do everything they want and you have to pick what’s most important to you and stick to it. Sometimes that means pruning away things that you really love.

This time last year, like so many of us, I was trying to do a million things at the same time. With last year’s pruning, I cut away almost all of my stitching other than knitting. That worked really well for a long time until I started slowly adding different types of stitching into my life. I began to think that I had things under control and couldn’t imagine how a little bit of quilting could hurt. And then obsession strikes. I’m ignoring other tasks that I consider non-negotiable, like exercise and daily cooking, so that I can find a little “extra time” to work on my current obsession.

But the real challenge for me is that I just want things to be simple. I don’t want to have thirty works in progress begging for my attention everyday. It’s almost like I can hear them constantly reminding me that they’re unfinished; there’s a little part of my brain that doesn’t shut off when something is being ignored. I’d like to give my brain margin and ensure that I’m not rushing from task to task without ever stopping to look around at what’s actually happening around me. Much like with my physical environment, I want my brain to have space to breathe, for energy to flow. Right now it’s cluttered and stifled.

So like with any healthy plant, it’s time to prune the branches that have grown back. This week’s thinking and journaling task: identify what is essential. I’ve been reading the first section of Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less and it has asked me to decide “what I want to go big on.” A big part of me struggles with that question because that’s not necessarily what I’m looking for. I’m aiming to be content with this small and quiet life and that often means being happy with slow progress. But I’d like to make sure that I’m being gentle with myself and not setting myself up for the inevitable crash that I see on the horizon. Identifying the essential will help get me beyond this hurdle.

I’m sure to long time readers that I sound like a broken record. And still — I can’t be the only person out in blogland who struggles to find her purpose, her ideal; who is slow to realize that life is happening right now and that it doesn’t have to be filled to the brim with the meaningless. The meaningful won’t be created by ticking off to-do lists. It’s happening right now, whether or not I look up and notice it.


23 thoughts on “Less | My Branches Need Pruning Again | AKA: Do I Ever Learn My Lesson?

Add yours

  1. Media doesn’t help does it, pushing consumption at us, making us dissatisfied with what we already have, or even just sharing wonderful projects, places, activities we yearn to try. We could all do with pruning! Good luck, x


  2. I am a dabbler by nature. This year I am leaning into that and working on being here with the project(s) at hand so I can enjoy the process. I am also seeking simple and quiet and looking for places to prune that get in the way of enjoying the moment. I love to read what you are learning. Your posts always give me something to think about.


    1. I love that you’re leaning into your dabbles, Juliann. Maybe one year I will try that too – I’m sure that’s the gentlest way to handle these feelings. But I really want to embrace LESS this year, so I’m interested in seeing how this goes!


  3. I am finding myself nodding frequently with you as I read this post, Katie. I too get “caught” in the moment of something and that spark can take off and consume time needed for other things. I find that setting a timer for those things… and my example for you is spinning. I set a timer for 30 minutes and when the timer goes off, I stop. I have filled my desire to spin but I don’t let myself get overwhelmed so I am disappointed in myself later in the day. The best part is that by doing that little “perk” I find my energy is lifted and I embrace the “less loved tasks” and generally finish them quicker! If I have extra time later in the day, I treat myself with untimed spinning and it is a time that can now be guilt free!


  4. I know from personal experience how hard it is to prune. Life has so many creative, worthwhile enticements. (Along, of course, with some that are not so good. But we won’t go there.) And the hard lesson is that as you age and energy diminishes, you have to cut back even more. That’s why I don’t have a dog, even though I am a dog lover. I seldom volunteer anymore, even though I place a high value on giving back to the community. Instead, my focus is on writing, reading, and home, and I don’t see that ever changing. Good luck with pruning your life until it feels right to you.


    1. I love that you’ve managed to find what’s essential in your life, Laurie. Thank you for sharing how hard it was to cut back on the things that you love. You’ve given me a lot of food for thought!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I don’t have as many creative pursuits/hobbies as you but I definitely get the impulse to DO EVERYTHING NOW. I get in moods where I am completely “floopy” and overwhelmed, on overdrive. I was in that mood Friday when I went to my acupuncture session. She felt my wrist (I’m not sure what she’s feeling, but I think of it as energy) and she said, “Oh yeah, you are in overdrive.” It’s mostly related to house-cleaning especially in light of my son’s struggles with allergies. I take it all on myself and struggle with the necessary tasks I need to do along with the fun and restorative things I want to do – including REST. I feel guilty about rest sometimes. I’m working on that! Anyway, in my session part of what I focused on was telling myself “I don’t need to do it ALL.” It was a helpful mantra and I felt so much better after. But it’s a daily thing I need to remind myself of! I don’t have any answers for you but I want you to know you are not alone!


    1. I love that mantra and I can see why you’re in overdrive with your son’s allergies. We put so much pressure on ourselves to fix everything and to try to meet our kids’ needs. I’m glad to hear that you’ve recognized how much you ARE doing and trying to show yourself some grace. Thank you for making me a little less lonesome!!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I think modern life is a lot to blame for this thought that so many of us (especially women) have that we need to do it all and for the guilt that we feel when we neglect things. I try to think about life as a constantly changing list of priorities. There are the things that are nonnegotiable — we need to eat, get enough sleep, be clothed, go to school and work. Then there are the things that I’d really like to have in my life every day: reading, exercise, crafting. And certainly within those categories there are priorities. Just because I do one project or one craft for a while doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten the others, and I try to remember that there will be times when I’ll do something else. And it’s always a challenge to find the right balance. So it’s not just you — and don’t forget that your family’s needs are going to change as time passes, and that’s going to impact the rest of your life and how you spend your time.


  7. Every time I read a blog post from you I think, “Are you me??” I was once in a Facebook drawing group (headed by Terry Runyan) and I posed the question “How can I draw every day when I have so many other interests? Gardening, knitting, sewing, baking, DIY…”, and her wise answer was “You have to choose what to make a priority.” In the end I choose gardening and reading, and I fit the other things around when I can. It might take me years to make a quilt, and I go months without painting, but I don’t see any other way. I decided this year to finish some of these lingering projects, and when they are done, I probably won’t start another one for some time. I’m interested to see what you end up pruning!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love that you’re taking the time to clear the decks and finishing up old projects. And I’m relieved to read that I’m not the only one with SO many interests! I don’t think I would have been happy with your drawing teacher’s answer about choosing, but she is so right. I’m glad I still have a whole year to explore Less because it is kind of hard!


  8. You are in good company, my friend! 4,000 weeks so helpful for me – it was the first time I’d seen the message so well-articulated that I needed to let go of things that mattered to make space for things that mattered more. It does make me appreciate those things that I chose to keep. and I find I’m having to revisit those choices ALL THE TIME.


    1. I am looking forward to rereading 4000 Weeks in March. I think it will come at a good time for me! I’m relieved to read that you find yourself revisiting your choices all of the time. I can’t imagine cutting something out of my life FOREVER.


  9. You don’t sound like a broken record. We all learn and re-learn throughout our lives. That’s why life is a journey, etc. I really am enjoying your “less” updates. They really resonate with me! I have been turning down a few things lately because it just feels like I can’t give them my all, and it’s so freeing to do so. In the past I would have taken them on no matter what, and then would have felt like I was drowning. I like the concept of pruning branches!


    1. Thank you, Nicole! It’s been helpful to think about “pruning” rather than just letting go of everything… especially when I remember the WHY behind the pruning! I’m glad this post resonated with you 🙂


  10. Katie, so much of what you’ve written sounds like my own brain up until 2 years ago. I had a big shift at 45…for various reasons. (Hard! holy hell!!) But. I don’t think I’d make a trade. The timing of your post is sort of uncanny–because this past week, and I don’t know what it’s been about this week, but this week I’ve looked around…at what’s perennially messy (my desk/office/making space)…at what stays tidy (my bedroom)…at my [ahem] ‘faults’ (mediocrity!) I so often feel lost. What is my purpose anymore?). I honor my body (which isn’t nearly as strong as it was a few years ago…strange how that happened.)…I do my best to take care of myself and my imperfect family. Compare and despair can taunt us, can’t it? But just lately, I’ve said, “I accept.” I’ve been saying it out loud–no idea why…or where it’s coming from. I guess I’ve accepted that, for all of us, it’s all going to be over before I know it. (It goes so fast! And there are no guarantees!) It’s precious, my time on this messed up planet. And I can cut myself break, love the me who shows up with vulnerability, love, and a willing, enthusiastic heart, I can Be Here for this perfectly imperfect normal and extraordinary life — or not.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: