Lightening Up

Do you know the feeling when you’ve just finished cleaning out the hallway closet? For me, that stack of old sweaters bound for the thrift shop is much more than a closet cleansing and it leaves me energized and feeling remarkably satisfied. I experience the same sensation at work when I hack through the items on my desk so that I can actually see the surface again.

A light dish for the New Year

A light dish for the New Year

In some strange way, letting go builds confidence. Purging the old and unused to create a sleek, clean space causes me to sleep better and to be more efficient. And you know what? It’s not just those old ugly Christmas sweaters. It’s a great time of year to lighten up in many ways whether it’s the shedding of an unfitting relationship or the hairy tub of sour cream from the back of the fridge.

I’m not advocating for a minimalist approach but I am suggesting that there is a benefit to discerning the difference between wants and needs. For me, it’s not just about stuff but also about commitments. It’s so easy to believe in one more cause or to squeeze in one more activity.  After spending time with Deepak Chopra in November, I realized that I need to create a filter for my activities. In keeping with the theme of lightening up, the filter has to be simple. I ask:

  • Is it fun?
  • Are the people with whom I’m engaged having fun and passionate about what they’re doing?
  • Am I making a difference? 

In a similar manner, we can purge other areas by simply asking, “what do I need?” – which can apply to spending and eating. After a robust holiday filled with family and food, I find it a great time to focus on plant-based meals; green smoothies, spinach enchiladas, bok choy soup and this one.  It not only uses up the final spaghetti squash of the season but also uses my (very-underutilized) microwave to get a meal on the table fast.

Simple Moroccan Spaghetti Squash
adapted from Epicurious
Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 (3 1/2- to 4-pound) spaghetti squash
  • 1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • Pumpkin seeds for garnish

Pierce spaghetti squash all over with a small sharp knife to prevent bursting. Place in a microwave oven on and cook on high powerfor 6 to 7 minutes. Turn the squash over and microwave until squash feels slightly soft when pressed, 8 to 10 minutes more. Cool squash for 5 minutes.

IMG_0787Meanwhile, melt butter in a small heavy saucepan over moderately high heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until golden. Stir in the remaining spices and salt and remove from heat.IMG_0790

Carefully halve squash lengthwise and remove and discard seeds. Working over a bowl, scrape squash flesh with a fork, loosening and separating strands as you remove it from skin. Toss with spiced butter and cilantro. Sprinkle with pumpkin seeds.IMG_0791

Where can you lighten up in 2013?

Related Posts:

Fiscal Cleanse

Cutting Edge

Previous Post
Leave a comment

62 Comments

  1. I have always wanted to try spaghetti squash. This recipe looks like it is going to be my breakthrough moment! Yum!

    Reply
  2. Shawna

     /  January 4, 2013

    Can’t wait to try this recipe. Have my friends from London coming over on Sunday for dinner and this will be a fabulous side!!! Great post about “lightening up”! I try and do as much as time allows me to get that sort of stuff done!

    Reply
    • You may want to cook it a bit longer and add more stuff to it. Feta would be good too although not lighter.

      Reply
  3. It’s such a great feeling of accomplishment to clean the house and fridge! I’ve never used spaghetti squash in my cooking, but it looks like an intriguing ingredient. (And a great way to eat more vegetables!)

    Reply
  4. You know, I totally forgot about spaghetti squash this year. Looks tasty! And I like the way you think about your activities and friends–fun and passion is a good combination. Happy New Year!

    Reply
    • We having to create some filters or we will simply be overrun with great opportunities and never enjoy any of them as much as we should.

      Reply
  5. This post came at a great time, as these are all ideas I’ve been working through this month, too. Your three questions are perfect for defining what’s important. Thanks!

    Reply
  6. Tomorrow I will throw out any and all food left over from the holidays…I can hardly wait to have a clean refrigerator again. I also saw a link on pinterest that was a couple of years old but the gist of it was decluttering the house in 365 days…one idea was to dispose of 10 things each day…give away or throw away…I will have to look for that one again and reblog it…

    Reply
    • Off to check out pinterest Jeanne! We need less.

      Reply
      • Tammy, I think the blog is called Happy Housewife, and there is a badge near the top of the page…Organize in 365…It covers everything!

        Reply
  7. I am so with you on this point. I don’t like hoarding and find cleansing up of all things very rewarding :)

    Reply
  8. Wonderful , Tammy, the thought of lightening our loads . ..and the squash! :) I have a LOT of lightening to do, but I’ve begun and will keep at it. My hubby even joined in .. .and he’s an avid ‘saver’ of stuff! :) I just need to make decisions and not hesitate too long.

    Reply
    • Maybe you can come up with two or three guiding principles that lead you to make a faster decision. Do I need this? Is this sentimental in a way that I can’t get from anything else? If it was gone, would I truly miss it?

      Reply
  9. So you spent time with Deepak Chopra ? I’m sure that was fascinating and enlightening!

    Reply
    • I went to Chicago for a few days in November and got to have a lot of good quality time with him. Fascinating time.

      Reply
  10. It does all work together: the lightening up from stuff and food, both. It’s almost like we stray from all/most of our values (material, food, exercise, etc.) in December, and yearn to put it all together again in January, heading ourselves in a good direction.

    Reply
  11. This sounds great, and I still have spaghetti squash….now I also have something for lunch! :)

    Reply
  12. I totally agree, Tammy. There’s a blogger called Paula who always ends her posts by wishing us ‘enough’. I think it is wisdom to know what that is.

    Reply
  13. I especially like the second question. It is so important to be with people who are engaged and positive! (And now you have given me some positive energy for cleaning out our junk room!)

    Reply
  14. That is one of my goals this year…lighten up…everywhere…great post!

    Linda

    http://coloradofarmlife.wordpress.com

    http://deltacountyhistoricalsociety.wordpress.com

    Reply
  15. You bring up a very valuable point: discerning the difference between wants and needs. We tend to take for granted the luxuries that fill our lives, and our lifestyles reflect this. People in other parts of the world with fewer luxuries are often happier, healthier, and less prone to violence that we are… which means an exploration of the question you raise is very important. As you say, the answer is not one of minimalism, but rather of maximizing – our appreciation of the things that really, truly matter to us.

    Reply
    • stuff, possessions, greed, want, crime – a do see it as a continuum that is hard to fulfill.

      Reply
  16. Sally

     /  January 5, 2013

    Great post Tammy and I agree with “KNOW THANK YOU” 100%. We are busy getting our bodies and health in great shape as well, cleaning out and sharing with people that need “it”. Feels good to clean the attic, so to speak.

    Reply
  17. Lovely to shed a lot of baggage, Tammy: we’re taking our whole house through a detox in April. Looking forward to it immensely.

    Reply
  18. I love this . . . but you knew that already, didn’t you? ;)

    Reply
  19. I find that after the Christmas season where there’s been so much over-indulging, it’s time to cut back on alcohol and we also cut back on sweet things like desserts. Like you say, eating greens, green, and more greens can make you feel like you’re getting things back on track xx

    Reply
  20. I love this!!! I actually spent new years eve and new years day working on decluttering our everyday spaces. I still have a lot of work to do, but it felt soooo good to start the new year fresh.

    Reply
  21. I love the recipe and look forward to trying it. Thank you for posting a recipe that can be made in the microwave.

    For two months I have been working on decluttering our home… every single cabinet, closet, drawer, hook, nook and cranny. It has inspired my husband to tackle the garage. Working on what you need is tough, but refreshing as you get there. My kitchen has 41 places to put stuff, such as drawers, cabinets and doors. It was such a relief to get that puppy done. However, I likely have some hairy things in my fridge. Time to tackle that tomorrow!

    Everything but my daughter’s room has been lightened in my five bedroom three bathroom two story home…and windows were cleaned inside and out…..and boy does it feel good to be lighter. There’s room for more lightening up in some areas such as my closet – so that’s my goal for next weekend.

    Happy 2013!

    Reply
  22. I’ve been slowly working my way through the declutter game. It’s so satisfying when you can get it done! http://sheslosingit.net/2012/12/27/declutter-youll-feel-better/

    Reply
  23. Liberation from stuff – also old attitudes and anything else that has ceased to work or be relevant – does build confidence. Stepping out of the old and into the new is a powerful lesson in how we can keep going and keep growing. I love this post, Tammy. Happy new year to you and yours! I look forward to following your progress this year.

    Reply
    • I think if I took this on as a discipline, that I could find so many areas where a purge is needed. Hmmm. Might make an interesting project.

      Reply
  24. I love this post on so many levels. Not only does the squash look delicious, but a reminder to lighten up our lives in always good. I’m in the process of trying to declutter – I don’t know how a small house got filled with so much stuff!

    Reply
    • And although I didn’t write it, lightening up on ourselves isn’t a bad idea either. More humor. More ability to laugh at ourselves.

      Reply
  25. I can make that, so it’s already a B+, If it tastes good well,,,hey ! Printed the recipe — a big step,

    Hey, a few blogs ago you were covering the new chicken “farmers.” I bet someone did (maybe ten) mention there is a new book out called the “Chicken Chronicles” written by prolific and Pulitzer winner Alice Cooper of the Color Purple.” I am sure there is some practical info included but she called it a spiiritual journey. She raised them as a child. The people who read it liked it. I am still chickenless.., Paul Sorry if this is old news.

    Reply
    • Yes, that recipe is easy. If I do it again, I’ll cook it a bit longer and add a bit more stuff – maybe some feta. If you read your comment again, you will laugh. I love Alice Walker and would like to read Chicken Chronicles but Alice Cooper is a local guy with bad make up. Thanks for the tip Paul.

      Reply
  26. This post totally hits my current mood – I’m in such a need to get rid of *stuff*, after being drowned in exams and not else for months, and left everything lying around and piling up otherwise. Two days ago, I went through my wardrobe and sorted out some clothes that don’t fit well anymore, and the kitchen will be next. :) And also in other parts of my life I feel the wish to focus on what is essential.

    I love the new blog design! Very clear and clean, just like the message of your post.

    Happy New Year to you!

    Reply
    • I think with all of your academic achievement, you could write a very nice post or instruction on how to do this in all the areas of our lives. Happy New Year Kath. Very happy for you.

      Reply
  27. Ooh. I wish I’d seen this 2 days ago when I was trying to figure out what to do with my spaghetti squash! I ended up roasting it and putting parmesan on it. It was good but this looks wonderful!

    Reply
    • I have yet to roast one so we’ll have to trade recipes. I like it but I do get tired of them.

      Reply
  28. What a great post. I love the questions, the recipe, and the overall upbeat tone. How perfect for the new year!

    Thank you!

    Reply
    • Thanks Kirsten. If I did those things then I achieved the outcome I was hoping for. Happy New Year.

      Reply
  29. Tammy, I love this post – the purging, the lightening, the New Year, and especially those three questions you ask as a “filter.” I have been saying for a long time that a job is not worth it if you don’t LIKE the people you work for/with and if you are not having FUN (at least some of the time!).
    A good filter for life and career choices.

    Reply
    • Yes, it’s helpful to me as I make choices about how to spend time – and although we do it every second, it’s a huge choice.

      Reply
  30. Happy New Year, Tammy.
    I have been “on the purge” for a few months now, increments at a time, ridding our home (where we have lived for 13 years) of the unwanted. The basement, where the unseen has been stacked for eons, was the first place I attacked. I told Bill it held psychic weight–we had no idea how it was burdening us. Yes, that sensation of lightness is palpable!
    I like how you have broadened that concept to include how we spend our time.

    Reply

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 )

Google+ photo

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

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: