Enlightenment and Adventure on the Camino de Santiago

Heading 2

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Nostrum minus ea suscipit porro alias corporis libero at. Perferendis omnis, veniam nemo beatae vel? Tempora numquam a repellat eaque natus, magnam?

Heading 2

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Autem ipsum mollitia neque, illum illo excepturi, eum incidunt fugit nostrum est, voluptate eaque minima corporis debitis at, dolores ipsam. Quaerat, dolores.

Heading 2

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Autem ipsum mollitia neque, illum illo excepturi, eum incidunt fugit nostrum est, voluptate eaque minima corporis debitis at, dolores ipsam. Quaerat, dolores.

Heading 2

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Autem ipsum mollitia neque, illum illo excepturi, eum incidunt fugit nostrum est, voluptate eaque minima corporis debitis at, dolores ipsam. Quaerat, dolores.

Heading 2

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Autem ipsum mollitia neque, illum illo excepturi, eum incidunt fugit nostrum est, voluptate eaque minima corporis debitis at, dolores ipsam. Quaerat, dolores.

Just like journaling, mindful travel stirs the heart and lets subconscious thoughts rise to the surface. Navigating an unfamiliar environment strengthens resolve, inspires creativity, and provides fresh perspective on a range of issues. For these reasons, it didn’t surprise us to learn that many of Journaling.com’s members are also avid travelers!

We were delighted to discover that some of you have walked the much beloved Camino de Santiago. That got us thinking what fun it would be to feature a collection of members’ stories that reflect this pilgrimage through the eyes of fellow journalers.

If travel is not on your horizon today, we still think you’ll find these stories uplifting. The listeners who contributed to this series span a range of ages, physical abilities, and economic backgrounds. Give their stories a listen, let them transport you to a very special place, and be inspired!


Revelations along the Camino de Santiago, with Petra Aslund


Secrets of the Camino with Sara Sayles


Walking the Camino with Nicole Walsh and Teri Tucker


Personal Reflections Walking the Camino with Amina Lynch


Planning to Walk the Camino, with Dan Dudzik

Our travelers’ anecdotes, survival tips, and resource suggestions follow. Perhaps their reflections are seeds with which you’ll sow your own camino one day!

A World-famous Pilgrimage

The Camino de Santiago is a world-famous pilgrimage comprised of several different routes, the most common of which start in France and stretch across northern Spain. All of the paths lead to the shrine of James the Apostle at the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral in Spain.

During the Medieval period, this walk was an important Christian pilgrimage. Today the Camino receives over 200,000 annual visitors from all walks of life.

As we heard each of our guests’ stories unfold, we were struck by how unique each traveler’s camino turned out to be.

Meet the Pilgrims

Petra Aslund. As she turned 40, Petra faced several significant life transitions, and it seemed a fitting time to embark on a pilgrimage. In the middle of June, for two weeks, Petra walked 14 miles a day. An experienced solo traveler, she decided to set out on this adventure alone. In retrospect, Petra believes this was the right decision, and she describes being on her own as a vital element of her experience. In our conversation, Petra describes the close connections she cultivated with fellow travelers as well as the meaningful lessons she learned in solitude.

Sara Sayles. On her 60th birthday, with an eye on her bucket list, Sara announced her intention to hike the Camino. With long-time friends from college, Sara spent three years plotting and planning to make her birthday wish come true. As she and her friends got deeper into the planning process, it became evident that their visions of the journey were not identical. While Sara dreamed of the ultimate backpacking experience, others envisioned a high-end Camino. Negotiating a variety of needs, wants, and wishes proved a meaningful exercise, and ultimately they crafted a plan that suited everyone. The friends shared a meaningful journey and struck a balance between solitude and introspection and connection and comradery on their long walk together.

Sara Sayles

Teri Tucker and Nicole Walsh. Friends and coworkers from Arizona, Teri and Nicole started their walk in June. With 21 days to spare, the two walked 15 miles per day for a total of 300 miles! The weather on the Camino is unpredictable, and pilgrims prepare for a range of conditions. Teri and Nicole report starting their journey with a heatwave and ending in the mountains where the air was cold. When they look back and consider the ground that they covered and the knowledge they unearthed, they feel understandable awe.

Teri Tucker & Nicole Walsh

Amina Lynch. For 20 years, Amina spoke of her desire to hike the Camino de Santiago. To celebrate her 42nd birthday, Amina’s husband gifted her with a three-day trek through the Pyrenees portion of the pilgrimage, arguably the most grueling part of the walk.

Amina Lynch

Dan Dudzik. Along with his church pastor and members of their congregation, Dan embarked on his pilgrimage in October and walked 165 miles in 12 days. By the end of this experience, the bond between Dan and his fellow walkers was something he still treasures today. The group even talks about reuniting for a local weekend-long hike to reflect back on the time they shared hiking the Camino.

Dan Dudzik

Financing the Adventure

For some of our guests, planning how to prioritize and finance their camino was a highly significant part of their process.

When Sara began to prepare for her walk, she’d just filed for bankruptcy. Her finances were challenging, but she never let this deter her. Sara put a financial plan together and for two years she saved between $50 and $100 a month in a fund established solely for her journey. In the end, she was able to pay for the trip in cash, a fact she points to with deep satisfaction.

Teri and Nicole wanted to be intentional about the money they spent on their walk. When they were ready to buy airline tickets, they kept their eyes on cheap airfare alerts on the internet, and when the price was right, they leaped and made their purchase. To save more money, they stayed in city-run hostels set up for pilgrims and carried their own backpacks. With proper planning, they were able to stick within their intended budget.

Training for the Walk

Methods of training for the Camino are as varied as the pilgrims who use them. Our guests had a variety of approaches and helpful suggestions.

  • Practice walking with a full pack. Petra advises that those who plan to carry their own packs on the trail should take a few long walks with weight on their backs beforehand in order to get a feel for that experience.  
  • Break in new shoes. Almost all of our guests mentioned the importance of becoming accustomed to the footwear before setting out to walk.
  • Sara’s regimen involved walking five miles a minimum of 2-3 times a week. As she got closer to her departure, she and friends would walk 10-12 miles together.
  • Teri and Nicole were both busy wrapping up the school year, and finding time to train was difficult, but they walked as much as they could.
  • Dan began training 12 weeks out. For the first 6 weeks he ran 3-5 miles 3 times a day on a treadmill. Closer to his departure time he ran 7 ½ miles with a 20-pound pack.

Sites Along the Way

Along the trail there are multiple opportunities to linger over breathtaking vistas, explore ancient architecture, and walk through vineyards that sprawl. A good guidebook will provide a listing of significant sites. Dan suggests travelers with extra time might add a few extra days in order to visit these special landmarks.

Finisterre, which translated means “Edge of the World,” marked a highlight for Petra. She describes this final destination as the perfect ending to her camino. “Looking out onto that ocean was emotional. I really felt like I had made a journey. More than just traveling physically, I’d made a journey as a person, and I felt like I was looking into eternity, something endless, and I felt full of potential.”

Teri and Nicole reminisce about the nightly masses where pilgrims are warmly invited to receive blessings in the small towns they visit. They describe the power that comes with being part of a long and significant tradition.

Tricks and Tips to Take on Your Camino

Our guests shared their suggestions to ensure a smoother journey.

  • Don’t overdo it. Sometimes it’s tempting to walk more than you should. Stop when you are tired. Sore hips and blisters are no fun.
  • Prepare for cold. Petra warns that the large dorms can be chilly. She suggests bringing an extra pair of socks to wear in bed at night. Ear muffs, windbreakers, rain jackets, and something to keep your pack dry can help keep you warm and dry.  
  • Walking poles might help. Not everyone uses them, but many pilgrims find poles are a helpful aid. Conveniently, there’s no need to purchase these beforehand. We’re told they’re easy to pick up on the trail.
  • Avoid blisters. Dan advises that sock liners alleviate friction between the sock and the skin. Others suggest wearing two pair of socks for a similar outcome. Nicole and Teri applied Vicks salve on their feet each morning having heard this was an effective preventative.
  • Pack light. For those who elect to hike with backpacks on, this detail is especially important. (For those who don’t wish to carry a large backpack, porters are available along the trail for a reasonable fee.) If traveling with others, consider splitting up supplies. Not everyone needs to bring the first aid kit and sunscreen.
  • Invest in a good sunhat. Protection from the sun is easier with a good hat that is made of sun protective fabric.

Wonder and Understanding

Everyone’s camino is unique because each pilgrim is on a different journey. Our guests’ recollections of gems gleaned on the trail are moving and profound.

Petra summed up her experience telling us, “It felt like I came into my own being on the trail. I’m a lot less easily frustrated now than I used to be, and I’m kinder to myself and to other people.”

Several guests observed that their experience revealed how little they needed to feel contentment. As their backpacks grew lighter, faith in their own skills and in the kindness of strangers was magnified.

Everyone agreed the Camino inspired them to slow down and to be more open to conversations with strangers . Our guests found they were more present and therefore able to listen and share in more meaningful ways.

Teri and Nicole achieved spiritual renewal along with a profound realization that whatever path they were walking, literally and figuratively, they were where they were supposed to be.

Amina described a meaningful ritual she practiced on the trail. Each day that she walked she carried a stone. As she made her way forward, whenever the moment moved her, Amina would place that stone on the side of the road to symbolize a burden being left behind. Soon after, she’d pick up another stone and continue on the trail repeating the same ritual when the timing felt right. “It was as though I left the trail 20 pound lighter,” she told us. In the evening she would journal about the burdens she’d removed and note the ways her ideas and feelings shifted as a result.

Journaling on the Trail

The people we interviewed are self-described journalers and each found creative ways to capture meaningful moments experienced on the trail.

Journaling played a significant role in the days Petra spent walking her camino. Almost daily, she reflected on the ideas she encountered and she reports how helpful it was to have a place to consider the gifts of the day.

Sara journals regularly at home, and she brought a journal to jot down daily mileage and reference the places she walked through. Interestingly, she noted that as time wore on she began to “journal less and experience more.”

When Teri and Nicole forgot their journals at home, they used their guidebook to record important details. They underlined the names of places they ate and stayed, and made notes of people they met and adventures they encountered. With a focus on gratitude, journaling helped to diminish any physical discomfort they experienced. To mark their journey, when they returned home, Teri and Nicole compiled photos and notes that they added to memory books commemorating their pilgrimage.

Amina journals “constantly” and this did not change on the Camino where she found writing to be as helpful as ever. As for Dan, on his fourth day of walking, a rain-soaked journal prevented him from writing. He relied on his camera to memorialize his trip, a process he found deeply satisfying.

Recommended Resources

The list below is a collection of resources referenced in our Camino interviews.

Books

  • Amina suggests Paulo Coehlo’s book, The Pilgrimage.
  • Teri and Nicole recommend A Pilgrim’s Guide to the Camino de Santiago by John Brierly

Gear and Supplies

  • Sarah loved her Oboz boots and Darn Tough and Balega socks.
  • Dan relied on Compeed to treat blisters.

Luggage Service

Hotels

Tour Company
Sara highly recommends Camino Tours telling us, “They did a fabulous job.”

Final Thoughts

Everyone we spoke with agreed with the sentiment behind this popular quote: “You don’t walk your camino with your feet, you walk it with your heart.” If you should find yourself walking your own camino one day, take your time on the trail and don’t compare yourself to others. Your walk is your own and it will lead you to the place where you are meant to be.

If you enjoyed these conversations, listen to our interview with travel journaler Lauren Hooper for more ideas.

How to Get Started Travel Journaling, with Lauren Hooper

Heading 2

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Nostrum minus ea suscipit porro alias corporis libero at. Perferendis omnis, veniam nemo beatae vel? Tempora numquam a repellat eaque natus, magnam?

Heading 2

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Autem ipsum mollitia neque, illum illo excepturi, eum incidunt fugit nostrum est, voluptate eaque minima corporis debitis at, dolores ipsam. Quaerat, dolores.

Heading 2

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Autem ipsum mollitia neque, illum illo excepturi, eum incidunt fugit nostrum est, voluptate eaque minima corporis debitis at, dolores ipsam. Quaerat, dolores.

Heading 2

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Autem ipsum mollitia neque, illum illo excepturi, eum incidunt fugit nostrum est, voluptate eaque minima corporis debitis at, dolores ipsam. Quaerat, dolores.

Heading 2

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Autem ipsum mollitia neque, illum illo excepturi, eum incidunt fugit nostrum est, voluptate eaque minima corporis debitis at, dolores ipsam. Quaerat, dolores.

We talked with Lauren Hooper, podcast host and seasoned traveler, to discover how journaling and travel make a perfect pairing. We are certain Lauren’s insights will inspire you to take along a journal on your next big adventure.

Lauren is a crafter, adventurer and storyteller who has lived overseas with her husband and pup for 6 years and created a career out of creativity and adventure. Lauren co-founded the Get Messy Art Journal program and now runs Radiant Art Retreats, hosts the podcast How She Creates, teaches online courses for creatives at lauren-likes.com, and is currently redesigning her popular travel art journal which will be available this spring. Lauren’s work explores the intersection of art, travel and good in the world.

To find out how you can incorporate journaling into your next travel adventure, listen to our interview, or read below to see highlights from our talk.

Lauren took her first creative steps as a child scrapbooking with her mom. This activity sparked in her a love of art and an appreciation of all-things creative. Growing up Lauren knew she would be an artist.

As graduate students facing the challenges of a limited income, Lauren and her husband made an amazing discovery. They did the math and realized that they would save money in the summertime if they got rid of their apartment and traveled instead. They used this time to visit with friends and see the country. A love of travel was ignited, and it became their life plan to see the world.

Throughout these travels, Lauren kept her pen moving. Filling notebooks with insights and reflections on the places she visited felt like a natural thing to do, and before she knew it, Lauren was a self-identified travel journaler.  

Lauren’s lifestyle continues to gift her with travel journaling opportunities. Today she lives on the campus of a university in the United Arab Emirates. With enthusiasm, she describes taking walks and biking in her close-knit community surrounded by desert and just a stone’s throw away from the city of Dubai. With gratitude she acknowledges, “Every day is an adventure.”

When Lauren reflects on what travel has shown her, she acknowledges, “You don’t know how much you don’t know until you know!”  She explains the ways living overseas has opened her mind up wide to people and experiences. “There is no wrong way to do life,” she tells us. Travel reveals the different ways a life can be lived well, and Lauren finds herself excited by the opportunities this mindset makes possible.  

Lauren is an avid journaler who speaks of her practice with contagious enthusiasm. “I love journaling. I love that it has so many levels and facets. This morning I did morning pages. Later I got out my art journal where I sprayed ink and glued pictures. Maybe I’ll add some writing to it.” Lauren uses a variety of journaling methods and embraces opportunities for creative play, experimentation, and variation.

The Benefits of Travel Journaling

The journals Lauren creates yield enormous benefits and enrich her travel life in meaningful ways because travel journaling:

  • facilitates deeper learning and reflection by keeping you present in the moment.
  • cements memories and helps the brain process “newness overload” often triggered by travel.
  • slows you down to help savor each minute.
  • helps replenish energy which in turn enhances the travel experience.

Don’t Forget Your Camera

Photos improve our memory of events and Lauren considers her camera an essential tool. Telling stories with pictures is one of her favorite things to do, and she encourages journalers to take photos. Lots and lots of photos. While traveling, Lauren suggest jotting down a few notes on a phone app that coincide with the pictures you’ve taken. At the end of the day, with very little effort, you’ll have captured the details you want to put into your journal.

Travel Journaling Tools and Tips

When it comes to travel journaling, Lauren’s focus is on simplicity and fun. She cautions journalers not to become overwhelmed by the process.

  • Make a plan. Decide what you will journal about. Keep it simple. You might try something like the top three highlights you enjoyed today.
  • Gather materials. Again, Lauren encourages sticking to the basics. A journal, a pen, and maybe a glue stick or a stapler will get you started. To add a splash of color, Lauren recommends carrying along a small watercolor set or colored pencils.  
  • Establish a set writing time. It might be before bed after a long day of travel. If it’s helpful, set an alarm so you don’t forget.

Once your pen is moving, Lauren suggests a concentrated focus on themes such as gratitude or storytelling that hones in on the highs and lows of the day. Go deep, she encourages. Unearth all of the details. You’ll be so grateful for the memories. Above all else, she reminds us, travel journaling should enhance the trip and not become another checkbox.

Create a Keepsake

Online services make it easier than ever to organize your journals and transform them into keepsakes. Lauren mentions a service called Chatbooks that will compile travel photos on Instagram into one attractive book. Lauren uses this feature often to pull together photos from her own travel adventures.

A Dream Comes True

When spring rolls around, Lauren will see a dream long in the making come to fruition, and we can’t wait to see the results!  Early in her travels, Lauren spent hours preparing for trips by making customized journals full of colorful prompts and paint. Doing this preparation in advance meant all she had to do on the road was get the words down. There was no need to concern herself with layout details she didn’t have time for. Not surprisingly, people noticed these journals and began asking for their own.

Soon, Lauren’s journals will be available in print. Lauren describes her guided journals as “books full of prompts that tickle the artist’s brain and help them express what they see.” Lauren’s goal is to provide a tool that inspires creativity and eliminates overwhelm.

Lauren left us with final thoughts we hope you’ll take to heart. “Take your journal and write about whatever is bubbling up in your heart and mind that day. Write about the most beautiful things, the hardest things, the memories and moments that come together to create this beautiful travel life soup.”  Yum! Doesn’t she make it sound so delicious?

Your Action Plan

If you enjoyed this conversation with Lauren, you’ll find my interview with journal art expert Caylee Grey full of inspiration.

Fun Ways to Combine Art and Journaling, with Caylee Grey

Heading 2

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Nostrum minus ea suscipit porro alias corporis libero at. Perferendis omnis, veniam nemo beatae vel? Tempora numquam a repellat eaque natus, magnam?

Heading 2

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Autem ipsum mollitia neque, illum illo excepturi, eum incidunt fugit nostrum est, voluptate eaque minima corporis debitis at, dolores ipsam. Quaerat, dolores.

Heading 2

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Autem ipsum mollitia neque, illum illo excepturi, eum incidunt fugit nostrum est, voluptate eaque minima corporis debitis at, dolores ipsam. Quaerat, dolores.

Heading 2

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Autem ipsum mollitia neque, illum illo excepturi, eum incidunt fugit nostrum est, voluptate eaque minima corporis debitis at, dolores ipsam. Quaerat, dolores.

Heading 2

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Autem ipsum mollitia neque, illum illo excepturi, eum incidunt fugit nostrum est, voluptate eaque minima corporis debitis at, dolores ipsam. Quaerat, dolores.

My conversation with artist and journaler Caylee Grey is a reminder that the best way to journal is to use whichever tools work best for you. Some of us are most at ease with words. Others feel best with a paintbrush in hand. Some of us enjoy using both. There are no rules. Your journal won’t mind!

Caylee is the host of a kind and enthusiastic art journaling community on the internet called Get Messy. She believes in the habit of art, dancing naked in perfectionism’s face, and the magic of connection. She squeezes her own creative time in during her tiny human’s naps, and helps other artists find the time in their own busy lives to create.  

Listen to our interview, or read below to see highlights from our talk, and discover why the art journaling community refers to Caylee as the “Fairy Art Mother.”



Pair Your Art with Your Writing

Caylee is an inspired journaler. The 100 completed journals she’s created so far are proof of this! Art and writing have become so intertwined for her, she no longer bothers to separate the two. 

“I’ve kept journals forever. I tried to do a word-only journal once thinking that was how to make a “real” journal. Very quickly though, I started doodling in the margin and pasting things inside, and I finally gave up on keeping a words-only journal.”

Why Art Journaling Works

Caylee is a dynamic, energized speaker, and her enthusiasm is contagious when she talks about the benefits of art journaling.

  • Pushing paint around on a page helps express emotions that words cannot always access. Caylee recalls a challenging time in her own life when the simple act of applying black paint on her journal’s pages got to the heart of an issue words couldn’t touch.
  • It’s not complicated. Caylee reminds us art is in everything and we can use it to tell our story. Just pasting a receipt or putting a business card on the pages of a journal she explains, provide abstract ideas with meaning and form.
  • Everything is art. Even a shopping list in your own handwriting is a form of self-expression.
  • Art journaling is calming. “It’s like meditation,” Caylee notes, “but requires less discipline!”

Get Messy!

The name of Caylee’s dynamic online art community, Get Messy, is personal. “I’m a perfectionist. Getting messy makes me uncomfortable. Coming up with this name was like a challenge to myself to ignore perfectionism, and to let go and just make a mess!”

Caylee works tirelessly to empower the artists in her Get Messy community to let go of perfectionism.

It’s the Process Not the Product

Caylee gives a shout out to one of Journaling.com’s favorite artists, Amy Maricle, who speaks to the value of “the process over the product.”  In her own creative work, Caylee’s noticed that if the focus is on “messing up” in a positive sense, the inner critic is silenced which leads to extraordinary creative outcomes.

This idea has ramifications for other parts of our lives. Caylee connects the dots and explains that when we let go of perfectionism in our art, we eliminate this tendency in other facets of our lives as well.

Establish a Routine to Maximize Creative Moments

Caylee describes herself as routine driven. She believes and commits to doing something creative every day. Whether that’s drawing a line in her journal or spending four hours on a page, she prioritizes these moments. “Showing up every day is where the magic happens. It’s about waiting for the magic and being prepared for it when it comes.”

The notion that good art comes from bursts of electric inspiration is one Caylee has moved past. Instead, she’s discovered, it’s through small repetitive practices every day that substantive creative goals are achieved.

“I have a rule that I can go two days without creating something. Otherwise, I make something, even if I don’t feel like it. I know that even if I’m tired, even if I create rubbish, at least I’ve shown up, and I can come back again and try something different. Showing up and a little risk leads to magic.”

Tips for Travel Journaling

“When you take time to journal what you’re feeling and seeing around you, there is something magical about it.” Caylee regularly talks travel journaling with her followers, and she considers this medium the perfect tool for capturing the essence of a trip.

There is something different about journaling when compared with photography, Caylee notes, and she’s found herself lately taking trips with the sole purpose of journaling. “My travel journals are my favorites. Photos are how everyone sees the world. My journal reflects the ways that I see it.”

Journaling Tips to Take On Your Travels

  • Mix words and images any way you choose.

  • Collect papers, ticket stubs, and other finds you spot, and arrange them in an appealing way.

  • Take the picture no one else would think of and tuck it inside of your journal. If you visit the Eifel Tower, for instance, take a close-up shot. Capture a small detail others might overlook.

  • Look for and use materials that evoke memories of textures, sights, and sounds from the place you’ve visited.

  • Write about the small details. The menu at the café you adored. The conversations that buzzed around you. These memories are rich and will transport you back to special places for many years to come.

Your Action Plan

  • Listen to my conversation with Caylee.

  • Connect with Caylee. Visit her online at the Get Messy Art Website and at Get Messy on Instagram.

  • Connect with a like-minded arts community. Join https://getmessyart.com/

  • Start collecting and creating elements that reflect your life. These might be your own words, the words of others, drawings, or miscellaneous items you affix to the page.
  • Caylee’s favorite supplies are the moleskin journals she keeps on hand. But she recommends you grab whatever is most convenient in your house at this moment. Choose the resource that will get you started journaling today!
  • Establish a regular creative routine that is free of judgement.
  • Let go of perfectionism. Get messy!

If you’ve enjoyed this interview, check out our conversation with Amy Maricle where we discuss five fabulous tips for art journaling.

Clearing Clutter as a Sacred Act, with Carolyn Koehnline

Heading 2

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Nostrum minus ea suscipit porro alias corporis libero at. Perferendis omnis, veniam nemo beatae vel? Tempora numquam a repellat eaque natus, magnam?

Heading 2

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Autem ipsum mollitia neque, illum illo excepturi, eum incidunt fugit nostrum est, voluptate eaque minima corporis debitis at, dolores ipsam. Quaerat, dolores.

Heading 2

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Autem ipsum mollitia neque, illum illo excepturi, eum incidunt fugit nostrum est, voluptate eaque minima corporis debitis at, dolores ipsam. Quaerat, dolores.

Heading 2

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Autem ipsum mollitia neque, illum illo excepturi, eum incidunt fugit nostrum est, voluptate eaque minima corporis debitis at, dolores ipsam. Quaerat, dolores.

Heading 2

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Autem ipsum mollitia neque, illum illo excepturi, eum incidunt fugit nostrum est, voluptate eaque minima corporis debitis at, dolores ipsam. Quaerat, dolores.

Author and certified journal therapist Carolyn Koehnline wrote Clearing Clutter as a Sacred Act to help people approach the act of decluttering with mindful intention. Carolyn’s collection of essays, paintings, and poems provide comfort in the midst of decluttering. She’s written a marvelous book, and it was a pleasure to talk with her on our podcast, The Power of Journaling.

Carolyn is a certified journal therapist, licensed psychotherapist, personal coach, and the creator of Gentle Approach Coaching. For twenty-seven years, she’s supported people in clearing clutter from their homes, heads, hearts, and schedules. She is the author of three books: Confronting Your Clutter, a children’s book called The Bear’s Gift, and her newly released book, Clearing Clutter as a Sacred Act. Carolyn is a faculty member of the Therapeutic Writing Institute and the Journalversity. In addition to her private coaching practice, she offers self-paced solo courses, group online classes, and provides workshops in a wide variety of settings.

To hear our discussion, listen to the podcast below. Or continue reading for highlights of our conversation.

Defining Clutter

Carolyn describes clutter as a subjective term which she defines as any object, emotion, or commitment that drains energy or distracts us from priorities.

Kinds of Clutter

Clutter can appear in a variety of forms which are oftentimes interconnected. Carolyn identifies its most common manifestations as:

  • object clutter
  • head clutter
  • heart clutter
  • calendar clutter

Often, she observes, the old items that wind up in our attics and basements represent decisions we don’t want to make or experience. These objects reflect internal conflict and confusion and can come to symbolize a former profession or relationship or any passage of time being grieved.  

In her work as a decluttering coach, Carolyn finds that turning toward an object with full attention, and taking time for a meaningful goodbye, can help release this kind of emotional clutter.

Make decluttering a transformational act

Carolyn Koehnline

Journaling to Make New Space in Our Lives

Journaling plays a meaningful role in Carolyn’s clutter-clearing practice. To help untangle and resolve conflicted feelings, she recommends writing for 5-10 minute stretches when possible.

To decide whether an item should stay or go, Carolyn suggests reflecting on a few simple questions which can be used as writing prompts.

  • How does this item make me feel?
  • Does this object deplete or boost my energy?
  • How does the stuff I’ve accumulated impact important relationships?

Customize a Plan That Works  

A number of impressive decluttering experts are writing books to spread the message, less really can be more. What stands out in Carolyn’s approach is her emphasis on the idea there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits all approach. Rather, she shares methods and tools to help determine an individualized approach to the decluttering process. “We are all different,” she explains. “The more you tune into your inner voice the better the process with go.”

Decluttering is a Sacred Act

Carolyn inspires us to make the act of decluttering a joyful, sacred process. When we clear out clutter, we make space in our lives for something new. She offers a few simple tips to guide our thinking.

  • Dedicate this process to a meaningful objective such as spending more time with family or pursuing creative endeavors. Infuse the process with meaning.
  • As you work your way through piles, avoid negative thoughts which deplete you.
  • Along the way, energy may slag. Pause. Repeat your intention. Write it down in your journal if you like. Remind yourself that the purpose of this action is to grow spaciousness in your life.

Create a Soul Space

In her book, Carolyn describes the soul space as any place that nurtures curiosity, inspiration, and reflective thinking. Children are master architects of this sort of design—they know the magic of a well-engineered blanket fort or treehouse where possibilities for playful exploration feel infinite. As adults, a decluttered space which reflects who we are and what we care about can serve a similar function. When we establish a sacred space, Carolyn explains, we make room to go to a deeper place in our selves. The voice that emerges will be a voice we can trust.  

Pace Yourself

As we work our way through piles of “stuff” it’s easy to think we should be farther along than we are. Carolyn urges us instead to trust the pace with which we work.

It’s helpful to check in with your journal periodically. Track progress there. Record when you’ll take your next break. Write down small goals that can be checked-off when completed. Use your journal to celebrate decluttering victories—large and small.

Action plan

  • Learn more about Carolyn’s work. Visit her online at Gentle Approach Coaching.
  • For a limited time you can order a signed copy of her new book, Clearing Clutter as a Sacred Act.
  • Create your own soul space, and spend meaningful time there regularly.
  • Write about any object, head, heart, and calendar clutter in your own life and make a plan to tackle these at a comfortable pace.
  • Listen to my interview with Carolyn (above).

In creating spaciousness in our lives, we invite new opportunities and experiences. Be kind and compassionate to yourself as you work your way through this process.

If you enjoyed this interview, you might appreciate listening to Lea Fransisco’s podcast. We discuss how to write your way through challenging life transitions.