Living His Passion – Ben Evers

 Ben Evers, Farm Focused

Ben Evers, Farm Focused

When Ben Evers was young, his parents purchased property outside Plattsmouth, Nebraska, with the intent of creating a horse farm. Little did he know at the time that the move would be the single most impactful change in his life. As life on the farm presented him with daily opportunities to perform chores, creatively solve problems, work with his hands, and develop a variety of skills, Ben grew up understanding the value of fulfilling work that instills pride. Additionally, he watched his mother walk away from a corporate job to start her own business. As her company developed and grew, Ben was by her side, helping whenever and however he could. Despite his desire to pursue other interests that included playing sports and riding a dirt bike, Ben never forgot the valuable life lessons he learned during his childhood.

After graduating from the University of Nebraska with a degree in Business Management and marrying his wife, Morgan, Ben pursued a career in retail management that took him from big box stores to a family-owned automotive collision repair shop and finally to a major auto parts supplier where he progressively moved up the ladder to become a district manager who oversaw over 200 employees. In 2015 after deciding that fulfillment was more important to him than chasing the dollar, Ben moved with his wife and their three children back to Nebraska with the intent of starting a business and getting back to his roots. A few months later, Farm Focused was founded near the horse farm where Ben first learned to embrace the country life and the value of hard work.

Driven by his love of working with farmers and a respect for agriculture, Ben started the business based on the idea of bringing efficiencies to local growers through soil additives at planting time that ultimately allow the grower to use less inputs (synthetic fertilizers and fungicides) and increase the health of the soil. Additionally, Ben focused his business on improving efficiencies of the diesel engine, the heartbeat of the farm. As the business grew, Ben added another sector to his brand by creating lifestyle apparel items that he originally created as thank you gifts and marketing collateral. Before long, a demand for his apparel helped him discover that there are surprises in every business. Ben states that he eventually realized that Farm Focused is not just a company that helps farmers, but also a relatable brand that people want to be a part of, no matter where they live or work. Since creating a great logo, Ben has built the line from one t-shirt to 10 separate designs in both unisex and female cuts, seven hat designs, and has even branded socks. Ben adds, “The growth of this side of the business has happened very rapidly. Today we are at a point where we are ready to take it to the next level.”

The farmers that Ben deals directly with on a daily basis all primarily grow corn and soybeans. He states that one of their biggest challenges is the current state of the commodity market. Unfortunately as smaller acre farmers start to fall off and massive yield farmers continue to produce higher yields than ever before, an increase in supply is outrunning the demand. Because of this, there are many progressive growers who are looking for better ways. That is where Farm Focused steps in to help.

A typical day at Farm Focused involves office business as well as time working on a diesel engine, walking fields conducting comparison analyses between treated and untreated soil, or staffing a booth or space at a county fair or other event. The company continues to evolve and change as Ben learns more about the industry and identifies opportunities to bring further products and services under its umbrella.

Ben openly welcomes the personal growth he has experienced over the last few years. “I have seen a different side of life and I am a happier and more content person today. Professionally, I have gained new perspectives that have allowed me to look at things a little differently.” He advises those who want to pursue their passion to build self-confidence first and then decide that you are going to make it, no matter what unexpected obstacles pop up on the path to living a dream.

John D. Rockefeller once said, Don't be afraid to give up the good to go for the great." Three years ago, Ben Evers did just that when he stepped outside his comfort zone, listened to his heart, walked away from a corporate job, and jumped into building a business that would not only provide him with fulfillment, but also support his family. As he walks the fields and searches for innovative ways to help those who provide the world with food, there is no question that Ben is putting his all into going for the great. Rockefeller would be proud.

For more about Ben and his business, visit http://www.farmfocused.com/.

Vicky DeCoster is a Certified Life Coach who specializes in helping her clients move past obstacles, create a plan for happiness, and cross the bridge of transition to find a new and fulfilling direction in life. To read more about her and her practice, visit her at crossthebridgecoaching.com.

Why Practicing Gratitude Makes Us Happier

 Photo by Jessica Castro

Photo by Jessica Castro

Practicing gratitude can be one of the most challenging practices we do on a daily basis, especially when someone cuts us off in traffic, our children are sick, we lose a loved one suddenly, or our boss asks us to work late for the fifth day in a row. Yet as difficult as it can be sometimes, the practice of remembering what we are grateful for has tremendous benefits.

According to a recent study at UC Berkeley, people who wrote gratitude letters reported feeling significantly better mentally several weeks later. Additionally according to another study published in Personality and Individual Differences, participants who practiced gratitude stated they felt healthier and experienced fewer aches and pains. Other reported benefits through a variety of studies include better sleep, less aggressive behavior, improved self-esteem, and enhanced empathy.

In order for a gratitude practice to be successful, it is important to set aside a certain time every day to identify what you are thankful for in your life. The best time to begin practicing this technique might be at bedtime. Place an empty notebook and pen next to your bed. Every night before shutting off the light, close your eyes, place your hand over your heart, slow your breathing, and focus on what matters most to you. Then open your eyes and write this sentence in your gratitude journal:

Today I am grateful for …

Let the words flow. Chances are that what you end up writing will surprise you. In most instances, the things you find you are grateful for will not be material items like cars, boats, or a sparkly new piece of jewelry. Instead, your daily gratitude statements might look more like this:

Today I am grateful for a warm bed.

Today I am grateful for a hug from a friend.

Today I am grateful for my health.

Today I am grateful the laughter of my children.

Today I am grateful for a great conversation with my boss.

Today I am grateful that I had my mother in my life as long as I did before she passed.

Although practicing gratitude through daily journaling is the most effective way to see results, it is important to note that you can practice gratitude wherever you are, whenever you want. You can practice gratitude in the car while at a stoplight. Look at the sky. Quietly reflect on its beauty and then practice gratitude for the gift of nature. You can practice gratitude while in a meeting. Look around at all your co-workers. Find gratitude for all the different personalities because it is the unpredictability of life that keeps you from feeling bored. Practice gratitude while in the grocery store. Look at all the food available at your fingertips. Be thankful as there are many people in the world who do not share the same luxury.

After practicing gratitude every day for several weeks, pay attention to how you are feeling. Seeing results does not provide you a pass to stop the practice. Continue on, no matter where life takes you from here.

By focusing on the simple gifts that life provides us every day, it is possible to transform our thinking into a more positive mindset that promotes fulfillment, happiness, and inner-peace.

Vicky DeCoster is a Certified Life Coach who specializes in helping her clients move past obstacles, create a plan for happiness, and cross the bridge of transition to find a new and fulfilling direction in life. To read more about her and her practice, visit her at crossthebridgecoaching.com.

 

Living Her Passion – Hannah Olson Nodskov

 Hannah Olson Nodskov

Hannah Olson Nodskov

Hannah Olson Nodskov has been passionate about fashion and entrepreneurship ever since she was a little girl who loved sketching outfits, drawing realistic figures, and creating a small flip-flop business with her mother. But it wasn’t until she was a junior in high school that Hannah decided to stop complaining about a lack of trendy clothes that fit her curvy body and taught herself to sew using Pinterest, YouTube, and Google. It wasn’t long before she was designing outfits that caught the attention of other plus-size teenagers and women.

Boosted by encouragement from friends and family, she debuted Hannah Caroline Couture a year later with a self-produced show in her high school auditorium. After twenty-five friends modeled outfits and other friends stepped in to DJ, emcee, and photograph the event, orders for her custom garments began pouring in. As her interest in business and fashion led her to pursue a business degree from the University of Nebraska at Omaha, Hannah began to feel the love from Omaha’s vibrant, helpful startup community. In 2014, Hannah won a business plan competition at her college that she says pushed her out of her comfort zone to create a unique business plan, present it to a large audience, and then manage the subsequent press coverage.

After attending Full Figured Fashion Week in 2015 where she showcased her designs in the same runway show as such mega brands as Lane Bryant, the door opened for Hannah to transform her hobby business into a sustainable business that grew from a few local orders throughout the year to multiple orders per month from women nationwide as well as in other countries.

 Hannah on the runway with one of her models at Full Figured Fashion Week, 2018

Hannah on the runway with one of her models at Full Figured Fashion Week, 2018

Although she currently designs for women of all sizes, Hannah especially focuses her designs and ready-made collections for plus-size women using a larger standard production size than the industry uses. She is passionate about serving a niche of women who struggle with shopping for fashionable clothes that fit well, are comfortable, and take into consideration factors like bigger arms, large busts, nonstandard hourglass shapes, and differently proportioned shapes. “I believe my ability to understand these factors is crucial to the success of my business,” Hannah adds. She draws inspiration for her designs from architecture, interesting juxtapositions, and most often, the fabrics and materials themselves. Her business role model is Christian Siriano, one of the most successful winners of the television show, Project Runway and a vocal supporter of and designer for plus-size women.

Since inception, Hannah Caroline Couture has matured into offering what brings her the most joy: designing evening and bridal wear for the plus-size woman. During the day, Hannah works full-time in her dream role as Marketing Manager at a local sports technology startup, ScoreVision. At night and on weekends, she sews orders, plans social media posts, manages business finances, orders materials, and packs and ships orders to her loyal clientele.

Hannah says her favorite part about owning a business is the opportunity to make a difference in her customers’ lives and the opportunities that have opened up to her because of her business that include learning new skills and traveling to exciting places. Her challenges include balancing her perfectionism tendencies with personal relationships, a social life, and a solid self-care routine. Hannah states that the best piece of advice she ever received is to continuously gather feedback and never stop doing so. “Every time I want to expand or pivot my business, I make sure to ask for feedback from my target market(s) before investing time and resources in the idea,” she adds. “Paying customers guide businesses down the paths they’re supposed to follow.”

Being an entrepreneur has allowed Hannah to gain confidence in herself and her purpose. She advises other entrepreneurs to work on finding the balance between passion, ideas, and solving the problems of a target market. Hannah states, “Passion for something is great, but when things get tough, it isn’t always enough. Having a sustainable market is the best way to enable yourself to continue pursuing your passion.”

Renowned fashion photographer Bill Cunningham once said, “Fashion is the armor to survive the reality of everyday life.” Every time Hannah Olson Nodskov sits in front of her sketch pad or sewing machine, she focuses on bringing light, hope, and love through creative designs that help her customers remember that we are all beautiful, no matter what our size or shape.

For more about Hannah Caroline Couture, visit https://hccdesign.co/.

Living Her Passion - Abigail Ervin

 Abigail Ervin creating an original art piece

Abigail Ervin creating an original art piece

Abigail Ervin does not know what she is doing or where she is going. She does not like to sit still or wear shoes. In fact, she does not like peas. Most of the time the only thing she is very certain of is that she likes to make art—and lots of it.

After being born into an artistic family, Abigail spent her childhood first in Tujunga Valley, California, and then in the tiny town of Neligh, Nebraska, where it seemed her desire to create was deep in her genes. Just like many others, Abigail started drawing as a toddler. The only difference is that she never stopped. Later after she graduated from high school and realized she needed to fund her wanderlust to see the world, she began selling her drawings. After funding a large portion of a trip to Africa with her earnings, Abigail happily recognized it was possible to make an income from her art. Since then, she has traveled to England, France, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein, Italy, India, and throughout the United States, gathering life-altering experiences that shine through all her creations.

Once she developed a style and story, Abigail focused on placing her art in shows and markets while creating new pieces, marketing herself, and learning how to be a successful entrepreneur. Abigail, who openly admits she just fell into this role, is embracing the unknowns that come with being an artist in a competitive world. She says that if she had to pick a message behind her art it would be the same message she follows in her faith: truth, beauty, and goodness. Abigail adds, “The truth is that the world is always moving, changing, and judging us. Still, we’re not as alone as we think we are.”

 An Abigail Ervin original

An Abigail Ervin original

Abigail’s art can be described as both inspiring and honest as she often provides her audience with a glimpse into her heart, her sufferings, her love, and her hope for the future. Her commissions include not only self-portraits but also beautiful artwork for wedding events, greeting cards, booklets, tote bags, and t-shirts. Abigail’s future aspirations include writing and illustrating a children’s book, creating murals, and attending markets outside of the United States. She states, “My eyes have always seen a little bit further than the rest of my body, but I’ve never really seen that as a bad thing.”

Throughout her journey, Abigail has been supported by her family as well as Cameron, the love of her life who has been by her side through thick and thin. She loves interacting with her audience who often tell her that her art is relatable, which she says is a funny coincidence since she spent much of her life feeling she was not relatable. Today, she is gratified knowing that her artwork is helping others around the world who have endured the same struggles as she did in high school and beyond.

Now twenty-three, Abigail is busy juggling art projects and commissions along with a part-time job as a barista at a local coffee shop where she also handles social media and menu design. She states that although she has gained much from pursuing her passion, she is most proud of the confidence she has built to say (and believe), “I can do this.” Abigail advises others to pursue what they love. “If it’s something that makes you feel like you matter and it’s something that’s not hurting you or other people, then what are you waiting for? Something like that can only be good. Nothing ever happens if you don’t actually get up and go.”

Roger Fry once said, “Art is a passion or it is nothing.” When viewing Abigail Ervin’s art, one can see straight into her soul, a compassionate place that has seen its share of pain but now helps others know that they are never alone, and that there is always beauty in the darkness.

To view her portfolio or commission Abigail to create a special piece, visit her at http://abigailervin.com/.

Vicky DeCoster is a Certified Life Coach who specializes in helping her clients move past obstacles, create a plan for happiness, and cross the bridge of transition to find a new and fulfilling direction in life. To read more about her and her practice, visit her at crossthebridgecoaching.com.

Five Small Dietary Changes to Achieve Better Health

It’s a phrase that can be annoying to some and inspiring to others. Either way you choose to view it, it’s true: We are what we eat. With that said, we all can make small changes every day that will take us down a new path to better health.

Below are five facts about diet with included goals that will help you incorporate and stick to small dietary changes that will make big differences in your long-term health:

1.      A reduction in red meats has been linked to a low incidence of stroke and coronary heart disease. Goal: Strive to eat just 4 ounces of lean red meat a week and vegetarian two times a week.

2.      Phosphoric acid (found in diet sodas) can disrupt nutrient absorption which speeds up the aging process, and gives us more wrinkles and a weaker frame. Goal: Strive to replace one diet soda a day with water until you are drinking water the majority of the time.

3.      More than 37 scientific studies show that eating oatmeal daily as part of a low-fat diet may help reduce the risk of heart disease. Goal: Make overnight oatmeal on the stove once a week by combining three cups of boiling water with 1 cup of steel cut oats. Cover and let sit overnight. In the morning, add milk to achieve desired consistency. Heat through and then refrigerate leftovers to eat for the rest of the week.

4.      A Mediterranean diet may help lower risk for certain diseases, improve mood, and boost energy levels. Goal: Make every effort to incorporate walnuts, whole grains, olive oil, fish, beans, blueberries, and low-fat dairy products like Greek yogurt into your diet every day.

5.      Heavy sugar consumption has been linked to an increased risk of depression. Goal: Read labels more often. Check for sugar content in foods that may seem like a healthier option (like yogurt) and compare with other brands. Choose the brand with the least amount of sugar (like plain Greek yogurt). Add a bit of honey and a handful of walnuts to add pizzazz.

It can be a daunting task to think about entirely changing the way we eat. But it is not as daunting to simply pay more attention to what we put into our mouths on a daily basis, practicing positive self-talk when we falter, listening to our bodies and doctors, and not comparing ourselves to anyone else. Once you set your goals, choose an accountability partner who believes in you, supports you, and is willing to help you achieve better health. Because in the end, it is not only good to be proud of who you are, but also of what you eat.

Vicky DeCoster is a Certified Life Coach who specializes in helping her clients move past obstacles, create a plan for happiness, and cross the bridge of transition to find a new and fulfilling direction in life. To read more about her and her practice, visit her at crossthebridgecoaching.com.

 

Living Her Passion – Chelsey Erpelding

 Chelsey Erpelding in her garden.

Chelsey Erpelding in her garden.

Chelsey Erpelding was a busy mother of two little ones, Edith and Bette, when she first began receiving Reiki, a Japanese technique that uses touch to activate the natural healing processes of the body and restore physical and emotional well-being. From that point on, Chelsey, who had become frustrated with the lack of support for mothers post-birth, was hooked on the nourishing effects of Reiki. Six months later, she began training to become a Reiki Master. It wasn’t long before her passion for healing, gardening, and creating natural products led her to open an online shop, Other Magic, LLC.

Chelsey, who holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in public health, always yearned to own a business. But it wasn’t until her path led her to healing work that Chelsey discovered her true passion. After her love of vegetable gardening inspired her to grow more herbs and medicinal plants and contemplate how she could incorporate them into her healing work, Chelsey’s backyard transformed into an organic oasis for roses, mint, lemon balm, yarrow, bee balm, valerian, lavender, sage, thyme, red raspberries, blueberries, goldenrod, anise hyssop, chamomile, and other flowers and vegetables.

In 2017, she began researching how to infuse her garden plants in oils. Soon she was creating nontoxic products to sell through Other Magic, LLC, that include Rose Oil made with yarrow, rose petals, and rosehips; Face Magic Oil made with chamomile, rose hips, and hibiscus that are all high in Vitamin C and great for skin; Magic Salve created with yarrow and plantain that is tailored to help heal deep dryness, burns, scrapes, and bites; and Lemon Balm made to use as a protective coating for hands and lips. Today she is studying herbalism and is excited to grow new plants and create more natural products to sell in her online shop.

Chelsey’s favorite part of owning a business is that she is doing what she loves. When she is not fulfilling the duties of motherhood or performing Reiki for her loyal clientele, Chelsey is busy harvesting her garden and developing products in her kitchen. She says, “Some products can take weeks to prepare, so some days I am creating and other days I am bottling or shipping.” By pursuing her passion, Chelsey claims she has gained a sense of calm about her life. She adds, “I spent most of my twenties trying to find my purpose. I can now happily say that I am finally doing what I feel I am meant to do. I also know now that finding purpose doesn’t always look like a nine-to-five job. Finding purpose means digging into the things you love.”

Supported by her husband Brent, her family, and an incredible group of female friends who are always cheering her on, Chelsey encourages others to find the courage to put themselves out there and pursue their passion, even if it causes them to feel vulnerable. “Sometimes it takes a while to connect all of the dots when thinking about a passion,” she says, “but stick with it. Spend time with people who inspire you, do the things you love as often as you can, and keep your mind open to creative solutions.”

Vincent Norman Peale once said, “The more you lose yourself in something bigger than yourself, the more energy you will have.” When Chelsey Erpelding uses her hands to heal through touch or to plant medicinal herbs in her garden that will eventually be turned into natural products, there is no question she is investing in something much bigger than herself: helping others find happiness and inner-peace through healing.

For more about Chelsey and her products, visit her at https://www.othermagic.org/.

Ways to Effectively Manage Your Time

Photo by Aaron Burden

Managing time effectively is a challenge that many of us will battle our entire lives, especially while living within a world fueled by ever-changing technology, constant distractions, and devices that demand our attention 24/7. No matter how hard we try to stay focused on one task at a time on our to-do lists, some days it seems like we’re treading water and going nowhere.

Food journals are a wonderful way to track what we eat, when we eat, and why we are eating. When learning how to effectively manage your day, keeping a time journal that is similar in style to a food journal can help.

For one week, track every hour of every day. After logging every hour of your day for at least five days, review the schedules and identify the distractions that pulled you away from your focus. Although we all face unanticipated distractions every day, there are ways to rectify some of the more common time wasters:

  1. Plan, plan, and plan some more. Fill your car with gas every Sunday night. Unless you’re driving 50+ miles a day, a full tank should last you all week. Find innovative ways to prepare ahead of time so you aren’t frantically running around at the last minute. Plan your meals for a week so you aren’t wandering the grocery store aisles every night, looking for ideas. At the end of each day, create a to-do list for the next day. To-do lists really help us DO and avoid procrastination.
  2. Limit your time on social media and your phone. Set aside certain times of the day to check social media. These times should last no longer than 15 minutes and should ideally be just twice a day. Set an alarm on your phone when you are ready to begin checking social media. When it goes off, close out all your accounts. Better yet, remove social media apps from your phone. Turn sound notifications off on your phone. Place it face down on the desk or in a drawer when you need to focus on a project. Make a pledge to read the news only once a day. It’s plenty.
  3. Recognize the other time wasters. Whether it’s a chatty co-worker or social events, there are ways to gently extract yourself from situations you have identified as time wasters. It’s perfectly acceptable to tell a co-worker that you only have a couple of minutes to listen now, but would be happy to schedule a lunch at another time to chat. It’s also fine to extract yourself from social events that feel obligatory instead of enjoyable. When you learn to say “no,” you open yourself up to living a life not driven by obligations, but instead by what makes you happy.

No matter how hard we try, no day ever turns out how we plan. But it is possible to be productive, despite the distractions, if we learn to first recognize and then deal with our unique time wasters.

Vicky DeCoster is a Certified Life Coach who specializes in helping her clients move past obstacles, create a plan for happiness, and cross the bridge of transition to find a new and fulfilling direction in life. To read more about her and her practice, visit her at crossthebridgecoaching.com.

 

Living His Passion - Derek Caster

Derek-Caster

Derek Caster was just six years old when he was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy, a group of diseases that causes weakness and progressive muscle loss. During a time when he should have been learning to ride a bike and read books, Derek was facing much bigger challenges. As he continued to grow up in Papillion, Nebraska, and bravely endured the symptoms of MD, Derek learned much about people and the world.

As he moved from walking to using a mobility scooter and eventually to relying on a wheelchair, Derek says his experience was both physically and mentally draining as he gradually lost the ability to do things that others take for granted like lifting his phone to his ear to make a call, drinking without a straw, giving high-fives, hugging people, and even properly shaking hands. Throughout all his challenges, Derek was nurtured and supported by his parents, Tammy and Darin, and older sister, Courtney. Derek adds, “Although my family has gone through struggles not familiar to many, we are also stronger because of it.”

In 2004 and 2005, a then nine-year-old Derek founds one of his passions after he was selected to be the Nebraska state ambassador for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Derek was selected again for the important position in 2016 and 2017. His role was to attend events and visit businesses to share his story and advocate for MDA to promote fundraising. He adds, “Speaking in front of crowds and watching the impact of my words on the audiences was therapeutic. I really enjoyed being a positive light in a world filled with so much darkness.” Because MDA does not receive government funding, all their research and other work must be funded through events. Today, Derek serves as a local ambassador who continues to advocate for MDA and all they do. In all his roles for MDA, he has most enjoyed watching complete strangers compassionately help someone in need.

At age twenty-three, Derek has built an impressive list of accomplishments. After picking up graphic design as a hobby, Derek eventually realized it was something he wanted to do for a career when he was a junior in high school. “I love seeing something transform from a simple idea to a completed design,” Derek states. He recently graduated from Bellevue University’s online program with a bachelor’s degree in graphic design, and plans to continue his work as a solo graphic designer at his business, D Rollin Designs, providing high-quality work to a variety of clients.

There is no question that we can all learn from Derek’s perspective on the world. Now twenty-three, Derek is able to look back on what he has learned since he has been wheelchair-bound. “I’ve noticed the way strangers treat me. Often they talk slower to me or ask questions to the people I am with instead of myself. It’s like people see a wheelchair and immediately think I am not mentally there. They don’t see a person with hopes and dreams like themselves.” Additionally, Derek sometimes becomes frustrated when events or buildings are not wheelchair-friendly or accessible as it limits fun activities with his friends and family.

Derek advises anyone who is facing their own challenges to rely on family and friends to help navigate the hard times, gift themselves with moments of peace and mental clarity, and focus on the good things in life. He credits his own support group of family and friends with helping him by encouraging him to chase his dreams, treating him like a regular person, and helping him understand that sometimes everything isn’t all sunshine and rainbows.

Rikki Rogers once said, “Strength doesn’t come from what you can do. It comes from overcoming the things you thought you couldn’t.” In looking at Derek Caster’s accomplishments to date, it is evident that he focuses on his strengths not his obstacles, and lives boldly with great hope for his future.

By living his truth, Derek serves as inspiration that we too can choose to live the same way.

For more about muscular dystrophy or to learn how you can help / donate, visit https://www.mda.org/.

Vicky DeCoster is a Certified Life Coach who specializes in helping her clients move past obstacles, create a plan for happiness, and cross the bridge of transition to find a new and fulfilling direction in life. To read more about her and her practice, visit her at crossthebridgecoaching.com.

 

Learn to Let Go and Live Minimally

Photo credit: Christopher_Flynn

George Carlin, the now deceased comedian known for his sarcastic wit, once said, “A house is just a place to keep your stuff while you go out and get more stuff.” It’s true. Whether we want to admit it or not, many of us have accumulated enough stuff throughout our lifetime to fill a house. Then when we think we have too much stuff, we don’t declutter, but instead buy a bigger house so we have more room for all our stuff!

Having a lot of stuff weighs us down. When we spend money on things we want, but don’t really need, we need to take a step back and evaluate why we are buying each item. If we are really honest with ourselves, are we buying a new dress or couch or phone because we’re lonely? Bored? Stressed? Trying to keep up with everyone else around us? Although this way of thinking forces us to look inward every time we reach for our credit or debit card, it is an excellent exercise that helps curb spending and forces us to focus on what we really need in our lives. If you’re always spending money on material items you don’t really need, how will you afford to travel to places you’ve always wanted to see?

If you feel weighed down by clutter, it’s never too late to begin removing it from your life. It’s easiest to break the project down into small pieces and accept that it will take you more than a day to complete. Think in terms of rooms instead of an entire house or apartment. Start with your bathroom. What can you remove from your medicine cabinet? For information on safely discarding medications, visit https://www.fda.gov. Do you have old shampoo bottles under your sink? Expired makeup or lotions? Toss anything older than six months old. Do you really need 20 bottles of nail polish or five different brands of hair gel?

Next, move to your bedroom closet. While going through items one-by-one, determine if you have worn the item in the last year. If you haven’t, toss it in a bin to take to a thrift store. If you have been holding onto your old concert t-shirts, evaluate if you wear them at least once every two weeks. If not, then either have a quilt made from them or take a photo of each one and create a wall collage. Recycle old hangars. Give away all shoes that are too painful to wear. And from this point on, pledge that for every new item you buy and place in your closet, you give another one away.

When decluttering your kitchen, start with your spices first. Check expiration dates and toss any that are past their prime. Look at all your small gadgets and appliances. Do you need five spatulas or just two? Do you use your immersion blender every week or just once every two years? Toss any dishes that are chipped or cracked and nonstick pots and pans that are scratched. Move to your pantry and refrigerator and toss any expired food items or leftovers in your freezer that have been there since cell phones were invented. Tackle your junk drawer and discard all of those refrigerator magnets you've been saving, old pencils and pens, and receipts.

Once you have decluttered your entire space, sit back and enjoy the feeling that comes with removing items that have been weighing you down. Then vow to take another pass at all your material items again in three months. You’ll be surprised at how much more you’ll toss again.

When we focus on making memories instead of accumulating stuff, we are happier, less stressed, and able to look forward into a future that does not overwhelm us but instead frees us to live in the moment and embrace the happiness that comes with living more minimally.

Vicky DeCoster is a Certified Life Coach who specializes in helping her clients move past obstacles, create a plan for happiness, and cross the bridge of transition to find a new and fulfilling direction in life. To read more about her and her practice, visit her at crossthebridgecoaching.com.

 

Living Her Passion - Judi Koubsky

 Judi Koubsky on the University of Nebraska Omaha campus

Judi Koubsky on the University of Nebraska Omaha campus

Judi Koubsky gives all the credit for her passion for learning to a kindergarten teacher years ago who told her she was smart and would be a wonderful student. But even as little Judi took her teacher’s words to heart, she had no idea that her life’s path would eventually lead her to become such a passionate learner again later in life.

After marrying her high school sweetheart at age nineteen, Judi loyally supported her husband, Paul, who was attending college to become a teacher. Five years later, she was a busy mother to three children who worked a variety of jobs outside the home until she finally landed at Coopers & Lybrand, an international accounting firm with an office in Omaha, Nebraska. As she moved up within the ranks as an executive assistant to the partners and finally to support staff supervisor, Judi’s appetite for learning never disappeared. After passing her Certified Professional Secretary’s test in 1979, Judi decided to take other courses to expand her horizons. As the years passed and her children became adults, Judi enrolled in community college and completed several business courses. But when her husband, Paul, died after forty years of marriage and she eventually retired, Judi’s life took a new turn.

When a friend set her up with Denny, a former classmate at South High School, Judi soon realized she had been blessed again with a wonderful man. In 2005, they married and celebrated their second chance at happiness. As they traveled the world together and enjoyed health, Judi continued her life of serving others. But in 2016 when she advised her two granddaughters to continue attending college without taking a break, Judi had to answer a difficult question posed to her by one of her granddaughters. “But you didn’t finish college did you, grandma?” Judi states, “Although I had to answer ‘no’ because I couldn’t afford it, the question still weighed on my mind as I thought about why I hadn’t yet obtained my degree.” Returning to college had always been her goal, but life, motherhood, travels, and her volunteer work had taken precedence. Judi wouldn’t have changed her past for anything, but now, something great was stirring inside her.

Now motivated to make her long-held dream finally come true, Judi resigned from all her charitable work and made an appointment with an advisor at the University of Nebraska Omaha to learn the next steps. Because she now had the money to fund school, Judi knew there was nothing holding her back from becoming a student again at age seventy-three. After she told her husband, children, grandchildren, and friends the news she was returning to college, none of them acted like she was crazy. “They all encouraged me to go for it,” says Judi. As her daughter, Jill, noted in a social media post, “We are all bursting with pride!”

Two years later, Judi has completed 106 credit hours, leaving just 14 hours until she earns a bachelor’s degree in multidisciplinary studies. She adds, “Campus classes are my favorite because of the fun interaction with the other students. I love to hear their stories and what they are going to do with their lives. I love that I am old enough to be their grandmother but they are comfortable including me in their groups.” But the bottom line is that Judi loves learning new thoughts and concepts that are so unlike her own life experiences.

A typical day for Judi is busy. In addition to reading, preparing her assignments, and studying for tests, Judi also serves as a Eucharistic minister in her church, a bereavement companion for those who have lost family members, and as a supportive grandmother to her nine grandchildren who are involved in many activities.

Judi’s favorite part about her new chapter in life is that she has gained self-confidence and is growing every day in knowledge and not just vegetating. She offers great advice for those who want to pursue their passion in life, no matter what their age. “If you know there is something you are very passionate about, don’t let anything stop you from your goal. Even small steps will eventually have you at the finish line.”

Catherine Pulsifer once said, “Life isn’t about your age. Life is about living.” As a current college student at age seventy-five, Judi is a shining example to all the youth around her that it is never too late to be everything you dream you can be.

Vicky DeCoster is a Certified Life Coach who specializes in helping her clients move past obstacles, create a plan for happiness, and cross the bridge of transition to find a new and fulfilling direction in life. To read more about her and her practice, visit her at crossthebridgecoaching.com.