Helllllo Beautiful People! I’m baaaack! and ready to chat about walking my first Camiño.
Recently, I embarked on what was supposed to be a 14-day trip with my bestie, Amber, but turned into a trek across Spain that lasted 50 days. Yes, fifty. During those 50 days? We conquered the Camiño de Santiago – The French Way.
Over those 50 days, Amber and I walked 692.5 miles and 1,623,314 steps. For a bit of reference, many Fitbit and Apple watch wearers try to reach 10,000 steps in a day, which would take you to 500,000 steps over 50 days. We did 3x that amount. For 50 days. In a row.
(You may not be feeling this with me, but I’m patting myself on the back right now. *happy face*)
So, there are “known” stages on the Camino that each person experiences on his/her journey. The first portion of the Camino was all physical as our bodies adapted to the norm of walking an average of 15 miles per day. The next portion was mental and the clearing of our minds. Then we encountered the emotional. Oih vey. Difficult but oh so freeing. Lastly came the spiritual. The purpose of the Camino and the main reason most people walk.
Yet, as I walked, and walked, and walked some more, I kept noticing correlations between the journey I was experiencing and what my organizing clients go through on the daily when trying to tackle their clutter. So, I started compiling a list of the similarities and decided to share it with you.
Here’s the summary of how to successfully walk every day for 50 days (minus a few rest days) that can be applied to successfully organizing your home:
One Step at a Time
organizing advice: one item at a time
This one is the most important for finishing the Camino or completing your organizing project. We were on day 13 or 14 of walking and the thought intruded, “oh my gosh, we have 20+ more days of this. How in the world will we do this for 20+ more days?”. We shot down that thought quickly. If we focused on how many more days were left to walk, we would have given up long before we reached Santiago. One step at a time. Voetje voor voetje. Pas a pas. (Dutch and French for our Camino companions).
The same for organizing. If you enter a room and all you’re focused on is the end result, you’ll most likely become overwhelmed, freeze up, and never finish (and possibly never start). For organizing, try the motto, “one item at a time.” Eventually, as time passes, you’ll make your way through each space, and before you know it, you’ve reached the Santiago of an organized home.
Preparation is Helpful, Not Required
organizing advice: just jump
Joining multiple Camino Facebook groups showed me that lots of planning goes into completing the Camino. Lots of planning, researching, and commenting. Yet for whatever reason, many never actually book the flight. It’s all for “some day”.
If you recall from the beginning of the article, I was going to Spain for 14 days. It was supposed to be 8 days tooling around Spain and then 4 days on the Camiño. Yet it turned into the initial 8 days (check! ✅), followed by 35 days on the Camiño, and an extended week to visit Finisterre, Muxia, and back to Santiago.
Guess what? I had everything I needed in my pack because of the prep of those initial 4 days of climbing the Pyrenees Mountains. Many kudos to Amber for sending me her packing list and Amazon and REI for providing light weight hiking items (view my final packing list at the bottom of this post). I used everything in my pack, except 4 safety pins. The thought that brought me peace while gathering all my supplies: there are stores in Spain.
I bought a hat to help with the sun and tons of Compeed bandages. Oh, and a needle and thread to try to heal some blisters (view photo to the left). In hindsight, the only change would have been to bring a thicker liner (I brought a thin liner and froze in the early days, before figuring out most albergues offer blankets, you just have to ask).
Regarding organizing, just jump. If you keep waiting for perfection or just one more review of your plan, you’ll never be ready, the plan will never be finalized. Organizing is a fluid process that keeps changing as you get deeper and deeper into it. Remain flexible and know that (1) if you start to struggle, there are guides or others who have walked the path before you (or even professional organizers) to show you how to tackle your specific situation and (2) there are stores to help you containerize and make it match your vision (Container Store, Target, Ross, Dollar Store), who most likely have employees who can answer your questions as well.
No Idea Where to Start
organizing advice: just pick a spot
There are 281 Caminos (paths), encompassing more than 51,500 miles of routes through 29 different countries, all leading to Santiago de Compostela, Spain. We chose the Camino Frances – The French Way, which starts in St Jean Pied de Port, France, and is roughly 490 miles. This was the one recommended as it has more services (aka cafes and albergues – hostels for pilgrims) than other more remote paths.
But it didn’t matter which one we chose as the daily activities would have been the same: wake up, start walking, stop somewhere for breakfast, walk some more, eat second breakfast, walk some more, maybe lunch somewhere. Choose a city and albergue for the evening. Shower, maybe laundry, figure out dinner. Go to sleep. Wake up, do it all over again.
With organizing: just pick a room, then pick a corner, and start. It doesn’t matter where you start because the process for organizing is the same as well: you place hands on every item and make decisions. So just start. Here, I’ll do it for you. Start in the cluttered room that you’re in the most often (e.g. if it’s between your master closet or your guest bedroom which you never see, start in your master closet). Now, walk to the doorway, look in, and glance to the left. That’s where you’ll start. Good luck! (and if your brain went to a different corner, it’s fine to start there as well).
Self-Care is Required
organizing advice: make self-care a priority
Since Covid, I’ve witnessed an increase in self-care. It’s beautiful. On the Camino, it was no different. Amber and I made sure to stay in private rooms or a hotel at least once per week and we scheduled full body massages each week as well. Game. Changer. That first body massage, the masseuse was magnificent. Afterwards, and especially the next day, all the tiredness in my body was gone.
Legs up the wall: I also introduced the yoga move, legs-up-the-wall, aka Viparita Karani. We’d arrive at our albergue and start 10 minutes of legs up the wall. This saved the legs, especially during the first two weeks.
Secondly, every evening, I’d massage muscle oil and lotion onto my feet. Eventually, I’d do it morning and evening. This prevented my feet from constantly hurting or remaining sore (minus all the blisters of course).
So, organizing wise, you must incorporate self-care, as organizing is a physical activity, but also mental and emotional. What can you do? Take breaks. Drink water with minerals. Eat a healthy snack (or meal if you’re working longer hours). Go for a walk to clear the mind and reset. Stare at the trees. Listen to music. Take a bath with Epsom salts. Meditate, practice yoga, or do breath work. Schedule a massage once you’ve completed an entire room. Journal about your feelings or any memories that arise.
Listen to your body, your thoughts, and your emotions. Give space to all and then get back to the organizing.
Roadblocks WILL Occur
organizing advice: tackle one roadblock at a time
Physical ailments are the biggest roadblock you can experience when you’re walking an average of 15 miles every day. It’s going to happen. Don’t expect it. Don’t plan for it. But if / when it does happen, accept it, and deal with it.
I wasn’t going to stop. That wasn’t an option. So, I took my time, went slower than my usual pace, obtained additional assistance, and just took it one step at a time.
The weather was also an unexpected surprise. Our first rain day lasted 30 minutes and brought such joy to us. The second rain day lasted 4 hours of constant downpour. Yet still we walked on. Blistering heat. We walked on. Freezing, windy temps. We walked on.
One night on the Camino, all of the albergue beds were booked. Luckily, we were directed to a hotel, who seemed to make ready a room not generally open to the public. We accepted, gratefully, and made sure to leave a little earlier the next day.
When organizing, you may hit a roadblock or two. Energy levels, mental exhaustion, the quantity of to do’s before you can continue. Just tackle it one block at a time, keep the momentum moving forward, and you’ll make it through.
Don’t Understand the Language
organizing advice: find the best methods for you
I do not speak Spanish. Each time I visit Europe, I feel like a typical American, only knowing English. There were many times when I sat at a table and everyone around me spoke Spanish. One time all Italian. Many times, we would meet a Spanish local and they would just start asking questions and telling stories. I had no idea what they were saying.
BUT I had a handy tool in my back pocket: Google Translate (best app ever!). I’d pull out my phone, open the app, and it would let me know that they were asking me where I’m from and telling me about their Camino experience and where they grew up. Communication success (also used to translate all the printed Spanish).
For organizing, you can find a lot of the language on how to organize in books, podcasts, or YouTube. You can also read blog posts by professional organizers. The knowledge is out there for you, you just have to utilize the methods that work best for you.
Latest and Greatest Tools
organizing advice: decide if the latest and greatest matters to you
There’s always the latest and greatest methods for achieving your goal. At our first albergue on the trail, we stayed in Borda (highly recommend!). We were given a coin for the shower and told we have 4 minutes. Pausing was allowed. This way of showering restructured my entire outlook on conserving water and stuck with me throughout the entire Camino (and even now when I’m back home).
Many of the albergues had automatic lights. You’d enter a space and lights would turn on, then off a few moments later. They provided clean sheets (which was a step up from the throwaway paper sheets). Alas, no clothes dryers in the majority of Spain.
My favorite gadget I brought on the Camino? This adorable pink foldable Bluetooth keyboard. Great for writing in the evenings or especially on those long flights to/from the States.
What does this mean for you, organizing wise? There is always going to be the latest organizer who swears you’ll be organized by the holidays. Or the coolest bins that will make your life easier. Lazy Susan’s that allow you to display your spices perfectly. Always something bigger and shinier. You need to decide what is most important to you. And remember, you can always tweak it or change it all in the future.
Accepting Help Is Crucial
organizing advice: people love to help, be thankful for it
I confess, it used to be difficult for me to accept help. I told myself before the Camino that if people offer me something, I’m to accept.
“Would you like a cup of tea”.
*mentally*: no, not really
*verbally*: please, that sounds wonderful.
And you know what, I needed help on the Camino. Day 8 found me salsa-ing down a hill and tweaking my knee. The following 3 days were agony, unable to bend my knee, pain when I walked. Immense pain when I walked downhill.
I eventually reached out to friends and requested distance energy healing, tried it on myself, physically cleared energy, grounded, delved deep into the masculine of my knee, the spiritual meaning behind knee injuries, begged Creator, Archangel Raphael, talked incessantly to my knee, making promises. All the things. And then poof. Pain gone. Day 3. 1010am. Not sure what exactly caused the healing, but I was so thankful, I mentally collapsed to my knees in gratitude.
On top of that, a Camino family member offered her brace to me, another offered his hiking sticks to me. Again, I mentally refused, before accepting. And it helped. Not sure I would have made it those 40 miles without the sticks.
The Sunday before we finished the Camino on Wednesday, shin splits hit. *double sigh here*. A different Camino friend offered his sticks which again saved me, as I was able to offset the weight of my pack. One step at a time took me those last 50+ miles.
Confession: during the Era of Shin Splints, I even allowed Amber to take my pack for a good 30 minutes. We kept giving another pilgrim a hard time for not letting us take some pack weight for her (as she had twisted her ankle). So, I felt I had to…BUT, also, I admit that Amber offered multiple times before I thrust my pack at her (can’t change ingrained habits overnight!).
Organizing: the neon sign here is to hire a professional and let her expertise guide you (*wink* *wink*). However, you have additional options of help: family, friends, books, YouTube videos, DIY guides, local groups, and the most important: yourself. You are stronger than you think, and you know yourself and how you want the space around you to look better than anyone else.
Simplify Internal and External
organizing advice: you must go internal
The entire Camino was about going inside myself and figuring out who I was, at my core, in those exact moments. While physically I dealt with all of the external factors, such as finding a place to stay each night, chatting with strangers, surviving the weather, and so forth.
There’s a reason you’re surrounded by clutter. Delve deep and figure out the reason behind the clutter. Did a life transition occur that threw you off your ‘normal’? Do you simply not have time to organize? Do you have too much stuff to fit your spaces, yet you are not able to let any of it go? Ask yourself why not? What emotions fill you that are causing the emotional attachment to the items around you? Are you feeling depressed, suffer from ADHD, experience anxiety, low self-esteem, personal boundaries, or another ailment? Why? Why? Why?
Delve deeply and whatever answers pop up, give yourself grace. There’s no right or wrong. It just is what it is (another Camino saying we picked up).
Stop and Smell the Flowers
organizing advice: enjoy the process
The Camino was all about “Your Way.” No two ways are the same. Everyone chose their own path and whatever that path, it was the Right Way. I went at a slower pace (especially when injured) and I definitely enjoyed the sunrises, stopped many a time to smell the flowers, and sat in muchos open fields or against beautiful trees, just staring at the beauty around me. It was calming and joyful, to just meander through Spain.
Enjoy the process of organizing. The stuff around you most likely tells the story of your life and took years to accumulate. And while it may feel necessary to rush to the finish line, there can be joy in the decluttering. Find it. Enjoy it. It is okay if it adds a bit of time. Your memories are meant to be cherished and enjoyed while saying goodbye.
Monotony of Life Hits Hard
organizing advice: figure out your WHY
On the Camino, the food eventually became redundant (however, the walking never did. Phew!). You can only eat spaghetti, chicken, and yogurt plus unlimited wine so many times before you start craving something else. And luckily, in the depths of our despairing palate, we crossed into Galicia and the food changed to seafood, fresh veggies, and fried eggs for breakfast (as compared to meat, no veggies, and tortillas for breakfast).
It’s going to happen. The monotony of the activity could prove boring and redundant at times. But you cannot dwell on this thought. You have to keep reminding yourself why you’re doing it.
Camino: To explore Spain. Meet wonderful, beautiful humans. Expand my spirituality. Lose weight. Revel in nature.
Organizing: To have an organized space. Invite loved ones over. Not feel anxious or stressed. Feel excited about my home.
So, figure out your why so that on the days you’re not sure you can conquer another pile, your WHY will carry you through.
The Pace Will Change
organizing advice: any pace is a good pace
On the Camino, sometimes my body moved fast (okay, rarely), sometimes it moved at a snail pace and oft times it meandered. But the longer I walked, the more my body adapted until there were days where I felt ZERO pain. I could walk 15+ miles at a decent pace and still have more in the tank to go to the next town if needed. It was a beautiful feeling, those copasetic moments.
For organizing, it doesn’t matter what pace you declutter and organize. It only matters that you continue to do it. Because the longer you do it, the more you’ll start to see your muscles and mind adapting. Before you know it, you’re automatically putting the pen back in the pen container, your shoes on the shoe rack. You’ll subconsciously know where something goes and won’t even have to make a decision to put it back. Your body will just take you there. It’s a beautiful feeling when your mind can stop making decisions because you already know where the items “live”.
You Need Less Than You Could Ever Imagine
organizing advice: less is more
So, this is the most obvious take away from the Camino and from organizing. We all need much less than we imagine. I lived out of a 30L backpack for 50 days. I had two short sleeve shirts, one long sleeve I slept in on cold nights, two pairs of pants (hiking, leggings) and one dress. That’s it. I wore those clothing items every day for 50 days straight. And it was fine. I survived. I looked great in my photos. Bonus: I didn’t even get tired of the clothes and have been wearing them in Houston.
The hard question: If your house burned down tomorrow, what would you miss? One of the Buddhist philosophies is non-attachment. This means letting go of our attachment to material possessions so that if an item disappeared from your life, you wouldn’t feel suffering.
Most of us are not there and most likely wont ever be there. However, we can look with fresh eyes at our clutter and around our homes. When we open our eyes, turn off the clutter blindness and actually SEE the clutter, it is life changing. Ask yourself: How long has it been that way? When is the last time you were able to access the closet? Put hands on the items in there? Then ask yourself the why. Why are you keeping it? Memory? Convenience? You like it? Guilt?
Figure out the why of every item and if that why is not strong enough, perhaps it’s time to let it go.
My (joking advice): sell it all and go live out of backpack!
On a serious note, it was absolutely freeing. To only “own” what was in the backpack I carried. My clothing decision for the day: am I wearing the blue or orange top? The pants and hats (oh, forgot to mention: I had a beanie and ended up buying a sun hat) were determined by the temperature outside. So, only one decision to create my entire outfit (and it generally was determined by the last day I washed each shirt, ha!).
When clutter is removed from your spaces, it creates a better flow of energy and you physically feel better. You are no longer weighed down by the clutter and how it makes you feel. However, only you are able to determine what you keep and what you release from your life.
After the Camino, we (our Camino Family) are all back home, resuming our “normal” lives, yet our conversations are all, “I don’t feel like myself” “It’s hard being home” “Can we go back to Spain?” “Let’s open an Albergue.” (later discovered to be reverse culture shock).
The need to return to the simplicity of Camino life is strong in all of us. The reality that life is here, that it kept moving without us, and we are integrating back into it, is a tough pill to swallow. We changed. We are different. We went internal, spiritual, physical, emotional, and mental. We are not the same people we were when we left.
Just as you are not the same person you were when the clutter started. Whether we embark on a walking Camino or are living our life the best we know how, we are constantly changing, evolving. It’s a beautiful world we live in, that allows us to do that.
But it is not finished. I am lucky to have a Camino family who constantly checks in with each other, seeing how everyone is feeling, what we’re thinking. We conduct zoom calls, connect with weekly walk and talks. There’s the connection, the continuation, the knowledge that we are not alone in our journey.
For the organizing, you need to continuously check in with yourself. How’s it going for you? You will have to hold yourself accountable. Do your shoes belong there on the entry way floor? Most likely not. Who’s going to move them? Atta girl/boy. One quick rule of thumb I adhere to in my own life: the 4-minute rule. If it is going to take 4 minutes or less, I complete the task right then. Putting my shoes on the shoe rack in the entry closet is one of those tasks that I force myself to do. Every. Time.
After clearing the clutter, your space will feel amazing. Keep that feeling alive by adding plants, running diffusers, hang art that lifts you up, post photos on the walls, or simply dance around the room. Remember to prevent the clutter from building back up (and if it does, just set aside time to put everything back in its proper home, aka the reset).
If you are surrounded by chaos, it’s hard to achieve peace. Eliminate the clutter. Find the peace. BUT the peace will not occur over night. And it will not occur by simply eliminating the clutter. That’s the biggest step, but it is only step 1. You will have to reset often and continue to place items back in its assigned home. It’s a never-ending process. But you do that with many aspects of your life…brushing your teeth, getting dressed, washing dishes/clothes, showering. We accomplish tasks every day that you most likely don’t even think about. Go ahead and make a list. Making coffee or tea? Driving to work. Taking out the trash each week. Reading the newspaper or checking emails. The list goes on and on. Simply add “reset” to your daily to do’s.
Last suggestion: it helps if you reset daily, rather than letting it all accumulate and doing it once a week. But you decide what’s best for you.
Second Conclusion: The Camino was a life changing walk. I met people who I know will be in my life forever. But more importantly, I discovered a peace inside of me, a simple joy that when I focus on it, lights up my entire being and brings tears to my eyes.
That is what I want for you in your home. I want you to walk into your space and feel peace and joy. To have it surround you. I wish for you to find a sanctuary within your home.
If there is anything I can do to help you find Your Way, please reach out.
p.s. also reach out if you have questions about the Camino. Would love to speak about it. <3
p.p.s. here’s my final packing list! Enjoy a look into my brain. 🙂