Pruning Your Life to Encourage Growth

Pruning Your Life to Encourage Growth

“As we grow older, we may need to rid our lives of things that are stressing us, taking more time than we want to give them, or simply becoming a burdensome physical responsibility.” – Barbara


ONE MORNING IN 2010 as I sat in my little patio, I reflected on what I was seeing in my newly landscaped backyard. A year earlier I had worked with my landscaper to remove a hedgerow of Forsythia bushes that had become so tall I could no longer keep it trimmed. Once I decided it had to go, all I could think of was what I’d put there in that new open space when it was ready for new plantings.

photo of Forsythia hedgerow

When all the bush roots had been removed (a very difficult job) and all the limbs had been tied and carried to the street for the next brush pickup, I looked at the new open space in my yard and saw so many possibilities for how to make it more pleasing to me. For a while, I just pondered what I wanted to do with that space, much as I had often given thought to what I wanted to write about next.

One day I suddenly saw a connection to pruning those bushes from my life and just pruning my life in general. Wondering if others had something to say about “pruning your life,” I searched for that phrase and turned up a wonderful blog by Laura Filbert, a professional writer and creative event coordinator whose creativity is well expressed in her articles. Two of them spoke to me that day. One was on how to use music to increase creativity, something I’ve done all my life. The other was on the topic of pruning one’s life to encourage growth. In this article, Laura said:

“Just as it is healthy to prune trees so that they may grow, we also need to prune our lives so that we can make way for new ideas, growth and opportunities.”

AHA! I thought. That was exactly what I needed to hear at that time. Earlier that year, I had decided to withdraw from active involvement in the crafts and home-business industries so I could focus on writing and publishing books I had been dreaming about for years. I didn’t look at it like this at the time, but I had already started to prune my life by then to make it simpler and easier as I grew older. The older we get, the more important it is to rid our lives of things that are stressing us, taking more time than we want to give them, or simply becoming a burdensome physical responsibility.

In sharing my yard project with my former literary agent, Barbara Doyen, (now retired) who had gotten me so many good trade-book publishing deals in earlier years, she shared her thoughts on pruning her own yard:

“This summer I ended up getting rid of quite a lot of flowers and shrubs plus a couple of small trees. Just too much for me to keep up with. I commented to my husband that it was bad that I’d even think of destroying beds I’d nurtured for 25 years, and he said not to think of it as destroying them but of redesigning the landscape. It was the perfect thing to say as I love to design, and it reframed my attitude.”

Yep, 2010 was the year I first redesigned my backyard landscape, reframed my attitude, and made room for new ideas to grow. Since then, I’ve been making this “pruning exercise” a part of each New Year’s plans. (I no longer make “resolutions” I’m unlikely to keep, but simply strive to rethink where I want to go and what I want to accomplish in the year ahead.

Now, more than a decade later, both my life and my back yard has changed a little each year, each of us adapting to the natural flow of life. I started small and gradually added a few more plants, and then a decorative fence a couple years later. In time, the property behind me was sold, and the new owner put a tall fence around his whole yard, so I now have a great deal of privacy.

photo of perennial garden with fence behind

Some perennials I had my landscaper plant for me weren’t happy with where they were planted and eventually stopped blooming and needed to be replaced with something else. Rather like my home-business books, which have also died in their own way by going out of print, only to be replaced by new books I’ve self-published since 2010 and will continue to publish, God willing. 

How about you? Is it time to do a little pruning in your life?

First published in 2010; updated in 2021, 2022.


I Already Did That. A New Year’s Resolution that Changed Barbara’s Life. Now is a good time to think about eliminating things that are causing you stress because you no longer want to do them.

Will You Still Be Working in Your Seventies? A story about retirement planning with the simple financial exercise that changed Barbara’s life and the way she was looking at her future and work itself. It might change your retirement outlook too.

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