I love October. Not only is it the month of crispy leaves and long shadows, it is also when we get to celebrate Día De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead). Similarly known as All Souls Day in the Catholic tradition, this holiday is dedicated specifically to reaching out to those close to us who have crossed over.

Bay Area Reclaiming holds a public ritual to celebrate Samhain, an older Pagan celebration that marks the “thinning of the veil” between the living and those who have passed. All of these traditions mirror more ancient ones that focus on ensuring that our ancestors are well in spirit so that they do not wreak havoc in the world of the Living. The essence is that In the re-membering and celebrating — we put the pieces and parts of who we are back together and we can live more enriched and fulfilling lives.

This year our family is building our biggest altar de ofrendas ever, to celebrate. This picture, above, shows only a section of the larger installation we have been constructing in our Living Room. We gather family members to make paper flowers, and other multi-colored pinwheel flowers and decorations for the altar. The official dates are October 31 through November 2, but the altar takes weeks to prepare!

If you’ve seen the movie Coco or been to local Bay Area Día De Los Muertos ofrenda displays, like the one at the Oakland Art Museum’s Annual Day of the Dead Celebration, you are likely familiar with the traditional Mexican color scheme, featuring the golden-orange color of the marigolds (sometimes called Flor de Muerto in Mexico).

In Guatemala, where Ernesto is from, the colors for the altars are white, pink and blue, and cemeteries are decorated from top to bottom in elaborate displays. In 1996, on my first visit to Guatemala, my plane landed in Guatemala City on Halloween. I took a bus to the northern Department called Petén. All along the way, we passed the already-colorful cemeteries come alive with people, food, and decorations. It was clear to me that this culture’s relationship with death is very different from mine.

Ernesto’s parents are buried nearby in Colma, and while the American cemeteries don’t paint their mausoleums blue, pink, and purple you can still find large turnouts for Day of the Dead as families gather to visit their people, eat, drink and adorn the gravestones with offerings of flowers and food.

Growing up our family observed the “holy”-day of All Souls Day. Every November 2nd, we would go to the cemetery and visit the graves of our relatives, and place flowers, and we would also bring flowers to a random grave — because these folks need to be remembered and honored, too!

Fall Is a Great Time to Organize!

By Rose Ipsen of GoLightly Organizing in Oakland

‘Tis the Season

Rose Ipsen - Go Lightly OrganizingAutumn is traditionally a busy time for harvesting and preparing for the winter, a time of well-earned rest and reflection. And with the fall equinox officially behind us, many of us are transitioning from a flurry of summer activity to settling into rigorous fall routines. Getting organized can help bring even more rest into your life.

When people think of decluttering and getting organized, they often think of New Year’s Resolutions or Spring Cleaning. But fall is the season of letting go, and like the trees dropping their leaves to conserve energy, we can flow with the energy of the season and shed what is no longer serving us so that new fresh life has space to bud and flourish.

What’s in the Way Is the Way

Asking for help with organizing can be vulnerable and bring up uncomfortable feelings. What if I regret saying goodbye to my old favorite mug? What would my mother think if I let go of that sweater she gave me ten years ago? How did I let things get this out of hand? My clients regularly have to face overwhelm and shift deeply rooted habits. And unfortunately, maintaining an organized space in not effortless. But getting and staying organized can also be one of the most liberating practices of your life.

Are You Ready?

If you experience your home or office as messy and stressful, I encourage you to take a deep breath and really consider: what is it costing you to continue living in disorganization? If you don’t consciously carve out time, keep that time sacred, and follow through, your clutter may follow you through many more seasons. Like many things, hiring a professional can take a huge load of weight off of the process that is usually already difficult. An organizer will be your cheerleader, sounding board, and problem-solving guide through the sea of bags, boxes, closets, and more. They will know where to buy the right furniture and baskets and where to bring the things you no longer need, so that you don’t have to spend your precious time on yet another “to-do.”

If you’re not ready to hire someone or can’t, another great option is to ask a trusted friend to do a “trade.” You set agreements and expectations, and each spend four hours systematically supporting each other through each category and room in your home. However, you get there, let this fall be the season of your life where you get organized for good.

Painter Spotlight

Daniel has been with Arana for 7 years and he has been our lucky charm. He started out working in the warehouse, then as an apprentice and this year he is being promoted to Crew Leader. We are so proud of him!