A Funny Thing Happened…

A funny thing happened yesterday during the enactment of my plan.  Not funny as in “Ha Ha”, but funny in the curious “who knew” kind of way.

I started in the dining room which is the first room that you see as you step into our house.  It is also the most used and the most difficult to keep tidy.  We eat at the table and play games there (when it’s not too cluttered with stuff).  Things tend to get dumped there when folks come in.  Groceries land there along with keys, lunch bags, and clean laundry to be folded.

Anyway, I started there.  Armed with three plastic storage boxes leftover from a previous de-clutter, I jumped in.

I packed away almost all of the blankets from the cabinet we keep them in for the winter months into a large trunk that serves as a table in the living room. I left out enough for my sister who is always cold and the occasional sleep-over guest, but I moved them to the cabinet in the dining room.

I sorted through the games that had been in that cabinet (now housing the blankets) and moved the games to the cabinet that had been home to the blankets.  I’m sure there is a better way to explain that, but let’s continue on and not worry about perfection.

As I worked through the room, I dusted and sorted and got rid of…

Here’s the funny part.

As it turns out, once I made the decision to store stuff away, I went ahead and got rid of most of it.  I didn’t feel the need to think about it.

In getting rid of things, I had more than enough room to store stuff that we don’t use very often in the cabinet with the blankets…mostly dishes that have a purpose, but not every day.

I was also able to tuck all the photos that we are working on getting into albums neatly into the cabinet so we can get to them, but they aren’t hanging out everywhere.

A box and a bag are on the way to the thrift store.

A bag ready for the trash man and a bag for recycling.

The table and counter are cleared.

Seven spiders are no longer living with us.  The arachnaphobe living with me is much happier.

And the three plastic storage boxes are still empty.

Today will be the living room and hallway desk area that serves as our office and classroom.

Peace

P.S.  The dining room table has attracted more stuff, but that’s real life.  As soon as I’m done here I’m going to go deal with it.

Progress, not perfection.

 

And…another plan

Two blog posts in a row!

And…a new plan of action.

I’ve talked before about how I bounce back and forth between liking a bit of homey clutter and thinking I should just ditch all the stuff and become a minimalist (or a quasi-minimalist because I’m pretty sure I can’t go all in on that plan).

I’ve been on a roll lately and have accomplished a lot.

I’ve crunched a lot of numbers and drawn up a new budget that might actually work in the real world that we live in.  I’ve added and subtracted (mostly subtracted) and come up with a plan to try and pay down some debt.  We are pretty much paycheck to paycheck, but I’ve re-dedicated to managing money better.  I use YNAB (You Need a Budget) and “undebtit”.  Both are programs that are helpful for the math challenged me.

I’ve roughed out a plan for next year’s art class that I will hopefully be teaching.  That depends on whether enough folks think art is important enough to sign there kiddos up for the elective.  In the past I’ve planned as the semester moved along.  I’ve already got the whole year planned out and a list of supplies put together.

And, since youngest daughter is starting high school next year, I’ve already pulled together the plan for what we are going to do in the fall.  A rough plan, but a plan.

I’ve accomplished a lot.

But yesterday, I kind of hit a wall.

I looked around the house and started thinking that I couldn’t manage it all.  It’s such a mess and there is so much to do.  Piles of laundry, drifts of dog hair, a science experiment in the fridge, suitcases still out, and a completely buried dining room table.  I know that it’s the same house that I was okay with the day before.

My perception and attitude is what changes.

But that’s a situation that is my reality.  I need to plan for the days when things aren’t going to go well and I can’t cope or handle life the way I would like.

So, a new plan for the summer.

Today, I am going to pack up stuff – getting rid of the stuff I don’t need or want along the way.

I’m going to pack up stuff that I like, but that isn’t essential to our life.  Mostly the decorative or sentimental stuff that is lying about.

Just for the summer.

I’m going to clear surfaces for easier cleaning and make more time for fun and relaxation.

And then we’ll see if the stuff needs to come back for the fall…or if we did just fine without it.

A minimalist-ish” (I know it’s not a real word, but work with me) summer.

Those “mountain-top” days or weeks are great.  I get a lot accomplished.

But they are not worth the time spent in the depths of the valley.  The time depressed and anxious and angrily frustrated.

I’m going to keep trying out new ways of doing things to maintain an even keel avoiding those ups and downs.

Now, to work…

Peace

 

Letting Go

It’s been so long since I wrote that I had to log back into WordPress

which means I had to find my login information

which meant rummaging through my desk

which is a huge, neglected mess.

I’ve spent the better part of late November and December sitting in my chair and ignoring most of my life.

I did the essential stuff (some of it).

Thanks to my family we decorated for and celebrated the holidays with success.  I’ve just felt rather distant and disconnected.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about my life, but as my wise husband pointed out, “You can’t spend so much time thinking about life that you forget to live it.”

Truth.

It has become evident during the last few months that this depression and accompanying anger is bigger than I am.  I’ve made the decision to start up therapy again and attempt to deal with the emotions that I work so hard to ignore and deny.  They are a part of who I am and many of the manifestations that  I have been working so hard to deal with and overcome are residuals of my childhood.  I can’t continue to just deal with the physical clutter without dealing with the emotional clutter also.  And I can’t do it alone.

I’ve visited a church a couple of times in the past weeks.  During the first visit the message could have been written directly for me.  I both hate and love when that happens.  Entitled the “Unexpected Christmas” it dealt with letting go of things and allowing time for grief and coping with the unexpected.

I guess that’s what I’ve been doing these past weeks…grieving the losses and the unexpected and the memories of the past.

It’s both the forgiveness  and the letting go that I’m struggling with…both for others and myself.

A continual theme of any decluttering show or feature is that the hoarding and clutter started with a loss and the person got stuck.  I now see that this is true for me also.

I’m a pretty insightful and resourceful person, and I’ve made progress.

And I hate to admit that I’m not strong enough or just plain “enough” to get through this.

But I’m going to ask for help and start seeking answers to the “real” problems and not just the side effects.

Every year I develop a saying that I use during the New Year to focus on my journey.  This year will be the year of “Being Grateful and Letting Go”.

I plan on writing more about that tomorrow.

I plan on writing tomorrow.

 

Enough

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I didn’t write about food yesterday.

As you may have noticed, I didn’t write at all.   You probably didn’t actually notice because you have a life and are not sitting anxiously by your electronic device waiting for my newest missive.

I don’t feel like writing about food today and sharing with you that although I didn’t find the hidden Rice Krispies treats, a bag of vegan oatmeal cookies did find their way into my shopping cart while picking up Thanksgiving menu items yesterday.

And I ate them.

Not all of them.

Maybe half of them.

At least they were vegan so I just blew it by eating too much sugar (which I have now figured out definitely affects my mood…and not in a good way). I am grateful to have food.

Anyway, I didn’t write because it is the week of Black Friday and the folks in this family who work for actual money work in retail. I am grateful that they are employed. They are all working crazy and overlapping schedules while trying to share one car.  I am grateful for that car. It is a logistical nightmare.  We hold planning sessions  every day to figure out how to make it work.  I am grateful that we are making it work.

I can’t drive in the dark because of my eyes so all I can do is pack lunches and wash work clothes.  I am really frustrated!  I am grateful to have eyes that work well enough and food to pack in lunches and clothes to wash.

No one is getting enough sleep. I am grateful for the sleep we are getting and a warm bed and shelter.

At least we have a holiday this week so everyone can rest.

Oh wait, no we don’t.  Some have to work on Thursday afternoon.  Black Friday isn’t just for Friday anymore. I am grateful for the time we will have and friends to share a meal with.

I hate Black Friday.

I hate that we have traded a day of thanksgiving for a day of rushing to acquire more.

How much crap do we need?

Enough I say.

I am grateful for what I have and I have enough.

I won’t be shopping on Black Friday and probably not on Saturday either.

I will be at home eating my leftovers and counting my blessings.

I have enough.

 

 

Old Ways New Ways

old ways

I’ve never been one to jump on the trendy bandwagon and embrace the latest “thing”.  I don’t rush out to buy the latest best-seller or try out the newest gadget on the market.

I’m also resistant to habits or routines and tend to not read the instructions that come with almost everything…except life.  Life comes with no instructions and it would make things easier if it did…not that I would read them so I guess it’s a moot point.

Anyway, if you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you know that a common theme has been my desire to live a simpler, more intentional and less cluttered life.

I’ve de-cluttered and organized and de-cluttered again.  I’ve made countless trips to the thrift store with lots and lots of stuff.  I’ve made lists and plans and schedules in an attempt to get my act together and live in a serene and peaceful home…

OR a reasonable approximation of peace considering the ever-changing chaotic circumstances our family calls life.

At the very least, I’d like to keep up with the dishes, not have wads of dog hair clogging up the base boards and occasionally be able to actually use the dining room table to dine on.

I try to keep my expectations reasonable (except when I’m having a cranky, irritable, unreasonable mood swing, but that’s a subject for another blog post).

So, the other day my oldest daughter came to me and said, “Mom, I think we should get the Kon-Mari book and read it and try it out”.

Um. No.  Everybody is buying, reading, and blogging about that book.  Why would I want to do that?  I’m already de-cluttering just fine.  Look at that pile of stuff in the hallway – that’s been there for over a month waiting to go to the thrift store.

Oh wait, maybe I should keep that whatchamacallit that’s in that box.  I might need it.

Okay, let’s be honest.  What I’ve been doing hasn’t been working or I wouldn’t have been working on it for a year -or two – or more.

We got the book.  I started reading it.  My daughter finished reading it and told me what to do.  Old habits die hard.

But, they can die and new, better ones can take their place.

It seemed stupid and like an enormous amount of work, but we followed the instructions.

We piled ALL of our clothes on the dining room table (after we cleared it off which took forever).  We touched every object.  And we got rid of a lot.

We piled ALL of our books on the dining room table (after we cleared it off which didn’t take that long)  We got rid of half of them.

Then, ALL the cleaning supplies were placed on the dining room table (which was clear).  All of the cleaning supplies are in one place where they can be found and hopefully used – cause that’s kind of the point of having them.

And so on…

I don’t know why it’s working…or how.

But it is working.

And we aren’t finished yet.

Something changed.  Somehow.

This is what we’ve accomplished so far…

 

A scary amount of stuff is on it’s way out.  But, more importantly, I’m excited about the empty storage and “organizational” containers.

While clarifying and articulating what my ultimate goal was, something clicked.  Figuring out if an item brought me “joy” made a difference.

In my case, that meant that an item had to be worth the cost of taking care of it.

Not just “did I find it useful”, but was it useful enough that it warranted using it, cleaning it and finding a place to keep it.

I’m still struggling with the “beautiful” category.  I have a corner that has “beautiful” things in it.  I’m slowly making decisions about whether it’s “beauty” is worth the cost of my time to care for it.  As an artist, I can see beauty just about anywhere in anything, but I can’t “afford” to fill my life with it all.

I’m finding that my joy is with less responsibility to things.  A shorter to-do list and more time for the things that I have identified as important:  being kind and patient with the people that I love (and trying to learn that I am one of those people, or should be) and making stuff that sometimes ends up being art.

We lost momentum in the process while I was depressed, but I’ve started back up again.

I’ll keep you posted!

All Shall Be Well

All in all, this has been a successful week.  It’s necessary to look back on it as a whole though.  Picking it apart makes it possible to focus on what didn’t work…and more things worked out than not.

I have followed through with my plan to eat a more healthy diet overall this week.  Lots of veggies and fruits and whole grains.  More plant based protein and less meat.  Cutting out sugar and anything overly processed.  My neighbor did make us a deliciously awesome, totally homemade, absolutely decadent cake this week.  I may have had more than one piece.  She is the best cook ever and does everything from scratch.  And the cake had fruit in it and maybe some carrots, and nuts…so it wasn’t a total oops.

This is lunch.

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Ummm.  I have to say the picture on the box looks better than the food in the bowl and it smells a little funky, but it tastes ok.  It’s not a Sonic cheeseburger or a chopped bbq baked potato from Smokey-Mo’s, but I am learning to like it.  There are some good flavors in there.  Old habits are hard to break.  And I was drinking a big glass of ice water with it, but I set it down somewhere and now I can’t find it.  Sigh.

The decluttering effort is back underway.  This all went to the thrift store yesterday.

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Most of it is from my youngest daughter’s room.  She is growing up and parted with quite a few of the formerly cherished toys from the back of her closet.  I had more problems with it than she did.  When I asked her if she was sure about such a drastic purge she replied, “Mom, some little girl is going to have so much fun when she finds this stuff at the thrift store.”  True words and ones that I will replay in my head as I tackle my stuff.

Speedy, the dog is recovering from his back injury.  It only cost $200 (sarcasm intended here) and he is almost back to his old (slightly annoying) self.  He is not yet following my every footstep, but he does manage to whine when I move out of his line of vision.  He has a lesion on his spine and is basically “a ticking time bomb” according to the vet.  Bassets are prone to back problems so we will just make sure his remaining time is good and take each day as it comes.

The rental car is being returned today although we haven’t actually gotten a check from the insurance company.  I’m not sure what they think we are supposed to drive while we wait for dispensation, but I guess it’s not their problem…in their opinion.  We do have my sister’s car to use, but one car for 3 drivers who all have different schedules is not fun.  We can make it work, but it’s still extremely frustrating.

I am still making paper and having a lot of fun doing it.  It’s become my “go to” thing when I’m feeling overwhelmed by life.  This is just part of what I’ve created so far.

 

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Some ideas for using it in projects are percolating, but real life is taking a lot of time and there hasn’t been much left over for artistic pursuits.

I haven’t heard from my son in over two weeks.  Last time I talked to him he was still in the hospital.  He said the medical discharge from basic training could take up to a month. I’m assuming that he is doing okay.  It’s hard not to know what’s going on.

I keep telling myself to be patient.

Things will work out.

The healthier diet and regular exercise will improve my health and the way I feel in noticeable ways.

The house will become even less cluttered and easier to manage (and maybe I’ll find my missing glass of water).

The vehicle situation will work out even though it seems hopeless right now.

There will once again be time for art and creativity.

And all the other realities that are crowding in and making things challenging will be dealt with and resolved…

some to my satisfaction and some in ways that I will learn to deal with.

Patience brings peace

and peace births happiness

and happiness brings joy…

and none of it comes easy, but it is doable.

Life is good and all shall be well.

 

 

Sometimes

Sometimes when I am going about my day, this blog writes itself in my head.  It’s not a planned thing.  The words just start appearing.  And then they start multiplying and rearranging themselves in proper order.

Sometimes there is a rabbit trail of thought which I store for another day.  Sometimes I remember the alternate post, but sometimes not.  I don’t worry too much about it.

I’m learning to trust the process and believe that the important stuff will reappear at the appropriate time.  I rarely sit down without a piece already started in my head, but do occasionally if nothing has presented itself for a while.

I think those times of writing “drought” may be an indication that I’m too busy and not listening to myself…not allowing enough time for thoughts and dreams and ideas…or that they are being drowned out by too much busyness and reality.

And that thought has led me inadvertently to my slogan, theme, or plan for the next year…

I started making an intentional focus for the new year a couple of years ago.

The first idea was “to be the change I wished to see in my world”.

Last year was “turn my cants into cans and my dreams into plans”.

This year I think I’m going with “Re-think, Re-imagine, and Reflect.

These are the words that have been running through my head the last couple of days.

Now I have the words I’m going to use.  The exact details aren’t clear, but I’m going to spend some time with a journal this week and think about and imagine the possibilities…

As for today, I’ve decided to start my new year now.

It is a beautiful day…warm and spring-like…it feels like a beginning.

The bees are busily buzzing on my front porch looking for any jasmine flowers that made it through the last freeze.

Lots and lots of tiny birds are flying from a thicket that edges my yard to the bird feeder hanging by my front window.

As I was standing quietly on the porch the bees and birds flew past me going about their business.  The buzzing bees and humming wings were the only sounds I heard.

How many times have I missed this scene outside my own door?

How many times has the noise of my life been all that I’ve heard?

It bothers me that my focus is so much on what is going on right around me and that I don’t spend enough time looking and listening and being still…

Today is a new day.

It’s a good day for beginning anew…for thinking, imagining and reflecting.

Today will be spent creating order from the chaos that is leftover from the Christmas festivities and creating pages in a new journal.

Today will be spent ridding myself of some clutter…both physical and mental.

Today will be spent in some busyness and some idleness.

Seeking balance.

 

 

Just Enough

I am good with just enough today.

The house is almost picked up.  There is just enough done to enjoy Christmas day.  The important parts are cleaned up.  We can cook.  There are places to sit.  I am not going to spend today becoming exhausted and stressed out trying to make everything perfect.

Perfect is not happening here.

There is plywood and boxes of tile and paneling and…lots of other stuff everywhere.

Wedding decorations and check-lists are stuffed in every nook and cranny.

Christmas has exploded and landed on every flat surface.

That’s okay.

This year I am determined to remember that my house is not me.  It does not tell the full story of who I am.  I am going to focus on what is most important.  I am going to do just enough to get the job done.

I am not going to lose my cool over undone lists.

I am not going to get so tired that I don’t enjoy myself.

I am going to prioritize and let the rest go.

The perfect holiday has nothing to do with all the ornaments being on the tree or the house being spotless.

It’s all about the smiles and memories.

On a decluttering front…I let go of a whole lotta wood and building materials that had been stored in the tool room (2nd master bedroom closet) and in the new apartment area,

I had held onto it because it had potential. It “might” have been useful for “something”.  That thinking is good up to a point, but when the objects’ potential interferes  with my potential, I need to let go.

Those piles of wood have been moved countless times during the renovation projects this year.  Enough.  It is gone and I felt great relief at it’s leaving.

Once again, why is it so hard to let go of things? Why is it so hard to choose simplicity over things?

Today is not the day to worry about the mysteries of the universe.

I am going to focus on what is important and joyful.

I am going to do “just enough” of the mundane and let the rest go…

I woke up this morning wishing, once again, that I could hit the pause button.  I started off the week with what I thought was a reasonable list of things to do.  I have been accused of being unrealistic in my expectations in the past…with good reason.  I’ll freely admit that I’m a perfectionist although I’ve been working on being a kinder and gentler me.

This was just one of those weeks where the interruptions became the real work to be done.

What I failed to do was realize the amount of unplanned stuff happening and adjusting my expectations.

This morning I was thinking about what I hadn’t gotten done and not what did get done.

Not helpful.

This intentional living stuff can be hard.  It requires diligence, optimism, and a lot of thought.

Mostly it requires a lot of change…a change in attitude, as well as behavior.

Perhaps it can be summed up as learning to be flexible as I change my expectations in alignment with what’s going on around me.

This week four people had to go to work at different places and different times.  We had one car since the truck was still in the shop.  I did quite a bit of driving to and fro.  We made it work, but it took a lot of time.  With patience and planning this is a workable situation.

On Wednesday, I was awakened early by my son with the news that he had “rolled” his ankle and it was very, very swollen.  I told him to prop it up for a bit and we’d see if the swelling would go down.  Then I fell back asleep and failed to wake up in time to go help my sister shop.  Next up, a doctor’s appointment and x-rays.  The ankle is not broken.  This is not actually good news.  Breaks heal more easily than whatever is wrong.  Monday is an orthopedic appointment and probably and MRI.    Not a good day.

On Thursday morning we were able to pick up our truck.  Yea!

On Thursday night the key to our other car broke.  Our only key.  Not good….at all.  One place wanted almost $200 to make a new key.  Another would make it cheaper but required a copy of the title (which I can’t find because the house is a bit untidy and disorganized).

On Friday, the truck would not go into gear properly. Now we have no transportation.And everybody needs to go to work…

Husband manages to get the truck to the repair shop.  It turns out that the cardboard seal on the bottle of transmission fluid ended up in “the thingie that holds the stuff that feeds the something that makes the transmission work”.  I am not mechanically inclined.  That’s the best I’ve got as far as what was wrong.  An easy fix.  Anyway, the truck is running beautifully.

Oldest daughter found a place to make a key for the other car for only $5.  Now both cars are running.  This is very helpful!

This was a challenging week.  The Christmas tree is still not up.  I’ve not shopped much for Christmas.  A LOT of things that I wanted to get done are undone.

There have been a lot of times when I’ve felt frustrated and angry…with myself.  How can a reasonably competent grown-up find it so difficult to keep up with a house and family? This thinking is not helpful.  It just piles on more stress and makes it even more difficult to cope.

I did accomplish a lot this week…just not the things I had planned on.  The emergencies got handled.  Three big bags of stuff left the house.  The studio is unpacked and organized(ish).  The hallway/classroom is set up and workable.  Progress has been made in laying the new floor in the apartment. (I didn’t actually do any of the work on the floor other than moving stuff out of the way.)  We did a lot of school work.  Everyone got fed and has some clean clothes.

I’m starting up the decluttering project in earnest again.  There is just too much stuff around here.

The laundry piles up at an alarming rate.  We have too many clothes.

I’ve once again slowly accumulated to many art project “possibilities”.  More material doesn’t translate into more art.

The same goes for school stuff.  It’s so easy to gather too many potential things to study and learn.

This is all part of my unrealistic expectations.  There are only so many hours in the day and they cannot all be spent in action.  I need to quit trying to “get it all done”.  This attitude is not helpful.

There will always be something that needs to be done.

I can’t do it all.

The important work to be done is to more intentionally seek out simplicity, peace and joy.

That must be number one on the list…