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.

 

What Now?

No writing the last few days…just a lot of thinking and a bit of keeping my mouth shut and some reevaluating my life.

This flu bug just keeps hanging on.  No fever, not really sick, but not feeling well either.  Lots and lots of coughing that’s threatening to become bronchitis.  I’m sure some allergens are responsible also.  I’ve been trying to take it easy and just do the really important stuff, but mainly thinking….

Thinking about the other night when I went into my studio and realized that my work table was once again so cluttered that I couldn’t actually use it.

One of the things on it was an old visual journal from 7 or so years ago.  It’s part of a box that I packed away about a year ago because I couldn’t make a decision about what to do with them.  And then I brought the box back out because there was an empty shelf in my new studio. Sigh.

I started paging through it.  There wasn’t actually much in it as far as original art went. There were a lot of articles about creativity and quotes.  There were some collaged pages using images and words from magazines.

I decided it wasn’t great stuff.  I reread the creativity articles and decided that they weren’t all that important.  You can find millions of articles in that vein on the internet.  I started copying some of the better quotes into a new journal and then realized that these can also be accessed anywhere anytime I might suddenly need a quote.

Then I came across a page that featured the words, “I need a pause button”.  I wrote about that just the other day right here in this blog.

The next page dealt with the issue of clutter…

And the next, dealt with finding time for creativity in the midst of life.

I burst into tears.

This journal is over 7 years old.

I’m still stuck in the same spot.

Sure, I’ll grant that I’ve made some progress.  There have been steps forward and steps backwards.  That’s how life works.

But…I have not changed my life significantly.  I am essentially still working on the same issues.

Insanity, right?  Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results?

I took the journal and went to the center of my labyrinth that I am constructing in my yard (it’s technically just a couple of circular rock piles, but let’s not judge…work in progress) and set the damn thing on fire.

We could be generous and say it was a ceremonial gesture ritually symbolizing significant change and hope for the future.

Let me be brutally honest.  That’s not what happened.  I was just a pissed off and enormously frustrated woman destroying something that I had previously found significant.

In reality, that journal was just another one of the hundreds of things that are in the way of what I claim to want.

So, it turns out that this year’s motto…Re-thing, Re-imagine, and Reflect…are the correct words for change.

I haven’t come up with any grand solution or any new plan.

It’s just very clear that the old ways aren’t working well enough.  I don’t have time to piddle around with these changes.  I’m not going to live forever!

For now, I’m sticking with sorting through things.  Hopefully, more ruthlessly and with a clearer understanding of what needs to go.

This thinking can’t just apply to belongings.  In fact, “things” are the least of my worries. Old habits, relationships, emotional baggage, and choices all need to be brought under the microscope.

What is beneficial?

What brings joy?

What is worthy?

What brings me closer to the life I envision?

Ugh.

Reality checks can be brutal…

and painful…

and enormously helpful.

Wandering

Warning.

This post may wander a bit.  That’s a good thing. Today, I am wandering for the first time in many days.

I have no specific goals for today.  Nothing that has to be done urgently.  Nothing urgent at all really.  (Happy sigh).

My sister saw her doctor on Thursday for the follow-up to her last hospitalization.  His first words, “You really dodged a bullet.”  There are a few minor(ish) things to clear up, but basically he told her to, “Go live your life.”  She’s to increase her activity as she is able and not to worry about the blood clots.  They should resolve in the next 3 to 6 months.  It’s been a scary, hard month.  We don’t know if she’ll get back to where she was health-wise, but time will tell.  Life is good.

Barret the dog has had a relapse of his meningitis and is back on medication.  We caught it very early so his prognosis is good(ish).  I suppose that the recommendation for him is the same as for my sister…go live your life and take each day as a gift.  He’s getting lots of treats.  He’s still weird and dorky.  That is good.

Today is my youngest daughters 13th birthday.  My last teenager. Her school lessons are still challenging, but I think we are starting to get the hang of it all.  I’m hopeless at the math, but I have an answer book!  I start with the answer and work back to figure it all out. I’m not crying as much over the homework.  She’s not crying at all.  Good stuff.

I’ve started a new art card…

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And I’m going back to work on this…

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…the door makes more sense now. https://faithacrestudio.com/2016/08/27/doors/

And someday I probably need to work on this, my studio worktable…

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Honestly, a lot (okay, all) of my house looks like this.  Except for the parts  that are really messy.

Today, I don’t really care.  Everybody and everything that is supposed to be breathing, is. Family and friends are gathering for a birthday celebration.

The food is waiting to be prepared.

We’ll shove the mess to one side and eat off of paper plates.  Nobody will complain.  There won’t be many disagreements (it is close friends and siblings after all).  Will have fun and celebrate.

It’s all good.

 

 

 

 

I’m Still Here

Hello world.

I’m still here…at home ignoring the piles of clutter, cobwebs and unwashed dishes.

The laundry is caught up.  That’s me – always looking on the bright side.

My sister’s recovery continues.  We’ve been watching lots and lots of British murder mystery shows on Netflix and a smattering of classics like Columbo and Rockford Files.  Variety is the spice of life as they say.

Youngest daughter just completed week three of school.  All in all, we’re doing okay. We’ve fallen a bit behind on our Tuesday and Thursday work, but I’ve stayed in touch with her teachers and we’ll catch it back up.  Certainly a lesson in prioritizing and learning that you can’t do it all.  First things first.

Oldest daughter and son are moved into their new digs.  I keep finding things left behind and have a box for each one that I’m dropping things in.  I’m going to count that as a bit of decluttering if that works for all of you.

My life seems crazy hectic and absurdly slow at the same time.

Some days are filled with a doctor visit, and lengthy outing to the grocery store or a 911 call and subsequent visit to the emergency room following a slip and fall (my sister, not me) in the bathroom.  Luckily no major damage done although a hip fracture was briefly a possibility.

Other days are quiet and restful with binge T.V. watching.  I’ve almost finished a rag rug that I started ages ago, but never took the time to finish.

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This month has been one of the hardest I’ve ever had to make it through.  So much has gone wrong – much that I’ve not even written about for lack of time and the fact that I feel that I should only whine so much in public…

Let’s just say that our dependable old and paid for truck may be ready for hospice.  The floor is definitely done for as the result of the air conditioner leak.  There still isn’t enough money.  You get the idea.  All just normal life stuff, but added together just a lot.

As difficult as everything has been, I’m beginning to view August of 2016 as a blessing of sorts.

I’ve been dreaming of and longing for simplicity in my life.  That’s hard to find in the midst of living.  At least I was struggling to discover it.

This month I’ve learned that simplicity is always there.  It’s discerning the simple that’s the challenge.  There are always choices to be made.  When life becomes too busy and complicated, I don’t believe that it’s because we’ve totally made the wrong choices.  It’s that we’ve failed to make any choices at all.  We’re allowing everything to rank as number one on the “got to do list”.  That’s impossible and a miserable way to live.

Simplicity may just be realizing that some things must be done and some things can’t be done and being comfortable and at peace with what is.  Constantly reviewing a list of things that are waiting to be done is exhausting.  Trying to get it all done is even more exhausting.

Seems like such an obvious thought.  Sometimes I can be hardheaded and slow.  Maybe even stubborn.  It takes me a while to catch on to the obvious.  Maybe this is a lesson learned…

Sitting with someone who has no choice but to sit is important.

Finishing a rag rug is important.

Washing dishes is important.

Doing a math test is important.

Talking on the phone to someone who needs to be heard is important.

Some things rarely or never make it to the top of the list.

Figuring out which is which is simplicity in action.

 

Hey there

I’m still alive.  I’m hanging in there…barely.  So much is going on and I’m finding that the more stressed I get, the less I can multi-task.  Maybe it’s age or maybe it’s the stress.  For whatever reason, I’ve been getting the essentials done and letting whatever could slide do just that.

I’m realizing though, that the things that I enjoy and that bring me happiness, often don’t make the cut as essentials.  They are the things that drop by the wayside and that just increases the stress and dissatisfaction with my life.

That’s not a good way to live and certainly not an intentional life.

Sure, some things have to be done whether we like it or not…dishes come to mind right off the bat.

But there has to be more to life than dishes.  Please!

After a rather loud venting of my frustration with the unfairness of life last night, I took a moment to assess what was going on…after I stopped yelling and crying and feeling sorry for myself.  It was a rather long moment.

Now it’s time to start finding a balance again.  It seems like it’s back to the beginning, but I have made progress.

It’s not really going all the way back to the beginning of this journey.  So much has changed.  There’s less clutter and more organization.  Priorities have been identified and ordered.  I know so much more about my life, dreams and plans than a year or so ago.

It’s more like I wandered a bit off of the path and not in a good way.  I lost my way, but I know the direction I need to be going.

The main problem with not being vigilant about where I’m going is that I tend to lose sight of the progress that I’m making.

Optimism becomes lost in the day to day struggles.

Neglected tasks become harder and harder to get back to.

Habits become less habitual.

Little piles of clutter become big messes.

And it just seems to become impossible and hopeless and…sometimes even meaningless.

That’s how depression can take hold.

But today is a new day.

I’m writing this post and although there is so much that I haven’t shared – it doesn’t all have to be written today.  I can just start with this post.

The washer is washing away and some of the dishes are drying on the drainboard.

A whole truckload of stuff left the house last week and another box is already being filled.

The table is cleared and that’s a start.

There is a lot going on in my life…lots of changes.  For someone who dislikes change, I’m not quite ready to label them as good (although I know that they are).  I just feel overwhelmed by most of them.  I’m dealing with them…one step and a few tears at a time.

Those are blog posts for tomorrow and the next…

I’m back and that’s enough for right now.

Prayers and positive thoughts for whatever changes and challenges you are dealing with right now.

Peace.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some Days

Some days, I’m ready to take on the world.  I work the budget, earn a bit of money, do a few dishes, get a meal on the table, run the laundry, teach my kid(s) a thing or two, and watch a show with the hubby on T.V.

Some days, the world takes me on.  I manage to get out of bed….that’s about it.  There isn’t any more happening.

What’s the difference in those two types of days you may be wondering.  Hmmmm…me too.  I have no clue.  It doesn’t seem to be the amount of sleep I get or the events of the day.  The stress level doesn’t appear to change significantly.

Some days, I get it done.

Other days, I don’t.

Sometimes, I even manage to make it through the list of to-do’s that I’ve planned for myself.  It seems to take all of my energy and concentration to accomplish that though.  I’m more easily distracted and less inclined to do anything extra – like decluttering or being creative.

I’ve decided that those days are okay.  And I’m learning to accept myself as I am and acknowledge that it’s alright that I’m not able to do it all.  I am my own worst critic and project those expectations onto those around.  When I’m frustrated with myself for not being “good” enough, I start to believe that everyone around me is expecting better of me as well.  I feel guilty and get defensive.  Then I get stressed and angry.  Then I yell.

One of the things that I’m working on is not trying to figure our what everyone around me is thinking and feeling all the time.   That’s not my job.  I know that behavior is rooted in a childhood of angry parents and constant discord.

I need to feel my own emotions and let others work out their own feelings.  If I have a problem with me than I need to work on that.  If someone else has a problem with me, they need to express it and we need to work on it.

Some days I just feel overwhelmed by the stress I’m dealing with.  I’m coming to believe that a lot of that stress is self-initiated.  I’m creating it by having unrealistic expectations of my own making.

It all boils down to being kinder…to myself and those around me.

I am a work in progress.

Decluttered the last couple of days:  nothing.

Created the last few days:  nothing.

That’s okay.  I’ve spent time with family, shown up for jury duty, cooked three full meals, cleaned the toilet, done 5 loads of laundry, said yes to my son adopting a dog, let said dog in and out 3,000 times, fed said dog 300 times, mopped up said dog’s sloppy water drinking puddles too many times to count, worked on math with youngest daughter, and written one blog post.

Good enough.

I hope that you gift yourself some peace today.  We are enough, we have enough, we do enough.

 

 

 

Knowing vs. Worrying

 

There are many changes happening around here.  Change can be challenging when you are the type of person who likes to believe that you have it all under control.  Change can mean admitting that everyone is not okay and that there might be a better way to do things.

Change can mean that “growth” is taking place and changes are in order to accommodate that growth.

It would appear that the current art project is a reflection of that.  The glass jar is now obscured, although we all know that it’s there…buried under several layers now.  The house has evolved and will continue to do so, I expect.  The roots appear inadequate now as a foundation for the house.  They worked for the jar, but need to grow to support the new structure.  What’s it all mean?  Good question.  I’ll leave that up to you.

The biggest change around here has been our new attitude towards money – specifically the purchase of the new window unit.  We all agreed that change needed to happen.  We would be most uncomfortable living in a home without air-conditioning when the temperature is 95 degrees and it’s June.  It’s only going to get hotter.  We briefly considered attempting to get a loan of some type to solve our problem.  That would be solving one problem and adding to another one.

We are committed to getting out of debt.  We managed to not add to our debt and purchase the air-conditioning we needed.  Less than a year ago, we would not have had the information we needed to work through this issue in a responsible manner.

Because we started a budget (You Need a Budget) and started using Dave Ramsey’s Snowball Debt Reduction Plan, we are better equipped to make responsible decisions.  I recently found another tool, UndebtIt.com, that is also helping.  This site calculates our debt accounts, payment amounts and projected payoff date.  I love having programs that do the math for me.  I do not have a head for numbers.

I can’t say that I’ve enjoyed the brutal process of getting our finances in order.  It was hard to face the amount of debt we had versus the income we have.  It was a shock to see how long it will take to pay off everything.

But now we know.  We know how much money we really have and it’s not the amount on the paycheck.  Now, when I am shopping, it’s easier to make the distinction between want and need.  There is a goal in place to work towards.  Knowing, even when I don’t like the information I have, is better than not knowing and doing nothing to improve the situation.

We have the beginnings of a savings account to handle true emergencies.  I know how much we need to pay on each debt monthly to reach our goal.  Unexpected things can still happen and throw a metaphorical wrench in our plan, but I’ll be on top of the situation and have a better idea of how to deal with it.

I’ve spent a lot of time reading about debt.  I’ve read the advice of experts and personal blogs discussing specific stories and solutions.  I don’t normally give advice here – if someone finds something of use or inspiration here that’s great – but I don’t have any great insights or answers (just my stories).

In this case, I’m going to make an exception.  If you are struggling financially, in debt, and spending way too much time worrying about money, it’s better to know the facts.  It’s better to have a budget and a plan.  It’s better to face the facts right now and start the process of fixing the problem.  Denial doesn’t help.  I have shed many a tear over our finances.  I have blamed myself and everyone around me for our problems.  I have ignored the situation and pretended that everything was okay.  We have paid out money in bank charges and late charges and interest.

Not any more.  Now, I know where we stand.  There is a goal, a light at the end of the tunnel and hope.  It’s easier to make financial decisions when I understand the consequences. We no longer are living a life where it seems like the current situation will never end.  Things are going to get better.

Knowing that simple fact makes everything easier to deal with.

Decluttered the last few days:

  1. a ball cap
  2. a small shelf
  3. some old records
  4. a bank for spare change
  5. a cookbook
  6. another ball cap
  7. some more socks with no mates
  8. some textbooks
  9. curtains
  10. expired medication

 

One. More. Step.

Do not be afraid.  This is not going to be a whiny, woe-is-me posting (although I’m kind of perched on the edge right now).

I know I have a good life.  I can look up towards those that appear financially more stable and down towards those that are struggling much more than I am.  That means that I am somewhere in the middle.

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As I sit in front of my tiny fan writing this post, I am contemplating the arrival of my new window air-conditioning unit that will be in place by this evening.  The tiny fan is doing it’s very best…spinning it’s little tiny blades as quickly as physics will allow.  It’s hot as hell in here.  I’ll live and these couple of days will make me even more appreciative once the cool air is blowing once again.

Brainstorming, debate, research, numbers-crunching, and realism have allowed us to figure out a way to make it through the summer…without accruing any debt.

A central AC unit is out of the question.  We really wanted to put in ductless air conditioning units sometimes known as “splits”.  They are energy efficient and allow for zone cooling which is good for our really big house and fluctuating body count.  Alas, they are out of our price range (for now) and require some construction time.  Stress is pretty high around here and the home projects never-ending.  I voted against any more to-do’s on my poor husbands list.  He has enough projects to keep him busy without adding any more.

We played with numbers and re-arranged the budget in such a way that this window unit purchase is feasible.  Who needs groceries?  The fridge and pantry are full and the family has all voted to eat what we’ve got while being cool rather than eat what we want in the heat.  That was actually not a hard decision.  With the new window unit, two portable units that we have and the gifted air conditioner on its way, we can cool the whole house!

I’m proud of the fact that we worked through this problem and found a solution that didn’t involve any more debt.  We’ve have made so much progress in so many ways.

Still, life can be hard sometimes.  It’s so easy to see the things that are undone and to get weary.  It’s easy to be overwhelmed by situations and to want to give up or to give into the frustration.  Gratitude can be hard to come by.

It’s important for me to count the little “wins” and to practice patience.

I want it all now:  cool air to flow out of the vents, the bathroom put back together, the debt paid off, the new floor finished, the painting done, the yard cleared, the decluttering done…

I want life to be easy and perfect.

Then I look around at the rest of the world and feel ashamed and guilty.

Life is not easy and I am not perfect.

All I can do is take one more step in the right direction.  I may pause or stop after that one step and shed a tear or two.  I may lose my cool and yell at someone I love.

I will apologize and pick myself up and take another step.

Things will get done and fixed. Something else will need to be done and something else will break.

One step…a lot of hugs.

Life.

Decluttered yesterday and today:

  1. a hand soap dispenser
  2. a contractor size bag of construction by-products off of the back deck
  3. a bucket
  4. a hose reel
  5. a laundry hamper
  6. two empty plastic storage bins
  7. a pair of jeans
  8. the bird’s nest off of the top of the cabinet from last spring https://faithacrestudio.com/2015/03/27/a-bird-in-the-hand/
  9. the cabinet that held the bird’s nest (one more step in the kitchen redo
  10. a stand for holding fireplace tools – all the tools have disappeared and we don’t use the fireplace

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