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!

Going Back to Move Forward

I read somewhere that if you get stuck in a problem, physical activity can affect your brain and make physiological changes that result in new perspectives.

So, since I feel somewhat mired in multiple challenges (my positive word for problems), I’m going to travel back to the beginning and try a fresh start.

I had figured out our budget so that it was working somewhat.  The bills were getting paid even if we weren’t making much progress in getting out of debt.  It was working.

“Was” is the operative word.  The insurance company’s quote for our truck is a tiny bit more than the “blue book” quote.  The appraiser did deduct $50 from it’s value because of the flat tire.  Hmmm. The tire that is flat because their client caused an accident that totaled our truck.  I don’t think so.  And he deducted $60 because the seat had a rip in the upholstery.  Right.  Because it was our idea to sell you the truck in the first place.  The wear on that truck didn’t affect it’s ability to transport us anywhere we needed to go.

So, the person who caused the wreck gets a nice, new car and we don’t even have enough to even make a down payment on something that we can afford to pay out.  All because my husband actually stopped at red light while she chose to run one.  We lose the rental car on Friday and have no way to replace the truck we lost. In case you can’t tell, I’m a tiny bit pissed off.

Most of the time I can deal with the fact that the world isn’t fair.  Today is not one of those days.

But where was I before I started ranting.  Oh yea, the budget.  Today, I am starting a new budget.  Working with where we are and playing with numbers to see what I can make work.  It’s the grown-up thing to do.  It’s moving in a positive direction.  And we all know how much I like working with numbers.  It’s okay.  Doing something is better than sitting around being pissed off.

And, I have realized during this bout of depression that the house has remained relatively together.  Not ready for a magazine photo shoot, but just slightly worse than “lived in”.  That’s got to be the result of the decluttering efforts of the past.

So, we’re going back to the beginning and doing another round of clean-out.  Life is changing again.

Youngest daughter is growing up.  She’ll be 14 in the fall.  Her interests are evolving and she is working on decluttering and organizing.

Oldest daughter has moved back home to do some evaluating of her life goals.

Son is coming home from basic training at some point.  He is receiving a medical discharge and will be back here to figure out his next step.

For now, we are moving folks and stuff around in the house to re-configure the best use for our family.

So far, lots of things are in the give-away pile.  Pictures to follow…

Life happens…good stuff and bad stuff.  That’s how life is, if you are actually living it.

And I love quite a few things about our life.

Mostly, I love our family.  I love how close we are and how supportive we are of each other.  I didn’t have that growing up.  My siblings were older than me and were grown before I was really aware of what family could be.  My parents struggled with a lot of personal issues.  Emotionally, I was on my own.

If I have done nothing else right, I didn’t suck at building a family.  I wasn’t a perfect mom and we aren’t a perfect family, but we are making it work.  Together.

And we will get through this rough patch.

We will keep moving forward.

Even if we need to take some steps backwards to do so.

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.

Stumbling

While stumbling through life, I occasionally discover treasure.  Such was the case as I wrote my last blog post.  I titled it “Not Helpful”.  While writing the post, those words kept popping up…”Helpful” and “Not Helpful”.

Over the last couple of days I have found myself repeating those words in my head as a reaction to situations.  And those words have been most helpful.

It’s helping to identify actions, behaviors, and worries as beneficial or not.  That goes a long way in eliminating stress and achieving a small measure of peace.

 

 

For example, I was planning on picking back up on my decluttering project.  The house has slowly gotten a bit fuller and I’ve realized that decluttering is going to be an ongoing effort for me.  An untidy house with piles of stuff and lost objects is stressful.  Not helpful.

I got an email about joining a decluttering challenge about two weeks ago.  It sounded like it would be helpful and fun.  Each day there would be an assignment to work on, and there was a facebook page to join and chat on.  That sounds good…right?

Yesterday, I got my morning email from the group and failed to open it.  Why?  Because I had not yet opened email number 1….or two….or… You get the idea.  I had not logged onto the facebook page and introduced myself.   I sighed heavily as  I looked around my house and at the long list of emails. I  started berating myself for yet another thing that I hadn’t kept up with or done.

That kind of thinking is not helpful.

I don’t need more perceived failures and recrimination.

The group was supposed to assist me in achieving my goals.  It was supposed to be helpful.

It was not.

I unsubscribed to the group and started setting up my studio…still undone from the move quite a while back.  But, I’m working on it and have filled a trash bag and a giveaway bag during the process.

You can barely walk in there and there is still a ways to go, but it’s a small win for today.

Letting go of what’s not working, or what’s not helpful is difficult.  Sometimes it just feels like quitting or failing.

I have to keep reminding myself of what the goal is…of the direction I am trying to go…

In this case, the goal was not to successfully complete the decluttering challenge.

My goal was to simplify by decluttering unnecessary items and find peace.

Two very different destinations.

Confusing the two was just a “not helpful” part of the journey.

Now that I have checked my map (clarified my actual goal), I can once again start moving in the right direction.  There will, undoubtedly be more detours.  In fact, this was a challenging day filled with road blocks…

…but I had figured out where I was going and that was helpful.

Groovy!

Sometimes I think that I should stop going to thrift stores because it can be too easy to buy stuff.

Other days I know that thrift store shopping is a great idea for someone who is trying to live a more intentional deliberate life.

For example, I like to shop for a lot of my family’s clothes at thrift stores.  I can get better brands and quality than I can normally afford so I’m saving money.  I’m not buying cheap crap that carries the weight of a myriad of social, environmental, and economic issues.  Because the stuff has been worn and washed, I know ahead of time how its going to wear and I don’t buy something that is going to have to be ironed.  That’s just never going to happen around here.

I don’t buy all of our clothing second-hand.  Some stuff is just supposed to be new if you know what I mean and sometimes you just can’t find what you need when you need it.

Because of thrift stores my husband can wear Hawaiian shirts that are actually from Hawaii.  My kid can wear the Justice, Gap and Old Navy clothes that she wants.  If it hangs in the closet for a bit and doesn’t really get worn all that much, it’s no great loss – we just donate it back.  Win…win!

The same goes for other stuff around the house:  dishes, decorative items, art supplies, sometimes furniture, etc…

I’ve just learned (and am learning) to be careful and thoughtful about purchases.

Then there is the magical day – the day that I was just meant to end up at the thrift store even if I was in a bad mood and was looking for some retail therapy even though I knew that buying something wouldn’t necessarily make everything all better.

Because what I found did make things better when I was dealing with a preteen child who shall remain nameless who was perhaps being a bit moody and difficult to deal with.  The kind of day when I needed to remind myself that love conquers all and I do love her more than I could ever have imagined because her life was indeed a miracle in more ways than one.  The day when I kept telling myself that I have survived three other adolescents and none of them are in jail and neither am I even though they might have inspired murderous thoughts at one time or another.

I found this at the thrift store yesterday:

IMAG1197 (1)IMAG1199A genuine 1969 Spirograph Plus missing only one piece.  It still has it’s original cardboard mat and most of the original paper.  How groovy is that!  It’s hard to be in a bad mood when you are playing with a Spirograph.

When you are playing with a Spirograph it’s easy to remember that you love that smart, beautiful, creative little girl who is trying to grow up in a big family in an even bigger world.  The little girl who is figuring out who she is and what her talents are.  The little girl with strength, determination and grit that sometimes comes across as stubbornness and defiance.

When you stop and just spend some time together, you remember that sometimes life is hard and taking the time to play and just “be” for a bit is a splendid idea.

The Return of the Crud

I felt sooooo much better yesterday.  I got quite a lot done.  I made big plans for today.

Today, the “crud” returned.  Maybe the cold is gone and allergies have flared up.  The first cedar pollen bud watchers have reported that the buds are popping.  Yes, the allergies are so bad here that we have folks who watch out for this sort of thing.

In any case, the fever is back.  I lay down for a short rest and slept 3 hours.  Nothing much was accomplished…

– other than some school catch-up.

Math is killing us.  We just aren’t making noticeable progress.  I have a pretty stubborn kiddo and if I hear, “I hate Math” one more time…

I’m going to sweetly suggest that we give it another go.  Maybe.

I did spend some time reading blogs about folks who are decluttering and simplifying and reducing waste and growing and cooking all their own food.  No waste. No additives.  All from scratch.  While chopping their own firewood for the stove in the home they built themselves.  With their children who are already doing advanced calculus in 3rd grade.  After hiking in Nepal for summer break.  And making their own laundry detergent to wash their clothes that they make themselves – 100% cotton, of course.

I’m not judging.  More power to them!  I’d be right there with them if I could figure it out.  If I could declutter enough stuff.  If I could get out of debt.  If I had started 30 years ago. If I could remember to water the plants right by my front door, much less grow a garden.  If I didn’t take a 3 hour nap.  If.

But hey!  I’m in a better place right now than I was a year ago.  I’ve paid down over $2000.00 on our debt.  Loads of stuff has left and I’m not hauling it in anymore.  I’m not “running with the crowd” anymore without trying to be more intentional.

I’m thinking about it.

I’m trying.

I’m learning to be “me” and live my own life –

with what I have to work with.

More power to me!

Gone today:

  1. a piece of wall art
  2. two sweaters – one of which makes me look like a melting snowman.
  3. a worn-out pair of p.j. pants
  4. used up some hand-made paper that has been waiting around for years for the “perfect” project.  turned it into guerilla art cards
  5. 11 small bottles of colored glue leftover from an art class and the plastic box they are stored in.

A cue from Mary Poppins!

This week I’m taking the advice of Mary Poppins in my de-cluttering ventures!

In every job that must be done
There is an element of fun
you find the fun and snap!
The job’s a game

 And every task you undertake
Becomes a piece of cake
A lark! A spree!
It’s very clear to see

That a…
Spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down
The medicine go dow-own
The medicine go down
Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down
In a most delightful way

A robin feathering his nest
Has very little time to rest
While gathering his
Bits of twine and twig

Though quite intent in his pursuit
He has a merry tune to toot
He knows a song
Will move the job along

Since I’m a big fan of birds and have been working on “feathering my nest” to make it simpler, more welcoming, and more intentional it seemed a good fit.

I’ve been stalled on making much progress (by stalled I mean discouraged, feeling hopeless, and considering giving up).

But, it’s just not in my nature to give up for long – so….

…a game it is.

I know someone who is moving into a fancy-dancy awesome new place and while I’m not jealous, (I’m happy for her because she’s worked hard and truly deserves this blessing) I’m a bit sad that I don’t have the option to “start over”.

So…I decided to make it an option of sorts – starting over that is.

Room by room as I follow my cleaning list, I’m going to envision what that room might look like if it were a new room in a new home that I was moving to.  What would the room look like?  What would I take with me to my new place?  What would I get rid of so as not to move clutter into my new space?  I’m taking notes on what renovations/repairs I would like to see including paint color, etc.  Then we have a to-do list to work from as funds and time become available.

Today is Master Bathroom day.  My husband is installing a new sink faucet that we’ve had, but never installed.  On the list of future improvements is a new shower unit.  Our shower has a crack that isn’t leaking yet, but…  I’d like new flooring because the old flooring is worn out.  And I think a bright coat of white paint is in order.  Bright and clean and spacious.

New lights above the sinks would be nice.  The ones we have came with the house and are boring.  That’s fairly far down on the list, but this is a wish list.

Having a list of needed/wanted items will help us out in searching down bargains.  We’ll know what we need when we spot it.  The list will also help us make repairs and updates in a more timely fashion.  A plan is a good thing!

In the discard pile are some old cosmetics that I never use.  Truly, I don’t know why they are still there and have made it through past de-clutters.  Also gone are my youngest daughter’s bath/shower toys.  She’s outgrown them, but I don’t know which of us is more reluctant to part with them.  Everything in the bathroom is useful or loved.  Nothing extra.

Our old towels are staying and not on the list to be replaced.  They are still more fabric than holes and perfectly functional.  Keeping in mind that I want to simplify and reduce waste, I find that I see a simple beauty in them.  They serve a purpose and there is no reason to run out and buy new ones.

I’ve finished up with a good scrub-down of the room – right down to the baseboards and trash can.  Less stuff = faster cleaning.

The game is on!

Boris the Hog

I know you are all anxiously awaiting an update to yesterday’s post…Be Careful What You Wish For.

Well, Boris the hog has arrived and is presently residing in our hallway packed in ice and awaiting processing.  Why “Boris” you might ask or perhaps why any name at all.  Beats me.  My kids have this weird thing about naming things:  cars, pets, wild animals, furniture, art pieces, pretty much anything at all.  “Boris” was named by my son who is my kid and sometimes child-like although technically an adult in the eyes of the law.

Processing has been delayed somewhat by my husband being moved to the night shift at late notice.  Working days or nights – two totally different worlds and a huge adjustment when change happens.

Anyway Boris is going to be part of our Fourth of July celebration.  A friend is going to allow us the use of his smoker to prep the ham and bacon.  Some parts are going in the freezer and the rest will be a feast for friends and family.

I’ve got to share my second daughter’s reaction via text.  She is living away at college and read my post before I had a chance to talk to her and share the news.  She is my little animal lover and in some ways was born into the wrong time.  She would have fit in very well into the culture of the sixties.  She is all about peace. love and tie-dye shirts.

Here is the text conversation (my words are in italics, hers in bold text):

“A hog?”

“Oink”

“Thank you. From who?”  (This should probably be read with a great deal of sarcasm)

“A friend”

“Well, not to complain or ask for a lot.  But if the pieces that resemble what it originally looked like (nose, ears, eyes, legs, feet, tail, etc) could be gone or “away” when I get there Wednesday that would be sweet.  Otherwise the chances of me eating any of it will go from 60% to 10%.  Again not trying to make anything difficult.”

“Will do.  If it helps it’s a wild hog that is a vicious destructive critter”

“It does, but I will still see Wilbur”

It constantly amazes me how my four children can all be so different and so much the same at the same time.

All in all this has pretty much been a week of amazement so far…

  • Amazement that I’m still walking around and reasonably sane.
  • Amazement about some really good news that I’ll probably share later.
  • Amazement at the fun and sometimes strange (in a good way) folks that I meet through this blog.
  • Amazement that I raised some pretty cool and wonderful children that are growing into amazing people (despite my parenting)
  • Amazement that I have a hog sitting in an ice chest behind me.  Next to the broom because although I found it, I still haven’t used it…

Living with an awareness of the amazing world around us is definitely not a bad thing.

Peace.

Time

Monday morning here at the old homestead and it’s quiet.  Such a change from yesterday (all last week really).

Husband and oldest daughter are at work. Second daughter is back at school. Son is in his room.  Youngest daughter is at a friend’s house.

Just me, the dogs, chickens, rabbit and the kitchen.  Today is kitchen cleaning day according “The List”.

It’s actually a great relief to have the list to fall back on today.  I’m really worn out mentally and physically from all the activity and people of late.  I got up and looked around at the state my house is in and sorta freaked out.  Then I sat down at my desk and saw the list.

I don’t have to clean the whole mess up.  I just have to clean the kitchen.  The rest will wait.  I suppose that some people have brains that would logically come to that conclusion, but I don’t.  And that’s okay.

I’ve resisted the urge to WRITE IT DOWN for a long time.  I didn’t want to admit that I struggle with whatever brain oddity I struggle with.  I just want to be competent and organized and have it all together.  But I don’t and that’s okay.  I’m getting it all together…slowly.  At the end of today, I will have a clean kitchen.  YEA!

What else has been happening here, you might be asking…well, maybe not, but I’ll share anyway because you are obviously reading this…

I am reading a book.  Just for fun.  Nothing intellectual or informative or on the best seller list.  Just a book.  I used to read all the time.  Back before kids and stuff.  My daughter is in the summer reading program and I decided that I could read this summer too.  In fact, I actually wrote it on my list.

I don’t know at what point in my life I quit reading.  I guess it just got put on hold until there was time.

I’ve rediscovered the fact that we only “have time” for what is important when we “make time” for it.  It’s another one of those things we have to make a conscious decision to do.  Otherwise, the time we have just seems to drift away from us and we never get to what’s important or what we enjoy.

How many times do I catch myself saying “I’m going to………”

  • I’m going to paint the pantry that still has ugly vinyl manufactured home wallpaper
  • I’m going to paint the living room that is still beige ten years after I moved in – I HATE beige
  • I’m going to start on that giant canvas that’s been waiting a year
  • I’m going to lose weight
  • I’m going to read that book
  • I’m going to call that friend

You get the idea…

I don’t have forever to wait.  I have right now.  And maybe tomorrow.  Nothing is guaranteed.  I’m not going to quit planning on tomorrow, but I am going to quit waiting on it.

My next list is the “what I want to do list”.