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.

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.

 

When Laundry is Fun

0603161257The new washer is here!  Researched and pondered upon and paid for with cash.  My original intent was to purchase the cheapest washer available, but then wiser heads provided counsel.  Thank you family.  We purchased a more expensive washer, but one that will last considerably longer and is very energy efficient.  If you do an average of 6 loads of laundry a week on the cold setting, the washer has an estimated energy cost of $11 annually.  Of course, I did 6 loads of laundry the first day!  Still, it should save us money in the long run.  Purchased on Memorial Day weekend, there were all kinds of sales, specials and rebates applied, so I am happy with the expense.

Our special needs budget is depleted and we go back to saving for the next item on the list.  It’s a rather long list, but the “joy” factor in saving, waiting and anticipating is well worth it.  It’s also new to me.  I grew up in an environment where if you needed (wanted) it you went and got it.  I am proud of the intentionality of this purchase.

The washer has been named “Tony” by my youngest daughter because it sounds like Iron Man when it fires up.  She has spent considerable time watching the clothes spin and slosh around.  “It’s like a fish bowl, but you don’t have to worry about the fish dying.”  The first load found us all huddled around the washer watching for longer than I care to admit.

Today, I am reminded of the simple joy to be found in doing laundry.  Taking a pile of dirty, smelly wrinkled clothing and transforming it.  Being mindful in the transformative process.  Sorting and filling the washer, measuring out the soap, watching it tumble…transferring the wet load to the dryer.  Pulling out the warm, fresh items and carefully folding them into a neat stack.  Quietly doing a task that I’ve done a thousand times before, but taking the time (and effort) to realize that even such a menial and mundane task is a blessing to others and a luxury that most of the world will never know.

Remembering that I am privileged to have as much as I have – electricity, a washer and dryer, a home to shelter it in, clothing and linens in an abundance, family to make things dirty, and the burgeoning ability to manage it financially with more wisdom.

Over time, it’s possible that washing will become a mindless task again…one in a list of many that I struggle through, but maybe not.

Perhaps, this very intentional purchase signals a significant change around here.  That would be a blessing indeed.

Losing It!

Last week ended on a rough note. I kinda lost it. I was so frustrated with life that I just blew. All the little (and some big) things that I’ve been dealing with pretty well, just started to seem like insurmountable hurdles…

The washer?  I’ve been okay with waiting on a new one or a new to us one and have been pretty patient – maybe not happy but working on a plan to get a new one. Until – Matilda the Basset Hound ate a whole lotta cream cheese that she stole off of the counter and threw up all over the sofa. Every stinking sofa cushion. And the stinking is an adjective in more ways than one. Yuck. The washer may sound better with our “poverty fix”, but it’s not washing very well. Yuck. I could only wash a slipcover or two at a time and even then they didn’t look or smell much better. I confess that I took the stick out that holds the washer at the appropriate angle and tried to beat the washer to death.  Didn’t even dent the washer – shattered the stick. Might have scared a few family members in the process.  Sorry guys.

The bad mood continued for two days. Bad moods aren’t productive. They happen because we are human, but they don’t solve any problems. They just create more – like guilt, anger, hurt feelings and headaches. I’ve gotten back to work on the three biggest issues that are causing our life to be less than perfect – the three main obstacles to a simpler, more intentional life:

  • Clutter and it’s contribution to an untidy, less than serene home
  • A diet and exercise that contributes to better health and to us feeling better mentally and physically
  • Financial well-being which includes better money management, a savings account and paid-off debt.

On Friday, we went to Houston to help our second daughter move into her first home post-graduation from college.  She moved from a suburb of Houston to almost down-town.  She did a lot of research and found a cute little apartment in a great neighborhood at a reasonable price.  Very proud of her.  Did I mention that it’s on the third floor?  She decluttered a lot of stuff, but the apartment is still on the third floor. A big thank you goes out to family in Houston that dropped everything on a Saturday and came to help haul stuff up. Up to the third floor in case I forgot to mention it.

She has inspired me to come home and recommence the decluttering effort. I can’t imagine (and don’t want to) what it would take to move us at this point. More has gotta go.

Anyway, I’m working on trimming down the budget some more to increase our debt snowball plan. I went back to look at the totals when we first started so I could feel a little bit more encouraged about the whole process and we have made some!

I’ve re-subscribed to The Fresh 20 meal that we used to use. I’m not advertising here, but I find it to be really helpful. I got an email for 40% off the subscription and it seemed like a good omen. I like it for three reasons:

  1. It helps limit the amount of groceries I buy. I tend to overbuy and we waste some food or just have too much in the pantry. I’d rather have just what we need and use the extra cash to pay on a bill.
  2. It includes a lot of veggies and fruit so we eat healthier. It’s reviewed by a dietician so I feel better about our diet.
  3. The main reason. I don’t have to figure out what we’re going to have for dinner.  That’s less stress for me and we are less likely to eat out at the last minute because I didn’t have a plan.

I’m getting closer to an actual budget (as opposed to a spending record).  I’m using You Need a Budget  which I find to be very friendly for a non-numbers person like me. The subscription is $5 monthly which is worth it for me because it helps keep me on track (and does the math for me). I just found out about Mint which is a free online budget. I’m trying it out, but am struggling with it a bit. It doesn’t track debts as well that are closed credit accounts or medical debts. It links to open credit accounts and automatically tracks payments, interest, and balances. Once again, not an advertisement – just information on what’s working for me.

And that’s why this post is titled Losing It.

Last week, I lost it and had a complete meltdown.  That sucked and was not helpful.

Now I’m to lose it in a good way:

  1. Lose more stuff!
  2. Lose food waste, unhealthy food and lose weight!
  3. Lose unnecessary budget expenses and debt!

Life is all about choices.  I’m going to keep trying to make good ones.

Being in the Right Spot

Someone gave me a plant several months ago.  I don’t do plants very well.  I like them well enough.  I’ve read that they are good for a healthy home environment – that they clean the air and lend an atmosphere of peace and harmony.

In my “if” life (the life I imagine I could have “if” I had time, energy, money, etc.) my home is filled with lush, green vegetation.

In reality, any plant that I have tend to get forgotten.  Most days, I deem successful if I water and feed me and my family.

During one of my past decluttering sessions I got rid of several sickly looking plants – mostly consisting of sticks and dried leaves.  The pots went too.  I was done with plants.

Then this one showed up.  It moved around quite a bit and finally landed on the table in the entryway.  I like it there.  If someone shows up at my door, they can see the plant and know that I have made an attempt at decorating.  My hope is that they will see the plant and overlook the pile of shoes, jackets, dog hair and bags full of who-knows-what that typically fill said entryway.

The plants sits in a very visible spot so I remember to water it.  Okay, to be totally honest, I can see when it’s wilted to a point that I remember to water it.

It’s in a good spot for me.

Lately I have noticed that the plant is leaning – reaching out away from the wall towards the center of the room – towards the light of the window.  I turned it around so it would straighten up.  It still reaches towards the window.

The plant knows what it needs to stand straight and to grow.  It’s not concerned with being in the right spot to “look good” or satisfy a shallow need to keep up appearances.

The plant knows where it needs to be and what it needs to be the best possible plant that it can be.

A simple lesson for me from the humblest of places.  Today I am wondering and thinking about what I need to be the best possible me.  Where do I need to be?  What do I need to do?    What is in my way?  What is keeping me from the light?

What unnecessary things and actions are keeping me from standing up straight and growing fully?

I’ve moved the plant in a place of honor in front of a window. And gave it water.

 

Just more crap or looking for the beautiful underneath it all…

Found while working on the house today –

a lost can of Pringles turned ant farm underneath a bed

another stash of “special” hand-made paper squirreled away for the “perfect” project – being turned into art cards right now.  No more waiting for “perfect”

a bag of miscellaneous canned goods bought for Thanksgiving – obviously not needed.  Not things we use regularly so going to the food bank.

a stash of treasures that my dogs were hoarding under the sofa.  Ugh.  No further description provided.  You can thank me later.

three bags of clothes that someone gave me.  I forgot about them and need to go through them.  Or maybe not.  We’ll see if it ends up in the giveaway tomorrow.

another sack of plastic grocery bags to be recycled.  Why can’t I remember the reusable ones that I have?

a bee in a plastic bread bag that my dog dragged out of the trash.  Maybe the bee found me?  In any case I got stung.

Break time!

Also decluttered today – working in my son’s room as he ponders his life journey and what he needs and wants to carry with him on the way…

  1. 3 shirts
  2. a bulletin board
  3. 3 sweaters
  4. a winter hat leftover from his football and baseball days
  5. a storage box (contents tossed)

I just know that there is a simpler, more intentional life in our future.  I’m just hacking through the wilderness that is our present in search of the beautiful.

Honestly, most of the time, right now isn’t so bad.  There is beautiful along the way.  Sometimes it’s just hard to see underneath the clutter!

 

Happier Days

Happier days are indeed here!

But…

The challenge is cleaning up the mess that’s left behind from days past.  The actual mess that exists in my home from the days that clear thought and any hope of organization were impossible.  The multitude of things left undone because I simply couldn’t deal with any of it.  And, worst of all, the guilt and self-recrimination.  The constant little (but loud) voice in my head that keeps saying “What’s wrong with you.  You are the worst housekeeper ever. Why can’t you keep up with things?  Everyone else can!”

I’m trying to replace the voice with a more positive message.  It’s hard.  And I wonder where the negative messages originated.  Are they literal messages from my childhood?  Am I repeating something that I’ve heard before?  Are they actually my thoughts?  In any case, why is it so hard to be nice to myself?

But, enough of the negative.

Art work has been made – remember the little canvases?

IMAG1045IMAG1048I placed them in a old drawer that I find at a vintage (junk) store.  I wish I could take a better photo because the canvases are very textural and “damaged”.  I didn’t really plan this one out.  Just stared at it a lot and rearranged them…and painted on them some more.  Then last night I started looking at some paper from my stash and decided on houses again.  Then when I was putting everything up for the night…I saw the drawer and it was a done deal.  I like the simplicity of the design and the calming colors.  I like the neatness in the drawer.  Everything all tidy and peaceful.

Hmmmm.  Art imitating what I’d like for my life.  Peaceful, tidy, calm, simple?  I love the way my art can speak more clearly what’s in my head.  How it can become the truth that I am seeking.  How my art can answer questions and clear away the confusion that I am feeling.  Maybe I need to be making more art.

Progress!

Being normal is hard work –  today it’s not the “holding it all together” kind of work, but actual physical labor.

I’m definitely feeling better and have been toiling in the great outdoors.  Our yard/land is not the worst looking in the neighborhood, but it’s not the best either.  I’m not trying to win “yard of the month”, but I definitely have improvement written in on my list.

When we moved our home in we didn’t have them clear the whole lot.  I thought I would prefer a slightly natural look.  Slightly natural around here quickly turns into overgrown and a fire hazard.  We’ve had a really wet spring, but most years we have to be wary of wildfires.  I’m hoping to eventually get all the cedars and cactus cleared off and our beautiful oaks trimmed up.  That takes more money, skill, and effort than I’m capable of so right now I’m working on mowing down the tall grass, shrubs and grape vines.  Yesterday we hauled off the last of the big scrap metal pile and earned $50 dollars.  The big mess on the side of the house is gone.  I mowed the weeds down today and burned a huge pile of debris.

So much progress – and a lot more to do.  But, it already looks so much better.

The chicks have been moved outdoors so all twelve are scratching around and being happy chickens.  The oldest ones are transitioning to scratch grain instead of starter feed.  We are supplementing with kitchen and yard scraps.  The coop is right next to the compost piles and garden so we have a great little eco-system going.  A great combination of clippings, scraps, food waste, manure and egg production.  Well, no actual eggs yet, but we’re getting there!

Yard work this morning.  Errands with my daughter this afternoon and a bit of de-cluttering thrown in for good measure.

One of my readers suggested that there might be a bit of fear involved in my change plan and strategy.  Fear of what change might bring and look like in my life.  I have definitely been giving that some thought and am including it in my future plans for decluttering and simplifying.

I do struggle with change a lot.  I’m going to start thinking through what might change for the better if I get rid of something…for example, dishes.  We have a lot of guest/family we share meals with and that’s definitely important to me, but the dirty dishes are always out of control around here.  That doesn’t promote simplicity at all when you can’t easily prepare a healthy meal because of the mess.

What would it look like to only have the dishes we need for the standard number of folks around the table – 5 family almost always here and 4 sometimes family here.  9 plates, bowls, etc.  Any folks over that number and we switch to paper.  I know it’s not environmentally friendly, but it might be an equitable trade-off for right now.  The paper plates would be stored seperately and we would encourage each other to wash a dish when you need one.  A no-brainer, I know, but I seem to be challenged when it comes to the obvious stuff.

I think it all comes down to peeling off layers of belongings.  The change is slow, but I just gotta keep trying.  One day it seems as if I’ve totally gotten rid of everything I can in an area. Then a bit later I  re-evaluate and assess and clear out some more.

Small steps equal progress towards the home and life I hope for…