Downtime

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As I was journaling this morning I looked around my clean and straightened living room and felt a sense of emptiness or loss or maybe I was just tired, but a tiny flutter of panic began to beat its wings against my belief in this purging mission I’m on.

When I journal, I know I’m done when I start writing about what my plans are for the day, but today I struggled to articulate them and instead stared at various things I didn’t have to turn my head to look at. Typically my to-do list involves way more than is humanly possible, but this morning I floundered. I was apathetic. Lazy. Bored. Blah.

This feeling of ennui had me troubled.

Then the source of this unrest explained itself to me. Or rather offered up a suggestion as to why it may be lurking. “Is it possible,” it asked, “that you need mess around you to feel creative? To feel energized? Inspired? Motivated?”

I have built much of my purging and organizing on the foundation of less stuff = more clarity for creativity. If I have no motivation to begin or continue a creative project because my house is nice and neat, have I been wasting my time?

Let’s not jump to conclusions.

I am one of those people who feels like I should always be doing something, working on a project, creating something from scratch, procrastinating by being busy with things that will never make a difference, or doing my part to save the world.

You know, a woman.

Downtime is a dirty word, it shows weakness. It’s shameful. Only, of course, it isn’t. It is the yin to the over-productive crazy making yang we usually live in. It’s not a reward. There’s not something or so much that has to be done to earn downtime. It’s simply the other side. It’s the time necessary that allows for the salvation of the planet at 3 AM. It’s the being that fortifies and fuels the doing.

 

I am half way through this year of organization and clarity, it’s not even time for it to arrive yet. I’m going to take my own advice: pump the brakes, rest, maybe read a book, walk in the woods, breathe.

You should too. The world needs a lot of saving. And purging. And creativity.

Half Way

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Today marks the sixth month of this crazy purge thing I got myself into. When I began, I believed – which is my overly optimistic nature – that I could knock it out in a month and drop the mic. But, like all things I think I can accomplish quickly, I was wrong. At six months, I feel a little more than half way, maybe.

To remind myself of the actual plan, I had to go back to the beginning. January 1, 2017.

MY PLAN:

1. Catalog every item in my home.

Ok, I can explain. I inherited a whole 2 bedroom apartment that had been stuffed to the ceiling with books, crafting items and furniture. I let go of the cataloging, but plan to do a final count when I’m done with the stuff shuffle.

2. Purge what is no longer useful or meaningful.

This I have done. I have piled items high at work for people to paw through and take; made no less than 20 trips to Good Will with no fewer than 50 boxes of things; thrown more into the trash than I ever want to do for the rest of forever; nearly 15 pounds of ‘very important papers’ have been shredded; the two-body recycle bin continues to fill; and… I’m still at it.

3.Eat clean 90% of the time.

Can we talk about something else? Actually the Whole 30 is on deck for July.

4. Reduce my carbon footprint any way I can.

I haven’t been able to even think about this yet. I am very mindful when I purchase things not to succumb to plastic. And I did buy a composter, which is still sitting in parts on my patio table. Baby steps. I am hoping that by year’s end with my mind and space clear, I can devote thoughtful time to this one.

5. Create a mammoth spreadsheet of my stuff.

Started. Abandoned. Please see 1.

6. Ask myself, with everything I do or bring into my home, “Is this the best choice for me, the planet, my home?” “Do I need it?”

Not much other than food is coming into my home right now. And I feel like I need it.

7. Reduce my trash and recycles to next to nothing.

Please see 4.

There were many things that happened in the first six months of this year that could have so easily derailed me, but didn’t. Not completely. This tells me how important this project is to me. This commitment to a lighter, freer lifestyle oddly takes Herculean effort at times.

All in all, I am satisfied with my progress thus far. As I wrap up the purge of physical stuff (see, there’s that overly optimistic, or possibly delusional Pollyanna again) I am moving into digital purge and body purge. I thought I could sort of toggle between them all, you know, knock it all out at once, but too much focus is necessary for each area.

I am not putting pressure on the next six months though, rather I am continuing forward with purpose. I’m being the tortoise rather than the over-excitable-wear-myself-out-over-thinking-procrastinating-with-other-important-not-important-things hare.

Slow and steady wins the race.

 

Giving Up

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I am in danger of letting it all go. Taking a giant energetic eraser and wiping my stuff slate clean.  Instead of a POD, a dumpster. I’m going to put all the pretty breakable things I own on the kitchen counter and let Kitty Andersen have her way with them. I’m over it.

I am in danger of quitting. Holding on to what’s left, petting it, apologizing to it for casting out its friends. I’m itching to skulk around antique and thrift shops looking for something I didn’t know I needed then squeezing it in between other items without meaning.

I am in the process of purging.

Everything is energy and everything has energy – a bit of magic formed of memories and wishes. A rock collected from the Long Island Sound. Or was it the banks of the Ganges. Maybe someone gave it to me. A tiny Buddha living among others of its kind on an altar with things that, when held individually, seem to lose most of their meaning and charm. Where did he come from?

If I don’t know where they came from how can they have meaning?

It is this energy or connection I am becoming very sensitive to. It was most telling when I was moving my altar items to a box for safe keeping whilst I hurricaned about the place. I considered every piece of preciousness and of the 253,876 items, maybe 10 elicited a knowing smile. The rest more of an exasperated sigh at my ridiculous assignment of meaning to every rock and every feather I have ever found. (More on altars later.)

I am both burdened by this stuff and buoyed by it. It brings me joy and sometimes peace and it frustrates the hell out of me.

I can tell you that being able to take my time with my stuff has been mostly a positive experience and I’m grateful to be able to do this my way. It gives me great pleasure to hand over items that have meaning to me to others that can find new life for them. But I am doing this without attachment or condition. If I personally hand a book to someone it is always with the permission to “feel free to regift, recycle or do whatever you’d like with it.”

I am, of course, holding on to some very precious things, but I am trying to make those items the exception. And I’m even questioning those things.

Because Larry and I have a few antique spaces between us I am afforded the luxury of cycling some items through and possibly recouping my initial investment or even making an extra buck or two. An old radio flyer wagon, for instance,  with peeling red paint that sits atop my (almost empty) TV cabinet. I like the addition of color and the stories of the children it must have held. One day I’ll tire of it and pass it along. Sell to someone who can make up their own narratives.

Currently my house is once again in turmoil, this seems to be the cycle. Pull everything out from its hiding place, paw through it, roll eyes, sort, toss, pile, purge. Then do it all over again. Until there are just no more hiding places. From my perch on the sofa I spy:

  • 2 boxes of CDs waiting to be delivered to new homes
  • 6 stacks of CDs yet to be sorted through (down from about a million)
  • 3 stacks of magazines (one with paint color ideas, one to be given away to a friend  and one yet to go through – a short stack)
  • 1 looming stack of books to be priced and sold
  • 3 stacks of books to go to the studio for adoption
  • 4 empty boxes waiting to be filled for Good Will (at least 50 boxes have been transported so far)

But all these piles, while causing momentary shortness of breath and heart palpitations, can be moved into their proper places – outside my home – by end of day tomorrow and I can vacuum and dust and space clear and do a happy dance until the next time.

The goal again, for me, is to whittle all of my possessions down to just what I can see, just what I love or has beautiful inspirational meaning or what is useful. And not to restart the cycle of collection and purging. But it’s in stages and steps. (More on my process coming soon.)

For now, stuff is moving out, space is being revealed. The math is working.

Space Clearing

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At the risk of outing myself as some sort of woo woo shaman witch psychic nut job, I’d like to talk about clearing space.

I know it may seem as if that is all I talk about in the physical sense. Removing items from my home I no longer need, encouraging you to do the same and reveling in the newly created open space.

But this is space clearing of a different kind, although it walks hand-in-hand with the removal of objects.

The space clearing I’m referring to here is energetic.

I know you sort of believe me. I know you’ve been in a room in a house that felt stuffy or thick or off. You’ve walked into a space that felt tense or one that felt open and airy. You’ve been in a space completely devoid of people yet you either want to stay or you can’t get out of there fast enough. Why?

Right now so much of my home is stuffed with the energy of memories and history. Photos, books, papers, crafting supplies, linens and memorabilia have been gone through and organized.

Yet there is still much to be done. And the shadow of all those things lingers behind.

 

 

Most recently I culled through decades of photos, some over a century old. I discarded many and have plans for the rest, but I have much more to go through before I can allow myself the luxury of playing, so I have sorted them by decade in envelopes and stored them neatly away in the hutch in my beloved guest room. Alongside the photos live old newspaper clippings, horrible artwork, a blanket that was loved too hard and some deteriorating military felt.

I have completely (re)organized my guest room. The napping room. My favorite room in the whole house. (Perhaps I’ve mentioned it before?)

Only now the air is a little heavy with all those memories and history.

Here’s where the space clearing comes in.

For years I studied Feng Shui (more new age voodoo) and the focus of this tradition is energy. Move your stuff, change your life (actually the title of a really great book as well as a truism). Energy collects in corners, under furniture and appliances. It hovers near the ceiling or behind beds and dressers; things pushed up against walls. It can be stuck anywhere.

Its removal and dispersement does not have to take on some sort of mystical ritual, but it can. And maybe it should. For me, simply vacuuming can do the trick. But this space (and I’m sure, others to come) seems to be asking for more specific attention.

A simple way to clear space is to clap. Opening  the windows and door of the room to be cleared, walking around the room clapping into corners and up near where the walls meet the ceiling helps to move stagnant energy out. Seriously. The whole time I’m doing this I am honoring the energy that has collected there. It’s not bad or good, it’s energy.

After the clapping I clean the room, dust, vacuum, straighten up and take a shower.

Test it out. Go into a room that doesn’t see a lot of action, or one that has had a particularly negative visitor, and clap, just once. Is it clear? Does the sound reverberate? If not, perhaps you’ll understand. If so, great, no work needed, maybe.

If clapping isn’t your thing, a bell or chime will work. A handheld drum is also often used. Some use sage or incense.  If you are secretly woo woo and want to explore this phenomenon, I’ll post some links for you to check out. In the meantime, wander through your spaces, get a sense of them, notice the differences in how you feel in each space. And how each space feels.

Be curious. Honor your space and the energy there.

I recommend reading up on different techniques if this sounds useful to you. Here are the promised links. Let me know how it goes for you.

  • Denise Linn  is one of my favorites. She has strong Native American approach. I love her Space Clearing book.
  • Karen Kingston is another favorite.
  • Karen Rauch Carter is the funny, awesome lady who wrote the book I mentioned above, Move Your Stuff, Change Your Life.

Gay Uncles

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I took a break from organizing and donating crafting supplies to begin the task of categorizing photos. The entire surface of the bed in the guest room is covered in boxes and baskets of photos. This room, the guest room, is my most favorite. It is decorated exactly the way I want it – simple white linens, an antique cherry night stand on one side of the bed and a filing cabinet hidden under a round top and layers of white linens on the other. The headboard is painted white-ish and gold – perfectly distressed – there is a cream colored bookcase, a dark oak hutch, white linen curtains and a dark wood chair. The art on the walls consists of bird prints and tiny pieces of original art I purchased on trips abroad. It is simple and clean (most of the time) and it’s where I go to breathe. The one room that is almost always neat and clean. I miss that feeling, so I’m digging in to unearth my little island of calm.

The photos are a mix of recent, with vibrant colors and uniform sizes and old yellowed, black and white with creases and cardboard backing. I love them all. The fresh memories and the bits of history I’m left to make up in the older ones. It’s those stories waiting to be told that I get lost in.

In these various piles there are two secrets closely held: one in a brown vinyl travel bag, the other in a tan photo album. They belong to my uncles. The twin great-uncles that I loved so dearly.

There is nothing scandalous hidden here. No pornographic images, no confessions or blackmail. The memories and photos are powerful in their simplicity. Each had many photos of the two of them together, they were very close, just standing side by side smiling for the camera. They were gay, both of them, though the opera singer would never claim his preferences. His brother, discreet, but out, would share his twin’s secrets with my mother and I after his death.

They weren’t really secrets.

The photos they left behind hold images of men seated in living rooms and kitchens, laughing, smiling, enjoying themselves. There are couples, it seems, only if the time is taken to go through them all. The same two men are standing or seated side by side with their arms around each other like “pals” on more than one occasion, in different clothes and maybe a change in hair style or length. These were relationships.

Tucked in with these photos are newspaper clippings of accomplishments of each other and their friends, their family.

What is so striking about these photos is nothing. Yet they were held in bottom drawers of dressers under winter clothes. I imagine them filling a roll of film half with these photos and the other half with shots of them with family and women so as not to arouse suspicion at the one-hour photo processing center in their home towns. Or even driving the unprocessed film far enough away. They would carefully cull out the photos and place the special ones in albums to be viewed often and probably alone or just with the subjects contained within. The other photos would be found loose in a kitchen drawer or in the envelope they came in, resting on the coffee table. Or maybe discarded.

So much of their lives were manipulated and restrained for the comfort of others. These secrets and maybe lies would ultimately undo them.

The opera singer, became well known in the opera community of New York City. He was married three times to different women, powerful artists in their own rights. I always suspected he was gay. He was just this side of flamboyant – dramatic perhaps, that was his job after all – and he never had children. Never wanted them. He was happy to be an uncle and he was an awesome one.

But his secrecy made him sick.

Ultimately the “not gay” opera singing uncle would succumb to AIDS toward the end of the eighties. He wasted away. He had denied his actual existence in favor of the persona he thought everyone wanted. And it killed him.

The other uncle lived much more quietly, pursuing the arts differently. He would work in Europe for Fortuny, then in Boston. Later he would open a lighting store, then a florist shop. He would drink and make the unfortunate decisions that come along with alcoholism. It was not easy living inauthentically. Liquor helped.

Later in life he would give it up. He met and fell in love with someone a decade younger who was sober but infected. They never had sex, he told me, but they were affectionate and madly in love. There are photos that make this obvious. Sweet, gentle images of the two of them engaged in conversation, smiling, listening.

But AIDS would take him too. They both knew it would eventually come and were as prepared as anyone can be for such profound, gradual loss.

There would be no other lovers. Instead he turned his life over to AA. For over 30 years my sweet uncle would take in people in the “the program” who needed a soft place to land for a while. He had inherited his father’s house and there were two bedrooms and a Florida room surrounded on two sides with jalousie windows and a back door. He moved into the Florida room to allow the residents of the other rooms some privacy. That’s just how he was.

The house was a very small typical Florida home built sometime in the 40s and 50s. Just one small bathroom, a large kitchen with a window over the sink with a wide sill that my great grandmother would place peanut butter crackers on for the local squirrel population, feeding some of them by hand and a living room big enough to fit an upright piano. His parents had lived in it over 30 years. He moved in with his father to help take care of him in his later years, to be sure he took his meds and didn’t drive after too many cocktails. His dad “knew” but it wasn’t discussed. His mother had passed ten years prior and she would not allow it to be spoken about. She knew too, they were her babies, the youngest of six by about 12 years. But still, you just didn’t talk about such things.

He would, much later after his beloved dog died, check himself into an assisted care facility from which he would not emerge alive. He was beginning to forget things and didn’t want to be a burden. He knew what was coming, he had seen it in every one of his older siblings, except his twin who would escape that fate by dying too young.  Less than a year after he moved out of his tiny Florida home he went to sleep and didn’t wake up. I’m pretty sure he planned it that way.

Their lives were rich, they mattered. They loved wholly and completely. They each left a legacy of art, beauty, laughter and love.

They were great, great-uncles and sifting through their photographic pasts fills my heart with compassion and sadness in equal measure for the lives they lived and the ones they hid.

 

There’s a Monster in My Closet

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There are days that I feel like the purging will never end. I worry that I will get the house “set” and decide I need to rearrange or pick up a new hobby that brings more stuff in. I wonder what would happen if I just decided to pitch all the CDs. I toy with the idea of emptying one room completely and mindfully putting each thing back in after a ridiculous amount of consideration.

Then I realize I’m just in the middle of this process, not even quite in the middle of the year I’ve allotted myself. All of these things will resolve themselves in time.

Today I dove back into my room. The once sparse and organized closet with a handful of projects is threatening to buckle shelves and blow the doors open with the addition of the crafting supplies of mom’s I somehow I had to have. More project ideas presented themselves to me and now I am left with the task of sorting and storing. Do I purchase organizational boxes, as I have all but vilified, or do I make it work some other way, or do I let most of the stuff go?

In addition to all the closet stuff there are piles of papers on the desk that need filing or shredding; books that need to be reshelved or maybe even released; CDs to be burned; and matted photos that will likely be given away.

I am ready to let go of the photography for photography’s sake which has led me to this little thought spiral crises. If I can so cavalierly toss away photos that I once loved and was happy with, what’s next?

This was my inheritance.

My mother loved to craft and create and she had enough supplies to make something for everyone on the planet. She would create one thing she loved then decide to make 200 more of them and then be disappointed when they didn’t sell. I don’t want to go down that road. Any more.

I don’t want to do those artsy craftsy things I love for money. I will absolutely still accept financial compensation for things I make, but it cannot be why I make things. It was those things she made first that were magical. Each subsequent item was not as special. Maybe it was smaller, with less or more embellishment or somehow skimped on. Maybe it was just that there was now way more than one that it lost its magic. Whatever the case, I think I get it now. When I would make a piece of jewelry for myself it was always the first thing that sold. If I tried to make something for someone else in mind it fell short.

But back to the stuff of this room.

On the floor scattered in no particular pattern are half filled boxes and well-meaning piles that point to some sort of attempt to organize.

There are also three bookcases that will need to be culled with a strict hand. And my own files that need to be thinned of last year’s papers.

But one thing at a time. One ball of yarn in a bag to go to a friend. A book set aside for another friend. A small pile of photos started for gifting.

As much as I want to complete it all today, tidy up my room and sit down to watch a movie, I know the sweetness and the lessons are in the time.

Oh, I’m still going to watch that movie, the stuff will keep.

 

Sex, Drugs and Lots of Food

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The photo purge continues. It may, in fact, never end. It’s part trip down memory lane and part making up stories of the lives of relatives I have never met.

While the story making up is endlessly entertaining, at least to me, the personal history part is the most informative.

As I look at photos of myself over the past thirty-some years, I notice one thing: I have never really been thin. As an adult, beyond college, I have always carried more weight than was necessary. And more than I wanted.

Oddly, this is a revelation. I mean, I kind of knew I wasn’t my ideal weight, but what surprises me the most is this: Since somewhere in my twenties, until this very moment that my fingers are striking these letters to make these sentences, I have been trying to get back to ‘that weight’. What weight? I made it all up. Somewhere in my memory I have constructed the perfect sized adult me. She’s about a size 8, not too thin, but not heavy. She’s athletic-ish, maybe she dances or hikes a lot. Her clothes are awesome, pretty simple but well-fitting and not boxy and concealing. Her movements are smooth, her way easy. And she is a figment of my imagination.

I may as well be making up stories about the photos of me.

There is a girl, about 14, that is very thin with legs that appear long and lithe, but that was clearly a growth spurt and before she understood what was really happening at home. Before she started eating her feelings and building her protective coating of fat.

This is not to blame my parents, but I kinda blame my parents.

At 15 I decided I was obese, about 130 lbs. – actually probably my perfect weight, maybe even a little thin for my age and body structure now – and I wanted to go to Weight Watchers. My mother agreed immediately. At least that’s how I remember it.

When I was combing my memories a number of years ago I pinned this whole unhealthy obsession with food and diets on my father. He liked thin women, it was known. So I was going to do that, get thin. I’d get his attention and love that way. (He did not, not love me, he was just one of those dads that preferred alcohol to emotion. Or daughters). Then after processing that, and resenting him for a few years, a light bulb went off. Wait a minute, I thought… Why did my mother agree so quickly to Weight Watchers? (I was the youngest one there, by the way, and the only one who could not drive herself.) It occurred to me that she could have questioned my motives or told me I was perfect the way I was. Isn’t that what parents are supposed to do? But she just packed me into the car and sent me in with enough cash to cover the meeting fee each week.

There’s way too much neurosis on everyone’s part to tease that riddle apart here, but suffice it to say that some damaging seeds were planted that got watered with unrelenting rains a year later when our family unit began to dissolve in angry and quiet ways.

The blame crown was now hers to wear for a while. But it really wasn’t her fault either.

My father, just out of reach emotionally, treated my mother like a doormat. He was condescending and rude at best, verbally abusive at worst. He never hit her, instead he withheld, brooded and shot the house full of threat without saying a word. There was never any reason to fear him, yet we all understood we were to be worried.

In the years between Weight Watchers and going off to college my mother surreptitiously planned her escape. She had been hiding a few meaningful things at a neighbor’s house, squirreled away some money and not so elegantly taken up with a friend’s husband. All the adults seemed to know. I was confused but understood what was at work on some level.

Aside from the affair thing I had encouraged her to leave my father.

At this point my weight was normal. Not healthy necessarily. For a while there I subsisted on an apple and a pint of milk a day. Period. Until grandma came for Christmas and baked her way into my heart and back onto my thighs.

I had firmly researched and implemented all sorts of self-inflicting shaming practices. I was not as thin as my mother and if my parent’s relationship was falling apart, then why should I bother becoming that perfect specimen of thinness? Crazy, right? But somehow this must be the thinking that coalesced and dropped even more seeds into my already tattered psyche.

I left for school when I was 19, opting for community college for that first year so I could continue to spend time with my boyfriend who was a year behind me. Even so, we opted for different universities that would cause us to be apart. He went south to the tidewater area of Virginia, I went one state further to East Carolina University.

As my tires crossed from Virginia into North Carolina I somehow knew I would never go home again. Not to any home I had known.

I immediately pledged a sorority. It was a calculated move – instant friends and a plethora of parties. Distraction became my medication. Food, alcohol, a few other unsavory, but very fun at the time, substances and sex all kept me even somehow.

Then mom came to visit and announced she was marrying her friend’s husband.

After that I gradually lost interest in the school part of school and engaged fully in extracurricular fun. I did play a few intramural sports, miniature golf (I know) and soccer, but otherwise the fun was centered around dark hours.

There’s so much more between then and now, but it seems this period defined so much of what would follow.

The weight and the desire to control everything around me didn’t fully manifest until I moved home from school and had to ask permission to stay somewhere with my mother or father. It was at this time I concluded that I was the only one who could take care of me and so I did. I stayed with my mother for less than a month, felt like a stranger in someone else’s house – because it was someone else’s house – and moved in with a new friend.

The coping mechanisms I had employed during college were still readily available and close at hand. I am fortunate to not have an addictive personality (whatever that truly means) so I never held onto any of the panaceas for long. Except food. I struggled forever to control food. Always failing, it seemed. Sometimes winning, but not for a sustained period of time.

The food struggle continues, but it has been channeled in a healthier way, through education. But it’s still at the top of my brain almost always.

I am not unhappy in my current state. There is some tension between where I am and where I would like to be, but the chasm is small and there is very little stress in that tension. And now with this new information that there’s not really an ideal me to return to, I can relax and realize that as I am is just fine, maybe even perfect. This does not mean I will not continue to engage in healthy practices or even push a little harder, but that fantasy ideal?

It’s gone.

Gizmo A-Go-Go

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In an effort to purge my belongs and streamline processes I find myself in the midst of an embarrassing conundrum. I am hoarding appliances.

It’s not all my fault, but most of it is.

Sitting in various rooms of my house are:

KITCHEN

  • Spiralizer in the box – I went a little zoodle happy for a while, but apparently I’ve moved through that phase.
  • Instant Pot – I bought one for my brother so he returned the favor. It’s awesome – I’ve heard – but I’ve only used it once.

GARAGE

  • BlendTec – my brother just sent this to me for my birthday, I mean just and I’m super excited to use it.

GUEST ROOM

  • Electric teapot – I purchased it for my mother for Christmas but was never able to give it to her.

MASTER BEDROOM

  • Sonicare Toothbrush – to be fair, it’s replacing one that became possessed a few months back.

BACK PATIO

  • Composter – Not technically an appliance, but kind of. I couldn’t wait to get one to put all my cast offs from juicing (another appliance, but a few years old and oft used) and summer salad making. Oh, and, coffee, yet it sits unassembled on the patio dining table.

It’s a problem. I am hoping that I can integrate each of these items into their proper places and perhaps discard some things lurking under forgotten counters to maintain some sort of stuff balance, but that remains to be seen.

Did I mention the external CD drive still in the box on my desk?

We are planning a kitchen remodel for this year so there will be a huge purge. And there will also be a tad more cabinet space that I vow not to fill just because it’s there.

I can’t make any promises for Larry though. He seems to have an allergic reaction to empty space in cabinets or on counters, any flat surface really. Maybe by then he will have purged his two spaces and crossed over to the bliss of organization side.

Stay tuned.

 

For Now

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When I committed to the year-long purge in January, I truly just wanted to lighten up, get rid of stuff. I felt bogged down by things. I couldn’t find what I needed or remember where I put something because there was just too much. I knew I’d come up against obstacles like time and urgency, that I would resist and that organizing one space would require nearly every other space to become disorganized for a time.

I agreed with myself that I would trust the process and not abandon it. Turns out abandonment is part of the process, but only for a short time.

I find myself in that space of complete disarray. One room (three if you count the two bathrooms) is neat and clean without anything “extra” in it. The rest of the house is in organizational flux. Boxes have been pulled in from the garage to go through and purge in the living room. My room has been the repository of all things mom, along with the I’m-just-not-sure-where-to-put-this-so-it-will-go-here stuff. For now. The guest room bed is covered in old family photos waiting patiently to be organized, the kitchen is in constant use and various stages of purging and we will not be addressing the dining room here today. That is the work space of Larry and a complete health hazard.

Back to that tiny little sentence above: For now. I’m against it.

There are some instances when you have to do something just for the moment, but when it’s announced, “I’ll just put this here for now,” I know there is a deeper pathology at work. Even if I’m the one announcing it. It means, this thing that I’m placing here does not yet have a home, so I’m gonna lay it here while I think about that. Then forget about it.

We are working hard at finding homes for everything we’ve decided to keep. It is much easier for me to let go of things than it is Larry. He’s afflicted with that I-may-need-this-some-day gene. I prefer to pass things along I am no longer using, sometimes to people I know, often to a charity store. But sometimes I hold on too.

Something happens when you take possession of a thing. It becomes yours. And because it’s yours it now has value, but it’s just a thing. Even that 3 carat diamond ring is just a thing (not mine, don’t have one). The value is financial and emotional. The monetary value slides up and down depending on the emotional attachment.

Let’s take Grandma’s set of dishes that we use every Thanksgiving and Christmas, that she used on special occasions. They’re fine china we’ve been told, even says so on the bottom. They’re priceless, clearly. But in actuality, with the missing gravy boat and lid to the soup tureen the set is only worth about $50. At the most. It feels insulting. It’s the emotional grab. In truth if I were shopping for dishes I wouldn’t even consider these, they’re not my style. But when I use them they feel special.

This is the process. Each item is to be considered. This is where I am. I have culled the items that hold no sway – clothes, books I’ve read, unused greeting cards, Rubbermaid food containers and various other items, now I’m down to necessity and heritage.

Letting go of the things does not mean I am letting go of the memories or even tradition. Truly if I had 15 minutes to grab whatever was meaningful to me and get out of my home, after my pets it would be my computer, camera and artwork done by family members.

Is the myth of the memory more important than the freedom and space of letting it go? Is being bogged down by DVDs, old letters, family heirlooms more grounding and nurturing than wide open space in which to be creative and light?

I’m getting to it, the right balance for me. For now.

 

 

Travel Enlightenment

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Aaaaannnd, we’re back!

Not that I actually ever left, but there were many distractions and disruptions that led me physically,  mentally and emotionally away for a bit. Now that I have returned I am ready to pick up where I left off and maybe start over a little on some things.

My time away (I led a yoga retreat to India for two weeks and took a week for fun in Spain) revealed a few things to me. It always does, this is why travel is so important to me. (If travel is your thing too, you can read about my wanderings here: allisonswanderland.)

A few nuggets for my own consideration:

Whenever I’m in India I eat completely, 100% vegetarian. And I feel great. I have “been” vegan, vegetarian, paleo, and every other named dietary follower before. And I never truly stick with any one thing for long, but I have learned a lot about my tendencies, likes, dislikes and what my body appreciates.

Conclusion: I am going 95% vegetarian for the summer. Why not 100%? Because one of the things I’ve learned about my body is it doesn’t process legumes well and it loves protein, so eggs, yogurt and a bit of cheese will be my primary sources, not beans. If I get lethargic I’ll need to add a bit of meat for medicinal purposes. [Please note: there was no intention of sarcasm in that medicinal comment. I truly believe that almost any food when eliminated can be added back in, in small doses as a benefit to the body.]

Traveling also always reveals to me that I have an irrepressible need to be outside and to walk. I love to walk. Walking in cities fills me with wonder and purpose. I have also learned through my travels that I can stop in the afternoon for a pick-me-up of a fully-loaded cappuccino and half a creme brulee and still lose 10 pounds. From walking. About 10 miles a day.

But Florida’s summer heat makes me edgy and lazy and the lack of hills makes me a little sad. So I’ve crafted a plan to walk to the gym (about 1.5 miles one way) every morning super early, walk the hills on a treadmill for 30 minutes then walk home all sweaty. By the way I will be passing a Starbucks and a Panera so… can you say incentive? Maybe some days I’ll even strap my laptop to my back and stop at one of the aforementioned places on my way home to pound out a few blogs. Who can say for sure?

I cannot control anything, [insert eye-rolling emoji here] except my reaction. I ALREADY KNEW THIS, but it has been thrown in my face over and over and over again with unnatural force recently. What I continually attempt to control is my environment. I want my house to be certain way, have structure, be organized. I want the same for my office and the studio (I own a yoga studio with two other magical ladies). This is important to me, not for the unexpected visit from Elle Decor, but so I can have head space to be creative. If there is stuff everywhere I feel so tired and uninspired.

Having just acquired most of my mother’s belongings, there is nothing if not a lack of structure in my home. Getting upset about it only hinders the process and there’s so much to learn in the process.

Organizing things, sorting, compartmentalizing and yes, purging, all make me very happy. It’s this weird internal sense of things clicking into place, and it only works with tangible objects. I cannot feel satisfied by sorting through files on my computer. I have to touch and move actual stuff. The Universe has gifted me a tremendous opportunity to go to this happy place, I just need to see it as that and not the furniture and stuff shaped mound of frustration I’ve made it.

There was more wisdom imparted to me but this is plenty to work on and adopt so I’m sticking with these three. To review, I will:

  1. Eat a 95% + Vegetarian diet throughout the summer, which is about 6 months here.
  2. I will satisfy my need to wander through hill and dale (while not meandering abroad) by walking to the gym and climbing on equipment.
  3. I will take my time and practice mindfulness while organizing and continuing to purge stuff from my various environments.

I am also still deeply committed to minimizing my personal carbon footprint by reducing my trash and carefully considering all purchases.

It feels good to have a plan, some structure and goals. As soon as I finish integrating whatever I am keeping from my mother’s gifts I will resume, and in some cases restart, counting all my objects.

It was actually quite therapeutic.