Wednesday, February 5, 2014

A Reason to Celebrate

''Youth is a quality, not a matter of circumstances."
Frank Lloyd Wright

Next week I will celebrate my 73rd birthday, and I do intend to celebrate.  I realize that some folks would be aghast that I admit my age, but I'm  pleased that I'm still here, still healthy, still learning and contributing.  I may occasionally feel the physical wear and tear of an arthritic knee, or become perturbed when I can't quickly retrieve a word that I know I know.  But for the most part, I'm a happy camper.  In many ways, happier than I've ever been.

Maybe this is why it has been surprisingly easy to let go of years worth of...stuff.  Much easier than I had expected.

In the weeks since this New Year began, I've been on a decluttering, simplifying tear.  Not that we're hoarders, or even messy.  In fact, after years of concerted efforts to downsize and become more organized, I'm sure any casual observer would be impressed with the labeled organization I had already created.

What I came to recognize last fall, however, was that what had been accomplished was merely a corralling of the clutter, albeit quite stylishly.  We still had too much, way too much.   After all, we married at age 40 and combined my stuff with his stuff and eventually added some of my parents' stuff.  That's a lot of stuff.

So,  I made a commitment to pare down,  to streamline, to create space, order and freedom, not just organization.  To confront whatever would surface in the process.  No matter what.  Whatever it might take.  However long it might take. 

I approached this commitment as I historically have approached goals or projects.  By reading everything I could get my hands on.  Besides the shelves of books and magazines, there is a plethora of e-books dealing with organization, simplification, minimalism, goal setting, habit development.....Well, you get it.  One can spend months learning and not doing much.  

So, as the saying goes, I bit the bullet and started clearing drawers and boxes, baskets and totes,  shelves and cabinets, initially setting my sights on selecting 10 items to donate or gift, 10 items to throw away, and 10 items to store/use more functionally - every day!  I'm almost embarrassed to say I achieved that every day for 2 weeks.  For the last three weeks, I've settled on being  a "triple threat."...finding 3 items to toss, 3 to donate and 3 to relocate...every day - after all, I am making progress.

This is some of what I am learning along the way....
  • I am not committed to becoming a minimalist...yet.  That may come in time.
  • I am committed to living with FAR less than the marketing industry promotes.
  • To avoid merely replacing what we are releasing requires vigilance against that same industry...tossing catalogs without leafing through them, turning off the TV or at least not watching commercials, knowing the difference between wanting and needing, challenging the constant assertion that we DESERVE every new product or service.
  •  It's not our duty to fuel the economy.  It's painfully obvious that we have done our share!
  • Some tips and techniques do help, so research can be valuable.  However,  many of these tips and techniques show up repeatedly, just packaged in different language, sequence, or format. (I'll recommend some of my favorite resources in my next blog).
  • I'm an out of sight, out of mind gal.  So it's required diligence to avoid chastising myself every time I find something I'd forgotten I had bought, something I hadn't used in years, or something for which I have duplicates.
  • The hardest things to let go of (at least for me) haven't been those items laden with memories, but those that no longer seem relevant.  Were I not  feeling relevant , this might be enough to stop me in my tracks.
  • The biggest challenge has not been in letting go of the stuff, however, but in facing the thinking and habits that led to such accumulation, especially in facing what I thought the stuff meant, and meant about me.  It's a good thing I'm in a good place...maybe this is what it means to be ready.

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