Last summer, I started a season of reigning in the crazy. I recognized that while I had an abundance good things in my life, it was time to take a hard look at all of the activities that I said yes to and set some priorities. I do think progress has been made. All of the same opportunities are still there, tempting me and shaming me into thinking I should say yes because I’m good enough to handle it all. But I think I have gotten a little smarter, a little braver, and a little healthier. This weekend, for example, is pretty unscheduled. By this past Thursday afternoon I realized that and started thinking “Who haven’t we seen lately? What project have we been putting off? How can I make sure this open time isn’t wasted?” By Thursday night I had successfully shaken myself by the shoulders and canned any ideas of filling this open time. My entire family is benefiting from it as we glide through the hours having fun and getting moderate chores completed.
As I continue to work at being smart about over-scheduling, I am moving from a season of pruning away figurative life-clutter into a season of getting rid of actual, filling-my-house, clutter. No one in my house is a collector, or a hoarder, but there is just a lot of, well, stuff. The way this scenario would have played out in the past goes something like this: Live, obtain stuff, use stuff, put stuff away in different places, lose stuff as it gets covered by new stuff, organize big heaps of stuff into more structured big heaps of stuff, get frustrated, lose my mind, snap, and spend three weeks using every open moment to tackle every single room, donating, throwing-away, and super cleaning. I suppose life experience and parenting has helped me realize that this is not a sustainable system. So instead I have made the very sensible decision to just take a section at a time as I go about my normal day. When that shelf is so full that I can’t put something else on it without five minutes of balancing things just right, I will take the 15 minutes required to take the stuff down, throw away what is expired, old, and over-used, start a donate bag for the items that someone else could use for a while, and have one less cluttered shelf. You might ask why I haven’t been doing that all along, but this is a paradigm shift for me. I am fighting life-long learned tendencies to keep things because I might be able to somehow reuse them and save the money and hassle of buying a new one. It is why I am just starting, 14 years after graduating from college, to throw away gross college t-shirts that I had just in case I needed to a dirty job. Not even a mechanic could need the amount of ratty t-shirts I have collected. My need for order and space is finally beating out that need to keep things “just in case.”
- Expired drug-store items have been trashed (expired in 2009? really??)
- Kitchen cabinets have been cleared of glassware (how did we ever collect enough sets of margarita glasses and beer steins to entertain an entire frat house?)
- Place-mats that have been used since we were married have been replaced (10 years creates a lot of stains)
- Another bag of clothes has been donated
- An armada of plastic grocery bags has been dropped off at the store for recycling
- At least a year’s-worth of batteries was taken for recycling (did I mention we have a three-year-old who likes toys that make noise?)
Next up is a bag of old shoes that need to be taken from my closet floor to a recycle drop off location. Since spring is around the corner, I’m guessing something in the garage isn’t far behind. The difference between today and five years ago is that in the past, that list of what has already been done would have been forced into a single weekend and I would have been near-tears by Sunday night. Present-day, I have completed those things comfortably over the course of the last month or so, and none of them have felt like an imposition to complete. And yes, it feels really good to not have things come tumbling out of the medicine cabinet when it is opened, and to eat on pretty place-mats.
I am still wondering what finally changed in me that I decided to do things differently. Clearly, scaling back has been the over-riding theme this past year, and it is a very welcome and positive move. I’m just not sure what finally pushed me, gave me the bravery, the ability to stand up to myself, the oom-pha, to finally just do it. I suppose that shouldn’t matter, but it is something I ponder anyway.
What mountains have you scaled after living under the assumption they were just too high? What changes are being put on your heart that you might not be paying enough attention to yet?