Posts Tagged ‘De-Cluttering’

252 ways to complicate your life

June 14th, 2008    -    13 Comments


I can remember years ago when a certain magazine debuted. I was kind of stumped. Four hundred glossy pages of advice and ads on how to live a simple life? Twelve times a year? I could think of one way to really simplify that. And in that spirit, I offer this post so that you can have the sheer pleasure of ignoring it.

Simplifying your life? It’s not so simple, according to these 18 ways.

Feeling productive? Phooey. Why not kill time reading these 8 ways to save time.

Need to exercise? Wait! First build up your motivation these 31 ways.

Losing weight? Don’t start without digesting these 80 ways to lose weight.

Going on vacation? Don’t leave the house before you read the 7 sites you must check out before checking out.

Making a decision? Don’t do that! Just decide to read 13 ways to make a decision.

Getting stressed? Stress even more over these 6 ways to de-stress.

Watch too much TV? Surf these 9 ways to go back and watch some more.

Exhausted by all the advice? Stay awake even longer reading these 10 tips on how to sleep.

Still breathing? Hold your breath until you read these 5 reasons to monitor your breathing.

Are you even still alive? Take your pulse with this easy 39-point checklist on how to live.

Feeling better? What a waste! Think hard about the 8 reasons not to be an optimist.

Have I shot myself in the foot with these good-natured jabs? Wish I’d consulted these 10 simple ways to keep from messing up my life.

Now what should I title this post? Wise up and read how to lure readers by palming off useless information, time-wasters, drivel and common sense in 8 compelling ways.

Grateful dead

May 30th, 2008    -    4 Comments


From naive simplicity we arrive at more profound simplicity. – Albert Schweitzer

Is there anyone who doesn’t look at this discovery and say, well . . . duh?

***
May you find your own place to rest in peace this weekend. Back to school on Monday with more on my latest learning curve.

Cutting the cord

May 5th, 2008    -    6 Comments


My husband came back crestfallen.

I had saved the flyer for weeks in hopes that the planets would somehow align between opportunity and initiative. It was Free E-Waste Recycling day in our town, and they would take everything. They would take everything electronic taking up space in closets, occupying that place in our heads called “Maybe Someday.” As in maybe someday we’ll find a use for this again. It is the nature of this stuff that it cannot be useful, at least not in the same way, again. It is by design that it is obsolete and incompatible. It is the global economic model.

They took the massively elegant G4 processing tower which was the size of a small child.

They took my old laptop which was really OK except it wouldn’t power the new programs.

They took our first-generation digital camera which always amazed people when we said what we’d paid for it.

They took a colossal monitor, the kind that required its own furniture and corner of the room.

They took keyboards made sticky with dust and crumbs and a wee splash of Pinot Grigio on a late night or two.

They took a tangle of mysterious cords and mateless remotes.

They took everything.

And for a guy who has staked it all on technological prowess, they took a slice of his religion.

“You should have seen the pile of TVs and video consoles and cameras and plasma screens,” he muttered post-traumatically when he came back. “We probably paid $15,000 for the stuff we gave.”

It goes back to the business of worth, and how it isn’t ever what we think it is. There is that saying we all repeat and even believe – you get what you pay for – but it’s not entirely true, is it? In the end, and always sooner than you expect, you give what you pay for. And that shift in view can really change how you live, what you work for, and what you cherish.

The closets are clearer today. I’m going out to pull weeds.

Rescue mission

March 13th, 2008    -    11 Comments


Twice a year or so I get this kind of telephone call.

We’ll be in your neighborhood next week. Do you have any donations of used clothing or household goods?

And right away I say yes. Without even knowing what the donations might be I say yes.

The outfit that comes by is called Rescue Mission.

There are things that you and I probably don’t want to know about the used clothing business. There is re-marketing and profiteering. I’m never sure how much of what I pack up will be used, or used by someone who really needs my shredded sneakers and faded khakis.

There is more to this than meets the eye, I’m sure. But I don’t need to know. I always say yes because the time is always right and the need is always great. Because the call has come and the closets are full. Because children grow and parents do too. Because I use my clothing well but I never quite use it up. Because when you have more than you need things grow heavy and dull, dusty, dark, airless and dead. I say yes because it’s a Rescue Mission, and the one being rescued is me.

The pi of life

February 11th, 2008    -    9 Comments


1. Take a pencil and draw a large circle on a blank sheet of paper. I usually turn one of my salad plates upside down and trace the outer rim to get a circle true and wide.

2. Eyeball the center of the circle and make a dot there. Don’t trouble yourself to get the exact center.

3. Use a ruler or straightedge to divide the circle into halves, then quarters, then eighths. Don’t worry about the equidistance of the lines.

4. Now you have a pie with eight roughly equivalent wedges. Don’t quibble about how equal they are.

5. Quick, without thinking, label the top edge of each wedge with a word for one aspect of your life. For instance, I might write, “Work,” “Family,” “Finances,” “Health,” “Practice,” “Travel,” “Marriage,” “Fitness,” etc. Don’t study or ponder what your eight aspects are. Just jot them in as they come to you. They change over time and with circumstances.

6. Without stopping, look at each of the labeled parts and write a word or two that describes exactly what you would like to see occur in each of those areas in your life. Write these words at the bottom on each wedge, near the center of the pie, as you rotate it around. Leave most of the wedge empty and white. Try to avoid time spent in formulating the words you write. Just let them materialize without self-editing.

7. Remind yourself to use an immediate and short-term perspective. Be daring, but be specific. That means, for instance, instead of writing in the “Work” section “Successful Internet Gazillionaire,” write something like “Breakthrough Idea.” Later on, after you have an idea, develop a business plan, attract investors and design and program your enterprise, you can collect your gazillions.

8. Just as fast, look at each section and quickly sketch a visual to represent the outcome that you’ve described. It doesn’t matter how much accuracy or detail you use in your drawing. Do not judge or even think about this. The point is to take a dreamy concept and convert it into raw physical form using your intuitive eye.

9. This is not simply a list of things to do, which is itself a miraculous potion. This creation is your Wheel of Life. Label it with your name in one corner of the paper, like I do, “Karen’s Wheel of Life” and date it. We call it a wheel because wheels turn.

10. Place this somewhere it will be in sight everyday. I put mine on the top of my printer, which sits on the top of my desk at eye level. The point is to have visual access to this diagram automatically, without dwelling on it, and let the aspirations magically penetrate your thought and behavior patterns.

I began this practice, drawing a pie and turning it into my wheel of life, about 12 or 15 years ago. I don’t know where the instructions came from. It was about the time I was hungry and thirsty for everything, so I taught myself palmistry, astrology, and tarot cards. Get the picture? It was all about getting the picture.

I offer it now because of the conversations I keep running into about long-distance life planning and all such things about how to really do what we otherwise only talk or think about doing. Sometimes I re-draw the wheel every two or three months. There have been times, for instance, like in the early part of my daughter’s life, when I fell completely off track, and didn’t draw a wheel for years. Looking back, I can see that those years were indeed when I fell off track, wondering all the while where my life went!

I can’t emphasize enough that this exercise is to articulate immediate intention and action, rather than extract a list of “100 things” that can veer off into the inexhaustible and unimaginable future. Let the things you put into the pie be the things you wouldn’t think would happen tomorrow, but in some subtle and unpredictable way, could happen tomorrow. The way this practice works is that it brings your own readiness and aptitude for growth into manifest form, out of the smoke and dust of mere wishful musings.

All this week, I’m going to tell you more about why I believe this works, and what transcendental company you keep when you call forth a picture of your own pi of life*.

*Humbly inspired by the genius of Yann Martel’s “Life of Pi”, which will convince you that we are indeed the authors of a mysterious truth that is indistinguishable from fiction.

Tidying up

October 19th, 2007    -    16 Comments


Leaves have a way of falling. Scars have a way of healing. Babies have a way of sleeping, eventually. Fridays have a way of rolling around. All by themselves.

This week we started on a low note, were roused into an angry fright, and got entangled in a world of pure junk. What does any of this have to do with the other? Here on the Cheerio, how is Sunday related to Monday related to Thursday? By the courage to keep going, my friends, and by the power of truth, nobly told.

Everything we talked about this week illustrates Buddha’s Four Noble Truths. Of course, everything everywhere illustrates the Four Noble Truths. How life involves suffering, how suffering stems from attachment – to things, feelings and ideas – and how attachment can be overcome by ending our desperate clinging to things, feelings and ideas. Including, most importantly, the idea of who we are. These Four Truths are the one storage system, the one container, that truly simplifies your life. It organizes all there is to know and all there is to do. This is the way to true freedom, and it’s absolutely free. This weekend, if you have a chance, read the link. But don’t just read it, consume it. So that there’s only one thing left behind: trust.

And now that it’s appeared, all by itself, let’s make trust our topic for the week to come. I trust you’ll have something to say about it. I trust I will too.

The junk drawer

October 18th, 2007    -    7 Comments


How the search for a hammer can lead to a life of unmitigated suffering, or Look How Far We’ll Go to Stay in the Same Trouble We’re In:

Hammer – Last Sunday we went looking for a hammer to hang Halloween decorations. The hammer was last seen in our bottomless kitchen junk drawer. 16 oz. claw hammer with fiberglass handle $6.89 at Staples.

Storage Chest – A sturdy 4-drawer storage chest seems like it would solve our junk problem. $39.99 at The Container Store.

Container Store – Thirty-nine stores each with more than 10,000 products devoted to helping people simplify their lives. Projected 2007 sales of more than $600 million. Guess one storage chest is never simple enough.

Self Storage – At $22.6 billion in revenue each year, the self-storage business is the fastest-growing real estate segment in the US and perhaps the fastest-growing industry overall. This country now has 60,000 self-storage facilities totaling 2.2 billion square feet of space. Shoulder-to-shoulder, all 300 million Americans could fit inside these handy self-storage units now ranging across our homeland. But then, where would we put our stuff?

FlyLady – Looks like we have some de-cluttering to do! This online champion of household organization and tidiness sells $4 million a year in books, kitchen timers, license plate holders, ostrich-feather dusters, calendars, mouse pads, T-shirts, tote bags, sink stoppers, water bottles, and lapel pins. She does this by sending up to 15 emails each day to her flock of 400,000 subscribers reminding them to get out of bed, get dressed, make their beds, clean their sinks, cook dinner and buy more stuff. So much to do.

Get Things Done – This guru du jour has created the GTD® System for sorting excess stuff like paper, things, worries, thoughts and those hundreds of unwanted emails flooding your inbox every day. His sold-out, $600 per day seminars reveal the inner workings of his complex “decide-not-to-decide” system that includes a 20-point flowchart on how to process your thoughts so that you can free yourself from thinking.

Now do you know what to do with the hammer?

Tomorrow, we’ll wrap up the week and throw it away for good.

Weapon of mass construction

October 17th, 2007    -    13 Comments

Disclaimer: This post is not about my husband. He was simply cast in the role of an ordinary human being for the purpose of this retelling.

Last weekend we installed scads of scary decorations outside our house. The following conversation is recounted with complete accuracy.

Me: Honey, will you get me a hammer?
He: We don’t have one.

Me: I’m sure we do.

He: I can’t find it.

Me: Did you look in the junk drawer?

He: Yeah, that’s the problem.

Who doesn’t have one of these junk drawers? We had one that became two that became three. And when that happens, you’ve got a lot of junk but you no longer have a hammer. This is what it means to be human.

I thought to myself, “Somebody’s going to have to get in there and just throw stuff out.” But my husband did not easily accord with that approach. He went onto the computer and researched the precise kind of storage device that would fix our problem, retailed at the best upmarket specialty store, and set out to cover the distance in search of the solution.

Two hours and $108 later, he returned. I found him sitting spread eagled on the kitchen floor. He had begun to empty the drawers, and he looked discouragingly like someone who was going to have to get in there and just throw stuff out.

For the record, we no longer possess a dozen kitty toys for the 14-year-old cat who expired in 2006. We no longer have the unopened “Baby on Board” sign for the amazing disappearing baby. We no longer have a childproof VCR lock to protect the off-board baby from the nonexistent VCR. But we do have a hammer.

All of this brings me to the point of fearlessness about tackling a topic that I find truly horrifying: the rise of the junk-drawer industry – the gurus, books, seminars, coaches, the storage units, systems, devices, calendars, custom closets, the artifice, the edifice, the mountain of fluff being pedaled, the ton of money being amassed because no one will get in there and just throw stuff out.

In that spirit, there’s more to come!

Dropping off

September 12th, 2007    -    4 Comments

Let go and make yourself independent and free, not being bound by things and not seeking to escape from things – Yuanwu

It’s remarkable how profoundly intense the first 90 minutes of the morning can be for a mother like me.

Gotta get up, gotta make coffee, gotta make breakfast. Gotta pack lunch, check homework, gotta get her dressed, hair combed. You’ve gotta brush your teeth! You’ve gotta change those shoes!

Oh!

Gotta feed the dog, gotta unload the dishwasher, make the beds. Gotta feed your fish!

Oooh!

Gotta jump in and out of the shower, gotta get myself dressed, gotta do something with this hair, gotta grab a hat!

We gotta go!

Gotta hurry, no time to walk, we gotta drive!

With minutes ticking toward the 7:40 a.m. school bell, the pace pounds.

Gotta find a place to park, gotta get out and walk her into the playground, gotta see her off and in line with her teacher, gotta be a good mom, gotta do it right, gotta do it all, gotta run because I’ve made us late, late again!

Then from the backseat, with the sagacious calm and steady poise of her eight years, with her serenely impeccable timing, she offers the morning’s benediction, the first sane words that have passed between my ears since I flew into action at dawn.

Mom, you can drop me off.

She turned a rosy cheek to me then, like a gift, a floral tribute. I kissed it, and that was that.

Empty chair

August 1st, 2007    -    5 Comments

Here’s a little charmer for you. This chair is up for grabs at my Saturday garage sale. My dad made it for Georgia when she was who knows how tiny. Dad is gone now. Georgia is no longer what you’d call tiny.

This is the kind of thing that many people carry along much farther than my towrope goes. And I know why. Just looking at it catches my breath. So much sentiment. In truth, far more sentiment than you can use. Dad was the kind of fellow who liked to tinker with the idea of family. He carved and tinkered and sanded and polished with the idea of us all, at his workbench 1,000 miles away, and then the two times a year he caught sight of us, he scowled over a crossword in his lounger until we went away again. I don’t fault him. I know too well the feeling.

So the chair came by parcel post, with an urgent letter before and an impatient phone call after, long before Georgia was old enough to sit in it. Oh later, I’m sure, she sat in it for a bit, but never for as long as we all held onto the idea of her sitting, the sweet, imagined picture of her sitting in a chair handmade by her grandpa. Her dolls have been sitting in it since.

This morning I picked it up and put it in the garage and snapped this picture on the way. I remembered a story about another empty chair.

When I was 16 I asked for a chair for my birthday. A little white rattan chair. Thirty-five years later I wonder just what kind of teenage girl I was, asking for a chair on my 16th birthday? (Oh yes, I was me. Of course I was looking for a place to sit.)

In my cramped family and my crowded house, I asked for my own place to perch, and I got it. That chair then followed me into dorm rooms and apartments, into my first marriage and its three successively larger houses where no one ever occupied it anymore. When all the reasons to keep that life going got up and left, I emptied the big house on Avalon Drive. I had a big garage sale and put the little chair out front. That day, a man paid me in crumpled bills, then hoisted the chair over his shoulder, and rode off with it on a bicycle! I watched it go, certain that by that evening, someone would be sitting in the little chair once more. I felt good, the best I’d felt in a very long time.

Like all ritual, all ceremony, the weeks you prepare for a garage sale deliver the real goods. When you open the closet doors, dive into the jumbled drawers, and stare down the gritty shelves; when you see the dust that you live with, it reminds you that all is dust.

Soon, some little one will sit in this chair. My heart brims with the good of it.

Deadhead

July 15th, 2007    -    5 Comments

We’ve lived in this house for 10 years this month. Ten years: it’s time to either torch it or have a garage sale. And so I am on a tear. I am tearing through the closets and drawers, under beds, behind shelves and beneath the tidy veneer of a life seemingly well-scrubbed. Scouring through the books and nooks, the outgrown everything, the forgotten extras, the dusty yesterdays, the once-cherished sentiments, but mainly, the toys toys toys toys toys.

Nothing quite like this time of year for feeling the full-on urge to purge. It always comes this time of year for me. Does it for you?

One week from now I leave home for a full seven days’ retreat at my temple, the culmination of our summer practice period. That kind of time away might seem radical, but it is so terribly, urgently, critical to our home that mommy go away at least a few times a year and, as they say, “de-clutter.” I find it curious that the term is suddenly all the rage. De-clutter is so, well, antiseptic when what you really mean is “decapitate.”

Recently I recovered the notepad I kept with me last summer before I left for retreat, and I read the words that fled from my head back then:

I found myself in the flower beds again this morning. From my office window, from the computer chair where in more ways than one I watch my life flicker past, it came to me yesterday: I must deadhead the dianthus before I go to retreat. Suddenly I’m struck by the perfect dharma words in the garden, where the dianthus wilt, their blooms withered into straw, waiting to be deadheaded. Deadhead: to cut the faded bloom from the stem so it will flower again. It’s always time to deadhead.

Off with it!

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