I'm reading the book Willpower right now (borrowed from the library, working on that book buying habit!) and already in the beginning it has peeled back layers to something I have been struggling with.
This book is posing that willpower is a limited thing and that all your willpower comes from the same bucket. So if you had a long day of having to restrain yourself at work from making comments about something you disagreed with and then had to hold in your emotions during a meeting and then got home and there was another thing you had to deal with it might lead to a fight with your spouse because your willpower was used up over the whole day. Piles of stress make it harder and hard to make "good" choices because your willpower gets depleted. I read about studies where people were told to eat radishes or cookies while both were present in the room and then try to solve an un-solvable puzzle and people who had to eat only radishes and will themselves to pass up on the cookies gave up on the puzzle in 8 minutes vs. 20 some minutes for people who ate the cookies (and therefore didn't have to test their willpower to resist the deliciousness).
Last weekend I focused on getting the kitchen sorted and backsplash installed and I got through the pantry. But there's a bunch of shit in the living room again, this time it's kitchen stuff. I haven't gone through the books yet even though I am actually excited to do that, I keep putting it off... because there's one book in the shed I know I want to keep and I don't want to deal with all the stuff that's in the shed.
I asked a friend to help me move stuff into the utility trailer this weekend, wanting to make room to sort stuff. Back to the way I did things when I was a kid. Pull everything out and then slowly put things back and discard what remains. But, the problem is, the same friend helped me go through my shit like 2 years ago... and here I am, still struggling with the same thing. This is why I think she's such an amazing friend because she stood up for herself and basically asked me to respect her time to not do the same thing again without making actual progress and basically, intentionally or not, called me on my shell game of procrastination. I'm not giving you the actual message she sent but it was one of love and support and also... calling me on my BS, in like, the nicest way possible. (Is good friend, yes.)
So, I started to think about it. Today was a work day and I actually spent most of the day moving desks and going through my work stuff. So I came home and don't have the energy to deal with sorting stuff but, I'm doing some mental work.
So, present-self, why have I not dealt with the stuff in the bedroom? I got the living room all cleaned up and proceeded to then fill it with stuff from the kitchen. I can see the tidy future house, but I keep kicking the can. Time to get into the why, again, deeper. A few of the whys that I came up with... followed by what I would tell a friend who expressed the same concern.
- Fear - What if I get all my stuff sorted, and I create this space for being creative and I totally suck at designing and making things? What if I decide to get rid of something and then regret it later like happened last time with some books?
- Yes, and ? Plan on sucking! The fact is you haven't been practicing but, when you start practicing and putting effort in, there is no way you will not get better at design and craft. Especially if you are approaching it with the intent to get better. Be a student of life, critiquing your own work and asking people who you respect to critique it (not assholes on the internet but actual friends and fellow designers/makers, people of taste who's opinion you do care about).
- I already know that books are a sore spot so I will be much more careful about getting rid of those, and I think setting a group of books aside in a box to "maybe donate/sell" would work well because I could revisit after a month or two and see if I have missed having them on the shelf.
- Disappointed/Frustrated - To see the amount of waste, money spent on things not needed, used or even truly desired. It's really frustrating. That's money that I could have saved or used to purchase better quality things I actually need/use. Money that could have been spent on higher quality things I love, money spent on an art class or a trip to see friends.
- Marie Kondo's method tells you to thank the things that you are discarding because they taught you what you don't need. They served their purpose in the moment you bought it and the joy it brought you in that moment. As awful as that feels, the only way you can prevent this feeling in the future is to take note and learn what you don't need. What are you learning with each item you discard? Was that purchase for who you wished you would be? Is is something for who you used to be but no longer associate with? Has that thing just become a lower priority? Look inside yourself, figure things out. And, if you end up getting rid of something again in the future, then think about the joy that it brought you in the moment, and the stress that it is bringing you now and why you need to get rid of it.
- It might do you well to keep a list of the things you are getting rid of, and possibly write a little something about why you thought you wanted it in the first place. This might bring up feelings, but it's good to ride the wave of the feelings as a tool for understanding yourself better.
- Overwhelmed - There is a lot of shit in the bedroom, on the table, in the shed. It's a big ass project. I have been trying to deal with my stuff for a long time. The free-est feeling was the year of Americorps and the summer I drove across the country. I had everything I needed in my car on my road trip or in my small barely-furnished apartment. I wasn't doing any shopping, people were often surprised at what I had, I was prepared, I always had enough. And I still had room in the car that I could sleep in it if I needed to. In that time I spent my energy focused on spending time with friends.
- I think I need to approach this with a sense of gratitude. Because I could have less. People have experienced loss on a large scale because fire or flood or other and everything they had was destroyed. Rather than in a rebuilding from the ashes, I get this opportunity to carve away at the block of material that is my life and decide what I want left. Like an artist creating a sculpture, I am shaping my life with the material that remains. It's still a clump of material right now but I have begun to soften the edges. To sketch the outlines on the block in order to have a vision for what the final shape will be... but I just need to keep chipping away at it and someday I will get to where I want to be and I can work on other big projects while occasionally polishing this one.
My weekend is cut short by a business on Sunday so tomorrow I need to focus and get a lot done... and, stop playing the shell game with myself. No one wins that game.
So after writing this post above last Friday evening, Saturday morning I got off my butt and started going through my stuff. I faced my demons (er, feelings) in writing the above words and just being aware of the feelings that were causing me to stall, and revisiting *why* I have wanted to do this big decluttering in the first place helped me get back on track! It wasn't all kittens and rainbows, but I did a few things that helped me get through all the bags and boxes in my bedroom.
1. I googled (my first step for everything) "struggling with decluttering" and find a variety of lists of questions to ask yourself when feeling stumped on an item. I collected these into a list with some of my own input as well and hand wrote it and pinned it on the wall before I got started. I didn't actually look at it while I was decluttering but writing it got my in the mindset.
2. I decided I didn't actually have to get rid of anything. I did a big purge of stuff about a year ago, maybe a little more, but I fucked up in that I was not in the right head space when I did it and I got rid of some things (books specifically) that I regret parting with. I have repurchased a few of them but some will be too dear to replace and one specifically with an inscription will be impossible to replace. Now, I have the memory of that feeling of regret when I came out of the brain fog/sadness. So if I'm questioning if I want to getting rid of something or keep it, I error on the side of keeping it, knowing that I will revisit the item several months from now and the see has been planted that I will either keep and cherish, or pass along the item. It's basically Fuck Yes or No (best article on the internet IMO), but about getting rid of things. There is no pressure to get rid of stuff for the sake of getting rid of it. Some items I'm sending to a better home (things that friends need or I thought would appreciate, I asked them if they wanted something, no pressure to take it just nice to give things to a good home and save my friends some money too!). Even items on the decluttering help list above that in minimalism would be a no-no ("just in case" for example) I didn't let that be a driver in the deciding factor. If it made me feel better to have something just in case then I'm gonna keep it dammit!
Clutter is a very personal thing. The things that stress me out and make me feel overwhelmed are not the same as things for other people. If you go look at The Minimalists they have very few books and have a one in one out rule... if that works for them that's great. I made a bunch of room on my bookshelf by getting rid of some books but you better believe I'm going to be bringing in more books down the road! That'll be part of rewarding myself for good habits as part of a system for success (future blog post there). The difference is now, I'm focused on quality over quantity. I'll test drive books at the library, or go to the book store and actually flip through books to decide if I want it. I might order on Amazon after that but actually would prefer to buy fewer books and pay whatever the price is at the brick-and-mortar book store in order to have that experience of going to the book store and flipping through every book that piques my curiosity. You can't do that in the same way on Amazon as you can spending 2 hours wandering a book store and even reading parts of it.
3. I took out the recycling bag often, when I found something that had a home or was already collected elsewhere I didn't make a new pile, I put it with its other things. I like the Kon Marie method of organizing by category. Clutter comes from being indecisive... but also from being lazy. I used to say "oh I'll just put this here and deal with it later" but that is a phrase that now snaps me into the present. "Oh no she di'in't just say that! Time to deal with that shit immediately!" And Future me says thank you. I also used paper bags to gather things to be donated, and separated out things that I might be able to sell online. I am still struggling a little with decided to sell or donate things I want to get rid of. The extra cash would be nice, especially given my aggressive financial goals for the next 2 years (post on that coming later once I've had a few months of progress on the plan) but the crap in my space has been clearly weighing on me for months/years. Would Atlas try to sell off chunks of the world on his back slowly so he could afford to then go to the chiropractor or, if there was a place he could just put it down, would he just do that?
I have also noticed I am much more willing to part with things now that aren't working for me. On my business trip I brought a pair of pants (*cough* leggings *cough*), not realizing they had developed some holes on the legs. I put them on after the long day of travel to go to dinner and realized they had holes! I wore them the rest of the trip as my post-job-site-comfiness, but when I was packing my stuff, into the bin they went. I have permission to buy things that I need, if I find that I am lacking in leggings then I can get a new pair. If I find that I don't even realize that I'm missing that pair of pants then I didn't need them and I got rid of some clutter.
This weekend will be focused on getting the bedroom ready for finally having a bed again! It's been about 5 weeks of sleeping on the couch, which has been surprisingly comfy. I'm very glad that I took off my shoes and laid on the couch in the showroom when I was picking out this sofa :) Howland will be super excited to have a bed again too, he seems quite confused when I say "let's go to bed" and he goes into the bedroom and there's just a ton of bags and stuff on the floor. All that's really left is the shed, to empty it out and set it up as the art studio I envisioned when I first had it built 3+ years ago. I do get things done, I'm just sometimes really slow about it. The vision of having space to work on art projects again though has me pretty excited.
Also, side note, if you aren't following me on Instagram yet, I'm posting different stuff over there, so check it out if you feel so inclined.