Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Boots


Each day is fresh, is new, but sometimes it begins deceivingly. Dishes in the sink, emails screaming to be answered, and phone calls to be made. None of those things make me feel refreshed. They make me feel smothered by yesterday's troubles and tomorrow's agendas. 

I have learned over the past three months that while I can slither out of bed several times after the snooze goes off, it takes a good deal longer to get my motor started, so to speak. Alas, if I truly sleep in, it adds extra stress and chaos getting my seven year old dressed, fed, lunch packed, and spit polished in time for carpool. I have learned these are not the mornings I enjoy most.

My ideal morning? I still slither out of bed, but after the alarm goes off. The first time. Okay, maybe the second. Then I get dressed to the point that I can put on my boots and not feel like a weirdo if I had to run an errand. (Read: NO YOGA PANTS). Add some black coffee, enjoyed before the family is awake, a little quiet time to dwell and read, and I am all in for the day. I have come view my boots with great fondness. I slip them on, and I feel like I can get things done. I know they are not magical, but they may as well be. I do not know what it is, but when I sit down during the day (without a purpose), I end up feeling all antsy inside. I have to get up, get going, to do things. Somehow, by the end of a busy day, I survey my home, feel satisfied with work well done, and only then I sit back and kick up my heels. This is not a new idea. Props to Fly Lady and all her fabulousness for the "put on your shoes" concept. When I need a little pick me up, I love perusing her site. It is packed with sage advice on the art of keeping your home. She recommends lace-ups, but I bet if I told her about my magic boots, she would be cool with it. 

Tomorrow is the start of a fresh month, and a brand spanking new minimalism game. Maybe you do not have boots, but perhaps you have your own ritual, your own "magic feather" for routine? I aim to have as many boots on days as possible this month, and 
I hope that you do too.

Dear friends, may you find your "boots" each morning, enjoy a great cup of joe (or tea), and as always, 

Have Peace and Purge On.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Today is Sacred

This day is sacred. No really, it is. As I have been ridding my home of the unnecessary, the unused, and the forgotten it has been compelling to find so many things I saved "for a special occasion" or "a rainy day." Items such as Ahava body mud from the Dead Sea that I purchased, well, at the Dead Sea. Just sitting in my bathroom closet since 2004. That's ten years folks. I kept telling myself I was saving it for some kind of reward, some glorious spa night I would throw for myself. But since I purchased it I got married, opened a business, and had four babies in my living room. Yet none of those things seemed to warrant earning the privilege of using this particular bath product. After that list of accomplishments, what was I waiting for? Winning the presidency?

 I found cloth napkins on clearance two years ago for next to nothing (thanks, Target). I "discovered" them as I was gathering donations. I had at least twenty of them, brand new, tags still on. Again, I had to ask myself, what exactly was I waiting for? Thanksgiving dinner with my grandchildren? 

So I slathered myself in mud from the Dead Sea. It made me itch all over as I waited the suggested twenty minutes. As I sat itchy in my tub, I thanked God I was full of breath and life, able to feel the very sensation that was about to push me into crazy town. Then I washed it off, enjoyed the softness it left, and went on with my life.

I ripped the tags off the napkins, washed them, and ironed them. Now I use them as often as possible. Because I think they are beautiful. If my use of them leaves stains, I will simply be reminded that I have a messy, creative life full of things and people that keep me busy cleaning up disasters and surrounded by love. And if they get destroyed, the world has more napkins I can buy.

Lesson learned. Today is a good day, today is a worthy day. Whether it be filled with joy, frustration, or sorrow. So I will drink good coffee, use my cloth napkins, and soak in whatever luxuries come my way.

Have Peace & Purge On!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Fresh Air

The last two weeks have been just that. A breath of fresh air. First a ladies weekend at the coast, giving me a chance to get away from home for a bit, listen to the roar of the waves and the soft voice of God, and then a family wedding in Seattle, once again giving me a breather from the daily routine of motherhood. But what has not seemed fresh? Well, in the hubbub of schedules, I have not had the chance to do much purging. I hate it. It has become a comfort to get rid of a little more of the excess, chipping away at it each day.
But I come to Monday once again and discover myself frustrated that there is still a pile of laundry in my recently purged garage-Grrr! And I have not yet set aside new piles to drop by for donations this week. Fear creeps in. I have come far, but have so far to go! What if I do not make it? What if I return where I have already crawled? My natural tendency is to be discouraged, but instead I am going to step back and evaluate.

1. Where I have come from. Since June, I have cleaned out my closet, donated more items than I can count, rid myself of two dumpsters worth of junk, and now have a relatively clean garage and shed.

2. Realize I have a few items just waiting for that final kick out the door. I discovered the errancy in keeping piles of "donate," "sell," and "trash" items the first round of the MINSGAME. Unless the stuff actually went out the door, I still felt owned by it. For example, scrapbook stuff.  I have tons. I know it needs to go, I just have to take the time to post it up on Facebook, give it a week, and then pass it on if no one wants it. It is time. I will write it on my calendar for next week, and gather things together. There are three boxes of things I simply need to load up in my car and drop off. I will load up and drop  off today so I can experience the freedom of having those things actually GONE. 

In the meantime, I am thankful for the anxiety they are causing me. A year ago it would not have bothered me, because cluttered was "just who I was."

But no more. I chose to reject that label, and prayerfully persue who I aim to be. To be who I aim to be.  

Have peace, & purge on!

Friday, September 5, 2014

How it Began (Part Three)


Okay. If you did not catch Part One and Part Two, feel free to use the links to do so. Or just read on.

So here is what finally pushed me over the edge, onto the floor, where God picked me up, dusted me off, and gently adjusted my trajectory. It is sad. Don't say I didn't warn you.

I have a dear friend that I have for many years admired greatly as a mom. We became friends in jr. high, and continued on through high school, college, marriage, and kids. She got me my first job. We worked saturdays at a medical scrub company. It would have been the most flat-out dull job on the planet. But as two dorky private high school girls, we had a pretty good time, arranging the scrubs, vacuuming the taupe low-ply carpet, and restocking inventory. We played volleyball together at school, sang in ensemble, and babysat church kids at Bible study. I graduated. She graduated. I travelled and worked at a coffee shop. She married one of the guys from our high school. I visited them in their little apartment in Corvallis. She prepared a home cooked meal and the three of us talked about their hopes and dreams of someday being cattle ranchers. They moved, and we lost touch for a few years. Then their family moved back in my area. By this time they had four great kids, and I had one of my own. I loved getting to know her on this new plane. Her kids were a joy to be around, truly. The sort of children that make you want to have more of your own and work even harder to raise them right. She moved again, and we kept in touch through Facebook. We each had another baby, and her family moved back into the area. I was overjoyed. Not only did I love her company, but I loved watching her patience with her kids in action, and picked her brain as I sought my way with my husband through the wild crazy woods that is parenting. She wasn't a perfect mom (psh. Who is?), but she was one to be emulated. Shortly after they moved, she went in to the chiropractor's office to have her back adjusted.  She figured she had strained it somehow during the move, and it just wasn't feeling right. The chiropractor quickly referred her to their local hospital, and on her 30th birthday she found herself at OHSU, diagnosed with cancer. 

In less than two years, she was gone. Just like that. Oh, we had lunch a few times with the old group of gals from high school, prayed at the hospital, chatted at church while the kids ran around. But it went so fast. So very, very fast. For the bulk of her illness, I held out an optimistic hope. Because mothers of young children cannot die. They are not supposed to die. Not a sweet, devoted woman, who loves Jesus, her husband and children faithfully. Nope. All the boxes were checked. She should live at least into her 70's or 80's, growing old with her husband, living their ranching dream. I still do not know why the Lord chose to bring her home. I have asked him why, but have not yet heard a reply. It remains an unfathomable mystery to me. As each day goes by and she comes to my mind, I pray for her husband and five children, now holding tighter to one another.

Grief is a different beast to each individual. Since her illness, I have had dreams. Sometimes it is the old gang from school. We are all together, youthful and healthy again, laughing. Then, as her death has sunk in, I began having other dreams. 
The one that changed it all came in June. In it,  I had two days to live. I was walking through my home, and all I saw were things. I was raging mad in my dream. All I wanted was to spend time with my family and in my dream, I felt responsible for all this stuff. I felt robbed, cheated into believing what I had invested time and energy in saving was valuable, when the reality was, it did not matter at all. I awoke boiling angry. I had similar dreams since, but from that night on, the veil had been lifted. My view began to drastically change. I no longer saw piles of memorabilia to cherish. I did not see "collectable items" that might someday be worth something. It was just stuff. Stupid stuff that was in my way, keeping me in one spot, trapping my today, enchaining my tomorrow. Suffocating me with no mercy. I had no desire to leave my kids a huge pile things of mine to keep. I wanted to overflow their days with experiences, memories, love, and joy. I wanted that to be my legacy. I did not want to keep running out of inspiration, energy, and space to create for and play with them. Do you know my most precious memory of my (still living) mother? The years of bedtime stories she would read to me. Books upon books, those hours were perfectly invested as far as I am concerned. I do not care what she leaves behind for me physically. My heart will remember what it will. 

I knew from the onset of summer that I had to begin purging after our family vacation. I looked up "steps to purging" and "how to downsize to a tiny home." I still felt a bit aimless. Then a friend posted on Facebook a link to The Minimalists #minsgame. She asked if anybody wanted in. It was not even a choice for me to say no. I was compelled. Honestly? It was easy. I would walk through the house, picking things as I went. I could not explain it, but things that once had power no longer held that authority in my heart. Halfway through the month, I knew the shift was happening. I decided to "face my fears," so to speak. My storage shed. It was my dirty (big) secret. Chock full of stuff. I poured myself a cup of coffee early one morning, put on my boots, and went out to have a look. Just a look, no commitment to touch anything required. Ugh. It was quite as full as I remembered from the last time I had attempted to "go through a few boxes." But I prayed over it, and gave it to the Lord. I shut the door to it, and walked away. I knew in my heart I would spend the rest of that month building my "minimalist muscles" to a day of purging it. And it would happen, this time. It would. 

As July wore on, I recognized that I was starting to evaluate everything. Really, what did I need for a fruitful and happy life? Each item in my home began to come under scrutiny. I had a series of questions I began to ask myself about any item I encountered.
1. Can I live without it?
2. Can someone else use it more?
3. Is it really something of value?
4. Would it bring more joy to someone else than it does me?
5. Is it worth my freedom?
So, that first question is minimalism at its most basic core. But I confess. My son's paper mache coke bottle from preschool that sits on my windowsill? I can live without it, but I can also use it to hold a flower. Can someone else use it more? Nope. A donation center would toss it into recycling. Is it just trash? Hmm, kind of, but not. Would it bring more joy to someone else than it does me? Well, that is where it gets interesting. My mother-in-law has next to no crafty preschool goodness from our kids as of yet. Truthfully, I get to enjoy the little stinkers every day in the flesh. So my should-I-keep-it coke bottle suddenly became a sweet, practically free gift I can mail her across the country. It will make her day brighter, and I will hardly miss it. Okay, so I am afraid I will miss it, at least a little. Do I love my son any less, simply because I give his art project from three years ago to his grandmother?
 But that last question. Is it worth my freedom? Is a coke bottle worth feeling enslaved by my stuff?
The more I asked these questions, the less power my belongings had. There is a lot of neat stuff in this world, but there is very little I am willing to trade my freedom for. 

There you have it. This is a brief sum of what has brought me to today. Now you probably want to know more about the shed of shame, right? Alright. I will give you the scoop soon.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

How it Began. (Part Two)



So, if you are reading from How it Began (Part One), you know I was in a place with outlined goals and desires. I knew how I wanted my life to idealistically be, and I even had some ideas for what should go on my "To Do" list. But let us take a moment to appreciate Hoarding and some of what blocks it is built from. 


What do you really picture when you hear "Hoarding Disorder?" I think of a crazy cat lady with piles of animal refuse in every room. I imagine homes so filled with newspapers and magazines of a bygone era that the inhabitants cannot sleep in their own beds. I picture an old man with a garage piled with canned goods from 1964, and so many records that he cannot use his oven. Nothing like my home. More like an an average episode of "Hoarders," am I right? 

The Mayo Clinic defines Hoarding Disorder as "...a persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions because of a perceived need to save them. A person with hoarding disorder experiences distress at the thought of getting rid of the items. Excessive accumulation of items, regardless of actual value, occurs." This is such a neat and tidy definition, isn't it? Really, I think a LOT of us can relate to feeling distress at the thought of getting rid of certain things. When it is in the terms defined above, it suddenly feels a bit closer to home though, does it not? Now, please do not get me wrong. I do not think everyone who wants to keep their family photos is a hoarder. There are certain components that seem to really define the disorder as a "problem" that should be treated. Here are the basic things professionals say to watch for:

1. Inability to throw away possessions.
2. Severe Anxiety when attempting to discard items
3. Great difficulty categorizing or organizing possessions.
4. Indecision about what to keep or where to put things.
5. Distress, such as feeling overwhelmed or embarrassed by possessions.
6. Suspicion of other people touching items.
7. Obsessive thoughts and actions, fear of running out of an item or of needing it in the future, checking the trash for accidentally discarded items.
8. Functional impairments , including loss of living space, social isolation, family or marital discord, financial difficulties, health hazards.


In the interest of transparency, I will openly admit to you all that I strongly relate to numbers 1-7 on this list. While we have always joked that I am "a collector," I must admit I do not meet the important difference between collecting and hoarding. While a collector proudly shows off their organized belongings, I felt shame. I hate shame. My house was not a filthy pit, I didn't have rats and stray dogs everywhere, or the aforementioned newspaper collection or canned goods from the 1960's. However, I knew that I had an extra-special over-the-top connection to most of my possessions. Things that I could justify keeping to any one of you. Things I knew a "normal" person would probably have passed on to someone else (or trashed) long ago. What could I do? I had tried several times to "go through" things, but it was exhausting, truly draining. I would pull one disorganized box from the garage, then spend an afternoon trying to incorporate the "very useful" contents into my already too full home. Then I would look at the mountain that was still left, my home that was still disorganized, and feel completely defeated. I did not know how to move forward, and something had to change. But what? I was unhappy with where I was at, and the limitations from feeling this way. I tried to analyze the reason for my desire to hold so tightly to things in the first place. You know what I figured out? That I still have no idea why this is my personal compulsion. I have guesses, but no spotlight, hallelujah chorus that's the reason

Okay, now that we've covered where I was at, I will bear my heart and share the major catalyst in my paradigm shift. Tomorrow...

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Treasure



I know. It looks like a regular old notebook. But it is not. I found this in August when I was cleaning out my "shed of shame." I had (no joke) at least forty spiral notebooks. They dated back to first grade. This was nestled amount them, and I did not recognize it at all. But I flipped it open, and within minutes realized what it was. The travel journal of my childhood friend. She chronicled her first plane ride in 1995, a visit to Washington DC for the wedding of a relative. It is packed with pictures, and entries carefully written in the handwriting of a young girl. I have no clue why I have it. Maybe she left it at my house during a sleep over? Did I borrow it? I have no recollection of it whatsoever. But my heart stopped a little when I realized what I had in my hands, and I'm mailing it to her daughter this week. Because as cruel as it may seem, my beloved friend passed away leaving her husband and young children behind over a year ago. I cannot ease their grief, but I hope that this is a blessing to her beautiful young daughter (who will soon be the age her mom was when she took this trip).

While a part of me hates that I even had this in my possession in the first place, I stand in wonder at how God can use me in whatever awkward stage of growth I am in. If I was not such a pack rat, I would not have had this in my possession for nearly twenty years. If I was not going through this transition process right now, then perhaps I would not have recognized its value, tossing it into recycling. I like to think God has used even my "keep everything" illness for His glory, to allow this to pass on to her family at just the right time. 

How it began. (Part One)

Let's go back together, about three years ago. There I was, sitting on my laundry covered couch. Pregnant with my second child, I was almost ready to pop and had just finished my last few shifts at the small business I had helped found four years before. I was now, officially, a "Stay-at-home-mom." Go me. I had somehow convinced myself that once I was able to write this title as my job description, I would naturally be endowed with all the gifts a woman with that job should possess. Meal planning? A snap, I would totally figure it out. Laundry? All I needed was a system. And crafts? Scrapbooks? Specialty made costumes in everyone's favorite colors? Oh yes, it would all happen. And housecleaning, I was sure, would just fall in line with the rest of my ambitions. I knew so many amazing S@HM's, why shouldn't I be able to tow the line as well. 

But reality: I was sitting amidst piles of laundry,  looking at Pinterest in my messy home. I had organizational tips to drown in, but I felt so stuck. My house was cluttered, my mind was cluttered. I was surrounded by failed attempts at organization, because surely that was the problem. I just was not organized. But between daily tasks and life in general, when did I ever have time to tackle anything? The latest of my obsessions on Pinterest was the Tiny House Movement. The irony barely hit my radar at the time. I was in LOVE with tiny houses. I really, really wanted to build on in my yard. You know, to put my craft stuff in. Or maybe my books. Or maybe as a guest house. Whatever, I just needed one. I knew that I should probably get rid of a few things first before adding a guest house, but it was so hard for me. Every memento, every receipt, note from childhood classmates, artwork, essays, textbooks, etc was just such a part of ME. And it's not like it was ALL just random junk. Some of it really would be useful, someday. I knew it. 

But back to Tiny Houses, and fast forward a few years. I had been through several life occurrences at this point, one major one that I will comment on further in my next post, but in the meantime my love for tiny houses was still strong. However, reality had set in. I had three kids, and one more on the way. People were starting to ask us when we would be buying a bigger home, not when were we going to become nomads and live in 350 square feet. If it was so unrealistic, why did I still desire it so badly? I felt that there must be a deep seated reason. So I prayed, and thought, and prayed more. Then I sat down and I pinpointed what it was that I loved so much about the Tiny House Movement. 
This was my list:
1. Simplicity of life-there was only room for so much in a Tiny Home. If it didn't fit, it didn't get to come inside. less things meant less time invested in taking care of them
2. Clarity-I am very easily distracted. The lack of all the extra things that simply do not fit in a smaller home made me want to cry. 
3. Less reminders of perceived failures-I wouldn't have to walk past three unfinished products on my way to the kitchen from my front door. My closet wouldn't have to space to fit the clothes that were poor purchases so I never wore them. Just what I needed, without the excess.
4. Correction of my time spent to life goals ratio-I felt like so much of my time was spent doing laundry, & cleaning the kitchen. Can I tell you where these things land on my list of goals? Not very high. I know, I know. Being a S@HM is valuable lifelong work that is a beautiful mosaic made up of the mundane. I get it. But seriously. My kitchen, the vortex. There were so many things I passionately wanted to do. But I was up to my elbows in dish soap, and by the time I cleaned off my kitchen table the next meal was due and I had no place to put the sewing machine or journal.
5. Dropping out of the "Race"- You know the one. The one we all seem to be in, simply by existing in middle class America. You have four kids? Well, you're going to need a house of a certain size. You are doing well financially? Then you're expected to drive a certain type of car, live in a decent neighborhood, and should have a playroom with all the fixin's for your kids. I was done with the expectations.

So, it dawned on me that in our home, all 1400 square feet of it, I could actively pursue and achieve these goals I wanted so badly for my life. I did not need a tiny home. I needed less stuff. I could see what I wanted, but how could I get there?