The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (Part III)

Konmari all the things.

In the past two days I have gone through sweaters, shirts, pants, skirts, scarves, socks, bracelets, shorts, necklaces, rings, bags, books, notebooks, binders, magazines, and pictures.

We made one massive trip to Goodwill with another planned. I recycled three paper grocery bags full of papers. I condensed over three boxes of photographs into one. I freed up my half of the guest room dresser, half of my daughter’s closet and two under-the-bed storage bins from clothes. I took two banker boxes and one under-the-bed bin’s worth of memorabilia down to a 14x11x6.5″ box.

I don’t feel incredibly changed at this point. I thought I would. I don’t feel less frantic or more put together. I don’t feel tidy. I do feel disbelief over how much space we devote to things that have outlived their purpose. And even after focusing on those items that give me joy, I feel disbelief over how much stuff we have in general. I feel guilt over items I purchased to purchased. And a bit of shame over having gotten rid of so much stuff and not really noticing a difference. 

Fred told me yesterday that everything looked the same after two days of reducing. I don’t think it was meant to be a judgement but I walked him around the house to point out all of the nooks and crannies that were once full and are now free. Boxes. Bins. Baskets. Shelves. Drawers. Closets.

Clothes from high school. Binders from college. Jewelry from weddings. Blurry pictures. Things from Target. Past joys turned into burdens. Irrational fears of letting go and devaluing a relationship.


The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (Part I)

This Christmas, I asked for Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: the Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. 

If you’ve read any articles on Kondo’s method of  tidying you may feel that she’s slightly batty. Or entirely batty. But you may also feel that she is onto something worth learning.

Kondo begins her book by exposing the lack of training we receive in tidying at a young age. We’re told to clean our rooms, certainly, but not instructed how to eliminate unnecessary items or evaluate our things. After that, she begins to flesh out her method of letting go first and then putting away. Tidying is to occur by category rather than room. And it must happen all at once rather than over an extended period of time. 

It’s not that my house is terribly messy.  It’s average.  Maybe in some areas better and in others (paperwork) worse. But I do find myself researching storage option after storage option, seeking out the next organizing trick that will leave me feeling ahead in my day. Put together. In control.
Before starting the act of purging and placing, Kondo challenges her readers to visualize what they want out of the project. What does the tidy future life look like?

So here it is, the beginning of my journey to tidy:

I wake up to a quiet, clean house. My clothes are set out from the night before as are Miss Emma’s. On some mornings, I wake before the family and go the gym but today, the coffee maker is set to autostart and I wait for it to finish before getting out of bed to grab a cup of coffee. I read a short devotion before getting in the shower. Lunches have been packed for the week and Emma enjoys an unrushed breakfast before we head off to work and play.

2015 More to 2016 Measure: New Year Resolutions

It’s that time of year again. The time when you look back at what you’ve accomplished and what you’ve put off. The time to decide if you’re going to give your resolutions another go, replace them, or ignore them.

2015, I promised you some things:

  1. Be a more conscious consumer.
    1. Over the past year, I have replaced the following items in my house with a cruelty free alternative (brand):
      1. Laundry detergent (Method)
      2. Dish soap (Mrs. Meyers)
      3. Foundation (Nyx)
      4. Eye shadow (Nyx)
      5. Body wash (Everyone Soap)
      6. Face wash (Yes To)
      7. Face wipes (Yes To)
      8. Hairspray (Paul Mitchell)
      9. Shampoo (Kevin Murphy)
      10. Conditioner (Kevin Murphy)
      11. Baby wash (Burt’s Bees)
  2. Eat Less Bacon.
    1. I tried replacing pork with turkey bacon for a while but my husband did not approve. The thought of turkey farms doesn’t give me warm and fuzzy feelings either so I didn’t fight too hard. But did we eat less? Probably not…
  3. Be in the Word.
    1. I was on a roll with the She Reads Truth app until the free devotions were replaced with purchases (Sorry, SRT!) then tried to start my own devotions with varied commitment. All in all, did I spend more time in the word? Yes.
  4. Do Something Carefree.
    1. In 2015, I enjoyed kayaking on my lake. I danced until I was exhausted through the kitchen and living room with my daughter and enjoyed a seafood platter in the Outer Banks. It’s a short list. But a cherished one.

I didn’t move mountains over the last 12 months but I did make some positive moves in each category. But looking back at my goals, they were generic by design. Do more or less of something. Which I did.

So what about 2016?

Develop a measurable project scope:

  1. Be a more conscious consumer. Replace 12 more household items with a cruelty free alternative (brand).
    1. Hand soap
    2. Dishwasher detergent
    3. Blush
    4. Bronzer
    5. Mascara
    6. Eyeliner
    7. Multi-surface cleaner
    8. Glass cleaner
    9. Shower cleaner
    10. Candles
    11. Sunscreen
    12. Body lotion
  2. Eat Less Bacon. Participate in 52 Meatless Mondays (1 year).
  3. Be in the Word. Read the New Testament.
  4. Do Something Carefree. Take a dance lesson with Fred.

New Year's Resolutions

I don’t make a resolution every year but some years find me teetering on the edge of growth, looking for that extra push. That conscious decision to grow. Perhaps this year it’s motherhood, my daughter’s own teetering serving as a visual reminder of my own. Whatever the case, I have decided to make several resolutions this year:

  1. Be a more conscious consumer.
    1. I have a girlfriend from high school who is an active¬†advocate for cruelty-free products. She posts articles and videos about the cruelty practices of mainstream cosmetics and then she posts brand names to replace those products we have throughout our homes with cruelty-free substitutes. The posts got under my skin. Why buy product that’s tested on animals if I can buy an equal substitute? I’ve started to replace some items in our home as they run out with the Leaping Bunny stamp of approval and I’ve found some in home that already had the stamp!
  2. Eat Less Bacon.
    1. This is actually a continuation of 1. but it deserves separate attention. Another girlfriend from high school who became my roommate in¬†college posted a video about pig farms the other day that disgusted me. I’ve jumped on the bacon bandwagon. But watching the video and seeing what our choices are encouraging is discouraging. I’ve got to scale it back.
  3. Be in the Word.
    1. My husband and I became members of our church at the end of 2014. We sat with elders at the church to discuss our faith walk and where we’re being led. I have outward goals but I think to start living out those outward callings, you’ve got to start working on the internal goals first. My internal goal is to be in the Word as routinely as I brush my teeth in the morning.
  4. Do Something Carefree
    1. Anything. Vacation. Dance in the summer rain. Kayak the river. Stop holding myself back and making excuses!

So there you have it. My public commitment to growth. May 2015 be a year full of joy and learning!

What Legacy am I Creating?

What will people say about me as I draw my final earthly breaths?

If I could choose (and ultimately I do choose by the way I live my life), I would want people to say things like:

She’s God-fearing.
She had a great sense of humor.
She loved her family.
She was compassionate.
She was a great encourager.
She was thoughtful.
She followed through on her word.
She went above and beyond.
She helped others in need.
She witnessed to others about the love of God.

It’s crazy how short life is in the grand scheme of things. How many excuses we make to start being the people we want to be later. How many defenses we build when people try to help us become the people we were meant to be.

If I had to guess, I would think people might say the following:

She had a great sense of humor. (Eh? Wink wink)
She had a short fuse and a sailor mouth.
She had a good work ethic.
She loved her people.
She called it like she saw it.
She wasn’t great at keeping in touch.

Isn’t that something? I need to make a change, it would appear.

I need to start building my legacy.

Dog friends, you've been warned!

My husband and I have recently taken up dog sitting. Not for profit but for love and, to be completely honest, with hope of reciprocation. When you become a dog parent, you start to do these crazy favors so that when the time comes, your friends will feel obligated to the same level of crazy. Or perhaps, if they have a well behaved dog and you do not, an even greater level of crazy!

My dog is not particularly well behaved. This morning, I watched from the window as my dog went racing down the backyard into the water, splashing and barking wildly toward a family of geese. The adult geese honked and hissed and flapped their wings until one lifted up from the water on attack. Winston ran back up the bank and turned quick on his heels to dive in again. The animals repeated this cycle until my husband was able to distract our bad dog with the promise of a game of catch. Winston left one game to begin another while the family of geese swam out of what they had interpreted to be the single greatest threat to their lives.

If only that were an isolated story!

There was the time I walked up to the scene of my husband swinging roadkill from his hand while talking to our picture perfect neighbors because Winston was picking away it in between circling the family and barking. Or the time that Winston spent a half an hour just outside of reach, darting from one side of the driveway to the other, when we were late for dinner plans. Or his general inability to stay in our yard. Or stay down when he sees someone who is excited to see him. Or, most recently, when his jealousy with sharing “dad” with our friends’ one and a half year old son caused some alarm.

We have a bad dog.

So the next time you feel overwhelmed with gratitude that we’re jumping at the chance to watch your dog, keep it in the back of your head that we’ll be expecting the same in return when the time is right!

The Inefficient Multi-Tasker

In Bittersweet, Shauna Niequist writes the following words, words that resonate so deeply within my tensed muscles that I nearly felt relaxed to read to them:

She writes, “This winter, I got the kind of tired that you can’t recover from, almost like something gets altered on a cellular level, and you begin to fantasize about what it would be like to just not be tired anymore.”

Have you ever felt that way? Not just exhausted but exhausted. It’s the difference between needing a good night’s sleep or a short coma to recover. When I read her words, my worn out cells muster up their dwindling strength and shout in unison, “Amen, sister! Amen!

Shauna goes on to explain in the chapter “Things I Don’t Do” that her exhaustion comes from the need to do it all, so she prioritizes the things she wants to do and documents the things she is willing to give up in order to make room for the good. It’s simple, really, but it’s worth mentioning to the masses. I think we’ve all gotten into the habit of biting off more and more to chew until we find ourselves choking on things we really didn’t have any interest in chewing in the first place! Let’s face it. We live in a Pinterest-happy culture where monthly magazine articles encouraging us to be better hosts, chefs, crafters and¬†lovers have been replaced by an unending, streaming barrage of prerequisites, each more ornate, more detailed, and more defeating than the next.

It’s exhausting trying to keep up.

I’ve recently begun the task of down-sizing from a personal phone and business phone to one phone. You think it would be easy enough: Inform your friends that you’re changing your number and make the switch. And perhaps it used to be but now my number is used at Walgreens, if I forget my care card, or Panera, or Biggby, or the grocery store. It’s on file at my doctor’s office, my dentist, my alma mater, my Facebook, my mail accounts, and my bank. It’s linked to emergency alerts and prescription reminders and my favorite clothing stores. Trying to remember where my number is stored is maddening! Do you know that I have four e-mail addresses? Yes, four! One for junk, one for work, and two personal accounts that reflect my name change. No wonder I can’t remember anything if it’s not written down in my calendar! And let’s not even get into whether I’ve stored that calendar date on my work calendar, my Google calendar, or my iPhone calendar! *Phew*

How did my life get so cluttered? In my effort to multi-task, I’ve rendered myself nearly useless in every category that I want to grow. And I’ve found myself juggling e-mail addresses and calendars full of repeat or bogus information!

If I, like Shauna, evaluated my priorities to establish the “things I don’t do,” I might come up with a list like this:

  • Excel in the kitchen. My husband makes incredible meals and he enjoys cooking. I should be satisfied with some passing grades and move on.
  • Pinterest projects. I hate them. And aside from basic artwork, I have every awareness that I am no good at them.
  • Maintain a spotless house. Dogs shed. And my time is too precious to spend every minute with a Swiffer in hand.
  • Hold regular hair appointments. I get my hair cut when I am painfully disheveled or when my bangs grow over my eyes and I can no longer see.

Making lists of don’t are not easy because I find myself engaging in a bitter argument against the dreamer in me. I want to be able to cook gourmet meals! And have perfectly manicured fingers at all times. And eat organic and gluten-free. I want to be able to sing along flawlessly. And I need to have a magazine house that prompts people to wonder if anyone actually sits in the rooms. Oh and if I could sew my own designer clothes! I also need to become a runner and have the best behaved dog. I need to host large dinner parties on the weekends and always put my clothes away. I’ll get up to working out four days a week and down to a size 4. And then I’ll send birthday cards to every friend and relative to make sure that it gets there on time.

Can you see why I need to get rid of the second phone??

Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist

It’s cold. More accurately, it’s 50 degrees but the Internet weather site states that it feels like 44. My logical brain tells me that if we were just leaving the icy grip of winter, this weather would be warm enough for short sleeves and rolled down windows, but it isn’t the break of winter and instead we’re coming off a few days of 80+ degrees. My fingers are nearly numb from the cool air and open windows!

Today’s “fall weather” prompted me to take the long way home from work so I could stop by Baker Book House. Baker Book House is a wonderfully modern looking bookstore that I’ve only recently discovered sells Christian books. I’ve been meaning to stop by and today’s weather offered the perfect excuse. I entered, knowing that I was going to pick up a book by Shauna Niequist, and began perusing the aisles. Imagine my delight when I came across a soft cover book written by none other than my church pastor! I picked it up and walked around until I could flag down an employee to point me in my intended direction.

Here is what I like about Shauna Niequist and her books: 1) She’s delightfully honest and charming and raw; 2) She writes the way I hope to write. I love her ability to jump from subject to subject but keep the reader engaged; 3) Much of her descriptions are filled with Grand Rapids staples which makes me feel connected, like we share in some great West Michigan secret together. Having already read Cold Tangerines, I had the choice today between Bittersweet and Bread & Wine. I chose¬†Bittersweet because this period of life is more focused on finding beauty within the sorrow for me and because I don’t have a kitchen table to gather friends around – so¬†Bread & Wine will have to wait.

Now I’m 61 pages in and have just finished a beautiful chapter on friendship and girlfriends and making time and my head is full of things to think about…

The Word

I have been spending a lot more time in the Word lately (a relative statement). Not simply “the written word” as if I’ve suddenly began devouring book after book, but¬†The¬†Word. The Bible. I joined a small group bible study, which I have been putting off for some time, following the gentle¬†insistence¬†of a friend. I also started a devotional that will take me through 2013 and have turned to my Bible for the simple act of reading rather than to follow along with a bible study or sermon.

Truthfully, I’ve always been a little wary of diving completely into the Word because I don’t want to come out the other side as a Bible-thumping, loud-mouthed,¬†judgmental¬†hypocrite that I so despise. I’ve seen other people get into the Word and they come out so annoyingly different that it rubs me the wrong way. Yeah, I know…that sounds incredibly harsh. But it’s the truth. Or at least, it has been my perception of the truth.

Anyway, I’m learning that you can’t get into the Word and not be changed. In fact, you should want to be changed in certain ways. You will be called to change. I’m not entirely sure how I feel about that. I say that at the same time that I’m working to let go of some of the things that I held onto – those things that I think keep me from losing my edge among friends and coworkers, that keep me current. I don’t know how I feel about it but I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s necessary to let go of some things that toughen me.