Tag Archives: simplicity

Choices

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Here in the US we live in a society of choices.  No matter what you want to do your options are many and we’re told that this is a benefit.  After all, who doesn’t love the ability to choose?

As I go through my too many things I realize that this is how I’ve been living my life as well.  I want to be able to choose what crafty thing I want to do.  I want to get the best, most perfect equipment to do whatever thing I want to do.  And all of that adds up to a lot of stuff.

But the reality is that choices have a big drawback… time.  It takes time to make a choice.  It takes time to research options to find the best possible widget for the job.  And it of course takes time to make the money to buy that best possible widget.

And this was my experience with quilting.  Of course I need a rolling cutter… isn’t that how quilters cut stuff?  And the pad for cutting.  And the other wheels for cutting.  And the (insert endless lists of things here)…

But the reality is that as I invest in more choices I have to learn how to use these things.  And I have to burn time figuring out which thing is the best thing.  And while society does indeed teach us to have the right tool for the job, people have been using the “wrong” tool for many years.

My choices have actually made me less likely to complete a new undertaking because each step requires more work.  Turns out scissors cut fabric just fine for a beginning quilter.  I don’t need more stuff to do it, certainly not when I’ve yet to decide if I actually like doing this type of project.

The same choice options become problematic with other things as well.  Why do I need 20+ pairs of pants?  Is it because I want to spend a lot of time each morning deciding what to wear?  As anyone who knows me will tell you, no, rather obviously I don’t want to spend time doing that.  So then here I am with clothes I never wear that take up space, make it harder to organize the stuff I have and costing me money for things I don’t actually use.

While I’m not suggesting that I live in one pair of pants (though that’s usually what I do anyway most of the time) questioning my “need” for options and choices certainly has me thinking about how I spend my time and money.  If I’m not using it why do I have it?  And more importantly, can I stop myself from buying more of these things so I have choices I don’t want to make anyway?

Options are great when the return on your time invested to make them pays off but making due with a less than optimal item is both a time and money saver.  The real trick is that by making due you eventually figure out if having another option is worth it and and at that point sifting through the options is easier because you know what you need and want.  From this point forward I will make due with the things I have until such a point that I know WHY and WHAT I’d actually like to make a task easier and I’ll wait and examine if that new choice, that new thing, is actually worth the effort.

Picture by Jim Davies

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All or Nothing

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“If you’re not happy, changing your circumstance also means changing your attitude.  In “Ruling Your World”, Sakyong Mipham notes, “The most practical way to ensure forward movement on the path of rulership is to train for a short time each day in changing our attitude- just 10 percent.”  We have to be open to the possibility of positive change and then actively work toward it.  I overcame my fears by taking one small actionable step every day.  Eventually, these small steps give us the momentum we need to make the big shifts we want- in our career or our circumstances.  If it seems to happen slowly, that’s okay.  Living simply has taught me how important it is to let go of rigid expectations and to be open to new opportunities- and how a small shift in attitude can literally change your life.”

From You Can Buy Happiness (And it’s Cheap)

 

For a lot of my life I was a perfectionist.  Everything I did had to be done well and completely.  Which of course meant nothing ever really got started and very little ever got completed.  Because really, nothing will ever be perfect so why bother?

But more importantly the idea that any task had to be finished in some specific period of time gave me enough stress that the entire idea was painful to even think about.  Why work on decluttering the basement if I believe it has to be done in one weekend?  Is that what I want to do with an entire weekend?  NO!

Once I let go of those expectations I could instead work a little at the time.  Often that meant that I was more realistic about what I could accomplish in any given time (no, the entire basement won’t take just a weekend).  Often it meant that I didn’t burn myself out trying to accomplish the impossible.

But the real benefit is that this new way of dealing with tasks is a lot more enjoyable and motivational.

Just this Monday I wanted to weed my yard but I was exhausted from a busy week and weekend and felt like I needed to just nap.  Rather than doing nothing which would have felt a bit ugly (now it’s on tomorrow’s list of things to do) I gave myself an easy target.  One bucket of weeds.  One bucket and then I’m done no matter what (unless I really wanna do more).  That’s easy.  And it was easy to motivate myself to do it.

In the end if my expectations of specific results cause me to never have any results isn’t it time to give up the expectations?

Photo from Amayzun on Flickr


Time

http://www.flickr.com/photos/domesticnoise/8384606246/sizes/m/in/photostream/

As many of you know I tend to have a lot of jobs.  I do quite a bit of contract work and often have as many as 6 different jobs at any given time.  This may seem like it takes every waking minute but as it turns out I have more time to do the things I want to do than many people I know.  There are lots of reasons for this and mostly it’s a function of me being smarter about my time and how I manage my time than I was in the past.

Sometimes this comes down to rules I have for myself.  There aren’t many of these but today’s Ten Things post directly relates to one of them.  I keep everything I need to do in my outlook calendar… no more to do lists (which is a topic for another time).  And with that there is a rule.

If I delay/move a task 3 times I take it off my calendar.

Let’s face it, if I can move it 3 times it’s pretty likely it doesn’t need to be done as I’ve lived thus far without doing it.  It also likely isn’t a priority for my life and time, and isn’t likely to happen no matter how many times I move it.  So why keep fooling myself.  “Do or do not, there is no try.”

In this case I’ve been carrying around cassette tapes forever.  My plan was to go through them, find the ones that I haven’t purchased as digital music and then either list that somewhere or buy them.  But really, why would I want to spend my time doing that?

I’ve lived pretty well without this music for about 10 years now (the amount of time I estimate I’ve not had a cassette player).  And sure, some mixed tapes from the past will be gone forever.  But also gone is a task that has been on the list for so long it’s ludicrous.

Just like those things we keep for that mystical time in the future when we’ll use them, sometimes we keep tasks around for that mystical time in the future when they’ll actually get done.

Photo from domesticnoise


Just In Case

One of the best things about the Ten Things Challenge is that it’s changed how I look at my world.  Prior to the challenge everything went through a “could I possibly use this or want this later” filter.  The trouble with that filter is the answer for every object is yes.  Yes of course, at some point in the future I might just decide I want something like this.  But that rarely if ever happens because, let’s face it, if I needed to use it I’d likely be using it now.

This week a ton of fabric, old sheets and other items that were meant to be made into something or used for something were either donated or thrown away.  While it’s certainly possible that I might at some point have a use for such an item the reality is that I probably won’t.  And while I’ve saved them with the intention of forcing myself to use them it turns out I’m not particularly good at doing tasks just for the sake of doing them… using things just so I can use them.

So then the Ten Things Challenged has changed my brain on how I look at these things.  No longer must I keep things “in case” or because I should.  Now instead I look at most things as “I haven’t used you so you’re gone”.  I even consider if I really need something new even if I could use it.  Sure, another coffee cup could go into the rotation, but do I really need it or does it just add to the space required to store my stuff?

The reality is that most of this stuff will sit packed away going nowhere EVER.  And while it pains me a bit to think that at some point in the future I’ll need to purchase something I’ve given away I’d rather go there (if and when the time ever comes) then haul around this excess junk “just in case”.

What are you saving “just in case”?


Merry ReGiftMas

I know so many people who despise the holidays.  They hate the consumerism and that disgust causes them to write off the holidays as a whole.

So why not simply redefine how we see the holidays?  No one can make us go to the mall or consume endlessly.  We can simply tell the marketers that “You’re not the boss of me!”

And basically that’s what I do each year.  Most years I have a super easy time shopping for gifts because I travel.  No one hates a gift from a far off place and simple things become exquisite presents when they come from afar.

But there’s always a few gifts that I don’t get while traveling.  Fortunately I make stuff and surprising as it may seem, simple made gifts outweigh purchased things in the awesome category at a rate of about ten to one.

Soap, candles, honey from my beehives, bread, cheese, you name it.  All are received with far more joy than anything I could purchase.

And often, as the title of the post would tell you, I regift.  Sometimes a person gives me something that I don’t love but I know someone else will.  Often I get things that I could use but probably won’t.  I feel no obligation to use these things, once a gift is given it’s mine to decide what happens with it.  And while somewhere the idea of regifting took on bad connotations in a world with plenty of stuff we have the right to question that belief system.  “You’re not the boss of me!”

So this is what my Christmas shopping looks like…

  1. Pick up gifts from foreign lands.  This year included a bike jersey from Lucca for my father and olive oil for others from Italy.
  2. Make soap.  Almost everyone gets some of this.
  3. Regift including a few last minute gifts delivered to my door just before the holidays from others.  Nope, I don’t even wait a year to do it.  If it’s appropriate now, it goes.
  4. Books.  When all else fails I give people books.

The especially great news is that this regifting counts towards my getting rid of things.  Between a few regifts, some old Christmas lights that were recycled and another gift of meaningful things to someone who might use them eventually my work for the last two weeks is done.


Getting Rid of the Important Stuff

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There are certain things on my ditch list that are particularly hard to part with.  It’s not that these things have any usefulness.  In most cases it’s simply that I paid a lot for them or have fond memories of them.  Again, thanks Mom for giving me all my childhood stuff…

A year or so ago I gave away my childhood rocking chair.  I’d rocked the crap out of that chair and for that reason ditching it at the Goodwill just wasn’t an option.  Fortunately friends have kids and now there’s another tiny person rocking out in my old chair.  That’s a win for everyone in my book and parting with these memorable items is doable when there’s a connection to where it’s going.

Just this week my bestest friend from childhood messaged me on Facebook:

Kate: “Last night while I was reading a Christmas book to my son they had a train that went around the tree. I had to tell him the story of your giant house and giant train that went through your living room.”

Me: “ha!  well here’s a question. Do you want that train?  I have it upstairs and it’s going somewhere… I’d love it to go to you if you’d want it (and no big deal if you don’t)… and it’s really not that big of a train, though I remembered it that way too until I opened it up as an adult!!”

How awesome is that?  Now new little people will have memories of gigantic trains and I have one less memorable thing I have to deal with.  Sure, I could have sold it but it’s so much more meaningful to have given this childhood thing to someone who also has memories of it, and who will make new memories with it.

I also gave away some special PVC tubing joints and what not that were expensive but mostly useless to me.  I’d kept them because you can’t get them at a hardware store and I “just might need them”.  Now they belong to someone who will likely build a rocket with them… or at least do something with them.  Hopefully we’ll go to the moon for some cheese…


Taking Action

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Well I’d love to pretend that I did some sort of amazing purge of stuff this last week but with only a few days to get my ten things I went for the low hanging fruit.

First I gave away two Thermarests and a chair kit for them to a good friend.  I can no longer use them as they aren’t thick enough for my sad back and while it seemed so crazy to give away something “valuable” like this I’d rather see these go to a good home then never be used in my attic.  It’s funny isn’t it how things that were useful in the past are so difficult to get rid of even when we know they’ll not be useful again.

Secondly came what felt like the big cheat.  Books.  I have a LOT of books.  But the really interesting thing is that there were fewer books on my bookshelf that I wanted to give away than I would have expected.  No, not because there were books that were simply too cherished to give away.  No, there were simply a huge number of books I’ve never read.  I can’t tell you how many times I go to the bookstore to get a book as I simply must have something to read when right in my own home there are tons of “good books” that I’ve never cracked open.

Pretty eye-opening to see myself buying things I literally don’t need.

Don’t get me wrong, I love books and when I can’t get something from the library I likely will still buy it.  But I think for now I’ll just keep a list and get those after I’ve gone through the endless books I already have!

I should note that these books have yet to leave my house.  I find I get great used book rates in Portland at Powell’s, allowing me a new book or two without spending a dime so these will stay in my home in their bag ready to go until my next trip south.  I expect I’ll be adding a lot more to them soon!

What were your ten things for the week?