Making a little sign for my office wall with this reminder in song “Seasons of Love” – from the play/movie Rent, about how many little treasures of time we get each year – 525,600 to be exact. When I glance at it I get a gentle nudge to get on with the task at hand, rather than squander too much time in hamster-wheel-type endless loop thoughts and actions that go nowhere. Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for taking a break and kicking back to recharge regularly. I just want to make sure that’s really what I’m doing when I wander into a daze, rather than avoiding something I’m procrastinating on. Learning the new, unfamiliar skill, taking care of sometimes-unpleasant business with dispatch, and working my way through a tricky assignment or business strategy session can drag on if I let it, getting in the way of all the creative and satisfying undertakings I could accomplish with those 525,600. It goes right next to the “You go, girl!” sign–and is my way of fighting the much-ingrained tendency to drag my feet like well-contained 7-year-old, instead of the exuberant “I-can-do-anything!” 4-year-old I once was. The gift of those minutes was brought home to me a few days ago, along a stretch of highway in Brighton, Colorado where the speed limit abruptly changes from 65 mph to stoplight. I slowed and stopped for the yellow-to-red light, dubiously noting the tanker truck traveling a little too close for comfort behind me, and having time only to mentally cross my fingers. In a second the trucker had swerved around me into the left turn lane, run through the intersection and red light and continued down the road. I didn’t even have time to be scared, and my life could have been over. Later I was glad the trucker was a good enough driver to make the dodge, since he clearly wasn’t going to stop for the light…
Everyone has heard some version of the old “you can’t succeed if you don’t make any mistakes, because it means you haven’t taken any action” quote. Yesterday I heard a new twist on the same thought, which blew me away. This person said, ‘If you think mistakes and failures are bad, you’ll never succeed. [Furthermore,] multi-millionaires never look at failures as bad, simply as information.
‘Even if they go bankrupt, which many of them do, they still see it as information, not failure.’ (!!)
I am so ticked off! Why didn’t someone tell me this before?
I could have saved the trouble of beating myself up about a hundred seventy thousand times! What a lot of wasted hours.
Plus I could have been much further along the road to multi-millionaire-hood!
I was explaining to a young man of my acquaintance why I love helping people declutter and organize. He’s an extremely hip dude with an amazing sense of self, but he does have some traits that are unusual in this world. He decided long ago, after watching his beloved parents get pretty goofy under the influence that he would never take up with alcohol. He’s also stayed away from coffee or tea. How’s that for unique?
Imagine my shock when I learned this, because did I mention, this guy’s very cool?
And I’m sure he had a few preconceived notions about me, too.
We were talking seriously about how clearing out clutter moves stagnant energy out of the space. I said you (I) feel the rush of that release, even if it’s not my stuff, or my space, but one of my client’s.
Suddenly, I said, “Yeah, I’m just looking for the next high!”
He did an extreme double-take, and I laughed, having scored my first direct disconcert of the day. I love it when that happens before lunch!
I often tell people who are wondering what next to do with their life/spare time when they’ve come to loathe their current career with every quark (look it up; it’s smaller than atoms) of their being, have become empty nesters, have retired,or what-have you “look to your childhood.”
I ask them to think about what fascinated them in the wonder years, since these usually point to what will fascinate them now, once they rip off the duct-tape of responsible adulthood’s dreary priorities. I used to read a lot, and not a heck of a lot else in the way of leisure pursuits, other than Girl Scouts.
Except for one thing…the ONLY activity that would hold me absolutely spellbound, even to the point of forgetting to eat–and I can tell you this feature was nothing short of cataclysmic–was oil painting. I could stand for hours by the easel, absolutely absorbed in the creative act of picture-making.
I would even absently distribute blotches of paint about my person and clothing, another event that nearly never happened…
I spent a childhood assuming I’d be an artist when I grew up, and that’s how I started college. But along the way I lost my nerve, having no desire to teach, and wondering how the heck I’d make a living. I ended up in civil engineering for reasons that had little to do with interest.
Fast forward a lotta, lotta years. I still do quite a bit of engineering, in the typical waves and spurts of a consultant. Had to burn the midnight oil a lot the last couple months, and tonight I got to burn-out stage. Nothing could induce me to get back and finish the client’s small remaining work, so I thought, “Hmmm, what could I do to break the gridlock?”
I went back to my childhood, and started creating something artistic. Well, what do you know? A few hours of Pinterest pins, and this blog later, and I emerge from my trance to realize an entire evening has slipped away, with me in the zone, and no snacks consumed. It’s just like the old days, with my standup desk instead of an easel. No paint splotches, but no cleanup either, just shut down my dual screen computer and go off to bed with a satisfied smile on my face…
My name is Connie Ellefson, and today I’m starting on a 30-day challenge issued by WordPress to improve my blog. Clear the Space, Inc.’s blog has been around since sometime in 2010, but in between a fairly non-decluttered “career path” (to use the phrase loosely) that includes writing, organizing, engineering and landscape design, among other things, has tended to languish.
It doesn’t look that old, from the posting dates, but I’m moving them in a slapdash way, to a new website, so the dates are deceptive.
(I just had to veer off briefly into that wee, tedious explanation, ’cause that’s the kind of girl I am; loathe to deceive, but also eager to let you know I’ve been making some kind of effort for a while now…)
In any event, back in about ’06 I started writing a book, called something like “Getting the Junk Out,” and realized gradually that the junk didn’t really stop with all the random, un-used stuff around the house, like everybody else talks about. Clutter can be found in our emotions and in our bodies, too. Hmm.
I came up with 3 broad categories to write about decluttering, “Emotional Space,” “Possessional Space,” and “Physical Body Space.” Figured I’d write a little booklet on each, and a longer book on all three put together. I did actually get the first booklet out there in cyberspace:
The others are in the works, and–coming soon! (Really! They are!)
You might be thinking my house’s gotta be pretty sparse and organized, seeing as how I’m a professional organizer, and I can tell you that it is, somewhat, but only by default.
Others may be able to create and be all pro-active and stuff in a cluttered environment, but I’m practically paralyzed in one. Sadly, rooms start disintegrating into chaos when I merely walk through them, so I have to keep my stuff to a minimum, out of pure self-preservation.
Clutter holds me back to an extreme degree, and I’m looking for kindred spirits who don’t want to stint on their passions for the sake of mere manageability (!), but who still want to be able to function adequately, even swimmingly, if for nothing else, to show the naysayers they are wrong.
In short, keeping the rubble to a minimum in one area of life, leaves a little more space for over-committed dreams in another, right? Like ordering a super-deluxe double cheeseburger, with a glass of water to drink, just to sort of balance things out.
Works for me.
I thought I was safe from the weed police this year. Every year I get threatened by Code Enforcement officer for the Xeriscaped front yard at my rental house. It features drought-tolerant groundcovers, ornamental grasses, and shrub roses, plus, yeah, well, maybe a few weeds. I spend a couple of evenings pulling weeds, and I’m done, with my debt to society paid. However, this summer, my new perfectionist tenant has been out there weeding and trimming with a vengeance, so I figured I could rest easy.
But no! The other day I got a letter from the hyper-vigilant HOA at my own house complaining about “weeds in the rocks” (verbatim). Naturally, I balled it up and threw it across the room, since hadn’t I just the previous evening been out whacking the weeds around the edge of the back yard?? A couple days later I thought, “Hmm. What about the side yard, that place I never pass anymore since my dog went to heaven?” I looked out the window, and sure enough, some 3-foot tall clover plants caught my eye. Maybe that’s what they were on about…
You’d think an author of two published gardening books* would be a little more on the ball about weeds, but there are issues. Number one, I always try to pull weeds right after it rains, so I don’t have to work so hard, and it hasn’t rained in weeks, so what can I do? Number two, my yard isn’t big, but I’m the only one who ever moves a muscle in it, and it’s all I can do to keep up with the lawn. Number three, I practice the head-in-the-sand technique as summer approacheth, thinking if I just ignore it, the proliferating weeds and grass don’t exist.
Then, finally something triggers the deluge, like now, if I don’t get those weeds out I’m facing a $25 fine. I stop whining and just wade in there and do something. And, guess what? The old magic takes hold and makes me dimly remember why I used to love gardening.
The June evening sky was gorgeous with clouds and reflected sunlight. I could almost hear my thirsty perennials laughing with glee as I doused them and their neighbors, the weeds, with water so I could pull the weeds out. I was able to “get Western,” as my Montana-bred friend says, with the weeds and leftover ornamental grass stalks that needed to be broken off with satisfying cracks, so I felt strong and tough! Then I brushed against the Agastache and a wave of minty fragrance filled the air…Sigh!
Decluttering the garden is sometimes just as hard to get started on as decluttering the house, but it’s also just as satisfying after it gets underway.
*Xeriscape Gardening, and Xeriscape Colorado: The Complete Guide 2013 Edition
which got an update in 2013. Click for more info.)
Company’s coming tomorrow, so I cleaned out my fridge today, which happens about as often as the national budget gets balanced. Once the ancient foodstuffs clad in molds of many colors were disposed of, what was left was a lot of condiments, a six-pack of beer laid in against the expected company, and one of my roommate’s leftover pizza boxes.
I was struck by the picture of perfection it made:
The Essential Bachelor Fridge!
No space wasted kowtowing to the Nutrition God! I mean, who made up that garbage about “five servings of fruits and vegetables a day,” anyway?! Five servings is more than plenty for a year! All the basic junk food groups, fat, salt, sugar (alcohol) are represented, except caffeine, and let’s face it, the caffeine’s in the programmed coffee-maker ready for breakfast, so it’s handled!
Clean, uncluttered, organized, keep it simple…No big message here, except to subtly point out that Clear the Space, Inc. really understands men, eh? Also, it gives me a chance to include my first blog post photo!
What with one thing and another, I’ve been hanging around people addicted to a variety of things, including work, for the last thirty years. They’ve all been some of smartest people I’ve ever met.
And, guess what? They all had dismal childhoods, from which they learned early on to be totally self-sufficient, and not accept or ask for help from anyone!
“Cigarettes are my friends!” they may say, laughing, but deep down, they mean it. ”Cigarettes” are what they can count on, not people.
On the flip side are the superstars of life, who’ve learned to focus all their work on the one thing they do best, delegating everything else. Which means they have to ask for help, and they get very rich doing it.
Rats! I hate that rock-and-hard-place thing!
If your friend is an addict of some kind, encourage him/her to allow you to be of assistance from time to time; if you yourself are the one stuck on Stubborn Independence, this is one load of baggage it’s good to lose. Find small, non-scary ways to reach out and trust your future staff. We need your brilliance, and you may appreciate the bucks!
I think I just realized why it’s good to keep up with your tax receipts monthly, instead of waiting till the end of the year to sort through the shoebox. You get to be reminded all over again about the depressing things that happened that year! Somehow, when it comes to receipts, the bad times outweigh the good..
Just because I’m an organizer, don’t think I’m not slogging through the trenches with all y’all, procrastinating away! My only saving grace is I have a system down pat, however sluggish it may be.
I don’t have a lot of receipts compared to some people, just enough to make it a chore. First I sort them by category. I figured out it’s a waste to sort them by date first, ’cause in the end I’m only interested in the categories. If there’s a bunch in one category, (like meals!-yum!) I divide them into cash and by credit card. I try to put all my business expenses on one card, not that I have that many cards.
Then I doggedly enter whatever’s in the business checkbook into Quickbooks, though to tell the truth I could almost get away with just doing a spreadsheet. The cash receipts are listed in a spreadsheet and added to the totals from Quickbooks. To leave no deduction unturned I also prowl through my personal checkbook register and round up the strays, to which I have previously added a small circle in the record line so I don’t miss it. Voila–deductibles counted, and no dangerous double counting of receipts.
What does this have to do with organizing your office? Of course I’m not so low-tech as to keep my receipt’s in a shoe box, for Pete’s sake! I stuff them into a magazine file. Here it is, along with a little pine cone decor.
Is that feng shui or clutter? Let’s see, it’s wood, also in a wood cabinet. Is wood for prosperity, or metal? Should I put a penny in?
Wow! I just looked and it is wood for prosperity, plus it’s just barely into the prosperity section of my office, especially if I nudge it right just a little. I need to make it purple, blue, or red, though. Time for some glitter maybe…
See how good I am at distracting myself from taxes? The point is, no matter how stupid it looks, if your way of organizing your office works for you, then leave it!
How much does your unused stuff cost you?
Emotionally? Zero to infinity: Stress, bogged-down creativity, that helpless, out of control feeling…too many variables to calculate…
Physically? Stubbed toes, conked heads, unrestful sleep…again a wide range.
Possessionally? Maybe you’re not renting three storage spaces @$100/month (total cost/year $3600) like one woman I heard of, you just have it around the house that you’re paying for anyway. But consider:
100 square feet used to store stuff you never use in an average 2200-square-foot house costing, say, $1500/month, total, is confiscating about $818/year worth of your space. Not too bad, unless you keep it there for 10 years, or have, perchance, more than 100 square feet of stuff….
What could you do with that 100 sf? (That’s 10′ x 10′)–Dance? Lay out your catfishing gear and get it organized for the next catfishing trip? Leave room for the dog to chase its tail? Have 20 relatives over for a rockin’ holiday meal instead of just 10? The possibilities tantalize…
My favorite Zen saying, “How refreshing is the whinny of the pack horse, relieved of all burden!”