Thursday, July 31, 2008

Mental Margarita for July 31, 2008

As I started saying in the Mental Margarita email, I am now seeing more strongly the connection between simplifying my life and having the space to see and appreciate simplicity in life, and therefore in my photography. I think this is one of those "Well, duh," insights, but sometimes the most profound ones in life are, right?

I don't want to get smug about how I've simplified. In our culture, the pull is towards acquiring and having more. Towards being busy and always on the go. The more in demand you are, the busier you are, the more worthy you must be. So I am realizing I need to watch this tendency in myself and make sure I'm staying true to what works for me. The longer we're here in one place, with lots of people here we know and love, the more stuff that goes on our calendars. Even though my life in Phoenix was filled with rewarding things, it was still filled. I will not live that way again.

This Time magazine article about the "100 Things Challenge" got me thinking about being more radical about the process of simplifying. When we left AZ, we released about 95% of our stuff. We then moved nine times over the course of two and a half years -- all furnished places. Until now. We are "settled" again. I use quotes because I now have a very different take on what that means. Although we recently acquired enough household goods and furniture to live comfortably in our little home, I don't feel as weighted down by it all as once I did. I am clear we could sell it all again and go. And the house we're in is half the size of the one we had in Phoenix. And it feels right to us.

(As a professional organizer for 12 years, I saw again and again the downside of homes with lots of storage: lots of saving. A small space forces you to be more choosy.)

How are you simplifying life? Or is this even a process you're interested in?

Thursday, July 24, 2008

How to Know What to Keep, and What to Let Go

It’s the end of any vacation, and I’m repacking my suitcase for the trip home. I’ve used most of the stuff I brought, and most of the clothes were worn. But there’s always that small pile of things untouched and unneeded during my trip. In that moment, I always wish that while I had packed for the trip, there had been a little alert with a blinking red light that would warn me: “Don’t pack that! You won’t need it!”

Multiply that wish by about 100 – that’s how strongly I felt when we were plowing through all our worldly goods, choosing what to sell, what to take in four suitcases to Mexico, what to store for the future. After a while, making all those choices about each and every item got so overwhelming that I stopped feeling into each thing and started being more mechanical about the process. And as I’ve said before, mistakes were made. And that became especially evident when we got back from Mexico and unloaded our small storage pod.

The main test I had used when sorting was this: If I don’t love it or use it, out it went. I’ve used that test for many years in my organizing business, and it usually worked.

However, I’ve had to forgive myself a LOT for a few items of personal value that I released. I’m not a very sentimental gal, and using my don’t love it/use it rule, I let go a few items that had been in my family for years. It’s still hard to even write about. But at the time, I was being ruthless. Unsentimental. And I was under quite a bit of pressure. So I goofed on a few things.

Now, rather than continue to beat myself up about it, I decided to look at the lesson I could take away. And I realized the don't love it/use it rule has its limits. I didn’t love or use Grandma’s crystal punch bowl. But it did have good energy for me. And that’s a critical key. What is the energy of the thing? (By the way, if you’re not convinced that things have energy, then why do you keep looking in your closet right after you’ve purged and organized it?)

After Mexico, when we opened up our storage bin, I was surprised at some of the things we had deemed worthy of saving. A small oscillating fan, for example. It was something I used, and it worked fine. But it was dirty. You know how fans get linty and dusty on the blades and they’re impossible to clean without dissembling? Well, this fan was a mess. So I got rid of it, shaking my head at what had ever possessed me to keep it. I can see now that if I had asked myself, “What is the energy of this thing?” I wouldn't have stored it. Yes, the fan worked and I used it. But I didn’t want it blowing junk all over my space. The energy of it was dirty. Or a vase that I kept that was nice. I used it, but it had been a gift from someone I no longer trusted, and every time I looked at it, I was reminded of that. Bad energy. I later let it go. If fact, we ended up purging about another third of our small pile of things we had put in storage before leaving.

So it’s a different kind of test, and I invite you to use it yourself. What are you hanging on to that, simply put, has bad energy for you? And when are you going to let it go?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Mental Margarita for July 16, 2008

I realize I'm jumping around in telling the story of our leaving Phoenix and our adventure to Mexico and up the western coast of the US. I don't have to be organized anymore! Well, that's not really true. You can take the girl out of organizing, but... It's just that as I'm going back and remembering, things get stirred up. So I guess I'm kind of honoring the process and letting it happen in the order it wants, rather than imposing my will on it.

So this week's Mental Margarita brings up for me one of the unforeseen blessings of the journey, which is my ability to see. Even before we chose this path, I used to bug Raymond by pointing stuff out. "Look at that tree! Check out the sunset! Wow, a bug!" (He said that my constant badgering for him to look at stuff gave him the opportunity to work through his knee-jerk response, which was, "Don't tell me what to do!" He now acknowledges me for showing him a world he wouldn't have otherwise seen. Similarly, his natural peace and ease in the world gives me the space to slow down and take it in.)

Our life in Phoenix was good. Very good. And very full. We had too many commitments; demands on our time and energy. Like many people, we were constantly having to manage our schedules. I had to schedule in down time for myself. There's nothing wrong with living this way, but for me personally, there was no space for creativity. No space to just be. To just see. Releasing not only our stuff, but also the schedule we had, granted us both enormous freedom. Too much freedom at first, perhaps, but it was a good detox period from such fullness.

So this week's magnolia is a perfect example of something I may have seen before, but hurriedly. Perfunctorily. I would have missed the yellow and black center all together. Capturing an image in the camera allows me to see it more fully. To see things I wouldn't have seen before. And in all the moving around we've done, it helps me learn a new area. I can identity the flora around me in a way I never was able to before, which connects me to the place.

So let's say you're not ready to chuck it all. How do you make space in your life for your creativity?

Or if you are considering releasing some or even all of it to go on an adventure, what are you grappling with? Please share your thoughts!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Staying in Touch...

It’s funny how in this day and age, even with all the technology we have to stay connected, proximity still plays a big role in how often we connect with each other.

I was in Phoenix last week for less than 48 hours for a memorial service. Other than visiting my in-laws, I only saw friends who went to the service, simply due to lack of time. But a buddy there told Raymond to have me call him while I was in town. Why? He knew I didn’t have time to see him face-to face. We talk on the phone all the time when I’m in Seattle. I even still have a Phoenix area code on my cell, so it’s not like my being there was going to save him a nickel.

And then this morning, my first day back at home, I had a phone chat with a friend here. We’ve fallen into a lovely routine of connecting most mornings during the time that she’s on her way to work and I’m washing breakfast dishes. We didn’t talk when I was gone. Nor did we talk regularly before I moved here. But now that I’m in vicinity, we’re back in the mode. (And it’s not because now there’s no long distance fees. There weren’t before either, using the cell.)

When we moved from Phoenix to Mexico, we got a Vonage phone, which works using the internet line in the house. You can choose an area code for wherever you want, so naturally, we picked a local Phoenix number. But no matter how often we explained to Raymond’s folks that our number was just like calling us when we lived across town, they simply didn’t call us. We were in Mexico. (The best - really only – exception to this was my friend Dory, who called me in Mexico to get driving directions when she was lost in the east valley of Phoenix. I even said to her, “You’re calling me in Mexico so I can tell you how to get on the 101???” But why my reaction? It was technically a local call for her.)

So why does proximity affect how we stay in touch with people?