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Spring Cleaning

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Aaahhh, spring is here.

After the longest, coldest, most unpleasant winter this city has seen in a long time, it is finally winding down. I haven’t heard so many people share stories of winter blues as much as this year. Now it’s time to switch gears to a warmer season, do some spring cleaning, and get back to projects that were previously frozen by last seasons temperatures.

As I suspected, getting rid of my furniture last year opened a new opportunity for moving through life in a different way. Shedding more of my belongings has inspired me to re-look at the things that are still left, and to contemplate them more deeply. I plan on donating more of my stuff soon, but today the challenge is being ok with giving them away as opposed to selling them to justify their original purchase. I imagine many people resist letting go of their stuff because of the financial investment they made by acquiring them in the first place. Tossing things can feel like throwing away money. How can we become more comfortable and safe with just tossing or donating things that represent good times, people, time spent or money earned?

My Mother used to try to drum into my head that having a few quality things was better than having lots of “junk”. Her description of junk was generally poor quality objects, be it cheap clothing or poorly made furniture. As a young woman in my twenties, I would consistently debate this with her. I brought up the point that my tastes changed so fast that I could not possibly want to wear or use the same things year after year. Although this remains my position still, I have a new respect for her opinion in the sense that quality never goes out of favor, nor does an item that was made with great care and precision. This I now understand. I can finally say I consider her point now when I buy something.

Thanks Mom, it took me decades to respect some of your views, and I can see now how myopic I was as a young lady. Your views were indeed, just as valid as anyone’s, and I will always remember that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The setback monster

Don't give up

I’ts true. People around you may feel compassionate, or even feel sorry for you as they see you have met with the setback monster for the tenth time, only to see you wrestle again and again.

The first attempt at anything new is always the most exciting, and the most stressful for that matter. The unknown is yet to show itself, and there is no reference point for first time endeavors except for others’ opinions and pep talks. This is hardly a substitute for your own, but sometimes just enough to push you down the hill to take on something new as opposed to just reading about it and wishing it was you.

The best part about trying something and experiencing a setback, then trying again, is that you have experience to do it better or differently the next few times around. I have never heard someone tell someone: “Wow, Dan, you’re going to take another stab at baking? Well I’m so glad because now you will be more ready and more successful than ever after you have tried it so many times.”
No, I never hear that.
I hear “oh no Dan, you can’t bake. Please stop trying. Don’t make me eat any more of your baking.”

People could use support through bouts with the setback monster. It can be a very special part of their journey. We don’t tell sports teams that meet repeatedly with the setback monster to give up, disband, and walk away forever. Why then should we give up at the first sign of a setback or many repeated setbacks?
Setback monsters arm us with much needed knowledge to do it differently again and again. If you see value in your endeavours, or even if you are not sure if there is value, do it anyway.

At least once.
Preferably more than once.

At the end of your life, what would you rather say to yourself? That you have met many setback monsters but you learned, grew, and became a wiser more successful person because of them? Or would you rather say that you just didn’t bother trying after the first couple of setbacks? When babies first start walking, they don’t give up if they fall down a few times. Not learning to walk is not an option for babies who have legs. Why do grown ups stop so quickly after a setback? Act more like a baby. Successful people expect to have setbacks. It’s part of the success process. I wish I had learned that in grade school. I would be in a completely different place than I am today. Fortunately, I ended up learning this along the way, and as a result my life is exactly where it should be for the amount of work I put into it, or don’t put into it, and I am not afraid of the setback monster any longer.
She is my friend.

Holiday gift giving

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There was quite a bit less consumer sparkle in my holidays this year.

As you may remember from my last post, I decided to give away some of my own things, but mostly give cards this year. This holiday wasn’t quite the same, but my stress was absent from this usually stress-packed season. It was the easiest holiday ever. Although it felt a bit strange receiving a couple of gifts while just giving cards, I’m glad I tried it, and I would do it again for the main reason of simplifying my life.

As it turned out, I was able to connect with the people I loved just as easily without the all-out gift buying I have been  used to doing every year. This was definitely a first for me. It was a wonderful experiment, and a worthwhile learning experience. There was virtually nothing under my tree as well, but It didn’t change the point of the holidays, it seemed to help me focus on the real point of it.

I can think of four main reasons why I got this far over the past 16 months. I witnessed first hand a hoarding environment of someone I knew. I had another person stay with me and move their own things into my space. I grew much more satisfied with the things I already owned. I expanded my home business.

Although I intend to continue to slowly reduce the number of my belongings, I do appreciate the joy of having things. I would like to learn how to own only things that I use, and look forward to thinking harder before I make necessary purchases. I am well on my way.

Insurance: Friend or Foe

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The insurance concept:

Home insurance generally replaces things that get damaged, lost, or stolen. The idea is that an insurance company will replace (or substitute the equivalent of the original item) to what was lost. You would think that it would be a “hall pass” to get all new stuff, but what if you don’t want to replace it?

Even though losing all your things can put you in the position of being an ultimate consumer, by the time you actually truly, honestly, reassess your life do you REALLY want to make another carbon copy of your external life? Wasn’t some of that stuff just holding you back anyway? As I practice, fail, practice, fail, and practice again at letting go of more things and continue to review my external life, I don’t know yet what I would replace besides my clothes and my fitness equipment. My furniture is largely gone (except the things I store my clothes in) and every week I still try to become more and more ok with letting go of parts of my external past.

This holiday season will be the leanest to date, and that’s ok with me (we will se how “ok” I am about it closer to the second week of December) as I wanted to get off the hamster wheel of buying all the gifts I would have wanted to purchase for everyone. I love gift giving. I love wrapping and giving gifts. This year, since I am still scaling back on my consumerism, I have decided just to give away my own things, or send cards and not provide an explanation to those I usually buy for. I have a feeling I will have a fabulous holiday all the same. I’ll let you know in January.

Last Garage Sale of 2013

Golden retriever for sale

My neighbors are holding a last minute garage sale tomorrow which I have been invited to join.

I have a goal of how much money I would like to make, but have not decided what to sell yet. The challenge: sell whatever it takes to reach the goal amount. This is a creative way for me to let things go that I have not mentally planned for (which is usually how I prefer to let go of things). Let’s see how things play out. Stay tuned.

You can’t get that anymore

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The person who is staying with me appreciates my eclectic environment. There are quite a few old things in the space here, and many people who have stopped by to visit have commented on the uniqueness of the few objects I own. My friend mentioned that he has heard me say more on one occasion “you just can’t get that anymore” when I speak of the objects in my space that surround me, or the two cases of fabulous wine I purchased last year and still enjoy today.

I never noticed before how I would attempt to prevent the loss of being able to enjoy special things by purchasing multiples. You ladies may know this about your favorite color of nail polish which is probably now no longer in stores, or on an “endangered list” online. My friend’s brother bought a case of ketchup in glass bottles for this exact reason knowing full well, but not caring that ketchup has a shelf life, and  he may not be able to consume all the ketchup before it goes bad beyond it’s due date.

Those of you who have experienced this “overbuy” dilemma know what I am talking about. Somehow to freeze time we purchase more than we need to avoid running out and/or having to search for something which becomes unavailable for repurchase. Of course it’s a favorite cologne, or shirt from a company that stops producing that shirt, or film, records, shoes, lipstick, the list goes on and on. Many peoples favorite Pears soap is a perfect example. The producer changed manufacturers, changed the formula in 2009 and hence a frenzy occurred from the loyalists of this product snapping up all they could find after they realized the 300 year old recipe had been altered. I must admit, for some it is a big deal if a company that hasn’t changed the recipe since the 1700’s (yes, that’s right) suddenly without warning changes the recipe and screws it up forever. I get that. But there’s the storage issue. This storage issue comes up yet again. Where to store your favorite ___________ until you are ready to use it? Will this overbuy behavior give you enough emotional time to find a dupe, or adjust to the fact that you just can’t get it anymore? These can be functional dilemmas, but largely emotional and memory dilemmas from what I have seen. Hence the big lesson for me here is yet again, the practice of letting go and adapting. Adapting to loss, and change, but much more importantly new opportunities and new beginnings.

Make way

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There’s nothing quite like the fire that gets lit under you when you need to do a mass clean in order to have someone stay at your place.

What a great opportunity to re-assess your belongings/stuff/junk and decide what stays and what goes. I had a mini moment of “oh no, I have to actually deal with all these tools, hardware supplies and things I still use. I am still planning on using them. I’m not ready!”

After a week of the the initial realization that all these objects would have to be eventually and permanently relocated, I started to get creative. Some things were moved to other places, some things were thrown out, some things were donated, some things are still in “no man’s land” waiting their fate, or their new resting place. After a month of reorganizing I am a bit disoriented when looking for some of the things I need, but still not missing the things I temporarily hid from sight or got rid of. I am surprised and relieved it all has worked out so far. I thought it would have been a lot more difficult. One of my rooms has been set up a certain way for almost ten years, now it has gone under a massive transformation. It was a big deal for me to initially see it all moved.

I had another garage sale last month and noticed how much less I had to sell. I was glad my neighbors brought their stuff as well to fill some of the gaps. If I can give away or sell a few more things in my closets, then all the things I moved to make way for my friend’s lodging will have a new place of their own instead of being parked somewhere temporarily.

I think back to 2008 when I first started considering this process and now look back 5 years and see it would not have worked for me if I had done it at a faster pace. I am glad I took my time, and am now curious to find out how many more months it will take before I feel I can stop and take a break. I am not there yet.

Once more..with feeling!

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A s a surprise for my friends upcoming Birthday, I took her to Casino Rama last week to see Billy Idol in concert. This guy rocked! Seeing Billy perform was on my list of things to do in life, and since he is now 57 (and in mezmerizingly great shape I might add) I figured it’s now or never.

Something other than the actual concert itself became the highlight of the entire evening for us. Although it was a fantastic show, there was a man sitting to the right of me who looked like an average 45 year old guy with probably an average job, wearing an average plaid shirt and jeans enjoying the concert like we all were; just sitting in his seat clapping and having a fun time.

As soon as Billy Idol started singing Rebel Yell, and suddenly from out of nowhere, this unassuming man catapulted out of his seat tummy jiggling, arms flailing and screaming wildly at the top of his lungs in delight like a 14 year old girl. It was absolutely spectacular to see, and my friend was so startled that she fell right out of her seat into the aisle. It was such an amazing moment to see this man in such an unbridled state and expressing himself in his purest form. Totally happy, completely being himself, and passionately present in that moment, he was swept away from his daily life into a connection and feeling that was quite special. How lucky I felt to witness his bliss, and was so happy that he enjoyed himself so very much. I had a better night because he was there. Thank you jiggly man, you helped me remember that many of the best times of my life are moments of connection and appreciation for and with others, and I look forward to experiencing something that random and special again soon.

Failure is the starting point of success

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Everyone fails at something on a semi-regualr basis. If you don’t, I want to meet you.

Some people fail over and over and over at the same things. Some people like failing, it gives them something to focus on and feel bad about. Others use failure as a positive barometer for where they are in their thinking and doing.

I am having successes and challenges at not buying new things. Circumstances keep arising that keep me spending more than I want to. School, work, home repairs, it doesn’t stop. How do minimalists do it? How do other people own only one tube of lipstick?!?! Every day is a new chance to do it differently. Always remember that. If you screw something up, let someone down, stop short, don’t try, don’t bother to think, or don’t care, there is always a new day just a sleep away to offer another chance at doing it another way.

So many famous people in history left their mark long after they failed, and at great expense. Harland Sanders couldn’t sell his chicken cooking method for the life of him until he got a break after a long and arduous road. A man named Levi from Germany (and his brother) were having a rough time selling canvas tents to hard working miners, so they switched so selling pants which later became blue jeans. I could go on and on but the point is at the end of every failure is the beginning of another potential success and the worst fail is never trying.

One telling moment that keeps me going in my life when things get difficult is the story of my last year of high school during my math exam. I was doing terribly in math and the morning of the exam was upon me. I remember saying to myself while lying in bed: I have 10 minutes to either go back to sleep, or get up and screw this exam up completely. I know I’m going to fail it. I suck at math. I don’t want to go through the embarrassment, and complete waste of time on tanking this exam. Then, I had one split second of clarity. I said: either I go and write it and fail, or I will feel worse for not even trying. I got out of bed, went to school and wrote a really bad grade 12 math exam. A week later our class results were posted on the wall. My mark was 50%. I passed the exam, passed my course and graduated from high school only because I got that 50% pass in math.

I have always remembered that lesson, and have lived by the following 2 things in life. Choose your battles wisely, and even if you think you are going to completely fail at something, if you think there is merit in what you are doing, try anyway.

Con-sumerism

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There is something wrong with you. No, it’s me. No, it’s really you.

There is a product out there that will fix the wrongness. The wrongness was never realized by you until the mass media commercials told you about your less than perfect (insert affliction here). Someone else (who has never met you, by the way) has decided you are supposed to be something other than what you already are. This strategy has worked by the advertising industry for years with me. I once heard that anything you see advertised on television is not good for you, especially food. I have never seen a commercial for spinach, kale, onions, garlic, or even toothpaste without fluoride.

If my skin is wrinkly, dry, shiny, matte, dull, flaky, greasy, pimply, too red, too tan, too pale, too hairy, not hairy enough, then there is a product out there that will purport to remedy that. We can use the same template for almost anything. Once I got out of the stores and my nose out of the magazines I was able to take a big step back and re-examine my needs and wants. This has helped a great deal. Although I have had some slip ups in the buying department, at the end of the day the big point is being continually aware of what I bring home and letting go of things that don’t take me in the new directions I choose to go.

There actually isn’t anything wrong with you. Maybe you are simply different..and that’s the best part! Maybe that’s what people truly will love about you the most when you allow more and more of that part of you to shine. If you haven’t taken the risk already, cultivate bit by bit that part of you deep inside that is unique and your life will grow into something quite different, unexpected, and more fulfilling than you ever imagined if you set out to be more like everyone else. Once you have that, no one can take it away from you, it will never wear out, and you can’t buy it in a store.