Thursday, March 13, 2014

Be the Change

I'm still doing the 40 Bags in 40 Days challenge.

It is leading me to all kinds of thoughts and insights.  I have been jotting them down and figured I would share a little of my experience.

-- I need to be what I wish to see.  This means to me that if I want to see peace and harmony in my home, I need to create it.  If I want my children to behave lovingly, I need to model it for them (especially at the times I want to SCREAM).  I need to be what I wish to see.  This is my mantra through this process, and oddly enough it is working.  My husband says he is not sure where to put things in the pantry, but he is very careful about it when he does now.  My kids are more willing to pick up their toys (note: more willing does not mean entirely willing...)  My daughter is seeing the value of getting rid of things that no longer serve her, like ripped up shoes and too-small panties.  These conclusions are being independently reached by my family, through no nagging on my part, but simply the spread of the energy I am finding the strength to unfold in our space.

-- As I clean up one bag at a time, I am not seeing any kind of drastic change.  Granted, I am only 8 days into it, but I really thought I would see more.  But for some reason I am not discouraged.  I know that there is still a long way to go and I still have several weeks before the end of the challenge.
  Before and After pictures are a big help.  If I take pictures of everything that is leaving my home, and snapshots of my messy areas, I can feel that my projects are worthwhile.  It's like losing weight and not noticing it...until you put on that one pair of pants that never fit and suddenly they do!

-- What do my master bathroom, office space and kitchen have in common?  I am terrified of them.  I keep putting them off, finding ANY other thing that needs decluttering.  These areas are the most deflating, every time I walk into them I feel shame, frustration and kinda grossed out.  I know I will roll up my sleeves and get them done, but not just yet.  
  I think it shows progress that I am slowly getting things out of those terrifying spaces in tiny bits.  Today I am taking 10 boxes of feminine hygiene products to a friend.  I stopped using them almost 2 years ago, why do I still have them?  I see them on my shelf and say to myself, I'm going to have to get rid of those...but half of the boxes are open.  No donation place will want those, but a good girlfriend would gladly take them.  Now they are out of my house, and no longer bugging me.
   So far, my success includes:  fridge/freezer clean-out, glass recycling to the transfer station, the top of the fridge area, a bag of clothes to Salvation Army, the pantry shelf, toys mended, unwanted dish detergent and some unearthed gluten-y food to the food bank, my bedside and general upstairs ephemera and the feminine hygiene stuff dealt with.  It doesn't really *show* when I look around the house, but it's a pretty good list for a first week!

-- There is a freezer in my garage that has been unused for probably seven years.  My grandmother gave it to us as a wedding present nearly 10 years ago.  She passed away quite a while ago, but I still feel like it would be wrong to get rid of it.  I have no intention of using it, because I would lose track of what is in there, and end up throwing out freezer-burned food.  Just this week, I came to the conclusion that it will be okay to get rid of it.  I plan to list it on Craigslist and see what comes.
  There is a similar story with the ice cream maker.  My mother's long-time friend gave it to me as a wedding present.  I have used it once or twice, but certainly not in the last 7 years.  You have to freeze the little bowl for 24 hours before making the ice cream.  If I know 24 hours in advance that I'm going to want ice cream, I will buy some and save the space in my freezer.  I haven't disposed of the maker because I *can't* toss a wedding present!  My mom said that her friend probably doesn't even remember buying it for us.  Well...I'm going to post it for sale on a local Facebook page and see what comes of that one as well.

--My mind feels lighter.  Little things that have been nagging at me to get them out of the house are done.  And doing one little thing every day is not that big a deal.  I set the timer for 30 minutes, grab a bag, and try to beat it.  I don't feel any sense of "reclaiming" as of yet, but I do have a sense of satisfaction that things are being taken care of in tiny little nibbles.  I'm very slowly changing small habits and thought patterns, naturally and through no conscious effort.  These days of cleaning up the physical space are in turn dusting off some corners of my mental space.

--Girlfriends make the world go round.  I have a friend who is doing this with me and we chat about it daily.  I like hearing what her projects are each day, and we complain or celebrate with each other.  It helps so much to know she's right alongside me.  The Facebook group is helpful also.  It has over 21,000 members, so it is in no way personal or intimate, but reading the posts and encouragement from so many other people doing the project at the same time is encouraging.  There is strength in numbers, and the energy of the group is upward-facing in general.  It is inspiring to read what others are doing, and what others find challenging, and to be able to offer advice to people who are struggling. Community makes a huge difference!

-- The more I throw out, the easier it is.  It is like clearing a trail.  If I move quickly, I'm done and can get things out of my house.  My brain is re-creating the "I can do this" synapse again, right alongside the "I really DON'T need this stuff" synapse.  It is pretty cool!
  For example, I have some undies that have never fit right and are uncomfortable as heck.  I always forget about that fact until they are on, then I leave them on because it is too much work to change...then at the end of the day I toss them in the wash out of habit...and the cycle continues.  I consider it my biggest victory yet that I took them off the other morning and threw them away.  Cycle broken!

-- I love having stories to tell.  Speaking of underwear.  Yesterday, as I was cleaning upstairs, I stopped part way through to take a shower.  In my underpants, I sat on the bed and heard a crunch.  I had sat on a framed picture.  There were glass shards on my bed, and a tiny splinter in my butt.  That could have been WAY worse!  Well, once I got dressed, I wrapped all the glass in the worn-out, threadbare sheet and tossed the lot of it.

-- I get a sticker on the calendar for each day of task completion.  I do a happy dance for each sticker.  And if I feel unmotivated, I can look at my streak and appeal to my competitive nature...gotta keep it going because:

I deserve BEAUTY in my life!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

40 Bags for Lent

I often find that things come to me when I need them most, even when I don't know I need them.  If I just have the presence to keep my eyes open and my mind objective, really interesting things come my way.

On my Facebook newsfeed last night, a friend posted something called 40 Bags in 40 Days from a blog called White House Black Shutters.  It is a challenge to use the 40 days of Lent to "decrapify" your home.  The goal is to work on decluttering by getting rid of just one bag of junk a day.  It can be any bag, from a grocery bag to a 50 gallon yard bag.

The point is to remove the clutter, but to do it slowly.  I view it as similar to losing weight: one pound barely shows, but 40 pounds can be life-changing.  I have my stickers all ready, I'm going to use my calendar as a sticker-chart.  Every day I get another smiley face for each bag I remove.  This will be a great visual tool for me, and will likely make me smile when I see the cumulative rows of smiles, showing me how proud I am of the baby steps I'm taking.

I'm pretty excited by this.  How many different methods and tips have I tried to clean my home, only to be buried in the shame of it within a week?  There is a 40 Bags group page on Facebook where folks post pictures of their clutter-y messes, before and after pictures, and ask for support.  Even though it is not a kind of a round-about way I'm somewhat encouraged that the messiness of my home is not any more horrific than thousands of others.

My goal for today is my fridge.  Day 1:  Fridge.  For the past couple of weeks, it has been impossible to get anything in or out of that contraption with any kind of grace.  And yesterday when I opened it, a new smell emerged.  I guess this is well-timed for me, so I will tackle the fridge!  I think my one bag of junk will be an easy feat with that one.

I have been working on developing my Spiritual practice, and I have learned that mine flows best through movement.  When I go for a jog, I feel closer to the Holy Spirit and to nature.  When I am volunteering in my daughter's classroom, I find myself prayerful for each of her little classmates.  Adding this one-bag practice for Lent will be very symbolic for me.

I was not planning to incorporate a Lenten Practice this year, since very often it becomes about what I am giving up, rather than prayerful (albeit symbolic) fasting and preparation.

Lent is about preparing for Easter, in fasting and prayer, preparing to mourn deeply and celebrate joyfully in the same weekend.  I will work hard, each day, to remove one bag of the clutter that is binding me.  At the end of 40 days, there will be a sense of accomplishment, lightness and great cause for personal celebration. It will mirror perfectly the deeper meaning of Easter with the sense of freedom and removal of the garbage that is only preventing me from being my best self through the Holy Spirit.

I mourn that my home is so cluttered and messy (again!!), and I am nervous about this journey.  It will be a lot of work, and I think some days all I will manage is a grocery bag of junkmail.  But, I guess that is one pile of junk no longer in my home, distracting me from the greater joys of my life.

I DESERVE a decluttered home
I DO NOT deserve a stinky fridge

I DESERVE to celebrate joyfully
I DO NOT deserve to wallow in shame

I DESERVE a Spiritual practice and connectedness through activity
I DO NOT deserve to sit still and simply wish I was connected

I deserve BEAUTY in my life!