Too Much Stuff, Too Little Time

In which I discuss my efforts to have less (#2, #11, #24, #33) and know exactly where to put it all (#42, #46).

Alas, I am not, nor have I ever been, a minimalist. I would really like to have the right things in the right amount and know exactly where everything should go. I have been working towards a reasonable, practical, and joyful level of stuff, but I find it slow and hard going. Add in the baby/toddler perfect storm of too many outgrown things and too little time and I found it hard to see the progress. I still have an unreasonable, impractical, and stressful amount of stuff.

But I am making progress. I found at least two things to donate or get rid of each day for a month. I did an initial clearing and organization of papers in my office. I donated to a men’s suit drive, a prom dress drive, and have pulled out my suits and professional dresses to donate in the next thrift store load. I’ve edited down our movie collection.

The hubs and I worked a lot in the garage, but were never able to organize it enough to fit both cars in. We have prioritized using that space for other projects, so I haven’t even been parking my one car inside, but I am all set to do that as the weather cools off. (No coats in the car seat will make for pretty miserable getting in and out of the car as it is!)

I did reorganize the cleaning supplies in my laundry room once I redid the cabinets in there, but I don’t think I’m really making the most of that storage yet.

And therein lies the real challenge that I think these goals highlighted but didn’t completely alleviate. By focusing on obtainable actions, I completed many of these items. But my life also changed a ton, my stuff changed more, and my motivation was … scattered. I wasn’t working systematically towards a clear, overarching goal. Those completions didn’t help me change my mindset or habits towards other categories of things or clutter-magnetic locations.

I’ve been reading a lot of books to help me figure out exactly what stuff triggers my stress, my husband’s stress, my son’s stress. To help me figure out what we actually crave from our spaces and our possessions, to recognize where we have different priorities, and to map out the feel I want the house to have. Some of the books were helpful, some weren’t great fits. None resonated enough that I feel like I have a clear action plan.

The clutter is mostly mine, which makes me feel frustrated and guilty, even as I can’t quite get rid of enough. The solutions will need to be mine, but with my family’s needs in mind. I am definitely more motivated than ever to get things down to a new reduced baseline. These reducing and organizing types of goals have been on each of my 101 lists, and I expect they will appear on my next list, too. But I know now to focus as much on the never-ending process of changing my habits as well as clearing out my backlog. I’m excited to see what I can come up with within my 101 format. And I’d be happy to hear any suggestions you guys have!

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On to April

In which I create actions for the new month to maintain my life (#7).

I’m pleased with the results of my March actions towards maintaining three important aspects of my life.

To address being active and present in my life, I posted almost-weekly about items on my 101 that I’ve already accomplished. This got me looking hard at my list again, and at my past year. I’ll continue to post those old accomplishments as I get a chance. This month I’ll be working on seeing my life as it is now by identifying something noteworthy about each day. Just one small thing that will keep me connected to what’s going to and separate today from yesterday and tomorrow.

To tackle routines that support but not restrict me, I found two things to donate or get rid of each day in March (#2). I cleaned out a lot of recycling and trash that was lurking where it shouldn’t be, and found a lot of stuff that will be going to good homes. Over the next month I’ll be working to get all those items I identified out of our house, and I hope to post about the places I’ve decided to donate them. Having destinations in mind really helped me let go of some items.

In order to get back to feeling awesome, I went through all my clothes and purged or stored them (#29). I included maternity clothes in this, and I made it a point to get everything stored in my bedroom, rather than taking up space that we need for other purposes in the guest room. I have some items that need mending or alterations, but everything else has been taken care of. I’d like to continue to reduce and improve my wardrobe, so I’m thinking of this as my initial pass. This month, I’m going to take this a step further and attempt to find a few pieces that will fill some holes that I have. I’ve defined some specific goals for my wardrobe, but shopping has continued to be frustrating and largely fruitless. So this month I’m going to enlist some help and book a personal stylist appointment at Nordstrom. I hope I can pick up a few new things that will be exciting. I’d really like to feel better about what I’m tossing on in the morning, and I’d really like to be able to get dressed without a whole lot of fussing around.

31

In which I get my life back in view (#7). Maybe.

Long time no see, 101 list. Not that I’d forgotten about it, or even stopped accomplishing things on it, since last I posted, but I’ve been a little busy…

Year 30 Collage

Good busy, but really hard busy too. I’d told myself that I wasn’t going to worry about getting balance in my life until four months after the baby arrived — fourth trimester, plus a little buffer. So at four months, when things still felt overwhelmingly impossible and I was trapped by the cutest jailer in the world who refused to be put down for entire months, I started to worry without any clear path ahead. I’d lost sight of myself and felt like I couldn’t see my son or my family clearly either. I didn’t recognize my life either as it had been or as I’d thought it would be. I didn’t recognize myself physically, emotionally, or mentally. It’s been getting better since the holidays, and I’m feeling generally fine and capable now. And finally, at eight months, I’m starting to feel my way back to some sort of a new balance around here.

I think I’m starting to be a person again. Hi.

I just had a birthday. 30 wasn’t a hard jump for me, but I’m feeling 31 a bit. Where did last year go? I am over a year into my 101 list. I’m turning my attention to one main goal right now: Make a plan to maintain three important aspects of my life over the next year, with monthly actions and results. (Spirit of the goal preserved, even if it didn’t work out to be quite his first year. I’m declaring this the new, practical starting place.)

I was having a really hard time articulating three overarching aspects in a way that felt cohesive and correct, but I realized that I’ve already done this in my big five from a blog challenge back in 2011. I glanced at it for inspiration, and it was like stepping through the looking glass. I think I remember being that person, and though I don’t remember exactly how it felt, I want feel that way again.

I’m going to focus on three of the five wants this year, and I think my original explanations are still spot on:

I want to feel awesome.

I want to have routines that support but not restrict me.

I want to be active and present in my life. 

(Our home is pretty set at this point, and I’ll get back to living broadly in a little bit. Right now I just want to live and am content to let my life broaden away from baby poop conversations at a natural pace.)

I’m sure of a few more things. Most of my monthly actions will encourage me to edit. Edit my wardrobe, my habits, my systems, the sheer amount of stuff I touch on a daily basis. I need to make the most of my time and brain power because I feel the lack of both. I seek grace, here. I can find the joy in my life now, but grace is sorely lacking.

In March, I intend to tackle my three overarching themes (in reverse order) through these small actions:

Post at least once a week about the things I’ve already accomplished on my list.
I need to remind myself that I wasn’t absent last year. I am very slowly shaking the feeling that I missed this patch of time. I definitely couldn’t see the forest for the trees in relation to motherhood, and I know it’s the same way for other aspects of my life. It happened. It was what it was, and I was there. It was more challenging than I thought it would be for me, and I was tired, covered in bodily fluids, but that’s how it was. I didn’t miss it. There were parts of it that I enjoyed and ways I made progress on both parenthood and personal goals. I need to see that I didn’t disappear for the year.

Find two things to donate or get rid of each day for one month. (#2)
I’ve already started this one, and it is long overdue. I think that my frustration level with my lack of time and control may finally kill the guilt over letting “perfectly good” things out of my house. My sanity is worth any money I may have spent on an item that I’m no longer using. Once I get a better idea of what my stuff will look like after a big clean out, I’ll have a better idea how to create some useful maintenance routines.

Go through all my clothes and purge or store. (#29)
I feel like a shapeless blob, but I will no longer try on five things each morning that exacerbate that feeling while living with different sizes and styles of clothes piled on every single surface I can find. I enjoyed defining a style for myself back on my very first 101 list, and I was excited to adapt that style to my maternity clothes, so I’m hoping to get back to that feeling. (I might be the only person on the internet who misses maternity clothes.) My life is different, so my style needs to be different too. I’ll be clearing my slate here. I need to see what I’ve got so I can seek out the pieces I need to get dressed easily and happily, even when it is my third outfit change of the day.

So there are my first actions of what I expect to be an interesting year-long challenge. I am hoping for a lot of results with these monthly goals, but I’m most excited to identify small actions. Just thinking about what I can reasonably hope to achieve each month should help me get my perspective back. It will certainly help me get back in gear on my list. And maybe my list is a path back to a more balanced life.