The Problem

plant

After a year of disposing of the spoils of my late husband’s accumulating, aka hoarding, there was still a lot of stuff in the house.  In my naiveness, I assumed that if you want to minimalize, you simply get rid of stuff.  I read books and articles, and I had down pat the rule, “if you don’t use it, don’t love it, get rid of it.”  Stuff remained.  That’s about the time when I realized THE PROBLEM.

I love and use a lot of stuff.  My whole life needs to be examined, not  just my stuff.  If I’m going to simplify my life, I need to look farther/deeper than just the stuff.  A diletante by nature, I have somehow taken it to new extreme levels.  I go in too many directions with all my stuff in tow.

I’ve had to think about what’s important to me, and there are still decisions to make.  I love blogging, so it’s going to take place here.  Welcome to Connie sorting her life!

These are briefly the basic areas that I have identified to date:

ART – I do pottery, but most of that stuff stays at Mudworks.  Alas, I also like to paint, draw, sew, cross-stitch – well, just about any crafty thing you can imagine.  Of course, it all requires stuff – acrylic paints, charcoal pencils, pastels, canvases, sewing machine, pattern books, project kits, how to books.  I have boxes and boxes of loved and needed stuff.  Goal is to pare down my art.  Do I really need to do it all?

HOBBIES – I love photography.  I love family history.  I love gardening.  If these things stay, then a lot of other activities need to leave.  After all, for my own well being, I do need to keep my bicycling and yoga, and they have been at the tail end of my list for too long.

COOKING – Now that I’m cooking for just myself, I can’t decide how or what I want to do.  Sounds crazy doesn’t it?  Do I want to eat vegetarian? vegan? gluten-free? Paleo?  Should I cook country style? Italian? French? Bake my own bread?  I gave away most of my cookbooks, and yet somehow I still have forty or so, all because my cooking goes in so many directions.  Not just cookbooks, but all the gadgets that go along with it.  I can juice, make pasta, decorate cakes – it’s overwhelming.  And I’m not even cooking!

FINANCES – After years of priding myself on my simplified record keeping, I am overwhelmed with the stacks (more like boxes!) of papers.  Who knows how it happened, well okay, I can trace it all back, but I found myself with accounts at too many institutions.  At the time, I’m sure there were reasons, but it’s gotten out of hand.  The process of paring accounts down isn’t as close to my heart as art and cooking, so the simplifying is quickly happening.

WORK – Here again, too many directions.  This is how some of those accounts came into being.  If my CPA business wasn’t enough, I added some other small (but time consuming) ventures including creating e-courses for creative entrepreneurs.  This area is going on the chopping block.

GENERAL STUFF – Yes, I have too many clothes, too many books, too many personal care products.  Slowly, it’s heading out the door.  These are easy decisions, once I realized my bigger problems.  I have heeded the “I wanna do ____” far too many times, and stuff just naturally follows along with it.  I’m sort of like the plant above, growing is too many directions, with one thing leading to another, and just about to tip off the ledge.

I’m committing myself to simplifying my life, and then I can deal with the stuff.  Who knew simplifying could be so complicated?

 

Becoming a Potter

It’s funny how seeds that are planted decades ago have a way of persisting and sprouting.  January 1970, I tried to throw a pot.  “Someday, I’m going to do this.”

potter

January 2015, forty-five years later, I started wheel-throwing classes at Mudworks.  Lots of things through out my life have come easy to me, and if they didn’t, well, then I just didn’t do them.  This certainly isn’t the easiest thing I’ve done, but I’m not giving up which is a relatively new thing for me.  In addition, to throwing nice pots, I think this wheel-throwing has even more to teach me.

Non-attachment, for example.  Even if you throw a pot that you like, there are still numerous other opportunities for its demise before it becomes a finished pot.  Cutting off of the wheel, drying to leather stage, trimming, bisque firing, glazing and final firing are all hazards the pot must survive.  In my short time of classes, I have already destroyed a good pot at each of those stages except bisque firing which I’m sure is coming soon.

Letting go of perfection for me is sometimes a problem, although I’ve been working on it for the past couple of years.  The clay we use in class is recycled and used again, so it makes it easy for me to toss a mistake into the recycle bin.  The problem is, as the instructor and the other students keep telling me, is that if I don’t save some pots, then I won’t have anything to use for practicing glazing.  Even with their imperfections, I’ve been keeping some pots.

Being in the moment and focusing my attention is a tough one for me.  When a pot is spinning, the slightest movement is exaggerated.  Countless potential pots have gone to the recycle bin because my attention wandered.  I’m working on it.

pots1

This is my first batch of pots.  I got lucky on some of the glazes, but I don’t have a clue how to do it again.  I’m resisting pointing out the problems with these pots, and hopefully in the future my pots will improve.  And maybe I will too.

One Little Word 2015

For the past several years, I have been participating in Ali Edward’s One Little Word Project.  It’s a year long project with monthly prompts.  I began in 2011 with “Nurture”, then two years of “Organize”.  I could do a lifetime of organize!  Last year was “Embrace”.  This is my fifth year, and I have yet to get further along than doing the January prompt.

January OLW

Once again, my January page!  Although I never get past January, I do keep the word in my mind all year.  Last year’s “Embrace” was the perfect word.  It was a tough year, and I had a new life to embrace.  This year, I’m ready to explore!

january olw 2

In my mind, I’ve sort of divided my life into thirds.  Believe it or not, I gave this a good bit of thought, e.g. divided in fourths gave me too little time left, divided in half gave me too much, and divided into anything else was too complicated.  I’m beginning a new phase, and this year I’m concentrating on exploring what this third phase of my life might look like.

January OLW 1

In addition to Ali’s January scrapbooking prompt, I also have a physical version of my word.  No idea how she does it, but Colleen Attara makes these custom words from recycled plastic.  She calls them salvaged words.  When it arrived, I was surprised to find that not only did she send me a big EXPLORE to hang where I’ll see it often, but also this smaller one.  Her packaging was so cute — it included the little sewn tag above and a sweet note.

explore

Will I go further than the January prompt this year?  Can you teach an old dog new tricks?  Let’s explore that idea!

A Year of Thought

For almost a year, I have been in thought.

thoughts

It hasn’t been that I was unhappy or sad — well, of course, I was sad some days, but not all days.  A fog surrounded me.  I did my regular things in a fog.  I thought that if it were not for the fog, I could think more clearly.  I thought about it.  And when I finally put my finger on it, I realized that joy was missing.  I thought I might never feel it again.  What would life look like?  I thought about it.

I felt that I needed a plan for the future.  And I thought about it.  I sat outside this summer enjoying the quiet and the solitude; nothing but birds chirping and my thoughts.  What would the next phase of my life look like?  I thought about it.  I couldn’t picture it, unless it was a continuation of my routines, work, etc.  I would continue to exist.

As the fog cleared, I realized that I want to live, not just exist.  That I need to create this next phase of my life.  Can I picture it?  No.  But I’m stepping out of my comfort zone, and I’m determined to live.  A year is long enough to think about it.

Exploring and trying new things are filling my days.  Getting back to writing on this blog is part of my exploration.  My heart is aflutter.  I can hardly wait to share with you all of the things that I’m doing.

 

 

Embrace

“Embrace” is my word for 2014.  It seemed perfect since I have so many new situations to embrace in my life.  In the last three years I have participated (using that word very loosely) in Ali Edwards’ One Little Word.  I was always faithful for at least the first month, as you can see here, and here, and here.  Nothing up yet for 2014 — I can’t seem to get going on it.  And of course, the Focus on Life challenge which I did last week, now a minimal color self photo.   And various other things for which I have signed up — life goes on.  Or so they say.

me blog

Ten days.  People expect you to grieve for ten days.  People call, visit and bring food for ten days.  I think of myself as a strong person, and I think most people I know think of me that way too.  Sure I can understand the confused and disoriented widows that I see in my accounting practice — their husband took care of everything and they have never been alone.  Me?  I’ve lived alone, and enjoy the quiet solitude.  There is very little around the house that I can’t do or find someone to do.  I knew our finances; I did our tax return.  No problem.

I planned a visitation and funeral.  I wrote thank you notes.  I set everything necessary in motion for an estate.  I sorted, tossed, filed, donated, stored — from early morning until I collapsed at night.  I traveled to south FL to visit with his elderly father.  Sure there were a few quirky things that I struggled to do.  But slowly, I marked them off my list.  After all, it’s been almost three months.  Connie is fine — she’s strong.  Not taking new clients, and even letting go of a few was my plan to make up for me maybe not being quite up to par.

This week, I discovered — Connie isn’t fine.  My dear, dear friend — my college roommate, wrote me a note talking about grief since she had experienced the sudden and unexpected death of her brother years ago.  She said she read everything she could on grief.  I, who buys a book about anything that comes to mind, had never thought to get a book.  Maybe I don’t know anything about grief and should read a bit.

As I read and cried, I saw myself in the book.  My exhaustion which no amount of sleep overcomes.  My exhaustion which had made me think that swift death is surely on my heels too.  The scenarios that go through my mind — if he had called, if he had stayed home, I know I could have saved him.  He would have had more years; we could have done the things we had planned.  My inability to multi-task  How easily I am overwhelmed with things that once were mere irritations.  Simply put, I’m not fine.

Grief isn’t something that one decides whether or not to do, I’ve learned.  There is no time limit.  Embrace is after all the perfect word for 2014.  And the first thing that I need to embrace is grief.  In time, I hope to embrace much more, but for now, I’m going to be gentle (this is tough for me) and give myself time to heal.