I find that I often sabotage a good thing with the word “but”. I always seemed to find fault with something. It was part of my negative cycle. I’ve decided rather than ban the word from vocabulary entirely, I’d switch it up. When ever I find myself thinking something negative I use “but” to find a silver lining.
I HATE winter. It’s not the cold so much. It is the dark! I don’t like waking up and it is dark for hours and then I leave work and it is nearly dark already. I work in an office all day and though I have a window I almost always have to keep the blinds closed because of glare. By the time the sun comes up, I don’t have enough time for a walk and I don’t want to leave my house in the evenings. So being that we are in dead of winter, I’ve been a bit more negative than usual.
After a particularly long stretch of rainy, cold days (we don’t get much snow here), I was gripeing again about the weather – it was bitterly cold that day. But the sun was out! But the forecast for tomorrow was warmer! But the heat pump didn’t freeze up now that we built the cover. But my car starts up right away even in this bitter cold. But now I can eat stew!
My guy is starting school again this week. Four days a week and then weekends will be homework time. And he is already putting in longer hours at the new job. We will have much less time together. But we can eat dinner together most of those nights. But I can go to the gym without feeling that I’m not home enough. But now I can take those classes at Michaels.
It’s about looking on the brighter side. It’s about looking for opportunities instead of loss.
“But” is like a fork in the road. You can be on a good path and “but” yourself right down the negative road. You can be on a rocky path and use it to take a higher road. “But” really is all in your head!
I love going in to my office now that it is decluttered. It’s a lighter space and my mood is lighter as well. A study released this summer conducted by researchers at the UCLA’s Center on Everyday Lives and Families (CELF) bears out my personal experience. It turns out that clutter causes depression. The team of sociologist, anthropologists and archaeologists at the CELF found that clutter effects not only our mood but our self-esteem as well.
This phenomenon seems to be more profound in woman. Our cortisol level increases in the face of clutter. If you remember, cortisol is the “stress hormone” and a real enemy of happiness and contentment. In addition, we equate tidiness with a happy and successful life.
Clutter causes stress by:
- bombarding us with stimuli
- distracting us from our goals
- makes it difficult to relax
- makes us feel guilty and embarrassed
- is a constant reminder of thing undone
For me the most stress producing consequence of clutter is the inability to get things done. Everything takes more time because I waste time looking for things I need. It just causes a paralysis that prevents me from moving forward.
Furthermore, it becomes a vicious cycle. The clutter is depressing and being depressed leads to low energy. Low energy leads to more mess. A messy kitchen doesn’t inspire you to cook. A messy office leads to missed payments. It is hard to feel romantic when the bed and floor are covered with clothes. Things stay broken because you can’t find the tools to fix them.
Besides your mental and emotional health, clutter can effect your physical health. The resulting stress can cause headaches, increased blood pressure, insomnia, diabetes, poor digestion and even weight gain!
Saturday evening, my guy and his son went to a hockey game – a father/son experience Christmas gift. This gave me a gift too – 5 hours uninterrupted time. I had blocked out this time to “spend at least one hour each weekend, decluttering”. That one hour turned into a full 5 hours!
I started with my office. I had my “files” stored in plastic bins stacked in the corner. My current files I keep in the file drawer of my desk. I started with the “current” files – oh not so current. 3 years of insurance policies – they renew every 6 months. Bills from accounts at my old apartment. Membership contracts to gyms I no longer have memberships at. Then of course there are all the things I ripped from magazines that I’ve never looked at again – who needs that when you have Pinterest? And recipes too. Then all the reference material – pamphlets for doors and windows and millwork from my interior design classes. The retired file bin was even worse – closed 401K acccount and bank account statements. Paystubs from 2002!
So “Shredder” and I had a party! The current files are now actually current! The retired files fit in one small file box with room to spare! I can actually find something if I need it! I went through drawers and my bookshelves too and made a trip to Goodwill.
It is amazing how much stuff we hide away. Stuff we keep because it is easier to hide it away than deal with it. This not only applies to our physical space but our mental space as well. The past – hidden away. Isn’t it time to let it go?
I usually do my “New Year’s” Resolutions on my birthday but for the sake of blogdom, I am doing them early. Here they are….
- Health & Fitness
- Loose 10 lbs by my birthday (April)
- Cut carbs and sugar
- try one new low-carb recipe each week
- drink more water
- replace one cup of coffee each day with 8 oz of water
- after one week replace another one
- Measure and weigh food
- keep a food log
- Be able to do 10 full pushups and 10 burpies by my birthday
- go to gym 3x a week
- find a yoga class that fits my schedule
- Talk to a lawyer by March about legal requirements
- Have a “shop” or consignment arrangement by June for furniture
- Participate in one craft fair or bazaar this year for home decor items
- gratitude journal – not just OLTP list – 3x a week
- continue meditation practice – work up to 10 minutes by June
- spend at least two hours each weekend decluttering
As you can see, my main focus for the first part of the year will be Health and Fitness, an area which has suffered over the last 6 months. I am also considering starting a business – I refinish furniture, make home-decor items and do interior redesign. I will begin small and re-evaluate as I go. Simplifying my life is another item on the list as is continuing my happiness practices. Pretty ambitious.
One of the reasons that I think this is doable is because my guy will be back in school in January. This means most of my weeknight evenings will be free and he’ll be doing homework on weekends. I can choose to spend my time in front of the TV or doing something that will help me achieve my goals. I am going to choose my goals!
What are your New Year’s resolutions?
The year is almost over. Hard to believe – it seems to flow by faster as I get older. It’s traditionally a time of reflections – best of and worst of lists abound. And don’t forget “the year in review”.
2014 started out with sadness – death. But there was also hope – the possibility of healing – rebuilding damaged relationships. But in the end that was not to be. Moving on is all I can do – learning what I can and letting go as well. I will not dwell in loss – I will cherish what is.
The black cloud that hung over my head threatened most of the year. One event – that one letter in the mail turned my world upside down. But I took action to help myself – to not let it take away what was good in my life. And so much came out of it – learning about happiness and gratitude and courage and faith and hope and letting go and moving forward.
Through all this I have learned more than anything how to build on the positive things in my life – and now I see that there are many! I’ve learned to appreciate and be grateful. I’ve learned that I can choose happiness. I have learned to be mindful, grateful and charitable. I am more resilient, more at peace, more optimistic and yes happier – with a much deeper understanding what happiness really is.
I often think on that day as a watershed, a pivotal point, a fork the road. No it was not good, but good came out of it because I chose to focus on the good.
So as I break for the holidays, I want to take this opportunity to wish you and yours a very happy holiday season. Enjoy!
On Sunday my guy’s son came by the house. He has a World War I rifle that he wanted to refurbish. He’d painted it some camo design and wanted to restore it back to the original wood stock. For some reason, he seemed to think he could accomplish this job in a few hours. What he didn’t realize was that first he had to strip it, then prep it and then finish it.
Changing your life is a lot like refinishing a rifle or a piece of furniture. It takes certain steps – sometimes time-consuming steps.
First you have to strip away the old stuff. He used a chemical that got most of the old stuff off fairly easily. We need to do that too. Say you wanted to improve your health. What’s the old stuff? The poor eating habits, the lack of exercise, not sleeping regularly, too much partying and stress. You can identify them pretty easily. But just like the caustic chemicals used to remove old paint, it can be pretty rough on your self-esteem. It stings! Nobody likes to admit they are “wrong” or “bad” or make “poor” choices. But we have to face up the old stuff.
Next you have to prep the newly exposed stuff to accept the new stuff. In the case of the wood, it means sanding – lots of sanding and maybe some filling too. This is an abrasive process. You have to prep yourself too. You have to change your thinking, your preconceived notions. You might have to do some research. And develop a plan. So you restock your pantry, join a gym or set an exercise routine. You have techniques to deal with stress. Set up an accountability and goal-tracking system. Only then are you ready for the new finish.
Staining would be the next step for the rifle. Using our health example you begin to eat healthy, exercise regularly, sleep properly, say no to the partying, and implement your stress reduction techniques. Next come the protective finish. This is where your accountability and goal-tracking system come into play. This is how you measure your progress and protect yourself from damage, just like varnish protects the new paint or stain finish.
None of this can be done in a day. It takes time and patience and often a bit of pain or discomfort. But in the end, just like the restored rifle, you will be restored as well.
I finished my Christmas shopping this weekend. I did break some of my holiday shopping rules so I thought I’d write them down for posterity’s sake!
Holiday Shopping Rules
- Be like Santa – make a list – I decide what I am going to buy each person and set a budget for each item. I have it all figured out before I hit the stores – the cat included! Shopping for a specific thing takes less time than “shopping”.
- I shop online whenever possible – if I know the brand, size etc, I let the magic elves at Amazon (or wherever) do the work for me. The internet is a great place to do research, compare prices and ship where I want it. I can also shop on my time and not be a slave to store hours. I was ready to be out the door at 8 am on Saturday but had to wait till 9 for Best Buy to open.
- If I have to go to the store, I go early in the day. The early bird catches the worm and the shortest lines. I went out on Saturday morning and it was peaceful. Sunday afternoon was a mad house!
- I set a deadline and stick to it. No more shopping after X date.
- Resist the urge to buy “one more present”. This is often a side-effect of getting my shopping done early. I call it present-creep. This is the rule I keep breaking! See rule #4
- I make many of the presents I give to co-workers or friends who can buy what they want. The internet is full of great ideas for “mason jar gifts” – I’ve seen some very clever ones this year. And the best part of making these kinds of gifts – you are at home. You can still do the laundry, cook dinner or help with homework. (OK you may have to eat in front of the TV because the dining room table is covered with stuff but you are not our fighting lines and traffic). If these are not food items, you can make them in June! And it is a great way to get kids involved.
- Inventory my bags, bows, and paper before you go shopping. I keep generic tags and brown paper gift bags on hand that I can stamp or decorate for the season. After a long day at work, I really don’t feel like stopping at the store for gift wrapping supplies. Oh and I save bags from the previous year to reuse.
- I schedule a day of rest – no shopping or holiday activities – just rest! This is easier if I follow rule #4
Have you finished your shopping? Do you have any tips that make shopping easier and less stressful? Or maybe you are one of those people who love all the holiday shopping atmosphere. Share your thoughts on holiday shopping.