Ups and Downs in 2017

It’s been a while since I wrote about my decrappification activities.  To be honest, I had a bit of a lull in that regard.  I suppose it’s like a lot of things in life, in that you can’t be going full steam ahead 100 percent of the time.  If you try, inevitably you will get burnt out.  That seems to me to be a good way to inadvertently sabotage your efforts.  On the other hand, you don’t want a slowdown to lead to stagnation.

This past year I had mixed results.  For three things in the plus column, I migrated the majority of my reading to my tablet, using Nook, Kindle, and Acrobat apps.  This cuts way down on the number of magazines and books I have to deal with either for storage or recycling.  (While I agree that there is a tactile advantage to books, everything has a cost.)  Second, I went completely vegan in January of 2017, so my eating got a lot more thoughtful-by necessity as well as purpose-and streamlined.  Third, I purged some of my accumulated winter clothing of times which no longer fit well or which I have not worn in the past year.  I got rid of the equivalent of two large laundry baskets of good clothes which went to charity.

For three things in the minus column, being honest, I’ve become a bicycle hoarder.   That’s not a bad thing per se, but I rebuilt a full suspension mountain bike for winter road use, adding it to my old non-suspension mountain bike and vintage 10 speed road bike-three bikes for one person.  (For the record, I’ve been told that the appropriate number of bikes is (N + 1) where N equals the number you have at any time.)  Second, I’ve come to realize that I have way too many duplicate tools, especially wrenches and sockets.  So, a project in the near term will be to winnow out the duplicates and pass them along.  Third, silly as it may sound, I have accumulated an over-abundance of tee shirts and socks, so it’s time to purge.   The tee shirts I can pass along or donate, and I’ll figure out a way to repurpose the used socks.

As Henry David Thoreau once wrote, “Our life is frittered away by detail…simplify, simplify.”.

Simplify, simplify, simplify.

How Many Bikes Do I Need?

Over the past few years I’ve been continuously reducing the number of things I own.  This is a process I refer to as “decrappification”, borrowing a phrase from the computing world.  Basically, I am trying to simplify my life and that includes decluttering my house.

So, of course, something comes along to upset my plans.  That something is a renewed interest in cycling this past summer.  I got the two bikes I owned out of storage, tuned and cleaned them, and I’ve been slightly less than obsessed with riding since.  One bike is a 1990 Univega Nuovo Sport 10 speed road bike, which is great for riding on pavement.  The other is a 1992 L. L. Bean Approach (non-suspension) mountain bike with all-purpose tires, which is suited for riding on gravel and dirt roads in my neighborhood.

I’m riding my Approach indoors on a trainer now that it’s gotten colder as winter approaches, but that’s not the same as being outside.  My Univega, having skinny road slick tires, is clearly not suited for winter riding when there is snow and ice on the roads.  I don’t want to subject my Approach to road salt and grime.  That’s why I bought a pair of used Mongoose Spectra full suspension mountain bikes a couple days ago, for the princely sum of $50.00.

One has a frozen front fork but a good rear cassette.  The other is just the opposite.  Both have cable and twist shifter issues.  All four tire tubes won’t hold air.  Here’s the thing: between them I can make one good, essentially $25.00 winter beater bike for riding after it starts snowing.  If it gets salty and dirty, so what?  (I have no idea yet what I’ll do with the leftovers, but I’m sure something will come to me.)

Oh, and did I mention I’ve got my eye on a Kent/GMC Denali aluminum frame, flat bar road bike?

Not bad for just $50!

Stretched Too Thinly?

Sometimes the process of decluttering and decrappification is not about messy rooms or an overabundance of possessions.  Sometimes it is about time and commitments.  There are a finite number of hours in each day, week, month, and year.  How we apportion our time has an impact upon us.

For example, for the past three years I’ve been on the Board of Directors of the Funeral Consumers Alliance of Maine.  It’s been an interesting experience, and I enjoyed being with the people on the Board.  However, when my term recently expired, I chose to not continue.  The thing is, I found myself stretch thinly more often than not this past year.  As much as I valued being on the Board, it wasn’t an essential use of my time.

I once read a suggestion that one should make a list of one’s top five time commitments, in terms of personal importance.  Anything that didn’t make the list would then be considered optional.  For me the top five commitments (in no particular order) are work, church, friends and family, home maintenance, and exercising.  Among other things with which I was involved in varying degrees, the Board didn’t make the cut, so I cut it.  Cutting commitments which aren’t essential, useful, or pleasurable frees up time for those which are, and decreases my stress.  Give it a try!

Time can’t be made or found, but it can be prioritized.

It’s Black and White

I don’t usually engage in Facebook dares, challenges, and things of that nature.  But there is one in which I’m presently engaged that is both fun and interesting.  One of my friends (a “real” friend) challenged me to post a black and white picture each day for a week.  The pictures are supposed to not have any people in them, and the post is not supposed to explain the photo.  Lastly, part of the challenge is to pass the challenge along to a new person each day.  (I’ve been picking people I thought would have fun with it.)

The interesting part is seeing how different a photo looks after I edit it to gray scale, that is, black and white.  I hesitate to say they become more “artsy” but there is a distinct difference in how they present the subject.  Perhaps it’s because black and white requires a bit more thought to interpret.  I’m reminded that I once heard that Alfred Hitchcock preferred black and white for movies because it was better for storytelling.  And I cannot recall off the top of my head that I ever saw a color photo by Ansel Adams.  I’m guessing they knew a thing or two about the field.

There might be something to this black and white challenge worth pursuing.

Before and after.

Hidden Rocks In The River

I was walking along a trail today and an older woman pointed to the nearby tidal river.  “Look”, she said “there are a lot more rocks now.”  She was referring to the large number of rocks and boulders that were visible along the shoreline, since the tide was low.  It occurred to me that there were no more rocks there at that time than at any other time.  They are always there, just sometimes covered by water.  Depending upon the depth of the water, the rocks present varying levels of potential danger to boats.  At high tide, there is little danger because the water is deep.  At low tide, there is little danger because the rocks are plainly visible.  It’s that in-between condition that can be dangerous.

It seems to me that our attitudes about ourselves can be like that.  If our hang-ups or self-doubts are deeply submerged, they have little overt impact.  If they are out in the open, they can be dealt with as needed.  It’s when we allow them a little leeway, and they nibble at the edges of our thoughts, that problems can arise.  They can exert influence upon our decisions and our relationships and we may never even realize it because they are neither quiescent nor overt, but subtle and sneaky.  I guess what I’m saying is, we need to be constantly watchful and not let that in-between condition prevail.

You only see the rocks when the tide is low.