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?
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.
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.
Last night I made tofu Banh Mi for supper. Well, more accurately, I made something that kind of looked like Banh Mi from about 20 feet away. By way of background, Banh Mi is a Vietnamese sandwich with of one or more meats, accompanying vegetables like fresh cucumber slices, cilantro and pickled carrots and white radishes in shredded form, and spicy condiments. Mine was seasoned fried tofu topped with carrot ribbons, sweet onion, and thinly sliced cucumber sautéed with garlic and red pepper flakes-and a healthy shot of Siracha. I got the idea for this meal from a cookbook, but I used the recipe as more of a guideline than as a set process.
That’s kind of how I handle a lot of things. Someone comes up with a strictly regimented process and promotes it as “the” way to do something. Then I come along and trouble-maker that I am, I take a look at the process and go my own way. I tend to look at the end I wish to achieve, and work the path backwards from it to where I presently am and hit pause. Once I see how I can get the result I want, I hit play and away I go. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Even if I mess up along the way, I can take a detour if necessary. And I try to learn from my mistakes.
I’ve been building a home obstacle course the past few weeks which I have been calling my “mini-Ninja” course, inspired by the show American Ninja Warrior. When it’s done it will look like a grown up version of a kid’s jungle gym. The problem I have been facing is that the darn thing is so heavy it’s difficult to assemble on my own.
That came home to roost last Sunday when the structure collapsed while I was trying to raise the taller of the two end pieces. I managed to dodge most of it, but I torqued my left forearm a little trying to stabilize it before I saw the futility of that effort. I admit, looking at that pile of timbers an pipes I felt more than a little discouraged. I may even have sung a few choruses of “the old four letter serenade”.
There thing is, it’s not a bad idea-it may even be pretty good! It’s the execution that has been problematic. So I have come up with a new idea for stabilizing the two end pieces in two directions at once to help keep them standing. Instead of trying to man-handle 12 foot long 4 x 4 timbers into place in brackets to connect the two ends, I’m going to use two 12 foot long 2 x 4 timbers which will be much easier to maneuver and will accomplish what I need just as well.
The upshot of this is that when you suffer a setback, it’s OK to get angry and annoyed. Go ahead and vent-I sure did! But get it out of your system and get back to what you were doing. If you need to, rethink the process and come at the problem from a different angle. Just don’t give up.
Here is my revised plan-bracing in two directions!