I strenuously exercise on a regular basis because I want to be healthy. I eat vegan because I don’t want animals to suffer on my behalf. I decrappify because I want less stuff cluttering up my house and attention. I do 90 percent of the repairs on my house to save money and frankly, because I can. So there you have it, the motivations for four of the big ticket items in my life.
Here’s the thing: motivation is all at once personal and situation-specific. At the end of the day, each of us must identify that which we value and how much we value it. For example, if you want to lose weight but aren’t willing to move a bit more and eat a bit less, you like the idea of losing weight but you aren’t motivated enough to do the necessary work. I lost count of the number of times someone has told me they’d love to drop a few pounds, but when I suggest easy ways to start, they balk.
They are not motivated so much as they are wishful. Well guess what, there ain’t no genie in a magic lamp here.
It isn’t just weight loss, either. Anything that can or should matter to you (and I leave it to you to make that distinction) is subject to motivation. And, that which is subject to motivation is also subject to its loss. So how do you find and maintain motivation? Here is what works for me: keep the reason I started something in mind (I keep my “before” photo on my fridge to remind myself why I exercise), I participate in online accountability groups for support and feedback, I view challenges (like home repairs) as opportunities not limitations, and I don’t let setbacks define my level of success (speed bumps are not the end of the road).
I took a lunchtime walk yesterday on the Kennebec River Rail Trail, as I usually do during the workweek. The day was moderately sunny, although it had begun rather cloudy and certainly cold-a chilly 6 degrees Fahrenheit at my house. It was around 30 degrees at noon.
I started out bundled up with my heavy winter coat, knit cap, and wool mittens. I usually shoot for a 30 minute walk. By the time I was five minutes in I had to remove my cap because I was heating up. By the time I reached the half way mark, I had also removed my mittens, and shortly thereafter I had unzipped my coat. I actually had worked up a light sweat by the time I got back.
Here’s the thing: I had prepared myself for my noon walk based upon expectations I formed at 6:30 in the morning regarding the temperature. What I should have done was check my smartphone for updated weather information prior to my walk, instead of relying on outdated expectations. As it turns out this principle applies to a lot of things in life: make decisions based upon reality not preconceptions.
I admit that I am a creature of habit. For the past year or so I have been getting up at 5 AM Monday through Friday. I started doing this so that I could be more consistent in doing my workouts. When I was doing them in the evening I found I was being inconsistent. Not wanting to be fat again, I knew something had to change. Thus, I began going to bed an hour earlier and getting up an hour earlier.
Now I am very much in the habit of getting up early and streaming my workouts on my laptop. As a side benefit, I found that doing my workouts early in the day made my mornings much more enjoyable, even at work. Plus, I also stopped watching the morning news (unless there’s a winter storm and I need updates). Instead I listen to classical or worship music, or jazz, and I relax for a while before I head out to work.
Even if you are not inclined to exercise at oh-dark-thirty, I encourage you to adjust your schedule an hour as I did. If there is some really great TV show you don’t want to miss, DVR it or stream it a couple days later. Take the time for a leisurely shower, do some reading or writing, and relax with a cup of coffee while you watch the sun rise. The thing is, by giving yourself a little breathing space at the start of the day you can reduce your stress because you aren’t blasting around at warp speed from the moment your feet hit the floor. Try it!
Decluttering, simplifying, decrappifying, whatever you call the process it is definitely a process. Paring down your possessions and examining your emotional attachment to them is not a onetime event. Maybe this is why so many people never get started on the path to simplicity. They see the big picture and feel overwhelmed. Here are a few ideas to get you started on your own path to simplicity.
Each time you are rummaging in your closet for something to wear, spend a few minutes culling the clothing you haven’t worn recently. Set aside infrequently worn items in a basket or a box, or even a garbage bag, one or two items at a time. Keep doing this until your closet contains only the clothing that you actually wear. Take what you have set aside and donate them to charity.
External hard drives in the terabyte and higher range are fairly inexpensive these days. If you have a lot of photo albums and VHS tapes sitting around gathering dust, why not digitize them? I’ve even used my smartphone to take pictures of my photos, which is a little easier than scanning them (strong lighting matters). As for videos, there are devices that adapt a VHS player to a computer for digital conversion. There are also services that can do these conversions for you. Then you can simply eliminate the albums from your shelves.
Instead of trying to decrappify your entire house in one go, divide the task into smaller more manageable bits. Start in one room, pick up everything that doesn’t belong there and put them in the room where they do belong. Anything that can be disposed of should be placed in the trash or a recycle bin. Whatever is left that belongs in the room should be placed in its appropriate spot. If an item doesn’t have a spot, it probably doesn’t belong in the room. Finally, silly as it may sound, aggressively dust, polish, vacuum, and generally clean the room-it will feel much less cluttered if it’s all shiny and sparkling!
Several months ago I stopped watching the morning news on TV. This developed as I got into the habit of rising at 5 AM to do my daily exercise. In turn, I had started that habit because I was being inconsistent in my evening workouts due to church committee meetings and other evening commitments. But I digress.
Instead of watching the morning news, I listen to classical or contemporary Christian music and read online newspapers on my tablet. The advantage here is that instead of being inundated with all manner of nastiness on TV I can pick and choose what I want to read.
The world is a scary place. Believe me, I get that. Horrific things are happening every day all around the world. Some of them seem much more immediate and relevant to us though, even if it really isn’t. I believe this is largely due to the various “news” media running on a 24 hour cycle of ratings-driven “if it bleeds it leads” programming.
In pursuit of personal simplification I choose to not participate any more than necessary in the deliberate over-exposure promulgated by CNN, Fox, MSNBC, etc. and yes, the local affiliates. By opting out of the unending fright-fest, my days begin much more calmly. At the end of the day, literally, I can lie down and rest easier. Not because the world is any safer but because I no longer allow it to dominate my heart and soul.