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 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.
I have been thinking a lot about being single at 57 years of age, lately. Without going into unnecessary detail, I was briefly married a long time ago to an unpleasant woman. I have never felt compelled to take a chance on repeating that mistake. That is why I find myself single well after the half-century mark.
Here’s the thing: I am not bothered by being alone. I have always been comfortable with my own company. I believe that this has fostered in me a certain self-sufficiency. I answer to no schedule but that which I choose, and I find a lot of satisfaction in that. I would probably make a really good hermit, as long as my cave had WiFi.
Frankly at my age, it’s hard to imagine having someone around all the time. I have work, church, and friends, so I’m not planning on changing any time soon. I am, as Mary Chapin Carpenter sang, alone but not lonely.
I can’t believe I’ve been away from here for a month! Time to get back into my groove!
As I continue my pursuit of a simpler life, I’m sometimes surprised at how far I have come, and how far I have to go. The thing is, this simpler life thing is not a one-time effort. It is an ongoing process. I think I have picked most of the low hanging fruit and now it is time to reexamine what I have accomplished. My goal is to determine what steps I take next.
For example, I got rid of a lot of unread books and magazines early on, and mostly switched to e-books and magazines. Over the past couple years I’ve accumulated a small stockpile of hardcover books, a couple magazines that aren’t readily accessible as e-zines, and comic books (a store opened up nearby, which is hard to resist). I plan to go through all of my accumulated hardcopy reading material and mercilessly purge. I am also going to investigate the cost effectiveness of a service like Comixology for digital copies of the comic books I like.
I’m also going to go through my clothing again, and anything I haven’t worn in the past year will be donated or turned into paint rags. As much as it pains me, I am also going to inventory my tools, and eliminate duplicates. A couple of winter projects are going to be scanning my photos and ripping my DVDs to a terabyte drive. Clearly, I have my work cut out for me.
But realistically, if a given item is neither useful to me nor a source of joy, I don’t need it taking up space in my life.
Living an intentional life draws from many elements. Simplicity, thoughtfulness, and self-awareness come immediately to mind. As I continue to seek to live a more intentional life, I find that I am almost always on the upward slope of a learning curve. Certainly, I’ve had my share of setbacks. We all do. It’s not an easy and natural condition for most of us, this intentional living.
I am reminded of a scene from The Empire Strikes Back, in which Yoda describes Luke’s lack of focus. “This one a long time have I watched. All his life has he looked away to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was. What he was doing.” Focus is a major aspect of intentional living.
It is a good thing, to plan for the future and to be prepared. The inverse is, it isn’t good to ignore the present in favor of the future. If you are going through a tough time seek support and help if needed, and persevere, rather than ignoring the issue and hoping tomorrow will be better. Tomorrow can be a better day for any of us, but in my opinion it takes an intentional effort on our parts for this to come to fruition.
I enjoy listening to and reading from John C. Maxwell’s works. I’ll close with a quote from him: “Intentional living always has an idea. Unintentional living always has an excuse.” I urge you to have ideas, not excuses.