Category Archives: Priorities

How am I doing?

People who know how much I love this house ask me how I’m holding up under the impending sale and move (of my stuff) into a storage unit.

Surprisingly, astonishingly even, FINE. I’ve been too busy to get emotional – or something like that. It’s been a process that I’ve thought about for a few years and began actively working on this summer. At this point the edge has softened and it’s just WORK.

The endlessness of the work and the logistical organizing of what needs to be done when is the most stressful. I am not good in the logistics department, so I’ve been fortunate to have friends and family members talk me down and through some mental tangles.

Once you start getting rid of stuff, and once you realize how little other people value your stuff when you try to sell it, it begins to lose value in your own eyes. It becomes, well, STUFF.

After my mini-sabbatical in California after the house closes on 12/11 I’ll be back in town, staying with dear friends, taking my time to figure out what’s next.

What’s clear is that my friends and family are my greatest treasures. All else is just STUFF.

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Filed under Attachment - Vairagya, Downsizing, Emotional issues, Envisioning a simpler life, Getting organized, Inspiration & encouragement, Priorities, Selling stuff, Spiritual lessons

Bad neighbors – real estate bummer

My front yard - from the driveway

My front yard - from the driveway

I have a pretty home in a nice neighborhood close enough to town to be convenient but far enough out to be quiet.  The houses are attractive, owner-occupied, with well-kept yards.

Except for two houses.
The two houses on either side of my little piece of heaven.
They are shitheaps.

They are shitheaps owned by absentee landlords who don’t give a shit as long as the rent comes in. Both yards are overgrown with noxious weeds as high as my waist.  These weeds blow and crawl down from the uphill shitheap, and they creep over and under the fence from the downhill shitheap.

Living here, it’s a constant battle against their blackberry vines, thistles and dandelions that migrate into my yard. It also reflects badly on home values in the neighborhood – most especially MINE.

The uphill shitheap (US, for short) situation may improve, because the landlord had a stroke and his business partner plans to clean it up and sell it (one dumpster load gone so far…).

The downhill shitheap (DS) was owned by a sweet retired schoolteacher when I moved in seven years ago, and she took great pride in her garden. But within that first year she died and her daughter and son-in-law, who live in 3 hours away in Seattle, turned it over to their two adult children.

Downhill Shitheap - blackberry choked driveway

Downhill Shitheap - blackberry choked driveway

When I stopped by and asked the older daughter if they could please deal with the weeds, she snapped, “Talk to the landlord… that’s his job”.  So last night I called Dad in Seattle, who was extremely rude. When I suggested that they hire someone to take care of the weeds, he snapped, “I’ve got better things to do with my money…

Perhaps if Mom and Dad lived next door they’d insist the kids “pick up their rooms”, but they’re Christian missionaries – too busy evangelizing to notice that Jesus’ neighborliness message isn’t getting through.

My own house has lots of curb appeal.  The question is how can I enhance the curb appeal of my neighbors’ homes?  Either I distribute blinkers to potential buyers, so they don’t notice the slobs that surround me, or I fork out some of my own money to help them clean up their yards (and I’m not even a Christian).   Grrrrrrr.

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Filed under Emotional issues, Gardening/plants, Priorities

Possessed by possessions: are you the owner or the owned?

“Things are in the saddle and ride mankind.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

You remember the thrill of the hunt for a new possession? You hear about a cool new gizmo. You think “I need to get me one of those…”

So you do the google hunt, find the best price, type out your credit card number and drag that sucker home.

You wear, sit on, look at, or labor-save with the new possession, feeling quite smug about your excellent taste. Your friends may even envy you a little for getting this new possession.

Time passes. More gizmos and whatchamacallits enter your life. Some of them break. You get bored with others.

One day you wake up and realize you’ve been possessed. Your possessions have taken over your life and now they own you!

You’re exhausted trying to keep them dusted, repaired, organized, and their batteries charged. You’ve lost crucial parts, operating manuals. And who are those people with granny glasses and bell-bottom trousers  in the yellowing photographs?

You can’t find the one thing you really need.

Then the kids leave home, your retirement fund collapses and you need to make some major adjustments to your lifestyle.

Bye bye acquiring, hello downsizing.

Even though I live relatively clutter-free, I’ll be rattling around a 3,000 sq. ft house alone when my last child leaves next month. I can no longer afford to maintain a place this big – and indeed, even if I could afford to, I don’t want to be tied down by so much stuff, so much responsibility.

I want to take back my life from my possessions.

I want to sell this place and find some place no more than half this size…

Which means that HALF my possessions need to GO.

If you’ve done this or are doing this, let me hear from you!Advice, moral support and tips from your own experience always welcome. Maybe you’ve got ideas about selling art? antiques? Dealing with boxes of photos, big honking scrapbooks.

Together we can do this.

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Filed under 101 Reasons to Downsize, Back Story, Downsizing, Priorities

Consumerism is passé

James Kunstler says it’s time to pucker our purses. Put down those precious pearls. Hands off the purple Prada pocketbook. And for god’s sake don’t purchase more plastic.

Say goodbye to the “consumer society.” We’re done with that. No more fast money and no more credit. The next stop is “yard-sale nation,” in which all the plastic crapola accumulated over the past fifty years is sorted out for residual value and, if still working, sold for a fraction of its original sticker price. This includes everything from Humvees to Hello Kitty charm bracelets.

It will be a very salutary thing if we stop even referring to ourselves as “consumers.” This degrading moniker, used for decades unthinkingly by everyone from The New York Times Nobel Prize pundits to the Econ 101 section men of the land-grant diploma mills has been such a drag on our collective development that it has extinguished the last latent flickers of duty, obligation, and responsibility for the greater good in a republic of broken communities shattered by Wal-Marts.

Kunstler is right. It’s high time we the people were called “people” or “citizens” instead of “consumers”.  The first step in changing our behavior is changing our thinking and language. I’d much rather be known as a citizen, which implies an awareness of and participation in the society around me.

We do have lives beyond the shopping mall, don’t we??  Lives of meaning even: we’re parents, children, workers, savers, helpers, voters…

Time to reclaim our humanity.

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Forget New Year’s Resolutions; pick a “theme”

I gave up making New Year’s resolutions a long time ago, because they were inevitably doomed to failure. Instead I’ve picked a THEME for the year – a word or phrase that indicates a path, focus, attitude, or way of being to attend to.

Last year was  “Completion.”  I’m embarrassed to say that I’d forgotten completely about that theme until I just read it in my journal entry for New Year’s Day 2008. Obviously I never figured out how to keep the idea in front of me!

I’m trying again this year and have picked “Now is the Time!”  — for several reasons:

  • Time is precious!! No, I really MEAN IT. And it’s quickly slipping through my fingers. Do I want to spend it dealing with my STUFF??? or living my one precious life…
  • The present moment is all there is and I want to be present for it.
  • Dithering on decisions COSTS energy – especially decisions as minor as to whether to keep or toss a piece of paper.

  • After dithering about finalizing the divorce for SEVEN years of legal separation, NOW IS THE TIME to complete it.

The question is: How do you keep a mantra up front in the brain several times a day for a year?  What will remind me that NOW IS THE TIME?

Jonathan Mead, guest poster on Zen Habits suggests that you set up some kind of environmental trigger – sitting in a certain chair, massaging your temples or changing your breathing. He also notes that it helps to engineer the attentional feng shui of your room – looking at your space and see what kind of triggers it sets off in you. Are they reinforcing your passions and your goals?

I should probably put a pillowcase over my monitor (or turn it off) for much of the day, because the activity on the screen sucks me into the internet vortex and suddenly it’s too late to do the downsizing project of the day.

My current reminder plan is to say out loud “NOW IS THE TIME!”  whenever I write the date on a check or a time on my calendar  Hopefully that will remind me to breathe deeply and ask myself, “what’s happening right now?” and “what should be happening right now?”

NOW IS THE TIME!

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Filed under Inspiration & encouragement, Priorities

Procrastination

Procrastination: putting off intentionally something that should be done,
from the Latin, pro (forward) and crastinus (of tomorrow)

Ben Zimmer at Slate.com says

How fitting that the word is lengthy and Latinate, taking its time to reach a conclusion. Alcoholics Anonymous founder Bill Wilson once wrote that procrastination is “really sloth in five syllables.” And yet the word denotes so much more than mere sloth or indolence: A procrastinator meticulously organizing a sock drawer or an iTunes library can’t exactly be accused of laziness. Likewise, procrastination is not simply the act of deferral or postponement. It implies an intentional avoidance of important tasks, putting off unpleasant responsibilities that one knows should be taken care of right away and setting them on the back burner for another day.

Noting Ben Franklin’s dictum “never put off until tomorrow what should be done today,” Zimmer reminds us of MarkTwain’s response: “Never put off until tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow.”

Which brings us to another great P-word perendinate, meaning “to put something off until the day after tomorrow.”

And – picture stories being worth 1000 textual declamations -join me in procrastinating a minute longer with cartoonist Lev Yilmaz. Laugh while you wince in self-recognition.

One of the main reasons I started this blog was to explore the P words that pave my path to Perfection. Procrastination is one of those words, and yet I’ve posted 60 entries on this blog without touching upon this pimple on the ass of Progress.

When I was preparing for a party last week, I reorganized a couple of kitchen cabinets, gathered a box of books for the second-hand store, and hung a bunch of pictures. Today, in preparation for an appointment with my divorce* attorney, I’m writing in my blog about procrastination.

John Perry, a Stanford philosophy professor whose public radio show Philosophy Talk is a favorite of mine, calls this “structured procrastination.”

I have discovered an amazing strategy that converts procrastinators into effective human beings, respected and admired for all that they can accomplish and the good use they make of time. All procrastinators put off things they have to do. Structured procrastination is the art of making this bad trait work for you. The key idea is that procrastinating does not mean doing absolutely nothing. Procrastinators seldom do absolutely nothing; they do marginally useful things, like gardening or sharpening pencils or making a diagram of how they will reorganize their files when they get around to it. Why does the procrastinator do these things? Because they are a way of not doing something more important. If all the procrastinator had left to do was to sharpen some pencils, no force on earth could get him do it. However, the procrastinator can be motivated to do difficult, timely and important tasks, as long as these tasks are a way of not doing something more important.

Structured procrastination means shaping the structure of the tasks one has to do in a way that exploits this fact. The list of tasks one has in mind will be ordered by importance. Tasks that seem most urgent and important are on top. But there are also worthwhile tasks to perform lower down on the list. Doing these tasks becomes a way of not doing the things higher up on the list. With this sort of appropriate task structure, the procrastinator becomes a useful citizen. Indeed, the procrastinator can even acquire, as I have, a reputation for getting a lot done.

Ah. I feel better now.

*Divorce – I’ve been separated for 7 years from my almost ex, but we have yet to finalize it. This gives you some sense of my capacity for procrastination.

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Priorities – what’s really important?

Priority: a preferential rating- especially one that allocates rights to something in limited supply; something given or meriting attention before competing alternatives

Yesterday I watched a video of the dying professor who looks so good, Randy Pausch, give one of his “last lectures” on time management at University of Virginia. He is a man who has the unenviable perspective of knowing that his days are numbered. (I know, I know. All our days are numbered, but we think our death will be decades or eons from now.)

Time is the most precious gift we have, he says. We must remember this. Over and over and over. Once a moment has passed, it’s gone forever.

I didn’t listen to the whole lecture, so I don’t know if he touches upon the Eckhart Tolle (Buddhist, Taoist, etc etc) mantra of being present to THIS moment instead of clinging to the past or fretting about the future.

But he did talk about setting priorities. What’s important? Why am I doing this? Does this matter? Is it on purpose?

I don’t know about you, but I find it pathetically easy to get lost in trivial pursuits. Reading stories in the news that are unimportant and have no bearing on my life. Rambling thru internet searches that are fascinating and purposeless. Phone calls that chit-chat on an on about nothing in particular. Meetings for the sake of meeting.

The other issue is that I complicate my life with more than an underfunded single woman past middle age can handle on her own:

  • A 3,000 sq ft home that needs cleaning, organizing, beautifying and occasional fixing
  • A 1/3 acre yard/garden that needs weeding, trimming, feeding, watering, re-organizing and occasional fixing.
  • A mind that is hungry for new learning and new experiences – and therefore continuously thinks up new projects to sink into.
  • A soul that is hungry for music, dance, beauty, connection, color, flowers, love.
  • Friends and family I love dearly – some of whom can only be visited by airplane.

I can’t do everything to my high standards. I probably can’t even do half of everything to my standards. Where do I cut back? What is my highest priority? What is the highest and best use of my time?

Since I’ve been a feng shui consultant I’ve become especially sensitive to clutter in my own home and have gotten rid of a lot of it. But what is left is still always talking to me: use me, put me away, fix me, spend time with me.

If I want to focus on priorities I need to majorly downsize. Or find a partner with whom to share the bounty and the work… It’s time to make downsizing a Project – a goal with specific steps.

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Filed under Downsizing, Priorities, Spiritual lessons