During a rainy afternoon snuggled in with my smartphone reading articles about zero waste and minimalist ideas, I saw one titled Stop Doing These 8 Things for Your Teen This School Year. I read through it. I agreed with it. And found myself nodding along on most everything (minus the school paperwork, I would if it would be legible and not take forever). And I got up, and took my son’s swim cap over to him.
On the walk over to his dad’s, I was begrudging the fact that the school required we purchase one to begin with. It is this rubbery plastic material, it sticks to everything, will probably someday choke some poor unsuspecting sea turtle, and there is nothing I can do about it, because he has to get a passing grade in PE. And it should be noted that he and his sister both used the same one last year (they have PE different quarters) and it will probably be passed down to the younger 2 siblings as they need it in middle school (because apparently middle school teachers don’t want kids to have wet hair? No other school required them, yet they all swim in the same pool). So anyway, the dogs finally get secured enough I can hand his stepmom the blue rubber head condom looking thing, and we get the runaway far enough back in to shut the door, and I am walking back home. Luckily a short walk because otherwise I would have been stewing on this wayyyyy too much. But I digress.
You see, I had stewed all day yesterday when I was debating going out to the camper (in the rain and storms, I decided I was more useful here) about the recent board elections at camp. My neighbor won a spot, and he seems to want all of the campsites to be meticulously manicured, the gravel raked daily, no weeds, and general consensus during this rainy weather of most everyone has been, less mosquitoes. Now I don’t know for sure that he wants to spray, but I know I’ve had to tell him no to spraying chemicals on the weeds that I forage on my own lot more than once (which now makes me a bit hesitant to forage I might add). I put on bug repellent (a lemongrass kind from the local health food store there) and go about my day. I spray a little in my diffuser so they don’t come in and the cats can go out a little bit too. And as I walked past those mosquito havens on the way back from dropping off my son’s swim cap, I hear a friend telling me to just do me. It doesn’t matter that my breasts sag. My skin is too stretchy, but its okay. I don’t wear a bra on the weekends, that’s okay too. I can’t change people not liking mosquitoes, but I can do what I can to keep them off me (and answer the million questions as to how).
It doesn’t mean that I want them gone. They actually serve a purpose. If it wasn’t for the mosquitos (and other bugs of course) there would not be enough food for the birds. Or the bats. And I like listening to the birds chirp outside my window.
It doesn’t mean that I want to cut down trees that they find homes in. I like the trees too. It doesn’t mean that I don’t care about the environment. I want to enjoy my time in the woods. I apply a non-toxic spray that helps with that, does not effect a huge portion of any population, and effectively allows me to be happier in the woods.
It isn’t the woods’ responsibility to change for me. It isn’t my responsibility to change for the neighbors. Just as it really isn’t my responsibility to take my son his swim cap…. and sometimes we just do things that are nice for someone because we know they won’t be able to do something on their own (yes, he is perfectly capable of walking over here and getting it, unfortunately he wouldn’t be allowed). So, my takeaway on this slightly brighter than earlier evening, is that we are all welcome to do things our own way. Leading by example, responding to situations the way we would want them responded to if it were us, and knowing that it is okay to be yourself are probably the best ways to start.
So I leave you with a song. A song that my daughter came home singing one day, and is a perfect illustration of how you might get if you care too much about what other people think.
Just do you.
10 years and 3 days ago when I found FlyLady on the internet, if someone had told me I just need to change a few habits I would have laughed them right back out the front door. And as it is, that is the bulk of what has changed in my life. It just happened to be the right habits I suppose. Now, I know some of you are going, but I tried that and it was just so overwhelming… and you are right. I am there again actually, so let me tell you what happened, and where I am at now.
So, 10 years ago I wasn’t really functioning. I had a 2 year old and a 2 month old, and about 6 months before I had not only just moved on my own for the first time, but subsequently gotten sick with the flu from moving on a really yucky day. Now my 2 year old got sick at the same time, but after a few days he got better. I never really did. The symptoms lingered, then changed, and as many of you may understand, never really went away. And by mid-summer my clutter and emotions had thrown up all over the new place…. imagine that.
Now, for those of you who don’t know who the FlyLady is, she teaches people how to take care of a house and declutter through online posts, and emails. Lots of them. Which is why it can be a little overwhelming. But at the same time, if you are where I was, it can be good too. See, she email reminders to do something. It might be your morning routine (which is one of the habits that stuck) so that you aren’t still in PJs at bedtime because you never got dressed. Or never brushed your teeth, or ate anything. So if you are burying yourself in a computer with email to keep from feeling the pain of doing anything, you can totally get those email reminders to work for you…. just get up and do the little things she says to do and you will get somewhere before the end of the day.
In my world though, after awhile, it was unsustainable. It got overwhelming. I made some habits. I broke some habits, and overall, the house got progressively cleaner, albeit, still very cluttered. What I needed was a hybrid. Something that helped declutter more, as well as break the habits that created the clutter. And helped clean. Well, as with most in life there is no one size fits all approach. I found that I had an understanding of habits, but as they moved and progressed and the system changed (it is pretty well back to where we started as being able to sign up for emails again, but it wasn’t at one point), that I needed to change the clutter, not just the cleaning around it.
Somewhere this became a post about how I found my habits, not about creating habits, so I will have to write again on habits soon… but Where FlyLady taught me to clean, Marie Kondo taught me to declutter. By the point I had found the Konmari method almost 8 years had gone by. My house was a disaster again, although, I had added a few more health issues and my kids had grown up quite a bit, and we still kept some modicum of peace with morning and bedtime routines. And obviously, creating a cocoon requires a reduction in available volume of a house. But the weight of stuff can be crushing too.
But the weight of stuff can be crushing too.
For those who haven’t heard of The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo it is a book written by a woman in Japan about her journey with stuff and instructions for how to declutter your own home. All at once, in about 6-12 months. Forever. Now, she just had a baby, so I’m not sure if that will change anything, but the idea I think is sound. Declutter anything that doesn’t bring you joy whether in and of itself, or through its function, and make sure everything has a home. Quickly glance through your things once or twice a year to make sure they still fit, and you never have to declutter again.
Well, the closet was easy. I had been on the Project 333 path for some time, and the kids were overwhelmed by the quantity of clothes they had. When they asked I gave them the criteria (and for my daughter I did wind up giving her a set amount of hanging space), and they quickly whittled their closets down by about half. The books were easy (although I keep finding boxes socked away in the storage areas, we don’t follow the once you do a category anything else from said category is automatically gone, mainly because at the time we had a 10×30 storage unit piled in one 13×10 room). We decluttered tons really quickly until I hit paper. And I’m still pulling paper out of places a year later. But we are getting better. We are finding things, we are discarding things, we are opening up spaces in our home as well as working through the emotional side of our hearts too. As long as we work on it a little every day, we are making progress, and every step is a step toward that point when we hit equilibrium… when stuff is not an anchor, the home is a cocoon that wraps around us as we grow in our lives.
I attended a meeting one time at the last job I was at. It was a finance meeting, one that was supposed to help employees understand and start using their benefits like the 401K. And the guy got up in front of the group, or I guess I should say he was up in front of the group since I was a little late, and he asked if we knew where to go in case of an emergency. Of course people immediately pointed to one of the two doors that would lead to stairs to go down and get out of the building. Then he walked to one door, and as he started to turn the knob, he asked what we would say if there was a fire on the other side… inevitably everyone said that they would go out the other door. But you are facing this one? And then he exaggerated having to face the other door to get there.
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. -Laozi
He went on to explain finances are like the path to safety. You will go in the direction that your feet are pointing. If you don’t want to go to the place in front of your feet, you need to turn and start heading to the place you want. If you are facing up that staircase, guess what? You are going to go up that staircase when you take a step. If you are facing down that staircase, again, that is where you will end up. My journey is one of sustainability. Of balance. Of being all the things that I want to be, but not losing myself in any one thing that I am. I want to find that sweet spot in the center. Join me. I don’t want to be lonely there, hopefully you don’t either.
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