Last night M and I went to a client celebratory dinner event. It was a casino/carnival themed thing with free-flowing drinks and a pretty yummy salad and vegetables for dinner. My tastebuds of your average 4 year old do not eat salmon, so M had my entree and I ate his vegetables and my own. Our raffle tickets brought us gift cards for local restaurants, a couple of which we will actually use and the other handed off to an appreciative trainer J. I like the way they are doing these things lately – gift cards are in sealed envelopes and you don’t know what you’ve won until you actually open the envelope.
But chatting with people we were seated with was interesting and fun. One of the ladies also works in accounting and we got to talking about the sheer volume of paper that crosses our desks and take up residency in our homes and offices. Through the years I have been trying very hard to evolve into a less paper-filled environment, although it is much like rearranging deck chairs on the titanic as it slowly sinks. A much as humanly possible I have things emailed or delivered electronically, paid via electronic payments, and essentially cut as much paper files as possible. Despite that, I still have piles of paper everywhere on my desk and in my office at work so it remains very much an uphill battle. There are a lot of things I simply must retain hard copies of (contracts, agreements, even certain type of invoices) for a specified period of time.
My new acquaintance from dinner last night is to quite as far along as I am in the scanning and shredding process and was intrigued by how I got there. It made me stop and think about it, because in truth I do not perceive myself as being that far along in the process. One of the benefits of being around young folks who are a lot more tech savvy and have not matured in an environment where paper files kept forever is the norm is that I learn a lot of new things from them, including how to make better use of the technology tools available to me. Strangely, she had never heard of dropbox and was kind of excited to imagine the possibility of not carting around a flash drive to carry files, etc.
But then she pulled out this super sized handbag packed to overflowing with stuff and I wondered about how she manages her life. I mean, I have a work tote that houses my laptop and/or iPad during the week, a water bottle, emergency food stuff, my glucose meter, pens and tablet, sunglasses, and anything else I might need during the day. My actual purse, however, is a tiny little thing that has money, credit cards, keys, and phone, and maybe a few kleenex. Unless I’m going somewhere that I need all the other crap I carry, work bag stays in my office or in my car.
Handbags are loose harbingers of what and how another woman thinks. Same thing with a man’s wallet and what he carries in his pockets. M, for example, used to have a wallet so thick that I worried about what sitting on it was doing to the alignment of his spine and his pockets would have all sorts of mandatory, must have crap. These days the wallet has been thinned down to something fit for a minimalist, and his pocket junk is primarily things he uses all the time. Seeing this woman’s stuffed handbag, I was actually marveling at how she managed to carry such a volume of stuff around regularly. I mean, it was obviously her everyday bag, not something specifically packed for a social occasion. If I were to carry about something like that, I’m not sure I would have the ongoing shrugging issues I do in the gym. I would either have amazingly strong arms and shoulders or I would be crippled under the daily weight of lugging about my purse.
Conversation with this woman led me to believe her mind and thinking can be as disorganized and overflowing as her personal belongings. I remember being more like that myself when about her age (mid-30s, I’m guessing) and with children to manage and raise. Hopefully her process will evolve and shed some of the extra stuff she’s burdened herself with to alleviate her anxiety and insecurity. I suppose it takes one, even a recovering one like me, to recognize kin in the negative girl tribe.
When it comes to work-work, I do not do well with piles of paper and clutter everywhere, and I have a rule that everything coming into my office be placed in my inbox, never on my desk. Because all too often either my desk has working piles covering it completely or it’s very stark and clean (and the working piles are in my credenza for when I return to get started once again).
But cleaning up the week Friday and shredding, filing, sorting and organizing into the working piles today as I do most days I go to the office, I was feeling mildly victorious for how much progress I have made in the last year. My predecessor was a pack rat and insisted upon hard copies of everything. The 6 file cabinets he maintained crammed full of accounting records and the 150+ boxes he had stored offsite have been whittled down to 3 active cabinets and 12 boxes in storage. Everything in the file cabinets has been scanned and archived offsite, the old records shredded. The remaining boxes in offsite storage will be shredded as the retention period expires in the next few years.
My own business records that I maintain at home are organized very differently, and I keep very little as far as paper records. Everything is scanned and stored electronically, and I find it make my ability to work from home sustainable.
Unfortunately, I do not seem to be quite so on-the-ball with the rest of my life. But I am starting to turn my organizing focus and flexing my get-serious-about-getting-rid-of-crap muscles.
For the first time in several weeks, I have just a few hours of work this weekend and then plan to be rolling up my sleeves and working on the guest room and the office. Right now the guest bed is covered in clothes and other stuff that is destined for trash or donation. There are still boxes from when we last moved (almost 5 years ago now) and those must be investigated and the contents disposed of properly somewhere.
The clutter and busy pacing of the last several weeks leaks out in the strangest of ways. Friday I woke up on time for the gym and felt rested, but mind was flat and resistant to getting up and getting going. So I got off to a late start and could tell my head was not in the game, resulting in a weak-assed List performance yesterday. After last night, which was overall a pleasant evening yet still work for me, I wrote up my to-do list for the weekend and felt so much better, slept so much better knowing I have a plan in place to conquer to the shit that’s mucking up my zen.
I came roaring back this morning. I was well-rested and awake and up at 5, well before my 6 a.m. weekend alarm. My gym opens at 7 on the weekends, and I was walking through doors shortly after that for my practice. K and I had made plans to attending the 10 a.m. hot yoga class together – she’s considering a membership at my studio and wanted to try a class today – so I was very intent, focused, and efficient in gym practice with my List today. And it was so AWESOME! I am typically very critical of my own efforts, and while I was tweaking and slowing down to ensure I was following/feeling the cues with each exercise today, I feel really great about the work and overall performance. After that I raced home to shower off the sweaty and gross from the gym so I could go to the yoga studio and get freshly sweaty and gross in yoga. It was fun to go with K – her bendy is so much more than my own.
Funny how the zoom-zoom-zoom of my life does not impact me at all if I know there is a method to my madness.
I’ve been primarily dealing with the low-hanging fruit – clothes and other personal items that no longer fit or that I rarely utilize. A goal for this weekend is to go through my gym and yoga clothes drawers and sort out what does not annoy me and keep that and put everything else into a 30-day box. If I find it still annoys me in 30 days, the box gets donated. Clothes that annoy me is my final evaluation criteria for dealing with things that I once loved, still kind of like, and that fit well or at least well enough. Just lately here, sleeves on my gym t-shirts are distracting me to the point that I want to borrow scissors and cut them off in the locker room. Since I have a fair number of gym t-shirts and probably 98% of them fall into the annoying category, this is not a small cakes purge.
But in my general disorganized state, I found a gift cards for both Zappos.com and Amazon that I received last Christmas. Ugh. Somehow I had tucked them away in my holiday wrapping box, found them a couple of weeks ago when I was wrapping a couple of gifts, and then promptly forgot about them again until earlier this week.
Amazon card has been loaded to my account and new brands of workout attire purchased to try. There were Zappos.com boxes with potential replacement gym apparel waiting when I got home last night. Happy mail at its finest.
Excuses for canceling appointments with J or bailing on gym practices because I have nothing to wear will not become a reality. I do have a few dual-purpose yoga tops that will suffice in the interim until replacement shirts are secured. Anymore I just hate going out to shop, and online shopping is an experiment in patience, ordering multiple sizes of the same things, and being really shocked at the reality of ugly colors that looked so pretty online. Gotta love sites that offer free shipping on both deliveries and returns.
M – yes, not a typo, the fabulous husband-unit M – wants to go to Ikea. Truth be told he’s been wanting to go for a couple of months, because my dresser is falling apart and I think he’s (1) tired of trying to glue it back together every couple of weeks, and (2) really tired of wrangling with one drawer that essentially refuses to open when he’s putting the folded clothes away. But no, it’s not my dresser that has him all a-flutter to go functional furniture shopping; it’s a particular beaker-like measuring cup that he broke a year or more ago that he has pined for ever since. Previous visits to Ikea and it’s not in stock, but hope springs eternal.
Yep, we’re long past college age and still have dressers from Ikea. The 2 dressers (matched set – one goes, the other has to follow) we are hoping to replace are probably at least 10 years old and have served us well for the $90 we spent on it. IF we could find something nicer that we both agree on (our tastes are very different), we’d happily buy it. But our efforts to furniture shop have been largely unsuccessful. There was the dining room set a couple of years ago that didn’t work out – table could not be attached to the base without drilling new or expanding existing holes, and if we’re spending $4000 on a dining room table and chairs, it should be perfect out of the box. We both still mourn that purchase; we loved that set. But we found the dining room set while shopping for bedroom furniture, because if we’re in a furniture store, might as well look at everything – just in case. Since we didn’t find dressers we both liked then and have really no inclination to furniture shop now, Ikea works for us. It provides functional pieces that hold our clothes and stuff until something better crosses our radar. But not gonna lie – that store is a major time-suck when we have not been in there in a few months. Essentially there is really nothing new, but the displays are fascinating and we will remodel our kitchen at some point and love looking at the models, even if the vast majority is not to our particular taste.
So all that was earlier, prepping to go out and get our shop on. Here I am, 8 hours later and finally finishing this post. We did indeed go to Ikea, and we did find the beaker-like measuring cup and a couple of other odds and ends. The very plain dresser we are considering is indeed very plain, like stuff it in a closet plain, but it would hold our clothes and such nicely. Of it was not in stock until next week, so we have time to think about it. In the meantime, we went to a local economy furniture store and found nothing we liked or that was functional and then to a higher end furniture store and fell hard for a dining room table and chairs. But … no go. Honestly, this minimizing stuff cuts both ways. I don’t really want to drop several thousand dollars on a lovely dining room set only to find I downsize myself out of it at some point into the future. M will start haunting the used market to see if we can find something agreeable for us.
As for dressers and bedroom furnishings, there were some lovely, mostly imperfectly sized items. The stuff we like is terribly, prohibitively expensive for the one piece we feel we need plus all the rest of the crap we’d end up buying to match. Honestly, for 10% of the one we liked most we have a functional piece from Ikea that holds our clothes and such just as well. If and when we choose to sell here and move somewhere potentially smaller, I would have no problem putting a mint condition Ikea dresser on the curb with a FREE sign attached. The entire bedroom suite of furniture we’d end up buying? Umm, no. Just no. Again, M will be dispatched to scour the used market if it starts to feel like a desperate need to have adultier-adulting bedroom furniture to hold our clothes.
And besides, if I stay on my present decluttering kick, I won’t need as many drawers or as many clothing, shoes, stuff depositories. Family dinners and meals with friends taste just as good seated at our trusty folding table, with tablecloth, and folding chairs. We are informal people; we certainly do not need a expensive, formal furnishings.
Still, it was fun to look. It was fun to dream a little dream. But it’s even better coming to our senses and realizing what we need and truly want is not new furniture, not right now, quite possibly not ever. Today, realizing again that we have more than enough, is more than enough to make me happy this Saturday.
It’s a good place to be any day of the week.