Gone KonMari crazy with a little weep

For about the last 18 months, I have been on a mission to declutter. I mean, it seems like I am always decluttering my closet (that infinite space that reproduces even more crap the minute I close the doors). But I’m more serious this time. I’m even openly attacking Mark’s clothes, albeit rarely worn dress clothing that was once worn by the much bigger man version of him. Really easy to tell him he’s absolutely NOT wearing dress clothes he wore when there was almost 40 lbs. more of him a few years ago.

My friend C told me about her volunteer job – a thrift store boutique that specializes in high quality, exceptional condition and very gently used donations. I had been in a quandary as to what to do with my stuff, because it felt like it was too nice to just drop off at my local Goodwill. I could have tried selling it online, but honestly, it does not seem worth the effort to me. If I were still doing eBay selling regularly (something I did during my last major purge a few years ago – handbags alone netted me over $2,000) I would probably be more inclined. I rarely to never even look on eBay for anything, and for clothes the FB group sales will consume my available time and generate a disproportionate amount of resentment. Nope, C’s mention of her volunteer job is a perfect solution. I do believe my donations are a close match to what they are seeking and this stuff will soon be out of my house.

So, thus far 5 large shopping bags of clothing. Due to my physical person downsizing, beloved workout capris, leggings, tops, sweatshirts, and light jackets have been neatly folded and now bagged. There are also skirts and dresses I have saved and maintained well but now find are too big for my evolving frame. I’ve also packed up some of M’s slacks, dress shirts, even ties. In another bag there are handbags, wallets, gloves, knit hats and scarves. If they accept them, I also have several pairs of worn once or twice (or not at all) running shoes waiting, plus athletic bags of various sizes that I had tucked away in a box and forgotten. I also have more dress shoes to sort out if those are something they could find useful.

A lot of stuff I have worn, loved, maintained well. It is good to pay it forward and let it go to its next owner and perhaps generate some income for a good cause.

But I am far from done with my decluttering. Next I am back in the kitchen and will be ruthlessly weeding out items we no longer use. Tomorrow, perhaps. Today was all about clothing and accessories.

I cried while doing a lot of this activity. Not at all about the items I am releasing to others so much as grieving the loss of my friend. My heart seems to shatter again each and every day. It’s hard learning to accept the finality of such change, a lesson I must learn, relearn, learn again daily. While it’s only been a week, the leaden weight is so heavy it feels like months and years.

I am grateful for any and all distractions, including going through all my stuff and seeking out that “spark joy” feeling. While I feel broken and sad inside, I am a master compartmentalizer and so much of life still sparks joy. Frequently tiny sparks build into something bigger, and in this, in the aftermath of loss, I have no choice but to be patient and wait for events to unfold. In the meantime, it gets tucked away in its box through day to day demands and responsibilities and taken out so I can bawl over a functional sun hat that I do not even like very much and am actually delighted to be shedding.

This process reminds me again that my needs and wants are actually pretty simple and continuing to filter and simplify as I mature and move along. Yep, still have a drawer full of clothes for the gym, but as it’s my new hobby-obsession, it feels relatively justifiable and almost required. The rest of my closet is FINALLY looking like I have decluttered. My business clothing closet is manageable, my supply of jeans, shorts, and weekend casual tops still quite flush with things I wear all the time. I do have my next clothing purge in the planning stages, though, because I think there are some jeans and pants from winter that will be too big this year. But when it’s hot outside, even in the comfort of my air conditioned home I do not want to be trying on flannel lined jeans, wool slacks, sweaters of any weight.

For someone who is not much of a fashion follower or clothes horse, I have a lot of clothes. Since I am not a slave to fashion or the trendy sort, pretty much everything I own has simple lines and is consider classic pieces. All good, as I believe it makes reselling relatively easy as well.

I won’t miss a single item that I have bagged or boxed for donation. I probably will not think about a single thing in any of those bags or boxes after I drop them off. But my friend has become as much a part of this home as the foundation and the house itself. I miss him terribly and I resent his death and the rollercoaster of emotions it has unleashed.

M and I went to his pod late yesterday, allowing ourselves only an hour to gather some specific, personal bequests to pack and ship to other friends. It is a bittersweet act for me, but one I take seriously and feel compelled to complete as quickly as possible. It’s written down, on a list, and I want to get it resolved as quickly as I can. I recognize the actions as something within my control, versus everything else well outside of it. Idly, I wonder how I am going to feel when the list is cleared and there is nothing left for me to do. Will I feel better? Worse? Relieved? Still angry?

Unpacking and repurposing stuff – it’s part of life, I suppose. The adventure is sorting out the emotions attached to the experiences as I move through it.

It is a challenging balance. Decluttering is good. Grief sucks.

Work is Godzilla in my life right now

For awhile there, I really thought the whole better health quest with its diet and exercise components would be the thing that took over and dismantled life as I knew it the way the giant, fire-breathing lizard used try to do to Tokyo in the old movies. Instead, I think diet and exercise have been surpassed by work. It’s just diet and exercise are easy to talk about in excruciating detail here on the blog. Work, not so much to not at all.

Lately there has been A LOT of work. Worse for me, the work is interesting and fun, challenging puzzles that capture my imagination and will not let me sleep peacefully until they are concluded. Fortunately most are short, intense projects with hard deadlines. Whereas before they used to be once or twice a month, the last couple of months they have become more once and twice per week between my part-time law firm job and my own little business. And it seems to be evolving into an addictive problem for me.

As a self-employed person, it’s hard to turn away new clients, new work, or redirect existing clients. It’s nearly impossible for me to tell people their work is too small for me to handle, so I have by systemically subcontracting them out to others I know and trust. I have been telling the clients that so they are aware that it is no longer me doing the actual work, merely reviewing it for accuracy before returning it to them. For now most are fine with that. I’m hoping by the end of each quarter to have a few more transitioned completely to my subcontractor so they can simply take over that project. These are small clients, small jobs; most take less than 6 hours per month to complete. Unfortunately the way things are going I need the hours for other, more lucrative work.

It feels risky to me. It feels like I am putting my self-employed eggs into one big basket and the engagement is not guaranteed to last for more than a year at a time. On the other hand, I have a part-time job, one that could easily transition into a full-time gig if I wish to return to those ranks. The partners at the law firm love, Love, LOVE me and give me lots of room and flexibility with my in-the-office work schedule. For me, my life and lifestyle, that is priceless. In return no matter how little I may be in the office, I stay on top of my workload and ensure I am available when needed to meet with staff and/or clients.

But setting and enforcing boundaries about work is almost impossible. I am not tired so much as frustrated that I need this much sleep and have these other rigid, cannot-be-devalued priorities. Like the exercise. And sleep. And healthier eating. And in its own way, the blog. Time with M, family, friends. These things impact my time working.

And I cannot believe I am complaining about it. But I am, after a fashion. I like what I do to earn a buck. I like the way it makes me feel. I even like the way my brain feel tired at the end of the day from processing all the stuff that had to be done, remains on the to-do lists. Perhaps I would feel more resentful or unhappy about all the extra work if I were not being paid to do it. I have been a salaried employee enough years to know when it feels as if I am being taken advantage of and asked to shoulder additional tasks and/or responsibilities because of my job classification. Not at all the case now. There are a lot of things I do, am doing for which I do not bill, but the bulk of it – yeah, I am well compensated for the work.

There are no simple solutions, and in reality I do not suppose I am seeking solutions. Because the problem, if I can even label it that way, is temporary. The tsunami of high priority rush projects will wind down by the end of June and regular life will return to its normal ebb and flow. And I suppose when talking about work and the circus-like crazy in can bring with it I want to be listened to and heard as a venting and sharing thing, not as needing advice about taking a break or needing a vacation.

Occasionally I wonder if I need to or should reprioritize the other important aspects of my life. The gym thing. The healthy eating thing. The work thing. The marriage and family things are like the operating system of my life and cannot be turned off or demoted in importance. But everything else is available for tweaking.

With the exercise, I am starting to have new questions I want to ask and yet cannot quite get my arms around the thoughts and ideas adequately to articulate them in my own head, much less out loud or in text to J. Or I am afraid to think about it too much, much less ask. My trepidation is not the answers so much as the question itself, as if I am about to jinx myself by trying to expand my understanding or change what has evolved into a better habit. Or it is possible my fragile little ego cannot handle whatever J’s reply might be to my questions. I would probably have a better sense of what is holding me back if I could get past the current block and to the heart of what I am actually thinking about and wondering. Sounds like a new kind of crazy, I know, but the more exposure I have to other ideas – whether from glossy magazine articles, blogs, podcasts, or even interacting with friends and coworkers – brings forth other scenarios to evaluate and contemplate what it might mean to me. J has done a great job of gatekeeping and helping me evaluate sources, etc. I enjoy the discussions with others about their training experiments; what they have tried, what has worked, what has been a joke or a miserable failure. I have to filter it in ways that keep it separate from me and out of the clutches of negative girl or into a tidy package that allows me to ask reasonably intelligent questions. Lately there has just been so much information coming through, and I am so busy and focused on work matters any other information I am reading or hearing about comes in and gets stuck in the processing through my head. But at least it does not make me feel bad about me and my health and fitness efforts.

Healthy eating is on the autopilot of eating the same foods, same sorts of meals right now. But again, a couple of the girls in my office are on Whole 30 and at first were chattering excitedly about the pounds lost to now when it seems that the sacrifices they are making with eating are not equaling the weight loss they are experiencing. RD and I have discussed these things, and healthy eating does not have to be that difficult. Hence my present eating of vegetables and proteins and trying very hard to be being mindful about what I am eating and when I am eating it. At the moment I do not want or need to delve too much farther off the mainstream eating track than that.

It was a long day, part of it in the law firm office, part of it meeting with a couple of my self-employment clients. All the partners and several associates were working today, many of them still there when I left at nearly 6 p.m. This does not especially surprise me; there are a couple of bigger cases coming up and the life of practicing attorneys is not that  different from the life of other professional services consultants. I am now pretty much caught up on everything work-related and prepared for whatever the coming week brings.

With the blogging and its standing as a priority in my life, I find it therapeutic and a positive experience. And my latest mission in life is to prioritize positive experiences. I have found myself getting annoyed by bloggers who are stop posting for no apparent reason and when they return they explain their absence with the “busy” excuse. Probably I should not care; I can vote with my mouse. But the thing is, I typically find that “busy” excuse annoying in general, because vast majority of us are busy with something all the time. If writing is a priority, you make time for it. If not responding to people and friends in your life is not a priority, just be honest that you attention was elsewhere and it was easier to just ignore the white noise. Particularly with other blogs, I find myself wondering why I am annoyed in the first place; not everyone lives their life or inside their own heads in the same ways I happen to do so. The blog is just another way of processing my thoughts and presenting them outside my head to move to and fro like chess pieces on the board.

After a bit of a tumultuous Friday with a couple of friends (one I referenced in yesterday’s post, another who tried valiantly to play peacemaker and kind of ground to a dismal halt, but I still appreciated the effort), I got some good advice and pep talks from others. Again, striving to prioritize positive experiences, so the pep talks and the analysis was good for me. I’m working on thickening my hide; in their own ways, even J and RD work with me on that aspect of my training. TM, well his fine handiwork could be the catalyst that caused the adverse reactions … I can hear the unanimous “you’re welcome” from my village echoing in my head. *smile*

It’s been a fabulous Saturday, all told. I took some shoes back to Nordstrom after I left the office and ended up with other shoes as well as a few new casual tops and professional blouses plus shorts for summer and capris for casual workdays … all at least a size smaller than last I bought such items. Except the shoes. Shoes are pretty much my usual size in sandals and wedges.

I love progress.

 

The “being female” premium

I have dropped some weight this year (go me!) and realized this morning that some of my clothes are too big. Mostly I can cope – that’s what belts are for, right? Plus I have a range of sizes in my closet, even after decluttering and donating a lot of my closet. Some pieces I knew I was close and I like a lot, so I kept them for this day. I still have a ways to go on my optimum health and fit babe status, but there will still be cute clothing for sale when my whole body (waistline and but in particular, though) are a size or two smaller.

However, when it comes to foundational undergarments – aka bras – I have to buy new. And I have to buy them NOW.

I have no idea how or why this happens, but it seems like they all require replacement at about the same time. If I break a single underwire in a single bra, I may as well plan on replacing all of them, because like good soldiers they will all fail inside a month. I try to spread purchases out, buy one or two at a time every few months, but it seems like when they conspire and develop pack mentality in my underwear drawer and all need to be replaced at once. Years ago I found a Wacoal style that works for me, so I tend to order a couple of them every year, and this year I may be back to both a smaller cup and band size. It was an expensive purchase in a range of sizes and testing a couple of other styles as well, but I know I won’t keep all of them and can try them on in the privacy of my own home and with various different tops and dresses.

M’s eyes about popped out of his head when he glanced over at the total of my order. I explained the method to my madness (again – we’ve been together/married a long time and this is absolutely not his first rodeo) and also pointed out the pair of red lace panties and matching bra I threw in, just because he also grouses about the nude color that dominates so much of my underwear drawer. 0Why not white, he whines routinely when doing the laundry? I have to wash these inbetween colors separately. Ummm … honey, please just leave those to me, kay? They are like bathing suits – no dryer, ever.). Slightly reassured by the pretty red things, he wandered off muttering about how tiny clothes cost so damn much money.

Hey, it’s the premium price that comes with being a woman. I’d think he would be used to it by now.

Clothing and budget ponderings

My daughter stopped by tonight to shop my closet for interview clothes. Several months of disciplined healthier eating and regular exercise has reshaped her, and she felt none of her existing interview-appropriate clothes fit well enough or were appropriate. I have clothes ranging in sizes from 8 to 16, so there were plenty of choices. After a quick browse, she went home with 3 skirts, 2 blouses, a twin set, and a dress. Since she has 2 interviews on Thursday and another potential next week, she wants to be ready and not have to drive out to my house for another outfit for additional interviews.

We had a nice, albeit brief visit while she made her choices. Unfortunately my feet are smaller than hers, so my various pumps and dress shoes will not fit. But she’s will be okay with a pair of plain black flats, assuming she does not have an opportunity to seek out a pair of simple black pumps tomorrow night after work. I am really hopeful something good comes from this latest job search adventure, because her career in veterinary medicine has grown more and more stressful and depressing as the months pass.

She was quizzing me about dry cleaning bills, of all things. Silk, cashmere, and wool are wonderful fabrics, but the dry cleaning cost drives me insane. Guess what she has in her possession right now? Yep, 3 wool or wool-blend skirts, 2 silk blouses, a cashmere twin set, and a dress that is some sort of dry-clean only material. I told her to be careful while wearing them and to rehang them after wearing and she should be able to get a few wearings out of each between cleaner visits.

While in my Professional Business Dress career period, there were cleaners where you could get things done for a couple of dollars per piece. They were not the best cleaners in the world, but on my single parent budget and supporting 3 yong children it was the best I could afford. Last summer when I took a few skirts and a couple of blouses in for dry cleaning the bill was $47, which seemed insane for 5 pieces of clothing. But I admit to not shopping around and seeking out an environmentally kinder dry cleaner. Maybe the less green cleaners are more reasonable. Either way, I tend to check labels now and stick with cotton and washable fabrics. While ironing is my most despised of household chores, it seems saner to me than dry clean only clothing. I may have to revisit this in the future, depending upon employment circumstances.

C is contemplating a pay cut to get out of her present career field and return to school to pursue a business or accounting/finance related degree. She worries about taking a step down in salary, yet I point out that she is completely changing directions. If she stayed and pursued other jobs as an RVT and took a pay cut that might be a red flag, but she is pursuing entry-level office work instead. Big difference. I assured her that once she landed a different, cleaner, office type job we could get her completely outfitted in office-appropriate attire without blowing up her budget. It’s a big difference going from scrubs every day to even business casual attire. In this I am a great coach and saavy shopper.

I have not had to think about such things myself in at least 10 years, but a quick glance at my Christmas shopping list and the items I still have bookmarked for C and for K tells me I could get her completely outfitted set for $200 or less, including shoes. While they were not be the finest or most fashionable of work clothes, they would be washable and professionally generic office attire. Which just reminded me to text her to invest in a good lint brush if she and A do not already have one. Their cats and dog all have long coats and send strays hairs off their bodies and directly toward any dark clothing like heat-seeking missiles.

On top of that visit and quickie consultation, M and I went to another Hobby Lobby farther afield and found the coveted Christmas tree bling. The original store visit did not have a complete set of what I wanted/needed, so we drove to the other side of town in search of it. Success! With these final pieces purchased, I am $2.41 under the very generous budget for tree bling and holiday decor, and I am done purposefully seeking it out. Now if I can just prevent anything too adorbs from crossing my path I will be good for another year.

Aging – dinosaurs, televisions, dress codes

Whenever I have one of those reality bites moments about getting older, 2 defining moments come to mind:

  • C, at age 7 and showing me a book she had gotten from the school library on the plesiosaurus, asking me if I had ever seen one in person. While I comfort myself that my daughter had not real concept of time at that point in life, it was rather disconcerting to imagine she thought I could possibly be that many millions of years old.
  • G, at age 4 and mesmerized by something on television, turns to me and asks if TV was invented when I was little. I replied that it had. He looked doubtful and then asked if it had picture AND sound. That it was even color TV made him say “wow!”

I have been truly fortunate with my kids, in that I have always been somewhat wise and am not getting smarter in their eyes as they mature in years themselves. There are zillions of airhead moments they love to rehash at family gatherings, but for the most part ours have been genial give-and-take parent/child relationships.

This morning my daughter called me at 8:15 to say she has an in-person interview for an office job she applied for several weeks ago and could she come by after work to raid my closet for more business-like interview clothes? Of course! Despite my best efforts at thinning my voluminous closet I still have a lot of skirts, blouses, and dresses in a fairly broad range of sizes from my own ups and downs with the scale. Some are just favorites I cannot bear to part with right now, and others are practical just-in-case choices. I am certain I have a black, gray, or navy skirt that will be suitable and a coordinating blouse or twin set to wear with it.

The job fluctuations amongst the youth in my immediate family this year has had me thinking a lot about the changes in the work place and what professional attire means anymore. I am definitely feeling my years in this realm, but I do not think I am especially stodgy or dated in my thoughts. When I was C’s age I was working for a then big-6 accounting firm, and it was frowned upon for men to leave the office without their suit jackets. While the professional dress code allowed for pant suits or slacks, I wore a dress or skirt and blouse and stockings or panty hose to work every single day. The only exception was weekends, when they only cared that you came in and worked when needed. That trend continued until about 10 years ago when I started my present job, where jeans and shirts are more the norm. The march of time and changes in dress codes is a lot of the reason why we are so relaxed about it, although our industry and client culture make it more appropriate as well.

My future son-in-law works in a casual dress code environment as well. I remember when he got the job, he was happy about being able to go to work in jeans and a t-shirt if he wished. This was during one of our family dinners, and he was wearing jeans and a Star Wars t-shirt, and I remeber saying “you can go to your office dressed like that?” There must have been something in my tone that gave away my askance at the idea, because he immediately asked me if I thought it was a bad idea. Ummm … YES. While I was not advocating a wardrobe makeover of suits, dress shirts, and ties, I did think at least khakis and a collared polo or a button-down more appropriate. And wear a belt and tuck your shirt in, please. For me. Setting a bad in-law precedent but I’m practically begging you. Or so it seems our conversation went.

I’m going to be the stodgy mother-in-law, I can already tell.

But he took my advice and has felt a lot more comfortable in his office environment. He told me that the managers and supervisors tend to wear more business casual attire, and since he like the work and hopes to be promotable, he’s working with the old dress-for-success model. The problem now is he has been steadily losing weight the last 7 or 8 months, dropping close to 30 lbs. in that time period. C has been working at it right along with him, and she too is slimmer and feeling a lot more confident. Hence the planned closet raid this evening.

Along with all that, G is also entertaining a job change, parlaying his present sports boutique retail experience into another establishment. My son is respectful, charming, observant, and attentive, and through the years has his built a steady client base of runners and parents shopping for their teenage cross country and track kids. As an aside and example, one of my proudest parent moments was several years back, about a year after G started in the retail boutique he works. A young man came in with his mother to buy a pair running shoes for cross country and was giving his mother a hard time, talking back and being rude. My son was assisting them and upon observing the young man’s disrespectful attitude, told him “you don’t talk to your mother like that, especially when she’s the one buying you $100 running shoes. Apologize now.” And apparently the kid did. I heard the story from G’s manager later that day, and I was shocked, amazed, and SO PROUD. What’s better … a couple of years later, I happened to stop in the store while G was helping a mother and son with a new pair of running shoes. The mom came up to me and told me about what my son had said and done the first time they came in for shoes, when her son was in seventh grade. A few years had passed, the surly young man was now a sophmore in high school, and they were still coming in to have G fit him for shoes every 4 to 6 months. She sang his praises about that day in the store, G telling her kid to shape up and apologize.

Basically my son is pretty good at his job. M and I have long felt that if he is going to toil in retail, perhaps his efforts would be more lucrative if he were to turn his attention to an upscale store shoe department. The possibilities certainly seem endless. Such an opportunity has presented itself, and G is considering it. However, that change requires a significant wardrobe update, and he is just like most men about wearing ties and dress shoes. But if it was part of the work uniform, surely one adjusts? The change would also be beneficial to his college pursuits, with a lot more flexible schedules and variety of hours available.

So as I am going through my holiday shopping madness, it is with these sort of step-ups in mind. M wants to be a lot more conservative, go with gift cards and let them buy what they wish, but I disagree. And since I’m the gift shopper/buyer in our family, they are getting actual gifts this year. However, he knows I am observant and have a pretty good eye for favored colors and cuts, body style and fit. I am actually feeling confident in my clothes stalking and shopping thus far. For once it feels like I have a practical purpose for Christmas gift giving, which always makes it so much more satisfying.