Wednesday, January 20, 2010

So, What Gives?

If you've been following my updates on Facebook, you'll have seen that I started on a real cleaning tear just before Christmas and it has only continued. To date, I've culled something like 165 books from my shelves, scrubbed and vacuumed and dusted and polished, Freecycled like a maniac. Why?

2010. New decade. New start. As I've said in the past month's blogs, I learned a lot about myself in the past year, and if I go back to 2008, look out, I learned a TON. I have a huge capacity for joy, forgiveness, and hurt. I have somehow come to find myself surrounded by the highest caliber people I could imagine and am fortunate to call them 'friends'. I watch a lot of TV focused on cleaning up, homes and lives both: Hoarders, Clean House, How Clean is Your House, etc. One sentiment came up on a recent episode of Clean House and on several episodes of Hoarders: How you feel on the inside is reflected in how you live on the outside.

On the inside, I often feel confused and at loose ends. In a good way, I have the freedom right now to do a lot of decision making and forward planning for my life. Recently, I've become extremely introspective. And there are some things I've concluded.

I am never going to be a famous book blogger, or even a good book blogger. That is Lesley's role. I am never going to be a great teacher or a fantastic lawyer, that is left to Sara, Melissa, and Elizabeth. I'm not going to be a famous cake maker, I leave that to Amy. I'm never going to be wildly successful with Weight Watchers, I leave that to Annette. I'm never going to run a marathon, heck, I'm not even going to attmept it, I leave that to Sarah. I'm never going to have a hobby about which I know every minute detail, I leave that to Russell. I'm never going to be crazy into music or a great seamstress. I may never finish my book, and I may never be a published writer, and I certainly won't be a prolific writer regardless of what happens. I leave last areas to other friends. I was not a straight-A student, although I came close more than once, because being active in my school was as important to me as academics were. I don't have a cool job traveling all over the world, my Facebook status is overrun with comments about teething, diapers, drool, spit up, housekeeping, while I have friends whose statuses (stati?) talk about the Parthenon, London, Rome, Africa, Broadway, California.

I'm not the world's best daughter or sister or wife or mother (although admittedly, I think I'm doing a damned good job at mothering and wifing and I am choosing to leave sistering and daughtering in God's hands at this point). I try to be a good friend, I aspire to be a great friend, to those who need or want my company. I hope to be a warm and inviting hostess. I hope I have created a home atmosphere that makes you want to sink into the couch with a warm cup of cocoa and feel completely at ease. It's how it makes me feel.

I am the epitome of the phrase "Jack of all trades, master of none." I like doing many things, and I'm good at doing many things, but I'm not amazing at any of them. Crafting, reading, cooking, homemaking, organizing, event planning, heck even tour guiding, I can do it all, and have, and have done it well, but I'm not a specialist in anything. I don't even think I was all that great at my 9-5 job when I was working. I did a good job, no more or less than was expected, I hope I helped people, and I went home at night just the same as anyone else.

In short, I am distressingly average. And just writing that makes me giggle.

So the cleaning has been to help me cull out a lot of the "stuff" being a jack of all trades entails. I have things I've accumulated thinking, "Oh, this would make a great project!" and then I never did anything with the ideas or the items. For instance, when I was growing up, my parents used a set of china that had blue roses on them. A few years ago, I saw a craft project in which you take a large photo, crop it in a circle and decoupage it onto a plate to use as a display piece. Easy enough and wouldn't they make great Christmas presents for my family?! So I went on Ebay and ordered the exact same blue rose plates we grew up using. And they are still sitting in the box in my scary closet. Looking at them made me sad. And I talked myself out of the project thinking everyone else would either be sad or would think it was stupid or not care about those blue rose plates.

The books. I have tons of books from the last 4 or 5 years of collecting, I guess since we moved to this house. I suppose my thought process was something to do with my friends who were readers would be impressed with the number of books I had hanging around. And that I would someday get around to reading them all. Well, I am quite sure that none of them is going to like me 165-books-worth-less now that I've gotten rid of that many books. But there used to be a part of me that believed that the more books I had, the more people would like me if they were readers. I need to give people slightly more credit than that.

The biggie is that I've been culling out my Princess Diana, Jackie O, and Princess Grace items. Why? Well, for one thing, again on Clean House, they pointed out that a collection only has value if someone is willing to pay for it. Many things I was holding onto only because I hoped that someday they would have monetary value. But honestly, is anyone going to pay for the TV section of the Watertown Daily Times just because it happens to have Diana's picture on it? No. They are not. There was a time all the Diana stuff brought me a lot of joy. I am increasingly finding that it is just taking up space and making me cranky. So I found someone in Fredericksburg who is a big fan, and I shuffled off everything I no longer wanted or that I felt would be of no or little value. One hard thing to decide was the Royal Diana "barbie doll" things I had. They were so unappealing, honestly, but they are selling on Ebay right now for $20. And I had 4 of them. But just the idea of hanging onto them in the hope that someday I might get around to putting them up for sale was depressing me. So Michael decided for me that I'd give them to the lady to whom I was giving everything else. And you know what? I have not regretted it for a minute. There was a time and a place and a reason I bought and collected all those items, but those reasons, times, and places have passed. I kept the things I still want and to an extent feel I "need", and all the rest is gone or in the process of going.

As for Jackie and Grace, well, I feel as if I only have room for one princess in my life right now, and they have both lost. Princess Grace is entirely gone, I've kept 3 books on Jackie, and a book I had signed by her daughter when I met her at the now-defunct Olson's Books a few years ago. I will probably sell off my Jackie O bride doll and wipe the slate clean. No more tragic heroines need apply.

This spring I will have a big yard sale and unload things that are bogging down the house and my life. I want to simplify and feel free. For a long while, my house became a dumping ground for unwanted furniture, family keepsakes, and my own sentimental holding onto of bric-a-brac. Thank you kindly, but I think I'm fine. Please don't buy me any more books, any more angels, any more "stuff". I want to unclutter and unfetter.

And I will quit buying. If this experience with the books has taught me anything it's that if I am not going to read something immediately or in the very short term future, I shouldn't purchase the book to begin with. 6 months or a year from now, I may not have any interest in that book and there would be no point in wasting a PBS credit or money on it. Ditto stuff for projects. I have had those blue plates for 3 years minimum and have never done a thing with them. I have unopened packages of Christmas ornaments that I bought and never made. I have empty scrapbooks sitting on my shelves and tons of papers and stickers and so forth in my craft cabinet. When I get ideas, I'd like to sit on them for a while and see if they really take hold or if it's a passing fancy. My dad dated a woman who shared a love of rubber stamping with me. I now have an entire drawer full of rubber stamps that I haven't used since I lived in Centreville. They were expensive, the inks and cards were expensive and the results looked like a project a 7 year old could have done. I don't want to invest in things that I can't be proud of.

So that's a bit of where I'm coming from. I've shed a few tears over things I've gotten rid of, but I feel so great, I can't help but know it's the right move. It makes me happy to see organized shelves, and things put away and know that there aren't other things stashed in and around and amongst it. I am keeping on top of my chores, so that even though I know my in-laws are due on Saturday, for once I'm not in a total panic about cleaning the house in preparation for their arrival. I've put into practice something the wonderful Dr. Kevin suggested, which is do what I have to do first so I can do what I want to do without worrying about the have-to's later. The amount of stress this has erased from my life is astounding. Bedtimes I am no longer racing around trying to get lunch packed for Michael and get Leah's bottles ready before I can go upstairs and climb into bed with a book for a few minutes and then fall asleep. I just calmly go upstairs and everything's done. I no longer look at piles of clothes to be put away, and clothes to be picked up, and see the dust on the furniture, and think "Crap I am so behind!" The FLY Lady system is seeing to it that it's all done. Even with having been gone a week, I caught up on one of the two zones I missed out on by doing it today and I'll do the other tomorrow. The 15 minute timer is my new friend. I really can get things done in 15 minutes. And having put in the work on the first week makes the subsequent weeks that much easier.

I don't have all the answers, and I don't have it altogether yet, but I'm getting there. Slowly but surely, I'm getting it done.

7 pearl(s) of wisdom:

Melissa said...

Stampin' Up? I fell into that trap too...I also have drawer with several hundreds of $ worth of stamps I haven't used in over a decade. I too can't make anything worthy of anything with them.

I'm very impressed with your de-cluttering. I need to do the same!

Emtifah said...

ok - let's see if I can write my thoughts in English.

Love this post, although I think you are selling yourself short.

I think you are very awesome at inspiring people - and that is not a trait that many people are good at.

Also - I will trade you a rolling pin for some stamps. I'm getting into card making. I had so much fun with it at Christmas. It was also cathartic for me.

Talmadge Gleck said...

You're hardly average. Trust me on that. Emily's right - you're selling yourself short. Very short.

You're a great friend to all of us. And most of all, a beyond-wonderful wife and mother. And even if you don't feel as you have your "perfect" niche, you're awesome as you are.

De-cluttering ... we did a good job of that back in November. We still have a ways to go, truly a work in progress.

Gawd, this all sounds so trite. I hope you know it comes from the heart.

Kate/Susan said...

Please don't misunderstand me, everyone, I'm not throwing myself a pity party, I'm just getting comfortable in my own skin. But your comments are very nice :-)

Jasper John R. said...

If you're interested in a C title, I'd be happy to LOAN you a copy of my self-published "CHURCH 10●19●62". It's an alternative future history keying off the Cuban Missile Crisis. (Bet you'll never forget that historical date now!)

A summary might pique your interest:

An alternative future history. What might have been? If Nikta hadn't blinked. If children were allowed to "be all that they could be". If adults didn't waste their time and attention on memes and paradigms that are insanity. If I'd known. Shoulda, coulda, and woulda! The human race's millstone -- obsolete thinking. Here's what I think might have been possible.

Cindy said...

I'm addicted to Hoarders as well. I believe my parents, and Jeff's Dad to be a hoarder. Tho, I think my parents would throw stuff away, they aren't attached to it. But still, they keep everything.

One thing I've learned from watching those shows - Clean Sweep being my first organization show- is that you don't have to keep the physical item, to keep the memory. Take a picture of it if it is too hard to give away without anything to "hold" on to.

When I cleaned out my office a few months ago to create a playroom, I got rid of a lot of stuff I had been holding on to. It's like, when you have the space, why not?

I'd love to plop myself on your front lawn and yard sale with you. Our subdivision is having a sale in May, so you can plop yourself on my front lawn. Whatever doesn't sell, is going to GoodWill. I just want it out.

Elizabeth said...

A list of things you're not is going to be a long one, no matter who you are. I know, because I've got a list like that, too!

But, Susan, it's not what you do but who you are that makes people love you so. And we do. :)

Distressingly average, my foot. :)