You can't let go and hang on at the same time
A couple of weeks ago, a construction worker next door (they are completely gutting and remodeling the house) started to toss a big whiteboard into a way bigger trash bin. That trash bin/trailer thing has been making a mess of our parking for months and has a bunch of other stories attached to it but I'll save those for another blog.
The scrounge in me comes equipped with a possible" good thing" detector and also has a siren alert that activates when I'm within range of said "good thing."
When you are busy decluttering your life and you have just loaded your car with
thrift store donations (for the 2nd time that day because they wouldn't all fit for the first run), you would think it would be easy to ignore the possible "good thing" and get in the car, fast. You would think.....
He had already put it over the at least six-foot high edge of the trash bin (I said it was big) and I wasn't even sure yet what it was or if I wanted it. But, yes, I did ask him to get it out of the bin and let me make that decision, based on real evidence of its condition and usefulness, of course. Even after he kindly crawled into the bin and retrieved it for me, I still wasn't sure I wanted it. It was a huge and heavy 4 ft x 5 ft. whiteboard, with someone's workout schedule penned on it. Based on the condition of that house before the remodeling started, i suspect that fitness program didn't work out very well. But I felt guilty for asking him to do that. (Later I gave him a bottle of cold water to help dilute my guilt.)
It would have been some sort of abuse or at least just wrong to ask the poor man to put it back in the bin because I didn't want it afterall. Not like exploiting child labor or anything like that, he was of age, but just wrong.
Besides, I couldn't decide if I wanted it yet. Let it go or hang on to it?
That is most always the question.
Bear with me. I have a reason behind telling this story and it has to do with making choices about what to hang on to and what to let go of. And, most importlantly, why.
Not wanting to take any more advantage of the construction worker's kindness (or flirting ... I can't tell anymore), I told him I could handle it from there and I drug the whiteboard down the sidewalk and into the garage. I still didn't know if I was going to keep it. And I was starting to worry about how I would dispose of it if I decided I didn't want it and couldn't slip it back into that trash bin unnoticed. It certainly wasn't going to fit in my car to go to a thrift store and become their problem.
Okay, I'm trying to get to the point of this blog.
My own criteria for downsizing and decluttering has mainly focused around usefulness (keeping) vs. clutter and disorder (letting go of). This hasn't been just about tangible "things." The Covid pandemic helped me get started in this direction (because there wasn't much else distracting me) but the momentum I've created now for making positive changes in my life is a direct result of some of some of those efforts that have successfully given me more freedom in my life. I also have a new appreciation for how that freedom allows me to focus on what's really important to me.
The past couple of years I quit drinking (even socially) because it just wasn't that "useful" as a life navigating tool (and maybe because there wasn't much socializing going on for a couple of years). I never really was a problem drinker although I've had my fair share of times when I drank too much and probably part of someone else's share. So I stopped drinking by telling myself that that I was free to drink alcohol anytime I really wanted to. And I was. (I also know I'm fortunate in that regard). The probelm with that kind of "freedom" is you have to make the choice over and over and over and over again. I don't remember exactly when, but one day I asked myself if having the choice to drink alcohol was useful to me anymore, to what I wanted for the rest of my ife... which seemed to be getting used up rather fast. So, the problem for me centered not around giving up alcohol, but giving up the idea I might need it one day and being comfortable with letting that idea go. And so the real freedom came with that realization. My life works better without it. It's no longer useful to me. It doesn't serve my overall life purpose anymore.
I had a lot of good things going on in my life and a lot of plans for experiencing more goodness. I also had some challenges. At 70 years of age (okay, okay 71), you really start to realize you're never going to get to everything you want to do and you start to pare down the to-do list because some thing are really, really important to you and others might just be a distraction from focusing on what's important to you and you don't have as much time or energy left to fulfill your dreams and you always thought you would have.
Here comes the whiteboard connection.
I've had a lot of practice simplying my life and finding freedom in doing so. So here's my number one suggestion.
Forget about even trying to do that until you can identify what's really important to you in life and then ask yourself how something helps you experience that or hinders your likelihood of ever having that experience.
You can't make a good choice (or at least I couldn't) until you do this.
For instance, I am a person who loves, loves, loves to make and share art and inspire others to do so. Being in my studio is definitely being in my happy space. I also like crafting, recycling things to make art, furniture painting, sewing, fabric dying, creating and maintaining this website, writing, gardening, landscaping, waking, dancing, feeding other people, helping clean up trash in the neighborhood, helping other people get things done, camping, bicycling, etc. etc. etc. I love doing so many things, it can make be dizzy. And I can get so divided between them all that nothing gets my full attention in the moment. (Except painting.)
But it doesnt' work to just know that the studio is really important to me and to therefore make it a priority and try to still leave room in my life for all those others things. I have to know WHY it's important. How it feeds my soul. And I have to know these things before I start chucking anything else in order to focus on being there. Otherwise I can get lost there too among the many choices about how to spend my time (in the studio and my time left in general). I want freedom from whatever I choose to chuck, not regret. I need my reasons.
As for the whiteboard, I understood I would get rid of it right away if i couldn't get the writing off it and it wasn't going to stay stashed inside my garage or apartment as clutter that weighed down my to-do list. So I tried some tricks on it and got the writing off it and it was beautiful. But I still wasn't sure if I'd keep it.
And then it was time to leave for a camping trip so the whiteboard just got leaned up against a wall in my office. While I was in the woods for days ( sometimes huddled in my tent away from relentless rain), I revisited and revised my personal list of values. I started visualizing writing them on that whiteboard and seeing where everything in my life fell under them in importance.
Here's what they are and how I listed important sub catagories):
Creating art (sharing art, inspiring others to make art, using my voice though art, teaching others to find their voice or tell their story with art, storytelling, using the power of art to help others, allow and encourage my creativeness to support my life and help others, push myself to improve my skills, challenge myself, grow, dance my dance, find myself in art, lose myself in art, die happily having painted my heart out, leave something behind that makes the world a better place for someone else or improves their life.
Connection/love (spiritual connection, feeling part of something greater, intimate connections with family and friends, loving myself, loving others, feeling loved, helping others feel love, being a friend to others, being a kind soul to others, helping others, feeding others, being in nature appreciating nature, not hurting others or myself, sharing experiences with others, celebrate, dance, plan and execute adventures.
Practice wellness (meditation, body awareness, healthy eating, MOVE, strengthen what I can, enjoy the ride, yoga, water)
Now I used to have way more categories of values. But this time around I could easily fit them under these three, as long as I counted my freedom to cultivate these three things as a given. I used to have creating some kind of legacy to leave on my list but I see that it easily fits under creating and sharing art or connecting and providing for others. I used to have peace of mind as a main category, but all of the above give me peace of mind.
I won't bore you anymore than I have with all the sorting I did on paper in that tent in order to put these categories on my new vision whiteboard (it stays because it helps me with these three things in my life) but I do have to tell you that sorting all of this out has made me come to a new conclusion about I want to do or will or won't do with this website anymore.
I'm going to give it a month in case there's any existing product in the Vandoodle Art shop on my website that you just have to order but in a month's time I'm pulling all the current items. I'm keeping the ability to print and offer new things once in a while if it makes sense but it was clear to me when I did all this sorting out of what was important for me to keep tending to, the shop was not really helping in these three areas. Printing prices have increased so much that I don't feel I can ask customers to pay enough to make it worth doing and make it pay in a way that I can support my efforts to feed others though it. So, as fun as it was to do, it's now become a time sucker and a heaviness on my to-do list. So, I'm going to chuck it, happily because I know it serves me and others better to do so.
You have a month to order anything existing that you might want.
I haven't updated the website in a while (brain aneurysm, camping, studio etc priorities) but I plan to in the next couple of days.
I may put together some bargain packages of stock I have on hand. I may just keep it all for any markets I find myself headed happily toward this summer. I don't have the answer to that question yet.
Thanks for the long read.
This is old art for attention