Tuesday, October 6, 2015

My October Goals: More Decluttering, More Reading, and a Charity Walk

Tyrone sitting in the tote I'm using for Limbo books.
In September, I had too many goals. I realized it within a week and let myself off the hook for some of them.

The goals that stuck were:
1. So Damn Domestic Clutter Free Countdown.
2. Blog my way through the countdown.
3. 750 Words daily writing challenge.

None of them were perfect, but all of them were finished. Sadly, 750 Words has a different definition of "finished" than I do. I'm okay with writing twice as much the next day if I skip a day. They consider that failing. One month I will complete the challenge by their standards and you will be mine, Sassy Horse Badge!
I want it. 750words.com
It's too late for me to sign up for the October challenge with 750words.com, but I will continue to use it as a brain dump and to write drafts.

My goals for October are as follows:

1. Remove all decluttered items from my home. I was originally only going to give myself a week to do that, but it's a bigger job now that I know I have to check everything for roaches and sanitize it before it goes anywhere. (It should be okay. I packed everything up in air tight-ish containers. Eeeee.)
2. Read more! I've decided to give myself a daily page number goal of 75 pages.
(More about this below.)
3. Promote and prepare for the NF Walk in L.A. on October 25. A sub-goal of this is to keep up my routines and start moving them earlier in the day. I have a few events scheduled, including the walk, that start early in the morning, and I'd like to be rested and strong for them.

I thought about structuring this month differently. Instead of having task-based goals, I thought about using the Todoist app to set productivity goals instead. "Complete X number of tasks per day." I might do something like that for November, when I have big things planned, (wink wink), but it doesn't feel right for this month.

These used to be organized by color.
It was beautiful.
I like the idea of a reading goal because at the end I can say, "Look how many books I finished!" The idea came when decluttering my books last month. I realized I have four long shelves of books I haven't read, or haven't read in a long time.

Four shelves is the amount after decluttering 60 books! 

Many of my books are "In Limbo," because they very well may be decluttered if they aren't life-changing and referenceable. I'm also reading a few library books for book clubs, and because I couldn't resist.

75 pages is not an ambitious goal at all. I purposefully set a low number so it would be achievable without getting in the way of all the other tasks. It's still more than I had been reading, and that's how goal setting works sometimes. It doesn't always have to be a big jump. So far I've read closer to 300 pages a day, because I got in the zone.

I finished reading my first book of the month yesterday and it felt great, as that particular accomplishment always does. I'm reading four at a time in different genres, which I wasn't sure was the best idea, but I'm enjoying it.

I think I'll go read right now!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Anxiety and the Most Urgent, Important, Necessary Thoughts in the Universe

"Tomorrow, I'm going to let go of the expectation that my thoughts matter right now."

There have been times over the last few weeks when I felt like none of my "mental health tools" were working. Most of the time, I feel more in control these days. I know a bunch of types of meditation and how to recognize harmful thought patterns. I know how to turn vulnerable feelings into bonding moments with people I care about, or art-- I have tools like writing and music to fuel my "spirit." Not to mention my self-care rituals.

But there's one thing that stands in the way. When I'm really depressed or anxious, I feel like I'm on the verge of a really important thought at all times. Like, I can't fully commit to things that make me feel better, because then I'll miss the Really Important Thing. It reminds me of a story I tried to write (well, I did write it, but it didn't quite work) comparing depression and the myth of Sisyphus pushing the boulder up the hill only for it to roll down again. In that story, my depressed brain played the part of a trickster God.

My hardcore Christian friends tell me that urge to resist care is the devil.

I think it's a form of validation. There's no way I'm really this anxious about something as earthly and temporary as an overdrawn checking account. I don't have time to deal with those feelings because the real source of my mood will reveal itself any minute. And it won't just be about today! It'll reveal the source of all my bad feelings ever!

The thoughts aren't usually so direct. This is my attempt to put words to a really hard to describe phenomenon.

Another way to describe it is like this: I recognize that money is a stressor. I start to break down my fears about money and then my dad pops into my head. I think about all the stress he's under taking care of my mom with neurofibromatosis. I start to think maybe money isn't my stressor, maybe the cause of my stress has something to do with my family. I try to explore those thoughts but how much work my choir has to do to get ready for the next audition pops into my head. Now I'm bouncing around between all three topics. Others are popping up, too. I can't address all of them at once, but I can't quiet a single one until it's addressed.

It feels like If I could just grab a hold of one of these, everything would start to make sense.

And that is what eventually happens. As they say on that show Obsessed, (and in the cognitive therapies that inspired it), "You can't stay at a 10/10 forever." The human body cannot sustain high levels of stress for very long.

A quieter moment reveals itself and that's when I open up my journal or a meditation app. I pluck out one of the stressful thoughts as if from a ball of tangled embroidery floss, picking at the knots slowly and deliberately.

This process of patience, working through one stressor at a time, has helped me have at least as many good days as bad. I'm grateful to be able to examine my mood day by day instead of knowing they'll all be bad, the way it used to be.

The more tools I collect, the closer I get to truly living in the moment. Not even day by day, but situation by situation, without expectation for the next.

So here's another tool I can add for times of high stress: None of the stressors on your mind are the most important, urgent, essential thing in the whole world or universe. Do not hold out for an epiphany. You are not a mailbox waiting for an important letter. You are a person. Give yourself permission to sit with a quiet mind. You think you have to allow the thoughts to occupy you, but you don't. They will come back later if they truly need to be heard, if they truly exist for your best interest.

Update: I got to use this new tool recently. I couldn’t sleep because my thoughts were all over the place and they felt so urgent. I remembered what I wrote here and reminded myself that I had everything I needed and was safe. Anything else can wait until morning. I was able to meditate for a few minutes and fell asleep easily after that.

Friday, September 18, 2015

SDD Clutter Free Day 18: TV Comedy DVDs and Fluid Art Collections

It's Day 18 of the So Damn Domestic Clutter Free Countdown, and time to declutter 13 items. Yesterday, someone commented on my declutter picture, "Why don't you just keep them? Even just for deco." I had decluttered 14 special edition DVDs, most of which were movies I loved.

That comment caused me to doubt my decision. I even doubted this whole process. My online friend had followed with, "I dream of someday living in a large house, surrounded by all my lovely things." I started thinking, "Wait, that's my dream!" But it's not.

We think it's security to own a lot of stuff, but we forget how easily a natural disaster or dryer fire or even unemployment and debt can take all of the things away. Real security comes from peace of mind.

In some of the places I shared my declutter pic yesterday, I captioned it, "I'd considered that the DVDs on my shelf said something about me. I wonder what it'll say about me to have no DVDs on my shelf." Well, I don't know what it'll say to others, (probably nothing...who notices things like that?) To me, it'll say, "I am a collector of experiences, not things." And, I know, I know, movies are art. What's wrong with collecting art?

Absolutely nothing's wrong with collecting art. But I figure there's so much art in the world, why limit myself with ownership? Better to continuously rotate which art is on display and really enjoy it. No collecting dust.

Another thing to consider with DVDs is that they're losing value fast. Everybody's doing what I'm doing and going digital. I did a lot of research yesterday and I don't think I'm getting more than $8.50 for all 14 DVDs. If I was willing to post them individually and wait for a buyer and mail them, I could get a few bucks more, (depending on shipping costs).

That low number made me want to hold on to them. That's nowhere near their original value. But I figure before long they won't be worth anything. Might as well get my $8.50 and buy a pad thai dinner special with it.

Day 18: 13 Items Decluttered

1-9. Friends: Seasons 1-10, excluding 6 for some reason. This is a big deal, guys. A season of Friends on DVD was my main birthday or Christmas gift for many a holiday. I've watched the series many
times through. When I first moved to L.A., before I had internet or any furniture, I watched these DVDs on a blanket on the living room floor, with a stryofoam take-out container in hand. It was a great comfort after a long drive and the shock of being on my own.
10, 11. That '70s Show, Season 1 and 2. These were originally my mom's. She was a child of the '70s and loved this show. The DVDs stayed with me after I borrowed them. Now she has dementia symptoms from brain tumors from neurofibromatosis, so she wouldn't be able to operate a DVD player or follow the show.
12. Arrested Development, Season One. Great show. I think this was my brothers' DVD set. I better check in with them before I sell it.
13. It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, The Complete Seasons 1 & 2. Also a great show. Also, I think, my brothers' DVDs.

It's painful to think a brand new TV show season could be $45. I don't know what I'll get for these, but it's probably around $45 for all 13 of them. Thing is, if I only use them when I move and the internet's out, I'd rather have $45 and more shelf space. I can buy digital downloads with that money and save it to an external hard drive. All my DVDs will fit in my hand.

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Thursday, September 17, 2015

SDD Clutter Free Day 17: DVDS Decluttered; Procrastination VS Mindfulness

It's Day 17 of the So Damn Domestic Clutter Free Countdown, and time to declutter 14 items. Can you believe that? 14? It's such a small number compared to the 30 I started with. And still, today I procrastinated. I was tired from cleaning the roach mess out of the storage console yesterday, and I had a lot on my mind, so I let myself have a lazy day and pretty much laid around, thinking about my future. That's why my "decluttered items" picture is different today. I didn't feel like making my bed, so I took the picture on my ottoman, and I didn't take it until after sunset, so I had to use artificial light.

I still got the job done, 14 items decluttered. I'm happy about that. I decided to declutter DVDs today. When I moved from Bellingham, WA to Los Angeles, CA, I condensed most of my DVD collection to a binder. I saved these ones with special covers (and Heartbreakers, for some reason) to show off on my shelf. However, after a year here in L.A., experiencing lots of show-off-y people, I'm extra mindful of vanity. I don't need a shelf of movies to represent me. It's a little attachment, but it's still an attachment. I'm letting it go.

14 DVDs take up about a foot of space. That's significant!

I don't mean to be all negative about L.A. I do love it here, and I've found lots of great people. But it's hard to find the good ones because it's such a competitive environment.

Day 17: 14 Items Decluttered

1. HeartBreakers. Sigourney Weaver, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Gene Hackman. In middle school, my best friend, Lindsay, and I used to go to Hollywood Video every weekend and rent a stack of DVDs, usually French or arty. Somehow, we kept coming back to Heartbreakers.
2. Sex and the City: The Movie. I had to! I already had the TV Show box set!
3. Across the Universe. It's my favorite Beatles song, a great title, and a touching movie.
4. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Fun times. A little murder, a little singing.
5. Amelie. One of my top five favorite movies, for sure. "Without you, today's emotions would be the scurf of yesterday's."
6. Fight Club. Basically the opposite of Amelie, but also a favorite.
7. Thank You for Smoking. Doesn't hold up to Amelie and Fight Club standards, but it's a good watch.
8. Flight of the Conchords: The Complete First Season. I saw these guys for the first time on their HBO special and I was hooked. Awesome show.
9. Flight of the Conchords: The Complete Second Season. Stay cool, Brett. Brett, stay cool. *snaps fingers*
10. Spider-Man 2. I think I had a crush on Spider-Man. I can't think of why else I would own this, since I'm really not into superhero movies.
11. Moulin Rouge! Come What May still makes me sob cry.
12. The X-Files: I Want to Believe. I am a huge X-Files fan. That's all I'll say.
13. V for Vendetta. I saw this in theaters on my birthday one year and totally loved it. I don't think I've watched it much since.
14. Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Classic. Can't go wrong there.

It's a little hard getting rid of DVDs I love, but I know just because I don't own a hard copy of them doesn't mean I'll never get to see them. Everything is available for streaming these days, and if it isn't, I can get a digital copy for my Amazon Prime library.

Just as I'm sure owning fewer books and using the library will encourage me to read more, I believe owning fewer hard copy DVDs will encourage me to watch more digital movies. And, I don't think most people realize this, you can get movies at the public library.

When I own something it's too easy to put it off for a never-to-arrive "later." I don't want to live like that. I mentioned that I procrastinated my decluttering today. I was resting so intentionally, though, I don't know if it can even be considered procrastination. It's more like mindfulness. I'm not doing things because they're expected, but because I genuinely want to do them.

Amazon Affiliate: All links go to digital downloads or Prime streaming. If you buy anything after following one of my links, I get a commission.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

SDD Clutter Free Day 16: How to Destroy a Roach Colony

It's Day 16 of the So Damn Domestic Clutter Free Countdown, and that means today I decluttered 15 items. I decided to tackle my roach drawer, I mean, my plastic grocery bag drawer. I'd saved the bags in a drawer of the storage console in my dining area, either to use for emptying the litter box, or until I'd saved up a bunch to recycle.

I saw roaches go in and out of the drawer, and some major denial happened. I just stopped using that drawer. I don't think I made a conscious decision to avoid it, I just left the drawer closed and it became, "out of sight, out of mind."

Well, part of a 30-day decluttering challenge is facing those areas of our homes that don't work for us. The time had come. I put on rubber gloves, covered my nose and mouth with my shirt, and opened the drawer with my toes, from a distance.

It wasn't so bad! At least not on that top layer of bags. I started moving one bag at a time into the trashcan. Would you believe there were exactly 15 bags in there? Exactly the number of items I needed to declutter for today's goal. I really had no idea how many bags were in there, so that made me laugh.

Once all the bags were out, okay, it was gross. But it wasn't an Indiana Jones-esque swarm, so I was pleasantly surprised. The really disgusting part was underneath the drawer. It was pretty much black from dead roaches and poop. It was also horrifying behind the console, where the still-living ones had scurried and hid from my wrath.

(Actually, I didn't have wrath. I've been saying an equanimity meditation a few times a week for a couple months, so I mostly just felt bad for the roaches and tried to kill them quickly and painlessly. But my air quality comes first.)

I'm absolutely not an expert on pest control, but I'll share with you what I did to clean up the console.

1. A few days before cleaning, I moved most of the roach bait poison to that corner of the apartment. I didn't want to open up the drawer and displace a bunch of living roaches into the rest of the
apartment. (Spoiler alert: a bunch lived and dispersed anyway.)
2. I removed all of my baskets from the shelves, so if they did disperse, they didn't camp out in my belongings. (This way they're in the walls...so much better...? >.<)
3. Day of cleaning. Removed everything from the drawer they lived in.
4. Sprayed open drawer with anti-roach mixture: water, vinegar, peppermint oil, tea tree oil.
5. Coated with baking soda. Let sit one minute.
6. Doused drawer with vinegar.
7. Unscrewed the hinges and removed the drawer. Washed it in the kitchen sink. This seems like an unsanitary step. If I had access to a hose, I would have washed it outside. I just used the sink hose, hot water, more vinegar, and a scrub brush.
8. Repeated with three other drawers, even though they weren't as bad. I wanted to make sure all roach poop was cleaned because it's so bad for air quality, and also wanted to make sure to kill any eggs.

9. Set drawers outside to air dry.
10. Swept really gross under-drawer area. Broom heads can be washed or replaced!
11. Repeated same process under the drawers: vinegar spray, baking soda soak, pure vinegar douse, and then since I can't fit a whole storage console in the sink, I mopped it.
12. Moved the console forward. Repeated step 11 behind the console. There's a cable tacked back there that they're small enough to crawl behind. I haven't cleaned that because I ran out of stamina. Tomorrow I'll have to take out the tacks and wipe down the cable.
13. Called a friend from the fresh, outdoor air.

So it was horrifying and disgusting, but not as horrifying and disgusting as I imagined it would be. I'm very pleased that they hadn't lived in there long enough to damage the console. It's a good piece of furniture when it's not infested.

I'm off to shower for about a year.

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