To Sort or Not To Sort

I always say that I’m unstructured. But over the last week I’ve realized this isn’t an entirely true statement. I don’t do well creating structure, but I like to have routine. Last Thursday, my older daughter finished school for the summer and with the lack of an imposed schedule I’ve been drifting.

So, today I got up at 6:15 like I do during the school year. I accomplished so much by 8:00 that I was amazed. I need to become more disciplined about structuring my day because it makes a huge difference. I guess I should say that I’m not internally structured but I thrive with structure around me.

Today’s post is super short. But I’m encouraged that I’m writing anything at all. I’m also encouraged by the things I seem to have mastered – my table stays cleared off, my dishes stay done, and I’m getting exercise several times a week. I also got my garden planted – something that’s been on my wish list for well over a year. My tomatoes and red peppers are blooming, everything else has new growth, and my herbs are thriving outside. It’s a small garden, but it’s a start and it’s given me a true sense of accomplishment to scratch “plant a garden” off my list. Unfortunately, I’m also discouraged by the huge projects still looming before me which will require lots of sorting (my least favorite thing) ~ this is mostly closets and toys. I don’t feel up to the task which is a mental hurdle I need to get over. So I’ll keep writing and rewriting my action items. Maybe the 800th time I write “sort through toys,” I’ll actually do it. The key with this, as with everything in life, is to keep going. Quitting can’t be an option.

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Day 93 ~ Candy for Breakfast

Monday, I chaperoned a field trip my daughter took downtown. We visited the Capitol, did a tour (including the attic – lots and lots of stairs). I must give a little shout out here because my kiddo and a classmate led the Pledge of Allegiance in the House of Representatives. Then we walked to the U.S. Mint and did that tour, then we walked to the museum where we went through the Counter-terrorism Education Learning Lab. Then we walked back to the Capitol, where the cars were parked.

Now, I like to think I’m in much better shape than I was last year. I’ve been consistently doing morning exercise and consciously eating better. But after all day walking and standing, I seriously felt like I might die. After the field trip, we raced home so I could get my little one to gymnastics, then we had to get dinner on the table and after eating, I thought my head might fall into my soup, so to speak. I got into my pj’s  and crawled into bed to read at 8:30, and the next thing I know, my husband is pulling the book out of my hands and turning off the light because I’d fallen asleep. I was barely aware of him and totally zonked out for the rest of the night at that point. Someone, please tell me this is not my future. I want more energy. I need more stamina. How, oh how, do I get it back?

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So, yesterday was a recovery day. I’m amazed that I needed it, but I did. I’m still kind of dragging. In fact, this morning at the grocery store, chocolate peanut butter cups started calling to me while I was in line. And I didn’t resist. I bought them (organic dark chocolate and protein in the peanut butter, so not completely, entirely bad for me – right?). I went home, poured a cup of coffee, and had candy for breakfast. And I must admit that after that, the whole day looked brighter. So, I’m leaving a little note to my perfectionist self:

No one is perfect, dear self. Life is all about choices and each opportunity to choose brings with it the opportunity to change. But change doesn’t happen all at once, so don’t give up. Don’t quit. Keep going.

You, too – dear reader.

Day 70 ~ What Once Was Lost

This morning I fell back to sleep after turning my alarm off. This is something I almost never do and I’m blaming Daylight Savings Time – I can still play that card, right? I got up at 7 A.M., 1/2 hour late, and this turned into excuse #1 not to do my morning exercise. Then, as I got up, I felt a pain in my right hip. This is something that has bothered me off and on my whole adult life. I can go months with no pain whatsoever, but I can also have pain so extreme it becomes debilitating. Because of this, I’m very careful if I feel even the slightest twinge. This became excuse #2 to skip the morning routine.

However, as I thought about it, I had to admit that I can come up with about a dozen excuses a day to avoid doing what needs to be done. Life is all about choice. I can pretend I have no choice (by making excuses) or I can choose to do the hard thing. So this morning, I chose.

I did my morning exercise. Then I attacked my action item list, because I’ve been getting precious little done lately from my list, writing the same things over and over (and over). Today, I decided to create a new storage place for my sweaters. I chose this under the bed box with wheels. I was so pleased – but it couldn’t go under the bed because of the bizarre collection of things that have been pushed or kicked under there over time.

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This meant I had to start by cleaning out everything under the bed. I pulled out such a variety of things: books, miscellaneous papers, a pillow (?!?), empty pill bottles, and … my pom-pom maker! (Read here if you’re wondering how this is in any way relevant). I knew I’d find it a some point, and it is now living happily with my other knitting supplies.

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The elusive pom-pom maker.

I felt so satisfied. I cleaned up a bunch of junk. I found something that was lost. So, with a happy heart I pushed my rolling box under the bed and … it didn’t fit. It’s too tall. I couldn’t believe it. I was so pleased. It was going to be a perfect solution. And now I have no where to put it.

Never, ever, ever – not once did it occur to me to measure. It’s at times like these I think I could use professional help. Or something. *deep sigh*

Day 65 ~ Journey Oriented

I recently finished a book (fiction) where one of the characters so inspired me. This character, a woman in her 50’s, had been walking four miles a day, five days a week for seventeen years. Over that time, she’d lost a pound a year, and her body shape had changed causing her to drop a couple of dress sizes. At the same time, her friends had hit a point in life where they were gaining about three pounds a year. I loved it. She walked to keep active and stay healthy, but the result was that she was trimmer, fitter and more energetic than her compatriots who were starting to put on the mid-life bulge. This woman was a testament to consistency, and I was inspired.

simplicityI had been feeling that my own weight loss was happening at a snail’s pace. I’ve lost 12 pounds since the first of the year. Reading this book helped me feel encouraged about that, instead of frustrated. It helped me take my eyes off of some kind of destination, and focus more on the journey. I feel better – no question about it. I have more energy, more stamina, and a noticeable increase in flexibility, especially in my right shoulder. My shoulder is stiff and sore every single day because of scar tissue, inelastic skin (resulting from radiation therapy) and reconfigured anatomy (because of muscles which were moved to reconstruct my body after a bilateral mastectomy). I can now lie on my back on the floor, reach my hands over my head, and touch the backs of my hands to the floor – something I could not do just a few short weeks ago. I’ve seen a massage therapist one time (last month) who practices “bone rocking”, a method for gently convincing a tight joint to relax and open up. That one visit and consistent exercise and I feel closer to normal than I’ve felt in five years.

All this motivates me to keep going, regardless of the physical manifestation of weight loss or lost inches. I’m even motivated this week, with the bane of Daylight Savings Time which has resulted in doing my exercise, once again, while it’s still dark out. (There is definitely a temptation to stay under the covers). I write about all this to remind myself that I am seeing progress. The steps may be small, but they keep taking me in the right direction. A year from now, I’ll be so glad I started this journey and didn’t make excuses. My home will be peaceful. (It’s already more peaceful than it was). My body will be fit. I’ll have more vitality. My life will be new.

What journey have you been thinking about beginning? Change is hard. The first step is hard. Getting back up after you trip and fall is hard. But you are brave – I just know you are. Take the first step. A year from now, you’ll be so glad you started today.

Day 60 ~ The Quiet Voice of Courage

simplicityI’ve been at this now for a couple of months, and I figure it’s a good time to take stock.

I’ll start with the positive things. My daily routine has become just that – routine. I almost never skip those few things that keep the house running smoothly. This includes morning exercise, 10-minute tidy, kitchen and 90-second hard surface clean in the bathrooms. It’s amazing to me, now that the system is in place, how easily I’m keeping up.

The morning exercise is having a great effect – along with reducing sugar intake. Increasing hydration isn’t going as well, which should be the easiest thing I do, but, well… I’ll keep working on that. I stepped on the scale yesterday and I’ve lost twelve pounds (hopefully to never, ever be found again). I actually had a fabulous little moment this morning. It’s quite nice here – in the 50’s and sunny, so I pulled a lightweight, long-sleeve cotton shirt out to wear. The last time I wore this it was fall, and I had to wear it open with a tank top under it because it wouldn’t button without straining in a very unattractive way. Today, it buttoned with no problem and is hanging loosely on me. This makes me happy.

The thing I’m really struggling with is using my notebook to keep a to-do list and an ongoing list of three daily action items. I did so well with this at first, but I find I’m keeping more and more of my tasks in my head (where they inevitably get lost). I need to revamp this and try again, so I’m going back to the original plan of reviewing my day right before bed each night. I’ll review my lists and make my action list for the next day right then, when there are no distractions. The added benefit of this is that I can release anything knocking around in my brain by writing it down, which will encourage relaxation and a good sleep. I started afresh today, with two items on my action item list that contribute to organization and peace. The first (which is already done) was to clean out my email inbox. I deleted 1,056 emails today!!! (You think I’m joking…) Whew! The second is to collect all the little piles of things I have to give to charity, box or bag them, and put them in one place.

I know no matter how many times I trip up, as long as I stand back up and go again, I will see change and progress. That’s pretty exciting. With this in mind, I think it’s appropriate to end with this quote:

“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow.'” ~ Mary Anne Radmacher

Day 56 ~ Back on Track

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Mimi


I haven’t written for days, and some of you (I hope) are wondering what happened to me. I’ve had some weird virus that has me feeling completely depleted (better today though, so I’m hopeful). I knew when I started my life makeover that it wouldn’t be perfect every day. I knew things would happen to cause glitches. My greatest fear was that if I got sick, or something else derailed me, that I’d never get back on track. I was afraid of this because it’s happened before. For instance, I’ve done a consistent exercise program for a period of time, then I got injured and I just stopped. I never picked it up again.

The beauty of what I’m doing this time is this blog. Simply keeping the written journal has made me get back on my feet and start again on the things I was doing so successfully. This morning, because I could breathe through my nose (finally!!), I did my morning exercise for the first time in a week. At first, I felt like I might die, but about half way through I suddenly felt much better and was so thankful that I’d made myself do it. All it took was this one morning, and I know I’m back on track with it. So thank you, dear reader, for being my accountability partner in this.

While I’ve been sick and not doing much, I’ve been meditating on this quote:

“Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do a little.” Edmund Burke

Although I couldn’t do what I really wanted to, I used the Redeem the Time method (10 minute blocks) to do what I could. We continued the 10-minute tidy and the daily laundry, and that kept things flowing so I don’t feel overwhelmed today. And since I was spending so much time resting, I took advantage of it and spent time in prayer and reading, so that even though it was a little, I was still taking steps toward missional, simplified living. Spending so much time in thought has motivated me to start the Redeem the Time method with our grocery budget (only I’m calling it Redeem the Dollar). I’m not great at couponing and that sort of thing. I once tried it, going all gung-ho for a while, but it about made me crazy. I don’t like to deprive my family of healthful food, I like to buy organic (although I do save money by buying seasonal) and, to be honest, I just don’t like to put in the work it takes to play the game. But … I figured if I only cut $10 per week, we would hardly feel it because $10 is nothing. And saving $10 per week adds up to $520 per year, which we will most definitely feel.

This is my plan. Almost every Sunday we get take-out, and we do it because it’s convenient to grab coming home from church. But, I’m more organized about my menu planning and grocery shopping now. In fact, I planned menus last night and shopped this morning. So I’m putting dinner in the crock pot Sunday morning before we leave for church. That one change, done every week, should easily find us the $10 I’m looking for. I know we’ll still do take-out as a treat sometimes, but I’ll feel much better about it knowing I’m consistently saving money (and being more healthful) by cooking at home. I’ll let you know how it goes.

In closing, you may be wondering why I started this post with a picture of one of my cats. Well, our dining room table sits in our front room right by a window. One of the unforeseen effects of feng-shui-ing my table is that periodically, when I come down in the morning, this kitty is sitting regally right in the middle of my table, gazing out the window, surveying what she thinks of as her kingdom. She never got on the table before I started feng-shui-ing. I find it funny, because (of course) she thinks I’m doing all this for her.

Day 51 ~ Cursed No More

I haven’t written in three days because I somehow came in contact with cooties. I looked this up and my dictionary says cooties is a children’s term for an imaginary germ or repellent quality transmitted by obnoxious or slovenly people. The only problem is, these germs aren’t imaginary. (I’m not sure who the obnoxious or slovenly people are, but I’m sure they’re at fault.) I have a nasty cold and feel ghastly, which of course negatively impacts my whole program.
I can’t do my exercise, because I can’t breathe (through my nose at least). And I get lightheaded standing for too long, so I have a sink full of dishes. My husband is taking care of dinner tonight so I can crash. Bless him, he’s good that way. He and my children are a tremendously positive aspect of my life.

But all this illness doesn’t mean good things aren’t happening. We finished Aurora this weekend, so I have my table back. For us, puzzles are a fantastic family activity because we all enjoy them, and even the seven-year-old got several pieces in.

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Aurora .. and my daughter's geometry

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What I really wanted to share, though, is a conversation I had over the weekend with my sister. I am the youngest of four girls. My two grandmothers were a nurse (very organized) and a teacher (not so much). I happened to get the not-so-much genes, while my sister got the organized ones. She asked me how my “organizing project” and blog were going, and I told her there was measurable change (although I still see miles to go). Then she said, “You know, you’re breaking a curse.”
She’s (of course) talking about the curse of disorganization that I inherited through my bloodline. Maybe the use of the word curse seems melodramatic, but in the past, it has felt like the appropriate term. There are many times in my life when I have felt helpless and overwhelmed by the sheer volume of stuff that needed changing. I didn’t know how to change it, I didn’t know where to start, and I couldn’t figure out how other people seemed to make it work. But I am breaking the curse, by changing habits and behaviors that I’ve always been predisposed towards, but have seriously fallen into since I was sick.
It’s an act of my will. It’s an act of faith. It’s an act of commitment. I pray for strength, and God gives me that, but it is I who must take the steps. And so I do, one at a time, shaking off the curse and walking toward the blessing.