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Baby Steps

Fear of success is very common, and I’m no exception.   I’m one of those people who does well out of the gate, and then fades back into the pack.   I get distracted, or bored, or overwhelmed.   Sometimes it takes a bit, but if I care enough I’ll usually put on my “big girl panties” and buck up.

This is the time of year when that often happens.  In the U.S. we are enculturated to start things in the fall, with the start of the school year.  This also means temperatures are a little cooler, which I prefer.  There is less humidity (and pollen) so breathing is easier.  I also know in 8-10 weeks I’ll be running into the holidays and I’d like a head start!

Last week was a week of “getting ready”.  I don’t feel as though I actually accomplished much, but I did set up some important appointments.  I had some networking opportunities and I’m preparing a presentation for later this week.  I started sending off my dry-cleaning (I have a lot as I’m still cleaning out closets  of oversized clothing).  I even took a gander at flylady.net!

I made an appointment with a tailor to talk about wardrobe and alterations.  I made an appointment with a professional web developer. (Getting free help from friends hasn’t been a rousing success so it’s time to bite the bullet!) I signed a contract to have a piece included in a new anthology (Burying the lead? More on this when there’s a publishing date.)

Rather than being grumpy, I’m looking forward to this week filled with possibilities.  I still will be “getting ready”, but I seem to have energy for moving forward again.  It’s a good change in the weather.

Barter

Housekeeping has never been my strong suit.  I was almost 30 before someone showed me that the stovetop lifts up so you can clean UNDER the burners.  Who knew?

I’m not horrible, but I was.  My freshman year of college I was still living at home, going to the local University.  I had years of junk accumulated in my room – most of it on the floor.   I could pretty much put my hands on anything I might want.  Maybe it was a subconscious tactic to keep my sisters out of my room.  No one but me could walk through without fear of stepping on something with disastrous result.  Even I would occasionally pull an embroidery needle out of a bare foot.

One afternoon we had a fire.  It was pretty dramatic.  My mother caught it in time to call the fire department and save the structure.  But everything was badly smoke damaged and the kitchen was gutted.  The men who cleaned out the house and packed it all up were either sent by the insurance company or the fire marshall.  I’m told they took one look at my room and took out the shovels.  Literally shoveled my “stuff” into boxes for storage.  How embarassing!   Never again!  The blog post on Clutter is a pale comparison.

Bonita and my kitchen floor.

What I can do is cook.  I don’t even remember when I started cooking on my own.  I know I had kids cookbooks pretty much from the time I was in grade school.  I’ve always been interested in food and experimenting.  Both of my parents cook, read recipes for fun and are adventurous about food from other cultures.  Our “standard Christmas dinner” wasn’t standard at all.  We would pick a country around Thanksgiving and then my folks would do some research and come up with a menu that reflected that cuisine.

At 7 years old, cheese stuffed peaches with horseradish weren’t at all appealing.  They still don’t sound nearly as good as they taste.  The year they did Beef Wellington my sister brought McDonalds carry out to the table because she wouldn’t have anything to do with Pate.  We almost burned the house down again the year my Dad and the sons-in-law did a dinner of Chinese appetizers.  3 men and 3 hot woks in a small alley kitchen, with me in and out coordinating.  Can you picture it?  My mother sat white knuckled in the easy chair.  It was not the break for her that we had intended.

I’ve done camp cooking, event cooking, rituals that centered on the food.   I’ve learned a lot about diets, nutrition, allergies and accommodation.   You’ve seen the pie in the Lammas blog and the wild rice soup in Leftovers.  I didn’t actually use a recipe for either of them.  I tend to do a lot of my cooking “off the cuff.”  Sometimes I blow it, but mostly it’s good and occasionally I can be brilliant.

So 500 words in and I finally  get to the topic of this week’s post: Barter.  My dear friend Bonita has some serious food restrictions.  She’s really trying to get healthy and improve her diet.  She can follow a recipe, but she doesn’t love to cook.  What she does love is cleaning, especially bathrooms.  She says it’s like a meditation.  Do you see where this is going?

Bag of frozen dinners complete with post-it instructions.

My dear friend Bonita comes by once a month just to work her way through my list of household chores I haven’t managed to “get around to.”  Sometimes they are actually chores that I don’t even have a clue about how to approach!  In return I fill her bag with single serving frozen dinners.  Homemade and entirely appropriate for her current diet, which is currently gluten, nightshade, and dairy free.

We both seem to be enjoying the challenge.  I know I’m enjoying a much cleaner house!

Have you ever used barter to get something you need?

Clutter

There are a lot of books out there that talk about clutter.  There are systems for dealing with it and for keeping you from creating more.  There are theories about clutter on your desk at work.  There are theories about clutter in your home.  There are hoarder shows, clutter to the nth degree, on TV.

I am a pile maker.  I have a stack of books to read.  I have an accumulation of files that need to be put away.  I have a perpetual mound of dishes in the drainer.  I have a basket of socks that need to be paired.  This leads, quite naturally, to clutter.

I have noticed that I am really good at keeping a clear space clear.  I am amazingly organized when I travel.  I don’t spread out all over the hotel room.  I keep dirty clothes in a clothes bag.  Even at home, if I establish a “clear space” I tend to keep it clear.

Except

I have also noticed that as soon as one small object invades a clean space, all bets are off.  If I happen to set something down on an empty table and leave it there, within the week it becomes a pile.  If I happen to leave something out on a clear counter, more things just collect.  It’s my experience that clutter begets clutter.

I have two problems with the theories about putting things away in the moment and not letting them become clutter.  The first problem is that I don’t live alone.  90% of the time the one piece of paper, or pen, or can of soup that gets left out wasn’t mine.  It doesn’t stop the clutter from continuing.  Apparently clutter is an indiscriminate breeder.

My second problem is even harder to address.  I have some significant health problems.  I get by, but I do tend to push the edges.  Sometimes I will come home from shopping, carry the bags in one at a time, and be so worn out that I literally can’t unpack.  This also applies to traveling.  The bags often don’t get unpacked for a week or more.

With these bad habits eventually the clutter does become overwhelming.  This is when I really start to notice those books may be right.  I get preoccupied with avoidance.  Not only do I avoid the clutter, but also some of my other daily tasks.  I start to lose track of things.  Sometimes it’s papers I was sure were in the pile, but that expands.  It’s as though my brain doesn’t keep track as well if the house is cluttered.

If living a spiritual life is being in alignment with your higher purpose, that alignment is also disturbed by clutter.  My shrines don’t get tended.  The plants don’t get watered.  The environment doesn’t lend itself to doing any kind of spiritual work.  There is a reason our imaginings of cloistered communities include nuns and monks on their knees scrubbing the floors.

So this is a week devoted to dealing with the clutter.  I’ve been sorting through my filing.  I’ve been cleaning up the kitchen.  I have the “get the car in the garage” project on the calendar.  I’m happy that it’s getting done.  My load seems lighter as order begins to prevail.

But again, I do have some physical issues.  I’m worn out. I couldn’t do this all by myself.  So I also am grateful to everyone who is lending a hand.  Sorting through piles is not a job I can delegate.  But my thanks go out to my friends and family who have rolled up their sleeves to help with the haul and carry.

There is still more to do.  The other problem with clutter is that it’s one of those jobs that’s never done.  But I can take a little time out to sit with gratitude.  I can kick back and enjoy the extra space.  And I can dash off a little blog.

Blessings

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