Monday, November 22, 2010

My New Manifesto

Sometimes you've got to let everything go – purge yourself. If you are unhappy with anything . . . whatever is bringing you down, get rid of it. Because you'll find that when you're free, your true creativity, your true self comes out. ~ Tina Turner.

The other night I was watching Conan and they were doing a gag wherein Bruce Jenner, some crabs, and a hoarder (from the A&E show "Hoarders") welcome Conan O'Brien to basic cable. I just about died laughing when the hoarder came into the frame. Her squirrely expression was just priceless. Without saying a word, she managed to convey a kind of crazy covetousness. If I ever become a hoarder, I vow to adopt just such a paranoid expression. If you're going to be balls out weird, you might as well make people laugh, right?

In the present day, even though I am not too worried about anyone taking my crap, I can relate to how hard it can be to get rid of things. There are so many potential blocks – sentimentality, frugality, uncertainty, fear that we might throw something away and then need it later. If I am going to be honest, I definitely have some messy, packratty tendencies. At the same time, I don't like it. It makes me feel bogged down and eventually even tense and unproductive. Somehow an environment just feels less peaceful when there is too much stuff vying for space.

When my environment gets too cluttered, it starts to become distracting. I find it difficult to work or even think. So, I have decided that the best thing I can do to encourage the new period of productivity I hope to start is to let go of some of my clutter. I mean that both figuratively and literally, but since it's easier to clear my physical space, I am starting with that. So, I spent the greater part of the morning cleaning out my closet and developing my manifesto. Why? Because it was overflowing with things I neither wear nor need and everything is more fun when a manifesto is involved! Plus, if I don't give myself some rules, I will just end up getting stuff out and putting it away again without getting rid of anything.

So here is my decluttering manifesto:

  • Be merciless. If it is ugly, has bad associations, makes me feel bad, or if I haven't used it in a year or don't plan to use it in the next, get rid of it.
  • Be realistic. If it is doesn't fit, doesn't look good or doesn't fit my life- or personal style, it needs to be released.
  • Be generous. Sometimes we outgrow things. If that's the case, let them go and don't be a hoarder. If I am done enjoying something, donate it and give someone else a turn.
  • Be discriminating. I don't have to get rid of everything. It is ok to keep something simply because I like it or because its associations make me feel good. Just make sure it is something I really want and that it has a spot.

This approach has lightened my closet by three large trash bags full of clothes. Stacey and Clinton would be proud! I didn't quite get to shoes, but there is always tomorrow. This is just one piece of a multi-step decluttering process, and that is okay. Tonight I go to bed with my clothes arranged by color. Now I can actually see what I have, know what I need, and can feel confident when I pull something out that it fits right and is flattering. Funny how something as small as organizing the closet can even make you feel better about not just your environment, but yourself.

Sunday, November 21, 2010


No river can return to its source, yet all rivers must have a beginning. ~ Native American Proverb.

Change feels like it is in the air these days. Everywhere I turn, the institutions in my life are on the precipice of something new. The Republicans tell me they won back the House, because people are hungry for change. Personally, I'm hungry for a cheeseburger, accessible healthcare, fewer lobbyists, and more liberal representatives with a spine. Guess the GOP and me, we both want changes, just not the same ones.

But it's not only the political landscape that is changing. In my workplace, the CEO has "decided to explore other options". People are afraid this might herald yet another reorg, even though it appears that for once they are making management changes instead of just kicking a few more worker bees out of the hive. Some coworkers were surprised, even though the writing has been on the wall since last summer, when our parent company installed two of its major players to create a new "office of the CEO" leadership team. Maybe I'm just weird, but I know I would be updating my resumé if my boss and her boss moved into my cubicle with me, so they could more quickly second guess all my decisions. Does the change carry with it a sense of instability? Sure. But surprise? No.

Even the church I belong to, but at this point rarely attend, is in the throes of preparing for some as yet to be determined new leadership structure. There too, something has felt off kilter to me for some time now (hence my diminishing attendance). Thoreau said that "Things do not change, we change." I am not sure if the community has changed or my perception of it has. Maybe it's what I need from it that has. I have always struggled a bit with that.

My beliefs are broader than the framework provided by the Christian church, but it worked out, because it was a progressive community and the path was more of a wide avenue than a narrow, one-way trail. While I am still very fond of many members, and even of the place itself, I no longer feel the connection I once did. I feel like a visitor and not part of the community. There is a part of me that desperately wants it to feel as it did in the beginning, but some of the sense of hominess is lacking. Perhaps it is because you only get as much out as you put in (and I haven't put much in lately) or perhaps I have just floated too far downstream to return and am on my way to another destination. I am not sure, but that that part of my life too feels unstable.

And that brings me to me. You had to know it was coming. It is, after all, all about me, right? Perhaps it is just my annual early holiday malaise rearing its ugly head, but I find myself craving change. I want it to swoop down on me like a giant, good-willed bird, carrying me away at an exhilarating pace to something wonderful and new. I feel like something is missing but can't quite put my finger on what it is. Over the past few months, I've made some big changes to my diet, I need to make more to my level of activity (in the physical, spiritual and creative senses), but I need something else too. I need to be fed by something more profound than going to work, coming home exhausted, watching a little t.v. and going to bed again in preparation for more of the same. I used to do things, create things, now I just watch and wish.

Maybe that's what this urge for change is, an invitation to figure out what it is that that is missing. I have been thinking that perhaps I needed to start writing again, maybe even resurrect my blog and play here a bit, in order to do just that. What changes do I want/need to make to my life? What is missing? Where do I want to go?

Then, in a moment of synchronicity this morning, I happened to check my yahoo email, which opened up with a funky sort, making the first email an undeleted two-year old notification about a comment on this blog at a time when I was doing a lot of writing. It was from a stranger, Aart Hilal, referring me to Paulo Coehlo's blog. At first, I didn't notice the date on the email, because I was too busy typing Coehlo's name into the search engine. And where did I end up? At the following quote:

When we least expect it, life sets us a challenge to test our courage and willingness to change; at such a moment, there is no point in pretending that nothing has happened or in saying that we are not ready. The challenge will not wait. Life does not look back.

If that isn't the universe blessing my endeavor, I don't know what is!