Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Do, Delay, Delegate or Dump?

Some years ago overwhelmed by the amount of paperwork crossing my desk, a colleague's guidance was:
  • Do
  • Delay
  • Delegate, or
  • Dump
I think I've mastered the first two D's: Doing and Delaying. I definitely have an advanced degree in Delaying sometimes referred to as Procrastinating. As far as Doing goes, it should be an O as in Overdoing. Or, Obsessive. Trying too hard. Never enough. Not Good Enough. Enter the P: Perfectionism, which circles back to D: Delaying because if I can't do it perfectly, wait until later, the proverbial hell freezing over.

The third D: Delegate, rarely gets a workout because I'm too busy Doing it myself ("It will be done right," said the overly-controlling perfectionist. Or, I'm too busy Delaying ("By the time I get done explaining, I could have done it myself.") Sigh. Enter M: martyr.

Finally, the the last D: Dump.

Yes, I have packrat tendencies. Not enough to qualify for "Hoarders," but enough to jam closets, create clutter and generally make life much more complicated and weighty than it need be. I sometimes feel downright boggy.

When it comes to paperwork I'm a piler vs. filer. Out of sight, way too far out of mind - drives me out of my mind trying to remember my filing system. The same often holds true for online documents.  Which folder? Where? My solution involves dozens of folders to jog the memory. Still, working at the computer, I find myself hunkered among a tower of papers - a bunker of sorts. But I know where everything is - somewhere in pile A, B, etc. (Sort of)....

So, to Dump. Aye, to Dream - there's the rub.
A place for everything and everything in its place...

Only 5 years young and I began exercising my bargain buying, packrat tendencies. The Ryan's, next door neighbors, had a garage sale. My first. I scoped out the table filled with xylophones (something I always wanted, but didn't have); possibly a Jack-in-the-Box and other trivial and (seemingly) non-essential items that fell into the want-to/have-to/gotta'-have category.

A quarter, a nickle, pennies - my paltry change bought a Red Owl paper grocery bag filled with new treasures. I headed home - just next door. Excited by the haul, I proudly showed them to Jeff, my oldest brother - 9 years my senior. My memory includes a stern lecture about the importance of frugality and avoiding frivolous expenditures. We were savers. We were? Must have lost the memo in the pile of papers I was already surrounding myself with - catalogues, magazines, old mail. He ordered me back to the garage sale to return the bargains and ask for a refund. Shame - how could I squander? - followed by dread: I have to what? Return and ask for a refund? Only 5 and I was tapping a new-found feeling: paranoia. What would they think? Would they laugh, get angry, or something else? Only 5 and I was stockpiling and squirreling away emotions that would plague me (sometimes still today). And they weren't of the pleasant variety - curiously, those emotions: joy, happiness, contenment probably made it into the file drawer - again, out of sight and very much out of mind. When pleasant emotions hit I find myself mucking about in them, thinking: This just does not feel right. What's wrong with this unknown feeling that everyone thinks is so spectacular - in my world, perhaps, good feelings actually feel bad. A place I have, unfortunately, set up housekeeping.

But I digress. Doing a bit of archaeologic research about my memories vs. my brothers, he remembered nothing about the garage sale, ordering me back, or lecturing me. Denial on his part? Awfulizing or false memories on my part? Who knows. The fact remains - as do the feelings - that when I scavenge and schlep about Goodwills, rock-bottom price resale shops, lawn sales -  euphoria is quickly followed by a sense of guilt, shame and doubt. So I tote home both my new-found tchotchkes along with a heavy bagful of emotions: the negative, bad ones, and yet, they seem to be the ones I know so very well they are where I dig my foxhole against the world.

So, to Dump. Aye, to Dream?

It is possible.  A backpacking trip in the mid 1980's showed me that just about everything I needed was in that rather compact backpack. The essentials. Returning from the outing both mentally and physically toned, I vowed to lighten my load. Since then, I have moved to five different homes and toted the same, old boxes of ancient lore with me from place to place to place. And, of course, I've barely ever cracked them open to check on their oh, so-very-important contents.

So, before the producer from Hoarders calls, I must start - make that, I am starting. 

A New Year barely tainted is a time for fresh starts. Serendipitously, National Public Radio's "Tell Me More," program got me thinking about some Big-Time Dumping. 

Gail Blanke, author and life coach's book "Throw Out 50 Things: Clear the Clutter, Find Your Life" pretty much nailed my biggest D challenge. Dumping. Failure to dump leads to what she calls Life Plaque. Most of us succumb to toting around boxes of stuff and bags of emotional garbage from house to house, year to year. It's amazing, she said, we can even get out of bed in the morning. Yawn.

Failure to Dump is obviously a challenge for many of us. Come January store aisles are, appropriately,  cluttered and piled with stuff for organizing: containers of every shape and size - big enough for your Christmas Tree; small enough for buttons, twist ties, toenail clippers - heck, even the toenails if you've a yen for that kind of thing. Organizing is big business. Professional organizers can get board certified in organizing and, of course, being very organized, they have a professional organization: The National Association of Professional Organizers. Our passion for disorganization sparked Real Simple, the magazine for "life made easier every day" and dozens and dozens of books and online newsletters on how to save money organizing your life.

And when the organizing bins are packed and there's no more space in the homestead, it's time for a Storage Unit. This brings to mind Hannibal Lecter's Storage Unit, so jam-packed, it practically had a supporting role, in "Silence of the Lambs". Jodie Foster, aka FBI Cadet Clarice Starling, stumbled upon the cache of Stuff. Among the detritus: dusty furniture, a wooden statue of an owl in flight, a mannequin, an old upright piano and a 1931 Packard beneath a huge American flag. And the piece de resistance: a pickled head.  If the Storage Unit doesn't suit your needs, you can bring the bin to you, get a Pod "your portable and self storage solution."

Simple living; living simply; minimalism; living green; bartering, recycling; freecyling - it's part of the de-cluttering/dumping process. A nod to Architect Mies van der Rohe's "less is more"guiding principle for his aesthetic "skin and bone" architecture would serve us well.

However, speaking as a Templeton the Rat, packrat groupie, I'll second this mantra, adding that it's, "Simple, but not Easy."

Enter Gail Blanke's 50-item solution. But why 50 things, host Michele Martin asked. Identifying and dumping 50-or items, one slips into a new mindset (which is a good thing to acquire), Blanke said. The 50 items can be actual items or chunks of emotional baggage dispensed with. Try it and "you become the kind of person who consistently edits her life," Blanke said.

So, time for The Big Dump and mental flossing to rid myself of 52 years of Life Plaque buildup. Tips include: not making a Big Deal out of this (uh, right - it's sort of gotten to the Big Deal stage). Chunk it out - 10-15 minutes at a time: tackle The Drawer where cap snafflers mingle with twist ties, electrical cords and toenail clippers. Move onto another area - desk, books, closet. Work your way to the attic, basement or (gadzooks!) the garage. Think of ways to recycle and share the things you've enjoyed: give books to the library for their Book Sale. Pass clothes onto shelters, non-profits, agencies helping those in need, think lawn sales, Goodwills or resales: one woman's junk, another's treasure. Of course, I'm not talking about me....

Items that are emotionally-charged: cast-offs from a bad relationship, marriage, etc. - donate, sell, burn? Your choice. Have a ceremony to cast off the anxieties, bad memories with the things that burden: chanting and sage are optional, of course.

In addition to Gail Blanke's book, here's more fodder to prime the pump for Dumping. "Everything Must Go" a bittersweet movie starring Will Ferrell. And, of course, the clutter classic: George Carlin's brilliant and oh-so true,"Stuff" monologue: "A house is just a place to keep stuff while you go out and get more stuff." And, verily, I say unto you, look to Ecclesiastes 3:6: "there is a time to keep and a time to throw away."

Before the radio broadcast had even aired (Jan. 2), I had cleaned out kitchen drawers - overcome intertia and moved toward initiative. I don't know what came over me.

Since hearing Gail Blanke's advice, my small pile working toward 50 things includes, a deep-fat fryer, used once about a year ago to deep fry chicken wings (and we know how healthy that is; baking, them until crispy, works just as well sans oil, extra calories, fuss and muss. This of course reminds me of Item 2: a coffee can full of year-old used frying oil. Onto Item 3: A Swirl Around Organizer which more organization spaces than containers, which are missing lids and bottoms. However, I'll have to add 60 more items to Blanke's suggested 50 since purchasing a 60-item various sized kitchen containers to replace the dumped Swirl Around and old containers that cascaded out of the cupboard whenever opened. That puts me at 110 items to dump.

A clean desk is a sign of:

  • A sick mind?
  • A woman who edits her life?
  • A Scary Concept!!!
Three days into January and it's a New Me: a woman editing her own life. Dumping. Dumping. Dumping. Getting rid of my Life Plaque. I like to think of this as removing the Waxy Buildup: emotional and otherwise. Well on my way to 50 + 60 things. And, yes, the Goodwill beckoned en route home. Add  8 more new-found treasures, bringing the Dump Truck Load to118. At least.