The Elusiveness of Excellence

There is another lesson to be learned from the craft closet: the importance of excellence in my life. I want to be excellent at the things I do; to really latch on to one or two things that  I love and faithfully pursue them.

As I sorted through all of those craft supplies, I realized something about myself: I have terrible follow-through. That closet was full of items for projects that were either half finished or never started. I had grand ideas about scrap-booking our entire lives, sewing, painting murals,and making all of my own greeting cards. I did actually pursue those things for awhile, but it didn’t last. They all ended up being lackluster uses of my time, energy and resources. And now I’m left sorting through the fallout from trying to be good at too many things.

Most of the time, I feel like that old saying “Jack of all trades and master of none.” accurately describes who I’ve allowed myself to become. I’m not proud of it and I don’t like it. I’m pretty competent at painting, writing, reading music, giving a speech and swimming; but I’m not an Artist, Author, Musician, Orator, or Athlete. Those people are excellent at what they do, and I long to be among their ranks.

I have no designs on becoming famous or gaining the attention of admirers. Honestly, we all love hearing how great we are, but attaining that should never be our motivation or goal. I desire that satisfaction that comes from the relentless pursuit of the prize. I want to master something, to be really, really good at it. I want that “fire in my belly” to work hard, face my fears, overcome failures and truly excel. It’s not that I plan to cast off everything and solely pursue one or two things, it’s just that I want to give the lion’s share of the energy and attention reserved for that part of my life, to something of worth.

Now, you may find yourself wondering where I am going to focus my efforts. I have a couple of ideas, but I’m still thinking it through. I have no intention of  jumping in with all of the ambition, but none of the follow through, like I’ve done in the past. I’m doing things differently this time. Pursuing excellence takes deliberate action and focused attention. So, when I’m certain about what I intend to pursue, I’ll be sure to let you know.

baggage

Oh, and one final thought on my pointless pursuit of everything: I won’t give into feeling guilt or remorse for those projects that ended up half-finished or that were never started. They are behind me and I  am moving forward. I have chosen to live with less and that means I can’t carry any extra baggage with me.

Option Overload

paper2   As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been sorting through the little things around the house. Yesterday I tackled the “craft closet”. It was full to overflowing with fabric, paint, brushes, papers, ribbons, buttons, stickers, glitter, glue and a myriad of other supplies. When I began, I decided I would only keep what was useful or beautiful.

As I was going through the scrapbook/card-making paper, if  I didn’t think “Oh, I like this one” or “That’s a lovely color”, I didn’t keep it. When I was finished I had a moment of panic because the “go” pile was much larger than the “keep” pile. How was I ever going to do my next project with so few choices? Then, that calm little voice of reason whispered in my ear: “It’s okay, you still have plenty of options to choose from, and you think all of them are beautiful. Next time you work on a project, you won’t spend so much time and energy choosing, because now you are not adding mediocre options to the mix.” And that was wisdom I really needed to hear.

Our lives can be consumed by options. I can’t recall how many times I’ve stood in the aisle at the grocery store trying to choose between 6 different brands of tomato sauce. Or how often I’ve stood in line at a fast-food joint, looking at the menu and feeling overwhelmed because I couldn’t process all of my choices before I had to place my order. This is option overload, and it doesn’t make life better. I firmly believe it actually reduces the quality of my life.

In 1972, there were 6 sandwiches, fries, apple pie, milk, coffee, hot chocolate, shakes, 3 types of soda and an ice cream cone on McDonald’s menu. That was it, and going there was always exciting. Now, there are so many things on the menu, they have to show a PowerPoint presentation of all the options. And this is just one example of the overload we face each day. Having the ability to choose is wonderful, but sometimes we can have too much of a good thing. Choice is everywhere and it divides our attention, energy and time. it is making us less content, less productive people. We spend so much time and energy choosing, we leave ourselves very little time to actually live.

So now I have another to-do item on my list, eliminating unnecessary choices. Just because there are dozen options to choose from, it doesn’t mean I have to entertain all of them. Having fewer options can make life more simple without making it less joyful.

 

The Little Things Matter

Little things  It’s been about a week now and I keep pushing forward; clearing out things I don’t need and making room for the life I desire. It feels good and I have a great sense of accomplishment, but sometimes the task is a bit tedious. I’m leaving no stone unturned in this endeavor, which means I’m sorting through a lot of little crap.

As I was going through the cupboard in the bathroom our daughters share, I found myself wondering if sorting and thinning out all of the little stuff was going to matter. I mean, how much space do hair pins and nail polish take up anyway? But, I’m determined to minimize, down-size and organize every nook and cranny of this place so I pushed through that task and even moved on to another bathroom, the laundry room(where the “junk drawer” lived) and the kitchen.

When I stand back and look at the end result, I am amazed! Things feel lighter and more beautiful. There is empty space where clutter and junk once resided. It feels so good!

Now, after thinking about it, I don’t know why I even wondered if the little things matter. Of course they do! When I think about my life, those treasures that I have stored up in my heart are rarely the big things. What I value most are the little things. Things like, bouquets of dandelions picked by my young daughters, making cookies(and a mess), going to concerts, and sharing a meal with people I love.

And that brings me back to thinking about all the little crap I got rid of, stuff I didn’t need, that didn’t add value to my life. What about all of those little unneeded and unwanted memories that I hold onto? Why not just clear out that clutter and junk too? Won’t that also make life feel lighter and more beautiful? So that’s one of the new tasks on the to-do list. When I come across one of those memories that doesn’t deserve space in my heart and mind, out it goes. But that empty space it creates, I’m going to fill it back up with good stuff. Because even a minimalist can collect things they really love.

On Resting and Minimizing Busyness

My beautiful picture On Sunday I rested. It sounds simple and easy but it wasn’t. I am on  a roll, going through the house, getting rid of crap and it was really hard to take a day off and leave the project “unfinished”.  The were a few reasons I decided to rest. One, my allergies were really bothering me and that makes me feel pretty miserable. Two, my family-type people were home and I wanted to enjoy their presence. And finally, because I’ve decided resting is an important part of becoming  a mentally, emotionally and spiritually healthy minimalist.

I am too busy, it’s all go all the time. I like to be busy, to do stuff, but I need to find a better balance than I’ve had up until recently. I was so busy, that when I was home, I was so lazy. I didn’t want to do anything. No folding the laundry, washing the dishes or dusting the coffee table (By the way, that thing went away with my purging!). So, not only did I have too much “crap” but it was everywhere; and it was depressing. When I decided to try minimalism, that was great motivation to stop being lazy at home and work really hard for days on end. However, since I am one of those people who can take things to the extreme, I didn’t want to stop until it was done. (which is crazy, because this is going to be a long journey).

Contemplating balance through minimalism, made me realize that rest is an important part of life so I made myself take the day off. I slept in, I read a book, cooked burgers on the grill and had a great conversation about 1 Corinthians 8 with my family. It was glorious and necessary. Since, I am on summer break from my job at the university, Monday morning I continued the “quest for rest”. I had coffee on a friend’s porch. It was so good to talk, laugh and just enjoy the company of others. I could have skipped it, been too busy with getting rid of my crap, and I would have missed out on really living. (Which is the whole point of this journey I’m embarking on.)

Rest is important.

 

Becoming Minimalist Is Like Peeling An Onion

onion

As I’ve been sorting through the accumulated “crap” in my house, I’ve decided it’s like peeling an onion. There are a couple of reasons I’ve come to this conclusion.

First, becoming minimalist is going to happen in “layers”. I’m almost finished with my first trip through the house eliminating things that I don’t need, but it’s the first of several necessary purges. I’ve only peeled off the first layer. Here’s an example of what I mean: I took 8 vases to Goodwill yesterday, but I still have 6 in the cupboard. It’s a success, I am living with less, but I still have more than I need. On the next trip through, I’m sure I’ll be able to part with a couple more vases. And thus, peel off another “layer”.

When you peel away the layers of an onion, it gets smaller but it’s still an onion. Removing the layers doesn’t change it’s texture, flavor or aroma; it only changes its size. That’s what happens when we minimize what we live with. It’s still my life, my home. It has the same flavor, texture, and “aroma”. I still love it, I might even love it more (but it’s a little too early in the process to know for sure). One thing I am certain of; it’s still my onion, and I love onions!

 

P.S. I realize there is an analogy for crying while you peel an onion, but honestly, I haven’t really been sad yet. Maybe, I’ll be able to relate to that parallel further into the journey.

And So It Begins…

I’ve been contemplating making  some changes for awhile, but I couldn’t quite figure out what those changes needed to be. A few months ago I stood in our dining room, looking at everything around me and I declared, “we have too much crap!” It was the first of many occasions that I realized, pondered, or thought about the fact the the “crap” was taking over. Yesterday, I decided that enough was enough. I started seriously making real changes.

I’m tired of looking in a closet full of clothes but having “nothing to wear”. I’ve had it with looking around my house full of things and having “nothing to do”. And, I’m appalled at looking in cupboard full of food but finding “nothing to eat”. It all needs to change; so I’m finally taking steps to make it happen. I have started with myself. I did some research (there are some great blogs out there) and got to work. I went through my closet, dresser and night stand. I also went through some of the kitchen cupboards. I ended up with a trunk full of stuff to take to Goodwill. It is a small dent, but a dent none the less. I plan to make my way through the entire house, tackling one room at a time.

Becoming minimalist won’t happen overnight and I’m not even entirely sure what my definition of minimal is yet, but I’ve begun the journey. I plan to use this blog as a journal of sorts. I think it will keep me motivated and who knows, maybe it will inspire others who crave more life and less stuff.