Rebuilding

I guess just about anytime is a good time to say:

 

“What I am doing here?”

 

And that’s how I’ve felt recently. Instead of consistently writing or creating anything, I’ve spent most of my time feeling desperate and trying to get caught up. Lately, due to some changes with my job, I’ve felt incredibly hopeless, stagnant, and just plain broken. I’m scrambling to make cuts to our finances so that we can stay in our house and keep eating.

 

So the question above is just one of many that are swirling around in my head right now. I didn’t lose my job, but I did lose a sizeable chunk of my paycheck. While something is much better than nothing, I still have to deal with the setback. Once you start losing structure in your life it’s easy to just fall apart and lose everything. Here are a few of my short-term goals:

 

  1. Stay Focused. I was really upset at first, and that turned to anger, then back to desperation. Then I began to wonder if this was it, and at 35 years old I had little future and the best I could hope for was gone.

 

But all those emotions are just that, and I don’t make decisions based on emotions. You overcome the emotion and use logical thinking.

 

  1. Stop Being Consumed by Work. It sounds crazy, but there isn’t much I can change right now about my job situation. I can find another job, but that can take weeks, months, or years. Instead of worrying about my uncertainty at work, I can instead focus more on my family and friends, projects I need to get done (that don’t require a lot of money).

 

I can also get back to volunteering, which I haven’t been able to do for a while now. I let myself get overwhelmed before and had to quit. Now, I think it’s just what I need to establish some sense of purpose back into my life.

 

  1. Get My Finances Straight. If you ever needed motivation to stop wasting money, getting your paycheck cut will give you a crash course on it. I have a savings account, and my #1 goal for the next six months will be to add to it and not wipe it out.

 

I’ll have to make driving count and not make unnecessary trips to the store. Brown rice and beans are now the staple food in the house; I couldn’t really eat out anyway. No more useless purchases (not that I had very many anyhow).

 

  1. Back to Minimalism! Now I get to really dive into a minimal lifestyle. I want to keep working on paring down what I have left.

 

Having less definitely makes you feel more free and less tied down. Each time I get rid of a bag of clothes, or another box of magazines, books, or just junk I didn’t know I had, I feel like more and more weight is lifted.

 

So… what am I doing here?

 

I guess I’m just trying to figure things out, and maybe enjoy life a little more along the way. Being stressed out about this situation, or what may or may not happen tomorrow isn’t going to help me. I’ve been under so much stress before that I could hardly sleep, and I don’t ever want to go back to that place.

I’m very thankful for everything I have.

 

Boredom & Finding Motivation

i haven’t written anything here (or anywhere else) in a long time. I wish I could say that it’s because I completely straightened my house and got it just the way I want it, or that I found a better hobby. Or perhaps anything other excuse than… I’m lazy.

It’s something that I’ve felt I needed to do, this personal evaluation. I have a very cluttered mind and I take a lot of joy in just sitting around and doing nothing at all. But I need to learn to channel these thoughts into something more productive:

1. One day a week, I’m going to paint something. I don’t know if it will be on canvas or a brick wall (most likely not), but I’m going to do some kind of art, because it brings me a lot of joy. I’m not a great painter, or illustrator, but with practice I can do OK.

2. One day a week, I’m going to sit in as much silence as I can and learn to meditate. Because… I need to. Disconnecting forces you to be more creative and productive, because you stop consuming so much. When all you do is consume, you don’t create.

3. One day a week, I’m going to save money. I used to be a big spender, a professional window shopper. The older you get, the more of your paycheck starts to leave you faster, and there doesn’t seem to be much you can do about it. So now I am going to get back to some “professional” saving, and one of my favorite quotes is “the fastest way to double your money is to fold it over and put it back in your wallet.”

Goals. Declarations. Derelict rantings. Whatever you choose to read the above as, just know that I hope to follow goals here. I may not get to all of them, but I’ll settle for at least one.

AND- I still love minimalism, I’ve just had to adapt my wild and crazy dreams of it into reality. My wife, whom I love with all my heart, is not a minimalist. So I have to navigate through her way of living, and she gets to try to understand my sometimes insane desire to get rid of perfectly good furniture so I can try sitting  on the floor.

I love minimalism. I love for things to be simple, and incredibly organized. What I thought would be a two month cleanup is now going to be the rest of my life, but that’s OK.

Obviously I need something to do.

2014 Fitness and Motivation

Not many people ask me for workout advice. Every so often I’ll get a question or two about running, because that’s what I’m most public about, but beyond that I don’t get much inquiry into my workout routine.

But I have had people ask me the hardest part of getting in shape, and the answer is always the same: motivation.

The physical exertion that comes from good exercise can be a lot when you’re just starting or returning after an absence. But that is normal. The hard part isn’t even the next day, or the day after. No, it seems like people start to lose the motivation after about two or three weeks.

So how do you (I) keep the good habits flowing?

1. Realize that you and only you are responsible for your well-being. You have to eat right; you have to motivate yourself. It can’t hurt to have friends, family or personal trainer giving you words of encouragement, but those people won’t always be there.

I have my own set of goals in mind, and I work hard to achieve them. Daily. I definitely have off-days when I don’t feel like doing anything at all,  but my motivation comes from how good I feel the day after the workout: stronger.

2. It only takes a couple of seconds to convince yourself you don’t need to workout today. So on days when I’m possibly skipping a workout, I try to give it about 10 minutes of thought before I decide.

I stand up (because lazy decisions are almost always made when you’re sitting down), I move around a little, I drink some water; anything to get the blood flowing.

3. Keep your goals simple, and keep a checklist (written or mental). You may already know this, but you’re not going to reach all of your fitness goals in two months. Unless you’re under 21 or have amazing genetics.

So try not to do too much at once; start with something simple for about 20 minutes a day. You can easily build up more once you have a baseline to start with.

4.  Understand the difference between feeling tired and being lazy. There is a difference. Some days I’m super motivated to workout, but then by the end of the day I have realized it just isn’t happening. Your body needs rest, and if you don’t rest then your body can’t repair.

5. Pick up an exercise that you can commit to daily. Personally, I like skipping rope. It’s easy and inexpensive, and I don’t need much but an area large enough to swing the rope.

Try to exercise by time, not repetition. I can do 100 jumping jacks, but that doesn’t take me more than two minutes. I try to at least do 10 minutes or more each day.

In 2014, you can improve your fitness. You could spend $50 a month on a gym (and that’s fine, if you go), but you can get the same results from a $5 jump rope, push-ups and a lot of motivation.

Some Thoughts on Holiday Shopping

shopping_cart

Today, in the United States, it is the holiday of Thanksgiving.

It’s a day usually filled with lots food that we don’t normally eat, watching parades on TV, and spending time with family. After the relative peacefulness of Thanksgiving comes the crazy frenzy of shopping known as Black Friday.

Black Friday gets the name from reversal of the retailer’s fortunes, escaping the “red” of the accounting books to the “black” of profitability. And I believe that some businesses actually make a significant portion of their profits from now until Christmas.

But now it seems that major retailers are not happy with sales on Friday, they are opening their doors and pushing their sales on Thanksgiving. For the second year in a row major stores are opening as early as 6PM on Thursday, instead of super early on Friday.

On the surface, it seems pretty harmless. If you want to get good deals on stuff (yes, it’s stuff) then now the deals are on Thursday and you don’t have to get up early on Friday anymore. But what are the consequences?

We lose a day of peace and quiet

If you’re inclined to go shopping in the Black Friday frenzy, now you can do it even earlier. So instead of spending the day with your family and thinking about shopping the next day, you’re getting yourself ready to go shopping at 6 or 7, or whatever time stores open on Thanksgiving.

Our friends and family lose a day off

Some people may not care to have Thanksgiving off. Everyone who doesn’t like a day off, please raise your hand….. no one? OK, then I’ve made my point.

When you go shopping on Thursday, you are encouraging retailer’s bad behavior of making their employees work on a day that should be spent with family. And let me also be clear that by shopping, I mean shopping for crap you don’t need, not picking up a can of cranberry sauce early Thanksgiving morning.

There are much better things you could be doing

Shopping for stuff can be fun… sometimes. But maybe it’s time to step back and wonder just what the costs are. If you plan to go out shopping on Thanksgiving day, it’s costing you family time.

“My family goes shopping together!” you say.

Well, that’s fine. But on a rare day that the whole family has off, is that really how you want to end the day? Is there nothing else you could do together than go to Wal-Mart?

I’m merely asking the questions that need to be asked. I like good deals as much as anyone; I think it’s hardwired in our nature. But if you take a second and consider your options, it’s really not that difficult to say no.

…. And holiday shopping in general

A lot of people go into serious debt this time of year, and for what? Toys that break within months? Sweaters that are forgotten or disliked? The little purchases add up.

Gifts do not improve your status in life. Stuff merely accumulates until you have nowhere else to put it and then you have to rent a storage unit to put your excess junk into. The joy of receiving a massive amount of gifts is fleeting, and only a temporary high that will soon fade away (my guess would be the next time you look at your credit card statement).

Consider giving gifts that aren’t made in a factory somewhere far away. Give your time to someone, or someplace, that could use your help. Give something consumable, like a bottle of wine, or maybe some homemade cookies. These are things that will definitely be used and not linger around their house for years until it’s thrown away, like a chia pet or a Snuggie.

So when you’re out shopping this year (and hopefully NOT on Thanksgiving), stop and think for a moment. Think about what you’re buying, and why.

Say to yourself “Is is worth it? Is this worth my time and money?”

Camping Skills

10 years ago, a hurricane knocked out power in my neighborhood for a little over two weeks. For a person spoiled by modern conveniences, that was the longest two weeks of my life up to that point. It’s both beautiful and scary to suddenly see the world around you completely dark at 7 PM, for the first couple of days anyway. After that, I started to realize just how much I relied on such silly things as electricity, running water, and TV and radio (for communications).

But, if I had been camping more than twice in my life up to that point, I just might have breezed through those 14+ days without much difficulty.

 

Here’s where I’d like to say that my time in the dark with no hot water put me through a forced boot-camp and since then, I’ve been ready for anything. Nope. In fact, until a few months ago, I wasn’t much better off. If you can believe it, I didn’t even own a sleeping bag.

 

I’m not trying to see how little I can survive on. But there is always this inner voice that nags you when you know you can do something better, and outdoor living is something I’ve never been too great at.  I’m going to improve though, and be ready to move around and stop feeling so tied down to my home.

 

Here’s my basic checklist of the things and skills I’m working on. (If you’re an experienced camper/backpacker, feel free to laugh at all of these):

 

1. Learn to pack lightly and make sure everything I’m taking with me is important.

 

2. Make sure all of that fits into one bag (maybe one large bag, one small to start).

 

3. Learn how to prepare my own dry or sealed food and cook on a fire (properly)

 

4. Build my own camp stove.

 

5. Build/start a fire without a lighter or matches.

 

6. Sleep outside without a tent.


That’s my list to start with. My goal is really just to feel a little more confident for different situations more than anything; I want to be just fine if the lights go out, and hopefully feel a little more mobile.

Apple Trees and Patience

Five years ago I planted two apple trees, a McIntosh and Granny Smith. When they went into the ground, I gave them the best start I knew how, with a good soil blend and plenty of care. I placed them in the yard surrounding a patio I wanted to set in; I imagined they would provide shade and also it would be great to just walk over and grab some fruit.

Year after year, I watched my apple trees, and nothing happened. They didn’t flower, produce fruit, or even grow much at all. I watered them and gave them fertilizer, but still, nothing. Even if they weren’t producing fruit, I was still utterly confused at how they weren’t even growing much at all. After five years they should have at least grew a few feet taller and wider.

By the end of last year I had just about given up on the two trees. If they weren’t going to give fruit, or even grow, then I was going to dig them up and replace them with some better quality trees.

On Sunday morning as I took my dogs out, I happened to look over and see that the McIntosh tree was done flowering… and full of fruit!

McIntosh-Apple-Tree

Seeing the small, but growing fruit on the tree made me feel incredibly happy. I had been patient, and then I had given up, but somehow the tree still came through.  I had a moment of clarity and excitement.  I realized that the tree wasn’t the problem, I was. I needed to be more patient and understand that things are actually out of my control. I can help the tree, but ultimately, this tree is growing and surviving in the world just as I am.

This tree and I will share the same space for as long as I live there, and although I will help it out with water and extra nutrients, it’s doing OK on it’s own. It just needed some time.

Oooops, or, When You Declutter Too Much

I made a mistake.

One of the key aspects of decluttering and clearing your space (and also avoiding being a hoarder) is to not keep something because you might need or want it someday.

Well, I realized last night that I gave away some old magazines I wish I had kept.

Last year when I was clearing all my clutter, I was trying to go through everything quickly and not think too much about the items. Basically, if I hadn’t used it in three months, the item could go to the thrift store and in my upcoming yard sale. If I was undecided about an item, I would put it in a “maybe” pile and then come back to it in a week.

The yard sale went well enough, as I remember. We sold our kitchen table and chairs, and a bunch of other small items and clothing. Unfortunately, I also sold the aforementioned magazines that I wish I still had.  They were comics magazines, and they had a serialized story that I now want to read! I had no interest in it before, but how would I know that in a year I would want them?

Writing this out actually helps me understand the situation better. My first thought was:

“Great. What else have I thrown out that I might want.”

But that kind of thought process could lead you to keep all kinds of unnecessary junk that you shouldn’t have. Instead, I’m realizing it for what it was: a simple mistake.

When I got rid of the magazines, they were in the way. Plus, the person that bought them got to enjoy them instead them being unused in a closet.

I’m sure you’ve given away something you later regretted. What was it? Did you get over it, or did it bother you to the point of re-purchasing the item?