Thursday, March 11, 2010

Getting Out of My Own Way

The last few weeks I've felt stuck--like someone's jammed a stick in my spokes and stopped all forward momentum. I can pedal as hard as I want, but all the wheels do is spin in place (hmm...I think that's a mixed metaphor, isn't it...maybe it's more like I have training wheels and I got stuck straddling a dip in the driveway and my back tire isn't touching the ground). Anyhoo, whatever the analogy, I weren't gettin' nowhere.
This, perhaps, was part of the problem:

The previous weekend, I had been invited to a clothing swap and had only a few minutes to tear through my closet to find my contributions, and no time at all to attempt to put things back together. So I lived with this pile in the middle of my bedroom for a week. Every time I walked past it, I noticed something else I should have gotten rid of. I decided to do a real, serious go-though of every stitch of clothing in my closet and dressers, a la Shannon at Free Spirit Knits (minus the arty signs to signify what goes where).

Saturday, I started pulling things out of drawers and off of shelves and hangers. I made three piles: "keep," "keep in case I lose 10 pounds in the next year," and "put in bags for next year's clothing swap." Here's the work in process.

It was a long, dusty process, taking a few hours Saturday morning and most of Sunday (with breaks for cooking and walking, and including vacuuming and dusting the whole room).

I ended up filling three of those huge new reusable grocery bags (which really annoy me because a. they're made out of plastic, so the plastic industry is still running the show, only now they make like $3 a pop; b. they take up a ton of space empty; c. your groceries just rattle around in the bottom, rather than being cradled like in a canvas bag; and d. people who would never in their lives consider reusing a grocery bag feel compelled to give the ones they get for free to C and me so now we have a ton of them)--two of get rid of now and one of get rid of if I don't lose weight. (There's another reason I don't feel too bad about my recent spendiness in the apparel dept.) I finally got rid of several items I was hanging onto for purely sentimental reasons (like the first outfit I sewed--a green corduroy jumper with a blouse made from red fabric covered in vintage ski posters, oh my), and I even discovered that a pair of "work" pants I thought were too small actually fit, so I've expanded my working wardrobe by 20%. Awesome.

Now I am a little suspicious of the "organization" industry...and I do feel that some temperaments/ personality types are just naturally more organized than others and that they are trying to force their worldview on the rest of us. But I do also know lots of people who are just so overwhelmed by the stuff in their lives, that they can't get from point A to point B because there is a mountain of crap in their way. I know this because I can tend to be one of those people (right at this very moment I have two cardboard boxes of things I need to "go through" and "deal with", i.e. read, recycle, respond, resend, etc.) It can be almost paralyzing, when you can't call friend X because you still haven't returned calls to friends A through W.

Just last week, I was trying to find the printout from day 18 of my Inside Out class (which yes, ended a month ago, and I still seem to be bogged down in week 3), and a search of the various flat surfaces of my bedroom yielded: a recipe for fortune cookies, a recipe for homemade crackers, six issues of The Sun (unread), a printout of an article on knitting and Waldorf, my Inside Out Journal (frozen on Day 17), a printout of my literary reflections essay for The Motherhood Muse (still in draft form at that time), the book I was writing about, two library books, The Complete Grimm's Fairy Tales, a book about making prairie dolls, two insert cards from Yoga Journal, a friend's zine, one COA alumni magazine (unread), three issues of Orion (unread), two teacups, one inhaler, one issue of Raising Maine (unread), three sweater patterns, a notepad, one issue of GEMINI, a 2009 calendar, a pile of magazines for cutting up and making collage in my Inside Out Journal, colored pencils, yarn, thread, one issue Yoga Journal (open to the page of the yoga series I'm supposed to be doing every day--but only did once), a flier on how to tie a sari, more books, dust cloth (unused), an old cough drop, another zine, a picture by one of my kids (who knows which?), more books, two lollipops, Qi Gong For Beginners, crumpled paper, a catalog, another book...

A lot of detritus of a person who starts things but can't finish them--classes, magazines, books, writing assignments, exercise programs, craft projects--more spinning wheels. It seemed that getting everything cleaned up, straightened out and put back in place, might help clear my head, and clear a path toward progress. So, have I gotten back on a daily yoga routine? No. Re-started a writing practice? No. Finished my class? No (I did print out a new copy of Day 18--it involves a lot of messy paining and I feel reluctant to do it!). But my room is a much nicer place to be now (once the dust settled and I resumed normal lung function). Here are some photos in case it doesn't last.

The newly organized closet:

There's one shelf in there that's full of my writing stuff which still needs some attention, but otherwise, not too shabby.
This is my "creativity corner." The baskets are projects I want to make this spring...better get boogieing.
That's the Big Ugly Chair, which I would love to replace with a beautiful antique fold-down writing desk (and a snazzy new laptop). Don't you think that's just what I need to jumpstart my writing career?
(That box underneath my "desk"? That's my to-deal-with pile).


  1. I understand!!! I nodded my head in recognition through this whole post. I feel like my wheels are always spinning. I tackled the bedroom last friday because I couldn't take it anymore. Pulled the bed out, washed the curtains, recycled stuff, and MADE MORE PILES. My piles sound like yours (things I want to read or do or make) plus all the medical crap I leave lying around unfiled. Oh, and I even have an ugly chair.

  2. I'm with you and @Mary. I feel periodic compulsions to organize, but I either don't maintain the momentum after I've started or fail to maintain any progress once I'm done. Personally, I need to get better about focusing on one task at a time and seeing it through to completion, rather than trying to tackle the world all at once. Taking a chapter from your playbook, perhaps the closet will be the first on my list.

  3. Those grocery bags make great containment devices for piles of stuff to deal with. I should be dealing with similar piles upstairs - unread stuff, unfinished stuff, new stuff to start and leave unfinished.


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