Notes on regret

One of the big life changes I’ve been working with in 2017 is the pursuit of my creative aspirations. I have always been a person who leans more towards a life of making things. When I work my way backwards through memories there is never a time when I didn’t want to be a writer. I’ve also, in turns, sewn, made cakes, done photography, made jewelry, and other things. I’m an artist. I’m a creator. I’m not quite clear on how I got away from that path, but I suspect it had something to do with the idea of making a steady and reliable income. Now that I’m a mom, however, I find myself looking for ways to be more honest with myself about who I am and for ways to spend more time with my son, less working for other people. To that end I’ve been branching out. I’m freelancing with makeup artistry again. I’m sewing and upcycling. I’m creating. I’m doing.

Saturday evening I had the chance to do makeup for two boudoir sessions that my friend (and photographer) Becky was doing. Becky has this beautiful studio in a live/work loft in the River Market neighborhood of the city. Historic building, massive windows, beautiful, unfinished vibe. Getting there requires me to drive from my bland little suburb through the city and into downtown, seeing all the gritty, beautiful pockets inbetween. I arrived at the studio too late to park my car and walk to my favorite coffee shop just up the block so I went straight in, set up, and did my thing. Doing the actual makeup, especially on the first session, was absolutely amazing. It reminded me of why I do makeup. But after, walking out into the night’s chill and loading up my minivan to head back to my little beige suburb, I felt this overwhelming sense of sorrow. By the time I left the city that sorrow had deepened into the sharp bludgeoning of regret.

Regret is generally regarded as a negative emotion. I’ve seen it defined as a verb meaning to feel sad, repentant, or disappointed over (something that has happened or been done, especially a loss or missed opportunity). Wikipedia directly defines it as being a negative conscious and emotional reaction to personal past acts and behaviors. But is regret always a bad thing? Is that lost and drowning feeling always a negative thing? True, when I finally got home and unloaded my car I felt completely wiped out. I was exhausted beyond what I am normally and I felt pretty down on myself. But even as I lay curled up on my couch I also felt that regret shaping my next moves. Yes, I am unhappy that I packed my camera away when I moved to Kansas City and that I didn’t look more carefully when I found a place to live. Fresh from college me would have done so well living in the River Market and exploring my camera in the new environment. I would be in a far different place right now, but would that place have my sweet baby boy in it? Would I have honed my skill in which I look at a person and can correctly guess their foundation color? And even beyond the question of what would I have lost, I don’t know that the way I saw the world then was the right place to be. Now when I sit in the light of Becky’s studio I can see the possibility, not just the plan.

For me, that pain of regret isn’t one of loss. It’s one of opening up. That regret is making me want even more to reach my goals. To dig in deep. To create. To be. My regret is making me better at who I want to become. It’s not, finally, about what could have been. It’s about what is meant to be. I don’t want to avoid regret. I want to live fully and solidly with mine and let it set me on fire.

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Not so silver bullet (journal)

Yesterday I accidentally destroyed my bag and the contents therein. While walking out of a business meeting I noticed that I was dripping. I thought it was the bag of amazing leftovers I was carrying, but my business partner immediately noticed that, no, the drip was coming from my bag. I had put a full bottle of water in my bag. With the lid off. Which meant that everything from the streamlined diaper bag supplies to my iPhone went for a swim. I did what any sane person would do. I dumped the contents of my bag on the floor in front of the elevator, fished out my iPhone, shoved the baby’s muslin blanket into the purse to absorb things, then dumped the soggy contents back in before heading off.

My iPhone still works. My project notebook (a Shinola notebook) is fine. Everything else, wallet, notebooks, day planner, makeup bag, was ruined. I came home and cried on my living room floor. The suede bag is also in pretty bad shape and while still functional, it looks and smells really bad. Cue more tears. I’m still debating whether or not to replace it.

I’ve always been interested in Bullet Journaling so now that my master planner is waterlogged it seems like the right time to try it out. Bullet journals are essentially just  a notebook that you customize to suit your own organizational purposes. There are some general suggested guidelines, but ultimately you do what works for you and because it’s a blank book, you can tinker and tweak until you find what that is. So I figure why not? Every year I end up buying multiple planners as I try to find the perfect one so maybe this year the way to go is to just work my way through a bullet journal and find my style. It’s a little labor intensive: I’ve spent an hour setting up March, but so far I’m really liking it. I’ll just need to make sure to give myself a little time each week to prep the next. If this works? It will really help me simplify my life in that I won’t be wasting time and money on planners I’ll abandon after a few weeks.

And as for the notebook I’m using? I’m sticking with Shinola. If one can survive the great Handbag Flood of 2017 it’s worthy enough to be my planner.

Making Plans

Planning

For me Mondays are Fridays. They are the last day in my work week, but I don’t start my work day until 5pm which leaves me all day to get things done. Most Mondays do not work that way, though, which is why today I’m kicking off my “weekend” with some planning.

Before my son was born I lived and died by my planner. I was using the Passion Planner and admittedly I loved it. I had a full schedule between my full-time job as a victim’s advocate and a part-time job working at Nordstrom. Add in all of the doctor’s appointments and family committments if I didn’t have my planner nothing would get done. But having my son slowed my life down a lot. I changed my schedule and position at my full-time job. My part-time job is no more. I’m home more often during the week and in the four months since J. came into the world I’ve let myself live a somewhat unscripted life. That unscripted life has turned into piles of laundry not finished and a ton of ideas and plans, but no structure to get them done in. So today, before diving into trying to get things done, I’m coming up with a plan for the week.

I know for certain that I want to handle the clothing situation this week so I am making it a priority. My thredUP bags arrived on Friday and I have just enough of the laundry finished that I can accomplish this over the course of the week. I’m going to start with the bags of clothes I had already set aside and then go into my current dresser drawers. I don’t think that I’ll be able to contain my whole purge to my thredUP bags so the local Catholic Charities is probably going to be getting a visit from my minivan loaded with bags.

The other thing I want to accomplish this week is to get all of my Christmas decorations taken down and stored in one tub. If I accomplish the clothing I know for certain that will clear up one large storage tub that will be perfect for the Christmas decorations I’m keeping. I’d like to also set aside some to go into a garage sale I’m going to have later this year. That leads to the third thing that I’m planning this week: to have a dedicated space in the basement for the garage sale items. I think this week is the week I finally let go of an old chair that has seen some better days which will clean up the room I need for those garage sale items. That’s my first test for simplifying, getting rid of that chair.

How are you planning for your week?

Finding Time to Read

I love books. The best job I have ever had, hands down, was when I worked at Borders. If you’ve ever seen the movie Empire Records, Borders was my Empire Records. It’s an experience that I will never recover from in the best of ways. My bookshelves will also never recover. Even today, several years later, they are overly full with boxes and boxes still in the basement. I have so many books.

I don’t expect the quantity of books in my life to change much. I tried having a Kindle and I loved my Kindle Keyboard. I read so much on it, but when it spontaneously stopped working it could not be replaced with the same item. Kindle had moved beyond Keyboard. I tried reading on my iPad, and I do sometimes (particularly at night or on planes) but nothing has ever replaced the feel of a book for me. It’s something special to sit down with a book in my hand and just disappear into the words.

Lately, though, I don’t have the time to read. I know that comes from being a new mom, but I also feel like I’ve simply gotten out of the habit of reading. The piles of books stuck in corners and on shelves with no real plan or reason almost intimidate me. It’s hard to want to read when you look at your shelves and see a mess. I realized today, though, that I want to make the time to read again. I also realized that in order to make the time to read I was going to have to make the time to get my books in order. Tonight I took one book from the shelves and carried into my bedroom. The bedroom is more quiet and less cluttered than the shelves so until I can get to the books (one project at a time, after all) I will bring the books to me.

What are you reading?

Organize like you’re moving

Honestly? This whole journey is overwhelming and I’m just at the beginning. Other than the basement (a space that will have its own dedicated post in the future) the area of my home that makes me the most uncomfortable is my master bedroom. My bedroom is the first true master bedroom I have ever had. It’s a good-sized, but not too large space that gets beautiful afternoon light and has a full bathroom and roomy closet. It fits my king-sized bed, a dresser, and a chest of drawers comfortably. It is also constantly cluttered and messy, creating anxiety for me when it should be creating comfortable retreat.

A portion of the chaos that is my bedroom is that it’s shared space and my fiance, love him as I do, has a different idea of tidy than I do. The majority of the issue, though, is the mass quantity of clothing that I have. Right now the left-hand side of the closet designated as mine is packed solid and even overflows into the not-mine side. The chest of drawers is full to the point closing drawers is complicated. A third of the dresser is crammed with my things and I even filled a plastic storage cart with clothes only to still have too many.

I could probably go an entire year without wearing the same outfit twice. This has to stop.

My anxiety about the space is something that’s lead me to tackle organization strategies in the past. I’ve tried the “if you haven’t worn it in a season get rid of it” method where I tied ribbons on a hanger and removed the ribbon if I wore the item. Whatever hangers had ribbons left at the end of a prescribed time frame got donated. I’ve tried the “swap with your friends closet yard sale” approach where I have a miniature swap meet in my home so we could all get rid of things. I even KonMari’d the hell out of my room. None of the methods really worked. KonMari lasted all of two weeks before my cat peed in the place I designated for my purse. So much for that.

There is one thing that has always worked for me, though. Every time I’ve moved I’ve successfully been able to get rid of things. Usually Catholic Charities gets bags upon bags of things from me when I move, but I’ve also had some lucrative yard sales associated with moves. So if something’s not broke, why fix it? The plan I’m going to implement for this first purging and organizing, this simplification of my space is the “Organize Like You’re Moving” plan.

Here is how it’s going to work.
-I’m sticking with one room at a time and one room only. In this case, it’s the master bedroom and I’m narrowing things down further to a category of things, clothing.
-I’m setting myself a “get rid of” goal. Right now that goal is that I want to reduce my clothing amount by 75%. It may change.
-I have predetermined purge catergories: Donate, Sell, Upcycle, and Capsule. Items I think other people could get good use from (such as many of my larger-sized shoes) will get donated to the domestic violence shelter where I work. Items that I think have some value to them will be sold to thredUP, a local resale shop, or at a planned yard sale. I like the idea of the things I put on my credit card contributing to paying it off. Items that I can’t donate or sell go to my upcycle pile to become fabric and tools for my side sewing business. And finally, I’m working towards a capsule wardrobe for everything else.
-I’m giving myself two weeks to get through these things. I’d like to enter March with an orderly closet space.

I’m excited to try this, though I’m not certain how it’s going to play out. I’m working on trying to decide how many pieces to have in my capsule wardrobe, but I keep running into the roadblock of my LuLaRoe pieces. I have a lot of leggings, friends. A lot of them and they all serve a purpose. But, let’s be real here, do I really need four pair of patriotic leggings? Maybe?

Spare rooms and starting points

It started with my son’s nursery. I was eight months pregnant, almost nine. We had just switched into weekly appointments with the OB so we knew it was time to start putting things together. I had procrastinated working on the baby’s room for months and for good reason. The room was so full that I could barely move around in it. It was overstuffed with furniture, supplies, and general junk. In the two years we’d lived in the space that second bedroom had started out as an office and guest room only to turn into a pit of despair.

I’d been doing a little work in the room, taking a few hours here and there to try to sort it all. There were some big plans for the room. I was going to make the closet a functioning storage area while also having all the baby’s things set up. My dream was a dual use space where I could work on projects while the baby napped and played. Unfortunately as I began to round my way into that ninth month of pregnancy I had more big ideas than I had energy. When my work amounted to no progress a close friend decided to get involved. Cleaning and organizing the nursery, she said, would be her gift to us.

What was supposed to be a couple of hours on a Friday night turned into more than eight hours, dozens of trips to the trash, a lot of crying, and a mountain of things that she simply drove away with because she knew there was no possible way I’d ever get them to Goodwill. I went to bed (finally) in the early hours of Saturday exhausted, a little angry, and completely embarrassed. How had I let things get in the way of getting ready for my son?

Stuff, or the large quantities of things, has always had a place in my life. My mother had a lot of stuff. My father’s basement is still largely full of all her stuff. I’ve seen people I love torn apart over other people’s stuff. I’ve gotten into fights with my fiancĂ© over stuff. When my son was born a week after the great purging of his nursery and then spent two weeks in the NICU I had a lot of quiet time to think about my life. There was the natural thinking about my baby boy and how he was doing, but there was also a lot of thinking about how I didn’t want his life to be choked out by things. I wanted him to be able to appreciate and value what he had and, perhaps most of all, look back someday at a childhood full of experiences and memories that outlast and outshine being surrounded by stuff.

That’s where this blog begins. This year I’m making the conscious choice to live with what matters and not just what’s there. That means going through what I have and keeping only what is useful and meaningful. It’s a huge undertaking, but one I hope will help me and my whole family not only overcome our possessions but create a happier, fuller life, one that is intentionally simple but endlessly rich.

Welcome.