I have been learning a lot about myself this year. I had reached the point where my life was feeling totally out of control - we've experienced a lot of serious illnessness and hospitalizations between my mother and my husband's mother in the last 2 years, and prior to that in 2005/06 our oldest son had a significant physical battle with knee surgeries, post-surgical infections, multiple doctors and therapies that lasted more than 6 months. The stress level was just overwhelming because we literally have not had time to think about anything other than the immediate present. Our life had become automatic - even frantic at times - running from one obligation to the next and not really taking care of ourselves in the process. I decided in April that I really needed to take back control of my life and the first step was to take better care of myself. The second step was to take better care of my husband and children. Primary for taking better care of myself was to improve my health by losing weight. Not fun, but really a good visual of how much I had let my priorities go in order to serve the needs of others. Now, I believe in taking care of family and helping others, but I can not do it if I am not in good health myself -- I have spent the last 20 years putting my health on a back burner and it had caught up with me in a very bad way!
Along with trying to be a healthier person, I have been attempting to be more organized and thoughtful about my actions. The other week a book caught my eye in the library. It's a fantastic book! In fact, it's so good I want to share a little bit about it with you today! The title is a long one: When Orgainzing Isn't Enough: Shed your Stuff, Change your Life. whew. Not quite sure how such a long title got past the book's editor! Here is a cover shot just in case you feel the need to track it down at your library:
I have only started reading this book, but I knew after the first 15 pages that it was speaking to me in a very personal way! The author writes about shedding clutter in your life - but she defines clutter in a different way than most organizing books I have read previously. Clutter, according to Ms. Morgenstern, is anything that prevents you from being who you really are. An excerpt from page 7 (emphasis mine):
Shed is a transformative process for letting go of things that represent the past so you can grow and move forward... By releasing the defunct, extraneous and burdensome objects and obligations that are weighing you down, you create the space to discover what's next and gather the energy and courage to move forward... Shed is not only about throwing things away... Shed converts the process of letting go into an opportunity for self-discovery and healthy growth. It is a catalyst and companion on the journey to living a richer, more connected life. The ultimate payoff? Clarity, lightness of being, authenticity and living as your most genuine fully engaged self.
I often feel burdened by obligations or demands from life; job, family, deadlines ... you name it, we all experience these feelings at one time or another. There are weeks when my life is overflowing with obligations that I have to fulfill - and most of these obligations are important and not ones that I am able to let go, or have others to do for me ... but I am beginning to realize that if I can shed some of the other clutter that nags at me then these necessary obligations will hopefully seem less burdensome.
The way to determine what needs to be shed (according to the book) is by choosing a "Theme" for your life. This hit me immediately because I have been reading Ali Edwards blog for several years and she advocates picking a word for the year as a guide to keep your life in focus. You can read more about One Little Word here. My word for 2008 is: BALANCE. And that speaks to a lot of areas in my life. However, the Life Theme for shedding goes a bit deeper than One Little Word - I am still trying to define what my Life Theme should be. I have words swirling in my head, but I haven't been able to put them all together in one concise theme yet. I'll share my theme once I have decided.
One example of shedding that I have already taken action on addresses the volume of email that I receive. I participate in several email loops (which I love) and am finding it time consuming to go through all these emails daily - and they keep coming - every day, all day long! So, I asked myself - is the time spent reading and weeding through these mass group emails productive? Is it helping me to become the person I want to/need to be? You can probably guess the answer. So, I changed my preferences for all of the loops to special notices only, now I will not automatically receive 100+ emails each day but I can still go read the messages on the web as I have time. I think after a few weeks I will find that I am not missing much, and may end up unsubscribing all together. Plus, the only emails I will receive now are going to be ones sent specifically to me from people I actually know or have contacted myself! This is my first step toward shedding a cluttered area of my life: email and computer usage!
I am making a list of other areas that need to be addressed, and I'll share just a few: magazines, unfinished projects, unorganized kitchen, procrastination, lack of pre-planning and television. Ouch - all of those areas need evaluation in my life and that's not the entire list! Notice I didn't mention cleaning out closets yet! Those are waaayyy down on my priority list at the moment.
Today the last thing I want to write about the book and this learning journey is that Ms. Morgenstern recommends that you take a "Reality Tour" of your home and life. What an amazing thought ... take a reality tour! Yes, I need to do that. Be realistic about what I am trying to accomplish and it's purpose - and evaluate the state of my physical home as well, which just happens to be a complete wreck this week!
So, if you're interested, go pick up this book and let's take a reality tour together. Please share your thoughts in the comments. I always learn from reading/listening to other's experiences. Maybe we can help each other!