Clearing out – a progress report

TLCMOT I am feeling somewhat inspired to share some more about how my clear out is coming along, and a bit more from the book too.

First comes the confession – a pile of papers stacked high and wide in two filing trays, plus two magazine boxes stuffed with papers and magazines have sat on my bedroom floor for MONTHS.
In the process of rearranging a few things to make the space work better I moved them from my side of the room to Mr Oh Waily’s; right in front of his chest of drawers no less !!
Can you say denial and avoidance?  Can you say, trying to be out of sight, out of mind?  Can you say dead cheeky to make it someone else’s problem? (As in walking around them each day.)

Well, as my last post mentioned it was time to move on from my limited and not so hard to discard clothing.  Books and paper came next.  Interestingly it hasn’t been too hard so far.  And I mean, so far.  This section of clearing out is likely to last some amount of time as we have copious amounts of books and paperwork lounging around our house.

I started shortly after the last post by laying out the books from two shelves and deciding what to throw and what to keep.  That went quite well and the outgoing items are bagged up waiting to leave the house, final destination unknown at this point.  And since then I have cleared through another two shelves, with over twenty books heading out our door for greener pastures.

Then yesterday something akin to inspiration, perhaps married to desperation to move forward, hit me.  I took one look at my long-promised to sort out piles on the bedroom floor and one by one I tackled them.  The magazine files were emptied and lots of items thrown away.  They were rehoused on the new work desk in the dining room, which is where they will stay for a trial period.  The other, more problematic, piles of paper were stripped out, items removed and the remainder are now waiting on the dining table for further checking and rehoming in a yet to be completed filing system.  I also cleared up the piles of paper on the aforesaid new desk and created a gaping hole on our dining room unit by clearing out the cables & cords boxes.  Remarkably I even labelled a few of them using some washi tape in a similar method to this one here, but minus the label maker and boxes. Although, depending on how it goes, the boxes may turn out to be a good idea.

I have to say that I was inordinately proud of myself yesterday afternoon.

While in no way is the job completed (piles on the dining table are not their final home), at least a plastic bag or two of unwanted items are now gone and the floor has been cleared in the bedroom.  I no longer lived in denial-land and I plan to continue to tackle the piles one by one today. Just taking that first step on a ‘stuck’ issue shrinks it down to it’s true size.

I have to say that I’m a convert to Marie Kondo’s way of doing things.  I totally get what she’s saying about the emotional attachment to things and the best way to deal with that.  And thanks to having bought the book on Kindle (for our iPad) I have been able to highlight some key points that really resonated with me, so far.  I thought I’d share them today so you can get a feeling for her ideas.

Cleaning quietly on one’s own generates another interesting change – the ability to tolerate a certain level of untidiness among your family members.

I have found this comment to be partly true.  While I’m not completely there yet, I am more interested in what I’m doing in my own space than what others are doing in theirs.  This is reflected very much in another comment shortly after…

If you feel annoyed with your family being untidy, I urge you to check your own space, especially your storage.

and

The urge to point out someone else’s failure to tidy is usually a sign that you are neglecting to take care of your own space.

Indeed, focusing on yourself first is definitely a good idea.  After all you are the only person you have ‘control’ over, and leading by example goes a long way to inspiring others.  Not to mention the fact that the pot is often happy to point out the kettle’s untidiness without fully acknowledging their own.  Mea culpa.

This clearing up process is simply about me and what things of mine I want to live with.  On the shared bookshelves I simply lay out the books on the bed, put back the ones I want to keep and offer the choice of the remainder to Mr Oh Waily.  Anything he doesn’t want joins the exodus pile.  This may prove harder when we get to the kids’ books, but we’ll take that one step at a time since they’re only just at the beginner or pre-reader stage.

I also love the way Marie addresses the role things have in our lives, even though her slight anthropomorphising of possessions is a bit dippy.  The idea that our things have a role to play in our lives and can be removed from our lives once they have fulfilled that role is a really good way of looking at the objects that come in to our homes.  For example, you can view badly purchased clothes as a lesson in what doesn’t suit us; and gifts received allowed the giver to express their appreciation at the time of giving and receiving.

By acknowledging their contribution and letting them go with gratitude, you will be able to truly put the things you own, and your life, in order.  In the end, all that will remain are the things that you really treasure.

As for my book hoard, I thought this was a nice comment to reassure myself with,

People with large book collections are almost always diligent learners.

I haven’t made it past the books and paper part yet, in sorting and tidying terms, but I have read on past the sentimental items and how to deal with them.  She has some really nice ideas here too.

By handling each sentimental item and deciding what to discard, you process you past.

and

To put your things in order means to put your past in order, too.  It’s like resetting your life and settling your accounts so that you can take the next step forward.

Making the odd profound statement in the general text seems to be the way of this book.  My favourite to date is this comment on looking forward rather than clinging to the past.

The space in which we live should be for the person we are becoming now, not for the person we were in the past.

There are plenty of wise words, and practical advice in this book so far.  But not of the ‘keep 7 shirts, 3 skirts only’ kind.  If you want a ‘how-to’ manual that looks like that, then this isn’t the book for you.

See you all at the next update.

Currently Reading: Non Fiction edition

TLCMOT

I’m currently reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying by Marie Kondo.  I had started it a few months ago, getting through the first couple of chapters before my attention was drawn elsewhere.  It is quite a quirky book; part memoir and part practical application.

So far I have tackled her first area for clearing out – my clothes.  Unsurprisingly this did not turn out to be a difficult task for me as clothing is not one of my weak areas.  Laying out my clothes on the bed gave me a good overview of how much stuff I had before deciding what was past it’s best use date and those, relatively few, items that were being kept simply because ‘one day I will fit them again’.  You know that place, the one that is a fantasy for most of us when we hit mid-life with very little time to spare for ourselves.  I may indeed one day have a body capable of wearing a similar size to those clothes, but by no means would they look the same nor suit my taste, so out they went.  Where possible I donated the clothes that were still in really good condition and only the truly scruffy hit the bin.

Despite the fact that I had relatively few things to remove, including old and unloved shoes – maybe a good sized bag with a dozen ‘just in case’ work-style items – I felt considerably lighter for having spent the time on it.  My wardrobe suddenly gave up more room.  It was quite remarkable considering how little was actually bagged up. The sense of space was quite calming.

Now I am at chapter three and looking at how she suggests storing clothing.  I really like the visual idea of how to organise a wardrobe, and had to a certain extent been doing so already, but will take the time to follow the ideas a little more closely and see how that works for me.  And I will also be giving her ideas about sock and stocking storage a try as well.  All my current flat piles of folded clothes will also be transforming, if there are enough of them to actually implement her system.  Well.  We’ll see how it goes first, shall we?  But I’m willing to give things a good try before dismissing them.

The next section to tackle will be the hardest for me.  It is books and paper things.  This is my achilles heel.  I’m not dreading it as such, because I know there will be a lightness and satisfaction at the end of clearing out unwanted, unloved, messy piles of stuff, but I am worried that this will be the area I continue to avoid rather than tackle head on.

Wish me luck on that one.

If I feel energetic enough to do so I will take some photographs of any ‘transformed’ areas from now on.  The same applies to any updates.  If I find that some aspect of the clearing process has worked particularly well, I will try to find the time to stop by and let you know, because I know that I find a lot of good ideas from reading about other people’s experiences.

And while we’re on the topic of clearing out and cleaning up, feel free to leave any suggestions or links to good ideas that have worked for you.  I love to read and try new ideas.

An Immensely Sad Day

It is with tears forming in my eyes that I write this post.  It is an immensely sad day here in the Oh Waily household.  One of our favourite people, albeit known only through his writings, has taken his last breath and joined Death for his final journey.

I hope you had a ride on Binky, Sir Terry, and that you and Death had a good chat.  You will be sorely missed here; your smarts, your humour and your wonderful storytelling skills are so rare that you have been a blessing to the world.  Thank you, thank you, thank you for all the joy and laughter over the years.

In a matter of sheer coincidence I am currently reading “Raising Steam” for myself, and reading “The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents” to my daughter.  I will remember you with fondness tonight, as I read.  Rest well, dear man.

For more kind word you can read his obituary here at The Guardian, or heart-felt words from his friend and one-time collaborator, Neil Gaiman.

And if you have never ventured in to the Discworld, you have missed a huge treat of good old-fashioned humour, satire and witty observation on the human, or non-human (we’re equal opportunity speciest), existence.  Once you have stepped into both the adult and child versions of the Discworld, it will become quite clear why he is special to me, and my online persona.

Family Meetings

PDOver this past Christmas and New Year I spent some of my quiet time reading Positive Discipline by Jane Nelsen. I was looking for more ideas on how to positively interact with the small Oh Wailys. I found a few new ideas and met some old favourites.

While the book is a bit of a mish-mash of home and classroom ideas, there is plenty to take away from one environment that would work in the other.  The key idea for me, though, was the Family Meeting.

Not long after I finished the book we decided to give it a try and see how it would work, or not, for us.  At the first meeting we wrote the ‘minutes’ down on sheets of paper and it dragged on for what seemed like an interminably long time – especially for the kids.  There was a lot of explaining about what we were going to be doing at the meetings, and setting up expectations around listening and taking turns speaking.  Then, finally, actually trying to have a meeting.  It was all a bit dry, in hindsight.

We persisted and by the third meeting, which was just myself and the kids as Mr Oh Waily was away for work, I had taken up the further idea of having a permanent record of our meetings.  I had the perfect book for the task that had sat in my stationery drawer since my last pre-kid trip to Singapore way back in 2006, an A4 blank ring bound journal.  It had been waiting for a good use and now I had one for it.

We struggled through the next few meetings, trying to get a rhythm and working on the fidgety bugs that seem to infect the kids after a fairly short while.  Now we are two months on from those first tentative steps and I have to say that our meetings flow really well, for the most part, and the kids are both participative and able to concentrate for most of the meeting now.  We have dealt with a number of problems (one of the key uses of the family meeting) that have occurred during the preceding week, and everyone has been able to have a say in possible solutions.  The kids are learning to problem solve and to come to a consensus – as that is the only allowable outcome of the problem solving.  You just keep it on the agenda if consensus cannot be reached.

It seems to have reached a point where we rarely have actual problems to solve, so the focus of the latest few meetings has been firmly on the positive sections – compliments and planning fun activities for us all to do during the next week.  We have also dealt with our chores issues through the meeting, with a fair amount of success.  It is an ongoing work in progress, but at least it is not left to fester with anyone for long periods of time.

I think we will have reached another point in the process when we come home from our holiday in April.  It will be time to add in a new aspect or two of the meetings – expressing gratitude and maybe coming up with a family motto – just to spice it up a little and keep it interesting.  I can see that the meetings will become a more positive aspect in our lives as it becomes another family tradition, just like pancake day has.  It is something that binds us together and adds memories.

I definitely recommend getting a copy of Positive Discipline and checking out some of her ideas.  There are moments of repetition, and slightly banging on the same points, but overall it was a useful read and the Family Meeting idea made the reading all worthwhile.   Check out your local library for a copy first to make sure it gels with you and your family.

And as some wise friends said – keep it short, don’t make it a parent-lecture-opportunity, or a hidden parent-control-method and actually make sure the kids are involved and listened to.  Otherwise it will turn out to be the opposite of what I personally hoped for – a proactive, cohesion building tool for your family.