to do list


I recently read the suggestion of taking on cleaning/de-clutter projects for 20 minutes at a time as a way to make the mountain of a task seem surmountable.  The book that made this suggestion also recommended cleaning from the inside out (starting with dresser drawers, closets, etc) because those areas need to be clean/organized in order to put everything else away.

So I started with dressers and closets.

Friends on Facebook may have noted that for eight days (not always consecutive) I have attempted to de-clutter my home. I knew this could be a months-long project of 20-minute sessions (longer sessions on weekends) when I started on it. What I did not know was how hard it would be to free my life of some objects or how many old and unused objects I still possess.

The problem is that I grew up in a family where sentimentality was attached to nearly every object. I sometimes heard a parent suggest that an item may become a valuable collector’s object someday — not likely since  most of those objects show plenty of wear and tear.

For me, objects were used as a way to feel secure and safe in the world. As in, if I am surrounded by everything I might ever need on any occasion, then it must mean that my life will be easier to go through and I will not get bored (always having some project to do).

I also have to fight thinking that by not throwing something out, I would be saving myself the cost of buying it should I ever find myself in need of such a thing.

The reality is that the things that I rarely to never use or haven’t touched for years (my old high-top roller skates, tennis rackets, bulky winter ski suit) take up a lot of space. For most of these items, I would be able to rent substitute equipment or make do without those objects if the need for them comes up again.

Then there are the objects that were a part of my past, that remind me of younger and crazier days. These include my wide-legged jeans with reflector stripes, plastic bead/candy jewelry, wigs, glow in the dark things, childhood toys , stuffed animals and children’s books. It turns out I also have a pretty big collection of music CDs (including a box of empty jewel cases) and audio tapes — yes tapes.

I was able to make myself put most of these things in the donation pile. However, I am keeping the children’s books that I’m pretty sure are now out of circulation and that I would like to share with my own children or future nieces and nephews someday.

Then there are the objects that belonged to or were gifts from deceased friends or relatives. Last night I came across a small porcelain decorated mask that a grade-school friend (Derick N.) had given me as a birthday gift. He died in a car accident some years ago. After staring at it for some time, I decided to put the object in the donation box and keep the memories of my classmate in my heart.

For some objects, I take a picture of them so that I can still have the memory but just use up less space in the house.

Another challenge is deciding what to do with the clothes that my grandma wore, including some things I don’t think I’ll ever wear. The obvious answer is to get rid of the things I won’t wear and keep a select few items, which I am doing.

I also had filing cases full of tax, bank account and other important documents to sort through. Some documents went back to the early 1990s.

The end result of sorting through those files, is that I am keeping the necessary things (useful maps, car titles, notes of loans being paid off, and the last few years of necessary tax records) but have several large bags of papers that need to be shredded before they can be recycled. I imagine this will take several evenings to shred all those pages.

As of now, I have filed the backseat of my car with stuff to give away and my outdoor garbage bin/recycling bins with broken and useless items. But I can tell there will be many more trips to the donation site and full dumpsters to go before my life is organized enough to make it easy to keep the house clean with daily maintenance.

Although many of the books I have read suggest selling the more valuable things for some revenues, I know in my heart that I will never find the time nor make enough money to justify spending the time on a yard sale or eBay. It is more important to me to get those things out of my house before I change my mind about them.

What are some objects you would have a hard time parting with?

So I’ve neglected this blog entirely too much.  Starting today I aim to blog at least weekly, often on a Monday or a Friday.

For starters I’ll outline my 2010 goals.

Health, wealth and keeping up with, well, everything.

Health

I’m now 32 and I can definitely tell that it’s easier to pack on the pounds. It used to be that at this weight I didn’t feel unhealthy. But that seems to be changing. I’m having more respiratory problems and I’m noticing it’s not as easy to do the somewhat more rigorous physical activities that have always seemed as natural activities. Plus I’m starting to fill out my clothes a little more than I had in recent months.

So I’ve determined to fix this downward spiral. First of all, I’m cutting back drastically on processed foods, especially my gluten-free breads and pretzels. Second of all, I’m eating as much fresh vegetables (or steamed) and fruit that I can and cutting out meat except for dinners out and weekends with my boyfriend.

For at least a month, starting today, I’m going to go without potato products and junk food, including those little chocolate treats my co-worker keeps out on her desk. Finally, I’m going to exercise at least twice a week (hopefully more) in one of the two gyms available to me at my office and in the nearby National Press Club.

Wealth

My goal each year is to manage my finances better, and I believe there has been improvement. But there is always room for more. In addition to better budgeting/spending habits my goal this year is to buy a queen-size bed and take a trip to Hong Kong.

Keeping up

This year I intend to keep up with my household chores/cleanliness and to have purged both closets of gratuitous items by July. Moreover, my much neglected car will be kept cleaner and given a good washing at least once a month.

Anyway, I promise the next blog will be much more interesting. Happy New Year everyone!!!

A lot has changed in me since I returned from the monastery.  Yet in some ways I’ve fallen back into old patterns only to realize this and struggle to figure out how to break free. The true test of my ability to find time for solitude will come in the next two months.

For as much as I was determined to keep from adding logs to the fire and leave more space for solitude and spiritual reflection/worship, it seems I had a lot of commitments for the month of September and October lined up before I went to Mepkin Abbey and other duties seem to have piled on since then. Most of my obligations are ones I gladly take on, I should note, and are for humanitarian causes that I am especially dedicated to working toward.

Yet today, looking forward at my calendar and at my to-do list, I find myself with a growing urge to gasp for air. My body feels wound up inside, my neck hurts again and my thoughts are in a jumble.

From the weekend of September 12 until October 18 I have one free weekend. And by free I mean I haven’t yet decided among three possible options:  1. visit my Grandma, uncle and friend in Northern California. 2. spend it locked up in my house with my dog and out in nature with my phone turned off.  3. wait until that weekend to decide what I need to do, because there’s bound to be some urgent thing.

If I am not careful, I will become so frenzied by my busy schedule that I will again accidentally block out my worship/spiritual growth time and solitude time, which can be one and the same.  If any of you pray and feel the urge to do so tonight,  I would welcome a sentence thrown in for my minor concern and a request that God will strengthen me.

Tonight I think I’m going to go home, take the dog for a long walk and pull out my bible and some other books and read in silence (no music, no computer, no movies). Maybe I’ll take a long bath.

I can feel my body thirsting for solitude and quiet it as if I’ve run a marathon and I see the bottle of water held out by a volunteer just a few feet ahead. Only in my case the bottle of water is time at home, and the few feet ahead is a metro and bus ride.  I just pray that my apartment is not full of noise from people that live nearby tonight.

I’m a list person.

I love making lists, checking them off, re-writing them on a fresh piece of paper every morning and using them to make sure life will continue on without getting collection notice calls or realizing half way on my drive to Florida that I left the car charger for my phone on the kitchen counter.

Lists are a security blanket to mitigate my spotty short-term memory.

They are also a form of instant gratification. I get a little thrill each time I can cross off a completed item.

In fact, list making to me is a form of stress relief. If I’m worried about getting something done, I write it down and then don’t worry about it until I have time to refer to my list again.

In my love of lists I tried using the tasks application on my blackberry storm. But I’ve found it to be a cumbersome process. Moreover, I often forgot to check the list, leaving many a thing undone for weeks.

But if I have a piece of paper in my wallet or purse, all I have to do is whip it out and look it over. Hell, I can even check the list while on the phone at the grocery store.

My quest for making an organized and easy to read list is insatiable.

I try leaving rows between the items. I try putting an X on the left side of tasks when completed, but sometimes I decide to cross them off entirely.

When a list is marked up to the point that its starting to look unorganized I pull out a fresh sheet of paper and start the list over again.

Sometimes I write them in pencil so I can erase and revise at will. Note, I also have a love of sharpened no.2 pencils. Sometimes I use color-coded markers or just a blue pen. Black ink is not my friend because it doesn’t stand out enough, but if that’s all I have I’ll use a black ink pen.

Right now I’m using a legal pad. It fits nicely in my bag next to my computer. And yes, my lists are that long.

Here are some things I keep lists/spreadsheets for:

  • daily to-do’s
  • budget tracking
  • savings for big-ticket items
  • upcoming, pending, potential BeadforLife events
  • upcoming travel plans (with expected dates, expenses and to-do lists to prep)
  • To buy: groceries, household items
  • To call, to email, to return call/emails
  • Work to-do
  • Story ideas for blog and for work
  • Stories I’m writing/have turned in this week for work
  • A camping packing list
  • Packing list for flights/vacation (within US) short-term
  • Long road trip packing list
  • Things I want to do
  • Books I want to read

In fact, by writing this and posting this blog entry I have yet another thing I can cross off my list with my sharpened no.2 pencil. Wohoo.

I’m limiting myself to 10 resolutions for this year.

Financial:
1.Keep and honor a weekly running budget (i.e. self designed spreadsheets with daily spending tracking lists)
2.Pay off at least $4,000 worth of debt by this time next year. Do not use the credit card ONCE.

Household:
3. De-clutter house in next two weeks and then keep the place at a guest-visiting level of clean for the rest of the year. Maintaining my house will be at a higher priority than socializing (eegads, i hope I can hold to this).
4. Keep car clean

Health
5. Take dog for two walks every day no matter how much of a rush I am in each morning and no matter how tired I feel when I come home.
6. Make time for weekend tennis games with brother at least once a month.
7. Take advantage of free gym memberships and exercise at least twice a week, no excuses.
8. Sit down each Sunday morning and plan at least four meals for the following week.

Misc.
9. Be more self confident at work while also setting aside my ego.
10. Write in blog at least three times a week.

What are your resolutions?

I need your advice and brainstorming powers.

I recently won a gift certificate for a two-night weekend stay at a local luxury hotel near the waterfront and Georgetown, Washington, DC. The problem is that I’m not sure what to do with the prize because I live just outside the city. It needs to be used by April of this next year, so I don’t have too much time to come up with a great idea.

I’m thinking maybe I’ll invite a couple of friends to join me and we’ll stay there in January to celebrate my birthday on January 10. But I’ll probably have to wait to book the hotel until after the inauguration on the 20th.

PLEASE help me come up with creative and clean (clean enough that my 84-year-old grandma could read it without blushing) ideas.

TTFN-E

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I’m not someone you would classify as a clean freak. In fact, I often have a hard time motivating myself to stay home and clean house instead of going out and being social.

Well, I came across a list of tips for cleaning the other day and it inspired me to try a few of the ideas. I’m also going to list an idea or two I’ve learned over the years.

The most useful tip was to clean in sets of three. Pick three things up and put them away, fold them, file them, wash them, etc, until you are ready to vacuum, mop, wipe or sweep. This worked wonderfully to help me feel like the task of reorganizing my bedroom closet was easier and it even inspired me to work on my bedroom when I was done.

Another tip was to listen to a book on CD while you clean. Well, I already do that and sometimes I also listen to NPR while I clean. I also listen to books on CD when I’m crocheting.

Another was OHIO (only handle it once) when cleaning.

I also read somewhere that it’s a good idea to keep a goodwill bag in the trunk of your car and add stuff to it each time you clean until you have enough to donate.

I keep a cloth wholefoods bag hanging in each room of my apartment for recycled goods. Then the night before the recycling truck comes around I carry the bags out to the recycling bins in my yard and sort the stuff there.

But I’m still hungry for more ideas.

What tricks do you use when cleaning?

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