December 8th – “The work of your hands will take center stage today.”

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A friend lent me her copy of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo, so I spent the last 24 hours using my hands to tidy up my house.

Having a clean and organized environment is super important because it helps me be more productive and calm. When I start a new project, I like to take time to clean and rearrange my space to suit the particularly assignment at hand. Every project deserves its own environment for creativity to flow.

Don’t get me wrong, my work space doesn’t stay cleaned the entire time. In fact, it progressively gets messier as I get into what I’m doing. That’s okay! It’s actually good because it means that I’m really focused and not distracted anymore! Hooray!

I’m starting a new writing project, so it’s the perfect time to put my hands to work by cleaning.

The tip I followed from Kondo’s book was to clean and organize by category, not by room. This makes sense because it’s faster to do one type of chore, rather than switch gears by doing a variety of chores. For example, cleaning the kitchen entails: washing dishes, mopping floor, organizing cupboards, wiping down surfaces, and cleaning the refrigerator. That takes hours and I usually lose steam before I can finish the job! It’s much more efficient to do all the dishes in one shot. That means gathering up all the mugs that I have lying around in my living room, work space, and kitchen. Done!

Cleaning by category is also more pragmatic than cleaning by room. If you have guests coming over, would you prefer to only have your living room cleaned, or all the floors in your house vacuumed? Perhaps you will be more convinced if I give you a more extreme example:

My indoor/outdoor cat, who usually does his business outside, likes to poo in the house when it’s raining. He doesn’t like getting wet in the rain, so he leaves surprises for us all over the house. Would I rather clean my bedroom (where I’ve cleaned up some of the cat poo) and have poo lying around in my living room and kitchen OR clean up all the cat poo from every room? I think you’ll agree that it is way better to NOT have cat poo in ANY room, than have a clean bedroom!

After cleaning up the cat poo, I focused on two things:

  1. Laundry
  2. Papers and Books

Laundry was easy because it’s something that I do every other day. I gathered up clothes from my car, the bedroom, the hallway, living room, and even kitchen.

I did the same with my books and papers. This process was a little harder, but more interesting because I had to go through the items more carefully to see what could be recycled, donated, or re-shelved. It was amazing how many half-filled notebooks, scraps of paper, junk mail, and books I had lying around.

Here are some before and after photos of my entry way:

In my mess, I rediscovered one of my favorite books. A Language Older Than Words is a memoir by Derrick Jensen. It’s amazing how he’s able to weave personal struggles and politics into a story that every day readers can appreciate. I particularly recommend this book if you want to understand the dynamics of violence.

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October 24th – “Forces around you are pushing you off track…What bravery do you need now?”

I like it when my zodiac and horoscope predictions coincide, but I’m not always sure how to interpret it! I have been thinking about work a lot lately and have been feeling a sense of urgency in this aspect of my life. There are many external influences beyond my control and I think I need to assess my situation and make decisions on what to do next.

Over the past year, I started quite a few creative projects (including this blog) while working part-time. I quit The Worst Job Ever (TWJE), so it was a good opportunity to try out new ideas and do work I wanted to do for a change. Now that I’m ready to create a different lifestyle for myself, it’s time for me to complete these projects.

I certainly could have finished these projects earlier, but had a number of reasons for not doing so. One excuse for procrastinating was that I simply wasn’t ready for a new job. The logic in my head was:

finish projects —> more free time —> do more paid work —>  find a full-time job  —-> get a new job that might really suck —> feel trapped!

Since TWJE, I have been afraid to commit to a new job because I don’t want to feel stuck in a bad situation. I know that I’m being dramatic and overly cautious, but I’m sure someone out there can relate.

In reality, my side projects and new job opportunities are totally unrelated. It’s silly that I’ve linked these two things together in a causal chain. It’s more likely that this will happen:

finish projects —> feel fulfilled —> new ideas —> start projects —>   finish projects —> feel fulfilled

It’s clear that I’ve been exhibiting self-sabotaging behavior lately, so I better stop! If I can’t be brave today, when will I be?  I know I get tremendous satisfaction from completing my own projects, so I will commit to getting my mini-books and paintings done by the end of the year.

To help me with this process, I’m going to go back to “piling” organization and keep all my projects in sight. I did this in graduate school and it was very effective in keeping me on track.

For those of you who don’t do this, it can work well for creative types who get distracted by lots of ideas. Click here for a more detailed explanation. Here’s a summary:

  1. Forget conventional filing and organize your projects into piles on your desk or any other surface you have.
  2. Write down project deadlines on a calendar where you can see all 12 months.

I also signed up for a free course for training creative professionals. I’ll let you know if I recommend the course when I’m done with it in 8 months. I don’t know if this will be my cup of tea, but I’m sure I’ll learn something from it!