Family

sorting and filtering junk drawers

It is a full moon.

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I stand in the parking lot getting affirmation from my girlfriend.

As the days grow short and the nights become long I find my daylight hours usurped with things I have to do.  Normally I whine, as the hubs will attest, and contemplate things I’d rather be doing.  But one of the things I am learning is to accept the path I currently walk and make the most of it.  Normally I run the trails; the world a blur, as I jog towards an unknown and undefined finish line.  But as my sons grow older I see my marathon slowing and coming into focus.   I step over the sticks and stones strewn upon the ground; instead of picking them up and lobbing them back.

I see the small puzzle pieces that mean nothing by themselves.  But amassed together, they are the mosaic that is my life.

Slowly but surely the hubs and I are systematically going through our home; taking inventory.  When we moved often, usually every three years, we would sift through our belongings and keep what we used and gave or threw away the rest.

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One’s junk drawer, like one’s life, undergoes a natural sort of entropy.

If we can sort and filter through our things, our minds, our lives we can get to the next level; opening new opportunities.

It’s the human condition to fall prey to old habits.  We must consciously look at areas of our lives that need cleaning up, and then methodically and proactively do so.  And then keep doing it.

Levitin, Daniel J. The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload. New York: Dutton/Penguin Group, 2014. Kindle file.

Mid-week I  finally watched the film I have been waiting for since reading the novel.   The mental break was welcome and, although, it was on the busiest night of our weekday schedule; it was worth it.    The theater laughed aloud at the sardonic twist of author Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl version of marriage.   I’m glad I’m not that far gone.  LOL.

gone girl

I’m working on getting to the “next level” after reading the final pages of The Organized Mind.   As the hubs organizes the junk drawer I work on my mental files.  I sift through the detritus and externalize what I can.  After suffering the affects of information overload and multi-tasking I am finally learning to establish my boundaries and to keep my sanity.   My girlfriend and I arrived at the same conclusions.  We do not need to surround ourselves with people or things we don’t want to see or do.   Life is too short.

I thought that clearing my schedule with things I didn’t really need or want to do, would leave time for the things that I want to do.  But in a family of five our schedules do not all fit into neat little boxes and timelines.  They constantly overlap and conflict.  Most days we are faced with making the better choice; the lesser of two evils.

In clearing and organizing the junk in my mental files, random thoughts that were repressed in my brain are beginning to surface.  I sort and filter, filter and sort. The things that don’t fit into nice little files are placed in my mental junk drawer to retrieve, if needed.    But how often do we really dig into our junk drawers?  They are usually our catch-all of miscellaneous items that don’t seem to have their own place.

Do what you want; not want, what to do.

A memory conjured itself unbidden.  As a girl I sat at our living room front window, sheltered by older parents.  I was asthmatic and my parents did everything they could for me; the only child.  My routine was solitary; I was not allowed to play outside.    Hours were spent sitting at the window longing to join in the fun.  My childhood friends were climbing and swinging from trees while I sat and played my piano.  Eventually, I’d find my escape in music and in books.  But most days I’d wish for things to do.

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These same thoughts returned years later.  When we moved into our current home in 2004, I stood at my son’s upstairs round window looking outside.  The kids in the neighborhood played basketball and came and went while I remained inside with my young sons; pregnant with my third.  Again I wished for places to go and things to do.

And then the time came when my sons entered school and I longed to find a place; a purpose.  It became my children’s schools; the urge to still be needed.   Over the years the commitments I agreed to became more involved and I staggered with the weight of too many things to do.

Sort and filter, filter and sort.

And the days have finally arrived where I have many places to go and various things to do.

And the years of finding my purpose; have finally relaxed.  I stopped looking at the Facebook photos of the friends who had to share what they were doing, who they were with and all the things that defined them.  Because through the years I’ve finally discerned that the ones who need to shout out their accomplishments are the ones most insecure.  It is they who need the accolades to affirm their purpose.  I used to need these things too; the busy to-dos were my mission statements of a fulfilled life.

But it’s smoke and mirrors.  I relay this to my sister-in-law as she also learns how to sort and filter.  Sometimes too much information is detrimental.  Does the family member really need to know all the  hurtful details?  Does the fellow “friend” on Facebook need to see pictures from when all the other “friends” are together and she was uninvited?  Social media brings instantaneous gratification at the click of a button.  The art of communication; of listening and speaking and sorting and filtering are becoming lost in broad band widths.   No longer do we have time to process and file.  Our junk drawers are full. We write our own autobiographies by the minute.  There are no filters.

Full schedules and many things to do, do not equal a fulfilled life.  Most times these are distractions so that we don’t deal with our junk and we continue to fill the drawer with unrelated items and insignificant things.    I say this to my girlfriend, who is as baffled as I, that our schedules are still busy.  After giving up various time consuming commitments, we chose new ones to fill their place.  She says this aloud.  As I sort and filter it falls into place.

It’s all about perspective.  The things that now fill our time are family centered; our children and their activities.  No longer are we spread thin while our kids quietly wait on the sidelines for Mommy to be done; doing things for others.   We now sit in the bleachers cheering for our very own.  As I cheered on the risers, in high school, I longed to see my parents in the stands; but they never were.  I choose not to be like them.

I continue to de-clutter and organize.   The choices are becoming clearer; not lost in mental distraction.  I evaluate what to keep and what to let go.  I am getting my junk together and bringing it to the next level.

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#1677 fastening my attention

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I stare at the bookshelf across from my desk.  It remains empty; the color swatches taped to the wall.  I have not returned the books and folders to its shelves until the wall behind it is painted a new hue.  Two months have passed.

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The color was undecided.  Until now.

It has been over a year since the hubs and I have fully taken over the family business.  Over the summer, the files of folders accumulated in  twenty five years have finally seen daylight; scanned with my own two eyes.  I sneezed dust as things were categorized, shredded and thrown away.  The task was overwhelming.  Eighteen banker boxes now sit in the shop’s top shelves; waiting to again be forgotten.

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The work computer is not much better; a project in progress.  My digital “junk drawer” consisted of files unknown.  My computer desktop is cluttered with icons and downloads fighting for memory space. They slow down my hard drive; the disk dangerously full.  When the computer scientist, hubs, implements new technological programs and tips, I resist.  I am not ready.  I do not want change.  My brain is on overload.

My current read, The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload by Daniel Levitin, could not have arrived at a better time.  I am only in chapter two and my whirling thoughts are crystallizing on my Kindle Paperwhite’s pages.  I have found my muse.  I am being affirmed.

With affirmation comes inspiration (again I am looking at results with the -tion).  And with inspiration comes motivation.

Neuroscientists have discovered that unproductivity and loss of drive can result from decision overload.

Levitin, Daniel J.  The Organized Mind: Thinking Strraight in the Age of Information Overload. New York:  Dutton/Penguin Group.   2014. Kindle file.

And with motivation comes the action.  The doing.  I have returned, finally to the present tense (the -ing) as the light bulb glows brightly in my mind.  I have procrastinated for far too long.  It is in watching my sons struggle with back-to-school busyness that I must also confront my own issues.  With so many transitions and decisions I have been paralyzed with fear; unwilling to make decisions in order to progress.  And so, the hubs and I focused our eyes on the Benjamin Moore wall swatches to choose our top two choices.   Independently, we both got resolution.

#1677  colonial blue.

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I have decluttered our office and paperwork; trying to make sense of it all.  I have been satisficing. 

Satisificing is one of the foundations of productive human behavior; it prevails when we don’t waste time on decisions that don’t matter, or more accurately, when we don’t waste time trying to find improvements that are not going to make a significant difference in our happiness or satisfaction.

The example Levitin uses to illustrate satisficing is in our house cleaning.  We clean just enough to be satisfied.  If we did a thorough spring cleaning each and every time; we’d have little time for much else.  I sacrifice absolute cleanliness for time spent on other things.  There is much more to life than an  OCD obsession with clean, perfect homes, thank you very much.

A painted wall does not a successful business make.  Is a visually appealing improvement going to make a significant difference in my happiness or satisfaction at work?

Trivial as this color choice appears; it is symbolic.  This one change will propagate much more.  One colonial blue wall in a dull office can inspire creativity, productivity and progress.  Choosing a paint color marks the beginning of a new season in our life journey.  Just as homeowners paint their walls to define their space, to take ownership of their place, we too must prime and fix holes with joint compound and putty knives.

We must own the business within these four walls. 100% Quality.

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I’ve discovered that the things, the people, that aggravate me most are deep seeded issues buried in my subconscious; waiting to be dealt with.  The stronger the reaction; the deeper the issue.   Years can be spent in denial, in waiting, hoping time will heal the wounds within.  But when confronted, in a swift lightning strike, it is always surprising how quickly the problem is resolved; if I only fasten my full attention to it.  Out of sight; out of mind does not ever bring resolution.  It is only when my eyes see; that thoughts form in my conscious, that I can sort and catalog.  I can sift through  the detritus.  I can finally make a choice.

Sometimes evaluating the trash can be valuable.

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Acknowledging my internal mental garbage means I must accept the things I cannot change (as in the Serenity Prayer); and have the wisdom to know the difference.   It is always hardest in taking that first step; to bring about change.  My multiple intelligences mode of bodily-kinesthetic must be activated.  I must physically work towards a goal to make it happen.  I must paint a wall to affect change.

It is time, I tell myself, to fasten my attention and focus 100%.   The decision is made.