Efficiency

Another re-post from my blog….

I am one of those people who love it when things run so smoothly you don’t even notice it’s happening.  But…when it begins to go awry, wow, does it go awry.  There are those memes are all over the internet about the mom who keeps the house, but no one notices until she quits.  There are a lot of things in life that follow that same thought process.  If you go into a store and the registers go down, only the people with cash are getting out of there any time soon.  And there goes your day.  Right?

Imagine a sailboat, if you will.  Everything about it is made to gracefully sail with reliance on every part of its structure and the wind and sea it is made for.  How can you sail if you have it parked in the dry dock?  How can you smoothly glide over the waves without the sail and the wind?  If you don’t know how to sail a boat, how in the world can you get it out of the harbor?  And what happens if a storm rolls in?

In my new minimalist experience, I’ve tried to incorporate a few things that I’ve noticed about the life cycle.  I’m wondering if one of the main ideas is that life doesn’t function efficiently without effort.  I don’t know if it’s the main thing, but it sure feels like it can affect the end goal.  You go to look for something and it’s not there.  You go to get an item and there are twenty things in front of it.  You go to grab something from the pantry for dinner and realize you’re out of it.  You try to pay a bill, but you can’t find it.  Where is the efficiency in that?  The stop and start can get downright aggravating.  What makes things run efficiently?  Organization?  Less clutter?  Schedules?  Lists?  It’s the total process, I believe.  Like a sleek sailboat in experienced hands, let’s look at some things that make life work more efficiently.

Evaulate.  What do you really hope to achieve?  Are you losing time with your children, family, or friends?  Are you overspending during the month and making it difficult to pay your bills?  Are you overwhelmed by the things in your life that you don’t want or need?  Do you want to travel and experience new things, but find you are limited by possessions and finances?  As you go through your home and your calendar, find out what is the most important to you.

Pretend you are in the path of a hurricane.  You can only take a few things with you.  What would they be?  Whether it’s your calendar or your possessions, begin evaluating what you CANNOT live without.   From there, choose the things that are the least important and would never be missed.  Those are the things that go first.  Work your way up.  It gets harder as sentimentality deepens, but that’s why you have your most important items visible.  Is it really as important as baby pictures or that vase you bought on your honeymoon or a Bible that has been passed down or the special dish handed down from your great-great-great-great grandmother who came all the way from Europe with a single set of clothes, a couple of coins in her pocket, and the faith to make a new life in this country?  Truly evaluate.  If you can’t get rid of it immediately, that’s fine.  Give yourself time and space to think about it.  You can always get rid of it later, but you can’t always get it back.

Declutter.  There was so much useless stuff in my life that I had to begin to get rid of things left and right.  Old receipts, old utility bills, broken things, frumpy clothes, old toys, you name it.  It’s almost embarrassing to admit that I hung on to some of that stuff!!!  As I’ve said before, we went from a 3/2 house and we are now in temporary dwellings in which we have 1 bedroom and a storage unit.  It is severely cramped, but we are making the best of it and it is a painful reminder every day of how much I’ve spent and wasted in my life.  I have wasted time, money, opportunity, and sanity through it all.  I’ve traded temporary items and pleasure for my hard-earned money and experiences that I never could afford to pursue.  As we put things out for that last garage sale before we moved, it was painfully obvious.

If you have too many things on your calendar, start saying “no” to the things that take up too much time and end up cramping up the time for the things you really want to do.  Do you want to go to your kid’s soccer games?  What unnecessary tasks or events do you have during the week that you can possibly get rid of in order to free up time to clean house and cook dinner in order to get to the game on time without all the frustration of a sloth-paced child?  What can you get rid of that allows you that time to finish the novel you’ve been trying to read for 6 months?  What can you say “no” to that lets you finish that painting you’ve had sitting in the corner with all its good intentions?  What items can you say “no” to that allow you to take that weekend trip up the coast or that camping trip you’ve been promising your child?

So now, you have rid yourself of many things that were useless weights and drains.  What now?  Where do you go from here?

Organize.  This is my greatest skill, from what I’m told, but I think it only applies to work.  I can keep my desk neat and clean and get everything done in the order it needs to be done in and get all the other stuff done, too.  At home?  Well, I’m still working on that.  Letting go of so many things has allowed me to open space for organizing.  Getting rid of all the cheap stuff has made room for the quality stuff.  What do I mean?  For one thing, getting rid of the junk allows you to see all the bills that are due – no paper piled up on top of them.  The calendar?  I have one on paper and one on the phone.  Everything is in both places, because I do not trust digital technology completely (though the paper and pen one is much more simplified).  Cleaning out the closet helps you see what items you truly have for work and for play.  Purging the pantry allows you to see what you have on hand and what you need to stock up on.  I have a list on my phone that is specifically for groceries (and non-food stuffs).  I can go to one place and see everything.  I made a new address book that has a birthday list in it, a calendar that can be replaced at the end of the year without having to buy a whole new book.  Everything is consolidated.

With the junk gone and the horizon visible, you can easily navigate toward what you need.  The clearer calendar and more visual range in your home allows making lists that you remember and entering things into the checkbook so much easier.  I’ve honestly found that I’m not as scatter-brained as I once thought.  I’m really not.  I just couldn’t ever find anything!  I didn’t know before if a task had been done or not, because I couldn’t find it!  Now, they can be pinned up on the cork board or laid out for the chance to be taken care of, the checkbook is readily accessible, and the calendar is filled out and synced.

Mind you, I do have some things that I am still working on.  I still have 2 HUGE boxes of things to go through from storage.  HUGE.  I’m kinda putting them off, but I am still searching for a job, so they aren’t high on my list right now.  They are the last 2 boxes of junk that I have to go through, and trust me when I say I will be doing them one at a time.  I’m not going to bury myself under both at one time.  I know there is something in there that I need.  Badly.  I can either try to find it, or I can spend $40 extra dollars that I don’t have right now to replace something.  Okay, it’s a car seat.  We paid a pretty penny for it, as most parents can understand.  It’s the kind that the back comes off and becomes the booster seat.  Well, there’s a clip, per se, that holds the seatbelt strap at a proper level.  I can’t find the clip, I can’t find the replacement clip online, but I can go out and pay $40 for a booster seat that we already have attached to an entire car seat that we bought for the purpose of being the multistage car seat it was built to be!!!!  See?  It’s something that was buried and put in a box with a bunch of other useless stuff.  Now, I need the clip and I can’t find it.  Had I already gotten rid of all the other junk and had put the clip somewhere I could find it, I wouldn’t be having to waste time going through this annoying process of dragging things out of storage.

The other thing I need to work on is meal planning.  There are meal plans galore out there with recipes and ingredients and shopping lists and all the gizmos and gadgets that you could want.  I’ve tried to use them and I’ve found some new recipes that I liked…and didn’t.  What has actually worked best for me is blank calendars.  I hang one up, write on it, and go from there.  I have a repertoire of recipes that my family loves, so they are easy to put on the calendar.  But there’s also room to try new things.  The main issue I have about pre-printed calendars (and feel free to disagree with me) is that sometimes they use pre-packaged ingredients and things out of season.  My grocery shopping involves things that are on sale and things that are in season.  I love to cook from scratch, so I go often to buy fresh fruit and vegetables.  If I can stock up and put extras in the freezer, more power to me.  I find that shopping by sales tends to ease the grocery budget.  Ground beef may be on sale this week, but there isn’t a recipe for 3 weeks on the menu.  Sure, you can freeze it, but what do you need in the meantime that isn’t on sale?  That’s just my thing.  As I said, feel free to disagree.  (Maybe one day I can put one together that is based on seasonally fresh vegan items.  I dunno.)

So now that you have evaulated, decluttered, and organized, hopefully things run more efficiently.  Be the captain of your ship.  Learn how everything works and what its use is.  Toss the junk overboard, set your sails, and catch the wind.  There will be storms that come up, but preparation is the key to keeping your boat from taking on water or capsizing.  Meanwhile, enjoy the breeze, bask in the sun, and continue on your course.  You have time for it now.

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