Back when my family lived in our starter house, with an economy refrigerator that did not have an icemaker, my husband bought a pair of Frosty Mugs. Then we always had something cold in the freezer for drinking soda pop, even if we ran out of ice cubes from the trays. Although the refrigerator in our current house has an ice dispenser in the freezer door, we still used the Frosty Mugs for a few years after moving.
 

Two red mugs on a shelf in the freezer door. 

Then I gave up sugary drinks to stay healthy, while my husband switched to Coke Zero and bought a set of old-fashioned Coke glasses to put it in. The Frosty Mugs sat in the freezer door for years afterward, totally forgotten. I just happened to notice them a few days ago and think, “Hmmm, has it been five years since we last used these things, or closer to ten?” Whichever it is, they’re definitely clutter!

About Clutter Comedy: Every Sunday (which I envision as a day of rest after a productive week of de-cluttering) I post a Clutter Comedy article describing my most memorable clutter discovery of the week. Other bloggers who wish to join in are welcome—just post a link in the comments! There’s no need to publish any “before” photos of your clutter, if they are too embarrassing. The idea is simply to get motivated to clean it up, while having a bit of fun too!

Around this same time last summer, I wrote a Nurturing Thursday post that included a view from my kitchen window of an orange trumpet vine along the backyard fence. It wasn’t blooming much because of the harsh winter; but even so, I thought it made that corner of the yard look like a fairy-tale sanctuary. This year it’s blooming a lot more, so I took another photo.
 

Orange trumpet vine in bloom along backyard fence. 

This morning my husband looked out the window and saw a hawk perched on the fence, but it flew away before he could grab his phone and take a snapshot. I’ve often seen rabbits in the backyard, probably because the fence protects them from neighborhood pets. I expect that’s what the hawk was after.

On those busy days when my thoughts start wandering off in many different directions, it’s always good to know that I can just look out the window or step out into the backyard and connect with nature!

Nurturing Thursday was started by Becca Givens and seeks to “give this planet a much needed shot of fun, support and positive energy.” Visit her site to find more Nurturing Thursday posts and a list of frequent contributors.

This morning when I went to get my hair done, I ended up having to wait because my appointment had not been entered into the computer and the stylist hadn’t arrived at work yet. So, rather than get annoyed about it, I started writing this post while sitting in the salon’s waiting room, which seemed very well suited to my current topic—writing in bits and pieces.

I keep a folder with handwritten notes and partial drafts of projects that I am working on, or that I’d like to work on when I get around to it. Sometimes they sit for a very long time. I began posting a serialized novel called Breaking the Ice last year, but the original draft goes back to the year 2000. To be honest, that draft sucked, and putting it aside until I had a better idea of what to do with it was definitely the right choice!

The subconscious mind often sets priorities and makes judgments that we don’t notice consciously. When we jump into a project with enthusiasm and then find that it’s fizzling out all of a sudden, or that we’ve gotten distracted by another new interest, there is probably a lot of subconscious processing involved. It doesn’t mean that we are lazy, can’t finish what we start, or need to discipline ourselves to just tough it out regardless of how we feel.

If it’s not a business project that needs to get finished right away to pay the rent, then why force it? After all, there will surely be time to do it later. Even if it doesn’t look like it has reached a natural stopping point, maybe that just means it is missing something that hasn’t become obvious yet.

(At this point I wasn’t sure what my next paragraph should be, so I decided that I had reached one of those non-obvious stopping points and put the draft aside to finish this evening.)

Why does a big heap of unfinished creative projects leave us feeling like we ought to have accomplished much more? Probably because our society has been insisting that we finish our work since we were in preschool. And while that might be fine for reciting the alphabet and other rote stuff, creativity travels its own paths, and they’re not always linear. Sometimes when we feel like we’re slacking off, there are plenty of connections being made beneath the surface.

(Went outside just now to eat a yummy red apple while enjoying the warmth of the setting sun.)

Usually I have the most creative energy at the very times when my folder is crammed full of notes and drafts. It doesn’t mean that I have been neglecting my projects—on the contrary, it means that my mind has been tossing out ideas much faster than I can keep up with them! And that is a very good thing because it means I’ll always have something fun to work on. Whether or not they’ll ever turn into something productive in the business world, well, who knows? There’s no harm done by leaving that question for another day.

July 26, 2015 · 2 comments · Categories: Musings · Tags:

I’ve had a set of metal canisters on my kitchen countertop for many years, marked Coffee, Tea, Sugar and Flour. They gave the kitchen a cheery old-fashioned look, although I never really used them for coffee or tea. I leave teabags in the box they came in, and K-cups go on a carousel. The coffee and tea canisters have white rice and brown rice in them, respectively. I do have sugar and flour, but I haven’t done any baking in a long time because I’ve been cutting down on sugar to stay healthy.
 

Set of four old metal canisters labeled Coffee, Tea, Sugar, and Flour. 

So I asked myself, why do I still have them? I really just need containers for rice. New boxes or jars for rice would make a lot more sense, while fitting easily into a cabinet too. The canisters are not much use for decoration anymore, now that they are full of dings and the lids are turning green. It’s definitely time to let them go, and reclaim my counter space!

About Clutter Comedy: Every Sunday (which I envision as a day of rest after a productive week of de-cluttering) I post a Clutter Comedy article describing my most memorable clutter discovery of the week. Other bloggers who wish to join in are welcome—just post a link in the comments! There’s no need to publish any “before” photos of your clutter, if they are too embarrassing. The idea is simply to get motivated to clean it up, while having a bit of fun too!

An investment advisor that offers its services through my employer’s tax-deferred savings plan tried to drum up more business recently by sending employees a retirement evaluation. Mine had a cutesy red-light graphic and criticized my investment choices as too aggressive for someone my age. Having more stocks rather than bonds apparently means that I can’t be confident of turning into a pumpkin at the stroke of midnight upon reaching the magic age, or something of that sort.
 

Pumpkin with carved face and skeptical expression.

(Creative Commons image via flickr)
 

At the risk of branding myself a modern-day heretic, I’ve never had any desire to create either a bucket list or a retirement activities list because no matter what I might put on such a list, I can’t see myself staying interested in it forever. I contribute regularly to the investment plan because it’s always good to have savings, no matter what I might decide to do with them, and because the company match is free money. But I never could make sense of the cultural expectations that every responsible adult should work like a beast of burden for several decades, with the goal of never working again, and that everybody’s life should be fully planned out.

Of course, some folks are indeed happily retired and enjoying the activities on their list. If that’s you, well then—more power to you! But all too often, people retire just because they were told it’s what everyone should want, and then they have no idea what to do with themselves. Maybe they thought they’d enjoy something, but then it ends up not being as much fun as they imagined. It’s a sad fact that depression and suicide rates spike among the newly retired. Shifting gears all of a sudden and leaving behind a busy career can result in feeling lost and adrift, with no meaningful purpose or identity.

Instead of making conventional plans for retirement, Millennials tend to prefer the “financial freedom” approach of keeping their expenses low while they’re young, so that they can build up hefty savings and change jobs or start businesses whenever they feel like it. Buying a house is not the major accomplishment that it was for past generations, but is an expensive burden to be avoided. This works great for people who enjoy frequent travel and the challenge of becoming acclimated to new environments, as well as for minimalists who are not emotionally attached to their stuff.

I would describe myself as somewhere in the middle. I like the comfort and stability of owning a house and keeping a job for a longer period, but I also value new experiences and flexibility. I wouldn’t want a lifestyle of constant travel, but it might be fun to live and work in another country for a year or two. At some point I’ll want to build a new house (I sketched out a floor plan for fun last month). With so many career possibilities in the modern world, it seems likely I’ll develop other work-related interests.

So, what’s my best approach to finances? Never doing any work again is not my goal, and I can reasonably expect to be around for another half-century because of a family history of longevity, so all those computer models based on actuarial tables are not much use to me. Freedom to pursue any interests I may develop is a much more appealing prospect, but how can I put a number value on choices I haven’t yet made?

I suppose finances are like anything else—moderation and incremental changes generally tend to work best, while making course corrections as the need arises.

I have three large hostas in my front garden. A neighbor gave them to me long ago, when she discovered that she had bought a few more than she needed. Three years ago, I posted a blog entry called Room to Grow, about moving the hostas when they grew larger than I had anticipated. Life is full of assumptions that need revising, I wrote, and such tasks are best done promptly.
 

Three large hostas in bloom. 

The plants have been thriving in their new location. All they needed was a little more space! Often that’s true in our own lives, too. When we feel stuck and frustrated, maybe we shouldn’t just try to get used to the annoying situation. Instead, we might do better to move things around and give ourselves more space to keep on growing!

Nurturing Thursday was started by Becca Givens and seeks to “give this planet a much needed shot of fun, support and positive energy.” Visit her site to find more Nurturing Thursday posts and a list of frequent contributors.

July 19, 2015 · 2 comments · Categories: Musings · Tags:

Sorry about the title, but this week’s topic left me wanting to make silly frog noises! When my son was in high school, he made a ceramic frog for me to put in the garden. I must confess, I didn’t take proper care of it but left it outside when the weather turned cold, and it froze and cracked apart in all the places where it had been glued. Then I gathered up the pieces and put them in a shoebox, as I didn’t want to throw away a nice handmade gift. My son said that he would put it back together, but then he went off to college, and the shoebox sat in the basement for years.
 

Pieces of a yellow ceramic frog in a shoebox along with a rock for its base. 

While cleaning things up, I asked my son if he still wanted to glue the frog back together. He said yes, he’d get around to it sometime. So I gave him the shoebox. If he does indeed reassemble the frog, I’ll be more careful and find a good safe place for it indoors! And if not, well, at least I won’t have a dusty old shoebox taking up space in the basement anymore.

About Clutter Comedy: Every Sunday (which I envision as a day of rest after a productive week of de-cluttering) I post a Clutter Comedy article describing my most memorable clutter discovery of the week. Other bloggers who wish to join in are welcome—just post a link in the comments! There’s no need to publish any “before” photos of your clutter, if they are too embarrassing. The idea is simply to get motivated to clean it up, while having a bit of fun too!

We all have days when we feel stuck, like there’s nothing to be done with a problem. It feels like we got hold of a box that is shut tight, and no matter how hard we yank on the lid, it’s never going to lift up. But maybe that just means the box needs to be opened a different way.
 

Oval wooden jewelry box with five rotating vertical drawers, partly open. 

Sometimes we simply need to take a little time and consider the situation from other perspectives, asking “What else is here?” That’s when we discover much more is unfolding than we first imagined, and lots of unexpected treasures were right there all along!

Nurturing Thursday was started by Becca Givens and seeks to “give this planet a much needed shot of fun, support and positive energy.” Visit her site to find more Nurturing Thursday posts and a list of frequent contributors.

July 14, 2015 · Write a comment · Categories: Musings · Tags: , ,

Several years ago, I spent a lot of time doing charitable organizing work. I accomplished what I set out to do, but it got stressful at times because it was an ambitious project with only a small number of people, and we had to deal with detractors and negativity. In a recent conversation, this question came up: Did I “win” because I reached my goals? Or did I “lose” because I felt more stressed afterward?

Goals aren’t everything—they have to be considered with a view to the big picture. Getting stressed past one’s tolerance and soldiering on anyway is neither virtuous nor sensible. On rare occasion it may be necessary; but more often, it can and should be avoided through better decision-making.

That said, it also doesn’t make sense to run away from anything that might cause stress and bad memories. We can’t reasonably expect to have all good times and no worries. Friendships and relationships go through bad patches, work sometimes gets harder than usual, and becoming a parent means not only great joy but also great responsibility.

So I wouldn’t measure either winning or losing by a simple comparison of past vs. present feelings of stress or accomplishment. Such feelings do not necessarily mean that it would (or wouldn’t) have been better to do something else. There are many other factors to consider, and the question should go something like this: How would my present-day life, and the lives of my family and others, have been different if I had made another choice?

At that point we get into the realm of alternate history, with infinite permutations. For instance, would leaving a marriage to avoid the stress and bad memories of arguments have resulted in finding someone more compatible and living happily ever after, or would it have meant many depressing years of loneliness? Who can say? No matter what might have happened, there’s no way to go back and do it over, and future events are likely to change what’s on the scorecard anyway.

What’s important to keep in mind going forward is that experience teaches valuable lessons. If one of those lessons is that a high stress level was more damaging than it seemed at the time, that’s useful to know—it means that we now understand the value of setting healthier boundaries and creating calmer and more nurturing environments for ourselves. It certainly doesn’t mean we ought to kick ourselves around for being losers! Better to look at past experiences as a win* even if they were stressful.

*That is, with a life-lessons asterisk.

Going into the warm weather, I had to admit that although a light blue summer outfit in my closet had been pretty when new (too long ago!), it had seen better days. But I thought it might get through another season, and I hadn’t yet done any shopping for new summer clothes this year, so I kept it anyway.
 

Light blue summer clothes set, with cotton shorts and a lace top layered over a tank top. 

I wore it a couple of times, getting mildly annoyed each time when I saw the frayed spots and the broken threads—and then I asked myself, what the heck was I doing? Clothes are not precious gems, they’re just ordinary consumable items! Wearing worn-out old clothes because they haven’t yet been replaced is like eating spoiled food because the grocery shopping hasn’t been done. As excuses go, that one ranks somewhere between pitiful and woeful!

About Clutter Comedy: Every Sunday (which I envision as a day of rest after a productive week of de-cluttering) I post a Clutter Comedy article describing my most memorable clutter discovery of the week. Other bloggers who wish to join in are welcome—just post a link in the comments! There’s no need to publish any “before” photos of your clutter, if they are too embarrassing. The idea is simply to get motivated to clean it up, while having a bit of fun too!