To purge, or not to purge–that is the question:
Whether ’tis better to sort and reorder
The documents in folders in the drawer
Or to set upon the sea of paper
And by tossing, be rid of all.
Out went my work history–evaluations, recommendations, sample work, salary history–I do not see job applications in my future. For the record, I kept my last resume and a slim file of letters and certificates that tell a story.
Out went my academic transcripts. They got me where I wanted to go. I will likely never have to earn another grade, short of a score high enough to retain my driver’s license.
Out went the source material for seminars I have taught over the years, much of it no longer relevant. I don’t need notes to remind me of what I know. If I can’t bring something to mind, I can press a button on my iPhone and ask Siri.
Casting out stuff you have carted around for years triggers soul searching. There was a time when I based my self-worth on the grades I made and the jobs I landed. I’d like to say I no longer need a good evaluation to make me feel worthwhile, but the truth is, a spike in blog viewership or a glowing book review can make my day. I can let go of the paper trail but the need I have for validation remains.
I don’t need records to recall the past. On the rare occasion that I walk on the campus of a school I attended, or drive past the sea of cars parked in front of Silicon Valley workplaces, vivid memories flood my heart. The crunch of Fall leaves underfoot when I walked to school; the click of my heels across the tiled corporate lobby floor; classmates and colleagues; heartaches and lucky breaks.
It’s not all behind me. I’m still learning and growing. I still maintain a work routine. Yes, I miss the paycheck, but I don’t miss having all my time prescribed by others. It’s likely I will fill more file folders in the future, but on my computer, not in drawers. More portable. Easier to delete.
In the past, I have reorganized files to make retrieval easier. That did nothing to redeem the space they occupied in the drawer, on the floor, and in my psyche. I used to be proud of my ability to lay my hands on anything I might need. Now I feel free of the need. The aha moment was when I decided to leave the drawers empty.
It was tempting to spread the contents of the remaining three, overstuffed drawers to fill the empty drawers. I could pull a file without getting a paper cut! But that’s not the point of the exercise. The point is the beauty of an empty drawer and the freedom from paper trail management that serves no purpose.
What would an empty drawer mean to you?
Thinking about moving mom (or an elderly relative or friend) to assisted living? As a special offer, I am making one of my popular blog series available free as a PDF to my newsletter subscribers. Current subscribers will receive their free copy in the February newsletter. New subscribers will receive their copy when they sign-up.
This short guide offers insights on factors to consider when you face moving an aging relative. Many of us will have to make this call for our parents. Our culture does not make this an easy conversation. This guide helps you identify the signs that your relative or friend can no longer live independently. It offers suggestions for the tough conversation ahead and a checklist to help you manage your new responsibility.
Written in anecdotal form with warmth and humor, Moving Mom offers the words of an encouraging friend, letting you know about the blessings that abound at the end of this difficult road.
Making the Call
Does any parent ever decide on their own to to move into assisted living?
I told myself that my mother-in-law made this decision when she purchased long-term care insurance. So why was I tossing in bed at 3 am, feeling intense pain in my muscles? Why did my heart break and my brain accuse me of callous selfishness? Because my husband and I had to make a tough call to move mom against her will, and it felt like we were torturing a puppy.
This downloadable ebook is based on blogs I posted that chronicled our experience and how we made some difficult decisions. At the suggestion of readers who found our story helpful, I want to share what we learned with you.
In the summer of 2014, my husband and I received a disturbing phone call. My mother-in-law had fallen and hurt herself, a neighbor told us. She was in pain. She wasn’t getting out of bed. She didn’t want us to know.
We flew from our home in California to rural Arkansas, where mom lived. We knew we had to see for ourselves if she could continue to live independently.
Photo credit: Jamesy Pena
About the newsletter
Sydney’s News For Readers|For Writers is the way I keep in touch on a more personal level with my readers and colleagues in my writing communities. Approximately six times a year, I share what I’m learning as a reader and a writer and give updates on my projects. Signing up for the newsletter will put you on my personal mailing list. You may unsubscribe at any time. I do not sell or share your personal information with any third party.
Retrench and redeem are my watchwords for 2016. In the past I’ve made resolutions to accomplish change, fashioned mantras to guide my daily spiritual practice, but 2016 wants watchfulness.
Because I want my life and my writing to make a difference, my actions to be redemptive, this year’s challenge is to actively counter culture, to take action to mitigate whatever opposes my purpose.
Having just spent a week sitting on the beaches of Kauai, snorkeling at her reefs, and racing past the rugged cliffs of Na Pali on a catamaran, my metaphors are oceanic. My ultimate goal is to live in the deep wide, but this year I will look for the narrow part for whatever strait, river, or ocean current feeds into that goal.
To have the time, space, and money for the life I want, retrenching is necessary. To retrench is to cut down, reduce, curtail, protect, cut off, remove, economize. A counterculture response to pressure doesn’t have to be reactionary and angry, it can be thoughtful and productive. To productively counter a culture requires a joyful sense of purpose, not a spirit of deprivation.
The Great Giveaway, my mindfulness exercise to rid myself of one thing a day, is a start. This time next year, I should have one refreshing list of 365 things I no longer possess. This activity isn’t housekeeping, it is life altering. When I throw away the pie weights and other baking tools, I let go of any pretension that I will ever bake again. I’ll say a prayer of thanks for parents who loved this activity and did it well. I’ll spend some time considering what might take the place of the loving act of offering up a plate of warm, spicy home baked cookies. I’d love your ideas on that one!
To redeem is to clear by payment, buy back, or recover; to exchange for money or goods, to fulfill a pledge or promise, to make amends, to restore by paying a ransom. When I let go of what is no longer useful, I recover the space it took on a shelf or in my life, the time it took to manage, or the expense it required to maintain. When I exchange multiple technical solutions to a problem for one well thought out plan that works, I buy back greater control over the outcome.
My Bible verse this year comes from Ephesians 5: 15-21, “redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” Many of us had a lousy 2015. Better than cursing the days is to redeem the time. It is “my bad” if I fail to use the gifts God has in-store.
Less is more
This is the year of my great giveaway. My Advent readings say people believe more possessions will make them happy. When you are young and poor, yes, but at some point the accumulation clock strikes twelve and resets expectations. These days, it seems anything I acquire must be managed, cared for, and accommodated. I want less to manage, fewer things to fuss about, more free space.
We are working toward paring down to free up time and money to spend in places we love. We want to dig deeply into our passions. No big decisions yet, but reducing our cache of stuff will make transitions that are sure to come easier.
Habit-producing actions encourage a new life style
As a mindfulness exercise, I plan to get rid of one thing a day. At the end of the year I will have a revealing list of 365 things I no longer possess. If nothing significant appears on that list, I’m likely making little progress toward my goal.
What qualifies as a great giveaway? A mismatched spoon in a drawer; a subscription renewal; a computer app; a bad habit. Donate it, delete it, or give it up to God. Additions to the landfill don’t count.
Keep great giveaway rules simple
Rule #1: Whatever gets tossed, is not replaced. Throwing away a misshapen sweater and buying a new one doesn’t count. Donating a half-century of heavy coats in favor of one lightweight, all-purpose jacket counts. Points if I can buy it with Amazon Prime gift cards. Bonus points if an activity goes out the door with an item.
Ditching those cookie cutters that jam my drawers means I will never again bake gingerbread men, so points for that. When was the last time I baked g-men, anyway? In my mind it’s a satisfying activity that makes my house smell heavenly. In reality, hardened dough must be scraped off the counters, flour swept from the floor. And the little men taste like cardboard after they cool, turn hard, and lose a limb in the process.. I’d do better to light a cinnamon stick and wave it in the air.
Rule #2: Don’t overthink it. This should be spontaneous fun, not an occasion for self-deprecation.
On January 1, I think the first thing to go will be my addiction to the nightly news.
Is this the year to jettison timeworn traditions? In response to a call for a Christmas-themed inspirational article, I pitched a piece about celebrating the season when traditional customs begin to fray under the stress of life changes. No takers, no surprise. They wanted cozy tales of Christmases past and lists of tried and true rituals for readers to adopt.
Our family celebration is tinged with sorrow. Divorce and death have wounded us deeply. I find it helps to view Christmas as a season, not a day. To go for the Norman Rockwell, happy-faced generational gathering around the dining room table twice within the space of 29 days stresses our downsized family. My gift? To design hallmark moments, tiny experiences that sparkle in the light, small moments of joy that infuse our weary spirits with hope.Read More»