January is a good month for new beginnings. A new year...and a chance for life to change in positive and productive ways. Many people make resolutions because they see the opportunity to hope and to dream. To visualize themselves with a life better than the one they are currently living...or at least to move in that general direction.
I find it odd that most people are procrastinators. We tend to put off doing those chores that do not excite us...cleaning out closets, doing our taxes, or filing paperwork. Term papers are done at the 11th hour, and we find in reality that we actually do invest a lot more time dreaming than doing. We visualize what needs to be done, but then we let ourselves get distracted. Anything...television, a phone call to a friend, the computer, shopping, or the laundry.
And so it goes...day after day...month after month...year after year.
In my opinion, the problem we have is not necessarily procrastination...but clutter. Every item that we own has a corresponding amount of maintenance assigned to its ownership. If you own a vehicle...you have to get it serviced. You must change the oil, wash it, replace the tires, and put gasoline in it. Fluids, belts and wipers have to be replaced periodically to keep the vehicle in perfect working order. It must be insured, kept out of violent weather and stored somewhere in the yard or garage. In other words...you own a car...and it owns a piece of you. Well, at least a piece of your time and money.
Now, apply this principle to every item that you own. Every tablecloth has to be stored and pressed. Each plant has to be fertilized and watered. All of the knick knacks have to be dusted. The dogs have to go to the vet and require cute little sweaters (oh, wait...that's just my dogs). Jewelry has to be cleaned and insured. Electronics have to be updated with the latest software.
Over time, because we are as blessed as we are...we accumulate clutter. We have more clothes than we can possibly ever wear out if the styles wouldn't change. Men have it far easier in this regard, and also find their closets bulging over time. Big Dave is a perfect example of this. Although he has added some midsection weight...he has been virtually the same size for the past 28 years. His closet is a virtual "Island of Misfit Clothes" and he has put out the request that we not purchase anything for him for any holiday until he lets us know it's time. I was proud to purchase two new pair of jeans for him because he had flat worn out the two pair that he had. Banner day for me.
In fact, weight is actually "body clutter." That thought is not mine...I heard it somewhere and I have come to believe that it is true. We don't want to waste that last piece of cake...so we store it on our hips. We don't want to let out our grief or despair or depression...and so we stuff it down with cheese curls and kill two birds with one stone. I may not have a storage building to which I pay rent...but I have one that I carry around. And this is not a good thing.
How we actually make a resolution stick is to make a little change that we hold our ground on and then another and another. Eventually, we can look back and see the progress...but we have to be prepared for this to take awhile. It is kind of like getting on the treadmill with every intention of walking an hour and then talking ourselves into 30 minutes. We'd have been far more effective to have gone in there with resolve to do thirty minutes and then attempted the whole hour once we were already there, watching Fox News on TV and sweating like a pig. Then, hopping off at thirty minutes would have not only given us the satisfaction of a job well done...but the whole hour would be "gravy" instead of disappointment had we achieved it. Oh, but no. We berate ourselves for falling short and then make a sad little promise to ourselves of an hour and a half the next time. The next time, unfortunately, becomes two weeks later...or never. A death spiral of good intentions gone south that is way too familiar...for me at least.
Decluttering our lives gives us power. It frees us to be able to do the things in life that God has intended that we do. We aren't as harried and stressed because we don't have to spend a tremendous amount of time dreading the hurdles and maintaining the stuff in our lives. We end up more effective, happier, and more focused. This is not to say that we should not have nice things. It is to say that each of us is unique in finding the line between blessing and curse.
So how do we declutter? Well, we set realistic goals and throw away the calendar. We only have the present...so we plan the future (putting our gym bag in the car for example) but we don't live in it. We don't give in to the temptation to look too far up the mountain...we just look for the next place we are going to put our feet. Instead of swearing that we'll clean out our closets, we decide that we will pull out those things that we do wear and set those aside. We'll look for any necessary repairs (hems, cleaning, etc.) and then put all of the colors together. What remains in the closet gets put into the piles of "maybe" or "Goodwill". Then we go back through the "maybe" pile three more times before it is placed in another pile. I'd be willing to bet that 90% of what is in the "maybe" pile will not make the cut to "yes". You aren't wearing it now because it doesn't fit, it doesn't flatter you, or it has outgrown its original purpose. Toss it...and bless someone else by getting it out of your closet.
If you can make one change...the rest of the changes aren't quite as painful. That's been my experience...and that's what I'm counting on to make this year more effective than the last one was.
As for me, I have a lot of body clutter that needs to go. It is difficult to change my eating, spending, and activity habits drastically because I don't want to overwhelm myself. But I'm going to do what I can in 2010 but what I am focused on is TODAY.
By the way, last year's resolutions were to give something away every day, to clean out a lot of closets, and to write. Those were the ones I kept.
This year, I want to read the book of Isaiah through the prophets, to lose weight (no goals), and want to do another advent box project next Christmas. There are others...but those are the ones I'm pretty sure that I can do. Why clutter up my resolutions list with the improbable?
So, as you go through your day tomorrow, remember to pry the fingers of ownership that your things have on you. You'll be happier and have more time to do what you need and want to do. The simple things mean the most anyway. Plus, the joy you get from giving things away to others who need them cannot be overstated. Trust me on this one.