balance, declutter, family, gratitude, health and wellness, live in the now

Keep the Original

December brought on a big wave of house reorganization and another much needed reminder of the People Not Things philosophy. The story remains pretty much the same since I started this blog. 

I still have too much stuff. 

I have more than enough. I went “shopping” in cabinets, closets, and the garage. I rearranged and recreated new living spaces all around the house. I transformed my living room with less than 3 simple furniture moves and now I have a new and noticeably better open space that also sometimes doubles as a behind-the-scenes home gym. 

The inventory is constant. I just hadn’t stopped and evaluated it since the summer. My kids discovered new old toys; awkward additions to their brand new Christmas gifts. I was reminded of how much blank paper I have in the house. Unopened printer ink cartridges that I forgot about sweetened the deal.

I still believe that I have enough craft supplies to entertain the most bored child who ever walks through the front door. I came up ahead and “made money” with gift cards that were freed from the junk drawer. Free crafts and caffeine might make for an epic rainy day experience. If it happens to be a high UV day, the family and I will be thoroughly protected from the sun AND from germs for many years with the amount of sunblock and hand sanitizer that I found.

The rediscovery of all this great stuff came with a price, even though I didn’t make any new purchases. I easily spent hours sorting through piles, bags, and papers. My kids had their share of screen time sessions (when they weren’t playing with their old new toys)  as I wrangled clothing, shoes, and USB charging cords. 

I learned the same lesson all over again. Every item or group of items in my house requires varying amounts of time and attention. Reusable grocery bags sometimes delay the departure to the store by about two minutes due to the trip back inside the house or to the other car to get them. On a cold day, three to four warm winter coat options are nice to have, but storage and maintenance, along with the decision-making process could easily add up to the equivalent of total coat-wearing minutes altogether. 

The one item that holds the most value after this recent decluttering session is one of the new board games that my daughter got for Christmas. She asked me to learn and play the game with her at the height of the “stuff shuffle”, and I was a bit stressed. Initially, I didn’t have enough patience to focus because I was devoting my time and my thoughts to the things that needed to be put away. It was a poor showing of being present.

Luckily, my board gamer husband and YouTube stepped in, and we all learned to play and enjoy it around the family table. I then realized that the neatly stacked pile of other board games (new and vintage), that are rarely played deserve time and attention. Playing Plastic Bin Tetris for an hour in the garage to either put something away or apprehend an item isn’t as fun. 

A reminder.

I’m once again trying to slow down the stream of incoming items that arrive here. I am aware of the inventory. I have a lot of stuff. I have the people. The amount of time and energy however, are unknown and limited. Some of the clutter will outlive some of the people. It’s a morbid thought, but it’s real. 

So instead of cleaning the cleaning supplies tomorrow, I’m going to enjoy all the things that will never fit into a basket or a box on a shelf in the cabinet: Eye contact. Hugs. Holding tight and laughing. Sending a genuine text to say thank you. Tastes and smells, and certain sounds that keep me grounded. Letting go and breathing.

I’ll never be able to store these things away and rediscover them later in their original form. But there’s time for all of it now. I’m sure of it.

I’ve cleared the space.       

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You Are Allowed One Personal Item

I had one of the dreaded teacher dreams last night. Thanks a lot teacher brain, there are still 16 days of summer left before I begin year 14. At least I got an idea for a post. The following however, is not the scary dream I had. It’s reality. Enjoy.


I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my arrival to work in the morning on a typical school day. My teacher bag rests uncomfortably on my shoulder. The straps get all twisted and dig into my skin. The bag itself is overloaded. I have my plan book in there. I like the really cute, thick spiral notebook kind that has all the bells and whistles and stickers and pockets. There’s a pencil bag full of writing tools too. A stack of papers that need to be graded is stuffed along the sides. They might go on an extended ride in the bag for a few days before I can finally sit down to grade them at home. The current novel or picture book that I’m planning on reading to my class is wedged somewhere in between papers and other items.

Of course, in addition, I need my personal purse with my wallet, phone, sunglasses, and other necessities. So now we are talking about some bag inside another bag action happening. Sometimes there’s even an additional shopping bag in the mix that is full of classroom items that I just couldn’t help but buy because they were a good deal.

All of these items hang on my shoulders, forearms, wrists. The collection also includes my lunch bag and the drinking vessel that contains my caffeinated beverage of the day. Sometimes my laptop bag is hanging on for dear life on the tip of one of my fingers. The all important 40 oz Hydro Flask is also either crammed in the teacher bag or hanging on to a different finger, testing the limits of strength and flexibility. Heaven forbid I should become dehydrated during this awkward, imbalanced walk across the parking lot.

Teacher bags2
It’s not as fun as it looks.

If I planned ahead properly, my teacher keys are already around my neck on a lanyard. If they’re not, I have to stop, drop, and dig. Walking up to the entrance of school is quite the production on most days. I’m lucky enough to have my daughter with me because she goes to school here too. Sometimes there’s a mini set of helping hands available for the small fee of a tiny sip of mommy’s iced coffee or energy drink. Oops.    

Once again, a collection of stuff has added an extra challenge, and literally extra weight to one of my daily routines. It hardly seems fair to feel this flustered, as well as experience an ever so slight degree of physical pain before the school day officially begins.

When things get really out of hand, I bust out my rickety old plastic fold-up rolling cart. It’s hideous. My back and shoulders find some temporary relief. Then I have to end up spending additional morning minutes unloading the thing before the bell rings. My back is strained again. No carts or wagons for me, I just won’t do it. Driving up to my classroom to unload stuff and re-parking the car isn’t happening either.

So the big question is, what is actually really necessary to haul to school everyday? I’m not getting any younger, and 40 (*gasp) is around the corner in a couple of years. It would be nice to have a functioning neck and shoulders throughout the remainder of my career, and somewhat healthy posture. It’s not a goal of mine to end up naturally standing lopsided without even realizing it because my body is growing accustomed to being weighed down by bags. Can I possibly lighten the load and eliminate some items?

This school year, I’ll be exploring some new options and routines in an effort to be kind to my body, while also cutting down on the amount of stuff that I cart back and forth to school. Ideas that I’d like to explore:

  • Ditch the actual physical plan book and do the work digitally (scary!!)
  • Be more mindful when buying supplies or items for the classroom. Keep an updated inventory of what I already have.
  • Manage time efficiently during contracted hours and take less work home (I hear the scoffs already)
  • Spy on other teachers in the parking lot and find the ones who don’t carry much at all. Interrogate them and find out how they are able to roll up to school and not look like they’re about to take a week long trip somewhere.

Feel free to comment with some ideas or suggestions on how I can still work efficiently and carry less. Extra points if you’re a teacher! 

Until then, I’m going to enjoy the next  16 days because it’s STILL SUMMER. Many props to my teacher friends and all the kiddos who have already started their year. 

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Things Always Come Back

Things

I purchased this wall decoration while my husband and I were in the process of selling our first home. We worked hard to stage the house for potential buyers. That meant decluttering and shoving all of our possessions behind closed doors. Our realtor and the internet highly suggested to “depersonalize” our house. We did our best, but we were still living in it at the same time, so it was stressful. We stripped the walls of any photos or items that would show evidence that we had jobs, a kid, a life. I put a framed wedding photo away and replaced it with this “thing”.

I knew that I was on the verge of a huge transition that would involve dealing with ALL THE THINGS. All the things in our little house that would have to be sorted, trashed, recycled, shredded, given away, packed up, (burned?). Buying this knick-knack was a joke. I was entertained by the irony of it. I also thought that maybe it would help me put the message into action, and it would magically help me with the craziness that was ahead of us. Did it give me the strength to just get rid of everything and start fresh in a new house? No. Obviously it came back to prank me again as I’m purging away in our current home.

I had time for Bed Bath and Beyond on that fateful day. Looking back, I probably should have just taken my daughter to the park down the street instead. I was stress shopping and wanted some retail therapy. When I swiped my card, I was fully aware that I was actually spending money on this thing that encourages people not to have things. I fully believe in the message that this tchotchke promotes, especially now, as I try to shift some habits. I don’t need it written on the wall. Or shoved in a cabinet. Or on the floor where it currently is now because my daughter took my picture with it and then we moved on. I better make final arrangements for this thing.

Until then…

If there’s ever time for Bed Bath and Beyond, I will make alternative plans.