We come into the world with nothing, basically. No clothes, toys, bills, we’re even given a break on being forced to file our tax returns for several years. We don’t worry about rent or food (under normal circumstances, I mean).
Then we gradually begin to accumulate. We accumulate toys, and papers, emails and apps, responsibilities, bills, contracts, receipts, debt…
We’re like beautiful, shining stones rolling down snowy hills, turning into snowballs, getting heavier and heavier with snow and grass and dirt until we’re weighted down and can’t even remember what we really are anymore. So many things attach themselves to us and demand our attention, and we do it thinking we’re being productive and responsible.
For me, it’s gotten to be too much. With my wanderlust, I’ve found I have too many things weighing me down. Too many pairs of shoes, too many papers. Too many obligations. My interests are many and my focus is scattered between them, but even the things I have passion for don’t get as much of my attention as I would like to give them, because of the other things I’ve tied myself to. If I were to add up the hours I spend on taking care of things I’ve gotten myself into…!!!
“Reduce the complexity of life by eliminating the needless wants of life, and the labors of life reduce themselves.”
~ Edwin Way Teale
So this year I have been trying to step up my efforts at simplifying my life. Oh, I won’t stop traveling and doing what I love, but I will be able to enjoy it more once I’ve stripped away the grass and dirt and snow that I’ve accumulated. It’s been a slow process and I’m anxious to make major progress with it, but the main areas I’m tackling are these:
1. Email. See that number there on my phone? Yeah. I have way too many unread email, and too much email in general in my inbox. This comes from all the varied interests I’ve pursued, the newsletters and blogs I subscribed to but then never could keep up with. This area of life, the cluttered inbox, may be more psychologically overwhelming since I don’t need to read the emails and they don’t do harm by being in there (other than using up space), but that’s enough for me to try to organize my inbox. I feel it would help me focus more and waste less time if I really decide what’s important to get updates on.
Action: Every day I browse my new emails for something that I can unsubscribe to. I unsubscribe and go through all the old emails from that sender. I save a few useful ones and am finally making use of the archive tab. But I’m slowly chipping away at the pile of emails and the landslide I receive on a daily basis. That number was actually around 35k a few weeks ago.
2. Apps. See above. I don’t even use most of the apps on my phone. I read about them and downloaded them to try since they were free. There are apps for everything! And I find that awesome and very tempting. I even have an app to learn sign language. Which I haven’t opened yet. Apps are so amazingly useful, but I need to limit it to what I will actually use. Too much clutter. Taking up too much space (though not as much as my photo album, which I use as kind of a notepad, snapping pictures of pages in magazines and books, and taking screenshots of things online). I use my phone every day, so I feel it would be best to keep it simple and reflective of the growing simplicity of the rest of my life.
Action: Almost every day, when I have time to explore the apps, I will pop one open and try it out. Right now I’m going through the ones that are there to help me learn French. I discard the ones I don’t think I will be using, and keep the ones that I do find myself using more regularly. I downloaded several free texting apps, since different friends have used different ones, but after going through my French apps I’m going to focus on the social ones and decide which ones I think are the best and delete the rest.
3. Clothing. I love clothing, and as someone who occasionally does some modeling and survives with background work when I’m in L.A., a large selection comes in very handy. You could probably say I’m addicted to shopping at Crossroads Trading Company as well. I love getting “new” clothes, and this place is like crack for me. Unfortunately, storing clothing is a pain, especially while traveling. Packing and unpacking, and storing and even this process of elimination has been taking up way too much of my time. I need to really rip through this and be done with it. It’s just not very easy for me. Come on, look at that dress!
Action: First I’m going through and selling or donating everything I know I haven’t worn lately and probably will never wear again. I’ve also decided to put together sort of a collection of pictures representing the clothing and styles that I would like my wardrobe to be composed of. I will edit down my closet to be just what I like to wear all the time, with pieces that can be easily mixed and matched. Of course, this depends on what kind of money I have, to create this wardrobe. :-/ I want more skirts and dresses with nice little waistlines. And less jeans. I have too many jeans. Want some jeans? I’ll trade you. This process is moving slowly along. Selling clothing isn’t as easy in France. Garage sale and ebay time once I get back to L.A. I made over $1000 last year selling clothes on ebay. Not too bad.
4. My mobile home. I loved living there. But I haven’t for ages, so I keep renting it out… and not at a profit. It’s not my home anymore and it’s become a burden to me with the constant threat of repairs, finding new tenants, home insurance, property tax (even though I don’t own the property….)… I need it out of my life so that I don’t have a mobile home hanging over my head everywhere I go.
Action: Get out of it. I’ve been aggressively seeking solutions to this one, but no matter which potential answer I find, it’s one that I can’t afford. I have an owner-financed loan so I pay my mortgage to the previous owner. It’s lost a lot of value since I bought it though. The two options I seem to have right now are either to sign it back over to him, or to convince him to sell it to one of the people who is interested in buying it. Either way, I will most likely be faced with a massive tax bill to repay the First Time Home Buyer’s Credit (if I knew that this was how it worked, I wouldn’t have taken it…) next year, and on my income I don’t know how I would pay it. I would also have to give the current tenant their deposit back, which basically makes up all I have in the bank. If I were to sign it back over to him, he would demand more repairs be made, which I (duh) also don’t have money for, but if it was sold, I think it would be “as is,” which would eliminate that cost from the equation. I proposed trading it back to him for my initial down payment, but he refused that and just wants it back along with all the repairs I’ve already made($3000+), a massive new shed ($2000+), plus more unspecified repairs. Which seems unfair to me, because then it’s basically like I gave him $12k in 2008, then rented from him for 6 years and paid all the costs of upkeep, taxes, and insurance for him. What a great situation for a landlord. No thank you. No deal. The best (but still not financially ideal for me) solution for everyone at this time seems to be a short-sale, but apparently he used his retirement money to buy this mobile home (why, don’t ask me. Mobile homes have a shelf life, rent rises every year… real property or precious metals would have been my pick) and although he would certainly get enough to buy real property somewhere (like Spain!) with what he would salvage from the mobile home, it seems he would prefer to keep it in a 40+ year old vehicle on land he doesn’t own. I would still lose money, but at least wouldn’t have to pay for further repairs, and if he was generous enough perhaps he could agree to a few thousand from the sale to cover costs of things I did repair and replace (though I doubt it). He’s made quite a lot in interest over the past 6 years so I don’t know what he’s stuck on… We’re all a little stuck. But I keep trying. Because I want out.
5. Time management. This one is the hardest one of all for me. I like to travel, so I don’t have a regular job that dictates what free time I have and makes sure I have a steady income. My income is very irregular and when I’m in L.A. I have several jobs that make up my income. But no set days or hours for anything. So it’s been very difficult to say “here are the things I want to spend time on, and I will do it for this long each day at this time each day.” It’s near impossible, really. I’m daily trying to figure out how to earn more income, so that I can relax and focus more on the things I really want to do (which may or may not bring an income). Today for example, I feel that I have not done anything very productive. I read a lot of interesting things, replied to some email, dyed my hair, made lunch, and here I am writing the first blog post in months. After this I intend to do some writing on a little book I want to put out on Amazon. I’m really trying to do something that makes me feel like I’m creating and living my purpose. But this still means I have to spend time today working on the website that pays the bills, and piecing together other ways I can earn money for the other debt in my life (and to make it easier to get out of that mobile home!). Oh all the things I want to do. I want to focus on improving my photography, practice piano, learn how to use this music program on my computer, finish the short movie about my dog (which is unfortunately stuck on the broken hard drive, unless I want to start all over again with the editing), write songs, write a script, practice energy healing… shoot. So much to do.
“The waste of life occasioned by trying to do too many things at once is appalling.” ~ Orison Marden
Action. This is the big one that I don’t have an answer for. I sit with my notebook day after day making lists, trying to narrow down what I really love, what I should focus on, a plan of action, a goal…. and I haven’t solved it yet. I feel that I have so many “little things” that get in the way and need dealt with before I can get to what matters. I suppose, in general, my action for this one is to clear away as many of the unnecessary elements to my life so that I have the space to focus more on the big things. Finishing with the email purge, the app purge, getting my belongings down to the basics… once those are complete I won’t have to be tackling them every day. It just feels never-ending.
I definitely have held onto some commitments that perhaps were good for me at one time, but are not good for me now. And some commitments we never even really agreed to, but were just thrust into (like citizenship!). I want to strip away as much as I can, to get to the point where I can carefully choose the things I am committed to. Just dump out the clutter drawer of life so I can see the bottom and decide what goes back in and what doesn’t.
So now it’s time to move on with my day and figure out what else I can do to progress with the things I love, simplify a little more, and figure out that whole income problem. I’ve spent way too much time in this limbo. I really anticipate getting out and looking around and being able to say, “I feel free!”
“Simplicity is the final achievement. After one has played a vast quantity of notes and more notes, it is simplicity that emerges as the crowning reward of art.”
~ Frederic Chopin
“As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler; solitude will not be solitude, poverty will not be poverty, nor weakness weakness.”
~ Henry David Thoreau
For more quotes about simplicity and life, there’s a really good list here! Pick your favourites for motivation. 🙂
Are you doing anything to make or keep your life simple? Have any tips for me?