Faith with stake

Five by Five

Faith with stakeSome weeks ago, when I was deciding not to sign on for the 40 bags in 40 days challenge, I talked about finding my own ways to keep momentum chipping away at the ongoing responsibilities of daily house care plus unpacking. However, between the craziness at work, plus my detox trips, it is undeniable that my ongoing momentum has slipped a bit off the rails, as it were.

Over the weekend, I got back into unpacking boxes and stuff-purging after missing two weekends (crazy proposal/taxes pileup followed by my “detox tuneup” trip). So yay! for that.

But as I looked around the main floor of our lovely contemporary ranch house yesterday evening — all the leftover boxes from moving are down in the basement, don’t cha know — I started thinking about how frustrating it sometimes feels with the slow pace of unpacking & de-cluttering, as well as all the other pieces of things where I’ve been falling behind. The file boxes of items that have survived the basement purge and been brought upstairs to find a home. The laundry that stays hanging on the drying rack or sits unfolded in the basket long after it’s been washed.

I know part of the challenge I’m facing is the way that my momentum keeps hiccuping from the weekends (some progress) into the work week (full stop). So, for the next few weeks, I’m trying to inspire myself into some regular, but manageable activity on these fronts even during the work week.

I’m calling it my “five by five” program.* For the:

  1. Five (5) days of the work week, I will
  2. Fold and put away (at least) 5 items of clean laundry
  3. Find homes for and put away (at least) 5 things bought brought upstairs after the stuff-purging
  4. Take (at least) 5 items out of the moving boxes in the basement and deal with them: whether that’s putting them in the trash, on the goodwill pile, in a file box for later transport upstairs, or on the pile of stuff Mr. Mezzo and I need to decide about
  5. Put away (at least) 5 pieces of general household clutter: incoming mail, kitchen stuff, new purchases, things (books, DVDs, office supplies, whatever) that have been used and not put away

Now it’s true that dealing with 5 items a day (particularly in self-renewing categories like “laundry” and “things used in daily life”) may not be an aggressive enough pace to get caught up. But there’s always the hope that some days the “at least” clause will be invoked and instead of 5, I’ll be handling 6, 8, or maybe 12 (!) things in a (or multiple!) category. And even at 5, this would be more regular effort towards these tasks than I’ve been giving.

Tonight’s report: after one whole day of this system, I’m back on the rails. Obviously, it’s easy to have a one-day winning streak, so we’ll have to wait and see whether and how this is sustained.

Still, happy to have made a strong step forward, and hopeful this will be a structure that — at least for a time — I can find to be supportive and not confining.

* Any resemblance to a favorite phrase of a certain back-up vampire slayer is purely coincidental. (Tara: “Five-by-five? Five what by five what?”; Willow: “See, that’s the thing: no one knows.”)

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Image credit: http://buffy.wikia.com/wiki/Faith_Lehane

The Fine Line Between Practice and Pressure

A couple weeks ago, I saw a sudden flurry of Facebook activity talking about the “40 bags in 40 days” Lenten challenge. Even though I’ve not been aware of the movement till now, I guess it’s been going on for a couple years or so?*

Anyhow, the challenge is concisely summarized over at White House Black Shutters:

A forty day period in the spring (coinciding with the 40 days of Lent) where you focus on cleaning one area per day. In this one area you challenge yourself to declutter, simplify, decrapify, and get rid of things you don’t need. The goal is one bag a day but you can have more or less.

The 2014 challenge officially goes from Wednesday, March 5th to Saturday, April 19th. Sundays are your day off.

Even though this tradition seems to have started among Christian bloggers, the discussions I saw this year included individuals of other faith traditions also taking up the idea as a way to bring inspiration and structure to a spring cleaning/decluttering effort.

I can absolutely see the appeal, and I gave the idea a long think for myself. After all, I’m betting we still have 40 or 50 boxes left to unpack,** and a lot of the unpacking process is about sorting through all the clutter I didn’t get rid of in Philadelphia and determining what’s going straight from a moving box to the Goodwill pile.

But ultimately, I opted out of the 40 bags/40 days challenge for 2014.

I have a well-developed skill of setting high bars for myself. I can take just about any structure that is meant to help in goal-setting and supporting regular practice of a thing — meditation, exercise, decluttering, what-have-you — and I will use it as a club to beat myself with when I inevitably fall short. ‘Cos I’m human, and sooner or later I’m gonna miss a day’s practice. But I’m not yet all that good at forgiving my human foibles, dusting off the day’s “failure,” and getting back into the practice tomorrow.

So it just didn’t sense like I had the internal capacity this year to be kind to myself within a set structure like the “40 bags” challenge. I’ll be curious to see if I’m in a different place when Lent and spring roll around in 2015.

Till then, I’m doing what I am able to do within the boundaries of my limitations. Work weeks are tougher for me to do any unpacking/decluttering, but I’m building better Monday-Friday habits than I had in Philly about simple things like washing the dishes, putting my clothes away (or in the hamper) rather than leaving them on the bathroom floor, and making the bed.*** And then, each weekend day, I try to get at least one more box unpacked.

At some level, these are very much like goals for a daily practice, but there’s just enough softness and looseness around them that I’m better able to let go any sense of “failure” if there’s a weekend where I don’t unpack any boxes, and instead of immobilizing myself in the beat-up, I just get back to it next weekend and keep chipping away.

In my system, there can be something of a razor’s edge between “practice” and “pressure,” but I seem to be managing to keep myself on the right side of that fine, fine line.

* Considering that last year at Lenten time, I was finishing one job, starting another, and doing phase one of the “3 moves, 2 houses and 1 apartment in 6 months” relocation odyssey, I think I can be forgiven for my ignorance of this tradition.

** Small boxes (file box size, for the most part), so it’s slightly less terrifying than it sounds. Slightly.

*** Yes, the fact that these are victories says a lot about the dire straights we lived in back in Philly.