Thursday, December 15, 2011

10 Things I'd Edit Out of My Life, or Making Room For the Good Stuff

Some things are well worth the space they occupy, like my Russian Grandfather Frost collection at Christmas
(you should see how many are on the tree)

Before the great decorating frenzy that is Christmas at our house I looked around the living room to figure out if there were a new place to put the tree other than the same corner where it had sat for the last gazillion Christmases.  I wanted it still visible through the French windows across the front of our house, so how could I rearrange the furniture to make this happen?  The only logical conclusion was to sell my husband’s piano so I could move the couch to the wall the piano had owned since we moved into this house.  Would you like to know how that conversation went?

I went out last week and purchased more Christmas paraphernalia, despite the fact that we have a small storage room in the basement dedicated to storing what I already had.  And now I’ll have to buy some kind of container to store the new decorations in.  And so it goes.  It only seems appropriate, then, that this week I ran across a TED talk that was titled “Julie, You Better Watch This Because I’m Talking To You.  Yes, You” – or something like that.  TED is the nonprofit organization whose mission is to spread worthy ideas.  Every year at its annual conference the best minds in Technology, Entertainment, and Design have eighteen minutes or less each to give the most inspiring talk they can, and then these are put up on the internet to share with the world.

That’s where I found Graham Hill, guru of sustainable living, telling me that less stuff means more happiness. He talked about the benefits of an “edited life.”  As a writer, I know something of editing, i.e., paring a sentence, a paragraph, a chapter down to only the most essential words to convey the idea.  That doesn’t mean cutting out beauty, poetry, or important details.  Just choose what’s needed and leave the rest behind.  Life editing, Hill said, gives us all a little more freedom, a little more time, and turns less into more.  I decided to try this life editing on my own terms (you can see his talk in full, below, or here). 

10 Things I’d Edit Out of My Life

1) Time Sucks – I’m an information junkie so I waste much too much time filling my head with every detail about every event in the universe – newspaper, television, internet, cereal box. Tom Cruise to the God Particle. I have to be more selective so I can focus on what makes me grow as a person, e.g., with my writing.

2) Blame – Blaming random people and/or things for why I don’t get my house renovated, or my writing revised and submitted, or my weight lost takes up too much space.  My recovery from surgery kept me from being productive for the last two months.  Yeah, but what’s my excuse for the first ten months of this year?

3) Martyrdom – Corollary to Blame.  I need to strike this sucker completely out of my life, kill it with a red pen.  No matter how much I stomp around the house or pout, I ain’t no martyr.  Give it up, Julie.

4) Unhealthy Choices – How many times in a day do I get to make healthy choices for my life?  How many of those times do I pick the unhealthy route?  Graham Hill is right.  Less is more (except when it comes to exercise for a woman of my age – more, more, more).

5) Late Nights – Occasionally staying up late to read or to work a fabulous idea like this into a blog is a good thing.  Staying up late to watch Rachel Maddow reruns, or check Facebook “one last time,” or eat, or sort mail is just one more unhealthy choice I need to reduce, like a sequoia milled down to a toothpick.

6) Things – I don’t engage in mindless consumerism, but I don’t need to possess everything I love.  Someday I’ll write about my collections.  It’s time to start paring down now so my kids don’t have to do it later.  But this does NOT include my books.

This space could use a bit of editing, ya think?

7) Negative conversations – Mine and those of others.  A time suck, an energy drain, a distraction from really inspiring ideas.  They can’t be avoided, but they can be limited.

8) Paper – We’re drowning in it.  I hired an organizer to bring some order.  I have more work to do with her.  I know I’ll never digitize everything.  But shuffling papers, searching for papers, filing papers is a grizzly bear-sized time suck, and is a direct cause for blame and martyrdom, as well as late nights.  I need to learn to never touch a paper more than once or twice.  Act on it or toss it.

9) Perfection – Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good, Julie.  Don’t let it be the enemy of actually getting something finished.  Perfection is also a great, galumphing time suck.

10) (nothing more to say – 9 is enough, I don’t need a perfect 10; it’s late and I really should get to bed; spending all of this time blaming all the things I’m not doing instead of doing the things I should be doing does not get the job done, and so on)

So if I get out my great big red pen and start editing my life, as Hill urges us all to do, it won’t be long before I have more time and space for the good stuff.  Who knows, maybe I’d accomplish something that made me qualify for my own TED talk.

What did you think of Graham Hill’s talk?  Where would you start editing your own life?  Start the conversation in the comments box.

Here's what I was thinking about at the beginning of the year.  My blog has been my own little motivational cheerleader this year.  Don't ask if I've accomplished all I talked about.  But at least I have my driving directions down on paper for the next year.


Anonymous said...

Sell the piano? are you crazy? You can't get rid of music!!

Anonymous said...

I'd substitute early mornings for your #5 choice. I'm a complete night owl. Great list!

Nancy said...

Oh, Julie - I could adopt your list as-is right now! Especially the part about shuffling papers around. Less is more, and I'm beginning to see the value of hiring an organizer. Come to think of it, I think I could benefit from having a personal coach for EVERY area of my life :-)!
Nice post, Julie ~

Anonymous said...

What a great post to start thinking about the New Year with! Before I met my husband I could fit everything I owned in the world in one small closet (half of which would have been books),let me tell you it was so freeing! Before my hubbie got sick I felt we were building a sort of history for our child with large inheritance things like a big beautiful wooden kingsize bed etc. But now realise that these things will be a burden really. SO I have been rethinking everything like that and am creating more things like books with life memories,words of wisdom etc. that will serve a lot better in future generations to know who I was than a bed!
As for the books amassed, I keep saying I wont buy anymore and then still do! So I understand!
This is really a great post for this time of year! Merry Christmas!

Anonymous said...

I've been feeling the same way about my life and the clutter I live with. I would love to hire an organizer to help me get rid of stuff and streamline my life. I think I'll make this my resolution. Thanks for the ideas. Great list, btw.

Julie Farrar said...

A professional organizer is great but not cheap. It's worth every penny IF you follow all of her directions, but worthless if you slip back into old habits.

Samantha, I'm rethinking the "my kids will inherit this" thing now that my husband and I are at the age where we are becoming the beneficiary of older relatives downsizing or passing away. All of the stuff we have received is wonderful, but most of it doesn't fit the style I have envisioned for my own home. So for my own kids there are small things (like special Christmas ornaments) I hope they want, but I would understand if they don't want the large things. Someone will.

brenda said...

Yes, get rid of perfection (overrated) and life as it rolls by fixes the quirks anyway. Loved your office photo..Hope you feeling better!

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