I want books to fix my life

Long, long ago, when I first started this blog, I talked about Aspirational Clutter, the term given by Colleen at 365 Less Things to describe “items that you aspire to using one day but one day never seems to come.” She gives some excellent direction on how to deal with these things:

My first advice is don’t be too hard on yourself and also don’t ever let this situation deter you from aspiring to other dreams in the future. My second piece of advice is to make a calculated choice as to what unsettles you the most, the thought of decluttering these items or thought of continuing to live with them cluttering up your home. What is greater, the chance that you are never going to use them or the chance that you are going to regret getting rid of them?

I’ve used that wisdom to release many hobby items, though not nearly as many as I should, since my craft room is still unbelievably cluttered. Now, however, I have to use the same mindset to attack my greatest clutter enemy.

BOOKS. Yep, it’s time to get brutally honest with myself about my books.

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Many people own books. For that matter, many people hoard them. But I’d bet a large percentage of those people keep books they love, books they enjoy, books they want to read again and again.

I have some of those books, definitely. Those, however, are not the ones that are overtaking my home.

You see, most of my books are Aspirational Clutter. I buy self-help books by the armload, all because I want them to fix whatever I see as a problem in my life. The real problem? I don’t want to get rid of the book if the original difficulty still remains… which it often does.

Do the books not work? No, it would be more accurate to say that I don’t work. Apparently, in some little corner of my mind, I hope that just buying the book will do one of the following:

  • Inspire me to read it;
  • Motivate me to act on it; or
  • Impart its wisdom to me through osmosis.

What happens, instead, is that the book is brought home and set in a “To Read” pile beside my bed, where I page through it every so often and where it remains until the pile gets too big and all the books are shelved. Thus, the problem remains, which leads me to believe that I should buy yet another book pushing yet another scheme, technique or breakthrough. Lather, rinse, repeat.

The other day, Quinland suggested I get rid of all my parenting books. Her rationale: I wasn’t using the books anyway, and since she is no longer a little kid, my opportunity to “parent” her has pretty much come and gone. I do plan on parenting her for a few more years, but in many ways she is right. I should let go of the books that are not age appropriate.

Why was I hanging on to those books, anyway? Nostalgia? No, I really think that they represented the way I had wanted to parent, the fun things I wish we had done together, the structure I wish I had been able to provide.

When it comes right down to it, though, did I actually need those books? Perhaps. Perhaps I gleaned some tidbit from them at the store when I looked through them and decided to buy, or in my bed when I looked through them again. Some I may have even read more thoroughly along the way.

Then again, perhaps my wonderful, funny, loving, confident daughter has never needed me to  find any wisdom in books. Perhaps just loving her and parenting her the way we have, to the best of our abilities, has been enough.

If so, what does that say about all the other books? The ones about simplifying, organizing, and decluttering? The ones about exercise, nutrition, and yoga? The devotionals and prayerbooks? The guides to success and money management and veganism and conscious living? Is it possible that I don’t need them? Is it possible that just being myself and doing the best I can is enough?

That would sure fix a lot of problems.

Whew! Do you buy books to solve your problems? How many do you buy? How many do you keep? Do you read them? Do they help? Talk to me here. I need to feel that I am not alone.

whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right

The secret, the law of attraction, a positive mental attitude – many authors and speakers over the years have taught that what you think about, you bring about. Even in the Book of Proverbs it says, “As a man thinketh, so is he.”

Is it true? Do good thoughts lead to good actions and good results? I don’t have a definitive answer. I don’t believe that thinking about fifty-dollar bills is going to make them magically appear in my wallet. However, I do believe that your expectations that good things will happen makes them more likely to do so.

I went to Goodwill today in search of a pair of black shoes. I found a single pair of Kumf’s, just my size (40 wide). Brand spankin’ new. A $225 value, only $9.99. Do I always fine exactly what I most desire at Goodwill? Definitely not, but I look at least once a week, and I assume I will find what I want eventually. Yet so many people I talk to curl their lip and say, “Goodwill? I’m sure they wouldn’t have anything I want, so why bother?” Well, if you never try, you certainly won’t find anything there.

Here’s another example: I always assume that people are going to be friendly. I talk to virtually everyone (which makes Quinland cringe, as it probably made me cringe at 14 when my mom did it), and I expect it to go well. Is everyone receptive? No, but most are, and if anyone is not, I figure they are having a bad day.

I also expect that I will always be able to find work. I don’t know why this is – do I have an overinflated sense of my employability? – but I have always been able to get work when I wanted it, from even before I was legal age to seek employment. It’s worked out that way, too. Does this mean that anyone who can’t find work is somehow “doing it to themselves” by their thoughts? Not at all. It’s just that my expectation that I can get work – coupled with my willingness to be underemployed when needed – cause me to get up and look for it with that much more energy, confidence and enthusiasm that I would otherwise.

Maybe that’s the secret, the law, the key: thinking you can do something gives you confidence  which gives you energy and a sense of calm. Perhaps that confidence and energy inspire the others around you, be they potential friends, employers, or spouses.

Conversely, if you believe you can’t do something, you are probably not going to make the attempt. That’s a guaranteed recipe for failure, because – as they say about basketball – you are going to miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. If you do decide to try, going in with an attitude that says “I’m a failure, this won’t succeed,” probably causes you to be more anxious and jittery, more nervous about what you’ll say, and more timid about talking yourself up.

To make a long story the teensiest bit shorter: I need to believe in myself when it comes to making the changes I want to make at home. I need to trust that I will let things go, that I will establish routines, that once and for all I will maintain a clutter-free environment.

So far this year, I’ve been doing pretty well. I stretched this morning, and filled a second Goodwill box to go along with the easy-to-purge stuff in the first box.  This was trickier. It wasn’t just the low-hanging fruit; I had to take inventory of when I last used some things and be tough with myself on deciding to live without them. Out the door went two pair of shoes, an extra bathroom scale, two purses, and a few blouses. Not a ton of stuff, but it’s a start.

And I know I can keep it up… because I expect to.

(Edited to add the shoe story, which was the inspiration for the whole post, and which I would have remembered had I not fallen asleep sitting up – twice – while writing this post. Argh. Early to bed tonight!)

am I ready to make a long-term commitment?

I have had a huge decision to make over the past couple of months. I have agonized over it. My thoughts have swung from one extreme to the other, and I have been completely unable to make up my mind.

In David’s world of board gaming, that is called AP – analysis paralysis. I’ve got a bad case of it. This is nothing new; I have had trouble with decision making all my life. My dad, as I think I have mentioned before, says I am good at aiming but I rarely shoot.

This time, though, I have to make a choice, and I have to make it NOW.

It’s time to get the house painted, the painter is ready to pull the trigger, and I have to choose a color.

I know, I know – this doesn’t seem like a life-or-death decision. It’s not. I do know that. But it is a decision I will have to live with for the next 8-to-10 years… and it’s a decision that is going to cost me thousands of dollars, so I won’t be able to change my mind and go with something else.

Part of my problem is that I don’t believe that the color samples I see will actually look the same on our behemoth of a house in broad daylight, nor do I believe that the computer simulations I’ve done – using photos of our actual house – are anywhere near accurate representations, either. What if I choose a green and it turns out to look like the home of a leprechaun? What if the lovely bluish-grey turns out to be robin’s egg blue? Will mine be the house that others point to and wonder what the owners were thinking, taking that torch from the green-and-orange house down the street?

To add to the madness, every time David and I look at paint chips, we are so enamored with the names that the colors hardly seem to matter. We could paint our house Midnight Oil? Done! Or Gargoyle with Dragon’s Breath trim? Think of how much the board gamers would like that! Honestly, though, most of the names seem pretty useless. One of the front-runners on the sample chips is Camas with Skagway trim and Moclips as an accent. Those names really paint a picture in your mind, but a picture of what? Seriously… what?

People have told me to just find a house we like and ask what color it is. This is not as easy as it sounds. The three of us have driven around looking at paint combinations, and not only do we not agree on what we like, at times we can’t even agree on what color a house is. I’ll think it’s green, David will think it is brown, and Quinland will think we can’t choose it anyway because it “looks like poop.”

Oh, well. The painters want to get started this week, and they need to order the paint. I guess I might as well just set one of the sample brochures down, close my eyes, and point. What will it be? Ravalli with Entiat? Nampa with Ochoco? Izee with Targhee? I think as long as I miss the one that has combined Hanford with Potholes, we should be safe. That’s a color scheme with some potential bad karma, right there.

Have you ever had to choose a house color? Or any paint, for that matter? How did you decide? (And who makes up these names? I must know.)