Saturday, January 14, 2012

A House of Order

I grew up in a house without much order. There was always a lot of clutter, largely due to my mom running in far too many directions and trying to do too many things. Hmmm...sounds like someone else I know.

While I have worked hard as an adult to overcome that childhood model of living in a constant state of chaos, I still struggle with it on a regular basis. I do my best to create a (fairly) neat and clutter-free house. Most of our "living spaces", where we spend the majority of our time, are relatively neat. But step into a closet, my office, or open up a cupboard and you're likely to find things shoved in where they don't belong, just so they're out of sight.

I become close to paralyzed and almost unable to function, think clearly, or work productively, efficiently, or creatively when I am surrounded by clutter. I've been feeling a lot of underlying anxiety in the last several months. As I've been evaluating how I can reduce the anxiety, and free up some of the creative energy that is brewing in my soul, a scripture from the Doctrine & Covenants began replaying itself over and over again in my head:

"Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing; and establish a house, even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God." (D&C 88:119)

I know that the stirrings I've felt are God's way of nudging me along in the direction that I need to go to accomplish the goals and dreams I have for myself and my family.

Over the holidays, I cleaned out my closet. I got rid of 3 huge bags of clothes, including some things I haven't worn in 10 years. It felt good.

Last week, when I came home from church, I found that my sweet husband had added a shelf to the top of the pantry wall (without being asked, nagged, or bribed either!). This added about 5 square feet of shelf space, which doesn't seem like much, but it made a difference. I spent the last 3 days sorting, organizing, and cleaning my pantry and food storage cabinets. I don't have any "before" pictures, but here are they are "after":

While I don't have a lot of cupboard space in the kitchen (aside from the huge pantry), I do have almost wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling cupboards in the laundry room. While many of these are used for cleaning supplies, swim towels, laundry necessities, and the like, I also use the laundry room to house the less oft-used kitchen accessories, and as an additional food storage location.

I have one cupboard for "wet" food:

And one cupboard for "dry" food:

When I finished today, I stood back and looked at my efforts, and felt a huge sense of accomplishment. It was good to know that in an emergency, I could feed my family pretty well for at least a couple of weeks. In addition to the outward sense of a job well-done, I felt some of my anxiety dissipate. I have a long way to go to work my way through the cupboards, file cabinets, desk drawers, and closet spaces that clutter up my life. But I know I'll get there.

Just as I must clean out the tangible clutter of my life, so I must also clean out the clutter and unwanted occupants of my mind and spirit. There are shelves in my mind scattered with pieces of grief, anger, hurt, loss, and sadness that are blocking some of the beauty and creativity that is trying to make itself known. I'm feeling a tremendous urgency to write . . . and not just because Steve is counting down the years until he is able to retire on my dime. I've got several book ideas stirring in my mind, but making them a reality requires me to clear out the garbage before I can get to the good stuff.

Life is an interesting thing . . . so often we lose sight of those things that matter most, simply because they're covered up by a layer of junk. Here's to "creating order", both outside, and in.

Friday, January 6, 2012

New Year...New Goals

For the last few years, we have sat down as a family on New Year's Day and set some goals/resolutions. For the last few years, they have been posted on my blog, and nowhere else, only to be forgotten about by January 7. Not this year!

We all agreed that this year, the resolutions should be posted somewhere where we would be reminded of them regularly, and be able to keep track of our progress (or get back on track, if needed!).

Here they are, posted above the "chore chart" in the laundry room.

Granted, I'm the only one that's in there every single day, but maybe if the kids decide to actually use their chore chart, they'll see them too. Steve will likely only see them if I'm lying comatose in a hospital somewhere and he has to figure out how to work the washer and dryer. But I think he has a better memory than me, so he shouldn't have too much trouble remembering what he's working on.

Without further ado, here's the Whitaker Family Resolutions for 2012:

  1. Learn how to read.
  2. Learn how to ride my bike with no training wheels. (He set this same goal last year, but didn't make it.)
  3. Keep my room clean. (Doesn't hurt to dream, right?)
  4. Be kind to my family and don't throw fits. (Parental input and suggestions are welcome when someone draws a blank.)
  5. Not hurt my brother. (Brotherly input is also accepted.)
  6. Improve all my swim times. (He's got his sights on a medal this year, not to be outdone by his older and much faster brother.)
  1. Audition for at least one play, and if I make it in, be happy. (Olivia may have some competition in the acting department.)
  2. Score at least five points in the season for my basketball team. (Last year, he scored one all season.)
  3. Spend more time outside than watching TV.
  4. Beat the Sharks' record for butterfly. (This could happen . . . this boy can swim.)
  5. Keep my room clean. (Again, doesn't hurt to dream.)
  6. Get better at golf and shoot at least a 45 for 9 holes. (This could be a reality as well . . . he's shooting consistently in the mid-50's—legitimately— for 9 holes.)
  1. Beat my personal record of 33 seconds in the 50m freestyle.
  2. Finish a junior triathlon. (She's not a runner or a biker, this one may be a challenge. Maybe I'll be her coach!)
  3. Do well in school.
  4. Do some sort of exercise every day.
  5. Complete two personal progress goals every month. (This is a program though the church youth program, aimed at helping young women grow and progress both emotionally and spiritually.)
Steve's goals are a word for word repeat of last year. He said the only one he did well in 2011 was #3. But he did lower his golf index by 3 points this year, which isn't too shabby.
  1. Get under 200 lbs. by June and sustain it through the year.
  2. Lower golf index to single digit handicap.
  3. Continue for family to be #1 priority.
and now, my goals for the new year:

  1. Read Book of Mormon 5 minutes every day as a family. (This was a challenge from our Sunday School teacher this year, one I decided to take on as a family challenge. So far, almost a week in, we haven't missed a day.)
  2. Exercise 1 hour 3–5 days a week. (Last year, I said 5 days a week. That didn't happen once. Maybe 3 days is a more reasonable and realistic goal)
  3. Reach a healthy weight and maintain it. (I turn 40 this year. I've heard it's near impossible to lose weight once you hit that magic number, so I'm hoping if I start that new decade of life at a healthy weight, I'll be off to a good start.)
  4. Schedule 2–4 hours per week to write. (Last year, I set a goal to complete a book project. It got well underway, then life got in the way, and I've barely touched it in months. I want to complete that project, as well as work on a couple others that are festering in my mind. I figure if I start out with 2–4 hours a week, I should at least start seeing small progress.)
In addition, I'd like to get our house to the next stage in the "decorating" department. That means painting walls, adding accessories, and generally making it feel more lived-in than it does right now. This is a lofty goal, as I do not have a great sense of decorating style, so it will likely require some professional assistance. This isn't so much a "resolution", as it is a dream . . . but maybe putting it down in writing will help me to make it happen!