Sunday, February 23, 2020

Sunday Afternoon Tea - Finding peace among too many options

This past winter seems to have been darker than usual.  Perhaps because we experienced mostly rain and not snow from December through very early February.  I noticed when the snow started falling again in February, the world seemed brighter and lighter when the sun reflected those ice crystals.

While I do enjoy winter... except for walking and driving on ice... it can bring on those depressed feelings more than any other time of the year. After awhile, long hours lived in darkness can get to a person, no matter how many candles they light.  I thought that was perhaps what was happening here.

It seemed almost every night after washing the dinner dishes, I would feel unsettled and even a little depressed.  I felt as if I hadn't accomplished what needed to be done even on busy days.  I asked God for wisdom and one day it came to me... I was on option overload.  There was too much around me that was calling for my attention.

I realized that no matter how many books I read, there were more waiting stacked in various places and on the Kindle. There were more TV programs than I could ever watch.  There were DVDs stacked next to the DVD player and on quite a few shelves.  Don't even get me started with Amazon Prime video or Netflix options.

I know, these are First World problems, right?  Definitely... but that is where we live.  Much like we can always hear the hum of some refrigerators and the furnace running on cold days, there is a hum of "watch me, read me, listen to me, eat me (especially if ice cream is in the freezer), pay attention to meeeeee"... all day long.

The way in which I am working on this problem came about during one of those times I heard from God in a manner that made me laugh.  I was getting ready to run errands in town and decided I needed to pull myself together a little more when I looked in the mirror.  All I can say is that I resembled Vera and Columbo more than usual.

I was debating my own thoughts when I know it was the Holy Spirit who broke through and whispered these words, "If you can't do your best, do your better".  First I laughed out loud (no one was around at the time) and then it was one of those hmmmmm... moments.  I realized that was quite profound.  I wondered if my option overload was in trying to do everything... perfectly.

Those of us born in the Baby Boomer generations and raised by the "Greatest Generation" as they were called, were often told to be our best and do our best.  If not by our parents, then by the culture speaking to us in various ways.  Even in Christian books for women, we were challenged to be the best we could become.

One of my all time favorite nonfiction books was It Takes So Little to Be Above Average by Florence Littauer.  My paperback copy of that book was dog-eared and well worn.  What she wrote about was the truth, that most of the time we can be our best with just a little more work in any area of our life. However, I read that title to mean that it took so little to be our most perfect!

But this time my Teacher and Counselor was reminding me of that book and that Littauer was not telling us to achieve perfection, she was actually saying that we could be better with just a little more time and effort.

So I started asking God for wisdom in overcoming the whole option overload thing without it becoming one more item to be checked off the To Do list in my planner. I needed to live my days better, not perfectly. He did give me the wisdom, a little at a time and as needed.

First, I decided I needed to organize my priorities to make certain the urgent did not overtake what was truly important.  I knew spending time with the Bible was important but I often found myself getting ready for bed once again without reading my Bible that day, other than Bible verses in a book.

A gift from a dear friend arrived at this time and helped me to download a Bible study I had wanted to do for years. I still read the Psalms a lot but this study in Philippians (a favorite of the Letters) will cause me to stop and think about what is being read.  For you see, I know from past experience that I can change my thinking and my habits by putting in place ahead of time a way of changing.  Going through the Bible study will help that.

Perhaps the greatest insight during this time was the need to declutter what was in my line of sight.  Now, my house is mostly decluttered in the usual manner but I do have stacks of books to read, DVDs to watch, etc. in various places.  Of course, each time I saw those stacks, it brought about a tension that books sitting on shelves do not.  I can view shelves of books as possibilities but stacks on my coffee table are like one huge Need to Do Now statement.

In my quest to declutter what was in my line of sight, I first rearranged the books in my Study just to make finding everything more practical.  I moved the vintage Goudge and Stevenson into the reproduction pie safe that I use for books.  It has a door with glass windows that will help protect them.

I moved my favorite nonfiction paperback books to the small bookshelf where they had previously been located and most of the books that were in the pie safe now reside on the shelves where the paperbacks had been located. Now the location of the books in the Study make more sense.

I long ago started sorting through the large bookshelves in the Living Room. I've been sending boxes of books to either Goodwill or the library (for their library sales) now for a few years.  I have been getting rid of books I knew were not going to be read again and that the kids wouldn't want.

To declutter the coffee table I use the most, I prepared a space in a Living Room bookshelf to put the books I plan to read right away.  Now there are only one or two books I'm reading currently on the coffee table.  No longer is there a large stack of books reminding me how slow I read since the whole eye situation.  It is better but the sight in my right eye is not clear.

I now only keep two or three DVDs next to the player, once again getting rid of line of sight clutter.  I mean, really... it doesn't take much time to walk to the Family Room for a DVD if one is needed.  The very small Amazon Fire tablet that I use for Audible books and music (I don't have a smart phone) now resides in the Study with the Kindle that I put in my purse when away from home.  They really didn't need to be on the coffee table, either.

In an effort to declutter my options, I also removed about half of the podcasts I had on my tablet.  I can always add them back if needed. Those I left were podcasts I go back to once in awhile.  I didn't keep any apps or podcasts that required daily attention.

As for looking better (if far from perfect) when I walk out the door now, I assembled a few easy outfits to keep ready.  One is dressier than the others but all of them will work for last minute going out amongst the English.  (You will get that if you read Amish novels.)

When I had to dress up in a corporation every day, I had a selection of suits and blouses with a couple sets of heels that matched most of them.  There was never a need to stand at my closet wondering what to wear each morning.  I needed to do the same thing for grocery shopping!  Just because I don't get out very much is not an excuse to look... frumpy... when I do.

So the real question is, has decluttering my options and line of sight clutter helped my feelings of discontent?  Absolutely!!!  I'm amazed by the difference this project has accomplished.

The interesting thing is, those options are all still in place.  Except for the books I've already sent to charity, I only got rid of a few more during this process.  The difference is that now I don't have everything where I see it all the time as if each item was urgent.  That is far better than wishing everything could be accomplished.  Sigh, I'm not sure why it took so long to learn this lesson.

Mentioned in this Blog Post
It Takes So Little to Be Above Average (dated book these days but still good)... info here.  (Third Party)

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Image Nostalgia Mini by Clement Micarelli


lives in the woods said...

Thank you for the reminder of Florence Littauer. I hadn't thought of her books in years! Regarding options, I was picking my 93 year old aunt's brain the other day for some recent blog posts of mine. She mentioned that when she was growing up they ate very basic meals - not much variety to be had in the depression. Although the they grew a lot of their own food - they concentrated on the vegetables they could grow well.

There were no supermarkets - just a grocer in town. You went in his shop and told him how many pounds of sugar or flour you wanted or how many ounces of baking powder, soda, cornstarch. That sounds wonderful to me - fewer choices meant quicker shopping and very little impulse buying. Citrus fruits would only be available for a short season and thus appreciated all the more. I doubt if my grandmother ever saw an avocado!

I like your idea of packing some of your options away. That certainly reduces information overload and decision fatigue. I'm all for that!

Suzan said...

Thank you for the wise words you have shared for my Monday morning. We have way too much stuff in this home. Unfortunately I am permitted to get rid of many things. Just this week I wrote that I enjoy my kindle. It is easier to hold for my weak hands. It does not gather dust. I can have a huge collection at my fingertips and so on. This doesn't mean that I don't love books because I truly do.

God bless you and keep yo

Vee said...

Now that is a very interesting lesson to learn. I’m sitting here wondering if I need to learn the same one. I don’t think so...dvds in drawers and out of sight, only two stacks of books...

Now I am tired of the make-up routine that became necessary when medications meant that I looked like an brows, no lashes. An hour or more pulling a face together felt like a waste of time for me, but I told myself that society would thank me. I doubt it very much in hindsight. Society doesn’t give a flip. But I did.

I have gone painstakingly through the wardrobe and tossed anything that was stained, didn’t fit or that I just didn’t like. It’s very freeing to get that stuff out of the house. Old cosmetics, too. Lovely to be rid of it. And still so much more to toss. I chuck my own correspondence out without a care, but can I toss my great-grandmother’s out? That’s a no.

Wonderful idea you have for having outfits selected and at the ready. I should do that as well. I actually need to go shopping for new clothes, which I am loathe to do. So little fits quite right these days. Oh well...the problems of a American senior woman... There’s a question on my paperwork each month at the clinic that asks if I worry about food on the table. No, but I have fretted about oil for heating and about medications when they are so very expensive. Still, God has seen me through. I have neither starved, nor been cold, nor gone without medication. I may, however, look a bit frumpy. 🙂

Deanna Rabe - Creekside Cottage Blog said...

Very simple, but great solutions! I Need to do some similar sorting. It’s been a while since I culled books, but I’m thinking I need to do it. Next though is a sorting of the linen closet and my fabric stash. I don’t sew much anymore.

Sandy said...

Such a wonderful post. It is true when I leave too much out I feel the same way. I am one who likes to have those stacks of things to read or cross stitch but they can get a little stressful when I leave too many out. The shelf is still there for them to peruse. Great post and good reminder. I also like the idea of getting some outfits ready for those quick trips out.

laixinjie said...

One of my all time favorite nonfiction books was It Takes So Little to Be Above Average by Florence Littauer. My paperback copy of that book was dog-eared and well worn. What she wrote about was the truth, that most of the time we can be our best with just a little more work in any area of our life. However, I read that title to mean that it took so little to be our most perfect!custom personalized blankets