I have apparently designated this as my year to declutter, clear out, demolish. This has happened without my full realization, but as each month progresses, I’m sure that the year is meant to unfold this way.
In the process of cleaning out and demolishing, I hope to create space for new possibilities. I am spending this year in a process of self-discovery, and my quest is multi-faceted and I hope, life-changing.
This process started in January after I read the book: the life-changing magic of tidying up by Marie Kondo. She dubs her method The KonMari method, advising her clients to work by category, not by where clutter is located in their houses. She outlines a specific order to the categories, beginning with clothing, followed by “books, papers, komono (miscellany), and finally things with sentimental value.”
Marie Kondo says in her book: “A dramatic reorganization of the home causes correspondingly dramatic changes in lifestyle and perspective” (p. 3). Why? Because “when you put your house in order, you put your affairs and your past in order, too” (p.4). She says, “When we really delve into the reasons for why we can’t let something go, there are only two: an attachment to the past or a fear for the future” (p. 181). She suggests that when you get rid of clutter, you should touch each item and let it go with thankfulness for the part it played in your life. I have found her method freeing, and so far, though I’ve only gone through clothing and books, I’ve been able to let go of things I’ve been holding on to for sentimental reasons while giving thanks for the part those things played in my life. I feel unburdened every time I let something go.
Marie Kondo claims by decluttering and tidying, you will experience a dramatic change in your life. You’ll clear up space where you can fill it with only the things you love. Choosing to keep only those things that “spark joy,” you can focus on only the things you love without distractions.
At the same time I began my decluttering project, I started taking a real estate course through Moseley Real Estate Schools that lasted from early January into mid-February. I took the course like the perfect student I always am, passed the class test on the first round, and then passed the state and national exam, again on the first round. I cleared all hurdles to get my real estate license and to sell real estate, but after talking with numerous firms, all of whom want me to come on board (at no cost to them, I might add, as selling real estate is totally commission-based and you have to pay a couple thousand dollars just to begin), I just cannot take that final step. No matter how much I try to tell myself I could do it, my heart just isn’t in it. So I’m back to my perplexing dilemma: what to do with my life? This has been a quandary for me since I was in college, and at age 60, I still haven’t figured it out. I’m not ready to throw in the towel yet, and I want desperately to figure out what I can do that gives me pleasure and some sense of accomplishment while I’m still “young at heart!”
In the early part of this year, I was seeing a Sikh therapist who I’ve seen from time to time over the last couple of years. She recommended that I read The Dynamic Laws of Prosperity by Catherine Ponder. Though the book is Christian in principal, my Sikh therapist thought it was applicable for people of all faiths in teaching the power of affirmations. In a chapter titled “The Vacuum Law of Prosperity,” Ponder says: “Basically, the vacuum law of prosperity is this: if you want greater good, greater prosperity in your life, start forming a vacuum to receive it! In other words, get rid of what you don’t want to make room for what you do want.” She poses that nature abhors a vacuum, and by getting rid of what you don’t want, you’re automatically making room for what you do want. She says that you should talk about prosperity, not lack, and envision that your prosperity is already visible in great abundance (p. 41-51).
At the book’s suggestion, I’ve made a vision board and a list of affirmations, but I have to say I haven’t been totally devoted to using them because I’m still unsure what vision I have!
In the midst of my personal self-discovery project, a major remodel of our kitchen, laundry room, and screened-in porch/deck has gotten underway. We’ve been planning this since the fall; during that time, we talked to several contractors and ended up choosing Northwood Construction. It took us a long while to go through the planning and the many choices of cabinets, countertops, deck material, floor plan, appliances, sink/faucet, lighting, etc. Following are pictures I took in early February of our kitchen, family room and deck BEFORE the project began.
Friday, February 5: Our kitchen is original to our house, which was built in 1981. When we moved here in 1994, we replaced the floors throughout the first level with hardwood, painted the kitchen cabinets white, replaced the countertop with formica, got new appliances, removed wallpaper throughout the house and put new wallpaper in some rooms and painted other rooms. Twenty-two years later, after many years of neglect, things were looking pretty ratty, especially our deck, which was literally about to collapse. The steps off the deck had broken in several spots, leading to a dangerous situation.
The previous owners had moved the laundry room from the basement, which they’d refinished nicely, to the garage — into a kind of small makeshift room that wasn’t heated or cooled. We decided when we moved in that the laundry room was the first thing that needed fixing. Despite our declaration to fix it immediately, we’ve lived with it for 22 years, despite it being uncomfortably hot in summer or icy cold in winter and in such ramshackle condition.
Our family room is adjacent to the kitchen and is a very narrow rectangular room. Its strong point is that it has four long floor-to-ceiling windows that let in beautiful natural light. We decided we’d like to have the more open plan seen in modern houses, where the kitchen and family room are one big room. However, because of the narrow dimensions and the four nice windows on the opposite wall, there is only one place to put a couch, on the wall between the family room and kitchen. In three-dimensional drawings made by the contractor, I didn’t like seeing the back of the couch from the open kitchen. Since there’s no space behind to put a sofa table, we decided on a knee wall behind the couch. This change requires major structural changes, as the wall we’re partially removing to give a more open feeling is a load-bearing wall and needs a steel beam and major structural changes to make it work.
Our deck was a hazard. Not only was it dilapidated, but it also got the sun full-on in summer, making it virtually unusable. Also, mosquitos are a big problem in Virginia. Thus we opted to demolish the deck and build a screened-in porch, with an open deck behind the garage for outdoor grilling. Our backyard is a very narrow sloping yard, perfectly useless in my opinion. Hopefully this will give us a more inviting outdoor space.
Friday-Sunday, April 8, 9, 10: Before the project began, I attended an intensive 3-day “transformation course”: The Landmark Forum. The reason I signed up for this was because my son had done the Forum in March, as well as the Advanced Course in April, and I was seeing a positive change in his behavior, his confidence and his willingness and ability to communicate. The change in him so far has been dramatic.
At my forum, about 140 people gathered every day, Friday through Sunday, from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Three thirteen-hour days! All the description in the world can’t equal experiencing the Forum. However, I can say I discovered some realizations about myself that have dictated my life since I was a child and a teenager. Some of the discoveries I made are things I knew at a superficial level before, but after participating in the Forum, listening to other people share, sharing myself, and engaging with the speaker in a kind of Socratic method of dialogue, I felt a deeper understanding of the limiting beliefs I’ve been governed by, “stories” I made up about actual events that happened in my life that have been determining my behavior for my WHOLE LIFE. The speaker guided us to understand how ludicrous it is that our behavior is totally governed by “stories” and fears based on something that happened to us when we were 3 or 5 or 10 or 15 years old! Again, a kind of decluttering, a demolishing of old beliefs and an opening up of possibilities for a transformed existence.
At the end of my forum, I signed up for a series of 10 “Commitment” seminars, weekly or bi-weekly, to keep me on track applying what I learned. I also signed up for the Landmark Advanced Course, which should enable me, now that I’ve been stripped down to “nothing,” to create a life of new possibilities.
You can find allegations online and elsewhere that Landmark is a “cult,” but I don’t believe it to be so; they actually address that allegation by emphasizing that the Forum is about YOUR life. It’s not about a group mentality, but about transforming your relationships and reaching your dreams and goals. I guess you could say that many things in life are cults, including addictions and religious affiliations. I have to say I don’t care for the marketing aspect of Landmark, as they encourage you to bring more people to sign up, but I do see the value in the Forum itself, especially when I can witness the transformation in my son, as well as my own self-realizations.
Monday, April 11: On Monday morning after I completed my forum, our contractor showed up and in one day demolished our deck. All the debris was carried out to the street awaiting delivery of the dumpster.
Thursday, April 14: By Thursday, our laundry room was demolished, materials were delivered, a dumpster was set up for construction debris and a porta-potty was installed on our property. The contractors will be working on our house through the end of June, apparently. At this point, they were waiting for us to move everything out of our kitchen and family room, so they could begin the inside demolition on Monday morning.
Friday, April 15: On Friday, the concrete was delivered for the porch footings. The holes were already dug in preparation for this and the concrete was poured and leveled and left to dry over the weekend.
Saturday & Sunday, April 16&17: We spent all weekend going through every item in our kitchen and dining room. We boxed a lot of stuff which we took to Goodwill. We packed unessential items into boxes and put them in the basement. We set up a makeshift kitchen in the dining room with essentials: refrigerator, coffee pot, wok, rice cooker/food steamer/slow cooker, hot water heater, toaster, toaster oven, plastic dishes and utensils and cabinets of food.
Monday, April 18: Our contractors are here every weekday by 7:30 and they leave promptly at 3:30. They work non-stop while they’re here. So far, I’m impressed by their professionalism and capabilities.
On Monday, the foreman let me do some of the first strikes to begin the kitchen demolition.
Don’t laugh too hard. I know, I look like a wild woman!
I’m surprised by how quickly our construction foreman demolished the entire kitchen and the drywall between the kitchen and family room all by himself. The porch is also being framed simultaneously with the kitchen demolition.
Tuesday, April 19: Now we can see the backbone of this portion of our house. When the drywall was pulled off, the contractor found a number of ant colonies and wood destruction. Two times we’ve had to call our pest control person to treat certain areas under floorboards and on the ceiling.
In addition, we found a lot of water damage in the area where the skylights were. That means the plywood and several joists on the roof need replacing, adding another $800-$1,000 to our already expensive project. 😦 We knew we would find some degree of water damage, but we didn’t know it would be this extensive.
The kitchen is open to the garage now, so we have to be careful of critters getting into the house until the laundry room and wall are rebuilt.
The porch flooring is framed.
Wednesday, April 20: Today, the contractor spent most of his day shoring up the load-bearing wall was so that he could place a steel beam sandwiched between two wood beams.
And the work continues.
So, here I am in the middle of my story, with a demolished house and a stripped down set of “stories,” beliefs, and “rackets”: an unfinished life with possibilities. I’ve given a lot of thought to both the house and my life possibilities over the last couple of months.
As for the house, at this point most of the decisions have been made. We’ve picked almost everything except the cabinet hardware, and the ceiling fan and outdoor lights for the porch and deck. Now we will move forward with our choices, seeing them set in place and watching the evolution. The possibilities presented by creating new spaces in our house are set in motion and all we have to do is sit back and trust the process.
That’s the thing about decisions. Once you make them, other possibilities fall by the wayside. Well. Maybe that’s not true. If we don’t like the choices we’ve made and decide to make changes, it will cost us in some way, more money or more time.
I think that’s one reason I’m so afraid to make decisions about my life. Once I make a decision, all other possibilities are off the table, unless I’m willing to pay the cost of lost time or money. I’m not getting any younger or any richer, so I want to make the right decision. I’m hoping the “Commitment” seminar series, the Landmark Advanced Course, affirmations, my vision board, and being open to the universe will help me to find my way to creating a transformation in my quality of life. 🙂