De-cluttering Time

June is summer break at University. Faculty members usually make the most of this time to develop their skills through workshops and conferences, while others take some time out to finally write their research work or take care of other things they’ve been putting off for the past months.  Other teachers take some much-needed R&R after handling a lot of paperwork for the semester.

My routine has lightened up compared to the past month. May went by so quickly, that even my planner / organizer had only one or two entries in it for each week;  my schedules were haphazardly listed into my cellphone. To review the month, I had to combine my photos, text messages, and google events to piece things together– I really could not remember what happened on some days.

I realize that every June is usually a month of recuperation and re-learning for me. After two months of cramming and chasing after deadlines, the weeks after inputting grades can either the be most restful or the most disorienting. In my case, it felt like withdrawal symptoms from the hectic semester– I was looking for something to do and to be stressed about it.

In addition, I DID have something to be busy about because I agreed to teach a summer class. However, I think it’s the last time that I’d be willing to teach for the summer term simply because my momentum is off… and so are the students’.

Since last year, I’ve been having mid-year classes. Last year was more of a last-minute request, but this year was scheduled long before the break began. It’s a little disorienting, especially in the weeks after the second semester ended in May. Students were on break and very few faculty members would come in. The school grounds were very quiet, and I often found myself cleaning my desk or walking around school rather than writing or staying at my desk to read.

The week after grades were due, we had our “spring cleaning” day. Our institution makes sure that we recycle papers, and that papers which are dated from five years ago or older than that should be discarded. I began to discard memos and letters from 2013. Since I work with the Humanities, it’s obvious that I need to be a bit more careful with how I apply that rule, or I end up throwing out everything. Needless to say, the past weeks have been dedicated to cleaning up my work and freeing some head space.

Since I’ve been trying to adopt the minimalist lifestyle, especially with the KonMari techniques, I decided to try to apply the same approach to my work space and my digital files. In the process of just sifting through my emails, I also found how much information I think I can fit into my head… subscribing to at least three different mailing groups about literature and teaching, only to find that I have no time to actually read them all every week though I thought that this was one way to improve myself.

In the process of cleaning up, I realized that my largest clutter is my digital clutter. I dedicated a whole morning just to organize and clean out my Google Drive and Dropbox account. I found redundant files, broken links, and a number of word files filled with potential research ideas or plot bunnies that remain unfinished. I completely forgot about them until I opened them again. When I was halfway through that, I decided to go through my email and unsubscribe to mailing lists which don’t benefit me anymore.

While my physical desk is so much cleaner now without all the papers, my online folders have a long way to go with organizing. I have yet to figure out a system for all these files, especially for books and digital readings that which have their occasional usefulness for classes. While I want to live a minimalist lifestyle, I realize that being in the academe seems like a paradox to that ideal way of life.

How do you organize your online files and clutter? I’m all ears.

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Becoming by Owning

 

 

 

Dear online shopper,
take these things I once owned for a discounted price
along with my hope, free of charge,
that they will do for you what they could not do for me.

“Reason for selling”
by Raydon L Reyes

 

The past year has been an inventory of the past decade. You know how some TV shows have that odd episode that recaps the past episodes you just watched– and after thirty minutes you wonder why one whole episode was made just to tell you what you already know?

It feels like that.

Now that I’ve entered my third decade, I can’t help but recall all my hesitation and idealization about where I should be and who I wanted to become. At thirty, I feel much younger, and it’s become easier to decide what to prioritize. Maybe it’s because I spent my twenties trying to fulfill obligations and being someone else for others, that I forgot my own priorities. It’s also been a realization of how I got by with a lot of help from friends and a supportive family.

One of the biggest realizations I had in the past few months is that I can create a safe space for myself, and that other people cannot insist to be in my space. I can choose who enters my space, and I mean this not just in terms of daily encounters but also what kind of relationships I exert my time and effort for. It’s a little strange to arrive at this only now, but as a yuppie trying to make it, I almost believed that I had to entertain everyone and make them feel welcome– regardless of rudeness.

In any case, with the second quarter of 2017 rolling in, I still have a lot of things that I need to let go of, mostly things that were an idea of who I wanted to be. Just this week, I’ve been reviewing the books that I haven’t read and no longer plan to… A toy typewriter I bought by mistake… Some clothes I never wore… Notebooks I never used… Pens that just went dry…

It’s amazing how many of these things felt like they fulfilled their purpose just by being possessed. I forgot to actually use them to become what I imagined to be. The process of becoming takes a whole lot more time and dedication that social media posts and photos justify. And sadly, for at least a year, I honestly believed that social media was the empowering tool for the youth to be heard  (it’s just a tool, and people are highly forgetful).

While there are days when I wonder why I even spent so much time for a cause that I wasn’t sure of, the good thing that I can see out of this is that it’s taught me to search for authenticity. At the end of the day, the commodification of authenticity might be the point of social media and online business– the pursuit of becoming by owning.

 

 

Minimalism

This year was a process of discarding things. Not because I wanted replacements, or new purchases, but because I needed to inventory things. Things that I had forgotten I even had, or things which I hung on to for no particular reason.

When I found posts on the Konmari technique, and other minimalism-focused cleaning techniques, I told myself that this was exactly what I needed. It wasn’t a matter of throwing things out, but of finding meaning and deliberate selection in what to keep and what to give away or discard.

The easiest to discard were the clothes ; years of clothes that I wore simply because they fit me. The challenge was not to buy anything that looked like them, or that had the same bluish hue. After discarding the clothes which stayed unused for a year, or half a year, I realized that I only wore about 20% of what was in my closet. It also meant that I slowly needed to find new clothes to wear.

This was tougher than I had expected, but a welcome change. You see, I’m not the shopping type. And in order to keep my budget intact, which mostly went to rent and to food, I had subconsciously developed the habit of not wanting anything else. Clothes were the first thing that I figured I didn’t need immediately. Until this year, I hadn’t realized that my wardrobe was three years behind.

Now that I had more resources, and had lost a bit of weight, buying new clothes seemed a breeze… until I realized that the weight I thought I had lost hardly made a difference in department store sizes. In my mind, I must have at least become an M, or size 08. But as it turned out, I was still an L, and a size 10. It reminded me of how I disliked shopping.

Minimalism is supposed to teach you to detach. I had hoped that buying new clothes would teach me to reconstruct my look and create more confidence in myself. I slowly realized that what I had been avoiding was accepting how I really am, and learning how to work with this while learning to love myself more. It sounds so selfish: to love myself more. But in the past years, this might have been the biggest breakthrough that I had to make in order to enjoy life.

It sounds strange, doesn’t it? Isn’t survival a built-in instinct for all humans? I am slowly learning that there are people who have an acute sense of survival, and there are those who are willing to sacrifice a bit of themselves for the benefit of the other. I also learned recently that these two types tend to gravitate to each other; the self-sacrificial one finding some sense or purpose in being given attention by another. The other, taking all that can be given– until the sacrificial one has been bled dry.

But I digress.

Minimalism also means mindfulness. Learning to let go of things that create some dead weight on our consciousness. So, after the clothes, the next thing I had to sort out were all the sentimental junk that I hung on to, only because I was told that it was difficult to acquire. Somehow, the gift had become a symbol of sacrifice, and required sense of gratitude on my end.

It made sense then– the gratitude hostage.

So out went the journals, the expensive planners, and the smaller junk that no longer meant anything but a ball and chain. I also sold all things that were related to those meanings, sold them for much cheaper online for people who would like them more than I did.

Minimalism also means learning to figure out what items still create happiness, or serve a purpose in your life (or at least where you are in life at the moment)

This meant sorting out my books, cleaning out my shelves. I had found books piled up which I had intended to read long ago, if only because I wanted to become something (what the book espoused). But I realized that I had spent less and less time reading books, and more and more time with people whose idea of friendship was all talk and no substance. I often wondered why I even bothered spending time with them; the answer is: because I was given attitude if I didn’t.

So, next went the books. Gift books, bookmarks, and other reminders of what I had hoped to be– but realized later on were not what I am. Why the hell did all this garbage accumulate on my shelf? All these self-help books. All these “you can be better” books, which reminded me of my constant depressive states that never really had a reason, until I figured out the reason was that I desperately wanted freedom.

And for all the success and independence that I thought I had acquired then, it turns out that I’m a lot happier now with a whole lot less. It escapes me how I spent my twenties climbing an imaginary ladder, and I am hardest on myself for this. But what good is it regretting the past that can no longer be changed, right?

So you see, minimalism is a process. It’s a soul-healing process. It must have taken me about 6 months to completely dispose of things. I think I still have spaces which need to be cleaned up. My goal is to make sure that I get to let go of things every three months; to make an inventory of the things I need on a daily basis and not to accumulate junk.

In the course of disposing things, it was funny how many things happening at work and at home slowly revealed to me how other people saw me.

Just like when I went shopping for new clothes– I thought I had been a certain size, but others really thought smaller of me.

I realized that I had unwittingly branded myself as the person who does anything and everything that everyone else doesn’t want to do, oftentimes for free!

The kind and patient one. The one who has so much time to share emotional space with others. I’m also the pushover, since students can easily talk to me and ask for a consideration and pass with substandard output. I feel disgusted thinking about how pathetic I must have looked.

At this point, my challenge with minimalism is getting out of the branding. I always wanted to be a teacher who inspires excellence. I also wanted to be a novelist. I wanted to also have a business, and then maybe become a manga artist.

But, along the way, I also lost sight of my own goals and began filling my life with so much (meaningless?) work because I had thought that’s how one creates a name for oneself– I had slowly made myself a “yes man” if only because I worries about how people thought of me.

I had accumulated all these tasks and to-do lists, without doing an inventory of my life.

On my thirtieth year on earth, I begin this inventory. With a new decade, I hope to find more meaning, and purpose, and to make the most of what me wasteful twenties taught me.