We’ve all seen the perfect life projected in home magazines. Apartment Therapy supplies it for urbanites; Real Simple makes it easy. And Southern Living does it best.
Some of us have to dig deeper to conquer our emotional clutter. I can tell you how to let go, because I have such a hard time doing it. As I write this, I’m convincing myself to keep what I had originally intended to give away. I am in the planning stages of pouring all my hopes and dreams into a broken Singer sewing machine.
Are you really ever going to learn how to sew?
That should be the deciding question for most sane people, but today it just isn’t doing it. So, here I sit with two (yes, two) broken Singer sewing machines. My push pedal is a true antique, sitting right around 100 years old. A family heirloom passed from my great-grandmother to my mother and then to myself, its drawers are home for arts and craft supplies and other odds-and-ends. It’s the perfect marriage of form, function, and sentiment. Ironically, it’s the presence of this machine that makes me feel so guilty for keeping the other.
The suspect in question is a 1973 aqua blue beauty, passed down from my distinctly Southern grandmother. With no drawers and a wobbly set of legs, the table is not as useful as its older counterpart, but the machine is durable and gives off that vintage feel all the cool kids are craving these days. In other words, I want to want to keep it. I want to be one of the commenters from this blog post, who would be thrilled to own this little time capsule.
Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
To really understand what’s going on here, you need to take a modular approach to solving your problem. Ruminate with me a moment. What is stuff? What is the purpose of it? Do you feel attachment toward your things? What does that mean to you? I know exactly what drives my thoughts toward this machine. Part of it is an emotional battlefield of sentiment, discipline, and misplaced energy. The other reasons are easier to isolate. I want it, because it’s blue and cute and vintage. I want it, because it’s durable (and not plastic!). This machine is older than I am, and it’s probably a lot cooler too.
What will happen if you get rid of the object in question? The allure of stuff runs deep, and the only way to shake it is to take a hard look at what you’re holding onto. My sentiment — it was a hand-me-down from my grandmother, Lillie Mae. If you find yourself feeling burdened with the weight of your things, removing physical emotional baggage is a great place to start the recovery process. Consider putting an item limit to the amount of reminders you keep per person. I do happen to have another reminder of Lillie Mae. After her funeral, I was given a peace lily which has since turned into two plants. Lilies make great houseplants, because of their filtering abilities. It’s a living reminder, and it serves a purpose.
Decisions and Life in General
Now bear in mind, the reminder is only one facet of the three-dimensional physical-emotional ego-cloud hanging over this sewing machine. Blame it on a lack of discipline or an abundance of priorities, but my sewing experience is limited to pillows and buttons. I want to learn how to sew. I want to make costumes and curtains and quilts. And if I start sewing, I want it to be on this machine. It’s not so much the sewing that scares me away. It’s the process involved in making all of this happen. I have to fix the sewing machine, and learn how to use the sewing machine, and then learn how to sew. It’s a process that is so easily interchanged with other passions in my life. I could spend this time dancing. Where are my priorities? And therein lies the lesson of life. We’ll never have enough time or enough money, and life doesn’t wait for you to say when it’s finished. To get something accomplished, we must make it a priority.
Top Tips for Snap Decisions
1) Approach important issues first thing in the morning when your resolve is the strongest.
2) Good old pros and cons list — don’t forget to note your opportunity cost.
3) Flip a coin. Note your reaction to your intended fate. Do you wish the coin had landed on tails?
There is your answer.
4) The Universal Rule: How does this decision fit into your values and goals?
Spiritual enlightenment may not spare you the peril of everyday decision-making. Emotional burnout is much easier to arrive at than you may realize. As you make decisions throughout your day, your ability to make decisions later in the day are compromised. Once fatigue is reached, people are more likely to A) Make rash decisions and B) Make the decision of deciding not to decide. I’m sure you can trace this back to several areas of your life. Have you ever been ashamed at your poor choices from an impromptu shopping spree? Do you procrastinate on small tasks and errands? If this is the case, try going at it with a fresh perspective. Don’t make hard decisions (or test your willpower) late at night, and when in doubt, stick to #4.
Making my way from suburbanite to city dweller has proven to be a challenge to my heirlooms (and my philosophy), particularly the ones large enough to be considered furniture. There is something to say about what you dedicate your floor space to. So what did I do with the sewing machine? I’ll never tell. It’s time to focus on your priorities now.