Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Canisters, yes we can!

"Time is a container" says Julia Morgenstern, the author and host of Time Management from the Inside Out. How you use it, is another thing.

Day 1 on this low impact/no spending purge has so far been tricky. I feel that small temptation to call it off, not take it seriously, to cheat, already! Day 1! Maybe it's the concrete walls at work chilling me to the bone, making me crave a fresh hot one (especially when I'm
right next door to real, good, coffee). Maybe it is the failure in my thermos that cooled, too quickly, the lack of a microwave and my justification to turn it around, to win by getting what I want. For two dollars. But it is beyond that, it is the principal, the fixin' I am trying to avoid.
And I can do it (Fraggle Rock taught me that: "yes I can, yes I can, yes I really, really can...")

The container of my life is full, I have everything I need at this moment. In fact, more. I am healthy, I am fed, I have work and tools and a family and relationships. I have more cats than I should. If I look at my time critically I can see how my efficiency has created these gaps where I reward myself by slacking off. However, I also acknowledge how "slacking off" means putting myself last, diverting my needs for another, not being creative but resting on the notion that I work hard, and have nothing left at the end of the day.

Yet, Julia Morgenstern has a plan, and she's right. There's a way to get back on track:
The 4 D's (if you have more than you can manage) and want to get organized

1. Delete
the stuff you know is not really that important
2. Delay
re-schedule things that are not essential to today
3. Diminish
make it get done, easier
4. Delegate
tasks to other people, relinquish control!

She also uses the analogy that a closet is much like a life, which has really helped me understand how I can improve certain area's that are overcrowded and/or underused. Making room for the items you love and want to keep, ridding yourself of the stuff you have out of obligation, and organizing the things you keep as a project. By compartmentalizing your life/closet you will feel more motivated in general.
Sort- group similar items together to see what you're working with
Purge- let go of the unnecessary stuff
Assign a home- make a place for it that fits
Containerize- batch the keepers together
Equalize- put it back where it belongs, in balance

The end result of that SPACE is manageable, almost easy. Wouldn't that feel awesome if that feeling encompassed all aspects in your life, not just a closet?

She also has a genius system of learning how to identify what is actually important and worth keeping, by developing a Big Picture View and Time Map... but I won't get into that. You have to just watch her PBS special and take notes yourself!

So, tonight instead of going out or Christmas shopping I am going to stay in and organize my wardrobe! My reward for that is having a bag full of discards for friends to go through, items to donate to charity, and most importantly, a new stress-free area to welcome me each day. Without spending a dime I will double the size of what I have to work with, and get a start on creating a life that nurtures
me. One slipdress at a time, building with a song... the Doozer way.
(On a side note, shipping container homes are awesome! )

Image from WebUrbanist

Monday, November 29, 2010

No Impact Man sends shockwaves

So, I recently gave up my cable connection at home and have been filling the void with stacks of (free) movies from the Central Library each week, (not to mention daily abuse of Netflix). In my newest hunt I discovered No Impact Man, a documentary from 2009 about one man's quest to live off the grid for a whole year.
At first I was unsure about the content, as it had the ability to be somewhat contrived and/or on the flip side, degrading to those who actually live strict environmentally conscious lifestyles, without documentaries or media coverage. Especially when I read that his wife, a big-wig fashion addict and Starbucks slave was begrudgingly going along with it (scenes from The Devil wears Prada came to mind). However, a few minutes into it and I was hooked.

I have to start by saying that I usually consider myself a low to mid-grade environmentalist. I recycle everything, use fabric grocery bags, and re-use most materials that are considered trash. I shop primarily at Thrift stores and only indulge on bigger corporations for household items I can't get used. I have plants. And walk places. I have reduced the amount of meat I eat to a few times a week and/or in small portions. I air dry my hair. I care, way more than most people!

I care, but am always aware of what more I could do, and the effect of not holding myself to
that standard is sometimes harsh, and unforgiving. It is hard to eat locally grown self-made meals when you work full time. It is hard to walk everywhere when you live outside an area that has access to everything, because that is where you can afford to live, and so on... These excuses seem weak in writing and even weaker after watching the near torment Colin Beaven and this family went through to completely eliminate their personal impact on the environment for a full year. This meant eating strictly locally grown vegetarian meals, and turning off the refrigerator. It also meant no elevators, television, cars, buses, or airplanes, no toxic cleaning products, no electricity, no material consumption, and no garbage. All of this while raising their 2 year old daughter in the middle of Manhattan. Sounds easy right?! The reality is walking up 9 flights of stairs to get home, no coffee (!), no heater in the frigid New York winter and no air conditioning in the summer. No cosmetics or laundry, and at one point, no toilet paper!

As the months went on, they became more exhausted yet more inspired by the changes they saw in themselves and in their quality of life. One scene struck me, where Colin explained that his feelings of not being connected to anything, of feeling depleted and "unplugged" with the world, had morphed into a beautiful clarity and appreciation for the changing climate and sense of timelessness since he began gardening and eating seasonally.
In my own life, I resent those feelings and immediately felt both sad and relieved that maybe some of the depression I harbor could be blasted away by living a more strict rendition of what I want to be. Going full throttle, instead of letting the guilt and feeling of insurmountable responsibility overwhelm me.

So, I am starting small and solid.
For one week, I am not going to spend a penny on anything. Today is the "prep" day where I am tying up loose ends, the unavoidable few things that I can't ignore: paying a parking ticket and rent, picking up my clothing alterations, filling up on gas, replacing the broken piece on my french press. But after today I am going 7 days without using my debit card or cash, merely by using what I already have, and by reducing the amount I consume. I am both excited and nervous! I want to succeed, I have to, it sounds easy. But I know that in our "working" world, the surroundings in which even most environmentalists spend the majority of their time, is based on quick-fixes and accessibility. Having what we want, at that moment, without regard of the consequences. Low accountability, the lovechild of toxic advertising and instant gratification.

I don't want to disappoint myself, and I thought by sharing this experience I would be less inclined to slip up. So over the next week I will posting daily, and exposing the highs and lows of my time as Low Impact Girl! Care Bear Stare!

Now, rainbows aside, I can't end this without a slight edge of my Feminist nature showing through, yet I sincerely hope it doesn't sour all the positivity I just poured out. I just wanted to mention that in some parts of the film I did feel it was a bit unfairly directed at the wife and her habits, with slight tints of a Patriarchal dictatorship on the husband's behalf. Granted it was "his" project that he "imposed" on his wife, but I would have liked to have seen more of a balanced agreement and/or general development of the experience past "my husband was right" epiphanies. I also felt it was unfair that he set the standards, going as far as throwing out her makeup, at the same time installing a solar panel so he can keep his blog going, and whatever else he utilizes the Internet for... grrrr.

So, on your end, watch it and send me your thoughts!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

City Heights is not sexy

Last Friday night I stumbled upon an awesome exhibition by Photographer John Thurston. As part of Liberty Station's "First Friday" events (happening the first Friday of every month, duh) Barracks 19 is open extended hours as part of an art walkabout that encourages the community to come see what's brewing inside. Upstairs at Bravo School of Art John is part of the various rotating instructors, photography being his specialty. His collection titled City Heights: Primary Colors will be up for the month of November.

A resident of City Heights for over 30 years, his images of surrounding homes and storefronts are colorful and comedic. Some of the images I recognized instantly from my own experiences in the city, which I have called my home for nearly 3 years now. What I really adore about his photographs, and about City heights in general, is the lack of pretentiousness the homes hold, the warmth of sensible family dwelling that is within the utilitarian means of decorating. There are no standards present, no censorship or reasoning past a fundamental desire to make one's home their own, on very little funds. This conjures memories of my youth, where our mismatched furniture was clean, and cozy, mostly disguised under a blanket until company came.

In an article published earlier in the year in the Reader, one resident states "City Heights is not beautiful or sexy… or even all that clean. It has no fancy boutiques or wine bars. Its residents are not trendy or famous. The library is loud and crowded, the traffic annoying, and the number of 99-cent stores exceeds the acceptable limit for any one neighborhood. Then, too, there’s the dog poo, which pedestrians in City Heights have to step around way too often. Despite these minor quirks and inconveniences, the neighborhood has enough flavor, culture, and comforts to hang on to its long-time residents and to draw in the new."

My particular street has been under construction for almost a year now, where an entire "Urban Village" is being built as part of the cities Redevelopment Plan. I think it's beneficial that the area is being developed further, especially if that truly includes affordable housing as projected, and I have no doubt that in a few years it will be the new "North Park," I just hope that all the raw charm about the unassuming streets will not be lost in this process.
It's those unique deviations from the neighboring Kensington homes that make being young and poor, worth celebrating.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

All Soul's Day Celebration

The day has finally come! Vintage Religion is hosting a Dia de los Muertos ceremony tonight from 5-9pm. There will be a special lighting for the memorial candles that they generously provided for the community (you just had to send in a photo of your deceased loved one) along with food, music, a muertos face painter, along with a sale on personalized sugar skulls and Mexican artwork.

Today, remember the lives of those you have loved and lost... "To live in hearts we have left behind is not to die" - Thomas Campbell

Stop by after work for some Mexican hot chocolate and see their community altar in person.
Also, support a local business that is doing something awesome for others. If you missed out on the free candle this year, bookmark their website to remind yourself for next year.

"From my rotting body, flowers shall grow, and I am in them, and that is eternity"
-Edvard Munch

Lastly, thanks for all the positive feedback on my rOctober series! I am glad that I was able to provide some inspiration and ideas for full enjoyment of the best month of the year. The countdown starts now for Halloween 2011!

xoxo jOisyphene