Let’s switch things up this year — let’s write the prospective first. After all, 2021 is over on December 31st, and then I have all of 2022 to reflect; I can literally write the retrospective any time. But the sooner I announce my 2022 theme, and put it down on paper, the sooner I’ll know what I’m fully committing to.
So without further ado, 2022 will be…
The Year of “Enough.”
I’ve felt overwhelmed for a while now by all the “stuff” in my life. In my day jorb, I am an engineering manager at a startup — itself a stressful situation — and in my personal life I try to balance too many hobbies, including larping, TTRPGs, writing novels, and streaming games on Twitch.
This is a lot. A lot of commitments, and a lot of possessions. A lot of mental energy consumed tracking things, maintaining them, and disposing of them when they’re no longer useful. This is the outer and inner disorder contributing to my lack of calm.
It got both better and worse when I started treating my ADHD. I now have fewer “dunwannas,” and hard, boring things are easier to do than they used to be. But at the same time, once I was medicated, I felt like possibilities were open to me that weren’t before. And when that happened, a million ideas I wouldn’t have bothered with before crowded through the door to my attention.
It’s exhausting. Even when I relax, I can’t relax. I feel like a tireless engine that always needs to do, do, do.
My goal in 2022 is to pare down my life to the essentials.
What does this mean? I’ll give you a few watch words and strategies that I have in mind.
I want to be okay with doing nothing, even just for a few minutes at a time. Meditation helps, when I actually do it. But there are other ways to be bored.
Watch my kittens play.
Stare out the skylights.
Listen to the hum of the refrigerator.
“For every new thing you bring into your life, ask yourself: what will you give up?”
These words of wisdom came from Janessa, the director of marketing at my company and an all-around brilliant person. I would have phrased this less eloquently by saying something like “interrogate everything that comes into your life.” Or: “one thing in, one thing out.”
There’s a tricksy bit here. Many commitments aren’t explicitly brought into my life; they sneak in. Thus cultivating awareness of their arrival is a necessary first step.
For example, my Pathfinder group decided to commission art of the party. And by “decided” I mean I instigated it, and thus I’m the one who had to compile everyone’s preferences and communicate with the artist. Did I think of that before I posted “hey folks wanna get some party art done?” in our Discord?
I did not.
Was it worth the time I spent herding cats? Maybe, maybe not. We’ll see.
But I am getting better at…
Or at least, better at saying, “maybe,” “let me think about it,” or “let me check my calendar.”
It might be worthwhile keeping note of the things I say “no,” “yes,” or “maybe” to in a single day — maybe in my journal? What we measure, we improve, after all. For example, recently I said…
- “No” to getting a book out of the library when I have three in progress and hundreds unread on my shelf.
- “Yes” to playing in a new D&D campaign (that I’ve been wanting to play for a while) — and I’ve been pretty joyful about this.
- “Maybe” to buying a Worldcon 2022 membership from someone who can no longer use it.
Likewise, I think it’s important that I reflect on what I have brought into my life, and how it’s made me feel. I bought an RPG sourcebook recently, rather expensively, which turned out to be not what I expected. I might still get value out of it, but probably not what I anticipated. How could I have prevented mistakes like this?
And when that fails…
Get rid of the stuff that no longer brings me joy
Declutter, in other words. Both physical things and intangible things like commitments. Recurring expenses. Clothes that no longer fit. Books that represent a person you no longer are, or a life you’ll never lead.
I suppose this is a little Konmari-ish, though I can’t really say I love her methods. Some of it seems very silly and woo-woo to me; I will not start my decluttering journey by thanking my house, sorrynotsorry. I’ve also looked into The Home Edit and uhhhh those ladies have way too much energy for me. I know my library has a copy of Peter Walsh’s book It’s All Too Much — I’ve read it before!
Maybe it’s time to take a second look.
… goddamn it, Lise, you’re doing it again. Even if they’re library books, even if they go home after three weeks, they’re still mental clutter.
Ultimately: what a home organization system won’t tell me is what stuff no longer fits my life. That’s a path I have to walk all by myself.
In any case, I started my decluttering today — a “Begin as You Mean to Go On” strategy, as Leigh Bardugo would call it — by going through one of my bookshelves and getting rid of a number of books. Technical manuals that are so old they’re useless, books I have to be honest about never reading, etc.
In the process I discovered…
It’s harder to get rid of things than to acquire them
So now I have a box of books I don’t want sitting in my guest bedroom, right? What am I going to do with them? They’re still taking up room in my house.
I can’t find any book donation bins near me. My town library isn’t taking them right now. The nearest thrift store is a Salvation Army, which I would prefer not to donate to — and the nearest Goodwill or Savers is 40 minutes away in Worcester. The only charity that will do home pickups to my area is the Epilepsy Foundation, and currently they are only picking up clothes, bedding, and shoes.
The library in the next town over is taking some donations of books, so that is probably what I will look into. But that will require me to take some time out of my day — probably a weekday — and drive over there and potentially wait in line and who knows, they might still tell me they don’t take them.
(ETA: I learned that the dump in the next town over has a book donation box! Hooray!)
Whereas if I want to buy a new book, it’s a few clicks away, and it will show up automagically on my phone or at my doorstep.
… maybe the lesson here is “don’t save your credit card info in your browser.” I definitely would do less impulse buying if I had to go downstairs and find my credit card every time I wanted to buy something.
The decluttering burst
I learned about this from the Be More With Less blog. It’s literally “let(ting) go of one hundred things in less than an hour.” It’s even easier if you count throwing out trash.
I’ve tried it a few times, and honestly, the hardest part was counting how many things you got rid of.
But seriously, folks…
No more books.
I have SUCH a backlog. Maybe this is a good year to conquer Mount TBR. As I said elseweb…
If I really, really need to read books that aren’t on my bookshelf — like, say, for the book club at my job — I can use the public library. But as I said above… for the love of gourd, stop, Lise.
Regular connectivity detoxes.
I love ye olde W-W-W, I really do. I work as a web developer, after all! And how else could I miss half of a movie by falling down an IMDb rabbit hole?
I’ve talked before about the “attention economy” that is social media, and what a drain it can be on our lives, so I won’t say more here. But there’s another piece to this, which is the fact that we now have the entirety of human knowledge at our fingertips, on our phones. For someone like me — with ADHD — this can be the source of more “brain stuff” that we don’t need.
For example, recently I learned about 1000 Hours Outside — a challenge to spend a thousand hours outside in the next year. It’s mostly aimed at kids, but adults can play, too, and once I saw that one of the trackers was a coloring sheet, I was ready to sign up.
Noooooo, Lise. A thousand hours outside in a year is ~2.7 hours per day, and how tf would I fit that in my life? Do I just want another thing I to feel obligated to do? I already have a hard time getting outside as much as I would like; this would only make it harder. To say nothing of the mental effort of tracking that time, or figuring out what counts as “outside” time.
So, it’s important to me to get away from it all ™, where all is “a constant drip of all the world’s knowledge and more new ideas than can fit in my head.” A complicating factor is my seeming inability to just ignore the internet if it’s there; if I can be connected easily, I will be.
One solution I found: Last year I spent three nights in a yurt in western Mass the week of my birthday, and I just made a reservation to spend four nights there again this April.
I chose this place because of a very specific feature — there’s no wifi in the yurt, and cell reception in this part of MA is spotty. I left my phone locked in my car for most of the weekend, and checked in once a day with my husband, when I was up at the main house and had access to wifi.
Of course, I can’t spend four nights in a yurt all the time, so I will also need to figure out some way to get short-term detoxes, as well. Something to noodle on.
I’m working on it.
Making myself sit here and finish this post and not eat until it’s done also helps.
That’s all, folks.
I’ve screamed into the void enough for now. Maybe I’ll add more later. Maybe I won’t. Now I’mma go eat dinner.