Healthy Habit #5 – A month of decluttering (and an update on kindness)

 

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In my ongoing attempt to learn some healthy habits this year, I have decided that for May I will try to develop the habit of decluttering.  While we are not hoarders in the reality show sense of the word, my husband and I do live in a small apartment along side a lot of junk. and I think that it’s time to start getting rid of some of it.  I did some reading about decluttering, expecting to find a bunch of how-to’s, and I was surprised to find out that there are some real psychological benefits to sorting, and organizing, and eliminating the extra stuff we keep around.

I read this in one article:

Did you know that clutter can have negative psychological effects on you?

Have you ever wasted time looking for things? Or feel stressed by the visual chaos around you? Maybe you have a closet door that doesn’t quite close because there’s too much stuff in it. Maybe it’s your kitchen counter, office desk that is crowded with items, leaving you with no room to properly “use” the surface in question. These everyday sightings suck away your energy and weigh on your mind.

Experts even go on to say that all this clutter can leave you feeling edgy, unhappy, rushed and unproductive. I think they are on to something.

Decluttering can even create more space for your mind. It can generate fresh energy and help you let go of negative vibes you have been holding on to. Some people live with clutter (at home and at the office) because they need to. Clutter plays a role in their life. There may be a strong emotional connection to the clutter. For some, the clutter has gone out of control. We all know a hoarder or two. It’s actually scary, but it helps to understand that they need this clutter as it provides them a sense of security and comfort. And asking them to declutter can have the same effect as if someone asked you to cut off your right arm. It can be traumatic. Some people hoard because they are afraid to throw away something that is useful. (There are other reasons, but I digress). Let’s get back to our average clutter.

If you are like most people, you could probably use a good cleanup, create more space, feel energized and actually breathe better.

As you declutter, you will also realize just how much you have and this leads to a feeling of abundance, which leads to gratitude, which leads to happiness. Apparently, the outer order creates inner calm.

I would love to have the feeling of inner calm that decluttering can provide.  My closets are all packed full of things that I no longer use or wear, my kitchen has too many ‘junk drawers’ and all of the rooms in my house (except the living room, we have people who visit that room, for crying out loud) have nice, neat, organized (at least that’s what I tell myself) piles of stuff that I have no idea what the contents are.

So, for the month of May, we will be decluttering our home.  I’ve enlisted the help of my husband, because it’s his junk too, after all.  I will take some before and after pictures of the areas that we work on.  I will also follow the advice of a professional organizer whose tips I read online:  I will save big, time-consuming projects for the weekends, and I will work on smaller ones for 30 minutes a day during the week.  I will work with 3 piles as I clean – throw away, give away, and keep.  And I will either throw away or give away the things that I have not used for over a year.

I feel excited and happy about getting started on this month’s healthy habit…let the decluttering begin!!

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Month of Kindness update:  April was the month that I decided to develop the habit of being kind to people throughout each day.  I found that how easy or hard it was to maintain the level of kindness that I wanted to was directly related to the mood I was in.  When I was in a good mood, being genuinely kind, whether it was just by smiling at stranger, bringing lunch to share with a friend, or making a birthday cake for a coworker, was easy.  Seeing the happiness and gratitude on other’s faces made me feel truly blessed.  On the days when I was not in such a great mood, being genuinely kind was harder.  I could still “appear” to be kind, but when my heart wasn’t in it, it felt more like an obligation than a blessing.  Still though, even when I wasn’t being completely honest about my motives (my month of kindness, as opposed to true, altruistic kindness), the responses that I received from others did make it worth it.  I just think that it’s better to be kind for the right reasons, instead of being kind because it’s the right thing to do.

One thing that I did notice about kindness this last month is that it’s contagious.  I found that often times, when I was kind to someone, I later saw them being kind to someone else – paying it forward.  I don’t think that it was a conscious thing, it seemed almost like perhaps people have just forgotten that it’s nice to show kindness, and once they saw it, they remembered.  I loved that.

Overall, I would say that my month of kindness was a success.  I liked what I saw, heard and felt during the month, so I plan to make this a habit that sticks!

Sobriety Isn’t For Sissies

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Life is full of ups and downs, isn’t it?  I’m a firm believer that you have to suffer the downs in order to fully appreciate and enjoy the ups.  But sometimes, the downs really do get to me.  The last couple of weeks have been like that.  It’s one of those periods of time where it seems like it’s just one bad thing happening after another.  Without end.  There have been major things like dealing with the wreckage of my past (read: legal stuff), having a car in the shop and having to ask others for help getting here and there, being overwhelmed at work, and financial issues. And then there have been small things like the washing machine overflowing, our wi-fi not working right, not making it to as many meetings as I like to, and stepping in dog poop.  Twice.  In the same day.  It’s been a crazy couple of weeks.

Yesterday though, things started to look up.  I dealt with my wreckage, and things turned out okay, the part for our car came in and our mechanic got it finished up today, I found out that I get to hire a part-time employee to help me, and a wonderful family member helped us out financially.  Even the small stuff has gotten better – we got a new washing machine, I figured out the best spot in the house for wi-fi reception, and I have asked for rides to meetings instead of sitting at home pouting.  And the dog poop?  Well, it’s so far so good today, but it’s hard to be sure…chihuahuas are troublesome (but loveable).

When I was drinking, there is no way that I would’ve been able to stay sober for any of what has happened recently.  Any one of the things I mentioned earlier (even the poop!) would’ve sent me straight to a bottle. Here’s the thing, I was able to trudge through the icky stuff, with only one crying meltdown, which my sponsor mercifully said was just me using my release valve to relieve the pressure, because of a couple of key things.

My first lifesaver was the knowledge that all of these situations and the negative feelings that I was having about them would pass.  Although at the time, actually having to feel my emotions was pretty damn hard.  I’m only at almost eight months sober, so feeling negative emotions does not come easily.  It’s nearly excruciating to just have to sit in them, without stuffing them, or numbing myself.  Knowing, intellectually, that my situation (and mood) would change eventually, really wasn’t an emotional comfort at the time.  I was feeling hopeless, like I would be stuck in chaos forever.  But somewhere, down deep, I knew that things would get better, as long as I put one foot in front of the other and tried to do the next right thing, no matter how hard.

That leads me to the second thing that saved me.  Sobriety.  I would never have come out on the other side of this, the good, positive, joyous side, if I had gotten drunk.  Not only would I not have been able to deal with those things, I would’ve created even more wreckage!  It would’ve been like the snowball rolling down the hill you see in cartoons.  It would keep getting bigger and bigger, gaining speed as it got closer and closer to running me over.  I know that bad things are going to happen, even in sobriety, but as long as I don’t drink, I can avoid the snowball.

So today, I am really grateful that things are on the upswing and that I was able to weather the last couple of weeks.  One of the things that I try to remember when uncomfortable feelings come up is something that I heard in treatment, “our emotions won’t kill us, but our addiction will.”  Those words have given me comfort during times of emotional stress and upheaval.  When I think about how I felt on Sunday, during my crying jag, I’m so glad that I was able to remember that my emotions were not something that would cause my world to end.  Another thing I remembered was that, when I am in that state, I can’t always believe what I think.  My hopeless and defeatist thoughts aren’t reality.  My alcoholic brain tells me that those feelings are true, when in fact, a lot of times, they aren’t.  But while I may not always be able to change the way I feel about a situation,  I can accept that sometimes my feelings might not be quite accurate, and that perhaps I should try to change my perspective.  Sometimes it works.

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I guess what I am getting at with all this, is that sobriety isn’t for sissies.  See, in the beginning, I thought that when I got sober, life would get better.  It didn’t.  Bad things continue to happen, and life continues to be challenging.  What did get better, though, is me.  I bounce back quicker from disappointments, I allow myself to feel, I talk about things with others, I live pretty darn transparently.  It’s not always easy, in fact, it’s hard a lot of the time, but it’s always better than it was when I was drunk.  I experience so much more joy and happiness now, even in the midst of life’s messes.  Being sober doesn’t take away the trials and tribulations, but it equips me to be able to handle them.