K.I.S.S. Day 5

Modern life is complicated. We have too many options, too much information and still only twenty four hours in a day. Choices must be made; priorities set.

In my effort to simplify my life I have removed the extraneous, evaluated the remainder, and still find room for further paring down of clutter—physical and mental. I am choosing activities that require active participation rather than passive entertainment (I do still indulge in an hour of General Hospital everyday and will schedule in my favorite sitcoms once they return). But even with the passive entertainment I am being cautious with what I pour into my brain. Will this content inspire and enliven me or cause stress over things for which I have no control? This is just one of the questions I ask myself these days. Therefore, as the simplified version of my life moves forward the following items will play a prominent role in my daily life.

Books

I loved reading as a child and have only been a sporadic reader in adulthood. There is a discipline to reading. An investment of precious time where there is almost certainly a guarantee that in the end emotions and point of view will be altered. As much as I love movies, they do not do to me what a really good book does; my soul is not touched in the same way and the characters don’t live with me in quite the same way. For a while I rejected reading on a Kindle as I prefer old school books. I still prefer them; however, I have discovered that I can read and stay awake when I use the Kindle. Being awake certainly helps the process of finishing books.

As I moved my focus from passive screen time to reading (the Kindle screen doesn’t have the same affect as a phone or computer—different lights or something) I feel a part of me has come back to life. I have read two books in the past week. Parts one and two of the ‘Me Before You’ trilogy by British author Jojo Moyes. Prior to last week I had never heard of her and now I am anxiously waiting for book three to become available through the digital library system. I believe I know how the story ends, but it is the journey that is so fun. Isn’t this whole point of life? We all know where the story ends, but it is the story of our journey that defines the life we led.

Making

During the past three years I have wasted a ridiculous amount of time on Instagram, Pinterest and general web browsing. All of it, I told myself, was business research and development. I spent money on websites, URLs, products, and for what? Only to get disillusioned and quit. Along the way I finally determined that I love the excitement of business development but I detest the actual work of running an online business. All my creative energy went to the business ideas but not actually making things that give me pleasure.

Social Commentary

For fourteen years I was in the yarn business. I believed that everything I did must connect to yarn for me to be authentic. Being a yarn shop owner was what I did every day and that became my identity. If I’m not a part of that world anymore, who am I? So I held on, reinventing myself into yet one more version in the hopes that this one felt right. It didn’t.

That is over. I am letting myself try different things, am discovering a joy in hand stitching and dyeing small amounts of fabric then creating art that is beautiful to the eye and tells a story. If I want to explore other mediums, I free to do so because my identity is no longer connected to what I make. What I make is simply an outward reflection of where I am in that moment.

Music

I am one of those people for whom music is a soul moving experience. I seem to be using words like ‘soul moving’ a great deal today. I love most all kinds of music, but without a doubt my favorite is classical. I can close my eyes and get lost in the beauty, the movement, the imagery. I have felt this connection for as long as I remember; it is simply one of those things that got lost in the businessof life. I now make time and space for beautiful music in my day.

Art

I have become zealous about who I follow on Instagram. I am removing accounts that don’t inspire me. I am primarily following creative people whose hand work and life shown on the grid, brightens my day or inspires me to look at the world through new eyes. I am no longer following accounts that merely want to sell me something, preach politics, lecture me about anything, or with whom I just no longer resonate. If I have unfollowed anyone reading this, I am sorry. Nothing personal; I am just exercising some self care in what I ingest.

I follow many artists whose work I love, and whose creative practice teaches me a new way of working out my own art life. I have no formal art training and I am learning there is a process. My habit of expecting immediate perfection is completely incongruous with the artistic life. I am learning to play. To try. To step out of the safe and into the unknown. It is exhilarating.

I not only follow artists, I buy from them whenever possible. It is the one thing I can do that is mutually beneficial. I have limited funds. These are not big purchases. But they bring so much joy to my little world and I know that by buying from them more art will come. It is the happiest part of my world right now.

My most recent acquisition. “Moon River” by Elizabeth Bunsen

Simple Living

I don’t require much to be happy. I’ve always teased my husband that he won the lottery with such a low maintenance wife. But for those few things I do need, I need them daily. I have learned that my mental and physical health depend upon a steady diet of all the above things blended with a regular dose of family, friends, my dogs, good coffee, food and bourbon…and an occasional road trip to keep the juices flowing.

Next week I get back on track with posts about the things I am making as well as any house updates. It is my hope and prayer that something I have said this week moves you to examine the role of technology in your life and how even small changes can reap big rewards for you and those you love.

Have a great weekend and make some memories.

~Sheryl

K.I.S.S. Day Four

I woke up this morning to just over one hundred emails in my inboxes. This is only half the number I had been receiving. Unsubscribing from all those distribution lists is working. And it is freeing. I tend to avoid that which overwhelms me. Ironic since ignoring only escalates the problem leading to a greater sense of panic and lack of control. I don’t think about the changes I am making and wonder if I can keep this up long term; to do that adds to the “you never keep up with any kind of discipline.” Nonproductive self talk is so…nonproductive. Instead I just deal with one morning at a time and slowly move forward.

Extracting The Value

As I evaluated each company whose email I was considering stopping, I had to decide what value this company or site added to my life. The answer was none. In every single case, the answer was none. They are electronic junk mail. Not a single item made the quality of my life better, or enlightened me in some way.

The second step of this electronic simplification plan is to extract the value – even if it is mere entertainment – and discard the remainder. Since there was nothing of value in the email accounts I removed, I will now move to apps and the visual clutter of my phone.

I love puzzle games. I tell myself I am keeping my brain sharp by playing word games and putting together puzzles. I had a folder three pages long filled with games. Most bore me after a short period of time. I now have only two games, a Scrabble type game I play against anonymous people and a wooden block style puzzle. When I get bored I will delete one and find another. Gone are the days of filling mindless hours with buzzing and beeping games triggering a rush of pleasure hormones rewarding a spectacular move or a brilliant win.

Opening Screen

I have pared down the front screen of my phone to the absolute essentials. I made my lock screen and wallpaper a dandelion to remind me that I am in this world to sow seeds of love and kindness; I can’t do that if I am absorbed with this electronic device. From here I can easily listen to music, read a book, check the weather, messages, or possibly Instagram. The lack of clutter on this screen reduces my desire to pick up the phone and scroll to the second page to find something to ‘do.’

Here is where some editing has happened and will happen again. Most of the apps on this page are never used, so why? What is the purpose of having them available.

I call it the ‘what if factor.’ What if I need to check traffic, shop, or edit a photo? What are the chances of any of those things happening on a daily basis. Slim and none and Slim left town. Evaluating, extracting and eliminating apps on this screen is my assignment today. Tomorrow I will show you where I ended up.

Having gained some mastery over the electronics in my life I will have the time, mental clarity and energy for doing things in the real world. I want to be creative, laugh, go outside (waiting for fall weather!) and live untethered to a device that promises so much yet delivers relatively little quality to my life.

For each area of life that is simplified, there is suddenly room for new and wonderful experiences. I hope that if any of this is an issue for you I have inspired critical analysis and action.

Until tomorrow~

Sheryl

K.I.S.S. Day Two

The internet is an insidious and seductive mistress. It lures you in with promises of knowledge, fun, connection, and entertainment. All the while it is slowly and deceptively spinning a web of control. Then suddenly, one day, we wake up to realize that we are mere shells of our former selves addicted to the little rush that comes when a notification hits our screen.

The only two industries that refer to their customers as ‘users’ are the illegal drug trade and software companies. Let that sink in.

Social Dilemma

Upon the recommendation of a friend I recently watched a docu-drama on Netflix called Social Dilemma. This was powerful life altering information. Much of it I kind of knew but had chosen to ignore. After all, I am in control of myself and my internet/social media usage, right? Maybe not as in control as I once thought.

I generally don’t care for docu-drama type shows. But the acted out parts of this really helped give a visual picture to the concepts being presented. It allowed me to see myself in most all of the situations and I began to realize how information is given, manipulated for monetary gain, and how we are the commodity.

The people being interviewed all worked for one of the big tech companies, many in the infancy of social media. What they have to say is informative, frightening, and yet empowering to us, the products being bought and sold.

Solution To The Dilemma

Of course, my first instinct is throw out everything and live off grid where no one can spy on me. A typical knee jerk reaction and not at all logical. So, I set about doing the next best thing. Evaluate, Extract, and Eliminate. I had to have a plan for using my online resources while doing what I can to not succumb to its power over my brain.

I know many who read this are going to think, I don’t have a problem. I know what they are doing and I don’t care. Or, this is all a big conspiracy theory and this woman is nuts. You are certainly entitled. I do ask that you watch the program and then judge for yourself. I thought I was an educated user of the internet and the myriad of apps that clutter my phone and iPad. I now know better. There is more I can, and am doing.

Google, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter are all pimps and we are the whores. Let that settle in for today. Tomorrow I will share how I am dealing with this in my life and why it is going to have a huge impact of my mental health, creative, social and family life.

Until then…go watch Social Dilemma and meet me back here tomorrow.

~Sheryl

K.I.S.S. – Day One

I love reading about the latest lifestyle trends, taking the quizzes, looking at pictures, imagining living in any one of a number of homes found as I scroll Pinterest. I don’t necessarily put in the work to implement the changes necessary to have the life, but I sure do love reading how other people do it while wondering how they manage to live such (fill in the blank) lives, while mine remains relatively the same year in and year out.

Hygge and Minimalism are two of the most recent trends that I have thought I would like to adopt into my life. My husband and I both tend to hold on to sentimental belongings. I can get rid of things more easily than he, but still I find it hard. Minimalism is a very unachievable goal for me. But, I can simplify. I can and I must find a way to simplify my home so that I can enjoy what I have and feel the peace that comes from a well ordered environment.

It is the “do the same things expecting different results” syndrome. To have change, one must do things differently. What an astonishing revelation this is! With this in mind, and as I strive to make a life not merely react to what life gives me, I must start doing some things differently. But where to start?

Stop Thinking & Just Begin

It has taken me three weeks to get my dining room turned studio space in order. I have boxed yarn and spinning fiber. I have moved boxes from the house to the garage. I have cleaned out a closet so that I can put things away in an orderly fashion. Next will be clearing out the bedroom where the overflow ended up and moving what I can into the garage and the rest sorted by potential projects and stored so that I can remember what I have and the designated project I have in mind. I must admit I feel like I am beginning to get a hold on the process and a small sense of control is returning to my life.

I have a great deal of money invested in the yarn and fiber I own. I don’t want to just give it away and most every knitter, crocheter, spinner or weaver I know has this same issue. The plan is to evaluate my stash every six months. Things that I have not touched, nor have a plan for, will be donated to a local Houston business that supports artists and teachers by selling donated items really inexpensively. Texas Art Assylum is a great place to go to buy all kinds of stuff for collage and other assemblage art. I feel good about my stuff going to a place that I know it will have a second life.

Maker In Action

When I first decided to focus this blog on making a life, I was really only thinking of the things I make. I make yarn. I make fabric with a crochet hook, knitting needles and looms. I make art that hangs on my walls. But I soon discovered that there is so much more to this making a life thing than the items that flow from my hands.

Making a life is making choices and accepting the consequences. For different results, different choices must be made. I have lived a reactionary life for so many years that I don’t know how to be proactive. It is much riskier. It is scary to step out and do rather than just accept what falls in our laps.

There are always others to consider. I am a wife, parent, grandparent, daughter. My choices affect a large number of people. I can’t just do what I want. Or can I? Can we? Dare we dream to make this part of our lives…the final season…a life that is created by us for us? We have ALWAYS lived for other people. Could this be our turn?

I don’t know the answer to this question, but what I do know is no matter what our future holds, I can begin making a life right here, right now. There is one thing for certain, if I continue living a reactionary life, absolutely nothing will change and I will still be looking longingly at other people’s life wondering why not me.

Baby steps. Just take one small, simple step forward and build on that every day. That is what I am going to do. Won’t you join me?

~Sheryl