Thursday, February 24, 2005

Not as Simple as I Thought!

Okay! So, just because I've titled this blog 'The Simple Life' doesn't mean this is going to be simple, I guess. Since February 16th I have added a couple postings - and I guess I did something wrong. It all seems simple enough, but the postings never appeared. Well, if at first you don't succeed . . . you know the rest.

So, here it is 8 days after I started my blog and I'm hoping my second post (actually my fourth, I think) will actually publish. Here is a lesson I've already learned about The Simple Life - it's complicated to simplify your life. It doesn't seem to matter what it is, as you take steps to simplify your life, outside forces react and complicate things. Point in fact - I have some broken CRT computer monitors. They are taking up valuable and much needed space in my book warehouse - it used to be the garage, but now it houses all the office book inventory that we need to fulfill orders for various buyers including Amazon. So, I can't take them to a local dumpster, that's not legal. No, I have to take them directly to the county landfill. But, can I take them at my convenience? Of course not. I can only take them between 7 AM and 1 PM on the second Saturday of any given month - and I have to pay a fee of either $8.00 or $12.00 per monitor for the landfill to accept them. So, now I have to figure a way to get them there at the prescribed time and be sure I have the necessary cash in pocket. Of course, as long as I'm making a trip to the landfill, I might as well find as much other stuff to go on that same trip. A simple process - getting rid of clutter and junk has to be orchestrated. Obviously, I'm not living the simple life, yet. But I keep working toward it and anticipate enjoying it.

Now, I actually have made some headway in simplifying things. For example, I have streamlined and simplified my grocery shopping by implementing some of the strategies in Elaine St. James book Simplify Your Life. First, I created a shopping list on my computer that includes all the regular items I purchase plus some space for special requirements not normally on the list. I preprint this two sided form and use magnets to keep several of them on the refrigerator. When I know I will be needing something, I mark it on the list and where I normally purchase it. Then when I know I'm going to a particular part of town where one of the stores I shop at is located for some reason, I grab the list and buy what I need from that store. The list is great, I mark it when I think of it and then I don't stand the chance of forgetting what it was. My list also makes my shopping quicker because I know right where to go and I don't spend a lot of time wondering up and down other aisles lined with thousands of tempting things I don't really need or want.

Another idea from Elaine's book is to Buy in Bulk! Of course, this may not work for everything, but I buy my toilet paper, paper towels, tissues, seasonings and several other items this way. The result is I don't have to shop for many of these items for between three or so months and perhaps a year or longer. And, another advantage of buying in bulk is the cost savings since the items cost less in bulk.

Here are some other things I've accomplished. I have stopped the daily newspaper. I seldom read it when it was coming everyday and it would just accumulate in an ever growing pile. So, ultimately, I'd have to eventually find time to bundle and tie them up, then load them into the car, haul them to the dump and properly dispose of them in the newspaper recycling dumpster. It cost me money to get the paper I didn't read and then it took extra time and energy to get rid of them. I also dropped call waiting on my telephone. It always annoyed me when I was on a call with someone and I'd hear this little beeping sound telling me to rudely interrupt the person I was having a conversation with because someone more important then them might be calling me and "I'm really that important." I hated that feature, so it's gone and I wish other people would get rid of it, too. But, I guess it might be important for some people to have it for possible emergency situations. But, I didn't want it so it's gone and I don't have to pay for it. I've also trained myself not to answer the phone just because it's ringing. My business phones have voice mail and my personal line has a digitial answering machine. The caller can leave me a message and I'll call them back. I'm still waiting for a telemarketer to leave me a message, hasn't happened, yet. Now, I'm not disturbed and have to stop what I'm doing every time the phone rings. And, of course, I call the other party back when I'm free of whatever I was doing. I've also reached a point of not answering the door just because someone is standing at it ringing my doorbell. If I'm not expecting anyone and I'm busily engaged in some activity that I'd like to complete, like some simplifying project, then why do I want to stop doing what I'm doing just because someone comes to my door unexpectly. If it's an emergency, they'll be persistant, if it's not, they'll just leave. This doesn't mean I don't asnwer the door every time it rings. No, I just don't answer it when I don't want to be interrupted for whatever reason.

Well, as you can see, it can be simple things or complicated things - but ultimately, the goal is to eliminate anything that isn't needed or wanted in order to just make life simpler. Every little step that you decide on and implement is one step closer to having less steps to living The Simple Life.

Until next time, this is the Virginia Sound Guy . . . signing off for now.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Day two - moving forward or sliding back?

Today I was out of the office and home running around West Virginia doing site inspections for the annual Veteran Speakers Retreat in the end of August. It was a brisk day, but a nice day for a drive through the Wild and Wonderful West Virginia eastern panhandle. WOW! I didn't think it had been that long since I've travelled some of the routes and roads I was on today - but I couldn't believe the development that has gone on in rural WV. My first stop was at The Woods Resort in Hedgesville and there were a bunch of new traffic lights, shopping centers and strip malls that I never saw before and new housing communities and townhouse developments everywhere. The Washington DC area is pushing its way into WV. I thought it was bad around my area in Winchester. Surprise! Surprise!

We (I met my co-coordinator of the retreat) John Daly and his soon to be bride, Dana, at the Woods. The Conference Coordinator, Kathy and the rest of the Woods staff were terrific to us, showed us around and we had a very good feeling about the place - pretty much decided this is it for this year. We enjoyed lunch overlooking Walden Pond outside the Main building at the resort and then headed to Harpers Ferry to the Hilltop Hotel - an historic structure with grand views of the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers. But, unfortunately, the 1888 structure just wouldn't do for our veteran speakers. So, that was a disapointment. John and Dana headed back to Chevy Chase, MD, from whence they had come and I made a quick stop at the newly renovated Cliffside Inn - now known as the Quality Inn Conference Center. They've done a nice job of renovating the property, the sleeping rooms are very nice and the restaurant is very nice, too. However, the ballroom, the only area large enough for our group is barely adequate due to the pillars located throughout the facility and creating poor sight lines. In a pinch, we could make it work - but the hands down winner is The Woods Resort.

This was a pretty simple day generally speaking. Nice driving, nice scenery, three stops, one easy and quick decision and now I can move on with the beginning phases of promoting the retreat for this year. John and I decided to utilize the VSR Web site this year as a way to provide a lot of the information we would have tried to pack into a mailing. This will simplify the promotion and delegate some of the work to others on the planning committee. I readily agreed to this since it will make my involvement simpler and less time consuming.

That was pretty much the day. I didn't do much when I got back other then a phone call and discussion about working on my own book with Jane, my executive administrator, who bought an interesting and very informative e-book she was sharing with me that should make writing my book much simpler and faster.

That's it for today. Now to call Carolyn and see how her day has been and then to start reading the book BLOG by Hewitt and learn more about this whole blogging concept.

The Virginia Sound Man

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

In The Beginning . . .

Today is the first day of the rest of my life and if you're reading this first posting on my first blog, you are part of the rest of my life. Welcome to my world.

This is a new adventure for me. I have been working toward simplifying my life for about the last 15 years or so. Let me tell you, I haven't moved very far off the starting line in the quest for most of those 15 years. Now, as I approach 60 years of age, I look around me at my physical life (home and "stuff"), my professional life, my relationships (I guess this would be called my social life) and other aspects of my life - like my dreams and goals. Boy, is life (still) complicated. So, after rereading my friend's book (Jeff Davidson), Breathing Space, published in 1991 and Elaine St. James books, starting with her book, Simplifying Your Life, I'm determined that I'm going to simplify my life so I can spend more time doing the things I enjoy and want to do and eliminate as much of the stuff I don't enjoy and don't want to do. This does not mean I'm forsaking society, my computer (obviously, or you wouldn't be reading this), my cell phone and my surround sound home theater. I'm not going to wear homemade clothes made from burlap bags. I'm not going to live in a one room cabin with dirt floors and outdoor plumbing and no electricity. You get the idea. What I'm going to do is to keep everything that I use, like, brings me joy and contentment and eliminate all or as much as is humanly possible of everything that takes up space and serves no useful purpose, takes up my time for which I get no joy or contentment, takes up my energy by draining me as in toxic relationships, commitments that need to be eliminated and so on.

This is not a simple task - simplifying ones life. But, with the small amount of progress I've made over the past 15 years and I'm working at with diligence currently, there is a lot of fulfillment and joy. With each thing - tangible or intangible I eliminate, I feel stress relief and a little lighter. What this blog is about is my "adventure" and my experiences in going through this ongoing process of simplifying and then maintaining the simple lifestyle. I'm not sure if I'll be posting to this blog everyday, I doubt it. But, I will be doing it as frequently as I am moved to do so (I hope that's pretty frequently). I have several objectives in doing this blog. One is to chronicle my experience and progress. A second is to share ideas and experiences with others who are either on a similar quest or who want to start simplifying their lives. Third, is to take what I'm learning and through developing a series of audio programs, perhaps a book or two (I am a publisher of books, after all) and workshops, inspiring and guiding others through this life changing and life reinventing experience. I'm just one year removed from being a bonifide "Baby Boomer", but the Boomers are all reaching this point where we've lived through the 70's, then the 80's and finally the 90's. Most of our families are grown and we are left with all the Stuff of those last 20 or 30 years. There is a movement to downsize and simplify - while those coming behind us are buying bigger houses, more cars, more stuff of every kind and their lives are cluttered by work, social commitments, obligations, etc. When I see those coming behind us, I have to shake my head and be thankful I'm past that phase of my life - and I still wonder how I made it this far.

So, this will end my first posting. Nothing too exciting here, it's just an introduction. But, check in from time to time and see the progress, contribute an experience of your own, throw out an idea or two that may or may not work for me and others reading this blog. But, watch as my "load" gets lighter and my life gets brighter. And every once in a while, you'll see some breakthroughs that warrant celebration. And, I know there will be some setbacks and backsliding from time to time also. Downsizing some 40 years of adult life and eliminating the "spoils" that have accumulated in just a year or two is going to be a daunting task.

Til next time . . . Virginia Sound Man