In Need of a Deadline

March 13, 2021

It was the vacuum cleaner.  I pulled it out of its closet home to do a thorough sweep of my living room, dining room and stairwell.  Set in an area between the living room and dining room, it would surely remind me throughout the day to vacuum the place.  I live by myself in a one-bedroom condo. 

That was in August 2020, well into our COVID lockdown, but it wasn’t until October that I finally decided to use it.  The vacuum cleaner was stoically telling me, “Use me!” but I couldn’t hear it.  In fact, I told it consistently, “Tomorrow!” 

Since mid-March 2020, my sense of time has gone to hell.  I thought I would have large swaths of time to accomplish all those things I have wanted to do for years—like clean out my closets, de-clutter my kitchen, go through boxes of old photos, letters, mementos and reconnect with friends of long ago with long meandering conversations.  All that and more didn’t happen. 

Starting Off with Goals

I had started the year with three goals:  complete my taxes, redo my will, and renovate my kitchen.  Goal #1 was achieved.  I had no choice unless I wanted to break the law.  I had a deadline.  Goal #2 was a bit more challenging.  To complete my will, I had to meet with a lawyer, which I did in early January, well before the shutdown.  She told me exactly what I needed to do.  Once I completed those steps like identify beneficiaries. power of attorney and advance medical directives, we could meet again, sign the papers and wrap it up. No problem.

I did do the work of identifying beneficiaries and changing the names on various accounts.  I did identify my power of attorney, got agreement and put her name in place.  I did review the medical directives and figured when I am ready to go to the great beyond, life support will be removed.  I was accomplishing what I set out to do in 2020.

The Inability to Move

Then came COVID-19.  The world sunk into a cloud of abeyance and I felt cloaked in lethargy.  Not knowing what to do, I did nothing.  Instead, I danced with the denial of my death.  That denial was probably more subconscious than conscious.  I knew I would eventually get to the will.  After all I paid the lawyer a bunch of money to write the thing.  I wasn’t going to leave it hanging indefinitely, but tomorrow seemed like a good day to get all the details in place. 

Months elapsed, and the papers stayed in my folder.  My vacuum cleaner came out of the closet and waited.  No friends stopped by, no classes held in my living room, no activity except grocery store-runs…no deadlines and no reason to do much.  And my decision to renovate my kitchen (Goal #3) was put on hold.  No vaccinations, no kitchen redo.  Life turned into ZOOM meetings and phone conversations, but only with those close in.  I had no energy to engage with those friends of long ago.

The Awakening

Finally, it clicked!   I had to set my own deadlines.  I had to decide what and who I was willing to give my energy to.  I was the only one to do it.  My vacuum cleaner tried to send the message, but I wasn’t receiving it.  Now a year later after the initial COVID lockdown, my tax information has been submitted to my accountant.  I am about to put my signature on the final papers of my will next week.  And I am beginning to find contractors for the kitchen.  I give all the credit to my vacuum cleaner! 

Clutter Gets a Bum Rap!

June 28, 2011

How many times have you put something down and then couldn’t find it?  When you do go looking for it, it isn’t there. 

Can’t Find What You’re Looking For

At first it’s puzzling.  You start looking in piles and places where it would most likely be.  Unsuccessful, you move to other piles and places where you haven’t been or touched in ages, but, gosh, it might be there.  In the meanwhile, your concern is ratcheting up.  You start talking to yourself in not so kind and gentle a voice, “Where did it go?  Who’s been messing with my stuff?  I am sure I put it there!”  And if someone is close by, like a spouse or friend, you get them looking, too.

As your sense of frustration builds, the other person you’ve enlisted slides right into the pitch of your emotional vortex.  You start getting angry at the piles you have let accumulate and the stuff you should have put away.  “How could I have let things get this way?  Where is that damn thing I am looking for?”  You start having heated exchanges with the person who agreed to help you when she suggests looking elsewhere.  “No!” you scream.  “That’s ridiculous.  IT ISN’T THERE!”

This was the scenario with my client’s husband a couple evenings ago.  He had just spent hours writing a book review—a valuable piece of intellectual property.  Ready to send it (via the U.S. Postal Service) to the organization who requested the review, he began to look for THE LETTER—his only source of communication spelling out the details of when and where to send it.  No e-mail or website had been provided.  He had to have THE LETTER!

The Search

The search began in earnest on Sunday evening at 9:00 PM.  At one point my client goes to the Internet to track down the organization.  Since her husband couldn’t remember its name, her efforts resulted in three possibilities—a creative approach in this technological age but a woefully inadequate replacement for THE MISSING LETTER.  Not until 11:00 PM did their frantic search end.  In a last ditch effort, they checked the trash scheduled for pickup the next morning.  Lo and behold—they found THE LETTER among the detritus of daily living.  What a relief!  All the angst and pent-up worry, however, didn’t let my client go to sleep until 1:00 AM. 

When I saw her the next morning, she was exhausted and started blaming all the piles of clutter stationed around the house.  The poor clutter!  It gets blamed for so much.  We know, though, it wasn’t the clutter’s fault—at least the physical piles of clutter.  Perhaps we can more accurately lay responsibility on her husband’s distracted (dare I say cluttered?) mind.  Apparently THE LETTER had been residing in the reviewed book along with a piece of junk mail for a while.  When the junk mail was tossed, so was THE LETTER. 

Slowing Down is Our Best Revenge

How many times have we done this–thrown something important away with something unimportant?  I confess, I’ve done it many times.  Maybe the best way to stave off these inadvertent mishaps is to just slow down.  I mean, where is the fire?  We have access these days to so many ideas and opportunities, it’s mind-boggling.  We want to do this, try that, go there, and acquire whatever.  We forget that life consists of small things, like details.  We go on to the next thing before we finish what we’ve been working on.  We rush through life. 

Perhaps a comedienne said it best, when she told her audience what she wants engraved on her tombstone—GOT IT ALL DONE, DEAD ANYWAY.  Yep, we are all going to kick the bucket one day.  So, let’s enjoy each moment in the meantime.  By slowing down we can be more conscious of what we are doing with stray pieces of paper, jackets we thought we left somewhere else besides in the back of our closet, and anything else we put some place for “the time being” rather than in its proper home.  We can circumvent the angst and anguish of looking for lost stuff.

Let’s exonerate our clutter.  We’re the ones who need to calm down and become more mindful our actions.  By giving ourselves a second or two more as to where we put things and what we’ve put where, we can imprint that moment onto our memory and possibly prevent our tossing important items into the trash.  After all, what’s two seconds compared to two hours of fruitless, frantic hunting?

Bev Hitchins © 2011