It was 5:40 am, and I was driving my wife to work as I always do. As we headed down Parkside, the streets were snow covered but traffic was moving along well. It was 5:40 am after all.
Suddenly, the traffic light changed to yellow and I slowly applied the brakes. A loud grating noise emanated from under the car. My wife was startled.
"What the hell was that?” she said.
“It’s just snow behind the wheel.”
It’s funny how that snowy icy mass builds up in the wheel well. You never seem to notice it unless you have been looking down when you get in the car.
If you stop or try to turn, you can hear it as it brushes against the tire. Sometimes it falls off and you hear it when your back tires run over it. Sometimes you run over the snowy mass that falls off someone else’s car. Sometimes, it is quite startling. I guess it could even cause damage if it was big enough and hit just right.
This snowy mass can become quite distracting if you continue to let it build up. Sometimes, you try to kick the gray snowy mass. Sometimes it falls off. Sometimes, you stub your toe. If you don't remove the snowy mass, you will continue to be distracted, annoyed, and maybe in the end you will get all fouled up.
Life gets like this as well. As the days and years go on, you start to accumulate things that just don’t belong there. They lie unnoticed until you try to go forward, slow down, or change directions. They started out as harmless, but over time they harden and cling more tightly to you until you decide to scrap, kick, or shake them off.
Whether it’s worry, anxiety, missed opportunities, or never taken chances, it is important to plan some strategies to help cope and clean things up. It is then important to gain some strategies to actively improve and move forward.
Time for a Change: Cleaning up the Physical Mess and Clutter
For me, the desire to change things up, to get a new philosophy, to be more productive, started with the announcement of my book last month and the enthusiastic response from friends. I did not want to start a project that was a disappointment, and in retrospect I should have gotten a first draft in the can before shooting off my mouth about it. However, I figured if I said I was doing it that would force me to get it done. I knew that if I wanted to get this major project done, that I had to revamp things a little. I needed to revamp ME. I needed to be more focused, productive, and gritty. So, here is how that all played out.
I started exploring the concept of minimalism after seeing the documentary “Minimalism: A Documentary about the Important Things.” I then watched some YouTube videos by the film’s director, Matt D’Avella, and I listened to his podcast. The videos gave insight into how a minimalist goes through his or her everyday life, and the podcast featured interesting creative folks, not necessarily but often minimalists, too.
Let’s be clear, I am not ready to completely drink the proverbial Kool-Aid on minimalism, but I did find several of the concepts intriguing. The one that resounded most with me was removing the unnecessary in order to focus on what is most essential or important. For me, I really liked the concept of less and the principle that fewer choices would eliminate needless worry. I also liked the idea of keeping only meaningful and good quality items that you really liked, that brought “joy” as Marie Kondo might say.
Now, I know you are now asking yourself, “How does the guy with a power meter on every bike he owns say he likes the idea of minimalism?” Good question. I did say above that I had not totally drank the Kool-Aid yet. But let’s explore what I did do to affect some change in my life.
When I looked around me, in the bike room, for example, (which was never really intended to be a bike shop, it’s the enclosed front porch for chrissakes!) there was a lot of stuff. Four or five wheelsets and three bikes. There were drawers of road bike tires still with lots of life in them and probably twenty cycling caps and lots of pairs of glasses and gloves. It was and still is ridiculous. But I am working on it...one day and one category at a time.
One of the things I notice about myself is how odd I can be at times with work patterns and rituals. I can sometimes see myself from an almost out of body perspective when I undertake certain tasks, and I am kind of creeped out by it to be honest. Some examples of this weirdness include: cutting the grass or raking leaves and moving about in a pattern that makes no sense; standing still in an almost stupor like manner when trying to decide what to wear or what task to do next; trying to clean and stopping halfway through completely unsure where to go next or completely overwhelmed by the can of worms that I feel like I just opened. I think this daze is caused by some sort of sensory overload.
The bike room is making me feel like that an awful lot lately. I know I need to clean it up, but I don’t know where to really start.
One of the concepts I got from the Kondo book. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, is to attack tidying by category and not by room or location. So, I started with the non-bike related task of thinning out my attire. Oh boy, this could be tough. It was jammed packed with years of clothes, especially stuff from baseball and hockey and God knows what.
I decided to clean it up with a little help from my daughter because I knew she would be a good judge of what to keep and what to give away. I decided to have one or two rules. I would keep only ten items in each of the categories that I came up with: tee shirts, pants, long sleeve tees or pullovers, long sleeve collared shirts, and short sleeve collared shirts.
I decided that I would keep every hoodie that I owned because I live in them. I only had around ten anyway, so I figured why count and ruin it by throwing some out. I kept all three suits because I didn’t have many. I got to it alone at first, and I made a pile of each of these types of clothes.
The pants were first and were easy. I have maybe 14 pairs, and I threw out the big or ratty looking ones. I have been buying some pants lately, so most of what I had was new.
The tee shirts were a lot harder, as I tossed out anything stained, team related, ill fitting, or obnoxious. I favored anything plain looking, so I kept nearly all the vee neck solid colored tees I had and saved a few other cool shirts.
Then, I realized that I often paint or cook at the park during the summer for the baseball league I volunteer for, so I kept ten more shirts that I liked but didn’t care if they got ruined. Literally thirty other t-shirts went in a bag for the Goodwill.
It is like a disease accumulating shirts. Everywhere you turn, you get a tee. A race, a school event, a team, a league function, etc....
The other categories were easy. If it looked stained or old or was a crazy color or didn’t fit anymore...sayonara! I had Emily make the toughest choices, but I really didn’t feel bad having four bags of stuff ready to be donated.
Last year, I did roughly the same with my bike kits. I kept my team stuff in the drawer, and I packed away almost anything else I had accumulated. I rotated through the team bibs and jerseys. It was nice to have everything match with minimal thinking about it.
I am now experiencing that in the day to day of getting dressed. I like everything in my closet. Everything in my closet fits. Everything is in good shape. I feel zero anxiety when I open the closet door, and there is plenty of room to reach in and put things away without wrinkling them. It’s great.
Next, I went on to the bike stuff. There is quite a bit, so I tackled wheelsets and group sets first. I sold off a bunch of things that were getting no use. My friends were glad to buy the wheels for a song, and the group set sales served two purposes. One, I had less laying around, and two, it eliminated the possibility of me saying “Hey, I could build another bike if I only had a frame!” Those kind of thoughts and eBay have really done me wrong in the past.
The next step will be to look at other gear categories and sell off or donate things that are laying around. Pedals, shoes, old tires, helmets, and stuff like that. I am also slowing making space in the basement for the eventual move of the bikes down there. This process would be easy if I had a dumpster for the 20 years of family stuff accumulated like old hockey gear, books, and toys.
Until then, my process has been to use two copy paper boxes. One box gets filled with recyclable materials and thrown in the recycling bin while the other is filled with things that go straight into the trash can. I am limiting myself to one of each, so I do not over fill and then not have room for the normal weekly recyclables and trash. There is also lots of old electronics being put aside for drop off at Best Buy or the local county recycling.
So, there you have the first step in the 2019 Bob makeover, tidying up. I hope that if you suffer from clutter that you try some of the methods or watch some of the references above. It really does feel good to start the monumental task of getting things in order. I know that building a better me in the off season will lead to more enjoyment on and off the bike this season.