Cleaning out, letting go, starting fresh

Photo courtesy of: MorgueFile.com

My office bookshelves were nearly this bad. Photo courtesy of: MorgueFile.com

I ended the old year as I often do – by cleaning out my office. This December gave me an even better opportunity to clean out, though, since my husband and I agreed to tackle remodeling my office – the last room in our house to get a new ceiling, new flooring, new paint. Since every surface would be new, every single thing had to come out before we could begin.

Touching every item twice – going out and going back in – as well as the weeks when boxes filled our bedroom and furniture distributed through the rest of the house, gave me ample opportunity to consider what was there and how much of it I really needed.

It also allowed an opportunity to look at my life and how it has changed – or stayed the same – over time. From this exercise I observed:

Letting go takes time. When my mother passed away in 2007, many of her things came into my office. Everything from memory books to hats to estate documents. For the first time, looking at these things, touching them, remembering, did not leave me in tears. I was able, finally, to give away, to throw out, or to consolidate the memories to a couple of small boxes. There may be a time to let even these go. Maybe in another 10 years.

The same could be said for the books and files from my 30-year career in public relations consulting. I finally admitted that if I hadn’t looked in these files for 14 years, it was unlikely I ever would. Out they went.

Themes arise. I found no fewer than 10 sketch pads of various sizes, each with less than a dozen pages used. Since childhood, I have yearned to draw. I hadn’t realized how persistent that yearning has been over the years. It may be time to act on this interest in a more purposeful way. Drawing and writing are not far apart, I think.

I kept all of the sketch pads and all of the drawing materials, consolidating them into one place. I should not have to buy new when I take up drawing again.

Losing pounds. Like many, I often think about losing a few pounds at the end of the year, though I commit to that idea about as well as most and with less vigor each year. In December, I succeeded in spades. I estimate I shed a good 50 pounds, probably more, of books and files. knickknacks and gifts never given. I was stern with myself, and I think I did a pretty good job. Not the pounds I usually think of shedding, but even so, I now walk into my office feeling ‘lighter’ with all the clean, open space. It cheers my mind to realize that I know what I have and where everything is.

I spent almost no time at all writing in December, giving myself over happily to the holidays and family and remodeling the office. Now I start the new year fresh, with a new coat of paint, new clarity, and new purpose. I hope last year ended as well for you and that you, too, look forward to 2016 with optimism.

What is it about BIG?

The Biggest Pumpkin – Iowa State Fair 2012

Big things fascinate me. Maybe that’s true of most of us. The biggest anything is almost always a draw. At the Iowa State Fair, the Biggest (fill in the blank) will always have a line of people waiting to see or take pictures.

After ogling big tomatoes and big horses and big pumpkins at the Fair, my husband and I took a drive to western Iowa last week. The primary goal of this trip was to see in person all the things in that part of the state that I’d written about for The Iowan magazine but had not yet seen. Along the way we saw some things we hadn’t expected to see. Some really BIG things.

Albert the Bull – Audubon, Iowa

Albert the Bull, for instance. Albert is the biggest bull in the world, standing 30 ft. tall, weighing 45 tons, requiring 65 gallons of paint to cover. Definitely bigger than the Big Bull at the State Fair. Albert draws people to Audubon, just north of I-80

The 50-ft. tall Molecule Man is visible from both I-80 and I-29 in Council Bluffs. The 33,000 lb. sculpture by artist Jonathan Borofsky is part of an ambitious public art project transforming the Council Bluffs landscape. There are only three other Molecule Man sculptures in the world and they stand in Berlin, Germany, Los Angeles, CA, and Yorkshire, England. I guess I don’t know if these are the Biggest Men in the world, but they have to be right up there. Certainly the biggest men in Iowa.

Molecule Man – Council Bluffs, Iowa

We saw other big things on this trip. The Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge, for instance. It is not the biggest bridge, but it is the longest pedestrian bridge, a 3,000 ft. span, across the Missouri River, and connecting two states – Iowa and Nebraska. Impressive. And fun to walk across.

Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge – Council Bluffs & Omaha

Most often we stand there, shaking our heads in amazement and asking, “How’d they do that?”  The making and installing of these works of art – whether pumpkin or bull or stainless steel men or bridges – are fascinating stories. Worth a drive. Worth a picture. Great for tourism.

We’re heading west later this year and plan to see more really big things both man made and nature made, including the Hoover Dam and the Grand Canyon.

We expect to be amazed.