Posted on

Let the rest of your life be the best of your life.

Every goal you set, by definition, is in the future; but life occurs in the present. Don’t be so focused on what you are aiming to accomplish that you miss the joy of living in the now. There is an old anonymous saying, “The work will wait while you show a child the rainbow; but the rainbow won’t wait until you do the work.”

Life is a precious gift. What a shame if you’re too busy to fully unwrap it. Don’t let “Enjoy life” be the last item on your “To do” list. What’s the sense of having it all if you only have time to enjoy a little of it?

Susan Pinker, (www.SusanPinker.com) author of the book, “The village effect,” is a developmental psychologist who is spent 25 years in clinical practice and teaching psychology at Dawson College and McGill University. Her research concluded that our human connections have a huge impact on our well-being and physical health – even to the point of extending our lives. She claims that women live an average of six years longer than men because they tend to prioritize spending time with friends more than men do.

The full benefit is only achieved through person-to-person contact, not through social media, email or texting. Pinker says that face-to-face interaction (even making eye contact, shaking hands or giving high fives) lowers your cortisone levels and releases dopamine, making you less stressed and giving you a little high.

One of the most important things in finding true happiness and meaning in our lives, according to author Emily Esfahani Smith (“The power of meaning”) is a sense of belonging – having people in your life who truly love and care about you.

Staying socially engaged affects your cognitive functioning and keeps your cells from aging too fast. Research indicates that the more social connections you have, the greater your ability to fight infection and keep your cells from aging too quickly.

Relationships are protective against dementia and Alzheimer’s, lengthens your life, and help you cope with traumas such a serious illness or loss of loved one.

Isolation, on the other hand, can have a negative impact on your health, and people who feel lonely are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s. The very things that make us thrive – relationships, nature, exercise, and healthy eating – are at risk if we continue to focus on creating a better life for ourselves and not leaving ample time to enjoy the one we already have.

The best time of your life should be right now.

Posted on

Organization can extend your lifespan.

Will getting organized help increase longevity? It makes sense to say yes; because it puts you under less stress, reduces the frustration of continually having to search for things in your home, and reduces accidents by having everything in its place. One study even found that people who worked in a neat space tended to have healthier snacks during the day than those who lived or worked in a messy work space.

As an octogenarian, I find that my body doesn’t always keep up with my mind and I have to make certain adjustments. Although we may hate to admit it, we become frailer and more susceptible to falls the older we get. The National Center for Injury Control & Prevention reports that over one third of people 65 and over suffer falls and related injuries. Our bones are usually more brittle. So keep both home and office relatively clutter-free. Avoid placing furniture or other obstacles in high-traffic areas. Don’t wear hard-soled shoes and avoid having loose throw rugs on the floor. You might consider balance training as well.

The best advice I can give is to recognize that as you age, your body and mind change, and you have to pay more attention to organizing your environment and yourself as you may have done in the past.

According to Home Safety Council statistics, older adults in the U.S. experience more than 2.3 million home injuries each year. The most dangerous rooms in any home are the bathroom and the kitchen – mainly due to trips and falls. So install grip bars. And remember that bathroom rugs are dangerous.

Pets in the home can also be a hazard as well as a help. Large dogs can push you off balance and small dogs and cats can trip you up. Cats and dogs are blamed for 86,000 annual falling injuries that send humans to the emergency room, according to the Centre for Disease Control & Prevention. Dogs cause seven times more injuries than cats. So be aware of where your pet is at all times.

The major causes of fires in the home include leaving on a curling iron or heating blanket or an electric heater too close to flammable material – or an unattended kitchen burner or stove. I think it would be a good idea to have a checklist to go over each night before retiring – such as pull the plug on electric heater, turn on nightlights, lock door, etc. I’m a great believer in checklists.

Seniors should definitely keep a checklist for all the prescription and over-the-counter medications they take. Include supplements and vitamins. For each medicine, mark the correct name of the drug, the amount you take, the time of day you take it, and whether it should be taken with food. Store two copies of the list: one on the refrigerator door or where your medications are stored, and one in your wallet or purse. Drugs frequently get mixed up because many of them look alike and even the names sound the same.

Some people are notorious for keeping old medications. Periodically organize your medicine cabinet and toss out all the expired and unused stuff. You should store things in the room they are used. For medications, that could be the kitchen. Highlight the expiry date on all your medications. Use pill containers that have separate compartments for morning, afternoon and evening, and fill them with your week’s medications every weekend. I have one that holds enough medication for an entire month and it’s convenient when taking vacations.

Before heading to the runway for takeoff, pilots must complete a procedural checklist to assure the aircraft is ready for flight. Now many hospitals require surgeons to complete a similar checklist before doing even the most minor procedures — including, to the amusement of some, confirming which limb or organ is to be operated upon. While it seems silly, it’s not — it’s a way to be assured that every possible step is being taken to assure patient safety. Research is demonstrating that when hospitals adopt this practice, there is a measurable improvement in outcome. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found a reduction in both deaths and complications when hospitals used a 19-item surgical safety checklist.

It makes sense that if individuals establish a structure with routine procedures for health-related matters, it would not only reduce stress, but also help lower the risk of at-home medication mistakes and other mishaps that can have serious consequences. Many people put themselves at risk because they are haphazard about letting important papers pile up or, equally problematic, throwing out things they should keep for future reference. Keep a copy of all medical records in a clearly marked folder. Make it a habit to request copies of all test results, X-Rays, and treatments.

As Leonardo da Vinci has been quoted as saying, “Time stays long enough for anyone who will use it.”  To that I would add, “and who will manage it with care.”

Note: The above article was taken from the book. “How to grow older without growing old,” by Harold L Taylor, Taylorintime.com, 2018. 147 pages. Available in both paperback (Perfect bound, 8 ½ X 11 format, and electronic format.)

 

Posted on

Health management is more important than time management

In general, we mature and grow wiser as we grow older. Time management experts used tell us (and most still do) that in a lifetime we could get the equivalent of two extra years of work done if we applied their time management strategies. I bought into this concept of getting more done in less time, and built my career on the virtues of efficiency. But now I would ask, “Wouldn’t it be easier to simply live two years longer? Then we could be as inefficient as we are now and still accomplish just as much. And as a bonus, we would have an extra two years to enjoy whatever life has to offer.”

In fact, we could get ten or more additional years depending on our health and the lifestyle habits that we adopt.

Ten years ago, I changed my training programs from effective time management to holistic time management, which include strategies completely different from the usual planning, scheduling, delegating, technology, multitasking and so on. These strategies include such things as sleep, personal relationships, and connection to nature, energy cycles, and exercise. I refer to these and other strategies in a new book I am writing with the working title of How to grow older without growing old. I also cover some of them in greater detail – those that also have an impact on slowing down the pace of life as well in one of my e-books published by Bookboon.com, Internal time management.

 It’s important to get rid of the myth that you’re old when you reach retirement age. There’s a difference between growing older and getting old. Old age is a destination. Growing older is a journey. I’m not old. I’m only 83, getting older all the time, and enjoying every minute of it. I believe my destination is heaven, not old age – and I’m in no hurry to reach my destination.

In the book that I’m writing, I interject some of my own experiences to date. I have included some of the results in these blog articles. But what works or doesn’t work for me are not necessarily things that will work for you. I am hoping, however, that some of the recommendations from me or others or the research findings that I pass along will help you to live a long, happy and purposeful life throughout your senior years.

According to an article in the January, 2018 issue of Prevention Guide, published by Rodale Inc., nearly 80% of us want to reach 100, at least according to Stanford University researchers. If you or I happen to be one of those people, I’m sure we would prefer to be in good shape both physically and mentally – at least with enough wind in our sails to blow out all those candles.

One thing that I want to avoid is dementia. Like many people, I don’t want to outlive my mind. Perhaps this fear is exacerbated by the fact that one of my older brothers died from Alzheimer’s at a younger age than I am right now. Because of this, in the first chapter I briefly discuss ways to avoid dementia or at least lessen its impact on your life. There are medications of course that will slow its progression and make life more livable, and I won’t discuss these. But in the various chapters, I highlight natural ways to maintain a healthy brain and strengthen your cognitive skills, and increase the odds of avoiding dementia altogether.

What’s good for your brain is also good for your body, and some of these strategies are discussed at some length. You may be surprised by some of the benefits of simple things such as nature, relationships and a good night’s sleep.

 There are some shocking statistics that are already painful realities for some of us. The author of The Brain Training Revolution claims that two thirds of Americans older than 50 complain of memory problems and that aging Americans fear memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease more than they fear cancer, heart disease and even death. One in nine Americans age 65 and over have Alzheimer’s disease according to a 2015 special edition of Scientific American, and ultimately Alzheimer’s disease kills about 40% of those aged 85 and over.

The lifespan of a person in Canada is 80 for men and 84 for women. In 2016, for the first time in census history, there were more seniors over 65 than there were children under 14.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association in Canada, over 747,000 Canadians are living with Alzheimer’s or other dementia. Worldwide, at least 44 million people are living with dementia – more than the total population of Canada – making the disease of global health crisis that must be addressed.

Dementia is a general term for decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life, usually involving memory loss and a decline in thinking skills. Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia (about 60 to 80% of all cases), with vascular dementia following a stroke the second most common type.

Dementia is not senility since it is not a normal part of aging, and many memory problems can be treated – sometimes simply by exercising the brain through memory training and mental and physical exercises.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association website, people with dementia may have problems with short-term memory, keeping track of a purse or wallet, paying bills, planning and preparing meals, remembering appointments or travelling out of the neighborhood. Also many dementia are progressive, meaning symptoms start slowly and gradually get worse. So don’t ignore the symptoms. See a doctor to determine the cause.

Although medication can slow down the progression of dementia, including Alzheimer’s, your goal should be to avoid or delay its onset through relatively simple strategies such as exercise. By caring for your body and brain – from the food you consume and the sleep that you get to the way you respond to stress – you can influence the vitality of your brain, and greatly reduce the chances of ever being affected by the disease.

In my next blog article I will provide a list of actions that are recommended in order to guard against dementia and improve longevity.

 

Posted on

How to communicate with the elderly

The author of The Brain Training Revolution claims that two thirds of Americans older than 50 complain of memory problems. According to the Alzheimer’s Association in Canada, where I live, over 747,000 Canadians are living with Alzheimer’s or other dementia. Dementia is a general term for decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life, usually involving memory loss and a decline in thinking skills.

When it comes to octogenarians, there are many of us. The number of Americans ages 65 and older is projected to more than double from 46 million in 2016 to over 98 million by 2060, and the 65-and-older age group’s share of the total population will rise to nearly 24 percent from 15 percent. The age bracket of 85 years and over is the fastest growing segment of the population.

I don’t share the belief of younger people who feel octogenarians are old. In fact I’m already preparing for the nineties. There are several nonagenarians in our local friendship club. I had to look up the term on the Internet. When I asked my son what you call a person in his nineties, he replied, “Dead.” Young people think ninety is old. That’s why I’m currently writing a book on “How to grow older without growing old.”

Since I became an octogenarian several years ago, and have to communicate with others my age and older at our Tuesday morning gatherings, I have picked up a few pointers on communicating with the elderly.

It can be difficult, you know, when you are struggling with a bit of a memory or a hearing problem. I take that back; you’re probably a young buck of sixty or less, looking for some quick time tips so you can cram even more activities into your fast-paced life so it will seem to fly even faster – so you can end up seriously wanting to communicate with other seniors. You might file this article until then; it won’t be long.

People in their seventies, eighties or nineties are not necessarily old; but for many of us, memory, hearing and mental quickness do decline, and communication skills require sharpening.

Be aware that 80% of people over 85 experience hearing loss. Only 16% of those with hearing problems have hearing aids – and only 8% actually use them. But raising your voice doesn’t help. In fact, it makes it worse. When you are explaining something or giving information to seniors, lower your tone of voice, and speak more slowly.

Let me interject here why most of us don’t like to wear our hearing aids – and it’s not because there is nothing worth listening to or that we don’t want to hear our spouse’s requests or we’re too vain to let people think we don’t have perfect hearing. It’s because we can hear the toilet flush three houses down the street – and if it’s in the same house, it sounds like Niagara Falls. A pen dropping sounds like a bomb just exploded, and when the woman three doors down the hall in an apartment calls her husband, you answer. (I found out later we have the same first name.)

When talking to a senior, repeat any important segments using different words if they look confused. Face them directly and maintain eye contact so they can see your facial expressions. It also helps if you use appropriate gestures, and exaggerate your frown or smile depending on whether you are delivering bad or good news. All seniors may not hear everything you say, but they become adept a reading lips, facial expressions and other body language.

If you have control over any background noise, such as a radio or TV blaring or multiple people all speaking at once, so much the better

50% of seniors over 75 have cataracts, and 20% to 30% of people over 75 have impaired vision, so keep that in mind when communicating with the written word. The elderly also need good lighting. As we age, our eyes process only about one third of the light – so lights need to be about three times brighter. And of course we could have trouble reading small print or thin fonts.

Don’t rush seniors. There’s nothing more frustrating than being asked a question and not having enough time to respond. The “7-second rule” in questioning (allowing at least 7 seconds for a response to a question before continuing) might become a “14-second rule” for most of us.

Someone told us that a 25-year old learns a new skill after about 40 repetitions, while the elderly take 400 repetitions. I’m not sure I agree with those figures; but don’t rush through instructions, and make sure you allow us enough time to learn something new or form a habit.

Seniors also have a harder time ignoring interruptions, according to Scientific American Mind, January, 2009 issue. I don’t really believe that…Oops, someone’s calling me – gotta go.

 

.

 

Posted on

Friendly forests and nurturing nature.

South Korea even has a Jangseong healing forest where 2000 plus visitors per month walk through its expanse of cypress trees seeking healing and relaxation – in addition to taking in its sheer beauty. Described by Florence Williams in her book, The nature fix, the two and a half million trees are said to have reduced stress 53% and lowered blood pressure 5% to 7%. She was told the phytoncides are antibacterial and even the soil is good for healing. After only a few minutes of walking, Williams felt more awake than she had been all day.

Korean researchers found that the immune-boosting killer T cells of women with breast cancer increased after a two-week forest visit and stayed elevated for 14 days. People in nature as opposed to the city achieved better fitness and were more likely to continue exercising.

Visits to Korea’s country forest increased from 9.4 million in 2010 to 12.7 million in 2013, while in the U.S., visits to national forests dropped by 25%. In North America at least, we are not taking advantage of the healing power of forests.

There are few trees in cities to absorb particulate matter from pollution, and scientists found that pollution from diesel, as an example, shortens lifespan by causing cardiovascular and pulmonary problems. Black carbon from fires and cook stoves are blamed for 2.1 million premature deaths annually around the world.

It’s not just the lungs that are affected by pollution. The nose allows a direct pathway to the brain, bypassing the blood brain barrier. (This became obvious in 2003 when researchers found brain lesions on stray dogs in smoggy Mexico City.) After spending over 50 years in traffic-congested, smoggy Toronto, it’s no wonder I feel so much better both physically and mentally in the town of Sussex, New Brunswick – surrounded by forests and lacking any pollution-spewing factories or exhaust from  traffic congestion.

To give you an idea of the effectiveness of trees in keeping our air breathable, William’s book reports that a 2014 study estimates trees in the U.S. remove 17.4 million tons of air pollution per year, providing $6.8 billion in human health benefits.

All of this convinces me that my move from the city to the country was well worth the effort.

Richard Louv, in his book, The nature principle, claims that spending time in nature can make aging easier. He refers to it as “nature-assisted aging.” I know I feel younger when I’m walking in a park or along a nature trail. And as someone commented in Louv’s book, “It brings out the excitement and enthusiasm I had as a youngster. I know my body is getting old, but as long as I remain connected to nature, I don’t feel old.”

Louv also mentioned several studies indicating the benefits of gardening. One showed that when elderly residents in retirement apartments had a garden view they experienced greater satisfaction and stronger feelings of well-being. Another study, where one group of institutionalized seniors were provided gardening time, it resulted in emotional and mental improvement as well as pinch and grip strength and improved dexterity. An Australian study found that daily gardening was associated with a 36% reduction in the risk of developing dementia.

The above studies may also show the benefits of exercise as well as the impact of exposure to nature. The more exercise one gets, the more the cells release antioxidants for their protection. It would appear that nature walks, gardening and exercising outdoors are all beneficial for seniors – and anyone for that matter.

Moncton Hospital in New Brunswick, about a half-hour drive from where I live, has a roof garden called a “healing garden” with room for exercise. They have found it reduces the medication needed for sleep disorders and helps mental health.

If that’s true, and few people would doubt it based on the research, the Fundy Trail, only a 45-minute drive from Sussex, should be promoted as a healing trail. 16 km of hiking and biking trails and 19 km of parkway with breathtaking views of the Fundy coast should take anyone’s mind off their ailments. And imagine tides that rise 32 feet! Nature at its best.

New Brunswick, now my province of choice, is not an ideal place for lucrative jobs. It currently has the lowest median net worth of any other province in the country, according to a December, 2017 report from Statistics Canada. But money can’t buy health.

It’s interesting to note that young people leave in droves to seek out high paying jobs in the big cities, only to return in their senior years. New Brunswick and the other Atlantic provinces have the highest percentage of seniors in the country according to Statistics Canada. It’s an ideal place for retirement because of its lower cost of living as well as its quality of life.

I’m not saying you should move to Sussex; but you should definitely draw closer to nature if at all possible. And if not, at least draw nature (in the form of plants, greenery and scenic views) closer to you.

 

Posted on

Friendship clubs can increase longevity.

 I promised periodic updates on country living and how it can increase health and longevity. Here is a description of a local friendship club, simple and informal, that I mention in a new book I am writing with the working title of “How to grow old without growing older.” Following the description, I summarize in point form those benefits relating to health and well-being that could result from participating in all of the activities provided by the club.

Associated with the Sussex and area seniors’ centre, a group called the Fundy Silverados Friendship Club, was started by a handful of senior men who penned the mission statement “To enhance the quality of life for members through fellowship and the helping of others in need.” I joined shortly after arriving in Sussex, NB just over a year ago.

There are about 50 of us at the time of writing, and our ages vary from the late fifties to the late nineties – all of us young enough to attend regularly and participate in the events, which are not physically demanding. We get together every Tuesday morning at 9:30 for fun and friendship.  Most of us arrive early around 9 AM and listen to various members playing the fiddle, banjo, organ, or guitar as well as singing. I’m amazed at the talent of some of our members.

We all wear name tags (with extra-large lettering) at every meeting, and greet one another as we arrive.

Our meetings usually last 90 minutes, with the first 30 minutes spent meeting and greeting, renewing friendships and taking part in or listening to music. We start the “formal” part of the meeting by singing “Oh Canada” and have a guest speaker at most meetings – one who talks and answers questions on a topic of interest to seniors.

We have a “Fines Master” who dreams up ridiculous 25-cent fines for members – such as anyone not wearing a red tie (I have never seen a tie worn there yet) or anyone who isn’t wearing his “Silverados” cap. (Few would risk doing so in public.)

Some members contribute items that are auctioned to the highest bidder – usually at ridiculously low or ridiculously high prices. The items are frequently healthy, fresh vegetables, honey or maple syrup from the farms; but could be anything from 30-year old National Geographic magazines to someone’s hand-made bird house.

The members agree on which of the local charities should receive any extra funds we may generate through these “fun” auctions, trumped up fines, membership fees, and miscellaneous activities.

There is also a tradition of telling jokes or reading humorous poems – a popular part of the program.

We have about a dozen committees on the go so that everyone has an opportunity to actively participate, including volunteer drivers, visitation to those who are ill, telephone committee, membership, program, and so on. We have a roll call at each meeting so we can keep track of our members and identify who may be ill – or simply “on vacation.”

We also have dinners and other activities with our spouses/companions throughout the year, and once a month our meeting venue is a local restaurant, where we have breakfast that morning.

We adjourn all our meetings with the singing of “God Save Our Queen.”

 Health benefits of groups such as this:

  • Provides members with the social interaction and opportunity to build the friendships so vital to increased health and longevity. Data collected from Brigham Young University showed that people with active social lives were 50% less likely to die from any cause than their non-social counterparts.
  • Provides an opportunity for involvement at the committee level and active volunteering, which has been shown to increase longevity. Scientists have tracked 2025 people aged 55 and older for 5 years and found that those who volunteered for even one organisation, were 26% less likely to die during the study than those who didn’t volunteer.
  • Adds purpose and significance to a senior’s life, which in some cases might be lacking. According to research on aging, those with purpose and goals in life reported higher levels of satisfaction and well-being.
  • Provides mental stimulation and moderate exercise and an opportunity to get out of the house and become both physically and mentally more active. Keeping the brain active, even if it’s just listening to a speaker, writing or memorizing someone’s name, helps grow new brain cells.
  • Introduces caring into the lives of those with limited mobility by regular visitation, telephone conversation, and “get well” or “thinking of you” cards. People thrive on attention. Hugging, for instance, based on research, is believed to fight infection, boost your immune system, ease depression, and lessen fatigue and lower blood pressure and heart rate.
  • Through the “joke period” and personal interaction, and levity of most of the activities, fun and laughter are introduced into the seniors’ lives, which in themselves have been known to aid in healing and even cure diseases. Laughter has been known to reduce blood pressure and heart rate and increase respiration. When you laugh, the body releases endorphins, and depression declines.
  • Provides lifelong learning through guest speakers and one-on-one conversations, one of the major ways of keeping cognitively fit and avoiding or delaying dementia. Research indicates that lifelong learning could delay the onset of cognitive impairment by 3 to 8 years.
  • Both playing a musical instrument and listening to music can enhance learning and higher brain function and even improve memory performance. It increases creativity and learning skills. Background music has also been known to reduce stress, lower blood pressure, and improve concentration.

One of the greatest benefits of a friendship club, regardless of whether it consists of five people at a coffee shop or 55 people in a Golden Jubilee Senior’s Centre, which is the case with our Silverados group, is that it gets you out of the house and counteracts loneliness. The lonely are twice as likely to have ulcers. And go back to an empty house after your first heart attack and you double the risk of a second heart attack within a few months – proof that you should seek companionship at all times.

You will also find that seniors with common interests tend to get together at other times during the week – in groups of two to ten or more – at Tim Horton’s or McDonald’s, either for early morning coffee or breakfast. And according to the many scientists, the more friendships you develop, the longer you live.

Friendship clubs are excellent places to meet people who have formed these smaller groups that meet more frequently.

Posted on

Growing old is optional.

It’s important to get rid of the myth that you’re old when you reach retirement age. There’s a difference between growing older and getting old. Old age is a destination. Growing older is a journey. I’m not old. I’m only 83, getting older all the time, and enjoying every minute of it. I believe my destination is heaven, not old age, and I’m in no hurry to reach my destination.

It is not essential that you retire at all. The main reason people retire in the first place is probably that they are tired of doing what they’re doing or they have no choice. There could be other reasons depending on their circumstances, such as wanting to become a full-time caregiver to their spouse or whatever. But it’s not always because they need the money. The December 8, 2017 issue of Telegraph-Journal contained an article on retirement that included survey results on why many retirees are continuing to work part-time. 82 percent expressed a desire to remain mentally active, 65% cited the need to for social interaction, and only 32 percent reported financial necessity. But regardless, when people retire they should retire to something – other than a rocking chair, that is.

If you have your own business or are working in a profession or job that you really love, you may choose to continue doing so as long as you are physically and mentally able to do so. Of course there are normally other things you want to make time for as well, which leads to part-time employment. That’s the situation I find myself in now – still in my own little business, but limiting myself almost entirely to the parts of it that I enjoy the most – writing and speaking. Oh, and the odd game of golf. (At least the people I play with think it’s an odd way that I play golf.)

The more variety in your life, the better it is for your brain. Combine physical and mental activity with a sensible lifestyle that includes adequate sleep, proper diet, social relationships and a positive attitude and you have a recipe for a long, healthy and fruitful life. There are other things that will improve the odds – such as a sense of humour, volunteering, connection with nature, an organized and supportive environment, lifelong learning, and so on.

One thing that I want to avoid is dementia. Like many people, I don’t want to outlive my mind. Perhaps this fear is exacerbated by the fact that one of my older brothers died from Alzheimer’s at a younger age than I am right now. Because of this, I am currently writing a book on how to grow older without growing old that includes a lot of information on avoiding this particular disease.

So if I miss posting a weekly blog article now and then, please forgive me. I want to finish the book early in the New Year – and still enjoy the Christmas season. Speaking of Christmas, I wish you a merry one whether you celebrate it or not – and happy, healthy year ahead.

And remember, growing older is inevitable; but growing old is optional.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted on

The year I got organized: a personal story of triumph over clutter.

I have a little magnetic sign on my refrigerator that claims, “Organized people are just too lazy to look for things.” There is more than a little truth to that. I am definitely too lazy to look for things, and that’s what spurred me on to become as organized as possible. I find that looking for things is frustrating, stressful, a time waster – and definitely not good for inpatient people like me who have high blood pressure.

I also have learned that the fewer things I have, the easier it is to organize them – and of the less time I waste retrieving them. It’s fun to practice common sense. Do I really need nine pairs of shoes, four winter jackets, seven hats, four scarves, and so on filling the hall closet?

I know everyone’s situation must be different, but unless you’re a centipede, how could you possibly need more than four pairs of shoes? I cut the number in half for the hats and scarves since I only have one neck and one head. I allowed myself two winter jackets because the closet started looking bare

I can’t tell you how many pairs of shirts and slacks were crammed into the two bedroom closets – mainly because I kept losing count somewhere in the 30s. And I didn’t even attempt to count the underwear and socks. My mother would have been proud of me. I could wear a clean set every hour for a month in case I had to be rushed to the hospital – and still not need to do laundry.

It wasn’t easy to get rid of a lot of the stuff. Over half of the 30 odd pairs of slacks would no longer fit; but I still planned to lose weight even though I hadn’t lost any weight in the last 48 years. Quite the opposite. Sometimes you have to give your brain piece of your mind because it can be stubborn. I finally convinced it that if I ever lost weight I deserved the reward of a new wardrobe. Subconsciously I knew I would never have to deliver on that promise.  Once you’re on a roll, it becomes motivational. I even got rid of the tuxedo I borrowed from someone for the school prom back in 1953. I never could track him down and he probably went to an early grave wondering who had borrowed his tux.

I was further motivated when I became a regular hero in a small Mexican village that I visited several times a year. On each trip I would bring down a suitcase full of old clothes. The local “thrift shop” also benefitted and I started feeling really good about myself.

By the time I got to the kitchen, nothing could stop me. 62 glasses, 24 pots and pans – including in an egg poacher that never saw an egg in its life, a cast iron frying pan that I couldn’t lift let alone use, and hundreds of plastic bags stuffed into plastic bags – all went to a worthy cause. The 40-odd cottage cheese containers that I had carefully washed and were now still nestled inside one another on a top shelf out of reach went to the recycle bin.

Perhaps I went too far when I got rid of the one spare set of bedsheets and pillowcases; but I found I never used them. I wash the one set and return it to its rightful place on my bed. Sure, it will wear out sooner; but at least I won’t. I can always replace them with a new set when they wear thin.

I find that getting rid of stuff becomes a lifestyle. It’s a never ending; because people keep buying me things. So for every item I receive, I get rid of something less attractive – with the knowledge that it brings a joy to someone else.

I won’t bore you with further details of my assault on superfluous stuff. I’m sure you get the idea. I found it to be a necessary first step in getting organized. I’ll talk a little about my organizing experiences in my next blog article.

 

Posted on

We need good old-fashioned rest and renewal

Rest & renewal

Time to sharpen ourselves

Time management experts for the last 100 years or so have been using the analogy of a woodsman chopping down trees who worked harder and harder to get more work done in a day. In competition with another woodsman who consistently outperformed him, even though the stranger didn’t seem to work as hard or as fast, he finally asked how he did it.

The other woodsman replied, “I pause to sharpen my axe.”

In more recent times, Stephen Covey used a similar analogy when he recommended a time management strategy of “sharpening the saw.”

Normally that has been referred to as pausing for routine maintenance – oiling your equipment, keeping your machines in good working order as well as pausing for rest and renewal, and taking your regular breaks and periodic vacations.

It is this latter reference that is becoming more and more critical in this digital age of speed. We have unlimited things to do, a plethora of choices, and unending supply of information – to the point that not only do we not get sufficient rest, we endanger our health and well-being by getting less sleep, inadequate exercise, improper diet and fewer personal  relationships.

For example, the average person today gets 90 minutes less sleep than a person 100 years ago. A sedentary lifestyle and obesity are becoming the norm. People are frequently skipping breakfast eating on the run. And according to one survey, the most frequently quoted number of really close friends with whom people felt they could discuss important personal matters dropped from three in 1985 to zero in 2004.

We must sharpen the saw. The saw refers to you and to me. We must increase our sleep time, exercise our body and our brain, make regular breaks a daily habit, build more personal relationships, and take all of our vacation time.

This all consumes time. But the net result will not diminish our productivity. To the contrary, it will increase our personal productivity by increasing the energy at our disposal, making us more mentally alert and creative, providing us with more stamina, and improving our health and well-being – even to the point of prolonging our lives.