On this page:
  • Caring for things without caring about things
  • Thinking about routines after an extended trip
  • Sewing: Wool jumper, blazer

Caring for things without caring about things

sweaterShopping for and buying things is stressful for me. There are so many decisions to make, and so few things that fit my life well. When I look for shoes or clothes, it’s difficult to find simple, practical styles. When I look for gadgets or games, I wonder if I’ll really use them. I think about not only the hours of my life that the dollars represent, but also the need for storage, use, maintenance, and disposal. I try to postpone purchases until I understand what I need, and even then, I buy grudgingly. (Do I really need it? I’ve survived thus far, haven’t I? How do other people manage? What kinds of benefits do I expect? What are the costs? What can I learn from previous decisions? Can I wait a month or two for a good sale?)

I’d like to become the kind of person who cares for things without caring about things—to keep my things in order, but to not get so attached to them that I lose my equanimity. Time to grow up. Time to learn how to maintain what I have, and how to choose new purchases well. Time to embrace repair and modification. Time to embrace the hours of research as an opportunity to geek out about something, like the way that W- knows a lot about kitchen knives and shoes. Time to spend for quality (but not over-engineering, or more quality than I can use).

I want to know I can take care of nice things before I buy a lot of nice things. This can be a little difficult, because cheap things are often cheap because they’re not designed to be durable. I can practise some habits even before I upgrade stuff to see whether the habits are sustainable and useful.

For example, several of my sweaters have small holes in them. Moths? Cats? Rips? Laundry? Not sure. I’ve already frozen my sweaters to help kill insects; the recent ice-storm-caused power outage probably took care of the rest. Step 1: Stop tossing my sweaters into the washing machine, even on the delicates/hand-wash cycle, because of detergent and agitation. Instead, air, then hand-wash. Step 2: Hang up all my sweaters to air. Step 3: Prepare my own lavender sachets next year, when the lavender in the front yard flowers again, and clean all the drawers. Sand the cedar blocks, too. Step 4: Figure out my long-term sweater solution. (Still have to decide on the colour anyway, since black doesn’t work well with cats… Maybe browns and argyles? Maybe non-wool, even though wool is warmer?)

I’m gradually going to rotate out the things that I hadn’t taken care of so well, depending on whether I feel like upgrading them. But I’m also going to limit the things I care about upgrading. I don’t particularly feel the need to be part of the cashmere-and-pearls set. In terms of office wear, I can switch to blazers for now. Even moth-eaten sweaters are still warm around the house. Who knows, maybe someday I’ll learn how to felt.

Part of it is accepting that my life is a messy and imperfect one: ink stains on my cuff, scratches on my shoes, sweater pills on my shoulder due to cats digging in their claws. (“No, don’t go back to writing yet! Cuddle me more!”)

I can learn to optimize for durability, though. I can learn to spot things that are worth the cost. I can learn to get better at squeezing out more from the things I have, so that they wear out properly. A stitch in time, and all that. I’ll figure this out eventually!

Thinking about routines after an extended trip

An extended vacation is a great opportunity to examine the routines that you take for granted. You stop doing some things and postpone others. It’s surprising how flexible day to day life is, how much you can put on hold.

We were away for a month. For a month, I didn’t schedule appointments or conversations. For a month, I postponed e-mails and decisions. For a month, I had no library books on the go, no projects to work on, no focused topics for learning and exploration.

Now we’re back home and slowly returning to our normal life. I started cooking in bulk again, freezing 14 chicken curry lunches to save us time in the weeks ahead. The cats are back from the boarding place, so there’s that 15-30 minute daily commitment to pet care. I have quiet time for myself again, truly discretionary time. What routines and activities do I want to restore? What do I want to put back slowly, carefully, intentionally? What do I want to lessen or reconsider?

2014-01-01 Routines I put away for the trip and which ones I want to put back

Click on the image to view a larger version.

I drew during the vacation as an aid to thinking, but not as much as I did at home. I’m back to my normal rhythms of drawing and writing, although it will take me a little time to ramp up to the same kind of buffer I enjoyed. I like this and will do more of it.

Being picky and guiltless about e-mail seems to work out fine. I answered almost all my mail, although some replies took weeks. The world didn’t end.

Work feels less urgent, too. Good transition. No emergencies. I’ll work on this for another couple of months, and then we’ll plan again from there.

Less time reading, perhaps. I reviewed the list of new business books from the library and didn’t feel called by any of the titles. There’s so much I want to learn, but maybe I’ll try more targeted searches – reading specific books or websites, perhaps, instead of just picking through what’s new.

Sometimes I look at how little time I’ve spent directly writing code and wonder if I’m slipping into that vicious cycle of rustiness and impostor’s syndrome. I remind myself that I’ve felt that way about Emacs and Rails and WordPress before, and still there are ideas and projects that lead me back. I don’t have to waste energy on second-guessing myself. I’ll come back to this in time. For now, I’m focusing on learning how to share what I’m learning. When I return to focusing on coding, I can use these skills to share even more. The important thing is for me to keep that confidence that I can learn what I want to learn – as long as I have that, I can pick things up again.

I miss biking. I want to set up a winter exercise routine to get me through those cold and dangerous months. Maybe something I can do at home, so I have no excuse. We have weights, I have an exercise partner, I should be able to make this work.

A vacation is an excellent excuse to disrupt routines, since people automatically understand. I wonder how I can do this even during a staycation. Perhaps a vague “I’m taking a break and will get back to you in a month?” It’s useful to interrupt your life so that you can see what you take for granted and be deliberate about what you put back.

Are you returning from an extended break? What have you learned about your everyday life?

Sewing: Wool jumper, blazer

(blazer not pictured). This is the jumper I made following Simplicity 4097. I also made a blazer from the pattern. It was my first time working with wool, lining, interfacing, facing sections, and sleeves. My conclusions? Wool was pretty easy to work with, lining made everything look terrific (even if my seams didn’t quite match up), and sleeves were difficult. Mine still pucker a little. But it’s not bad at all, and I’ve worn it outside the house already. Whee!