It’s fashionable these days to talk about giving away stuff, thanks in part to the wisdom of Japanese tidying fanatic, Marie Kondo.
But giving away that old red sweater from Aunt Martha is EASY compared with trying to give away the stuff on your to-do list and calendar that threaten to plug up your life.
Any secrets, Marie, for giving away that two-hour interaction on the phone with CenturyLink, or the upcoming taxes marathon?
I can assure you that the stuff waiting on my to-do list endangers my calm lots more than the benign overdose of T-shirts resting patiently in my dresser.
But before we tackle that plague of almost everybody’s existence – Way Too Much Going On – I invite you to take my scientifically validated (I once read a book about science) Stuff Personality Assessment or SPA (like the spa where you could hang out if you could only get through more stuff).
SPA was developed based on in-depth observations of my beleaguered female friends (BFF). So sorry guys, you’ll have to do your own translating. Substitute “garage” for “closet” and “car meet” for “garden club” or choose your favorite stereotype – and modify the test to meet your needs.
Caveat: personality style assessments always lead to four styles. (It has been statistically proved that there are only four styles in the world – they just keep circulating.) In defiance of that truth, SPA has six. I probably need Marie Kondo to throw out two, but here goes.
Directions: Take this quiz, then count the number of letters in your chosen response, divide by 365, add 1 for leap year and multiple by 7. Or, pick the number that corresponds to your preferred response. Or throw a dart. I’m easy.
The SPA test – pick your number:
How do you deal with preparing your taxes? You:
- Get started on them before the end of the year, so you’ll have them ready for the accountant January 27th when you receive your Form 1099’s.
- Feel blessed that you made so little money that you can complete them in two hours.
- Put off doing them for a few years, until the IRS rings your doorbell.
- Get the new version of Turbo Tax, read the Dummies Guide to Turbo Tax, use QuickBooks to document in depth what you were possibly looking for the day you went to Office Max, then give the whole s-t pile to your accountant.
- Schedule time to work on them every month and then complete as needed.
- Swear that you’ll do them by March 15th, and crunch them in September.
A friend calls to invite you to serve on the Board of a local nonprofit. You:
- Tell them you’re delighted to serve and can bring along the materials you developed for your last Board.
- Tell them “No, but thank you.”
- Don’t pick up the phone. Or sign up, if you like, and figure those taxes (see above) can wait another two years.
- Tell her you’d love to serve if it can be on Tuesday nights because that’s your only night free between soccer on Monday nights, your women’s group on Wednesday, the volunteer work you do on Thursdays and…
- Tell them you’ll consider it after your terms are up on two other boards.
- Tell them your Aunt Mildred is dying because the real reason, “I’m too busy working on my blog” doesn’t sound substantial enough.
You’re supposed to bring snacks to the next Garden Club meeting. You:
- Immediately get started on preparing that pear-hazelnut torte with fresh Asian pears and nuts you will harvest from the garden and roast.
- Pull out the can of Macadamia nuts you brought back from Hawaii.
- Avoid the meeting.
- Bake gingerbread cookies then realize it’s Halloween. Then make a trip to the store to get candy corn and frosting and decorate each of the cookies like a pumpkin.
- Bake the tried and true chocolate chip cookies everyone loves, with the ingredients you have on hand and can throw together in 15 minutes.
- Guiltily admit to yourself that you’d rather write than bake, and buy a big bag of red grapes en route to the meeting.
You’re trying to get health plan information, and customer service has had you on hold for 40 minutes, you:
- Make lists while you’re on hold; take notes on the conversation thus far; re-read the insurance brochure (and then hire someone to manage the process for you).
- Decide you don’t need insurance and go on a vegan diet.
- Put more envelopes on the growing pile on your dining room table marked “health care information.”
- Go the kitchen and bake a pie while trying to listen for customer service to come back on the phone.
- Take some deep breaths and acknowledge the goodness in the people trying to help you.
- Start writing letters to the CEO while the smoke of St. George’s dragon comes pouring out of your nostrils. (Lament that you have no energy left for writing.)
Your garden is overgrown and needs your attention, you:
- Agree to host a tour group of noted horticulturalists, flying in from England to see your garden. Buy the 10 new hybrid hydrangeas from Taiwan you’ve been craving so that they will be blooming the moment the group arrives.
- Spend an hour clearing the weeds from the pots of flowers and vegetables you have on your deck.
- Squint so you don’t see the weeds.
- Go to the store and buy five flats of petunias to stuff throughout the garden.
- Devote yourself to your vegetables and the few pared-down beds that contain your mother’s prize roses and some favorite plants.
- Lower your standards. Work for an hour. Adopt a “Sauve qui peut” (each plant for himself) attitude about the upcoming drought.
How do you deal with too much in your closets? You:
- Pride yourself in having only the best; shop well and keep giving stuff to charity.
- Remember how you travelled to Bali with so little. Meditate on detachment.
- What stuff?
- Rent a new storage locker.
- Thoughtfully tackle a room at a time, let go of what you don’t need, but give yourself permission to have excesses and heirlooms if they still mean a lot to you.
- Start putting your unneeded clothes into bags, but sneak back stuff you might need for your next clowning class.
Find your number to read the results
The Organizer – aka the West Coast Martha. You’re amazing. Organizations love you, you get things done. You are regularly invited to dinner parties because your foodie-contributions are legendary. You like singing the song “Whatever I can do, I can do better,” as you cook. Your keen aesthetic sense means that nothing leaves your house looking less than great, including you. (Secretly, you buy a lot of services.)
The Minimalist. You want to have time to meditate or travel, and you’d prefer not to work much, so you’ve reduced life down to three suitcases, a computer, 5 small Buddhist relics, those pots on the porch and a couple of pieces of furniture you bought after giving away everything before your last trip. You read only library books. You look gaunt and your friends consider your Paleo diet a bit extreme. (They don’t know that you sneak Ben and Jerry’s ice cream and have a secret stash of Oprah magazines.)
The Denial-ist. On the surface and at work you look very professional. But you harbor a terrible secret: at home it’s chaos and those taxes haven’t been filed in five years. Maybe it’s because your husband is a packrat who never gets around to doing stuff himself. Or maybe it’s because you’d rather take that trip, or go off with your friends and hope that the rest will handle itself….somehow.
The Klepto. You know that more is not necessarily better, but that doesn’t stop you from going to that sale, signing up for another group, volunteering for an assignment, planning your next trip or…
The Reasonable One. You don’t strive to be Martha Stewart – and you seem happy to be you. You cut back on activities when you need to and don’t try to take on too much. You gave up having every last gadget a while ago, and you shaved expenses so that you and your husband don’t have to work so hard. You have a secret stash of grace and breathing exercises you use in dealing with challenges on the phone. (Do I sound just a little envious?)
The Guilty Creative. You wish you could be enlightened, but you’re not so you’re frequently stressed. New learning, new experiences, and new projects call to you, and meditation (alas) often drops off your to-do list. Private passions and creative projects mean more to you than cooking and baking, but you still feel guilty when you don’t bring the requisite brownies to meetings or have to recuse yourself from volunteer work. You cope with too many things at the last minute and are often scattered, but somehow your podcast series keeps advancing and you manage to always get that blog out…
How did you do?
I forgot to tell you that this instrument is still in Beta (the fashionable way to say it may not work) so what I really want to know is: What’s YOUR way of tackling Way-Too-Much-Going-On if it’s a challenge for you?