Boss Up with Bevin Your dream life is at the end of your comfort zone

2015-12-03

I Tackled the Bin: Loving Myself Through Paper Adulting

The moving trucks come to take us to California two weeks from tomorrow. We ended up going with Flat Rate Moving on the recommendation of a friend, and I will be sure to blog about our experience because getting moving quotes took me 10 hours (literally). Personal experience, warnings and recommendations were crucial to my selection.

I feel like the process of decluttering and packing up my life is probably some of the biggest energy work I have ever done. Moving across the country when I was 21 was a life altering event in the best way, even though it took me a couple of years to realize it. At that time I was in college heading to law school and I still can’t believe I amassed so much stuff in four years at UC Davis. I managed to get rid of a ton of it, and the stuff I couldn’t fit in my tiny Saturn SC I gave to my mom to either ship to me or store in her garage. I don’t really have that luxury this time around and I’m having to make a million tiny decisions about whether or not I will need something “someday” and whether or not that matters.

This is a constant battle of trusting the abundance of the universe and cultivating a unique collection of vintage housewares. I’ve also struggled with my burning desire to be “efficient” which is a close cousin to perfectionism. I consider perfectionism in my life a form of self-abuse from which I am recovering.

archivesfliersSometimes you find things while packing that are actually delightful, like a flyer from my Rebel Cupcake days (It says simply “BODY POSITIVE DANCE PARTY” on the other side) and the article where Rebel Cupcake was a critic’s pick in Time Out New York and they used a photo of me hovering over the Gay and Lesbian events section. I am really proud of that moment in my media coverage. It’s one of those things I wish I could just go sit with sixteen year old me and say, “Bevin you feel like a total weirdo outsider now but in less than 20 years you’re going to be a total weirdo event producer and Time Out New York will call you a plus size party girl and it’s all going to be awesome because you’re going to bring the weirdo outsiders together and have more fun than the people you feel isolated by in this terrible suburb.”

Have you heard of the term “adulting?” People are using it all the time now to talk about the kinds of things that we have to do as adults. There’s lots that is unsavory about being an adult, like budgeting, paying bills, making doctor’s appointments, making hard decisions, going to bed early. Adulting lands in the gray area between taking life too seriously and self-care. Some of this has to get done in order to enjoy life, but you have to play in order to enjoy life, too.

I used to think that going to the dentist was my least favorite adulting task. I can’t believe I have to go and pay money for the privilege. I mildly resent it even though I really like my dentist, I just hate that it has to happen.

Now I realize that filing is absolutely my least favorite task. Filing and it’s supremely aggravating cousin, dealing with the mail. Professionally, at my primary money making task as a lawyer in my own firm, I deal with paper all the time. I’m actually supremely organized and have lots of systems for that. I just can’t seem to muster the desire or ability to tackle my personal paper organization at the level I’d like to. Because of my perfectionism I knew it would take hours and hours or likely days to resolve everything. I also struggle with fears around money and dealing with anything related to money and that definitely affected my dealing with paper. (I’m also baby stepping my way recovering my relationship with money and defeating my blocks to money.)

Because it was SO MUCH to deal with the papers and I couldn’t resolve all of it I would do none of it, or the very minimal I could get by with dealing with. It’s mostly putting it off until I can’t deal anymore and then I do a spurt of cursory sorting. Getting rid of junk mail, obvious trash, setting aside shredding. The rest goes into a sack (usually a small shopping bag, Ricky’s are great for this) “to be filed.”

My perfectionism/procrastination cycle kept me from resolving things for years, so those sacks of filing being put off became what I started to call “The Bin.” Eventually I got all the sacks into The Bin, overflowing as it was, and I knew where all important papers were, generally, and when I needed something, I could go through The Bin until I found it. It was functional but not pretty.

Over the years I’ve honed a method of how to handle the papers and harm reduce as I resolve my issues with paper adulting. I finally found a filing system that works for me. I use small plastic boxes like these and have letter size folders–I just went ahead and splurged on a box of 100 because I’d eventually use them for lots of things, even though I didn’t need 100 for my personal files.

I have developed some great habits, like stopping at the trash room on the way into my apartment with the mail to immediately recycle all junk mail. I’ve gone paperless wherever possible. I also have started paper adulting more often, so I am at least staying up to date on things. Because my new file management is easier to get ahold of, I can file easier because it’s accessible. (A tiny tote is easy to pull out.)

meaningfultrashI found this piece of meaningful trash in The Bin that was probably sitting on my printer when I had to move really quickly the last time I moved. (I didn’t get the benefit of months of decluttering that time.) It’s a concert ticket to see Lovers, that I ended up not using because I decided to take a cross country road trip instead. That trip was four years ago! I’m really excited to have another trip on the horizon.

I’ve also tried and failed at starting new better habits, like Only Handle It Once (OHIO) with papers. I don’t know that I’ll ever have a lifestyle where I can just come in with the mail and immediately file things away. I have tried to have a clipboard on the wall with papers that need to be dealt with shortly, a cute accordion file with the same function that is by my bedroom door… The truth is, our systems are only as good as we are at keeping up with them so of course it hasn’t been perfect.

The only thing I’ve found that actually works with paper management adulting is loving myself through it and harm reduction. I know I can do SOME things through spending SOME time. So I’ll set aside a night every now and again to tackle the piles. And it hasn’t gotten as bad as it used to get in the past couple of years through this loving and accepting approach. I haven’t had a sack of leftover filing papers since 2013, actually.

But, The Bin, remained. I could keep up with the papers but hadn’t spent enough time to resolve the old back-log.

Since I knew I was moving cross country, I knew I wasn’t going to be moving with The Bin. I have been working on it for months, a couple of hours at a time. I’ve hand hangouts with a few different friends that involve watching me with mountains of papers going through, shredding, recycling, marveling at things I found from 2001-2013. Just last night I got near the bottom of the bin and asked Dara to flip through a Time Out New York I found. “Can you see if I’m in this? That’s probably why I kept it.”

6991907434_eab70e1c60_bHere’s the other photo I want to show sixteen year old Bevin, taken in the Rebel Cupcake photo booth when the cast of the first run of Bayside! The Saved by the Bell musical performed. From my blog post in 2012 where I wrote to teenage Bevin: “When I was a fat depressed, often suicidal, teenage closeted queer I never thought I would be a New York plus size party girl making out with Zach Morris and gay AC Slater but maybe this was always my destiny. I wish I could tell early 90s awkward Bevin that it gets better. And also that her crushes on boys that looked like Zach Morris and AC Slater were just gaydar.” Bayside! The Musical returns to NYC in January, by the way, if you haven’t seen it, it rules.

I finished sorting The Bin last night. I can’t believe how much shredding I’ve done and how long it took. I think it has to have been at least 20 hours of sorting, shredding, filing and recycling.

I still have my current pile of mail to get through and I wanted to go through my file totes to make sure I’m not bringing too much of any one type of paperwork. And I’m definitely not happy with my personal archive management and know I can do better–basically it’s many files and a box of magazines I’ve been in, badges from significant performances, photos before I went digital and stuff like that.

In spite of that, I feel really proud to have loved myself through one of the most dreaded parts of adulting, and this move. Next up, physically boxing up my bedroom, celebrating my birthday party on Saturday, and figuring out what clothing to pack and what clothing to keep in the car for our road trip.

2015-10-02

How I’m Leaning into Decluttering

A couple of years ago I had my first full reading with my astrologer, Katie Sweetman of Empowering Astrology. She told me that I should be decluttering. It was a big spiritual thing I needed/wanted to do but because of elements of my chart I don’t remember, it was also something that was hard for me. Both a struggle and something that I needed to happen for my spiritual growth.

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In the Earthly realm I can tell you straight up why decluttering is hard for me–I moved 13 times by the time I was 13 years old. I had a working class single mom, so between financial uncertainty, divorce stuff, and moving towards the best public school district she could, we were on the run a lot. As a kid, coming home from summer camp to a new place is jarring. I have a thing with wanting to feel settled in a space and I think having stuff is part of that. It’s also from a place of having been really poor/broke in my life and wanting to make sure I can be safe and have the things I need. I’m a pantry always full just in case kind of person. State of emergency and stores are closed? My house is where you want to be.

In the past couple of years I’ve been leaning towards late in life minimalism. Well, my version of it, which, compared to how I used to be, will appear way more simplified. (I love glitter, accessories and flamboyance too much to truly ever do minimalism.)

As someone who has come to faith in my thirties, part of paring down is actually trusting the universe. If I get rid of these crayons, can I trust the universe enough that when I need crayons again I will have the means to buy them or borrow them? If I get rid of these clothes can I trust the universe that I will be able to get clothes that fit me when I need them? It’s hard to do that when you’ve had the experience of a weight change and not been able to afford work clothes that fit. (This is why a lot of work wardrobe pieces for me accommodate size changes.)

notesDecluttering old files meant I found a weird stash of personal archives from earlier this decade. I found a postcard from a friend, a note from an old lover, the card I got from the first time I met World Famous *BOB* in person before we became friends, a coupon for Bed Bath and Beyond I still intend to redeem.

The universe works in mysterious ways and somehow, just after I lost my day job in 2008 and set out as an artist/freelancer, I met someone who now invites me over every time she does a closet purge and it’s almost as good as having a personal shopper–her taste is impeccable, we’re about the same size and she loves shopping but is a picky outfit wearer and rarely returns things. Her generosity has kept me in cute clothes through a LOT of financial tough times. Her Tumblr is also amazing, lots of rad fat stuff, sex positivity and feminism.

Katie’s astrology reading was right, I can feel the internal need to simplify and to open up energy. In some ways I’m very excited about moving across the country because it forces the question “Do I love this? Can this be replaced?” for literally everything I own. I appreciate the nudge to do this thing I’ve been doing slowly for the past couple of years.

mailingstackI’m getting really intimate with the post office down the street. My next task is to figure out when the line is the shortest.

When Dara lived with me for a couple of months during chemo she hired my friend Miss Mary Wanna to come be my personal organizer and organize my bedroom. She was really helpful, both knowing my aesthetic and needs as a showgirl (no one can help a performer declutter like another performer), but also being a firm nudge to get rid of the things I really needed to get rid of. It was right after I had lost a bunch of weight and it was helpful going through my clothing. I have a small rubbermaid tub of vintage that fits at a different size because those are items I love and will come back to, and I let go anything that wasn’t something I loved.

(Miss Mary Wanna is a great personal organizer and if you need someone to help you do a project like that, you should get in touch with her.)

meandjoeyI actually really hate the process of sorting through things and decluttering, but I really love putting love out there. It was sooo fun to make a care package of craft supplies, toys and costume pieces my nieces Joey and Etta will love. It definitely helped me forget how much I hate going through stuff.

That experience was great training and I employed the idea that I wanted to really be able to see and use my home better and in order to do that I needed to continue to pare down what I had. I am a longtime follower of Fly Lady (FLY stands for Finally Loving Yourself) and her free systems of organization and philosophies that help folks who are not born organized get some control over their spaces. She’s the person I heard “Do you love it?” from long before everyone was talking about the Tidying Up book.

ettaI love what a weirdo Etta has become, and how princess oriented she is. I made sure that in my costume pieces for her that I put in some balance–a bridal veil I had kicking around as well as a pink suede tool belt. And plenty of really weird toys and crafts. And a lot of glitter.

I began the plans for my impending move in earnest a couple of weeks ago, getting moving quotes (why it takes as long as shopping for insurance to get a simple moving quote is beyond me), and realized that Mercury is in Retrograde and I should just plan to finalize the HOW of moving once October 9th rolls around. I thought it might be helpful to know how much space we have to move before I started packing, but it’s this weird dance of how much I can get rid of versus how much I want to take.

Since Mars is in Virgo I’m using that glitterdone energy towards the organization of the move and it feels great to be taking huge steps forward.

I’m actually learning a lot about myself in this process of decluttering. It’s helping me really think about how I use my time and how it relates to my values. Going through my stationary reminded me how important the written word is in general–I think handwriting is an amazing tool for harnessing energy. Sending random love notes to my loved ones used to be something I spent a good amount of time doing. Doing the decluttering showed me that I want to get back to that.

But I don’t need all of my Girl Scout camp counselor stationary to do that, I can get by getting rid of 70% of my stash and just stick to my card file box. (It’s a great organizational tool for being thoughtful, having cards sorted by occasion and ready to go ahead of time, so all you have to do is remember to go into the card file and pull one out to mail.)

victoriachristmascardIt’s never a bad time to tell a friend that you love them, even if it’s through your 2014 holiday card you didn’t even get printed until February 2015.

I had a friend, Tammy Cannons, tell me she was interested in getting all of my leftover stationary and office supplies and would pay me the shipping. So I had a great time curating an amazing box of old stationary (I said, “I hope you like Winnie the Pooh and Babysitter’s Club”) and threw in a ton of accessories, too. Decluttering + care package is such an amazing feeling.

I’m putting a lot of time and energy into ensuring my stuff goes to great homes. In the past, when I’ve dropped stuff off at Goodwill and Salvation Army I have been told by them that my things would be all sent to the trash. When someone tells you that, you start not trusting the NYC donation monster. Also Housing Works has told me before that they get so much great stuff in NYC they don’t want pedestrian donations. So I’m working on being mindful about how stuff goes away. Since I am intentionally doing my move with a lot of lead time, we’re moving on faith instead of for a job or in a panic, and I’m actually working on how to do this the least stressful way possible.

bevinandtammyI had so much fun putting together Tammy’s care package, too!

I can sort things and do it differently, so I’m going to. It’s helpful to have folks willing to come pick up stuff (also great way to have tea with friends who I don’t see enough) and it’s helpful that my apartment building has a magical “free bench” with a pretty successful turn around. I dropped off my huge stash of craft paint the other day when I went outside to walk Macy and it was gone before I came back into the building. And the stuff that gets donated for real is going to go outside of the city someplace where they have more space and less population density and hopefully things will go to good use.

I’m instagramming a lot of my process at the hashtag #bevinanddaragowest and it’s also a great way to find stuff I’m offering out there for the cost of shipping. This creepy joyful monkey lamp (I bought when thrifting with Mackenzi) was snatched up right away by my friend Lo Lo from DC who will now add it to their a full of monkey ephemera!

creepymonkeylampjoy

2012-03-11

A Brief Guide To Home Organization By Someone Who Is Not a Design Blogger

As I have mentioned, I moved about six weeks ago. A move that was neither anticipated or instigated by myself has resulted favorably–a great apartment, a fabulous roommate–but has created no small amount of upheaval.

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Taylor cat sat for my while I was on my Lesbian Jack Kerouac Gay American Road Trip and he mentioned my bedroom was entirely too small to relax in–and he was right! It was totally the kind of thing I needed an outsider to tell me.

I have been treating this as an opportunity to start fresh. My old place was pretty tiny, poorly laid out and filled with half-completed home organization and improvement projects. I purged a ton when I moved, as one does. I am much better at purging than I used to be. I grew up poor and we moved thirteen times by the time I was thirteen years old. I love to “nest” and I like having a lot of things. I’m also a magpie, anything shiny I want to keep around me. Further, I’m a perfectonist. I often don’t finish things because I’m afraid they won’t look perfect and therefore won’t be good enough. It’s a treacherous cycle.

In the last few years I’ve practiced time and again getting rid of things and freeing myself. But it doesn’t mean I don’t still have a lot of stuff. Clothes, especially. And craft stuff! Dear lord. I love to design things with my hands and I’ve always dreamed of having a dedicated craft area. It was my plan to convert my old living room into a craft room. I was about halfway there and then sort of stopped, at a loss of how to organize it and also an issue with getting shelving up.

I’m a good information organizer but not so great at things.

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The finished craft corner. There will be a new bookshelf to replace those cardboard boxes full of books.

Along comes my friend Elisabeth, who pitches herself as an organizational top and volunteered to help me sort my new craft area. It was a really incredible process! She was so kind! So many of those TV shows about organization start with someone mean about people’s stuff. But Elisabeth was gentle. Between our time together in my craft area and my bathroom I learned a lot about simple steps to home organization from Elisabeth and I wanted to share them with my readers who are not organizationally-inclined.

1. Take all the stuff you need to organize out, and separate like with like.

For my crafts we started with what project they created (all hair bling stuff went together, knitting stuff went together, etc…), then subsections based on what part of the project they work for. So hair bling flowers are in a bag together, hair bling backings are together, feathers have a shoe box.

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I designed this hair bling to go with this jacket–as seen on Golden Girls’ Blanche, by the way.

For the bathroom we just pulled things out of boxes and saw the categories, even though I couldn’t think of them until we started pulling them out. Like medicine, hair accessories, lotion, nail stuff, etc…

2. Start putting stuff together and find spots that make sense, and containers that make sense.

I really believed that I had to get special matchy matchy organizational boxes or whatever to really succeed at this project. I didn’t. Elisabeth said very distinctly “Don’t wait to have the ‘right’ sorting mechanisms. So, I just used what I had and it seems to work great. In fact, I have this huge surplus of these great purple re-usable shopping bags I made as merch once but didn’t sell even half of them. So those are quite handy, and don’t look bad.

I also used a lot of vases and tiny glass bottles and previous organizing craft caddies I already had.

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I also have noticed in the bathroom already there’s a section of stuff that could use a different kind of container, so I’m going to keep my eyes peeled for a basket or something cool during my thrifting adventures.

3. Save the micro projects for later.

There’s a few little things I need to consolidate further, but not getting bogged down in the micro projects meant we could finish sooner.

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I dislike cleaning, so to make it more fun I wear a cute apron. This oil cloth apron is water proof and is a cute vintage style. Also, I believe in cute baskets for organizing, like Baby Girl Chicken (tea, duh) and a stereo for music while cleaning. Shout out to Bklyn Boihood calendar!

4. Be gentle, loving and willing.

Elisabeth was so sweet and loving during the whole project. It was nice to have conversations about items. I was very willing to take her direction (and, in fact, really needed direction, even if it was heading somewhere I was already inclined) and willing to let go of stuff that didn’t make sense.

Being gentle meant I could be flexible with the space. Sometimes sorting things helped the space take shape around where things needed to go. It felt pretty amazing and freeing.

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Pretty much all of our appliances have outfits. I didn’t realize my Kitchen Aid was naked until it had this jaunty crocheted doiley.

5. Use the Buddy System.

Elisabeth said I really just needed to invite friends over to do this work with me. It was quite nice to share the experience, talk about my stuff on the outside instead of relying on my inner process which is often clouded by a critic who is hard to ignore, especially when doing something daunting.

It was also lovely to catch-up with a friend! And we discovered in my archives box that we had the same Day/Night journal from 1999. She said she had struggled with how to use the two sides of the journal. I totally used one side for day-to-day journaling and the other side for BAD poetry.

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Me and Elisabeth! Thank you again so much!!!

So that’s it! I’m no design blogger, but I hope these tips are helpful to folks like me who always want their presents to look Martha Stewart fancy but more often than not use the store’s bag and tissue as the wrapping. My life is going to always be a work in progress. But this progress feels so significant and I celebrate that the progress is where the living happens.

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