Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Creating for the Holidays

If you are planning on making this a "handmade" holiday season (creating gifts for loved ones rather than purchasing -- or maybe shopping handmade to support independent business), it's time to get started! In fact, for some it may be way past time to get started.

I first "caught" the bug to make gifts when I learned how to sew at about the age of 14. My dad was in graduate school, my mother was working full time -- and money was scarce. I knew my parents were not going to be able to purchase many gifts that year. I was babysitting in the neighborhood and was a latch-key kid. Perfect combination! -- a little money and time on my hands. That Christmas I made my dad and my two little brothers each a set of pajamas, my mother a three-piece suit, my little sister a nightgown, my grandmothers each a "duster" (light housecoat), and my grandfathers each a chef's apron with "chef" hand-embroidered in red on the bibs. I set myself up to be -- "sewing superwoman!!!"

From there on out, rather than stop to think about how much time I had on my hands back then to enable that sewing marathon, I would make decisions to make it a handmade Christmas far too late to enjoy the process.  I found myself up all hours of the night, feverishly stitching -- and there were many times some poor family member received a box with fabric, a pattern and a promise to create inside. My husband eventually got me the little sign you see in the picture, "Caution, Crisis in Progress!" that now sits in my sewing room.

I have learned a few things since then. If you have a deep desire to make something for several people on your list, how do you do it without it becoming the crisis I described? We have a very large family now (five of our six sons are married -- with four grandchildren in the mix). If I were going to make something for each person, I would calculate how much time each gift might take, add an hour to each project (for cushion),  then count back that many weeks/months to give myself a starting point. Because "life happens" (sickness, emergencies, etc.), it is wise to back the entire process up by at least another 2 weeks. Now, look at what you see. Is it realistic? What can you cut? For example, maybe instead of knitting a sweater, you could knit a scarf or hat. Be sure you are also taking into account your need for free time!

There is still time to make this a handmade Christmas or holiday season! If you realize it is too late to make something yourself -- use these tools as an opportunity to plan ahead for next year. Then, take advantage of the many wonderful handmade gifts available for sale by other talented artisans. Etsy shops are a great place to start! I have listed a number of handmade gifts for men $10 and under on my other blog, and you can read about our own family's plan for making this a simpler Christmas there.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

What Drains Your Energy?

I promised a simple questionnaire in my last post that would help to identify areas where energy may be leaking away due to clutter. The value in stopping to discover where those leaks may be is in our ability to address an area with intentionality to free up energy to work on other areas. So, as you look at this simple tool, don't let yourself get overwhelmed with the number of areas for clutter to accumulate. Instead, take a look at which one shows up with the most -- and that, if cleared, will bring you back the greatest amount of energy. Then you will find it easier to tackle the next area.

(Please feel free to print this off and make it more user friendly -- but please acknowledge the copyright and do not copy for others -- send them back to the blog. Thanks!):

Check all that apply in each of the following categories
___The car needs cleaning, de-cluttering and/or repair
___I haven't got any clean clothes, or they need to be mended or replaced
___My closets, drawers and/or desk are cluttered and need to be cleaned or organized
___Repairs need to be done around my house or my apartment
___I can't find a serene or quiet space to think or study
___I am embarrassed when someone stops by unannounced and dash around to pick things up
___I can't find anything! I don't have a system and I'm not organized
___I miss having more beauty in my living space; I'm not happy with the aesthetics
___I get distracted playing video games or watching TV
___I spend too much time on the internet or reading magazines
      _____ Total Section #1

___I have too many phone calls or texts interrupting my routine
___I do too much for others to the neglect of priorities (I just can't say "no")
___I am involved in too many groups (sports, community, band, carpool, PTA, etc.)
___I need more time with my significant other/partner -- romantically or just in planning and talking
___I have unreturned phone calls, emails or correspondence piling up
___I miss being part of a supportive and caring community (I feel isolated)
___There is someone I need to forgive
___There are people (or a person) in my life who drains my energy
___I have unresolved conflict with someone at home, school, work, or?
___I miss having time for quality relationships/friendships and a social life
      _____ Total Section #2

Body, Mind and Spirit:

___I eat or drink things that I know aren't healthy for me -- but I can't stop myself 
___I am not happy with my appearance
___I don't get the sleep I need to feel rested
___I hunger for true "down" time when I can relax -- body, mind and spirit
___I waste time or procrastinate
___I don't get enough exercise/physical activity to keep my energy levels up, my weight down, and to maintain wellness
___I haven't been to the dentist or had a physical exam in a while
___There are hobbies I used to enjoy that I would love to do again
___I want time to set goals and create a plan, but I'm too busy to make it happen
___I hunger for more time to know God, grow in my faith and connect with others of like faith
      _____ Total Section #3

___I am stagnating and bored in my current job
___My computer (or other tech pieces) don't work and bog me down
___My work is stressful and leaves me exhausted
___My office is a disorganized mess and I have trouble finding things
___I'm not up-to-speed on the latest technology, and I feel on edge because everyone else is
___My work doesn't allow me to use my strengths or express my creativity
___I am overwhelmed by the paper in my life (mail, books, periodicals, research articles, etc.)
___I no longer enjoy my job, but my lack of education or finances is limiting me
___I have a hard time delegating tasks or asking for help
      _____ Total Section #4

Money/Financial Planning: 

___I am behind in filing and/or paying taxes
___I pay bills late
___I have major purchases needing to be made (car, appliances, etc.) but I don't know how to fund them
___I spend more than I earn
___I don't have a regular savings plan
___I have debts overwhelming me
___I don't have adequate insurance
___I can't give to charitable organizations because I need charity myself
___Members of my family are struggling financially and I wish I could help, but I'm too strapped
     _____ Total Section #5

What do you see? Which area is filled with the most energy leaks? Consider this: If your energy is being drained away throughout each day in these areas, how much energy do you have left to focus on what is really important to you?  Which one do you want to work on to stop the leaks and restore the energy you need? I have provided you with some links to great reading resources throughout this blog post. Here's to your energy renewal!