Saturday, June 8, 2013

Life Editing

Today I received a link from someone on one of the several Yahoo Groups I participate on. I learned an interesting new phrase, "Life Editing."

Most of those of us who are taking steps toward living freer and happier are familiar with the term and process called downsizing. But, Graham Hill, in this TED Talk, introduced me to the term Life Editing. Watch the short video and then pick-up the rest of my thoughts after you've listened to Graham. Here's the link to his TED Talk.

Okay, I hope you've watched the Graham Hill TED Talk. I found it to be very inspirational. Sure, I'm in the third half of my life and Graham Hill appears to still be in the first third of his life, but he gets it, already. We live in a very different and complicated world than the world I grew up in. Life was still pretty simple and the post World War II economy was booming. Of course, there were societal problems and there was government controversy, but it was still a gentler, kinder time. Most of our products were still made in the United States back then.

Today's world is so complex. As Graham pointed out, our homes have expanded to three times the size they were when I was growing up. There is more stuff to fill those homes, so much stuff that we've birthed a new $22 billion industry, the 2.2 billion square foot self-storage business. Of course, so many of the products we used to make at home are now made overseas in the countries that we used to say made junk. News is instantaneous 24/7, 365. Cost of just about everything increases while our incomes have stagnated for decades. We owe trillions and trillions in mortgages, car loans, credit card debt, student debt and payday loans. Our governments (federal, state and local) spawn new controversies and scandals as fast as rabbits multiply.

We're blessed and cursed with fantastic new technology that makes our lives easier and at the same time more complicated and stressful. Supermarkets that once had hundreds of products now have 50,000 products or more. It seems the mantra of the last several decades has been "less is never enough, more, much more, is way better."

I Relate

I relate to the points that Hill made in his talk. I know exactly what is in that box he was sitting on. I moved that box (times 30 or 40) many times myself. But, even worse, I paid people to move the box(es) for me. And worse, yet - I stored the box(es) in too much of those 2.2 billion square feet of self-storage space. I still have some of those shirts he displayed and other stuff that I no longer have any use for, as well.

After viewing the video a couple more times it dawned on me that in order to live freer and happier I had to focus even more than ever before. The BIG downsize that I did toward the end of 2008 was one of the most stressful experiences of my life. But, the stuff that left my possession as a result of that effort only left the things behind that were more difficult to part with either for sentimental reasons or because they were more esoteric. So, that means paying to store stuff that I know has to go. I'm more ready than ever to get rid of the rest of the "stuff." I haven't needed any of it or even looked for it. Just like Graham Hill's box, I haven't opened the box, either.

Life Editing Expanded

The basic premise that Graham made about life editing equated mainly to the 5th step of my 12 Steps for Living Free, "downsizing." But, in expanding my thinking about the term "live editing," I found that it really is all encompassing. I thought about how "life editing" is really an active process for each of my 12 Steps. Look at it like this:

Step#1 Dreams and Reality - isn't it a constant process of evaluating and "editing" what our dreams are and what our realities are?

Step#2 Self-discovering - isn't self-discovery an editing process of learning about ourselves and focusing on our strengths and downplaying our inadequacies?

Step #3 Taking a Personal Inventory - don't we constantly remember and edit our talents, skills and experience we can apply to our future life, while setting as aside those that no longer apply?

Step #4 Simplifying - once we've determined that our lives are too complicated don't we begin editing out all those things that take extra time, create stress and in general hold us back/

Step #5 Downsizing - not much more to say about this, it's pretty obvious from the video

Step #6 Economizing - economizing, being thrifty, living frugally seem to be buzzwords these days, but isn't it another editing process to determine what we really need to spend our hard earned money on and what just isn't important?

Step #7 Avocations & Vocations - the editing process here is pretty clear, determine what you like to do and what you don't like to do, coordinate that with Step #6 and do what you love, the "required" money will follow.

Step #8 Relationships - Perhaps this part of our lives may be harder to edit when we're very young since we want to be popular and accepted, but it becomes easier to edit when you get older because you realize your time is growing shorter and you want to spend time with those people who really matter, those you really care about and who really care about you.

Step #9 Making Amends - what a great editing process, making amends to someone you hurt or offended and relieving yourself of the energy consuming guilt. Letting go of the pain and grudges you may carry against those who may have hurt or offended you is also a huge relief.

Step #10 Giving - how one edits the process of giving depends on your definition of giving - do you give of your time or money or talent? Edit the things that don't provide you with a level of joy and fulfillment so that you can focus more giving energy on those that do. Never allow yourself to feel guilty because you don't choose to give to everything or something that others think you should. We all have a place in the puzzle.

Step #11 Spirituality - How do you edit your spirituality? Well, remember, most of us brought up in some form of organized religion assumed a certain mantle of guilt from the dogma of that religion. But, to be a spiritual person or even to believe in a personal relationship with God or the universe doesn't require connecting to or adhering to any organized group. The editing process requires you to find your own truths and follow them to your satisfaction and on one else's.

Step #12 Creating Your Life List - this is probably the most fun and fulfilling life editing process of all. You get to make the list. You get to cross off everything you accomplish on the list. You get to drop things off the list and add new things to the list when your thinking, attitude, philosophy or any other significant reason appears. You get to edit your future life in real time.

Right To Return

The best thing about living free is that in many situations you have the right to return. Return where? You can return to any of the 12 Steps. You can return to Graham Hill's TED Talk video and watch it again to refresh your thinking about what you're doing. You don't have to do what he's doing, but look at the creativity he displayed in making a very comfortable and inviting living space out of only 420 square feet. Many people who are reading this are living in motorhomes and other forms of RV's. Many are living in vans or even cars and SUV's. These are spaces that may range from 20 square feet or so to maybe up to Graham Hill's 420 square feet. Those who live in vans typically have between 50 and 60 square feet. Some may be in one room efficiency or studio apartments or condos. While others may be following the "Tiny House" trend.

The point is there is no right way or wrong way for anyone. It's always about how your shoe fits you. It doesn't matter what anyone else has or how much space they need or whether they have a California King bed or a fold down Murphy bed. It doesn't matter if they require a four-burner stove with a full-sized oven or a hot plate, rice cooker and a small microwave oven. What matters is what fits you. And, remember, if your thinking, attitudes and philosophies change in six months, a year or five years, you have the "right to return" to do some more life editing and make whatever changes you choose and are right for you at that specific time.

And why not try lots of different things? I've comfortably lived in a one-room efficiency apartment and I've lived in a 5,000 square foot house with more than 14 rooms, 3 1/2 bathrooms, storage space and a three-car garage. I've lived on mountains, I've lived on a lake, I've lived in a townhouse community and I've lived on a 50-acre horse ranch. Each experience was fulfilling, but when it was time to move on, I did. And the few times when I didn't move on when I should have, it took my energy level down, created depressive moods, reduced my creativity and in general, I was not at peace with myself, not feeling free and not very happy. Change is the only constant we can count on, so embrace it and allow it to set you free. Edit your life whenever you feel the urge.

Let me know what you think and how you may be able to apply this life editing process in your specific life and lifestyle.


Linda Sand said...

I know what is in all our boxes but I'd still like to reduce the number of them. Spouse not ready yet so I wait. At least we no longer have a big house nor a rented storeroom so we have made good progress.

Ed Helvey - Professional Nomad said...

Once upon a time, I knew what was in the boxes, too, Linda. But, the more time that went by the less relevant the stuff in the boxes became. We will each tackle this process in our own ways and we'll each have different priorities as far as the values we place on the contents. The wonderful thing about living free is that there is no "one size fits all."