Decluttering & Hoarding

Updates: I began working a month ago at an amazing nonprofit organization in Austin. Im moving into my own apartment on Sunday. I’ve found a new daycare in a span of a day, yikes.

Life is looking up, the part that is of particular interest to me is the phase I’m going through in relation to my stuff.

I am decluttering. I am finally able to throw things away unapologetically. I use to feel guilty throwing things away and this would cause me to HOARD junk.

The shifts came in waves for me beginning 6 months ago. I left to Austin from Houston with one suitcase, one travel bag and my sons car seat to go stay with a friend.

In the span of 3 months and two trips we compiled a small apartment in our tiny 8×8 room. Infiltrating their garage, toy boxes, bathroom and pantry.

After 3 weeks at work I had a HUGE event for work (2-day Night Market focusing on Asian Foods) with estimates of 15,000 people in attendance. 8am Friday morning, the first night of the event, we get kicked out. Didn’t have time to mull over that, planned to be out Sunday after the event.

When all my items were packed I was shocked at how much FOOD I had. It was a huge box of dry goods then a FULL cooler of refrigerated items. – My ex-suegra was the one to say ‘well, yeah you’re a food hoarder’. (We lived with her for 6 weeks before the Austin move)

That was the beginning of this phase.

We arrived at another family friend, this time someone that has known my sister for 30+ years. They still hang out and we’re actually doing a girls night the week before.

We stayed there for 12 days and through multiple interactions and conversations, I had a boot camp with the most amazing woman. She was strong-willed, focused, particular, neat and had no sentimental value to any of her items and it was so empowering to witness her relationship with her belongings. Aside from her actual success professionally and rising through personal adversity – we focused on recalibrating my brain so that I could be saved from the hoarding bug that the rest of my family has.

Marie Kondo had nothing on her.

Our first week there we established I had enough food to eat, because I threw bags of food away upon arrival (a lot of it given to me by my parents on a visit two weeks before).

After 3 days, I found my apartment. The clincher was the washer and dryer, ILL TAKE IT. It was on the higher end of my budget, but aesthetically SO pleasing and the appliances were all generally new. Carpet was clean, had a shady patio with plenty of storage space and a random novel fireplace.

I started a goodwill bag in our bedroom BUT I had clothes all over the second bed in our room. It was a tornado 8/10 times.

At 5 days, I came to Houston with the intentions that I would be cleaning our storage out and taking what we need be and throwing everything else. That evening after picking my son up 5 mins late, my daycare terminated me. Another Friday, another piece of bullshit, another lesson.

The next day I was so worn out from the past week. I got my friend to come over to go to the storage with me, HOWEVER it ended up just being a coffee and roll around chill for a couple hours kind of day for me.

I had an event the following Wednesday that I had been putting off sending an email. She sat with me for those last 30 mins and, ploop, in less than 5 minutes I sent all the registered attendees the email I should have sent the day before.

She also gave me an invaluable piece of event planning advice: if it takes less than two minutes, do it now — that has saved me so much grief the past week.

7 days, I was recharged and I tackled the storage with my bro and cuñado.

Before

After

Two hours of work later

We threw away a bunch of random broken furniture. I gave one of my best friends who’s expecting a box with ~20lbs of baby clothes. I have 4 boxes that need to go to goodwill and 2 to half priced books. I threw away a whole trash bag of stuff and recycled another box full of items.

(Many of the items I never got rid of because they were given to me by my parents- notice a pattern?)

It. Was. Liberating.

Never in my entire 26 years of life could I go through my items and detach myself from them or the circumstances under which I received them. I had an emotional connection to EVERYTHING. My goals after that session were:

  1. Throw things away faster
  2. Commit to the items I am keeping

At 8 days, Monday, I was tasked with finding a daycare after my boss let me take the day off. I went and fixed my linen closet. I felt better getting rid of some items in my car. Went to visit two daycares after calling 6 and chose the second one for my son to start the next day.

At 10 days, I had my first small scale event, it was well attended with less than 20 people. The topic: declutter & transform. Jenny Brown was leading this workshop in the Konmari method.

The most important lesson taught was to live life gratefully. In respect to our items, if they have served their purpose and cease to spark joy then we thank them and let them go back into the world. I needed that.

Around the same time my family friend was having panic attacks seeing my room so she went and cleaned it and sorted it. #adultingfail

She emphasized that I liked the cleanliness and so did my son. It feels so much better to be tidier and sorted and have everything in its place.

By the 12th day, yesterday, all of my items were packed and ready to go. A friend and I packed the entire cabin of my car up and he held a basket in his lap as we moved. It took us 10 minutes to unload. I thought it would be to much stuff but after putting everything in the area of where it should be. It fits.

Main takeaways from my declutter boot camp:

  • When you have less stuff, you clean less stuff.
  • When you know all the items you have, you won’t duplicate them by buying more. Applicable to leggings as much as cheese.
  • You can’t have open space with STUFF.
  • Babies like cleanliness and open spaces.
  • It doesn’t take very long to tidy up, it’s about discipline.
  • Clean everything at once, so you’re not always almost done.
  • Your home should alway be guest ready in 7 minutes.
  • Be decisive and be fast about throwing stuff, if you have to debate about it – toss it.
  • Not everything that your loved ones gives you is a collectors item.
  • This is Texas, you will get bugs leaving food out. Keep your kitchen clean.

*wipes brow*

Any organizational tips as I round out this declutter phase?

Comfort PT.1

Let’s dissect what it means to be at ease. What is comfort?

1. a state of physical ease and freedom from pain or constraint: room for four people to travel in comfort.
• (comforts) things that contribute to physical ease and well-being: the low upholstered chair was one of the room’s few comforts.
• prosperity and the pleasant lifestyle secured by it: my father left us enough to live in comfort.


2. the easing or alleviation of a person’s feelings of grief or distress: a few words of comfort | they should take comfort that help is available.
• [ in sing. ] a person or thing that helps to alleviate a difficult situation: his friendship was a great comfort.

I generally agree with these definitions, I’d also like to remind you that when we talk about comfort and what brings us a sense of security and love, we should also mention the things that discomfort us. The things that make us uncomfortable, but ultimately bring us to a state of mental, physical and financial freedom. If we refuse to move out of our comfort zone, we may never achieve a true escape from our distress. I’ll do this in two parts because the two most toxic people in my life have very different relationships with me, but very very similar methods. I was made aware of the extent of the harm they were causing as my journey into motherhood progressed and I became more indignant.

Within the last month my son has been sick on and off. First, it was a cold then he got over it for about a week and it came back hitting even harder. On the tail end of the cold, he ended up getting croup and an ear infection then a mild allergic reaction to shrimp. I got sick for a second time and fortunately did not have any further complications that prolonged the cycle. It is quite difficult to manage our lives while sick. The logistics of daily life and motivation are completely different. I have the additional burden of giving medicine 2-3 times a day, wrestling him to put saline drops in his tiny congested nose and quarantining the best that I can, living in a multi-family home. Throughout this time, I kept Buddha’s (extended) family updated.

Coincidentally, his father’s birthday had just passed and we recently FaceTimed, as a courtesy, I sent him a message when at 3AM Buddha woke up with a 102 degree F fever. I relayed to him information until the next day with no response. So, in between there I sent a meme as a joke that read “every time a man does a woman wrong. God pushes his hairline back an inch.” So, the following day after Buddha’s fever has broken and we were riding the wave of croup, he texts me with (in silver):

After I asked him those last two questions, he responded with ‘My bad that’s Kool but don’t talk about my hair line” & It occurred to me he didn’t have the decency to ask about his son’s condition. This is after he blocked me off another video calling app once I started sending him receipts of expenses related to our son. A few days passed after this occurrence and he started hassling me about visits when he knows I live more than 150 miles away, have no transportation and he has given me $40 directly since Christmas. This was probably the string of messages that, both made me run up a wall and gave me a sense of peace:

He both acknowledged that I am poor and our son is a recipient of Medicaid while also telling me to go get some steak at a restaurant where the average plate is $20+. Those two things do not go hand in hand in any stretch of the imagination. I’m almost positive most tax paying citizens would agree they are a little put off by a social welfare recipient able to dine at a fine dining establishment. Do you or do you not have the income able to support yourself and your family? Right? He also has no financial responsibilities to me under our custody order besides Medicaid because once you open a child support case the obligor (noncustodial parent) is obligated to pay the state for the benefits that the obligee/custodial parent is using for their child.

This put me through a bit of grief on one end, I have a pretty big load to bear as an outcome of putting up with him for so long. The other end, he’s going to eat steaks while I’m scraping up what I can for my son and me to be able to eat on the budget that my Food Stamps allotted me. No, I never have money left over and the last week of the month is a struggle.

BUT, all of this, gave me peace in knowing that I did the right thing by turning my back on him.

In conflation with some pretty big blessings (transportation, a job with career possibilities on the horizon, our health being restored, etc.) I can finally see that Buddha’s dad prioritizes giving me grief over care taking or even contributing for his son. We went through fields and forests of metaphorical thorns and poison to finally get to a place, where I can (and, hopefully, continue to) ignore his provocations. His comfort lies somewhere between understanding his obligations as a father and being a single male living a lifestyle with no physical reminder of his offspring . He chose to continue on a path that he set on years before I came back into his life and his sacrifices to remain on that path only intensified with the birth of our son.

The comfort that he finds in his lifestyle makes it easy to use me as the scapegoat and ultimately evades accountability and responsibility for his own actions.

I find comfort in knowing I don’t have to maintain the cycle of abuse that allows someone to manipulate me, in order for them to stay afloat.

I find comfort in knowing I don’t have to put up with abuse that ranges from trivial texts to being lambasted with degradations to legal threats to theft.

I can finally find comfort in myself and the hundreds of ways I’ve changed my life to adapt to this little life the universe bestowed upon me.

I can find comfort in not being the victim.

I can find comfort that my son will never have to grow up thinking women should be treated as inferior beings while they uphold the family financially and mentally.

I can find comfort in breaking the cycle from abusive men and abusive parenting.

I have finally distanced myself far enough to find comfort in the belief that what I’ve gone through isn’t something I have to continue to go through.

I have found comfort and support from victims of domestic abuse that make me feel valid and whole and empowered.

I have found comfort in understanding that I don’t have to live in other people’s distorted versions of reality.

Valentine’s Day

I am so fortunate to have the family and friends that I have, they’re more than what I could have ever asked for. They know my needs more than me at times. SO many people have been here to help me up after I’ve fallen. Even to intervene before a fall has taken place, the capacity to love and the depth of love that I’ve been shown in the past two years has been astounding. The slow erosion of my dysfunctional love has allowed me to find love in the connections of friends and family that have always been there.

Sometimes Love can manifest itself in simply being present and offering your time and ears.

I haven’t written a poem in awhile so I took a little pause to love myself and my (chosen) family. That’s a revolutionary act in its own right from someone who struggles to fully accept and love herself.

So, I will revel in the love that others have so graciously shown to me.


Love

When you can recognize the stillness of sleep, from the hours of rocking you clocked

When Grandpa goes the extra mile because they see you doing your best

When They smile at waking up next to you

When their Great Cousin tells you you’re family and treats you like it

When they hold your hand because they want you, not need you

When your Sister says I got Him, you go

When They don’t readily give kisses, but will present their cheek for one

When your Coworker reminds you to value yourself

When They look for you in times of the unfamiliar because you’ve given them security

When Tía goes to the first doctor’s appointment and pulls up when your water breaks

When their eyebrows are furrowed, lips upturned and sincerely offer hugs

When your Brother welcomes you into his home and fixes yall a homecooked meal

When they barrage you with strings of mom mom mom, as a nod to all you’ve done

When their Aunties are nap time cushions

When their fingers are stretched and wiggling waiting for your strength to uplift them

When their Nanny consistently boosts your parenting

When They make faces at you knowing you gladly return the gesture

When your Partner watches them so you can nap

When They have a screaming fit from your discipline and still want your arms to comfort them

When their Granny sends them curriculum before their one

When They find relief in the crook of your neck

When their Great Auntie bolsters you through your baby blues

When it’s the middle of the night, bathroom door shut, on the toilet with a hot shower running so They can breathe a little easier

When your Friend offers you refuge and redemption and ultimately becomes Family

When your Village rotates 10-hour shifts, so you can do your 8-hour shift

When you realize you can provide

When Their whole face lights up in genuine joy that you’ve returned

Of course I would, I love you baby

Jamaica Kinkaid – & my Activism Fail

That the native does not like the tourist is not hard to explain. For every native of every place is a potential tourist, and every tourist is a native of somewhere. Every native everywhere lives a life of overwhelming and crushing banality and boredom and desperation and depression, and every deed, good and bad, is an attempt to forget this. Every native would like to find a way out, every native would like a rest, every native would like a tour. But some natives – most natives in the world – cannot go anywhere. They are too poor. They are too poor to go anywhere. They are too poor to go anywhere. They are too poor to escape the reality of their lives; and they are too poor to live properly in the place they live, which is the very place you, the tourist, want to go – so when the natives see you, the tourist, they envy you. They envy your ability to turn their own banality and boredom into a source of pleasure for yourself.


Excerpt from A Small Place by Jamaica Kinkaid

I encountered Kinkaid in my Rhetoric of Tourism course. I was researching the Sex Tourism industry in Thailand (if you were wondering). Kinkaid gave me language about how I felt about tourists while I lived in Thailand as a young girl. I was surprised as I read it how much of the sentiments I could relate too, it was spot on and very telling on how tourism can affect the local population. I was there maybe the first five years of my life. It really spoke to my young mind’s understandings of the scarcity and instability we had in a single parent home and having been in a ‘third world’ country I saw many occurrences that wouldn’t have been the norm here.

Examples would be when there was a flood during monsoon season and my mom picked me up from school and walked us home on her back. Another example when I was walking to school I watched as several adults holding a young boy’s (not much older than me, a kindergartner) head together blood dripping onto the wooden plank beneath them, shouting instructions to others to doctor him – assumably they couldn’t get to/afford a hospital, but who knows I was just walking to school.

The point being when I saw tourists I felt the envy Kinkaid spoke of in the excerpt. They were different from us, they didn’t speak like us, they didn’t adhere to customs or the manners I was taught. Yet, they were able to get all the fruits of life that I wouldn’t be able to get in my circumstance.

As I grew up, I always heard people going to Thailand on vacation and I only went for funerals, it seemed like.

At that time when I was in New Zealand the semester beforehand I saw a lot of racism towards Pacific Islanders and, coincidentally, went to Thailand for my aunt’s funeral. I got to hang out with a lot of Pacific Islanders. South Pacific paired with Aotearoa Māori Indigeneity really upticked my politicization of land rights, sovereignty and consciousness of political representation. The furtive gazes of the White Kiwis at my brown skin and presence became more and more burdensome as the months rolled on. Walking through town became a nuisance by the end of my time in Wellington. Five months was enough for me to realize that without a strong network of solidarity that environment could have broken me. I’m still SO thankful that Nesi, a Tongan classmate, reached out to me and took me to Pasi House, that saved my study abroad experience. I was lucky.

When I returned to the states I was still a little lost and it wasn’t until the next semester after gathering my thoughts and taking my Sex & Power class that I mentioned in my last post that I began researching my place in the social justice movement. I began connecting with indigenous rights groups and showing up to more BLM actions on campus. It got to the point where I felt like I was taking on more emotional labor than I could handle and I began to withdraw.

I was participating so much so that I participated in an action against a play in my last semester. I’m ashamed to say I DIDN’T DO MY RESEARCH & I am not ashamed to admit my mistake. We were doing a die-in of a play on UT campus that had a blackface character. The catch was it was a play with one of the most diverse casts placing brown and black students at the forefront AND had a black female dramaturgist.

The irony of the entire situation was the dramaturgist and I were participating in the same Performance Art Conference and I had just recently basked in a lecture she gave in one of our sessions. She came to confront us after the action was over, telling us she was letting us have the space because that’s what we came for and asked us why we felt the way we felt and explained her positioning. I felt like shit.

Later that night (because the conference was still going, coinciding with the play’s run) we saw each other at Sahara Lounge, so I apologized to her and told her I didn’t think it through and was there in support of my friend because I only saw a small sliver of the story from them. Her response, that I still remember to this day because she was hurt but still trying to educate me, was ‘you have to be more careful in doing research of causes that you participate in because your body is on the line. ESPECIALLY, in this example, it’s a Die-in, your body is a prop to push the narrative that your against the play that I worked really hard to show. Yes, this was part of our history but this was one of the most inclusive casts we’ve had and now it’s going to be oversimplified to the play that had blackface in it’. I hurt someone that I wanted to be in solidarity of. It was an activism FAIL if there ever was one. That was the last manifestation of resistance I was in.

Anyways, I think it’s very important that we uphold one another’s dreams and beliefs. Seeing the multiple sides of a situation is always important, but in the case of creating space and taking action ‘protesting’ something we should make sure we are fully invested in it not just a few toes in the water. Knowledge is always power.

Audre Lorde

A Litany for Survival

For those of us who live at the shoreline
standing upon the constant edges of decision
crucial and alone
for those of us who cannot indulge
the passing dreams of choice
who love in doorways coming and going
in the hours between dawns
looking inward and outward
at once before and after
seeking a now that can breed
futures
like bread in our children’s mouths
so their dreams will not reflect
the death of ours;
 
For those of us
who were imprinted with fear
like a faint line in the center of our foreheads
learning to be afraid with our mother’s milk
for by this weapon
this illusion of some safety to be found
the heavy-footed hoped to silence us
For all of us
this instant and this triumph
We were never meant to survive.
 
And when the sun rises we are afraid
it might not remain
when the sun sets we are afraid
it might not rise in the morning
when our stomachs are full we are afraid
of indigestion
when our stomachs are empty we are afraid
we may never eat again
when we are loved we are afraid
love will vanish
when we are alone we are afraid
love will never return
and when we speak we are afraid
our words will not be heard
nor welcomed
but when we are silent
we are still afraid
 
So it is better to speak
remembering
we were never meant to survive.

This was the poem we read on the first day of my Sex & Power in the African Diaspora class. My professor Lyndon Gil planted a seed in my head with a seemingly simple command that I still think about to this day: ‘check your privilege’.

We looked at Audre Lorde a few more times during the semester. She was the first person to make me think of the ‘erotic’ or the divine feminine energy that women possess. She made me commit to seeing myself as part of a larger social movement. To push back on the patriarchy and know that self care is part of the revolution just as our activism.

Our acts of love and kindness within and between our marginalized communities could be a force of political power. Connecting and mobilizing was obviously powerful. Connecting and healing is more subtle and can be where we find our power.

When I was going through the lowest low I would read parts of a Burst of Light and just bust out crying. Her writing, her voice through her words were so genuine it would move me to tears behind motherhood, the eventuality of death, or even my son’s future. There were a few times I would read a sentence or a section, close the book and clutch it to my chest and just look at my son hoping he couldn’t feel all the worry I was diffusing.

She really understood how to enjoy her full self, relish in her sensuality and how to express the complexities of EMOTION.

She’s my revolutionary godmother.

Frustration

I had a brief exchange the other day with a facebook friend about temper tantrums. She’s a mom of a 3-week old and a step-mom/coparent to a 5-year old; she believes that temper tantrums are avoidable. I do not. She believes that kids should do as the parents says and I would like to qualify that.

Despite temperament and environment, you will not be able to force your one-year old to digest your commands and their emotions at every moment. There is so much growth and development occurring for toddlers who are experimenting with sounds, gravity and mobility, it’s almost unfair to expect them to be on their best behavior. The best thing we can do is lay the groundwork for emotional intelligence. I teach him that frustration is a part of life, I identify the emotion (anger, sadness, tired, FRUSTRATION, etc.) what caused it and ‘resolve’ it for him.

Example: He bonked his head on the wall turns around slaps the wall because it hurt him and then yells at it with some extra smacks.- At first, I use to smack it with him. THEN it occurred to me I don’t want him smacking someone if they get in his way or an accident happens. I don’t want to encourage violent behaviors. So, I now hold him and I make a silly voice for whatever the object was and make it apologize to him. I’ve been doing it for a little over  a month and he no longer hits everything when it frustrates him. He still smacks things and people every now and again, but he’s learning to be more gentle with the family and pets that we’re living with so I’m really proud of him.

Of course, I don’t expect Buddha to fall out and writhe on the floor if he doesn’t get his way. Has he? Yes, in private, mostly when I’m trying to put him to sleep & we’re sleep training now while he’s teething (oh joy, you must be thinking). Most of his meltdowns are associated with, ‘it’s bedtime’ and not getting extra outside time and I always promise him we’ll go back outside or that he’ll get to see/ play with xyz at a later day/time. & I always come through. Don’t lie to your kids, that’s ugly. Be dependable. Show your kids they can trust you. Especially if you’re a single parent, YALL ARE A TEAM!

The latter part of this discussion was that kids should do as parents say. Sure, to make my life easy I want my son to do as I say and he does for the most part, but to cultivate the strong-will that he was blessed with I want him to question authority. I want him to be curious and I want him to be an independent thinker. Does that work out for me all the time? No. Will it benefit him in the long run? I absolutely believe so. I think this will lay the ground work for social consciousness and questioning (mis)information, which is especially needed in a time of heightened political propaganda.

It’s important to me that he is intellectually curious even if he sticks his hand in the toilet after I told him 20 times to not touch the lid, even if he puts all the pots and pans on the floor after I told him for 2 months to only play with the plasticware, even if he throws his toys to the ground until I eventually confiscate them. I reprimand him and I try to not yell too much, I try to find a stern but gentle voice when dealing with misbehavior. I get mad every now again, especially if he did something to hurt me (so far, I got my first lick about a month ago with a wooden toy clubbed to the eyebrow and hairspray to the side of my nose 2 weeks following that incident) and I always remember IT’S NOT MALICIOUS.

He’s not purposely hurting me (or you, if you’re going through this), I teared up that last time and I was pissed and I just held his hand and my nose and stayed completely quiet and still, I was fuming, and told him that he really hurt me and he had already stopped paying attention and started on something else. HA. Their attention spans are hilarious and can out run a snap, don’t expect too much on listening skills at this point. Tell them so that information is shared but don’t be disappointed if they don’t acknowledge the sounds you’re throwing at them. He’s learning about his strength and his capabilities to grasp, kick, smack, throw, push, pull, lift etc. Everything’s new to toddlers, why be mad at them? Let them explore.

A lot of raising and teaching a kid is also being aware of your own reactions and demeanor. So, while you’re teaching them with how to deal with their frustrations there are plenty plenty of opportunities to learn about how to deal with your own frustration. I’ve learned to watch the volume of my voice, to not so easily be offended, to not take things personal, to let go of grievances, to know there will always be a mess and laundry to clean up 😅

What are some ways you mitigate frustration for you or your child?

Let me know!

Tips to Freelancing and Moming

This summer has been so good to me! I had a fairly busy summer full of different photography and creation work. I had three different photography projects. I had two parties that I’m helping with/ planning. (My dad’s party was yesterday and Buddha’s is in a week).

Of course, none of it would be possible if not for Budda’s and my support system, without them I would have Buddha on my hip at meetings and for photography sessions. Buddha’s daddy has been living with us and just bossing the heck out of house-/baby- work. Really, since he’s been back Buddha has been so joyful and I have learned so many multi-tasking tips and ideas. If I put them to use is a whole other matter.

When freelancing you work for your clients and yourself so your work directly reflects your quality of care and effort you put into your projects. When working for an employer you may or may not feel this pressure.

Here are some tips I try to employ:

1) Always make work you’re proud of.
– Never half-heartedly create. Create with a purpose. You can have something in mind, but the amount youre getting paid does not equal the amount of work to achieve it. It’s ok to shelf it & revisit it on your own time. Or it just turns into another idea that didn’t work. That’s ok 🙂 You’ll get the opportunity to take your time and on projects that you want further in your career. Or refer to #2.

2) Set mini-goals for yourself in your professional development.
– Some goals of mine as a photographer / graphic designer are centered around Adobe programs. I have a mile long list of youtube videos I should be watching to learn how to do xyz on Adobe. You can YouTube almost anything nowadays so you can learn how to do just about anything.

3) Make time for self-maintenance between projects.
– Whether that be personal (mentally, physically, spiritually) or professional (classes, workshops, etc.), make time for it because your work will never grow if you are not actively contributing to your self-care and well-being.

4)Make time for your family and support system.
– Don’t lose sight of the fact that you’re taking all these side jobs and time away from your family to provide for them. I have to remind myself to be present and enjoy my family. Some wisdom that my boyfriend imparted on me was that: the most important person is the person in front of you. I don’t believe that, but I like the reminder to be in the moment.

5) Prioritization
– The better you can prioritize, plan and execute your necessary tasks, the better off you are in the long-run. Always look at your plans in a short- and long- term scope.

& make visual timelines.

Those are my tips to freelancing and moming. Feel free to share some ideas with me. I’m all ears 👂🏽