Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Importance of Letting Go

The last few weeks have been a blur for me. As I was finishing up the April PAD Challenge on the Poetic Asides site, I was also trying to hit some book deadlines while putting out the daily fires that go along with being an editor for a media company. Then, I got sick. Really, really sick.

I'm better now, but I lost a week at a very critical time in the production cycles of multiple books. This type of situation always forces me to do two things:
  1. Break out my time machine. This is how most overworked editors are able to meet incredible deadlines. Well-kept secret. Or at least until I just ruined it for all the other editors by saying something.
  2. Streamline my work process. Since I have a pretty streamlined process already after more than a decade of doing what I do, streamlining is slang for letting go of things that I can't get to--at least in the short term. That means, for instance, that I won't be assembling a full-length collection to submit to poetry contests anytime soon. C'est la vie!

When you can't even come up with specific labels for your boxes, then you're ready to let go of the "stuff."

I believe in the importance of letting go. Holding on to stuff is what often holds us back from achieving great things. When I decide to let things go, here is what I usually target:

Junk. Might seem obvious, but many people (myself included) keep the dumbest stuff. Do I really need an old pumpkin carving kit and broken calculator? What about these old lists that are obviously from before Will was born? I need to throw it all out or dump it on someone else.

Old food. This doesn't mean just the food that has gone bad in the fridge, though that's a great place to start. Maybe you have canned food that lasts until the year 2020, but that you've had for four years without the slightest urge to consume. Time to cut the chord.

Clothes. I know, I know. We might all lose weight (or gain it, I suppose) eventually, but if it's been more than a year since I've fit into a pair of pants, then I should move on. If I lose that weight, I can celebrate by buying myself some new jeans.

Books. Eeek! How could I recommend letting go of books? My rule is that if I have to pack books into boxes, then I should get 'em out of the house. This could mean taking them to the used bookstore or giving them to a friend who might enjoy a good read. I've moved several times, and it's them there books that always break my back.

Toys. As a former kid, I value the importance of toys. As a parent, all I see is clutter-clutter-clutter. Big time. I don't even know why I buy kids meals for the boys, because those are always the first to go when I do a toy raid.

E-mail. That's right. It's important to let go of e-mail too. Unless an e-mail is super duper important, I like to delete everything that gets to be older than a year. And I regularly delete e-mails from my deleted folder, because I believe in deleting things that I've already deleted.

Expenses. This is a difficult one, but I try to take a hard look at my expenses every so often and cut what isn't needed. Of course, I do this on paper. In the real world, I sometimes "forget" that I shouldn't be spending $2 for a liter of Mountain Dew or $7 for a meal from Wendy's. But I'm always trying.

Grudges. A lot of people have done a lot of horrible things to me over the years. But I know I'm not perfect, and that I've stepped on toes and hurt feelings over the years myself. If you have trouble with letting go of things, I hope you can at least put some effort into this one. Forgive people who do you wrong. It will only make you happier with all the other stuff that's surrounding you.

Letting go of things can be scary and intimidating at first, but once you start releasing yourself from clutter, it can get addictive. It's totally liberating!


Follow me on Twitter @robertleebrewer


Speaking of stuff, here's some cool things to check out:
  • Kindle. What a great way to collect literature without collecting dust.
  • Sony A390 Digital SLR Camera. Digital cameras are the way to go anyway, but this one's received great reviews.
  • Classics, by Ratatat. Just some very cool instrumental music with sweet beats and even sweeter guitar riffs.


Brett Elizabeth Jenkins said...

Nice post, R. Thanks for it.

jessicabold said...

Letting go...of long held preconceived notions. Those tend to clutter my thought process.

I'm learning to let go... <--- that's me!

Elizabeth Johnson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Elizabeth Johnson said...

What better way to de-clutter than by "deleting things that I've already deleted"? Classily stated, AND it enticed a few chuckles.

Robert Lee Brewer said...

It's true, Elizabeth. With Outlook anyway, I have to delete. Twice.

Thanks for reading, Brett and Jessica!

Anonymous said...

Glad you're feeling better, Robert.

(And I always suspected there was a time machine. Watch your back.)


womenswrites said...

Great post Robert! One thing I would add is that the library will take used books to sell at the annual book sale benefiting the library. I call that win/win!!

Robert Lee Brewer said...

Yes, and I should add that I've often donated books to libraries. Good stuff.

Amanda, I only wish my time machine was a DeLorean. That would be super cool. Instead, I have a cardboard box and some aluminum foil.

Andrea (Andee) Beltran said...

Great post, Robert. I need a time machine. ;)

Hope you are feeling much better and get back to 100% soon!

Anonymous said...

the box labeled "bunch of stuff" cracks me up !

we have lived in the same house for 20 years now, and i think there is some "stuff" lurking in the attic above the garage.

Linda H. said... true. Although I find it easier to forgive other people than myself.

The last line of the e-mail paragraph made me smile.

Hope you are feeling better and back in the swing of things soon.

Robert Lee Brewer said...

Nance, I like to get descriptive with my boxes. ;)

Linda, that's a good point. It is so important to forgive ourselves.

Jennifer Ruth Jackson said...

Ahhhh, spring cleaning! My Email box looks like a hurricane kissed a tornado and invaded the largest electronic database in the world. Too bad you don't lend yourself out like Merry Maids and do electronic cleaning for others. lol j/k

Unknown said...

I'm with you. It's so liberating to declutter. If I haven't used it in a year, I really shouldn't be keeping it. I'll keep these reminders handy when my Spring cleaning begins.

Robert Lee Brewer said...

Believe me, Jennifer, I have enough to handle with my own e-mail.

Maxie, it is! I love having fewer things to worry about (and trip over).

Anonymous said...

Love what you said about 'I believe in deleting things that I've already deleted'. It is the same with gmail used without outlook or outlook used for work. Shift delete is there but deleting it twice is the real letting go. It is relief alright. :)

Dr. Pearl Ketover Prilik (PKP) said...


Obviously that was me in an RLB inspired " letting go"
Thank you Robert.... Uncannily timely post to read this morning. Terrific tips especially on the books and deleting, the deleted. Just received anIMAC as a gift, and all my former emails moved over which left me staring at a list of over 2,000 emails....( deleted over years but obviously still in hard drive!)
inspired now to let go and hit delete....

Good to hear you're feeling better. Thanks again for a very helpful article and
Of course for all you do over at PA ( sick or well, traveling or at home)

Robert Lee Brewer said...

It's kind of like a horror movie, Deep. You always have to kill the bad guy twice (and sometimes even that's not enough).

Thanks, Pearl! These comments needed a good "letting go." And yes, I'm totally feeling better. Bring on the month of May!