“The way to get good ideas is to get lots of ideas and throw the bad ones away.” –- Linus Pauling

I try to make a point of going through my storage area at least once or twice a year to pare down things I no longer need and to stem the tide of the post-Christmas or post-party chaos that sometimes creeps in and threatens to take hold in there. I have a couple of “memorabilia” bins that had been added to quite a bit since the kids started school and had not been looked through in quite a few years, so I decided it was time to take a look and pare down the contents to just the items that were really worthy of taking up that valuable space.

One of the things I found in there was my old “idea folder” of holiday crafts, kid activities and recipes that I had begun collecting back when I was single and bored and hoping to someday have a family, which would naturally come with oodles and oodles of time and energy for executing all these brilliant ideas. It was pretty amusing to realize that there had once been a time when I actually thought I’d someday master the culinary expertise required for making individual edible violin desserts out of a pear half with chocolate frets and spun sugar strings like the one featured on the cover of a Harry & David catalogue. Seriously, Valerie?!!!

Clearly I was living in a fantasy world where work, laundry, grocery shopping, menu planning, homework tutoring and ironing do not exist and motherhood is all about making homemade herb and cheese crackers, cupcakes that look like Sesame Street characters, and hand printed wrapping paper. I obviously didn’t count on having children who were picky eaters with little desire to decorate sugar cookies and with more interest in finger painting outside in the mud and acting out a pretend episode of Scooby Doo Meets Darth Vader than creating faux stained glass Christmas tree ornaments out of tissue paper. If you had told me this cold, hard truth back then, I would have been devastated, but life has a funny way of changing your priorities. Sure, there are moments when I wish my kids shared my love of crafts and baking, but I wouldn’t trade my little actress and Picasso for anything in the world. I delight in watching them show their creativity in a million different ways that are uniquely their own and take pleasure in surprising them with mine on special occasions. The truth is that now that I am a wife and mother, I would rather spend my time cuddled up with my kids watching The Lion King or using my imagination to come up with creative ways to teach them their table manners.

Easy peasy living isn’t just about getting organized and managing your time more efficiently. It’s about keeping your goals in sync with your priorities and adapting them to life’s ever-changing perspectives. I thought about keeping the “idea folder” for a time in the future when the kids are grown and I once again have time to indulge in learning how to make individual edible violin desserts, but I quickly realized that I would prefer to keep that space available for remembering what my children and I actually did do together instead of what I might (or, more likely, might not) do someday in the future by myself.

How often do we hold onto things that might benefit us someday and by doing so give up something that most definitely will benefit us today? Throwing out the idea folder not only freed up about 6 inches of space in that bin, it freed me from my regrets at not having accomplished my outdated, unrealistic goals of yesteryear. And most importantly, it gave me permission to move onto new goals, to collect new memories, and to rid myself of all the “someday” stuff hogging up valuable space in my brain as well as my storage area. If you are storing materials for use in projects from your old someday idea folder, ask yourself these questions:

  1. How important is this project in the grand scheme of my life? If it is really that important, why haven’t I completed it yet?
  2. If it is truly important, do I have a firm plan in place for when and how I will complete the project?
  3. Do I have a clear vision for how I will use these materials, or is it just a vague sense that they might come in handy “someday”?
  4. Will completing this project improve my quality of life or that of someone I care about?
  5. Will completing this project make me feel more fulfilled or make me a better person?
  6. Could these materials be put to good use by someone else who is more likely to actually use them?
  7. Did I even remember that I had these materials or what I had been planning to use them for?

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t have dreams and visions for the future. I am a bona fide Pinterest addict, after all. Just be sure you update your “idea folder” from time to time, whether it be in your head, in your computer or stashed in some dark corner of your storage closet. Throw out those ideas that once made sense but are no longer relevant. Realize that storing a lot of stuff for “someday” carries overhead. Just how much overhead depends on how much you are storing and for how long. Don’t be afraid to re-evaluate and delete an old dream that is no longer in sync with your current priorities. Life is too short and space is at too much of a premium to spend it on storing regrets.

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4 thoughts on ““The way to get good ideas is to get lots of ideas and throw the bad ones away.” –- Linus Pauling

  1. It is really freeing to get rid of those things that have been saved for “someday” once you realize that your priorities have changed. I was especially freed up to get rid of clothing that I had saved for “someday when I lose that weight” when I realized that the items are no longer in style, someone else can benefit from them right now, and that – whenever I do lose that weight – one of my motivating factors would be to buy a couple of outfits that are actually in style today! Wow, did I ever pare down my closet! It felt great. I’m going to have to use that same mindset and go through my file cabinet now. 🙂

    • Way to go, Vicki! Often it is our closets that really need to lose some major lbs! For people who need the motivation of having that “I made it!” moment that comes with being able to fit into those jeans from junior high school, I recommend choosing ONE item that truly represents your goal and get rid of the rest. Believe me when I say that trying on an enire outdated wardrobe is not going to make you feel better about yourself. And I like your point that there are people out there who will be most grateful for those clothes today. Good luck with that filing cabinet!

  2. Valerie – I just read your latest. I just can’t express how much everything you have said on your blog hits home with me! We must take the time to get together soon.
    Keep up the awesome work. I look forward to every new entry.

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