I decided to move out of my beach house of twenty years. It had become too large, messy, and unforgiving for me to live in anymore. Plus, I was in a new relationship and it just felt wrong that we should start our life there.
As you can imagine, moving out of a home that I had lived in for twenty years (to the month!), raised four children in, haphazardly remodeled several times, used as offices and a small manufacturing facility, and rented rooms in, was challenging. And I was under a time limit.
As I sifted through the memories of my life, a profound sadness settled onto me like the salty dust and sand on the boxes in my garage, neatly labeled: Alex’s Star Wars Books, C.W. Personal, Art Supplies, Baby Clothes, Bloomers Ideas, Photographs. And it wasn’t just boxes, it was failed products that I was reluctant to throw away because, well, I had paid money for them. It was all my furniture that once upon a time I had scrimped and scraped to buy. Valuable crystal and porcelain dishes. Valuable! Perfectly fine suits in the hall closet belonging to the dead father of a friend. (How did those end up in there?) My home was a beloved, eclectic expression of my artistic self and many hours spent scouring antique shops and flea markets back before there was Ebay. And finally, there were my oil paintings, my “babies” that I had spent many hours laboring over. They were the ones left after I had sold many in group and solo shows and then foisted all I could on to my kids and their small apartment walls, some from all the way back in college. What would I do with the rest of those?
To avoid the overwhelm I developed a mantra — one cupboard at a time. If I thought about every cupboard and closet and box that I had to go through, I didn’t think I could accomplish the task. But if I just focused on the cupboard in front of me, somehow, I was able to handle the sheer physical effort of it all along with the emotional detritus, which brings me to the point of my post.
There is value in business as well as in life to looking at a difficult, overwhelming and lengthy task yawning in front of us, as cleaning one cupboard at a time. As the founder of a startup company, and at times, the only one involved in the myriad of daily tasks that need to be done, I started looking at every necessary task in small, doable pieces. Small cupboards.
People ask me how I was able to get a publishing deal with a major, well-respected New York publisher. My answer is simple. I built my brand first. Simple. But not easy. (That journey is another post.) Because I have goals related to my stories that are much bigger than my books — I have become obsessed with making sure they are successful. My book series is called, Bloomers Island, and I want to sell 10,001 of them.
My mantra has changed. Now it is: one book at a time.
Eventually, the sadness I experienced moving out of my home gave way to excitement as I embarked on my new journey. I felt a growing sense of freedom and possibility that a small apartment afforded me in more ways than one. I could focus on running my business, selling my books and creating new stories — new stories for my brand as well as myself. Like the fable of the Zen master, you have to empty out the tea cup to create the room to pour in more tea.
Epilogue: Almost as a show of defiance, I threw away a painting of mine. I placed the large canvas (that I had painted all the way back in grad school) on top of the garbage cans in the back of our new apartment building. Later that afternoon, as we came home from running errands, a car was parked in front of the trash cans, blocking our parking spot. I wound down the window and asked if I could help the woman. She apologized profusely, and said that she noticed someone had thrown away “a perfectly beautiful painting” and she had stopped to get it and hoped that that was okay. I put my hand on my heart and told her that I had painted it and had thrown it away because I didn’t have the room for it anymore. She told me that it would look perfect in her house. I gave her my blessing, ecstatic that just like me, my painting had found a new, better home.