Two Steps Forward, One Step Back & The New Year’s Direction

In my zeal for New Year’s spring cleaning and re-ordering my life for the better, I opened a window that hasn’t been opened for the last ten years of living in this house.

The idea was to air out the place, improved ventilation and all that.

Also, I was proud of my herculean efforts cleaning out the window ledge, previously a location for accumulating convenient dusty junk piles, and removing chunks of grime from said window and wanted to keep looking out of it to celebrate.

Then it started raining.

The initial drizzle lulled me into complacency. A couple small drops on the ledge, nothing more, so I shrugged and went to enjoy my lunch.

I walked back into the room with a bunch of stuff in my arms, planning to have a good time sorting and arranging, only to discover an Olympic-sized swimming pool had now taken up residence on said window ledge.

Happily wading inside it, was a table lamp and my $800 Fujitsu Scansnap scanner.

*sigh*

I won’t bore you with the details. Suffice to say there was a great unloading of stuff in my arms on the floor, quick scrambling to shut off all electrical plugs, much rummaging for absorbent rags and dehydration effort implementation on various fronts.

The long and short of it is that my best laid plans for spending the weekend decluttering have now got to be pushed back at least 24 hours (and probably 48 hours would be safer) before I get to find out if I now have to buy myself a belated Christmas present of a newer model of Fujitsu Scansnap.

The shelving that I was -hoping- to sort things out on is now half-soaked and has been carted out to somewhat drier surroundings in the hope that it’ll dry out before mold decides it’s an optimal home.

The PC, thankfully, seems to have been shielded from the brunt of it by the valiant shelving’s sacrifice, but since there was a random scattering of raindrops across all the electrical plugs and wiring and the metal casing, I’m thinking it’ll be safer to give it at least a few hours of drying time.

So now the air conditioner is running, during an already fairly cold day (for the tropics, anyway,) in the hopes that it’ll speed up the dehumidifying process, and I’ve beaten a hasty retreat to the living room, sneezing frightfully with a nose that is fitfully protesting the sequential abuse of dust, mold spores and shivering cold temperatures, typing out this blog post on a laptop, for lack of anything better to do.

Well, it’s one way to get me back to blogging again, I suppose.

On a brighter note, I’ve discovered that serious full-fledged decluttering involving moving books, technological objects and shelving from room to room is pretty good beginner movement exercise for an overweight sedentary person, in that it provokes movement out of me and more importantly, feels more productive than engaging in repetitive motions for the sake of moving.

(If we liked moving to begin with, chances are we wouldn’t be overweight, so it does take a bit of mental gymnastics to find movement activities for a sedentary person that we like and can see ourselves doing repeatedly as a lifestyle change.)

Plans for the year ahead are pretty simple.

I won’t call them new year resolutions, as those seem traditionally broken or forgotten by April or so, but more of guiding principles to skew my life towards in 2016:

1. Pay more mindful attention towards health and exercise.

This cover things like trying to choose healthier foods when possible and enjoy indulgences in smaller proportions. Practice more mindful portion control, we know roughly how much we should be eating, it’s just ridiculously easy to over-eat because the bag of chips is there and we want the sensation of crunch while watching a show or whatever. Make an effort to move more, whenever the opportunity arises, just to get in the habit of -moving-.

2. Actively seek out a variety and novelty of experiences.

I’ve been noticing that I get depressed (or at least slow down, get apathetic or negative) every time I get into a rut and end up feeling like there’s nothing more to life than waking, going to work, eating, sleeping, rinse and repeat, with maybe some gaming in there from time to time.

To combat this, I think the first few words are important, I may need to be proactively looking to switch things up and keep myself focused on experiencing a whole bunch of different things. We’ll see how this works out in the year ahead.

3. Hoard less, use more.

It may be an odd slogan to coin, but I just finished a library book the other day (part of my branching-out-to-do-other-things-than-just-GW2 campaign) by Randy Frost, titled “Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things.

It was a nice read and a bit of an eye-opener. I mean, sure, we’ve all seen the hoarding TV shows, gawked at the spectacle of extreme hoarding and probably gave thanks that our own homes have not quite descended to -that- level.

But I liked how the book explained that forced intervention usually don’t solve the underlying problem – something within the person that causes them to feel obliged to hoard, and elaborated on various reasons while not being judgmental (one interesting twist of perspective is that some hoarders are very adept at creating connections and imbuing meaning and uses to objects that most people would consider junk, and thus find it hard to throw anything away; or that some hoarders rely on objects to build up an almost encyclopedic memory of stories about each thing, a sort of tangible memory palace to fuel prodigious feats of memory, so asking them to throw stuff away is like asking them to discard their memories or parts of themselves…)

Hoarding, it seems, may also have a genetic basis. Which does jibe when I look around at my life and realize that one of my family members is likely to have at least a moderate hoarding problem (which makes discarding old furniture and bulky household items quite a challenge) and that I probably have a subclinical to mild hoarding one as well. (See the Clutter Image Ratings on the Amazon page, or the full PDF.)

Most of the house hovers around the 2 mark, with one or two rooms (a storeroom and the room inhabited by the family hoarder) at 5.

It’s unlikely said family hoarder is going to change, but at least said family hoarder respects room boundaries.

In the meantime, I have my eye on the rest of the rooms, the bulk of which is either my stuff or family-owned stuff and am motivated to change up some things about myself, if only to eliminate dust allergies, make future cleaning easier, and have rooms that look easier on the eye and -pleasant- to look at and enjoy.

The good news is that I haven’t been really acquiring new clutter for the past decade, having moved much of my life (and my hoarding tendencies) to the digital realm. Yeah, I have somewhat crazy MMO and Steam game collections. But hey, they don’t take up as large amounts of space!

(The “hoard less, use more” slogan also applies in a figurative sense to the digital hoard. I intend to play more of my Steam games and branch out this year. It’s time to use and enjoy what I’ve been stockpiling.)

The bulk of the clutter that has yet to be dealt with is old stuff and once gotten rid of, unlikely to ever come back in such volume. Definitely something to work on this year. Hopefully it doesn’t take up the whole year and I can spend more of the time -enjoying- the freed up space and actually -using- the things that I choose to value and keep.

The latter is a big motivator for me. While decluttering this month, I keep encountering stuff I’ve wanted to do, but “kept for later” (be it books to read, hobbies to take up, games to play, whatever.)

That stuff ends up buried under piles of other stuff, forgotten until unearthed.

It’s way past time to unearth it and enjoy it, before it rots or I pass on and end up leaving it for some other poor bastard to clean up.

Blaugust Day 13: Packrat Problems (GW2)

I always had the impression that I was a hopeless pack rat when it came to all things MMO – or really, anything that has an inventory and allows you to collect stuff (including Diablo-style ARPGs and real life.)

Today, I was logging into my GW2 characters at random, wincing at the messes I was looking at – bags half to three quarters full on actively played characters, filled to the brim on storage alts, an account bank stuffed with account-bound souvenirs of nothing but sentimental value mixed with items that might conceivably be worth something later (maybe), two guild banks full of non-account-bound tradeable commodities that were being kept for the dual reasons of “it might be worth more later” and “what if Anet tweaks something that makes this super-expensive and I want to craft something super-desirable that suddenly requires it?”

As usual, I was telling myself, “you hopeless packrat, you, I don’t even know where to begin…” when it suddenly hit me.

Maybe I’ve got it all wrong.

It’s not really a -hoarding- problem, is it?

Folks define hoarding as the accumulation of stuff (mostly seen as worthless by other people) to the extent that it starts to impede someone’s quality and standard of living, possibly posing a health hazard, yadda yadda.

Even though I have a lot of GW2 stuff – admittedly, some of it sentimental, in the sense that they were one-off souvenirs:

a) many of the other items are not seen as worthless by other people, and has the potential to go up in value over time

b) and/or I will -really- regret it if I throw them away or sell them now, given Anet’s proven track record of suddenly making valueless items valuable (and vice versa)

c) it’s not that I have run out of virtual space to keep all the stuff – I have two empty character slots, and two of my lowbies are new, have completely empty bags and aren’t presently being used to store anything

No, I don’t have a -packrat- (as in collecting or hoarding) problem per se.

What I have is a severe lack of any organization system, or a good way to find and retrieve any desired item among the amorphous piles of unsorted stuff.

In GTD terms, I’ve only collected, but I’ve barely processed any of it, nor thought about any way to systematically organize the things I want to keep, and certainly I don’t regularly -review- my inventory AT ALL.

Sadly, better defining the problem or seeing it from a new perspective doesn’t immediately lead to any magic solutions.

I did drool a little after Googling up a third party add-on for LOTRO that apparently allowed the player to look at the inventories of all their alts in-game, and search them by keyword, listing how many quantities were on which character. Wrong game, alas.

GW2 apparently has an inventory API out, but bleh, frankly, the thought of letting a third party website have an authorization token to look at my account inventory makes me more than a little nervous, so that’s not a great solution either.

It may end up being a case of old-fashioned Excel to keep track of the 17 of 19 character slots… (yeah, I’m not sure how that happened either. What can I say, I’m an altholic, and it’s nearly been three years) though I’ve also been browsing some home inventory programs for general ideas on how I’m going to handle this.

I also bit the bullet and logged in every one of them, to take a screenshot of their inventories and do an initial “obvious junk” cleanup.

Hopefully, it will sort of provide me with a brief overview of the entire scope of the task that lies before me… Maybe.

I suspect part of the problem is that it’s very difficult to sort anything if my account bank is completely stuffed and thus posing a bottleneck to transfer items from one character to another.

So that’s something that needs to be addressed too. *sighs*

I have this feeling that I will need to print out everything onto sheets of paper to draw little arrows and circles to group “like” items togther, before I can even begin to grasp how I can best get this organized…

… that or cut and pasting in a paint program or something.

Somehow.

Here, this sort of contains the problem.
Here, this kind of encapsulates the problem. One thing’s pretty obvious. Too much dragonite. Need to get Princess chomping more of those.

This post was brought to you by the letters B for Belghast and Blaugust, P for Perplexed, S for Stumped, and the number 13.

Where Did Jeromai Go For Most of July?

Well, the blog break wasn’t exactly intentional, but I have to admit it was a pretty refreshing change this month to not feel beholden to writing another post, or indeed, to end up locked in the same habitual cycle of logging in every night to GW2 to faithfully play for 3+ hours and then heading off to bed.

What’s the story there, you may ask?

It was a curious set of coincidences adding up to surprise revelations.

You may recall that I’d previously fallen into a GW2 routine of attending TTS raids every evening, which tend to occupy one’s time from 6.30 – 9.00pm, depending on how early I felt I could attend.

(In truth, I usually missed Karka Queen and Teq most of the time and only stood by for Wurm, having developed a habit of consuming dinner while watching the Dog Whisperer from 6.35-7.35pm. 8.10pm was my local gathering time for Wurm, so sneak in the daily in the half hour in between, done by 9pm, then do whatever else I felt like until bedtime.)

That I can recite the timings sight unseen might suggest how structured and habitual my gaming schedule had become.

On a whim, I decided to make collecting an entire set of Scientific weapon skins my new ‘chase’ goal.

extremeSisyphus

This broke the “attend TTS raid for lack of anything better to do” habit, and replaced it with new and novel (if obsessive) behavior of seeking out gold-earning tactics.

I get drops of Black Lion Salvage Kits faster than I can use them up. Surely there was something I could do with them? There’s the old standard trick of buy stuff off the TP, salvage it, sell the sigil or rune for a profit. But exactly which was profitable?

I ended up in a fun few days of Excel experimentation, trying to figure out how to pull from various trading post APIs (and settled on an on-demand if manual method of getting the JSON direct and converting to CSV for use in Excel, giving me more up to date info than the delayed half hour of GW2spidy) and create formulas for calculating profit.

Turns out, those niches are pretty well-covered by people a little more dedicated than I at playing with spreadsheets, and the profits per BLSK weren’t exactly mind-blowing at the level I was willing to trade at.

There was dungeon-running for gold, which I managed for a couple days before my nature just up and rebelled at the whole grouping thing.

There was sitting on the World Boss bus for rares/ectos… which led to some more novel experimentation with the GW2 Personal Assistant Overlay. Turned out quite handy, if you like that sort of constant UI feedback and had some hours to kill in GW2, making a boss timer worth it.

There was running around being a node miner/harvester while listening to music, watching Youtube videos or movies in the other screen – which I’m really partial to, and started paying more attention to waypoints with clumps of nodes in the vicinity that I could harvest and then waypoint off to some other destination.

Silverwastes chest train? Yup, did that.

Kill things for T6 drops? Did that too.

I even did the whole karma into crab-grabbin’ gloves into linen/wool for gold.

Generally, given the time I had to play, I was earning some 10-20g on the weekdays and more on the weekends, and was gradually and methodically able to afford a scientific skin every 5-7 days or so.

Then, ArenaNet threw a spanner in the works when they released their -next- Black Lion skin set some two weeks after, raising the price of the scientific skins to 3 tickets.

frustrated

For a brief space of time (turned out to be one more week or so, before a patch fixed it,) there was still one particular NPC vendor in the Lion’s Arch area selling scientific skins at 1 ticket.

That promoted a bit of a rush of prices skyrocketing, and I ended up pulling out all the ticket scraps I had saved up to get one or two more skins instead of paying the astronomical prices.

(I also threw some of the 4000 gems from the Heart of Thorns CE into buying 25 Black Lion Chests for the fun of opening them. No lucky ticket, but enough scraps to make up one ticket.)

Then it was a slow grind to accumulate more gold and wait for skin prices to dip a little before pulling out practically ALL my banked gold (and selling off a spare stack of ectos or two, thanks to prices rising from the new gambler NPC) for buy orders.

And I -still- hadn’t finished the collection and had about 7 more skins to go, meaning there was nothing for it but to grind for more gold and stick to the schedule of a skin a week, while hoping prices didn’t soar out of reach, now that the skins were officially 3 tickets.

sisyphus2

Talk about a voluntary grindstone I’d shouldered… for “fun.”

Some time in Week 1 of July, I encountered one of those pep talks about efficient setting of goals and was encouraged to put down on paper some work and personal goals.

One of those personal goals was naturally my structured/calendared plan for earning the remainder of those scientific skins.

The other has been nagging at me since time immemorial. There are piles of stuff around the house that have been in existence for a decade (or two) that need to be sorted, cleaned, decisions made on what to do with them, be it figure out a place to keep them, or somehow preserve their memories/essence and then let the physical object go.

Side by side, it was kinda obvious that the piles had been left there because I’d been happy to procrastinate on them and blow all my time escaping into gaming instead. (Why wouldn’t I? Gaming’s a lot happier an activity than mucking around with moldy objects.)

In fact, if you offered me 70-100 bucks to clean up the piles, I’d probably go “Ehh… that doesn’t seem like large enough a sum to undertake such an effort. Handymen and contractors are paid more to do simpler stuff.” (Some of those piles could probably be filmed as a lesser version of those found in Hoarders TV shows.)

It then occurred to me that it was a very curious thing that I was reluctant (yet sorely tempted) to spend the same objective 70-100 (USD 70 = SGD100) bucks on GW2 gems, and convert them into gold and just buy the remaining skins off the TP that way.

Some twisted form of equivalency just sat around in my mind going “Hey, you’re not supposed to spend $100 a month on a single game! You can buy a collector’s edition game at launch price for that kind of sum!”

Yet my obsessive motivation was such that I was throwing a good 3+ hours every day into the chase for skins, earning essentially a pittance in gold. Economists might talk about “opportunity cost” at this point in time.

A blinding revelation then hit me.

I wanted the skins really really badly. So badly that I was willing to move mountains for them.

That intense, obsessive motivation and three hours every night could be channeled into something else constructive, like finally working on those piles I’d been trying to ignore.

All I had to do, was demarcate clearing one area as being worth USD$10, that area $10, another area $20 and so on.

For a working adult, that’s essentially pocket money and not exactly motivating in an objective sense (eh, it’s worth a movie night, look at that highly intimidating pile to clear, nah…) but translated in terms my current OCD could understand… “IT’S A SHINY SCIENTIFIC SKIN, IT WILL FAST TRACK FINISHING YOUR COLLECTION.”

Suddenly, I had all the motivation in the world.

It just took mentally linking a cheesy reward that my weird self somehow valued so highly.

So for two or three weeks, gaming time suddenly became cleaning time.

GW2 time dropped off to the bare minimum for dailies. Blogging didn’t even make it on the priority list.

I finished digitizing the music CD collection. Case finally closed on that.

Clothes closet decluttered.

In certain parts of the house, the floor has actually become visible.

Digitizing the book collection is winding up to be a slower grind than the entire scientific skin collection, but significant progress has been made.

One bookshelf has been cleared, and has been replaced with a display case. The Rytlock statue from the GW2 CE has finally found a home, after being chucked unceremoniously under the printer table for the past… oh, several years?

rytlock

It’s not complete, by any means, but some major portions have been addressed.

All for the low low price of a hundred dollars promised to oneself to spend on something normally deemed too frivolous to fritter away on.

If only I’d realized this brain trick sooner.

A curious but beneficial side-effect was that it broke a number of routine habits (ie. GW2 all night long, blogging) and has encouraged a re-examination of goals and priorities and the creation of new projects.

I’m in my third year of supporting the Reaper Bones Kickstarter and I haven’t painted a single one yet. (Admittedly, some still look good in white, like accidentally gigantic Kaladrax.)

kaladrax unpainted

I’ve been meaning to try other games like Trove, Warframe, Skyforge, Path of Exile’s new expansion, and so on.

The declutter project still has subsequent parts 2 and 3 and more, though I’ll probably tackle those at a more dialed-back, less laser-focused pace.

And I’ll likely squeeze in a bit of time to pick up blogging again.