Saturday was one of those productive, exhausting days where I made great strides of progress toward decluttering my bedroom and creating some calm. I marched in with boxes and a plan to be ruthless. All the excess needed to go. I had read a post on Joshua Becker’s blog (www.becomingminimalist.com) about a painless way to declutter. He recommends throwing everything you think you can live without into a box, and storing the box for a few months. If you need anything, you can still retrieve it, but in the meantime you get to experience minimalism and see if you like it.
I was ruthless. I tossed. I even threw a few things away! I went back through drawers I’d already weeded. I ended up with 4 boxes, 2 woven baskets, and a few pillows that needed to be stored while I developed the spine to get rid of them. The debate was between putting them in the garage or the attic. There were pros and cons of each, but in the end I figured there was more space in the attic. The attic is not a finished space, but it does contain two little rooms about 3 by 6 feet where we store off-season clothes and Christmas stuff. I hauled the boxes up the stairs, then opened the room with the clothes, thinking this would be a quick stacking job and I’d be done. Oh, sometimes I do make myself laugh!
I was greeted by a clothes rod beginning to bend under the weight of the clothes, and a stack of under-bed storage boxes that just about filled the space! Crap. I stuffed some of the smaller boxes in there, then thought “No problem. There’s a bunch of room in the Christmas closet.” Oh, I am so funny sometimes!! I opened it up and “What to my wonderous eyes did appear…” but a strange metal box that has lived in the attic since I bought the place. “How did it get in here?” I looked at this over-stuffed site and reminded myself “Terrie, you really ARE out of control…” I managed to get the remaining boxes into hiding, but the experience did deflate my feeling of accomplishment quite a bit.
I slunk back to the bedroom, overwhelmed and defeated, but as I entered, was greeted by two chest of drawers with nothing on them. Aahhh… I went a little farther in and actually peaked at my closet: space, empty shelves, orderly. Bigger aahhh… I was feeling better about my experiment already.
I’m trying to tell myself that winter will be the perfect time to get a box down, go through it and toss. I chuckle as I say this, knowing full well the reality is that I won’t even remember those boxes are up there — well, until I try and get my winter clothes down or put the Christmas ornaments up. But as Scarlet always says “Tomorrow is another day.”
Last week, Steve and I decided we needed a day off. No decluttering, no working on the house, no excessive anything that resembled work. We needed a good old fashioned day of rest. We started the day by going to Cattlemen’s Restaurant, a 108 year old establishment in “Historic Stockyards City” with a tasty breakfast buffet, followed by a trip to the zoo. We love the zoo, and this time of year was perfect. It was cooler but beautiful, so the animals were more active than usual; it was early, so not many people; and we didn’t have an agenda, so had plenty of time to stop and watch the animals for as long as we wanted. The rest of the day was equally slow and restorative.
It felt like a light bulb had gone on in our heads: this was just what we needed to restore ourselves to sanity! I suddenly understood how a weekly dose of kindness, a time set aside just for self-care could do magical things like help me get my house more organized and clutter-free. Instead of endless doing, I needed to occasionally stop and breathe. Yes! It all made sense to me! I couldn’t wait for Sunday to roll around again so I could treat myself to another dose of this wonderful elixir.
But this Sunday brought with it a cold front. The temperature dropped 30 degrees, it was overcast, and low pressure systems always leave me feeling drained and sluggish. I didn’t really get going until noon, and then only slowly. All day I would start to do something, but then stop and wonder if that was a bit too much like work. In the end it felt like the mental equivalent of standing in a cluttered room, turning in endless circles, unsure where to start. I watched way too much TV, and constantly felt like there was something more I should be doing. By bedtime I felt ready to explode.
Sunday morning I finished reading “The Way of the Stars” — my third book about experiences of walking the Camino de Santiago in Spain. One thing the author mentioned was the difficulty people have readjusting to normal life and how jarring it feels. I thought “I feel that way most every day!” It reminded me a lot of why I love to walk the labyrinth or hike in the woods. It’s a way to turn down the volume, slow down, get quiet, and listen within. By Sunday night I realized that stopping the endless doing isn’t enough. You need something to feed the soul as well, whether it’s activities you enjoy that make you smile, or more meditative things that help you shut up and listen. Sometimes it feels like I have forgotten how to play or relax, but it’s a worthy cause and I plan to practice again next week.
Last week was a study in contrasts. At work, I have a cart that carries all the tape and glue and notebooks I need for my job. I’ve been pretty good about keeping the top of the cart cleared off so that it is available for whatever I am working on at the moment. So it struck me as a little odd that lately it seemed to be constantly piled with donated books to review, items to be weeded, and misc. junk. What happened? We finally got our house cleaned up and have been good about keeping it that way, and now I’m cluttered at work?!
Then, on Wednesday I read a book on blending and juicing that said to try it for a week and see if you feel better. So Thursday morning I hauled out the blender and tried it out. I’ve done it every day since (green drinks actually taste better than they look!). But what I noticed is that my intake of things like popcorn balls (a personal weakness) also increased. Wait. What’s going on here?
It finally struck me that this was not a random occurrence. I was seeing a pattern that was beginning to look like one of those cartoon characters who gets pounded into the ground by a rubber mallet and just pops up somewhere else! My clutter was doing the same thing. Clutter it seems is not about stuff or diet or time or negative thinking. It’s a means of distracting ourselves from who we really are and what we really need to do.
I got a good look at this over the weekend. Whether this was green drink-induced or what, I don’t know, but I had a ton of energy and a very long to-do list. I was so overwhelmed by all that needed to be done that at first I couldn’t do anything. Finally, I got myself to focus on one thing. Focusing calmed me down. Then I did the next thing, and the next, etc. But the thought I had in the middle of my productivity was “What might I do if I wasn’t always chasing the next item on my list?” I didn’t stay there long enough to actually attempt to answer it, but I did finally recognize that the question addressed my true motivation for wanting to minimize.
Seeing my clutter suddenly pop up in other areas of my life made me realize how frightening I must find the prospect of answering my question. When all the excuses are stripped away, what, or more accurately, who is left? As I’ve said for years, awareness is your friend. I’m finding that the easiest way to deal with those unpleasant insights or fears is to just feel them, sit with them, and try not to judge them. I don’t know where the fear comes from, but then I don’t know why some people are afraid to retire while others hate broccoli! Ultimately, it doesn’t matter. I’m just glad I reached a point where I can ask the question, notice the reaction, and not run away.
Have a great week and keep smiling!