Here I am back again with a few thoughts after a long hiatus. My absence was due in part to my own external and internal decluttering. It was forced on me by life events and was/is hard work in every sense. I didn’t enjoy it, however I do feel a little lighter in spirit for the exercise.
I am, however, a little cheesed off with this idea that to be in my life a ‘thing’ should bring joy. That doesn’t work for me for a few reasons. Firstly, it is not the objects job to bring joy it is our job to find joy in the object and the experience or memory it elicits from us. Secondly, it supports the idea that those objects outside of ourselves have some magical power to change our lives and if we just throw them out or put them in the right place, all will be as we want it to be.
It is easy to find joy in a beautiful painting, a piece of lovely jewellery, an exquisitely painted dish, a beautiful piece of cloth, but how about the ironing board or your grandchild’s plastic toilet training potty?
For me the beauty in objects is always about relationship. Relationship to the form of the thing being admired, the texture of whatever it is you are holding in your hands, the taste of the food, the sound of the music, the aroma of the perfume.
But what about the ironing board? What is my relationship to it? You can put a fancy cover on it, you can hide it away, but it is still the ironing board. Or is it? My ironing board is a conduit to memories old and new. Ironing my children’s’ clothes, my husband’s work shirts, ironing scarves for my daughter’s bridesmaids’ outfits, ironing my ensemble for my father’s funeral, ironing my mother’s clothes so that she looks and feels beautiful whilst living in an aged care facility. It is a conduit to activities that, although not recognized at the time, are inspired by my relationship to love.
My grandchild’s plastic toilet training potty? Where do I start? How lucky am I that the child of my child is such a part of my life that this object is not hidden away but is easily accessible even though it doesn’t fit the bathroom or lounge décor. Frankly I don’t give a toss what we do together, including discussion and practice of socially acceptable bladder and bowel habits, so long as she sees me as part of her life. The potty means my home and I are a part of her everyday normal and I will not hide my sheer unadulterated delight at being a part of her life in whatever way best serves her and her mother. At this moment, her plastic mass-produced cheap toilet training potty is one manifestation of that service.
There is nothing inherently different in any of these objects, it is my approach that brings the acceptance of them in my environment. It is me, not them and that means that everything can fit the bill.
There is also the view that everything has a place and everything should be in its place. Forgive me but that is not my nature, nor is it the nature of the universe. Entropy is a thing and is everywhere. Life is messy. Your space shouldn’t be disordered or overloaded to the point of dysfunction, but neither should your life. But if we spend too much time making sure everything is streamlined and ‘in its place’, we may fall into the trap of thinking we can do the same with our emotions. Grief is messy, love is messy, laughter can be very messy what with snorting and such, body functions and bodies in general are messy, just ask a surgeon. Just ask someone with nose hair or dandruff or flaky skin. Daily life is messy. Just ask the one who has stocked the shelves and cleaned the house and then everyone comes home and lives, laughs, cries, showers, toilets, loves and eats all the food. Thank God they did, because sometimes people don’t come home and do all that stuff. ‘Tis the majesty of daily life, embrace it, mess and all.
There is also an underpinning notion that by tidying, sorting, categorising and filing our stuff we are automatically doing the same for our inner world. Really? Are we still caught in the illusion that a tidy desk is a tidy mind? If you are the sort of person for whom the previous statement is one of fact, great. But if you aren’t, if you need papers, books and cups of tea around you to be productive, go for it! Whether spaces are tidy or not is about personality and preference, not about the quality of your mind.
Also, I am sorry to say folks but sorting, categorising and filing inner spaces and emotions is much trickier and more prone to messy emotional outbursts that simply mean you are human and alive. The energy and glorious mess of life does not like to be contained in the lovely box on the shelf we would like to put it in. Just ask any therapist alive.
By all means clean and declutter your space – go for it! It does help to clarify some things and can be rewarding. You can find stuff you thought you had lost, you can find stuff that you have no idea where it came from or why in God’s name you kept it, you can become reacquainted with parts of your life you had forgotten. But never forget this is stuff, it is not you and it is not your inner world. You give it meaning.
You may feel better for having decluttered, your space may look tidier, you may or may not have had fun doing it, but it is still stuff and no sorting, categorising, filing or rearranging will help if you are on the Titanic.
See external decluttering as part of your journey but not The journey. See it as part of your growth but not the Whole growth. See it as a way of beautifying your personal environment but not of beautifying You. See it as a way of swimming in memories and rejoice in the good ones and celebrate your strength for surviving the bad ones.
You can see decluttering in many ways. All I ask is that you don’t use it as yet another way of beating yourself up and using what is an external exercise to once again give power to something outside of yourself. And please, please don’t do it thinking it will make you or your life more ‘beautiful’. You are already beautiful. Always have been, always will be. And your life? It may not be as you would like it presently but let’s face it, it could have been you who didn’t come home to the glorious mess.
Finally, in this shame-based culture, do not feel shame for having 10 books beside your bed, a laundry basket on the table and that kitchen drawer we all have. You are not a mass murderer for God’s sake! Take a breath and rejoice in your home and that you have one, your life and that you have one, your body and that you have one, your emotions…all the messy little critters, your mind and its ability to perceive and think, and your magnificent heart that makes life deeper, richer and oh so much warmer.
Life invited you to this gloriously messy party. It just needs you to turn up from wherever you live, wearing whatever you want to wear, thinking whatever you want to think, feeling whatever you want to feel. Just being your fabulously messy or exquisitely tidy Self. The world needs you.
Please come. Just as you are.