Posts Tagged ‘clutter’

Never one to jump right on a book trend, I just finished reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo.

I have not yet taken each item I own in my hand and asked myself whether it sparks joy for me. I may or may not do that, but I did take a bag of clothes out to the car today to drop off at a donation bin next time I go that way.

A couple of observations.

One, Kondo is a tad bit obsessed. Has been since she was a wee child, apparently.

Two, her obsession indicates her super power, to quote a life coach I know. She is gifted at not only tidying but its sister, organization, and at seeing that our relationship to our stuff indicates the orderliness or lack thereof of our psyches. I totally respect her for finding a way to turn loose her super power to help others, to spark joy in herself, and to make what I assume is a rather decent living.

Three, her personification of belongings and dwellings at first struck me as over the top. But then something about it started to feel right, as an expression of gratitude and respect.Maybe the child in me relates, the same child who felt that if I didn’t play with one toy for awhile, it would feel left out, like I loved the others better.

So I’m asking: Where does my apartment want my sewing supplies and fabric to be stored? Big mystery right now.

And I’m also asking: What are my super powers? How can I turn them loose for good in my life and in this world? Can I trust them to take care of me?


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It’s been a week

You know how sometimes things get worse before they get better? Yeah, that.

I moved into a newly remodeled, bigger office last week after being shuffled through two different temporary spaces ever since my old office wall came down to expand a classroom back in August. Most of my stuff has been in boxes, just like when you move residences. I got to pick a paint color and tell them how to place my furniture. The new space has great light from big windows. It feels good to finally unpack and begin to settle in. But it also feels overwhelming.

I always like to sort and purge as I pack for a move. That’s how through multiple home moves I have kept the accumulation under control. But when a move comes on top of normal job responsibilities, some very urgent, you don’t get the luxury of sorting through things.

I had a dream once where we had to move in one day, so we put all our household belongings in grocery bags in the back of a pick-up truck. At least this wasn’t that bad.

So now as I unpack, I’m trying to sort and purge. When I took this job, I inherited several other people’s files and never reorganized them to integrate into my system, which admittedly needs improvement. This must be wrestled to the ground. Keeping in mind document retention guidelines, so far I’ve filled a wastebasket and run to the shredder several times, and my table is covered with piles. The office that looked so fresh and clean before I moved in is now controlled clutter. And in the midst of this, regular work must get done. Nevertheless.

One thing became abundantly clear yesterday. A lot of stuff I thought was essential to print out 4 or 5 years ago because I was sure I’d use it or reference it has not seen the light of day ever since. My temptation is to read it all through again and hang onto it like lost mementos, when it should probably all get pitched. After all, it’s all no doubt still available online.

Life lessons in all this?

Often things have to get worse before they get better. And they will get better only if we persevere through the ugly times. Keep looking forward.

We create surroundings that reveal and reinforce our inner condition. If I lack focus, how can I expect to keep organized?

Clutter squanders energy, and who can afford that? I’m still learning this lesson.

Patience. God, the God of order, is patient with me in my process. I need to be patient with myself.

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The pen’s the thing

I have three cups of writing instruments on my desk. One contains various colors of Sharpies and washable markers. The other two are crammed full of pens, pencils, and odds and ends like a letter opener I never use, two pair of scissors, a ruler, highlighters, and a White-out pen.

One person does not need all these. It’s ridiculous. About once a year I go through them and throw out the pens that have dried up, but new ones keep appearing. Just this week one came in the mail, a give-away from a Realtor who wants my business. I’m set for life.

A friend gave me a nice pen for Christmas, red with white snowflakes. It looks pretty, it feels good in my hand, and it writes well. So why do I hang onto all the business marketing ones that have found their way to me? Because they work and as long as they do, it feels wasteful to throw them out. You know the “starving children in Africa” line parents give their picky-eater kids? I think of kids somewhere without school supplies. What abundance I have.

Lately I’ve got a little crush on fountain pens. Did you know Pilot makes disposable ones? (Check them out here.) Who knew? They are so nice to write with, smooth and easy and much more expressive. Another friend hunted down a three-pack for me. Then today I dug into the back of my office cabinet where I had stashed a couple of really nice fountain pens Art had. One’s made of wood, the other of antler. I found instructions online and tried my hand at flushing out the nib of one, since it has not been used in more than ten years. With any luck, I’ll be able to pop in an ink cartridge and write with it.

Because keeping the flow going makes the writing smoother and more expressive. And because sometimes flow needs all the help it can get. And because writing with a nice pen gives me pleasure.

But pens are not just smooth or expressive, or pleasurable to use. Sometimes they get people shot or blown up. That’s what happened this week to some people in France. Terrorists didn’t like what some cartoonists drew, so they killed the artists. Horrifying.

Pens are powerful. Thoughts and words and images are powerful. Writers and artists are sometimes heroes acting with profound courage. Others use pens to deceive or destroy. I believe that the flow of truth will always win, eventually.

Keep the flow going.

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On resolutions: I woke up this morning thinking about, first, my work office organization and procedures, and second, how badly I need to exercise. I guess that puts me right there with all the people who resolve on New Years Day to get better organized and get in shape, except I don’t make resolutions because I don’t keep them. Still, clearly I need to work at this. Still. Always, it seems. If I don’t, I am robbing myself of energy, strength, flexibility, and even joy both physically and mentally. (Tips on keeping resolutions: from CNN and Wall Street Journal.)

On this Golden Day: Then it dawned on me that this is 1/11/11. What does this portend? I’m not superstitious, but this is the only day of my life– of most people’s lives — with ones lined up like that. Pretty cool.

On lies emphasized on New Years Eve: Beautiful people, drinking beautiful drinks, kissing other beautiful people at the stroke of midnight. Lovely picture. Sells expensive liquor, expensive dresses, expensive nights out on the town. But it’s not most people’s real life. These images perpetuate two fallacies, both of which cause enormous pain.

  • Alcohol is essential for romance. Yes, a little alcohol can add to the festive spirit, although it’s not necessary. Beyond that, alcohol adds to self-absorption and thus isolates; deadens the senses; and leads to, shall we say, inability to function. (Why do you think college guys who swill it down also pop the little blue pills?)
  • Romantic happiness means finding the perfect, beautiful, “hot”  partner. I guarantee you, there are both women and men out there who may not be physically gorgeous or studly or meet Hollywood’s or ad agencies’ standards for “hot,” but who have breathtakingly beautiful hearts and minds, with smoldering embers inside them, throwing off sparks, just waiting to be fanned into flames by love given and returned. Their loneliness weighs especially heavily on them when couples all around them are kissing in the new year. And you know what? Love shows through as outer beauty, too. As designer Yves St. Laurent said, “The most beautiful makeup on a woman is passion. But cosmetics are easier to buy.”

Happy New Year, y’all. God bless us every one. I’m off to either, um, exercise or tackle some clutter.

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Saturday so far

I just laughed out loud by myself in the car, listening to Click and Clack the Tappit brothers. They always sound like they’re having so much fun. Good start to the day.

I was coming back from the post office, having just gotten two more boxes out of my house and/or car. One box I’ve been hauling around(one  of many right now because just getting them out of the house feels like a victory) in my car ever since last Saturday when I tried to mail it but did not have the correct address with me. Before that it had sat on the floor in my office since before Christmas. Sheesh, what a mom and grandmom I am. The other box had only been on the floor in myoffice for a couple of weeks. Before that it was on the floor in my bedroom. Can’t show a house with stuff like that sitting around. Now both are on their way to their destinations, and I’ve taken one more miniscule step away from chaos.

I’ve also been to the library this morning. That is a joy-giver for me, usually. I’m a reader-geek who keeps a notebook just for books: a section for books I’ve read with mini reviews, and another section for books I want to read. Obviously I’m not following through very well on fasting from other people’s ideas, as I posted earlier, because I brought home 3 books today. Maybe they can be the carrots, the rewards for accomplishing more steps both miniscule and substantial. I feel so accepted by librarians. When I mentioned my reading-geekiness to the lady at the desk this morning, she said with a smile, “It really is like a candy store.”

And now — the heavy lifting of my day approaches. Professional help will be arriving in half an hour to help me clean and declutter, a gift from my mom-in-law. I’ve had lots of other home repair and maintenance help from others as well, and now it’s time for this. This whole selling my house and then moving process really overwhelms me, still, even when I know I need to do it and it will free me in multiple ways, really. But I’ve been promised that when the flood seems to overwhelm me, I will not drown. The One who loves me best and has power to calm the sea has hold of me and will not let me go.

So, let’s do this thing.

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Usually we hear of fasting in regards to eating. People skip meals, or even days of eating, for either spiritual or health reasons. I’ve done both, the longest being a nearly 3-day juice fast as recommended in a holistic health book.

There are other kinds of fasts. Fellow blogger Lisa fasts annually for a few weeks from technology, during which I understand she gives herself a few weeks without all things online. I’ve heard tell of couples who go on sex fasts, and the Bible actually makes mention of this by cautioning married couples not to go too long without. Other variations come in the form of TV fasts, video game fasts, and who knows what else.

I’m thinking maybe I need to put myself on a fast from self-education, and here’s why: I feel like I’ve been developing ADD lately. Too much to think about, not enough focus. The thing is, I love gathering new information and ideas — it’s recreation to me.  I catch speeches on TED.com, read books — I stopped at Goodwill on my home from work today and came away with yet another book to read, this one by Stephen Covey on leadership, even though I already have several books going, all of which end each chapter with self-exam exercises which I really do want to work on seriously.

But lately the stress in my body is telling me I need to act and not just think about things, and if all this input is becoming an avoidance technique for me, then I need to get tough with myself. Yes, I have to think about things, but I have to focus on just a few. I can’t stop my own ideas, and I don’t want to, but I can temporarily limit my intake of other people’s ideas. Maybe I use TED.com as my reward. Clear off my desk, or go check out some apartments, then get to watch Jaime Oliver talk about educating children about food or Daniel Pink talk about motivation. Some of the books I’m reading are supposed to help me set priorities. Just gotta do it.

I write about it. Maybe writing about it is avoidance, too. Maybe you can identify. Any thoughts?

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The struggle within

If I’m to list my house for sale by the end of next month, which is my intention, I have to make my rooms presentable. One of my goals today was to get two boxes out of my dining room that have been sitting on the floor there for, oh, maybe six months. Goal accomplished, sort of — some stuff is really gone, but now I have four piles of articles and notes on my office floor.

Some of these articles I clipped or printed over ten years ago. Why can I not just pitch them? For one thing, one of my StrengthsFinder strengths is “input.” I relish receiving information, and when I read something that resonates with me, my first instinct is to save it. Something in me just knows it will be useful, and often, eventually, it is. Hence the files. Nine or so months ago I thinned them out considerably; these seem too dear to pitch.

A person’s files say something about who she or he is. Looking at these stacks on the floor around me, I can’t seem to get rid of articles about faith, culture, grief, synesthesia, and writers and writing. In fact, I am a writer, and I’ve taught writing. That’s why I collected some of these.  For instance, I have notes and printouts on essay writing. Is not a blog post a form of essay? Seems to me it is, but I haven’t been able to write one for over a month.

You don’t know how often I come to this page and try. I’ll think I have something to say, and it evaporates when I open WordPress, seeming either meaningless or too personal to throw out there for the whole world to read.

Tonight I’ve seen again my notes from Anne Lamott‘s Bird by Bird.  I’d quoted her where she  says, “Try to write in a directly emotional way, instead of being too subtle or oblique. Don’t be afraid of your material or your past. Be afraid of wasting any more time obsessing about how you look and how people see you. Be afraid of not getting your writing done. If something inside you is real, we will probably find it interesting, and it will probably be universal. So you must risk placing real emotion at the center of your work. Write straight into the emotional center of things. Write toward vulnerability. Don’t worry about appearing sentimental. Worry about being unavailable; worry about being absent or fraudulent. Risk being unliked. Tell the truth as you understand it. if you’re a writer, you have a moral obligation to do this. And it is a revolutionary act — truth is always subversive.” (pp. 225-226)

I know she’s right, and this is exactly what I struggle with. My life is and has been overflowing with real emotion. I’m almost afraid to let it out. At the same time I want to, but I’m protective of what’s going on inside me like I’d be of a toddler in traffic, and rightly so.

I’m glad I saw those notes again tonight. (See, they are useful.) Absent or fraudulent is not acceptable to me.  So I’ll keep doing this dance with the “Add New Post” page over and over.


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