The older I get, the more difficulty I have coming to grips with just how much stuff surrounds us two-leggeds. I mean, even if we choose to live a spartan lifestyle, we can walk into just about any store at any time and feel what it’s like to be surrounded! Of course, in many of those places, everything is laid out just so and there’s usually plenty of space around the “everything” so that nothing feels too congested, which is the way it would probably feel if I bought it and brought it home.
I’m not a professional organizer, though I have worked with a couple in the last decade. And although they helped get a little neater in the moment, they did not really teach me “how to fish,” so neatness is not a habit I can yet claim.
But I am working on it. It’s like perpetual spring cleaning—going on seven years!
Parting, in the case of all this stuff, is neither sweet, nor sorrowful, but filled with consternation as I debate myself: Donate it? Try to sell it? If the latter, then where? A yard sale—where everyone wants what you’ve got and no one wants to pay anything for it? Craigslist? Ebay? Freecycle? The local paper?
I do all of these and each one helps a little. Still, I seem to lack the organizational verve that I desire, as if I could wave a wand and everything would be in its place.
That is part of the problem. Not everything has a place.
Many of my herbs are in bags and boxes in the dining room. There, they wait for me to buy alcohol for tincturing or oil for making salve or even just an opportunity to put them to use as teas.
Likewise, wool for hooking rugs is collected, at least neatly, in opaque plastic bins, so I can see the colors.
I also have multiple “staging areas”—those places where I keep things I need to photograph, measure, describe and post online. Why so many? Because not everything would fit in one spot!
I can only imagine that if you’re an American whose families emigrated years ago, you probably have a lot of stuff. What the heck do you do with all of it? Being in a military family may help. There’s an ebb and flow to the moves that get you to consider what’s really worth keeping.
And as with most everything we humans attract into our lives, it all revolves around stories. “This chamber pot was my great aunt Ethel’s. Ooh, maybe she even used it!” Now, if you really like the looks of the chamber pot and want to keep it, you can repurpose it by using it to hold a potted plant, a dracaena, perhaps, until it outgrows the space. But if you’re just hanging onto it because it belonged to Great Aunt Ethel, then you need to find something to replace that story. It could just have been a simple convenience for her, to use on winter nights when it was too cold to make it to the privy.
Potties aside, one person I am finding very helpful in this process and is Andrew Mellen, organizer extraordinaire. From what I know of it, his practice of Buddhism and meditation allow him to welcome in only those things and activities that he loves. And that is what “downsizing” is about: making room for what we truly want. His “Organizational Triangle” offers a simple way of going about organizing: 1. Everything has a home. 2. Like with like. 3. One in, one out.
But this process also relates back to the natural world. I suspect that if we get to know ourselves really well, we can better choose what to keep, what to let go, what to bring in and what to walk away from. And if we choose well, there will be less demand for “resources,” which means less stress on the planet, and more time to do what we enjoy.
Animals seem to do this all the time. The bowerbird wants some bauble to include in the structure he builds to woo a female—otherwise, the bauble may just sit on the forest floor, liking the lichens. Animals’ inherent mobility means it’s imperative they travel light. And what’s common among animals is they live in the moment.
Unlike humans, a lot of the time.
I ponder their behavior as I ponder mine. Of course, I want some nice baubles for my space, not because I’m in mate-attracting mode, but just because: I love color and light and texture. But I also am aware of how little time I spend among colors and light and textures, so I’ve got to choose wisely. What I choose needs to keep the energy moving through the space. If there’s anything that disrupts the psychic flow, then I need to consider getting rid of it. The more I do this work, the easier it is to attune to what needs to go.
For anyone who’s “stuck”—in a job, in a business, in a relationship—setting the intention to welcome only those things and activities you love can begin to get you unstuck. I am proof of this. The more I let go, the more centered I feel. The more centered I feel, the healthier I become. The healthier I become, the less frequently I feel triggered and the more I am able to reflect a kind energy toward others.