“If you find yourself bored or discontented, try this: Give your house a thorough cleaning. Get rid of everything you have no need for. Make your American house as uncluttered as a Japanese house. There is no better cure for the doldrums.”
HOW TO BE AN AMERICAN HOUSEWIFE, Margaret Dilloway
It has been a rough couple of weeks.
I’ve been dealing with a neighbor dispute (the woman cut down fifteen of my 15 ft. green giant arbor vitae.) My friend’s daughter has leukemia, and that is really hard to watch. (I can’t imagine living it directly.) My mother is in poor health and won’t get better.
While living in the shadow of these things, my capacity for patience and coping with the day-to-day complications and adventures of family life are diminished. Hectic schedules, coordinating family for get-togethers, watching the blocks on the calendar march at warp speed toward the holidays has been making me frantic.
Then there’s my work, writing, which I LOVE and gives me the escape I crave, but which gets pushed aside and even neglected for day-to-day living. Blogs I want to read, workshops I want to attend, research I need to do get bumped from the to-do list, while I try to engage in conversations on social media, while cooking dinner, answering phone calls, and getting kids dressed for sports.
No, this, is not a first-world pity party; I’m getting to the point.
The quote above from Maragaret Dilloway’s HOW TO BE AN AMERICAN HOUSEWIFE has been nudging me from my subconscious since I read it. It’s interesting that the manual from the book of advice that seems somewhat dated and even primitive actually encompasses deep wisdom, and that wisdom is placing value on simplicity and mindfulness.
I should know better than to ever answer phone calls, check email, and help my kids with homework at the same time. I should know better than to let junk pile up in closets that I have to kick out of the way to find a simple pair of shoes. I should know better than to sign up for every social media venue because I think I should be building my platform as widely as possible. That’s rubbish. Nothing is getting done well–or even at all–in these scenarios. All I’m doing is trying to stretch myself like a miniature rubber band across a vacation-full of mail.
So, since I have no control over the big, terrible things in my life, I started with this little book shelf.
I know it still might look messy to you, but you should have seen the “before” shot. My “To Be Read” pile is now horizontal, the rest of the books are vertical. The research books are all together, organized by subject. I removed the books I did not want and gave them to a local charity. Now, when I walk past the shelves in my office, the book case disappears and rests in the comforting space of the room instead of screaming at me to organize it.
Next, I went up to my closet where I trip over summer flip flops and shoes I’ll never wear again, to search through hangers of clothes I’ll never wear again, in a mess of summer and winter frocks. I pulled everything out. Two hours later I had three bags of clothing for a local charity. I felt the knots loosen in my shoulders.
Then I went to Google + and deleted my account. I’ve hated that site since I signed up for it, but felt like I should. If Facebook implodes I can always start over with Google +, but honestly, I don’t think that will happen. 90% of the circle notifications I received each day in my inbox were from creepy men looking for women, and I don’t want those people to know what I’m up to.
I can’t believe how profoundly the simplification of my environment has affected my well being, the quality of my interactions with my family, and the quality of my work. Nothing of substance in my life has changed, but by taking control of the parts of my life I can control, I can breathe again.
What about you? Have you ever had this experience? What did you do to de-clutter your life and breathe easier?