You know that feeling of being caught between lives, when you've outgrown one way of life but haven't comfortably shifted into another? That's been my life for awhile now. It's difficult, sometimes. I'm a person who sees possibilities, all of the many, varied roads that stretch ahead of me. But I'm also old enough to quickly curb some of those possibilities, to instinctively know what won't work for the long haul. That seesawing of possibility and pruning can be exhausting. But as I know from all the other times I've been caught between lives, there's no way out but through.
This feeling of "messiness" in my life has probably contributed to my wanting less, as I mentioned in my last post. I feel nearly obsessed, lately, with stripping away the layers so I can determine what I want to keep or add on for the future. And truthfully, for me, all that psychological clarity has to begin in the physical world.
To that end, I've taken an entirely different approach to purging my workspace and home over the last couple of months. You might wonder how that's any different from the usual spring cleaning one does, but this feels more urgent to me, an absolute need to rid myself of whatever might be holding me back - anything that's taking up too much valuable space in my brain, takes too much effort to deal with on a daily basis, anything that doesn't enrich my life.
I've always given things away; purging my workspace is an ongoing necessity. But I no longer ask if something is too valuable or too good to toss, which implies a level of irresponsibility or wastefulness if I do let it go. Now, I ask, simply, if I've outgrown it, implying growth and movement, generally a more positive perspective.
Remarkably, that mindset has allowed me to jettison possessions almost without thinking. Think too much and I'll find a distant, far-flung reason for keeping it. Move with my instincts and the separation is so quick it's painless. Honestly, I barely even know what I've gotten rid of, but I'm feeling lighter and lighter. The good news is that once you get rolling, it gets easier and easier to say goodbye.
My creativity is on hold during this time. I'm focusing every ounce of energy I have into paring down, streamlining, clearing the clutter of my inbox, my laptop, my office, my home, my life. There will be clarity when I reach the bottom, that's what keeps me going. It may not be true, but at the very least, there will be a lightness of being. And when I'm all stripped down to a comfortable leanness, I look forward to creating again, from the bottom up.
Does this resonate with you? If you need to lighten your load or move into another chapter of your life, you might find the following book helpful, The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo.
Publishers send me lots of new books, most of which end up at my local thrift store immediately. But The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up came just at the time I was beginning to purge my belongings, so I took the time to read it before handing it off to someone else. While I ask myself whether I've outgrown something, Kondo asks you to question whether any particular item "sparks joy" for you. If it doesn't, out it goes.
At first glance, that seems simplistic. After all, there are plenty of tools in my house that don't "spark joy," but that I still find useful or necessary. But I had a moment of realization, standing in my kitchen, admiring a container of hand carved wooden spoons in my baking area. They're out, exposed, but it brings me joy just to look at them. So I've resolved to take that approach even with utilitarian items. If it's simple, beautiful, and well made, it will bring me joy.
My cake tester with the blue plastic top that didn't look good on display, but always got lost in a drawer when it was put away, replaced with this. Next on my list, this pan brush, vegetable brush, and bench scraper. More expensive than what's readily available in local stores, but strangely calming. (I feel almost insane writing that, but somehow it's true.)
Other interesting tidbits - Instead of folding your clothes and storing them in stacks, Kondo shares a folding approach that allows your clothing to be stored vertically in a drawer (I tried this in my son's dresser and I can report that it's less messy in there since he can see exactly which shirts and pants he wants to wear, at a glance.) Another idea is to remove excess packaging and labels from bottles and toiletries, even those things stored in cupboards, more to reduce the visual chatter and calm the mind than anything else.
There's more, but I'll let you read for yourself. And if you're not as obsessed as I am at the moment, or more comfortable with 1-minute tips to get you started, there's another book that just came out, Clear the Clutter, Find Happiness: One-Minute Tips for Decluttering and Refreshing Your Home and Your Life by Donna Smallin.