You would think it would get easier after thirty or forty days. But, unfortunately, that’s just not the case. I began this project thinking that I would reach the end of my summer break with the most organized house in America…or at least in Springfield. Instead, I have a house that looks much like the one I started with at the beginning of the summer. Only now I have a big stack of books about de-cluttering sitting on my shelf, taking up space instead of offering advice on how to tame this monster.
It’s not all negative, though. In the process of reading up on de-cluttering techniques and tips for organizing your home, I found that clutter is not necessarily my main problem. It has much more to do with a lack of space and money than my lack of organization. For example, I’ve mentioned before that I’m working with only about 800 square feet of space. Not nearly enough to house three people, three Yorkies and a suitable office area.
Another problem is that in order to do all of the nifty little organizational things that would help me make better use of this space, I’d have to spend hundreds of dollars on shelving units, storage bins, and other gadgets that help hide everyday clutter from view. In Good Housekeeping’s Clutter Rescue, most of the tips involve spending money. Not that this is a terrible thing, but one hopes that straightening up their living area wouldn’t necessarily require out-of-pocket expense. Especially when one is extremely cheap.
I’ve also been reading a book called, When Organizing Isn’t Enough: S.H.E.D. Your Stuff, Change Your Life, by Julie Morgenstern. It’s a pretty good book that deals mainly with understanding when something isn’t working for you. For instance, one of my favorite quotes from this book is this one by William Morris, “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” You’d be surprised at what this particular principle can cover. I have a tendency to hold onto things, long after they’ve proven useful or even beautiful. That’s why it takes me so long to throw out broken knick-knacks. If someone gave me something, chances are I still have it somewhere. That begins to be quite cumbersome after thirty years or so.
The best part of this book so far has been in Chapter 3 where Morgenstern sites the Zen parable about a wanderer who comes upon a washed out bridge and spends several days making a raft. He could not swim and was afraid to try and wade across. He made a strong raft that carried him safely across the stream and was reluctant to leave it behind once he made it across. He said to himself, “This is a good raft–if there’s another stream ahead, I can use it.” He ends up carrying the raft for the rest of his life. The point being that although the raft had been useful for one particular task, it wasn’t necessary for the man to carry it around for the rest of his life. He didn’t need it and would have been better served by tackling each future issue as it happened instead of carrying the baggage and with that, some inkling of dread that comes with always anticipating a problem.
Too often, we forget that just because something worked for us in the past, that doesn’t mean that the same solution will always fit the problems in our future. We grow and change and become different people and so will need to adjust the way we deal with our problems to fit the person we become. Carrying around trophies of our past struggles is not as uplifting as we would like to believe, and in fact, can become a symbol of wariness which will hold us back and prevent us from going ahead unencumbered in our future endeavors. If I’ve learned nothing else from this project, I’ve come to the realization that getting rid of the clutter will somehow free me to do more good in my life without always running back to my arsenal of crutches for support.
Stay tuned, I’m almost finished with this mess. Just sixteen more days until I see the light at the end of the tunnel.
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