While I have not read the book that inspired the title of this post, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, it’s more likely after this weekend that I might, or at least I might attest to the validity of its title. Yesterday I completed a task that for me was somewhat Herculean and required weeks of mental preparation. Perhaps inspired by the closing of the holiday season and the usual accumulation of stuff, perhaps partly in light of the new year, or maybe, just maybe, because the current winter wonderland has forced me inside more than usual, I finally resolved to do some much needed decluttering. I committed to the idea of making this past weekend the weekend since it was a three day weekend. It seemed more okay to spare one day for this dreaded project, and even more okay after a nice, home-bound retreat with Mr. Brain on Saturday and Sunday.
There’s been a slow growing unrest for me surrounding this mess of mine, and in the event of house guests a closeted embarrassment and fear that someone might open the bedroom door. I can’t say there was anything particularly out of the ordinary about my mess; the usual heapings of clothes, books, bags. Shoes that couldn’t seem to find a home. Laundry that seemed impossible to put away. A closet full of goodness knows what, and drawers of craft supplies masking their real purpose of hiding life’s detritus. Even if I had a general sense of where my most-used possessions were buried, looking at the mess day in and day out was a constant source of negativity, and even worse for the bedroom to be the messiest room in the house, the place where I/we was/were supposed to connect and unwind. Even though I make the bed every morning, having to find a path to get in every night detracted from this attempt at hospitality.
Regardless of the fact that my mess was somewhat shameful, there was never really any real resolve to do anything about it. I could periodically muster the energy to put away clothes and (mostly) clear the floor, but there was still that bulging closet and precariously loaded drawers looming in the background. I wouldn’t generally classify myself as a neat person, but I started to reflect on the times in my life when I have been the most messy, and unsurprisingly these have mostly not been happy times. The avoidance of cleaning up wasn’t laziness, per se, it was avoidance of other things. While this has been a far cry from my darkest hours, it’s been a bumpy few months. But, unless you’ve really got an issue (e.g. hoarding), at some point you do hit your own self-imposed breaking point of tripping over your own boots, and maybe this a good thing…tripping yourself back to life.
I’ve felt like I’ve been in transition for a very long time, and even if I’m not entirely convinced the transition is completely over, I think it’s time to let the dust settle, or not settle, as the case may be. Perhaps it is the dawn of an age of reckoning, reckoning with myself as I already am, reckoning with the present and not imagined future difficulties, focusing on what makes me happy, not some idea of what I think should make me happy. I think it’s harder to be present when you simply don’t want to be in your space, when you’ve let your space control you and not the other way around. Or maybe it’s a denial of the present not to make your space a place you want to be. I used to think it was frivolous to spend money on decor, organizers, etc. Now I’m certain it’ll be the best investment I make in the next year.
A small piece of this puzzle was giving up on unnecessary self-imposed pressures. It’s impossible to find the time to do anything, like clean up your bedroom, if you have an inescapable feeling of always needing to be doing something else, something more important than housework, something that will, finally, make you feel important. But maybe having a cozy house that you can read all those books for fun in is really where the best stuff is to be found. I’ll keep you posted.
*Feature image credit: emma.kate