Jan 21, 2011

On the relationship of physical and emotional clutter; and on loving both

Last year I tried to clean the craft room. It was an abortive attempt.

Does that make the craft room sound like a hopeless wreck? (Are you thinking, Holy cow, she didn't clean it at all last year?)

Hold those horses! ;) It's not exactly a hopeless wreck, and I didn't not-clean it at all last year. I did have a few spastic bouts of rearranging and occasional miniature spasms of actual cleaning. Realistically, though, I didn't get much organization done, and, okay ... it is kind of a wreck. But I promise it's far too lame of a wreck to show up on a reality TV show about messes or hoarding. ;)

Last year I also bought myself a tiny little copy of the Love That Room clutter-clearing workshop from Lisa at Zen at Play. I made it about as far into the workshop as I made it into "fixing" the craft room: not terribly far.

(By the way, the above link to Zen at Play is an affiliate link, just in case you love Lisa's philosophy so much you feel compelled to buy her current offering ... but Love That Room doesn't appear to be available any more. So feel safe in the knowledge that this isn't a sales pitch. ;) Moving on...)

My failure to organize the craft room probably meant I wasn't ready. Ready for what? Frankly, for a lot, and I'll talk about that in a bit, because maybe I'm ready now, or getting close to it. I hope so, because I'm going to try again to clean the craft room this year. Decluttering in an honest and non-judgemental way seems to go hand in hand with casting off the negative self-bindings that were keeping me from truly expressing myself, don't you think? One is emotional decluttering, and the other is a physical decluttering ... but they're both related to creativity and safe space and letting myself be me.

And here's a funny thing. I know that's all true. But it's nice to have someone else say it independently of my prompting, which Lisa does in Love That Room. Some of the points she makes on the very first page:

There will be no declaring war, attacking, or whipping into shape. If that worked for me, it would have worked already.

Clutter clearing is an act of self-care: It means creating an environment that supports me and contains space for me to be me, to express what I want to express.

Clutter clearing is letting go of what doesn't serve me any more and making way for what brings me joy. In terms of emotional decluttering, like I mentioned in my last post, I am letting go of self-denial and making room for being honest. I like how she puts it: "You're clearing away everything that obscures your view of what matters most to you." I totally know that my half-abandoned, messy craft room is a direct reflection of my neglected self-expression and the repression of my self.

Another quote I like: "Clutter clearing is a journey of self-discovery because you learn about yourself through the decisions you make, and explore your past, present and future through your possessions. Your history, your hopes, your struggles — they're all expressed through the things around you." So my objective when I organize the craft room isn't just "to have a clean space." It's also to reflect on my identity and my journey, and that helps me feel like I don't have to rush it to get to an end result. Reflection takes time and reflection is an objective of its own; there is no Big Thing at the end of reflection that I need to rush toward.

"Clearing can be an opportunity to practice kindness and mindfulness." I have been very, very neglectful of self-kindness and mindfulness for the past few years. If cleaning the craft room is an opportunity to get better at those things, then it's worth doing for the practice of those things alone.

"Rather than just chucking stuff out, you can be interacting consciously with your physical environment, your belongings, and the stories behind them." This is something I've felt is missing from other approaches to decluttering — the respect for your past decisions to keep these things that have now become clutter and blockage, and the respect for the stories behind the things you have kept.

Tossing things indiscriminately, to me, is like performing surgery without respect for how you affect the bits and pieces around the piece you're taking out, or fixing. Uhh ... I wouldn't do that to my physical body, so why the crap would I do that to my emotional self? Maybe that suits other people out there, but the fact that I can tolerate the pain doesn't mean I should inflict it.

And I know that most of the things I've acquired have emotional value to me. If they didn't, they'd be gone already. Duh. If I just had a problem throwing anything out I'd have every single cereal box I've ever emptied still sitting around the house. Sure, I have some things that some people would consider trash, but they're not — they're things that have at some point had emotional value (an idea Lisa also addressed in a blog post at one point). To treat those things like they have the same value as a piece of junk mail is disrespectful of myself. That's part of why it was so traumatic last year when someone came in and threw out a bunch of my belongings while I was on vacation.

So here's to treating myself, my things, and the stories behind everything with respect. No wonder I haven't been able to write effectively for years. I've been ignoring and devaluing stories left and right. How silly of me. ;)

Wouldn't it be funny if cleaning the craft room made me a better writer again? ;)

One thing it probably will do is bring me closer to being a happy, comfortable, self-aware person again.

So hey! If anyone else out there is trying to declutter their own space and you're thinking along the same lines as I am, feel free to clean along with me and post comments on your own progress! As is pretty obvious from the success of the Craft or Bust project, it does help me to have like-minded people along with me for the journey, even if there's baton-swapping and tagging in and out. ;)
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