Once upon a time there were two young people, deeply in love. They lived in a wee cabin in the woods in the wilds of BC where black bears and cougars roamed. The had very little besides their puppy and the clothes on their backs. And they were happy and delighted in their lives. Years later, they wondered what lie in the magic of “the cabin” and how that sheer joy could be gotten again. It wasn’t that they weren’t happy, but they began to think the simplicity of having just what you need and a tiny bit extra and space that was homey and stored things neatly was a big part of it…not to mention a front yard that opened to fields of horses and mountain hiking beyond that.
I’m a bit obsessed with clearing clutter. That doesn’t mean I don’t have lots though! Of course we don’t *really* want to go back to mattress on the floor, one pair of jeans, eating canned soup days, but most of us long for some of the vitality we felt the living on the edge exhilaration. As many of you know, with a new baby, or just kids period, the stuff pours in. I really find that the more clutter I have, the more disorganized my thinking. There is a popular idea in Waldorf that tidying/straightening a child’s immediate environment will often positively affect behaviour. I really found this to be true in all my years in various childcare settings. Not only that, but the “vibe” of the space and layout of furniture can influence whether children are running around screaming or quietly settled. Part of this is careful selection about what comes into the environment, part of it is choice of display/layout, and the rest (my weak point!) is habit and maintenance (cleaning, tidying, putting away). Observing how clutter and general environment affects children can also be very enlightening about adults…we have just come to ignore more of our discomfort or attribute weird anxiety/irritability with some inborn flaw.
My very favourite resource on clutter is Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui. It is one book that has survived my constant book lending/sales etc. I pull it out at least once a season and it always, always inspires me. It isn’t difficult to read at all and introduces Feng Shui very generally so you don’t feel bogged down. The overall idea being that your space is both an extension and reflection of yourself. I have really seen this to be true in my own life –just clear out a shelf or desk when you’re feeling low and see what happens. If you’re not there yet, there are plenty of inspiring stories in the book.
Another important tenet is that all stuff takes energy. Physically, possessions need storing, maintenance, cleaning, sorting etc. Energetically, (stay with me!) they take up mental space and energy. We get used to working around things and ignoring thoughts and feelings…such as how our energy drops when we walk into the room with the broken chair needing fixing, or open the cupboard overflowing with plastic bags from the bulk aisle. Now imagine walking in and seeing a chair you love in perfect condition, or opening a cupboard with neatly arranged, labeled jars –quite a difference!
Once you really learn to ruthlessly clear what you no longer need and love you must also learn to be mindful of what comes in and keep it flowing. One in, one out is a good general rule. This is fantastic before or after Christmas….I do regift, a lot. I accept the love and abundance of a gift and either use it in a new way (t-shirts turned into strips for a rug, a sweater felted and turned into a diaper cover and mittens, a collage of best photos), donate to those who can use and appreciate it, or give it to someone I know who wants it. Seriously, it’s passing on the love. In terms of gifts for my child from others, I am very clear about what we like/accept (natural materials, handmade, practical, durable, beautiful) and as my friends and relatives will tell you, I send out lists/registries and links prior to birthdays and Christmas. (I do make sure to mention nothing is required, that a simple phone call is awesome!) I personally would rather gift something useful and likely to be loved anyway. This does insure little has to be immediately donated. I try to remember especially with gifts –if I don’t use/love this, what is it taking space for/from? If there was more space in my closet would it be easier to find things and acquire something I do love?
Back to children and environment…the book Heaven on Earth has many good thoughts on this topic. I believe there is an exercise where you close your eyes and explore your child’s toybox: smelling, touching, listening to, and even tasting (why not? They do!) to see what sensory input your child is getting. Do you like it? Of course, being a Waldorf book, the emphasis is on beauty, simplicity, handmade and NATURAL MATERIALS (wool, cotton, wood, ceramic, stone, silk…and natural items themselves like shells, sticks…).
Look around and notice how the following elemnets of your space effect you:
-sounds (machines), voices, yelling, car alarms 🙂
-furniture arrangement (wide open spaces often create instant running and hyperactivity)
-busy visual field
Clutter clearing is hard because it asks us to get our priorities straight, and therefore let go of any emotional armour, indecision, people pleasing (that vase from aunt emma…) etc. And looking at the symbology of the massive collection of frogs in your relationship corner can be overwhelming! But, every item you own ties up your energy. Just ask yourself…what is this taking the space of? Could all these _____ be taking the space I could welcome a new vacation/child/beautiful clothing that fits me….?
Please feel free to share your clutter clearing stories and inspirations.
May your 2011 be free and clear and simple and bright.