Clear the clutter

It’s Boxing Day, a day for slowing down and taking stock of my surroundings. (This is much easier when it is sleeting/snowing/raining outside)  I spent several hours tackling jobs that have been yelling at me for the past few months (or is it years?).  Every so often it’s important to de-clutter a portion of my life, even if it is the drawers and cupboard in my bathroom.  It’s quite remarkable just how much stuff I accumulate that’s designed to make me feel better, look better and smell better.  So every couple of years I spend a day throwing out the remainders of herbal “remedies”, musty smelling bandages and shampoos that definitely do NOT make may hair shiny and manageable.

I am notoriously messy.  Not dirty, just messy.  My office, my studio and my brain are filled with huge swathes of things that can only be filed under “miscellaneous”.  I come by it honestly, some time I may write about my mother, the “saving pig”.  I actually am a very good organizer (as she was), I just don’t seem to have the desire to put things away after using them.  It is frustrating when I can’t put my hands on a particular screwdriver or a tape measure.  The problem is, I still have a hard time with this even when things are put away, there’s always something missing from it’s spot and I find this even more frustrating than when everything is scattered all over the room.

My good friend and amazing artist Melinda Byrd says that one of the ways she deals with this problem is to set the timer for 15 minutes before she starts working.  During this 15 minutes, she just cleans.  Nothing else.  She just puts stuff away, wipes down the counter and prepares an area for work.  Perhaps this isn’t such a bad way to do things.  I should try it out.  I wonder if it will work on my brain as well?  For instance, I could spend fifteen minutes thinking of all the things I don’t want to be thinking about while I work.  Like my 91 year-old dad and his problems, the petty annoyances of marriage, the crazy world we live in, my fears of failure/success/rejection, etc.

When I was a girl and I was scared of the dark or I didn’t feel well, my mother would say “Just think pretty thoughts and it will go away.”  So perhaps I need to clear out the clutter in my brain and fill it with pretty thoughts, positive thoughts, thoughts that are conducive to creating something amazing.  I don’t mean live in a “Peace, love and puppychow” world.  I mean just throw out the musty bandages in my brain, the ones that don’t work anymore, and replace them with useful, clean ones.  And then close the drawer and get to work.

11 thoughts on “Clear the clutter

  1. We like to stay where things are familiar, like the thoughts rattling around for years in our head. That doesn’t make them useful or needful, however. It just makes them known already, like a ripped up old blanket that doesn’t keep us warm, just evokes comfort in it’s having. If you really need to be warm, best to clear what doesn’t work (the old blanket), and find an efficient alternative.

    Learn to embrace the non-familiar, and you may find the real comfort you’ve been looking for… 🙂

    1. I think we also like to stay with old stuff because it takes a lot of (perceived) effort to clean it out. Procrastination often seems like it is less work when, in actuality, it takes a lot of energy to ignore the things that don’t work anymore. I always feel so much lighter after I’ve tackled a clean-up project that I’ve been ignoring for a long time.

  2. There have been several times in life where my collection of “stuff” has slowed me from making a move to something new. Always having to return for it, pay storage, etc, etc, etc…
    As an artist, I tend to collect raw materials, wood and rocks in particular; I’m still lugging around rocks from my teenage years…. Very difficult to let go of the finished vision seen in a rough chunk.
    I am making progress. As I get older, with less energy to expend on the hauling about, I’m finding freedom in giving away to the local thrift store treasures for others better use.

    Anyone need a cast iron wok?

    1. Well said. I, too, have a barn full of “useful stuff”. I can hear my mother’s voice…”don’t throw that away, I might be able to make something out of it!”

  3. Wow, Virginia, that was very inspiring. I think I understand why I have a burning desire to get rid of the clutter in every room in my house lately. For some reason I feel like I must do it by the first of the new year so I can officially turn over a new leaf and let the art within me flow. Thanks for putting it into words. …and i realize that I need to practice what I preach a little more than I do.

  4. Lovely post, and motivating. I spent this day clearing and organizing my writing area, which had gotten overwhelmed with poems, a chapbook in process, a novel in revision, and books, books, books. I have a difficult time sometimes parting with drafts of my creations–suppose I *need* that version, lose the memory of a particular word or phrase? But today felt freeing.

    My daughter and I spent a few hours building a tipi for her dolls. Also very satisfying, and at less than $8.00 for materials, makes my wallet feel better.

    Happy New Year! I do so enjoy your blog, and will be adding it to my blogroll. Peace…

    1. It’s amazing how much clutter we accumulate thinking we’ll need it “someday”. And the truth is, we might! I am always afraind I will have thrown out the one thing that would make a piece of art “perfect”. Hmmmmm.

  5. Excellent idea. I was getting very good at decluttering and ignoring the “don’t throw that away” motherly advice. Then along came the earthquakes and suddenly I went in to hoard mode again.I look at old socks and think “Well, you might be useful in an earthquake when we lose washing facilities. Can’t have too many socks.” In reality, the stuff is more likely to trip you up in an earthquake. But Victory today; I threw out two plastic containers.

    1. I would imagine that after a traumatic event like an earthquake, one wants to hold onto all that is known and loved, just in case something happens again. And, unfortunately, you live in a constantly shifting section of earth.
      Congrats on throwing something out. Be gentle with yourself, though, it doesn’t have to get done immediately.

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