Clearing out

I think I’ve mentioned Daily Om before, a website that offers life affirming essays and online courses. I’m currently taking a course on clearing. On any other website, it would be called decluttering, but it’s not just getting rid of stuff. It’s the why we hang on to things and how it feels to have them or let go of them. Not quite Marie Kondo, either, this. But rather a supplement to firm tossing and saying thank you to stuff. The course starts with exploring one’s attitude to things and to clearing them.

It’s slow going, which I like. I really do not understand “housework”. I’m not good with routines. I’ve followed other flaky people and their systems and have learned something from each of them. Still, I hunt for The One Method that will get me decluttering and cleaning and all that.

So why is this different? Maybe because it starts from the inside and you make the outside happen according to that. For example, one lesson was about movement. About how we get stuck in an attitude or a belief. We need to get ourselves unstuck. So act that out by moving something in your home: Find something that’s out of place and put it in place, or find something that is trash and toss it out.

That idea I could embrace: That the little household chore was about getting me moving, not about establishing some routine in the home. And that right there is the “hook” I need, the attitudinal approach that helps it make sense to me.

All the emptied and washed spice jars,
ready for the recycling bin.
This is the only “spice rack” I have
ever had or will need

And from that desire, from wanting to get unstuck, from wanting more energy, I then get a routine: Every day I do that little thing in my home for me.

The course has motivated me to declutter all my spices today. That’s another thing: Understanding who I truly am, and what I’m actually likely to do. I will never do all the cooking all those spices suggest. Most of them were covered with a thin layer of gray concrete dust, so they haven’t been touched in the over 2.5 years since my bathroom was remodeled (!). So out the vast majority went. I even got a rhythm going emptying the little jars for recycling and felt really good about my little task. I was honoring my true nature: Salt and pepper go a long way with how I cook. And I finished, too!

I think that’s what has been missing: Feeling personal about the task at hand. Weird that I treat routines in my home like a service I do for a stranger. But housekeeping truly isn’t something I “get”. I do it because I understand intellectually that that’s what one does. (I admit, I do this quite irregularly.) I don’t understand it intuitively. It’s not second nature to me at all.

The things I do that “feed” me, that give me meaning on a personal or emotional level, those things I tend to do regularly. The penny dropped when I finally timed how long it takes to do dishes and realized it wasn’t that much of a chore. Now it’s something I do with pleasure. Also: The first place I can see in my home that my mental health is starting to stumble is my kitchen counter: the longer the dirty dishes don’t get done, the more “down” I’ve been. I’m back to my happy self again when I want to go into the kitchen and wash the dishes. Sometimes I’ll wash them anyway, because I know the cleared counters will make me feel better.

See, it’s an emotional thing, not a “let’s keep the house clean” thing.

And maybe, also, this is why apps don’t work for me. Lists somebody else comes up with overwhelm me because I don’t know how to use them for my own stuff. I don’t know where to start. Oh, yes, on an intellectual basis I know. I’ve read enough emails from FlyLady to have a pretty good grasp of what a daily routine should look like. But it’s not my routine. I can’t feel it. (FlyLady did help me finally do the dishes regularly, though.)

Happy accomplishment, Saturday’s decluttered travel stuff.
How many of those plastic toothbrush head covers
does one person need?

What works? Oddly, it’s writing a daily list by hand. Same thing with the grocery shopping. I can’t get comfortable with apps. I write my lists from scratch in Google Keep and when I’m done, “delete all checked items” and start over again next time. I think maybe this is how I focus and organize my thoughts.

Sometime last year I started writing daily to-do’s in a notebook I leave open on my kitchen table. It became a part of my healing journey through this past fall and winter. I saw the so-called “dot journals” or “bullet journals” and instantly felt overwhelmed by all the effort people put into those things. But I liked the idea of a dot in front of task and if you do it, write an X through the dot, else put a > there if you’re carrying the task over to the next day. I used to actually write little boxes to check, but the dot method is quicker and clearer. I also like that if I end up getting around to a task after all, the > easily becomes an X.

So finally, at age 58, I’m starting to understand myself, how I actually approach things, how I get meaning out of something.

Thank you for reading all this! Here’s your reward: Edvard Grieg in the Bergen city park (byparken).

By Keera Ann Fox

I am a bi-lingual American who has lived most of my life in Norway.
Jeg er en tospråklig amerikaner som har bodd mesteparten av mitt liv i Norge.

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