Once upon a time, I had that house. When I left for work in the morning, I’d arrange the pastel-colored pillows on my pale blue, seven-piece, modular sofa just so. They were still “just so” when I arrived back home. I would take a deep breath and exhale into the peace and beauty of the home I had created. I especially loved coming home after the housekeeper had been there. Then, the smell of lemons and Pinesol would add an extra measure of delight to my homecoming.
Of course, in those days, I lived alone. There was no one else to mar the perfection of my space. And, I had a basement. A large basement where I stored lots of things that I didn’t want to deal with. So, maybe it’s not my family that’s the problem. It’s the lack of a basement where I can hide all the stuff I want to avoid dealing with! That is undoubtedly a Freudian metaphor for storing away all the psychological garbage we’d rather not address! Hmmm, that could be the beginning of a totally different blog.
For now, let’s go back to the current level of mess in my house. We don’t have a basement, but we do have three attic spaces. All of them are conveniently accessed through doors on the second floor. If only we had an attic that was above the ceiling with a pull-down stairway, I wouldn’t be able to accumulate so much junk! But because we have accessible attic space and only one child, I have kept an abundance of toys, crafts, art projects, and schoolwork for the last 18 years. All of those treasures could have stayed neatly tucked away among the rafters if not for two events that coincided.
First, my husband and I decided to have the main attic space securely floored and insulated from the oppressive Florida heat and humidity. Second, our daughter graduated from high school. We had to pull everything out of the attic to allow the upgrades to take place. This resulted in boxes and boxes of school-age treasures deposited in our bedroom. Sadly, they are still there. That’s because the newly awakened declutter monster had looked around at the main living areas and noticed that they, too, needed work! How I wish I’d let that monster sleep!
Now, I find myself with a war on clutter being fought on multiple fronts with inadequate troops and even fewer supplies. The coffee table is littered with the displaced items that formerly lurked on other, equally inappropriate horizontal surfaces. They are homeless for the time being. I don’t know where to put them. I don’t follow the KonMari method of decluttering, whereby you only keep something if it sparks joy. I follow the Woody Allen method in that if it causes you anxiety to throw it out, keep it! When threatened by indecision, I respond not with fight or flight but with FREEZE!
Freezing is actually a good response for me. It closely resembles the stillness I enjoy when I meditate. Being present to the stillness that freezing triggers allows me to move into a meditative state of mind. From this place, I can choose to notice what’s happening. I see that my desire for a perfect home is unrealistic. Having the “perfect home” is part of the dream world of my Imaginary Self. My Imaginary Self is the ME my mind has constructed. Eckhart Tolle calls this the mind-made self. The aim of my spiritual journey is to let the Imaginary Self fade into the background so that the Real Self, Essence, or the Eternal Self can emerge. With this aim, everything that happens in the world becomes a lesson in shifting away from the Imaginary to the Real. I no longer do battle with the clutter in my house. Instead, the mess becomes my entry point into the practices that fuel my journey. So, I ask myself: What is better for my spiritual growth? A clean house or a cluttered house? For now, the answer is clear. Maybe someday, my lessons will come from a clean home, but not now! And I am at peace.