Tuesday, May 10, 2011

To Clutter or not to Clutter

"Clutter is a physical manifestation of
fear that cripples our ability to grow."
H.G. Chissell

I was having a conversation with someone recently about clutter. It was kind of strange to be listening to this certain someone expound on the virtues of de-cluttering because except for me, she is one of the clutteriest people I know. Or used to be!

Motivated by the conversation I got up yesterday and cleaned both the refrigerator and the cabinet under the kitchen sink. I think there is some kind primordial growth taking place in the dark recesses of that cabinet. In the same way that microscopic organisms evolved to populate the world, cans of Pledge, bottles of Iron removing cleanser, metal polishes and sponges have expanded to fill their damp dark habitat. I find it highly unlikely that I would have bought TWO cans of oven cleaner when the whole time I've lived here I've had a self-cleaning oven. (What kind of a mis-nomer is that? No oven actually cleans itself, it just burns the greasy build-up to a fine ash that the oven owner then has to clean herself. But it is better than the alternative - spraying noxious fumes into a confined space then sticking half your body inside that same stinky space then trying to get your arm past your body to actually scrub the sides of the oven.) With the permission of the woman who answers the phone at the hazardous waste management office I poured several bottles of what I would consider hazardous down the sink. As long as I diluted it with lots of running water, I didn't have to worry, or feel guilty, about destroying the river down the street, the environment where I live, or the ozone layer. Sweetie says it all goes into our septic tank, as if making my own toxic underground lake is supposed to make me feel better.

The thing about cleaning cabinets that few people see, is that nobody but me can really appreciate the work involved or the job completed. Suzi Q stuck her nose inside the cupboard, but since she couldn't find anything to eat (which didn't have to be food, it just needed to look or smell good like, the basket of sponges practicing asexual reproduction in the back corner) she left me to applaud my own job.

Now the refrigerator is another matter all together. Should I even admit that I found a carton of cottage cheese (come on now, friends, isn't cottage cheese a science experiment just waiting to happen?) that expired in January? Since my father wasn't here to argue with me that the date on the carton is the sell-by date, not the if-you-eat-this-you're-going-to-regret-it-date, I walked it very carefully over to the trash can and deposited it as if I was handling nuclear waste. I've found that when I clean the fridge there is a delightful sense of accomplishment. I think it has to do with the way the glass shelves glisten when the door is opened and the light reflects off the white walls. Or maybe it's the orderliness of condiments lined up on one shelf, jams and jellies on another and a selection of salad dressings that would make a visitor think we lived on salads alone, on another. Every time I opened the door today, I took great delight in the sparkly and noticeably fresher-smelling fridge.

So I have to ask myself, why don't I do this more often? Why do I let it get to the HAZMAT point before doing something about it?

Today I emptied one file drawer full of stuff and refiled most of it into another drawer. Basically I'm trying to empty out and consolidate my piles of papers into one organized space. I use to be organized. Well, sort of. I'm a great organizer actually. I buy file folders, sticky labels, plastic boxes then go about the business of putting things in order. My problem is there is always another pile waiting somewhere else that I can literally walk past 25 times a day and not even notice it. If I buy into to H.G. Chissell's line of thinking, I must be a walking-talking quivering mass of fear. Well, yeh! You could say that!

Seriously, I know my home is upside down right now because I'm trying to purge it of my parent's stuff, put a fresh coat of paint on every wall, and whittle down my own clutter. Not to mention the way grief can just kind of suck the energy right out of you even if you're in the middle of something you want to be doing. But there is also the very real truth that I'm at a crossroads in my life. I need to begin exploring, for the very first time in my 59 years of living, what it is I want to do with myself. Why is that so hard? So scary? I don't know but it is. So even when I see the clutter for what it is, it's easier to look in the other direction and tell myself I'll get to it tomorrow. And the flip side of that is that it's easier to stick my head in the dirty oven than deal with the piles of papers (Dad's bank statements, stories I've written, letters I should have written right after Dad died) which, when I stop to look at them will conjure up all kinds of fear that I don't really want to deal with right now.

Long story short...I want to purge my house and my heart of the things that get in my way of growing into my potential. So why don't I just do it?

Wishing for you a fairy godmother with a magic de-clutter wand,
Merry ME

1 comment:

Tracey Catarozoli a.k.a Sally Sunshine said...

OK Mar' - this is to make you feel like 100 bucks...I, only THE most organized, meticulous woman you may know, cleaned out my closet for the first time in YEARS!! I discarded more than (3) 55 GALLON (yes, that IS the Largest bag they sell is is designed to do away with your lawn and leaf debris) bags of clothing, shoes, purses, scarves (puh-lease! what WAS I thinking w/ those!!) and then the following day dropped them off at Goodwill so as to not be tempted to take anything back out! Some of that crap was more than 10 years old. Seriously, what exactly was I so in fear of by releasing them? Well, I can tell you now, 4 days later, I have NO regrets, my closet sparkles like your frig and I SOOOOO wish you could drop by to see it! :o)

THAT's why we do it. That's the reward. If we did it a little at a time, eh, you know, it would just be another ordinary day! :o)