‘That’s what we do. We make mess. We’re a messy family.’
Five year old E sums it up with characteristic bare-to-the bone directness as we stand side by side and watch our freshly washed floor endure a new littering of crumbs, toys, unknown sticky substances, and yes…yet more spilled-milk.
Four year-old W, king of the witty one-liner, intrepid word-explorer, encapsulates it even more succinctly: ‘Pandemonium.’
‘Cacophony’ is my personal favourite descriptor. And I could think of plenty more. For these colourful words characterise our days. Days of mess and noise, of rough and tumble bodies, of cycles of low grade sickness and sleepless nights, of fights and forgiveness, of falling and learning, loving, growing.
The other morning I woke with W asleep on my back. On. my. back. Sprawled across me like a dog on a beanbag. Who knows why, or how, or when, but for some reason he saw fit to get as close to me as he could. And I knew then that the sense of entwinement and entanglement we parents can feel with our offspring is more than mere metaphor.
Longing for White Space
Spurred on by a desire for stillness in the domestic realm, for a quiet place in an out-of-control world, along with what seems like half my generation, I have found myself a new hobby. With a list of books a mile long on my To Read list, literary fiction, memoir, theology, all the stuff that has made me tick for as long as I can remember, I have found myself instead reading books on organisation strategies and on that near cult term ‘decluttering.’ That’s right, in those rare moments of quiet when more than a sentence can flow through my head without the staccato beat of interruption , I’m reading about how to make more physical ‘white space’ for myself and others, only wondering in passing at the insanity of it all: a wealthy western-world so bloated from its own insatiable appetite we talk of purging our wardrobes and kitchen cupboards with the misplaced zeal of fad dieters.
But whether it’s Marie Kondo or that Australian guy Oprah discovered, I’m more than willing to lend an ear to anyone who purports to tell me what I think I want to know: how to smooth down the surface of my wrinkled, jumbled life into a neater picture, into an insta-tranquil square. And in the daytime, it feels like this might be enough. Like the answers really might be as simple as owning less and organising more. And so I fill up my donation boxes, count garbage bags, and plan my next domestic revisions.
BUT that’s until the noise finally stops and I can hear more clearly the beat of my own heart.
The Truth Hour
For me it’s the middle of the night. In the darkness. When I lie wake and can no longer see the clutter. When the only noise is the breathing of my people, these tangles of bodies that frustrate and elevate my days. Then, I know, there is more. That what I’m looking for on the surface of things (and my clutter-free gurus tells me clean surfaces are very important) is not really the thing at all. That if I really want to find a worthwhile rhythm to it all, a pattern to ‘spark the joy’, I need to look deeper.
Which brings me finally to the reason for this post. It’s no secret that this year has been hard for our family. There have been multiple challenges and changes, a year —more than a year —of stripping back the layers, searching through what at times has felt like ruins, to find instead new foundations. And seeing, from that rubble, the golden glint of new beginnings. I’ve said it before here, and I’ll say it again, deep growth takes going deep. And that isn’t always comfortable. But it is worth it.
And even as my eyes and hands long for the white space of clean surfaces, my heart knows that what is most needed is a different kind of decluttering, a soul minimalism if you will.
And so, in the next few posts, I hope to explore this new decluttering project on my heart. This soul declutter. As any good minimalist knows, the best way to live free is to let go of the things that encumber and hold onto the things that matter.
What do I most want to shed, to live the best way I can? Not just to survive, as the saying often goes, but to thrive. And what do I want to keep, what is my ‘capsule ‘wardrobe’ if you will (let those who speak the lingo understand). What habits, practices, heart stuff do I want to wake to and put on daily?
While I’m still to clarify this more, this is what I’m thinking.
LET GO OF:
perfectionism – that voice in my head that says it must be ALL done ALL right ALL the time. Or else! Because, really?! Just say this sentence aloud once and you see the insanity in it.
self-critical expectation – perfectionism’s close-buddy. The weight on my shoulders that evaluates my actions, and gives ticks or crosses depending on my performance.
comparison – another member of the bullying, self-berating gang who looks at others and finds me falling short
pride – the unlikely member of the group, who takes all of the above members’ advice and then decides to try as hard as it can to get the upper hand – to appease them all and get applause
The knowledge I am loved and created to love – Because I am, WE ARE. It is for freedom we have been set free. To love.
empathy – rather than comparison. The ability to look at others with the good grace to see beyond appearances, that every person, everywhere, holds within them a beating heart. It is that heart I want to talk to, and how can I get there if all I’m doing is standing at the door of their exterior and turning away from fear of my own inadequacies
compassion – This world may be cluttered with multiple voices, perspectives, aims, agendas, but one thing stands out above it all. This world is hurting. Its needs outshine it’s excesses. The one staple that can never grow to excess is compassion
embracing creativity – I put this one here particularly as it’s close to my heart. But I think it matters in a bigger way. Another word for it might be embracing ‘giftedness’ or living out ‘uniqueness.’ The idea that we have all been made a different manner, to shine a different light. I don’t mean this in a soppy, sentimental way, I mean it in a solid, lived, inhabited sense. If we are being ourselves, how much more can we benefit others. It’s worth exploring the question.
I’m sure I could go on. And I’m sure if you are reading this you too have your own lists. If you are a commenter, and you feel so compelled, please feel free to share on the space below.
And if you want to follow this small soul declutterer around as she seeks to sort this out a little further, please subscribe below. I’d love to have you along for the journey.
As always, hoping you find some meaning amongst my mess,
*Feature image by Rob Viuya