I have become inspired by the book “the life-changing magic of tidying up: the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing” by marie kondo. The process marie has developed puts you back in relationship with your stuff as you go through everything in your possession by category (and if you have a lot of stuff by subcategories) and keep only what sparks joy in you (and yes, any papers that you are required to keep like taxes and insurance policies). That is it in a nutshell.
I love it because it isn’t deciding what to discard. It’s deciding what to keep. And in doing it you can discover more about who you are:
“The work of carefully considering each object I own to see whether it sparks joy inside me is like conversing with myself through the medium of my possessions” ~ marie kondo
I have been dabbling here and there into the process since the new year but have been so booked (I’ve been working more than full-time, plus produced and performed in a show in June) I didn’t have the head-space or time to dive in. But finally, in the last week of summer holidays, I took some much-needed time off to start diving into this process.
(Sidebar: Do I know how to vacation or what? “Mom, what are we going to do today?” “Well, I’m going to #konmari the s*** out of my filing cabinet. Doesn’t that sound like fun?”)
It has been very revealing thus far.
I am a collector, maker, putter-together, keeper, researcher, and let’s face it, hoarder of plans: financial, educational, meal, exercise, diets, housecleaning, house maintenance, gardening, and then the myriad of other self-help, creativity-based woo-woo, yoga-esque plans/philosophies/ways of being: feng shui, chakras, shiva nata, naturopathy and probably dozens of others I haven’t even gotten to yet. I have/had binders, folders, books, newspaper article printouts, dividers, duotangs all very neatly put together, read through and, then stashed never to be looked at again.
Here’s what I realized about having all this stuff in my space.
I’ve been mired in the energy of past plans. I’ve taken on the belief that it’s a personal failing that these didn’t work and keep them around for that mythological future time when I will be a better human being and be able to succeed at them.
In the “His Dark Materials” trilogy, …
…Phillip Pullman creates a creates a world with many parallel universes. In the second book of the trilogy we’re introduced to the Subtle Knife, a knife with the power to slice through the skin of one reality and allow entry into any number of parallel universes–a great and terrible tool as it turns out; because, in the denouement in the third book it is discovered that that leaving these holes between the realities open (which has been done for perhaps millenia, as no one knew it was a problem) is draining the energy of the universe into this small space between universes. Ultimately an angel must embark on a quest to close all these open holes and save all the universes.
*End of spoiler alert*
That is what having all these plans lying around is to me–doors to other versions of me that never “took” or have outlived their usefulness or have simply gone stale. But because they were never removed from this space they remain as open possibilities and a huge drain on my energy as some part of myself still wants to incorporate all these aspects into the big Me. The energy drains out into the between of possible Mes.
And we already know that I am professional level Leaver of Doors Open.
The bulk of these plans come from other people–not myself. I have a habit of believing that I don’t know. Someone else is the expert. Someone else has the answer. And of course sometimes, especially for medical matters, that’s true. But often it’s not true or not completely true. Accepting a plan wholesale means that I’m continually running into a square peg-round hole situation–and that can be true even when I make some adaptations for my situation. There’s something about not being the creator or initiator that means a plan may never work in my life no matter how many adaptations I make. Maybe there’s a passivity built into it–like a choose your own adventure book. You’re still limited by the options built into it. You can choose to surprise the bad guy by hitting him on the head with a frying pan, or retreat from the room silently but you can’t choose to put on gold lame, light up the disco ball, start singing All the Single Ladies and pretend he’s just been caught on Candid Camera. Can you? I wish I could because that would be a choose your own adventure book I would buy. You’re welcome authors of choose your own adventure books.
I earn the bulk of my living from being an administrator. I know how to organize shit. I can administrate the hell out things. I can also administrate the life out of things.
It’s like I’ve become compelled to translate everything into the language of administration: binders, folders, labels, dividers, papers, lists, categories, schedules, calendars, pens, highlighters, research, notes, meetings, action items, contracts, spreadsheets, email lists, workplans, accounts, sticky notes, etc., ad nauseam.
Is that how I make things real for myself? If a folder exists for it, the energy of that label and that container make it real. Hmmmm. If that’s the case, I’m making a folder for the contract for my leading role at the Stratford Festival right now. Can you pass me my Nobel Peace Prize folder at the same time?
Sidebar: There is actually a practice of altering your relationship to money by changing the titles of your folders. Rather than dry fiscal categories like mortgage or entertainment, they become values like Home, Nourishment, Connection. And then you can see where you’re placing your money. Is it on things you value or not?
But I don’t need to make my entire life (and by extension, my family’s lives) a huge administrative task. There are other containers, other practices, than folders and binders.
The problem is when the administrative tasks overwhelm the thing they were designed to administrate. When the filing of unnecessary paper or updating the spreadsheet becomes the thing you’re doing more than the thing itself.
I am enough. My worth isn’t measured by the gold stars (or lack of them) for following a particular plan to the letter. If the plan doesn’t work for me, out it goes.
I am a creative human. My life needs creativity just as much as administrative tasks. Be creative before I do the filing. Maybe I can even imbue my administration with creativity instead of administrating my creativity.
This is the season of Closing the Doors. Dismantle the plans. Clear the decks. Clear the shelves. Plug the holes. Wipe off the whiteboard. Unsubscribe. Recycle the sticky notes. Shred. Get to the blank page. Then see what happens next.
Pay attention to what sparks joy, inspires, is fun, makes me glow, is pleasurable. Seek it out. Repeat.
Take my iron supplement for God’s sake. It’s a medical directive and I need to do it. It takes 10 seconds and I will have the energy for all the other stuff. < This is the part where I accept that someone else knows better than me in this instance.
You are so funny! Hilarious! And freaking brilliant. Really. I love reading what you write!