Tuesday, August 26, 2008

long and wordy road...er, post

I think I'm at a new stage in my long journey to declutter my life and house, get more organized and have the time and energy I want to devote to creative work. I think.

So much has happened since I began this journey: my son Patrick's death, the down-the-rabbit-hole years with my mother's dementia that followed, and now this year, my mother's death.

I'm not who I was when I began this blog.

Things are a little bit better in the physical aspects of my house -- less cluttered in ways that were serious impediments. Much of the work I documented here has held, decluttered spaces have not (for the most part) filled up again with clutter.

I feel like I'm closer to creating the sort of life I need. I have an abundance of time for myself that I have never had before.

But I need to be wise about how I use that precious commodity. As I've made certain volunteer commitments (that seem to expand and expand!), I'm finding myself feeling that my time for my own art is being compressed. An image arises of painting myself into a small corner of my life.

I just found something in my MacJournal - an exercise from the book, It's Hard to Make a Difference When You Can't Find Your Keys. I was earnestly working with that book when Patrick died and I haven't picked it up since. That was well more than two years ago.

I'm of a mind to begin working with it again. Now my focus is less on dealing with the physcial clutter (though there are certainly still some 'hot spots' here!), but more on protecting my time, making conscious decisions about how it is spent, being more organized and thoughtful, setting priorities. And dealing with my lifelong tendency towards procrastination.

Meanwhile, I'm going to go ahead and post the exercise. It's pretty personal, but I think it's a useful thing to share. And I made some important observations that make this a good place to pick up working with the book again.
This was written in February 2006 from the exercises in Chapter 2, "What is Your Compelling Purpose for Organizing?"
What disorganization is costing me:
I spend too much money on things I cannot use because of the clutter.
I buy things I already have either because I can’t find them or I forget I already have them.
I tend to shop (online mostly now) and buy things because of moods (either low or high!)

I always want more of something - as though I will run out of a favorite thing and not ever be able to get more. Or, if I love something, like a pretty roving, I will try to buy more as I am using it. Sometimes I won’t use something because I don’t want to use it up and not have it any more. Hoarding.
Sometimes I amass books (on a subject I’m newly interested in, by a particular author I’ve gotten interested in) or every tool and material for a new art form, etc.

I am unable to work at my home business of bookselling, so I have no income of my own anymore.

Disorganization is costing me dearly in terms of time. I have terrible senses of regret and guilt over the time I have not used wisely in the whole course of my life.

It’s not the amount of time I spend trying to find things - finding things is not one of the big problems of my clutter/disorganization. In fact, I seem to have an almost psychic gift for finding things and I can even do it for other people! I find things in others’ clutter!

It’s the amount of time I have been left in a state of inertia because of the clutter.

It’s the time I didn’t spend creating something because it was just too overwhelming, trying to find the space for the work, gather the materials all in one place, then clean up afterward. Of course, if I did manage to overcome the first two, and actually work on a project, I rarely clean up immediately afterward. And I often don’t finish a project, so I leave it out, thinking I’ll get back to it. My project tools and materials, the project itself at times, will just remain on whatever flat surface I manage to find to work on, make me feel guilty about not cleaning up then get dispersed, scattered - cleaned up by the natural movement of things in a house.

So - my clutter/disorganization costs me the joy of seeing the fruits of my creativity. It has robbed me of the growth and skill I might have at 54 if I had been able to work regularly on writing or drawing or fiber arts.

(Another area to explore: process/product, procrastination, attention...)

The cost has definitely been to my purpose and journey as an artist.

Family & Social Costs

I have begun to wonder if my panic disorder is also connected to my clutter/disorganization.
My family has certainly suffered because of my panic disorder keeping me from travel.

My kids have probably felt uncomfortable having people over. I certainly feel uncomfortable having people over.
My kids haven’t had a good role model for life management.

My husband has had to live with clutter and he is my polar opposite - compulsively neat and tidy. He must find it excruciating to move through my clutter.

Psychological Costs

The more I think about it, the more convinced I am that there is a connection between my clutter and my anxiety. And maybe even the panic attacks.

I feel tremendous guilt at having this clutter about.
I often hate to go to others’ homes because I wind up being filled with longing for the neatness and beauty I see.

I start an enormous number of things that I don’t finish - impulsiveness? disorganization? short attention span??
My clutter distracts and diverts my attention.

Health Costs

I am stressed by the clutter around me.
Dust probably impacts my breathing.
Clutter depletes me, robs me of energy

Spiritual / Soul Costs

It actually hurts my spirit to be surrounded by clutter. It’s ugly and jarring.
To be surrounded by clutter, depletes my energy on a spirtual level as well as physical.

My disorganization and clutter stunts my growth and prevents me from fulfilling my potential as an artist. I have lost years of accomplishment to this problem.
My disorganization and clutter creates difficulties for my family and sets a poor example of life management for my kids.
My disorganization and clutter prevents me from inviting people to my home and diminishes my social network.
My disorganization and clutter may well be a significant cause for my suffering anxiety and panic disorder (both of which cause me mental agony and prevent me from enjoying life and travel.)
My disorganization and clutter fill me with guilt and feelings of low self-worth.
My disorganization and clutter rob me of vital energy, both physical and spiritual.
Time, money, energy, creativity, fulfillment, joy -- all are costs of my disorganization and clutter

What I will experience when I declutter and become more organized:

I will have energy, both physical and spiritual.
I will enjoy being in my home and inviting people over or welcoming in an unexpected visitor.
I will have a sense of serenity and peace and will not feel the burden of all the things that need to be done around the house.

I will have time and space for my creative work. It will be a pleasure to begin a project, with materials at hand and the proper place to work.

I will feel fulfillment when I can be creative.

I will again be able to sell books and have a small income of my own.

I will be able to let go of feelings of shame and embarrassment.

I will not fear that I will end up like my mother, wasting years and my spirit, fretting about ‘tidying up’ or getting things done that will never get done.

My anxiety levels will decrease.