Today has been one of those days where I just want to start again. Not just re-start the day, but everything, from scratch. I want clean benches, clear floors, empty cupboards. Order. Calm. Peace.
I just want to sweep everything up into a big cosmic garbage truck and wave good by as it disappears around the corner, loudly announcing to the neighbourhood that I am done with this rubbish.
I don’t just refer to the physical, though. Do you ever feel like your head is just… full? Clutter and chaos and clouds. You can’t think straight. You don’t know where to begin. Everything is just overwhelming and you can’t quite pin-point the cause. You just know that you want things to be simple.
The trigger for me today was that there was not one single room in my house where I felt there was order, calm, peace.
Trying to talk things over with Nathan revealed that, to him at least, the house was in quite a more decent state than it had been in recent weeks (our youngest is just shy of twelve weeks old, so it’s been a busy few months), and he questioned what it was that had caused my minor meltdown.
It’s not that certain things were out of place, or that the washing was piling up, or that last night’s dishes were still on the bench, or that the windows and floor I had cleaned not two days before were now covered in a smattering of fingerprints, crumbs, and marks of questionable origin. It wasn’t any of that. All of those things are rather common occurrences here. The real problem was that there was no order, calm or peace from within. From the first cry of a child before sunrise this morning I was begrudgingly up to face a day I was not prepared for.
One of my personal commandments* recently has been to simplify. Which is an incredibly ironic word for me because it is NOT. EASY. Originally this little rule was employed to help reduce some of the physical clutter I was finding myself dealing with. I began learning to let go. That teddy bear from a childhood friend who I’m no longer in touch with? Let it go. That cute skirt that used to fit me, but probably never will again…? Just let it go. It wasn’t just about letting go of stuff. It was about letting go of certain memories, ideals, hurts, desires.
The craftsman and artist, William Morris once said, “Have nothing in your home that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” I love this precisely because it is so deliciously subjective. It is about what is useful and beautiful to whomever the home belongs. This one statement (along with FlyLady – embarrassing confession) has helped me to prioritise. To simplify.
For me, outer simplicity creates space to breathe, and to cultivate peace. But outer peace and calm is of no value to me if I can not learn to simplify from within, to rid myself of the unnecessary, to not let a lack of outer order dictate the sort of person I am. I can still be a great mum and a loving wife and a dedicated friend, even if my house is not in ideal condition. I’m still me.
Because eventually, the toys and books and sandwich crusts will find their way back under the couch (along with, yes, mouse poop!) The fridge will miraculously accumulate (seemingly overnight) mouldy science-project offerings. The window sills and corners of bench-tops and tables will become magnetised catch-alls for bobby pins, unopened mail, beer bottle caps and old magazines.
I can clear a space and sweep the floor…
and straighten the cushions…
and obliterate the dust…
and light a candle to make it all glisten pretty in the flickering light.
But all that work is for nothing if that is where I stop. If I don’t work to cultivate peace within myself, then my home will never reflect that, no matter how tidy it is.
My younger sister brought me flowers this afternoon, brought them right in to the chaotic scene I was trying to wrangle into a more presentable form. As soon as I had carefully re-homed them in an old vase in the middle of the kitchen bench, I knew something had to change. They looked so out of place amongst the dirty dishes, the remnants of the day’s snacks, the used teabags and the bowl of scraps for the chooks. So, I began clearing dishes off the bench and placing them in the dishwasher. I threw the scraps to the chooks and wiped down the bench. I put items back in their rightful places, and moved the flowers to centre position. That one simple act of bringing something calm and peaceful into a chaotic space was the kick in the pants I needed today.
And I’m wondering how this can translate to bringing peace to my own mind when all I can see is chaos and anxious thoughts. Because I want my thoughts to be useful and beautiful, too.
And I’m reminded to be anxious for nothing… and to think about whatever is true, noble, pure, lovely.
And I’m assembling a posy from all of these lovely things to inspire a clean sweep of the day’s grimy and gritty.
And I’m placing it in centre position.
And I’m challenged to simplify my thoughts, let things go, and let peace in.
What would be in your posy? What would you clear off the ‘benches of your brain’? What if it could be that easy?
I would love to hear your thoughts.
*Gretchen Rubin’s Blog The Happiness Project is one of my favourites, and the idea of having Personal Commandments is a bit of a self-development exercise. I’ve started my own list, and will probably share some more of them in time.