February 12, 2011

the highs. the lows.

i don't know what it is.

this is a low-point, though. i have a headache, today, and for some reason today is just super dee duper emotional for me. i want to cry at every corner and i feel like a first-trimester mess or a premenstrual off-balance gal, but it is neither that part of my cycle or the possibility of being pregnant and just not knowing it yet.

though, part of the way i'm feeling may be not knowing.

i keep trying to climb out of whatever funk i am in and today i am ready to start clearing out old baggage, both emotionally and metaphorically and also physically. really, in real world terms, i'm prepared to start a little more of a deep-clean on the excess stupid stuff i keep around like coupons and pez dispensers and various other items that go untouched or unused forever.

i started reading an article last night in the latest issue of whole living and decided to share it with my husband. who, for the purposes of this blog entry, will be my husband and not awesome papa. (insert curt smile here).

the article is called "cleaning house" by susanna sonnenberg and i cannot find it online but to recap, it was one of those instantly eye-catching articles about the desire to free one's home of clutter, the realization that this cannot occur without unearthing some emotional build-up, and how freeing it is to remove physical barriers to freedom and happiness, as well as mental ones.

this is all stuff my husband doesn't get. and even if both the author, and myself, think the whole art of feng-shui may be a little difficult to fully embrace, we both understand the value of taking some feng-shui suggestions to heart. my husband on the other hand can only roll his eyes in response.

so he's going along, as i read some of this article aloud to him but then misses the point (or interprets the point differently) that freeing up space in one's home "allows something new to bloom there," as sonnenberg mentions. he instead focuses on the idea that we (meaning me, or people in general, but never him) want to immediately fill an empty space with something and can't just let the empty space be. he's not so much into fantastical possibility like i am. he doesn't care about the flow of energy, just the bland aesthetics of bare space.

he likes empty space. he likes cleared off dressers and counter tops and tables and shelves. i get that. i like it, too, but before now, we sort of had to live with wall to wall furniture and i sort of had to use surfaces as additional storage space and when i went through my first year-long decluttering phase i worked very hard to remove unnecessary furniture but stuff still piled up on nearly every empty space because i obviously have emotional issues that manifest themselves outwardly. i also, on the other hand, have no time to sort through my bills on a weekly, consistent basis like my husband does. i also, like to be artsy and don't feel like putting away my unfinished projects need be a top priority, i also sometimes don't have time to unload and reload the dishwasher before he gets home, i also can wash and dry eight loads of laundry in a day but may not get around to folding or putting them away in the same 24 hour period. whatever. i did make progress, though, however i recognize the need for more progress, which is why this article spoke to me last night and why i decided to share it with my husband.

see. i think he also needs to make progress. he's the king of "i might need that someday" which is just as much a no-no in the decluttering books i've read as keeping something for sentimental reasons that don't actually add any value to your life. anyhow, i was reading this article to him for the first time, as i'd only read the first two paragraphs before deciding i had to share it with him. this author and i had quite a bit in common. she mentioned "the pile" of paperwork and random things growing on just one part of her kitchen counter. since we moved and since i read it's all too much last year, i have tried really hard to keep the main parts of our house in good working order but the kitchen bar and one part of the counter, by the phone, manage to grow piles on a consistent basis. i am consistent about clearing them away at the end of every week (or two) but it doesn't take long for a new pile to emerge. today i'm putting an end to that once and for all, but first, i write this.

as the author goes through her home, asking herself important questions about the things she has chosen to hang on to, she mentions a very costly, floor-length coat that her grandmother bought her, that she's worn all of two times. i have a floor-length coat that was rather spendy, that my grandmother bought me, that i've worn twice and will likely never wear again. like sonnenberg, i think of the cost and use that as an excuse to keep it even though i have not worn it in nine years. not even kidding. this was starting to hit home a bit more than i expected and when the author began a tale of helping her friend rearrange her bedroom, only to find that her friend was keeping divorce papers and her ex's books under the bed, i asked my husband if this sounded familiar. the author asked her friend, "you're sleeping over this?" and my husband let out a small chuckle.

see. some years ago when i moved in with him, we decided to make our master bedroom the larger of the two bedrooms in his home and gave the master to my oldest son. i tried not to focus on how the larger bedroom had once been his ex-girlfriend's bedroom. it quickly became the bedroom that our son was born in but what little i did know of feng shui, told me that our bed should not face a door or a bathroom, of which it did both. there were actually two doors in to that room (since it was originally supposed to be two smaller bedrooms) and one of those doors led into a hallway but looked directly into the hallway bathroom. i attempted to off-set this by hanging chimes in the bathroom but the husband took them down. whatever, maybe i do take feng-shui principals a little more seriously than i'd like to admit, however, upon reading this article just now, i see that a bed facing a door is associated with problems in the midline of the body and well, for one reason or another, i had some of the worst back pain in my life, as well as severe digestive problems, the entire time i lived there. even though i was diagnosed with a "chronic" intestinal problem when pea was nine months old, i've gone into "remission" twice - once during a six month period right before and right after our marriage, and about four weeks after moving into our new house. i may be too hokey for my husband, but if that doesn't scream an emotional, and possibly energetic, tie-in, i don't know what does.

moving on, however, what made husband chuckle was that a year or two after our son was born i realized that a box full of old mementos was living under our bed. and new ones. every card i'd ever given him was haphazardly and unceremoniously thrown into this box full of pictures of old girlfriends and other personal memorabilia. i wasn't upset that he was hanging on to his past. but i was upset that everything i had given him was being lumped into his past and none of it was cared for or tended to and it appeared that what was underneath hadn't even been looked at tenderly in years. and we were sleeping over this! all of this negative, pent-up, and uncelebrated energy. he, to this day, claims that it is important he keep every single thing in that box and i haven't made him go through it. that's his deal. but i can bet that very few of the things in that box bring him a sense of peace or ease (which probably explains why he hasn't gone through it) and i know the author of this article, and the author of the book she read which prompted her clear-out, and the author of it's all too much, or any author of any book on the subject of decluttering would say that he needs to go through this box in order to open up new possibilities for his life. and if he deems every letter and every picture and every card and envelope and name tag in that box worthy of his respect and admiration, then it should be treated and stored (or displayed) as such. at this point, it's not even about the box which is probably in the garage. it's about the fact that he doesn't listen to me and won't read any of the books i suggest, so sharing this article with him last night turned into him rolling his eyes in exasberation and me crying in frustration.

today, despite the dream i had last night where he told me he didn't even love me and would only stay for the children and despite the headache i woke up with that won't go away, i am ready to tackle what i can, knowing that i can only get rid of what i contribute. i can only keep my emotional and physical clutter under control. despite being married, i have no say in how he chooses to deal with his emotional and physical clutter. despite being married, we are not in this together and he reinforces this concept every time i attempt a joint effort.

when i point out that his office, while relatively organized, still leaves much to be desired in terms of efficiency and inspiration, he claims that it's okay and suits him just fine. he forgets about the stagnate piles he has here and there, the bins full of office supplies that are easier to ignore than sort through, and the still unpacked boxes full of text books or paperwork he may no longer need. he can only point out the bags of yarn i brought in here when my oldest son moved back in here two weeks ago, that i have yet to do anything else with.

my "decluttering" has been a life-long work in progress because my emotional attachment to things started at a very early age. i have yet to write the saga on why we shouldn't pass on guilty sentiment to our children, but to briefly touch upon that subject, there were times when i'd want to part with a toy, for instance, and my mom would suggest that i keep it because it cost such and such or so and so gave it to me. i would keep and imbue strong emotion to an object that was otherwise meaningless. there were also times when i would get rid of something, at her request and despite the value i had attached to it, because it was cheap or some other so and so gave it to me. i would be forced to get rid of something that meant something to me and me alone. this has caused a life-long association of things with happiness and i sure as shit fall prey to the marketing ploys that i know enough about to avoid. i may not think that this new whatever will make me better, but it might make me feel better. if even for just a second.

since becoming a mother in all sense of the word and outgrowing that shell of "single teen mom" that i once was, the only thing i had to make myself feel anything was the ability to shop. even when i recognized this, i didn't stop. it's been a long journey but i can finally feel like i don't buy things on impulse anymore (or not nearly as often) and i don't buy things just because they're a good deal. i really ask myself if i need something or will make use of something before i buy it and if i fool myself into thinking that i will really use something and it turns out that i don't, i end up reselling it. this cycle repeats itself less and less these days.

my shopping habits really are a story unto their own but i just feel like i've reigned in and conquered this habit because instead of hoarding handbags in my closet, i want to see open space. i want places for new ideas and possibility to bloom. i don't want to be consumed and owned by the things that i choose to keep.

i have made very clear and conscious decisions every time i've instituted a change for the better and equipped with even more advice on the topic, from sonnenberg's article, i can now ask myself these questions when on the ever-revolving decluttering mission:
  • do i love it?
  • do i need it?
  • does it bring me peace and energy or uneasy trouble?
there are other questions involved and most i have asked myself over the years, such as:
  • is it broken? is it worth fixing?
  • does it belong to someone else? can i give it back to them?
  • does it have negative associations?
  • does it have value? is it worth keeping, selling, or donating?
  • do i use it? how often?
  • is it easy to replace?
while not fully adopting feng-shui, sonnenberg does make note that "the pile" was related to the marriage area of her home and admits that her marriage may have grown just as stagnate as this pile on the counter. while she doesn't go into any moody detail, it does appear that by clearing out her home she addressed the problems in her relationship and "renewed with passion and vigor" many aspects of her marriage. i don't have a bagua or feng shui house map (but that's on my list of things to google) and i don't have a husband willing to yet look at any aspects of our marriage or what baggage he has chosen to carry with him throughout his life. i cannot do anything about that. the only thing i've got is my willingness to change and the ability to contemplate room for growth.

i don't really know what a working marriage looks like, but i do know that to be the change i wish to see and to lead by example, the only thing that's held steadily true, is that i have to start with myself. and sometimes it is not about knowing, but doing.

update: i have yet to attack the pile on my counter but what have i done since i started this entry this morning? i know, all zero of my readers are dying to know.

well, i showered. i practiced reading two poems aloud without looking at the page. i served the kids lunch. and then i sat down to nurse sprout down for his nap and decided to get serious about looking into feng-shui. to be honest, it's always interested me but i was never interested enough to apply the concepts throughout my entire home. today i have learned that there are two schools of thought and realized that the western bagua map overlays our new home perfectly. our kitchen is the heart/earth center of the home, the master bedroom is the marriage/love section and if i consider the garage to take up the right front of the home (because it does), then that means my husband's office and the room that the littles share represent creativity and children. after i work though the final stages of clearing unnecessary clutter from my life, i would like to apply some feng-shui techniques afterall (even in the office).

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