Getting My House in Order sounds like it should be a pretty simple thing to do, right?
As part of my self-challenge in August to weed out life’s “non-essential” things in order to lead a life focused on deliberate “essentialism,” I quickly honed in on removing physical clutter. I don’t know about you, but piles of papers, boxes, clothes, unused toys, etc., make me crazy, Literally, clutter makes me physically and emotionally nervous. It makes my head spin thinking about when I will find the time to destroy the piles, to put things where they belong and when I will finally convince others to do the same. You know, so my tidy environment can stay that way. Clean. Uncluttered. Organized. That kind of environment signals good decision making skills. Good self-discipline. One’s ability to take responsibility for one’s own things and one’s own decisions, even the small ones. Yea…in a perfect world, right?
Unwilling to be deterred or discouraged, I set out to destroy the garage…I mean clean it. But first I had to make a path to walk from the roll-up door to the interior door. Without falling. Or tipping the teetering tower of excess that we’ve stored, piece by piece, rather than make a decision to sell, donate or trash it. Seriously, that was grown-up Jenga on steroids! And it was scary. Not just because I wasn’t sure how many Florida bugs, frogs or lizards might launch themselves onto my face at any given moment. But because I had to make decisions. Decisions about things that were, admittedly, just things…but I resolved to make those decisions final. So there would be responsibility behind my choices, and it was all mine to bear–good or bad. So I downloaded several audiobooks onto my iPhone and got to work.
The first book I listened to was meant to inspire and direct my sorting and organizing, but I admittedly went into it with low expectations. The title was The Life-changing Magic of Tidying. That’s exactly what I needed! A magic formula! BUT…tidying? I needed a lot more than tidying! Four hours and fifty minutes later I was begging for those hours back. The gist of what I learned was to hold each and every item in your hands, yes, each sock and each pen in your entire house, and ask yourself–Does this spark joy? No? Then thank it for having completed its job in your life and discard it! Hmmmm…..I received equally useful advice on how to greet your home when you enter and how to express appreciation to your shoes and toothbrush for their tireless service to you. SAY WHAT??? I continued with my own methods of bulldozing and left the tidying to those with more time and patience (and imagination) than I possess.
As I worked to widen the narrow trail I’d cleared I had to make some difficult choices for other peoples’ things. Some were my things, but some were my husband’s things. We both hung on to tools, bikes, chairs, old quilts, kids’ school records from a decade past. Furniture that needed refinishing. Weed eaters. Yes, multiples. I think I might have found an entire restaurant worth of BBQ equipment. We had only been married two years when we moved in, and most of those garaged things should have been disposed of back then. But we moved in six weeks after my son, Quinn, died. And our garage was a direct reflection of where my mind had been. Cluttered. Opaque. Teetering. Confusing. Scary. Some of what I sorted through were Quinn’s things. Since the accident in 2013, I’d not had the courage to separate myself from most of his belongings. Even if some were boxed and stacked, I at least knew they were near. But there I sat in the small space I’d cleared, with filthy bare feet and sweat pouring down the center of my back, when I came upon his cork board. This was the board on which I’d found the precious messages he left us:
“GOD HAS HIS EYES ON YOU- SHOW HIM SOMETHING!” AND “TRY THINKING IN TERMS OF ETERNITY!”
And I wept. Over a cork board. But not really over a cork board. The tears streaked through the thin layer of dust on my face and dragged with them black mascara. I was a bigger mess than my garage. Just then I remembered a point made by a pastor whose young daughter passed away in his arms. “I will make no THING of hers sacred.” I’m paraphrasing, but basically he meant that we should not allow THINGS to be what is valued, cherished or worshiped in our lives, especially after a deep loss. The cork board is not Quinn. It doesn’t hold his spirit, even though it once held messages from his heart. So I prayed, asking Jesus to hug Quinn for me. Tell him how much I miss him. Love him. Adore him. I thought about how I was two years and almost nine months closer to heaven. Then I stood and placed the cork board in the “donate” box.
I won’t let go of everything of his. After all, nothing new on Earth will ever be “his” again (at least not in this lifetime), so I will hold onto some keepsakes. But I don’t need to cling to THINGS to remind me of what I value, cherish and worship. I can cling to Jesus for that. And for me, THAT is Getting My “House” In Order!
P.S. I will share a pic of the garage when it’s finished! 🙂 Pray for me!