Remembering what I already knew about tidying up

A couple of weeks ago I posted a photo of a stack of books I was taking on a trip with me.  That trip was to go visit my dad and spend his last days with him.  On the top of a stack was the new best selling book that I thought I might have time for reading, The Magic of Tidying Up written by Marie Kondo.

It was recommended to me by a lot of people-either because they knew I have a thing for that sort of stuff or because they’ve seen my house over the last year-either way there has been a need for some tidying up around here for sure.  It was to be a promising read during some expected down time on what was to be a one week trip to see my dad who was dying of cancer (something I hadn’t made public yet).  Let’s just say that the idea of tidying up quickly took a back seat once I was faced with the reality the tragic, real life experience before me.

I’ve said before that minimizing life, eating healthy, authentic bonding, following your passion, etc. is all about quality of life and in the end mostly about our relationships with other people.  So…I began to remember what I already know about tidying up.

We Americans do own too much stuff.  I’m no exception.  It’s a real problem and one that I face day to day even though I am committed to living more simply.  When we spend too much time managing our stuff we are unable to spend the time doing the meaningful work we are called to do.  There is no doubt that serious consideration to owning less and enjoying what you do have improves life.  I believe that Kondo covers this very well in her book and the skimming that I was able to do left me motivated to make some lasting changes.

That said, I fully believe that many of us in this society suffer from having too much time time on our hands.  Just like our stuff-we begin to accumulate lots of extra downtime to the point where it becomes an addictive distraction that keeps us from doing what we are called to do.  Let’s not confuse that with the much needed down time needed when you are constantly giving of yourself.

When I think about my life up to the point when I really began to “stop and think” there were these large chunks of downtime:  evenings sitting around reading a book or watching TV, weekends set aside exclusively for rest and lengthy vacations.  I began to believe that doing nothing was something that I was owed rather than seeing the excess as something that should be managed just as well as my stuff.

When I go deeper into the reasons why I want my house to be tidy I realize that it’s because a clean and organized home means that I might get “time off”.  It means that my weekend offers more rest, my evenings offer more reading or computer time, it means that I can sit down for a minute and just breathe.  It quickly becomes the only way that this mother of four who gives so much of herself is allowed time to herself.  Not okay.

So I must ask myself, “what happens when my home is not tidy”?  Do I allow that to prevent myself from finding rest, from enjoying time with my loved ones, from reading a book, exercising or simply taking time to breathe?  Do I face the work of the day with resentment because I know that if this wasn’t the life we had chosen I’d have more time just for me?  

When I look at the lives of single women close to home who are working three jobs just to feed their kids or women around the world who put every ounce of energy into keeping their kids safe from slaughter-I recognize that my privilege can often stand in my way of contentment.  Because the reality of my life is that sometimes my home won’t be tidy.  In those times I can choose to allow stress, anxiety and worry about the state of my stuff keep me from doing the work I’ve been called to do to make this world a better place.  Not okay.

So on my trip where I had made plans to read lots of good books I choose to hold space for my dying father instead.  I watched him breathe, I took him drinks, I listened to him move, I listened to him move his foot against the bed and I touched his skin.  In the moments of death I breathed in the truth about how to truly live-contentment in all things.  Now that I’m home life goes on and my stuff piles up and I’m faced with all the same feelings over and over again.  It’s helpful for me to realize that it’s a continual cycle.  Realize changes need to be made, weigh the pros and cons of each choice, make the best decision for me in this season of life and move on quickly without too much self doubt and criticism.  Doing the best I can do is all that I can do-and that’s more than okay.