I love the process of clearing space. I love doing it in the physical world, where I declutter, remove unneeded objects, and put things in their proper places. I love doing it in my inner world, too, when the mental noise is starting to be more insistent than my experience of sensory pleasures. That is, when I notice that I have been walking in the woods for the last ten minutes but haven’t seen, heard, or smelled anything at all that told me I was in the woods, then I know that I am far too caught up in my inner life and that my real life, the life of my body in this world, is passing me by.
But there is a seductiveness to thinking, thinking, thinking. In my thoughts, I can imagine that things work out just the way I want them to. In my thoughts, I can also imagine that things are Just Terrible, and that there is an awful tragedy, and I can suffer mightily. For some reason, people seem to like to dwell in thoughts like those maybe even more than dwelling in thoughts that bring pleasure. In my thoughts, I can wreak vengeance on those whom I think have done me wrong. I can see my personal justice brought to bear in my thoughts.
I don’t really want to trash-talk the thinking process. Thinking is perhaps the most useful tool that human beings have developed. We are capable of remembering the past on multiple levels, and of projecting the future, and those two things allow us to create new objects and experiences. They also allow us to re-experience through various means; reading books, watching movies, talking with friends. Thinking is a powerful tool and we don’t use it all the time. Our minds are busy, though, even when we don’t need to be thinking. This is an adaptation; our minds are on alert for threats to survival, opportunities to increase the likelihood of survival, and sometimes just ways to entertain us. These busy minds can also cause us a lot of grief if we have learned habits that are unwholesome and lead us to getting caught in our thoughts and feelings.
Having a cluttered mind is like having a cluttered home or a cluttered office, though. The clutter can really get in the way of priorities. It can divert attention from what is really important. And sometimes I discover little bits and pieces of clutter that really belong somewhere else. If those bits and pieces were put where they belonged, they wouldn’t actually be clutter.
There is a Christmas cactus in the living room; it is in a clay pot, and sits on a white saucer, to protect the table from drips of water. On the edge of the saucer is a small brown object. I noticed it when watering the plant, picked it up to wonder at it. It’s a hand, actually, a ceramic hand, broken off a ceramic person and just cluttering up the saucer. When I held it I recognized it; it belongs to a statue of one of the famed Three Kings of Epiphany; Balthasar, to be precise. Balthasar comes out, along with his brethren, during winter holidays. These guys are remnants from my life as a young mom, making merry with my small children, and Balthasar has always had trouble keeping his hand connected. However, finding Balthasar’s hand on my plant saucer in mid summer means that it has been there for months, existing as clutter.
What to do with this hand, now that I have noticed it, picked it up, identified it? I could find the statue and glue it on. I could pitch the hand in the trash, which is perhaps the most reasonable thing to do. After all, Balthasar has managed without his hand for some time. But no, I did neither of these. I did the only thing possible for me at this time. I put it back on the saucer, in hope that I’ll remember where it sits next December when Balthasar comes to visit out of the decorations stored in the basement. In the meantime, in its current incarnation as “clutter” the hand has distracted and entertained me, and in fact, provided an inspiration for a post that started out being in favor of decluttering. Maybe I’ll need to reconsider my position on that!
What is your experience? How do your chosen objects enhance your life? Do they ever impinge on you in a negative way? Is it easier to do a complex task if your surroundings are clear?