Well, I’m going off script. I was supposed to show you how we minimized our book collection but instead I want to talk about February.
Because February kicked us in the butt.
The month started off with Clay laying on his deathbed due to a bad case of Man Flu. (In technical medical lingo this means he had the sniffles, but in Clay’s mind he was terminal and therefore required massive amounts of attention and care.) I don’t mean to throw him under the bus, so I should mention that after nursing him back to health I caught it too. And it truly was rough; my body was so achy that even my eyes and teeth hurt.
Shortly after we recovered from our severe colds we hopped on a red eye for a trip back to our home state. Those 7 days were jam packed with friends and family time which was much needed and appreciated, but by the time we flew back home we were beat.
A week of sluggish jet lag recovery followed that, combined with work meetings, doctor’s appointments, and more errands than usual. Also a tree branch fell and cracked our windshield while we were in Michigan, so there were long phone calls with the insurance company, visits to the repair shop, arranging for a rental car and so on.
Meanwhile, Clay got sick with a weird stomach bug. Then I got sick with a weird stomach bug. We haven’t gone grocery shopping in 8 days. The compost bin is overflowing. And every time I clear off the countertops, dirty dishes materialize and fill them back up despite the fact that no one has cooked a proper meal in days.
As a result of this intense chaos our physical and mental space has been a cluttered mess for weeks, and I can’t stop beating myself up over it.
NOT A PITY PARTY
Yesterday morning as I sipped my tea I started getting discouraged, once again, by our state of disarray. Then the floodgates of grace opened up and gave me a shift in perspective. What I realized is that for the hectic month of February I can confidently say that I did my best.
Sometimes my best is picture perfect and involves a level of tidy discipline that would make Mr. Rogers proud. Other times, life speeds up beyond my control and I have to prioritize what matters most; even if it means temporarily letting go of valued rituals and rhythms that normally help us thrive.
What mattered most in the cruel month of February was a weird blend of survival and self care. Which meant that sometimes we went skiing, or hiking, or we slept in even though the apartment looked like this:
My bath towel is hanging on a command hook meant for necklaces and Clay’s never made it off the floor. My purse and backpack haven’t been emptied out in days. Clay’s jeans and sweatshirts are in the right drawer but they aren’t folded. The floors need to be mopped. And if we want clean hiking clothes they are either in the pile of clean laundry behind the couch or they are in the pile of clean laundry in the dryer.
This isn’t a pity party invite. A lot of great things happened too. I just want to be honest about what real life occasionally looks like, because so many people leave these unattractive parts out.
Though in an effort to lessen your judgements, our apartment didn’t look like this every day of February. The disorder ebbed and flowed. And depending on our perspective we could say that this is what our home looks like at it’s historic worst. But we could also argue that this is what “our best selves” look like, at least as far as February is concerned.
And while Clay and I were reflecting on our current chaos he said,
“Sometimes our best looks like a 3 out of 10.”
And I’m slowly learning that that’s okay.
NOT A LIAR
You may have heard that minimalism inherently cuts down on clutter, and that the konmari method helps to keep things tidy. I know it doesn’t look like it now, but these statements are still true 100% of the time.
We don’t have clutter on clutter on clutter. Our countertops aren’t for important tax documents, appliances and dirty breakfast dishes. Just leftover coffee cups that need to go in the dishwasher. The laundry on the floor is just laundry on the floor. All of these items have a designated home, they just haven’t found their way there yet.
Additionally, our drawers are still in tact. And even though Clay’s sweatshirt/jeans drawer pictured above isn’t perfect, he can still easily see what’s there without having to disrupt an entire pile of sweatshirts.
Having said that, I assure you that the Marie Kondo’s of the world absolutely deal with chaotic disorder from time to time. No one keeps a spotless home 24-7: not Marie Kondo, not your mother-in-law, and certainly not me. Because life is naturally messy and we aren’t robots. :)
I’m not advocating that we all live like slobs, only that minimalism does not demand excellence or insist that we have perfectly tidy homes.
I think this is important news, because as your comments come in one by one a repeating theme that pops up is this notion of “perfection, someday”. It’s as if you’re saying “Someday my drawers will be perfectly organized too!”
My advice for that is: if you want to evoke change and if you have the time and mental capacity for it, then yes please, just start. Start anywhere you can and start slow.
Set the bar 10 notches lower so that grace and patience are built into the whole thing from the get go.
But if you don’t have the time, or the mental energy right this second, that is okay too. Minimalism and living more simply are good things, but if you’re in survival mode for goodness sakes take a nap and purge your closet another day. Let your body love what it loves.* What it needs.
I love these words from Shauna Neiquist:
“Some days I feel like the internet is 100 versions of ‘strive for greatness’ & ‘crush everything’ & ‘be all the things’ and ‘how she’s killing the game & you can too!’ and ‘these are the 64863 things successful people do before dawn.’
But how about this: you don’t have to crush or kill or slay anything today. You don’t have to strive or wrangle or hustle or do anything violent today. You can just be a human, in a quiet & honest way, & that’s good too.”
Clay and I may have had the time to clean up after ourselves, but we didn’t always have the mental energy. And if we had the energy, we didn’t have the time because we chose to wander through the woods instead.
And while I’m feeling a bit crazy for sharing these photos with you, it was a good reminder that minimalism (and life in general) will forever be a process. That perfection was never the goal because
doing my best; when I can, if I can, is more than enough.
(I can be a competitive perfectionist with Type A tendencies, so these are never ending lessons for me.)
The good news is that it’s the start of a brand new month and that alone brings a whole new wave of fresh energy.
I’m also confident that when time aligns with energy, this seemingly insurmountable mess will disappear in less than an hour.
Further, today happens to be Saturday. And ever since I can remember Saturdays have been for listening to Bruce Springsteen (Dad’s choice) while mopping the floors.
Grace and peace, friends.
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
*You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
Mary Oliver, Wild Geese