Clutter

I believe I’m a minimalist at heart. I like simplicity, structure and predictability. I’ve always been incredibly organized. I have three carefully organized calendars:  an agenda, my  iPhone and in Outlook at work. On top of that I track what I’ve done each and every day in a journal, ticking off accomplishments and quantifying expectations by week and by day. These habits are personally satisfying and define exactly the person I am.

Growing up, I spent every Saturday diligently tidying and straightening my room. I regularly tackled my closet, relishing the purging and systematic reorganizing. It just felt good. Before I had children, house cleaning was a relaxing and enjoyable activity. I’d don some comfortable clothing, press play on some loud, upbeat music and spend hours contentedly loving and caring for my home.

I am the most at ease when everything has a place, and is neatly tucked away.

So you can imagine how much I’ve struggled since becoming a mother. My husband and I used to joke about how hard it would be for me to have children, and to juggle all the copious quantities of stuff that comes with them. Funny as it may have been to imagine before their arrival, there is no question that the two little boys I so adore cause me a significant amount of mental unrest. Despite resisting the consumer influence that seems to come pre-packaged with the birth of children, I have struggled to relax whilst surrounded by clutter and bits and pieces of their life scattered all around our home.  My oldest son gathers toys and books and all sorts of treasures under his bed; my youngest flings Little People and trucks and cars to various corners of the house.  And suddenly the spacious open concept that I have loved so much becomes overwhelming and stressful.

When that happens I can’t help myself—I dive in, I purge, I sort, and sometimes, I admit, I hide.

The same is true for how I organize my emotional life. I need categories, I thrive while using mental checklists, I prefer when life fits into neatly compartmentalized boxes. I want goals that I can quantify and measure. I need to be able to tick off accomplishments and know in measurable deliverables that I’ve met my own expectations. I’m a professional communicator at heart, my entire life is a strategic plan. It’s one of the reasons that blogging has been so appealing. I write things here, and then they hold me accountable, a record to measure progress against.

But just as I prefer mental order, so do I struggle when I’m experiencing mental clutter—too many deadlines, a social and professional calendar on overdrive, too many personal goals, hobbies and interests. All of it can easily overwhelm me.

I used to assume that life clutter was just a part of living, that being busy, on task and ahead of the curve was expected and desired. It’s taken me months to realize that living my life that way is a huge shame trigger that needs to be harnessed and respected. I’ve learned that this is who I am, and that it’s far easier to give in to this sensibility than it is to fight it and live like someone who I am not. So I write about the things that litter my mind as a way to set intention, monitor progress and stay on track. And I tidy my house, and insist that things be put in their place, to help settle my anxieties and surround myself with calm and contentment.

Since I began my journey to find myself more than a year ago, I’ve written about so many parts of myself. I’ve confessed to overwhelming challenges, shared my heart and my soul. I’ve tackled my dreams, been honest about insecurities, and explored new ideas and ways of thinking. Each and every piece has been an important step, and though there are so many more to take, I’m just grateful for all that I’ve been able to do, the safety I’ve felt in sharing them here.

When I sat down to write this post, I envisioned something different, but the words just led me here, to a place of deep gratitude to anyone who has read and been a part of this journey, to this space for providing an outlet, and to myself for being brave enough to set my intention, publicly and with complete commitment. This road has been tumultuous, but also wondrous and spiritually satisfying.

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14 thoughts on “Clutter

  1. Lindsey says:

    Naturally, I totally relate. I find great comfort in order – somehow it implies that the sometimes raging disorderliness inside of me can be corralled, organized, managed. And yes, like you, kids have pushed my boundaries on so many of the things that I previously kept firmly in their place. It’s marvelous to be able to recognize the value of some disorder, I think, and what a gift that you have (as do I) a safe place to work through some of it. I’m intensely grateful for your sharing, this and all of it. xox

  2. Christa says:

    Isn’t it funny, the way you start to write out one thing and it spins into something else entirely? Happened to me last night…

    And thanks for this. Once upon a time, I was the same way, but things changed and fell apart and come back together again differently. I think it is time to reclaim some of that need to find calm through organizing, internally and externally. Great food for thought!

  3. kelly moniot says:

    thanks for sharing your journey with us all.. You always make me sit back and take a look at myself and what matters.. thru your blog I have learnt alot about myself as well. I am grateful. thank you.

  4. Lena says:

    Thanks for sharing! I can relate to your post, and this sentence jumped out at me: “I’m a professional communicator at heart, my entire life is a strategic plan.” I am also a professional communicator, I work in PR and have done so for the past 13 years. I plan, I organize and I try to stay in control, If I could plan every minute f my life and my family’s, I would be happy, happy, happy – but life doesn’t always let me! Darnit.

  5. rachel says:

    “I used to assume that life clutter was just a part of living, that being busy, on task and ahead of the curve was expected and desired. It’s taken me months to realize that living my life that way is a huge shame trigger that needs to be harnessed and respected.”

    these are wise words you came to today. as a total type-a myself, i’m listening. thanks for sharing.

  6. Ah. That clutter issue. Yes. This is so relatable, Christine.

    But the dilemma only worsens as children get older. I find that I’ve come to live with considerable chaos and clutter in my surroundings – and I’m okay with it. I don’t love it, but I can function. And I’m lucky in that, because there simply isn’t time – or space – to deal with the problem. I’ve tried, tried again, tried again, and eventually decided it just wasn’t as important as so many other things. And this – from a Type A. Go figure!

  7. Chantal says:

    Clutter. I am living it in and find it oh so stressful. Yet i have no time to deal with it. Someday.

    I enjoy following you on this journey Christine 🙂 Thanks

  8. Kate says:

    I am a clutterer. I enjoy clean, I feel calmer with organized, but it is not a natural state or an easy one for me to attain. Similarly, it is one of my points of shame that I cannot (do not) maintain a tidier home. It is clean enough, I am no hoarder. (do you hear me trying to make it okay?) Becoming a parent has pushed me towards a better middle ground. I would love a week to simple focus on purging and simplifying. But life, living this moment of life seems more important. Now, if I could just do that without the burden of shame about the cluttered midden heaps tucked into a few corners.
    I do find that blogging is a wonderful way to set down the clutter in my brain. And I am so grateful for that too.

  9. Pamela says:

    I hear you. For mother’s day, the present I asked for was 3 hours to clean. Bizarre, I know, but I can’t function with crap or dirt around. Luckily, the boys – as young as they are – like to organize things. It’s probably the age but I’ll enjoy it while I can. And I just organized the hard drive on my laptop. Bliss!!

    Thanks for posting this – so great to know I am not alone in my neatness obsession.

  10. Stacia says:

    “My entire life is a strategic plan.”

    As someone who has written and carried out plans like these professionally for many years, this made me laugh and nod. So, so true! And wayward toys? They disappear in the night at our house. There must be a clutter fairy that comes and takes them away to cleaner houses with fewer toys. At least that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

  11. Kelly says:

    I crave order but don’t often find it. My house is cluttered though I routinely move things out in one way or another. My mind is constantly swirling with random thoughts and during conversations people will say, “No, you need to finish that other thought before starting on this one.”

    Would love to have some of your natural orderliness!

  12. Gina says:

    Was just complaining to my husband about feeling overwhelmed. It comes and goes in waves for me. A friend once said, “you’re drowning in a glass of water.”

  13. martha says:

    simplicity I like, structure and predictability not always. It ties me in. I DO wish however, that I have a child who enjoys structure and predictability. however, I do not. Thus what I have is clutter and mess lying around till I get stressed and threaten to throw away every single toy, book, hair clip or clothing found lying around. That sends my chidlren into a cleaning frenzy. I like the concept of open space, but that too has become only a dream. Then there is the hurry and rush of daily routines and schedules which gets me forgettinig things to do. Having children (and FB) has added clutter to my physical and mental space. I guess, while i’m in it, I’m gonna try and enjoy it before all that disappears when they leave home.

  14. M. Bailey says:

    I came across your blog just this morning and am so glad to find it. I too work full time (in communication nonetheless) and also have two boys. I can really relate to your blog. Looking forward to reading more of it! Hope your ling weekend is lovely. I plan to declutter our house this weekend to prepare for a community garage sale. Somehow purging feels very liberating!
    Take care.

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