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.