After my thorough New Year’s de-cluttering, I was quite satisfied… for a few days. Then I saw books, notes, pet fur, and fresh debris re-invading my immaculate space. Banishing clutter is not an occasional project—it must be regular practice.
I’m reminded of a yoga teacher’s anecdote three years ago, which I cited in Clearing the clutter. When San Francisco yoga teacher Joe Naudzunas‘s truck was totaled, he had to empty it out. It took longer than expected.
“Do you clean your car regularly?” he asked. “Or do you let junk accumulate in it? Do you use it as another closet, just toss stuff into it? If you let junk build up, it’s a big job to clean it. But if you maintain it daily, it’s not a problem.”
He was analogizing a clean, well-maintained vehicle with a body clean and well-maintained by yoga. If we work on our closed, tight trouble spots only occasionally, it’s a big and painful job to release them. But if we work on them regularly, ideally daily, we keep them open and mobile.
His analogy goes beyond yoga and orderliness. Regular practice applies to any New Year’s resolution. Consider the most-common ones: Get fit. Lose weight. Quit smoking. Save money. Advance career. None are one-time achievements. All require longtime, I’d say lifetime, commitment.
One of my resolutions is to be more connected with my faraway family and friends—not just during visits but always. I’m bad at keeping in touch. I’m not into calling and texting (and forget about Facebook), and I put off newsy email messages for “when I have free time.” I regret not sending more holiday greeting cards to my little niece. (My mom long ago established a tradition to send cards on every holiday, from Halloween and Christmas to St Patrick’s Day and Easter, nevermind that we’re neither Irish nor Christian. Sending a card might seem a mere gesture but it takes time and energy. To bother with handwriting and stamps means that you care. My mom never misses a holiday, by the way.)
When I neglect my family and friends, I’m letting clutter accumulate in my most-important relationships. When I find myself repeatedly apologizing or repeatedly procrastinating or repeatedly feeling guilty about my behavior… I’m accumulating a load of clutter. Of course, they are my family and friends; it’s back to normal when we’re together again. But relationships must be ongoing, not occasional.
The sad thing about relationship clutter is that it’s less redeemable. I can always clear my desk, purge my closet, or intensify my yoga practice—and set things right. But my niece won’t forever be so delighted to receive cute cards from me. With people, missed opportunities might not come again.