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 from www.bestautolenders.com 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.
New Year’s resolution = regular practice
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.
Such a good analogy, Lucy: decluttering the car, the house, the mind… is an ongoing task. Regular tidying, like maintaining a regular practice, is so much more fulfilling than an occasional blitz. Another New Year’s resolution to keep :))
Ah, Yoga Spy, how well I know this kind of clutter – well, just about all kinds of clutter if we’re going to be picky about it.
One of my current aims is to reduce the number of emails I send out that start, “sorry for the delayed response.”
I think part of the resistance to staying in touch, especially with family and friends, is that we want to settle in and take time. So we put it off to that mythical moment when we’ll have more time, and then – as you so rightly point out – guilt and procrastination set it.
Your niece is a cutie.
Thanks for the well-timed reminder.
Thanks, Jayne and Eve, for your comments. Jayne, I agree that an occasional blitz means less than regular practice. I’m reminded of the Zen proverb “Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.” We are essentially our everyday actions.
Eve, you hit on my standard apology: sorry for not calling/writing sooner! I, too, delay keeping in touch until the perfect, leisurely moment, which rarely comes. Here, I’m reminded of your four quadrants: Urgent/Important, Urgent/Unimportant, Non-urgent/Important, and Non-urgent/Unimportant. I neglect the Non-urgent/Important (including family and friends), instead crossing the Urgent items off my list. Bad strategy in the big scheme. (My niece gets away with a lot, thanks to her cuteness!)
Your niece is a carbon copy of you. I have been consciously de-cluttering my life for years. It takes discipline – may be it is from my martial arts background, but it helps to clear my mind and focus on what it matters most. I can empathize about keeping in touch with friends and family, especially most of them are not in in the same city or the same continent as I. This is the most challenging part and I agree with your mum. Making an effort to do something means you care.
My mom sent cards too, and when I married, she included my husband on his birthday and our anniversary. She’s no longer alive, but her cards are, and I still look at them occasionally. They are with the “keep forever” clutter. Thanks for reminding me of them.
It’s a joy to read your blog posts. I agree fully with the importance of regular practice in achieving and maintaining change. This year, I am also aspiring to connect more often with family and friends, even when they are distant. I see decluttering as a way to make space in my mind and heart to do this.
Oh thank you Luci! This is perfect timing. I’m at home tonight, de-cluttering my email, because I let sickness creep in. I see the clutter everywhere… and I’m committed to continually reducing it, and coming up with ways to not let it seep back in so quickly. You reminded me of the piece I often forget – that it’s a continual, ongoing commitment. There will not be an end. And hey, it would be boring if there was 😉 We’re de-cluttering our house as we prepare to move, and I’m de-cluttering my life as we prepare for our next steps, first of all, our three month climbing trip!
And you’re right. With people, sometimes you can’t go back. And those are the most important places to keep de-cluttered. Thank you 🙂
Thank you for your blog…I have never liked clutter so I tend to get rid of things after about a year…that is unless I use them regularly. And now before I purchase things I ask myself if I am going to love that thing for more than a month or two…sometimes this works and sometimes it doesn’t. Like a moth before a flame, I can be lured by bright pretty things.
And I especially appreciate your reflections on family and friends. Too often I put aside the quick phone call, the card, the email. But what if…what if the terrible happens and I lose the opportunity to say that one last ‘hello’ or ‘good-bye’ or ‘I love you.’ What if….