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Friday, April 27, 2012

Being Devoted to Minimalism, Simplicity & Organization Doesn’t Mean You Get to Run on Auto-Pilot- Nor Does Your Brain


One of the biggest myths that I bought into (though it was purely of my own making- no one spoon-fed me the myth), was that once I got my life organized, I’d never really have to think about it deeply again. I’d never have to re-evaluate, once I finally got the “perfect” housekeeping, exercise, wardrobe, diet & all my other plans up-and-running. I’d be able to sit back on the couch, watch TV, never worry about anything, and everything would be fairly effortless to get done. This would especially be true because I thought it all out in advance, wrote it all down, stuck to my routines & didn’t buy into things that complicated my life. Right?

Wrong! My belief was about as dumb as thinking that I could open up my own business, and provided I did it with the right business plan, I’d never have to make hard decisions ever again. Yeah, now you see exactly what I mean. I’m here to tell you from hard-won personal experience, life is messy, hard & complicated at times no matter how much you simplify, no matter how thin or healthy you are, how many items you de-clutter, how often you clean, or what routines you have written down. That’s right, I’m saying it, The Big Defender of an organized lifestyle- I’m telling you that life gets rough whether you’re a messy, lazy slob or whether you’re a perfectionist neatnik. In fact, (have the nitroglycerin handy…) being an organized person who thinks in advance may just mean that you’re more than likely a worrier by nature, not that you‘ll be more relaxed all the time. Some of the biggest hoarders in the world, people who wouldn’t clean if a gun was held to their held, are also some of the happiest in the world. Yeah, if you think I wasn’t extremely pissed off to find that out…oh, I was! “Darn it, all these years I’ve worked so hard, de-cluttered all this stuff & cleaned so much, and I’m still anxious & depressed?! What the…?!”

The problem wasn’t because I had too much stuff, or too little, either. The issue was also not with my organizational skills (or lack thereof), or how much I managed my time well. It wasn’t because of the amount of money in my bank account or the weight on the scale. You may be confused at this point, but I’ll explain. Not until I got my whole place de-cluttered, lost lots of weight, had money in the bank or learned to manage my time & home efficiently did I realize that…none of those newfound skills made me any less innately anxious or depressed. I was just an anxious, depressed person by nature who now looked really good on the outside, and whose home looked really decent on the inside.

Well, then why the heck would anyone undertake the journey of simplifying, if it doesn’t bring you happiness? Well, there’s several reasons. For one thing, extra stuff (just like extra weight) cushions us from these very emotions coming up. And stifling emotions isn’t a good thing- that doesn’t mean losing control of them, mind you, but rather facing them headlong like an adult. I was not able to proactively deal with my lifelong “worrier” mode until I no longer had any particular thing to blame it on. I couldn’t throw out there the old excuses of why I was upset- such as “I got up too late, the house is a mess, my mother’s making me crazy, I’ve got weight to lose, I ate too much, my things aren‘t organized, my boyfriend’s being a jerk, I don’t have enough money to buy all the things I want”, etc. I got up in the morning, and sure enough, a few routines later, I certainly could go sit on the couch & watch TV, laugh & enjoy myself, knowing I’d gotten everything done- but my guilt stopped me. To this day, it’s really difficult to just sit still, believing that I‘ve done everything I should have that day. My brain goes around in a chaotic circle 24/7, thinking of things I could be doing, maybe should be doing, finding fault with what I have already done…are you with me here? When you sit down to watch your favorite TV program- the only one you watch- and you must have a pad of paper & a pen nearby to write a to-do list on, there’s an issue. Some people would say that’s just multi-tasking, being really intelligent, or being really organized. What it isn’t, though, is being focused. It’s hard to focus on enjoying your time with friends, family or out at a movie when you’re thinking about the workout you should be fitting in, the closet that you should be de-cluttering, or the dust on the living room lamp. I could’ve relaxed years ago, even with what clutter I had. There are certainly people who would actually consider my “previous life” still pretty organized (I never was a hoarder, for example, just not a good time-manager).
My mother (the greatest annoyance…er, teacher…of my life) is the type of person who can sit & enjoy watching the TV all day, every day, without the undone dishes or dust mites bothering her conscience a bit. She was & still is a crisis cleaner- one of those people who only cleans when it gets so bad she can’t take it anymore or when company’s coming- whichever comes first. She’s no hoarder. Actually, she’s pretty minimalist, not into art or knick-knacks. She likes a clean home. She’s not a slob. She has decent skills in life. She has no problem with me throwing out household clutter. She’ll even take out the trash. But, unlike me, she is not hard-wired to think that a messy house is always a problem house. She also is not one for self-blame (not to be confused with self-analysis), whereas I’m a master at it. The latter of which, I blame on her completely. ;D

Be careful & know that it is you who chose to simplify, organize, get a cleaner life and/or home, and minimize. Don’t take it personally when others don’t seem to notice, or care about, your efforts in this direction. Now, if you vacuum & then your husband purposely goes & dumps a bowl of cereal on the clean floor, you have my permission to throttle him, or whomever the offending criminal may be. But very rarely do people purposely, rudely go out of their way to mess up your life, or the things that you do. Especially when those people are loving family members or friends. You have to enjoy the journey for what it gives to you personally, and the gift that it allows you to give to others. That gift may be your additional quality time spent with them, it may be that they never run out of clean towels (will it really kill you to wash a load of laundry for another person?) or simply that you don’t nag them anymore because you’re at peace with life. I’m not saying that you should be a doormat. If you live with a “messy”, then they’d better be contributing something else to your life to make it worth it, namely love & hopefully a good income. Nor should you put up with people who will outright refuse to do a simple chore when you yourself are busy with another task, something that they can easily accomplish. Balance, my friends, balance- that’s what life is all about.

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