This is a picture of my workspace and this is the cleanest it has been in a year. We’ve been away, and I cleared it off the best I could for our house sitters. In general, I keep my desk neatly organized, but I never realized I might have an issue with my stuff until I completely cleared off the desk in my office about two years ago, and my heart started to race. To me, it looked like I hadn’t been doing anything. Instead of feeling organized, I felt completely lost and somewhat panicked. It felt like getting back to work would just take more time, because I’d have to find my things all over again.
My “things,” and I know they are just things, are categorized neatly in my mind. About two weeks ago friends of a friend lost their belongings in a fire. I’m the same size as the mother of this family and volunteered to donate some of my nicer clothes that I have been hanging on to but know I will never wear again. Problem was, we were away and had been gone already for about 4 weeks. Nevermind that … I had my friend call me from my house and I walked her through three different rooms and told her exactly what she could and could not take.
All my stuff is there in my mind, easily accessible. I know where it is, and I pride myself in knowing it. I can even tell you the exact moment in my life when I decided it was important to me to know where my things were. I know where I was standing and what I was doing although I was not more than seven years old at the time. But that’s just it – my stuff is my stuff and I know where it is. The box of things gone missing in a move 9 years ago bothers me just as much as a blouse left in a hotel in August, and these missing things nag at me, seeming important, even though I can obviously live without them. My mind has monumentalized them. Absent markers of my past.
This is my shelf, filled with “important” items that I almost never touch, but constantly look at. It’s organized, everything in its place, and there is obviously still clear floor in front of it. But the more I look at my clutter that comforts me, the more I can see that it creeps and has to be tamed back. It is a constant effort to sift through, weed, delete, gift items, donate clothing, sort, shuffle, move. I do this mostly at my minimalist husband’s gentle urging or example, but also sometimes out of my own need for neatness and my wish to be unhinged from this stuff. I live very well without it when I’m away, but it is so comforting to have it in front of me, at arm’s reach, tangible. It’s not just in my memory, it is in front of me as a reminder.