A few weeks ago, Nick and I pulled 4 black bags of Things from our room. We both remarked later that if we had to suddenly pack up our room, we would each only need one large box. Our room feels restful and simple now, like us.
Two days later, I went through every cabinet in our kitchen and gleaned two full bags of Things from the shelves and drawers and cranies. I took every single appliance off the counter except for the coffee maker (because let’s be honest). I gave real analysis to if I’ve ever used the nut chopper, or if I always just mulch through them with a sharp knife (consequently, I got rid of the nut chopper, and many such “conveniences.”) Nothing stayed just because a kitchen should have one. Because of the open counters, clutter-free shelves and easy cleanup, cooking is much less frustrating–and even sort of relaxing–these days. It looks like me.
A few more days later, I emptied 10 black bags of Things from Aly’s room and the back room. I realized I had been unfair with Aly: hard on her about a clean room, but filling her room so full of Things that the job was often overwhelming and complex. She says her room is now much more fun and she sleeps better (and it’s now fair for me to set a standard for her tidy room).
This week, I took 2 full bags of Things out of the boys room. Theirs was least neglected, because we painted last fall and I set up some good organization for them at that time. However, I removed toys that it was time to admit we were never going to find the pieces for, and even one expensive toy whose annoying clicking noise put Nick and me on edge every time we heard it. I threw away books that had been torn or damaged. Clean up is now a snap, and even Tyce can do it.
I went through a big armoire in our dining room that was used for storing Things and quickly determined we did not it–the entire piece of furniture–at all. Some of the stored items were decorative, which I put in a yard sale box. Some were kids games, which I found another recently-emptied drawer for. Some was filing and paperwork, which I found a convenient new (and smaller) place for. Oh, and our common theme: 2 black bags of Things. We’re going to remove the entire piece of furniture from our home and bring our digital piano up from exile in the basement to take its place.
I took down the long curtains in the dining room and let the light pour in.
I removed all the decorative items from my big farmhouse table. I was surprised to realize how much they factored into my use of the table. Before, the cute little green topiaries sat right in the middle, and mentally divided my table in two. I was less likely to spread out a simple task on it because in my mind, the table was in two small pieces, divided by decor. Silly–but I just didn’t realize how my mind works. Now, I have really enjoyed my table that much more–spreading laundry, paperwork and groceries out in quick easy sorting. (The kids’ legos, too, stress me out less because there’s nothing for them to shove off the table or mess up).
Last night I did a really important clean up–my phone. I deleted 50% of the apps off my phone. The idea came from my sister Steph, and after some thought, I realized my phone, too, was cluttered with Things. I kept a few recreational apps that I enjoy, but I put them all in a folder labeled “Time.” Every time I go to them now, I see that word Time and it causes me to pause: do I really want to give Time and my mind to this? Am I on autopilot? Is this really where I want to go? Sometimes yes, its a good moment. Other times, I become aware of the quiet moment, and reach out differently, into my heart and into my Father. All of my phone apps now fit on one screen, and I lay it aside much more regularly.
We have more places and Things to dig ourselves out of. The basement, ugh. The garage. The back porch. The bathrooms. But it’s not overwhelming anymore to grab a box of trash bags, a broom, and a canister of Clorox wipes and begin. It’s becoming exhilarating to excavate our family home from Things. As I get better at it, I’ve begun to give things away or prepare a yard sale box, but in the beginning I was overwhelmed by the task before me. So it was important just to begin. I couldn’t comprehend donation boxes or give aways (though Nick did take 2 bags to Goodwill). I decided just to begin where we could, as we could, and let ourselves gain strength.
This morning, alone and walking back from Aly’s school drop-off, I pulled out my phone by habit. The app I wanted was tucked there neatly in a sparse folder labeled Time.
But something was different inside of me. The morning air was strangely crisp and friendly, and I felt clear and light. The breeze nipped at my hair. A song drifted through my heart that I hadn’t heard in a long time. The swirling morning hum of things I need to do, remember, and think about seemed neatly compiled into manageable and even inspiring categories. I felt the perpetual furrow in my brow relax. And this moment–the 3 minute walk from Aly’s school to our house–was all mine.
I didn’t see just three minutes. I saw three whole minutes.
And there stared at me the reminder, in my hand. Time, and a mind open and free, unencumbered by piles of old Things. I tucked the phone back in my pocket and strolled easily home all those three minutes not caught in a cyclone of voices. Just me, a simple morning walk, and three whole minutes.
When I got to the house, the quiet inside of me continued. Even with the boys there playing, I still felt wrapped in peace and I relished it.
The peace is coming from inside of me now.