Order is comfortable. Order looks good. Keeping our homes and lives in order makes us feel as if we have things under control.
But do we, really? (Or is just orderly on the outside and a scattered mess of fear underneath?)
I enjoy order. Getting things organized makes me feel such a sense of accomplishment. An orderly environment is calming and peaceful. A cluttered environment, on the other hand, causes stress.
So you’d think it would be a high priority for me to keep my home orderly, wouldn’t you? That would be logical. And yet, for the past several years, my house became more and more cluttered. I had a couple of businesses, one of which included selling my artistic products, so inventory of finished pieces and supplies took over much of the basement. My boyfriend moved in his belongings, which took over more of the basement and the garage. Our relationship was of the utmost importance to me, and it was wildly out of control. I desperately wanted to help him heal his wounds, and I couldn’t. I wanted to succeed at everything while being stretched way too thin. I was so focused on commitments to other people and the community that I neglected myself.
Other people first, always. I wasn’t as important as they were. I needed to earn my spot in this world to be of value. Focusing on myself was selfish. That is what I believed.
Thankfully, I recently accepted the truth that I am just as important and valuable as everyone else, regardless of what I do and don’t do. (Those daily affirmations really do help!) I accepted that focusing on my own self-care is vital to me being able to serve others—and to being happy. This year, I realized self-care includes not only my body, mind, and spirit but my external environment as well.
In March, I asked my now ex-boyfriend to get his belongings. I wanted him to have his things so he could feel freer to move on with his life however he wanted, whether we were going to be together again or not. But he wasn’t able to psychologically handle that transition. It took me more than a month to accept that. Then I realized I didn’t need to be held hostage by his unhealed wounds. I could “out of consideration for him” allow his things to stay until he was ready to deal with it (old me), or I could decide that my needs were just as important as his and find a way to resolve the situation respectfully (new me). I packed up and returned his belongings. Let’s be clear: At this point, I was doing it for me. I still wanted him to have his things, but I realized that I too needed the space to move on. I needed the energy in my home to be cleared. And I did it.
Taking action on that decision, made out of love for both him and me, was a major turning point.
I started decluttering the rest of my house. I threw away ton of papers, magazines, and miscellaneous stuff that had accumulated. I started going through the supplies I had for my businesses to offload some of those. I just barely started sorting through clothes and books, and then I paused.
I decided to make it a priority to support my parents during my mom’s surgeries and their decision to move. My house decluttering didn’t have a deadline; their life events did. And our relationships have grown through the process.
At the same time, to take advantage of the spring and summer weather, I decided to hire help for my yard maintenance and a huge landscaping project in my backyard. Then the Universe and its powerful winds brought down two tall trees, making the project even bigger. It required dealing with people, being frustrated by communication issues, trusting others, losing patience—all great learning opportunities for me.
There were times that I just wanted it all to be done. I wanted order. I wanted the house to be decluttered and organized and the yard to be beautiful and ready for visitors.
Why? Because I wanted that sense of peace.
Then I realized something: There will always be something in transition. There will be progress and achievements, but there will always be something more, another goal, things shifting outside my control. It is never done. Not until life is over do the pieces stop moving (and maybe not even then).
I needed to find peace amidst the chaos.
I walked around my yard yesterday, looking at the mess: bare and straw-covered spots where grass seed was put down, a ladder left by one of the helpers, pots of dirt and leftover bulbs awaiting my action. And I didn’t cringe at the To Do list, as I have most of my life. I thought about how far it had come in just a few months. I thought about how blessed I was to have this home to take care of. I thought about how beautiful it will be next year and how wonderful it will feel to invite friends over. I smiled at bumblebees looking so happy on the blooming sedum.
I walked inside to stacks of books and clothing, small gatherings of decorative items, and piles of empty boxes—and I thought about how grateful I was to have this abundance in my life, to have extras I can donate to others who will appreciate them. And what a great project for colder weather! Instead of wanting to hibernate, I can be productive.
Do I want my home environment to be more orderly than it is now? Absolutely. Will it be? Without question. How do I know that for sure? Because now I am doing it from a place of self-care rather than self-criticism.
This is the same approach that has been working to improve my internal environment. A couple of years ago, I acknowledged that my Self needed improvement—if I wanted to be happy. (Breaking up with my boyfriend revealed he wasn’t the only one with unhealed wounds.) With that awareness, I dove in to take action. It hasn’t been an easy journey for sure; it’s been a super messy emotional one. I’ve had to let go of caring how other people may view me and of how I viewed myself.
This is a journey that never ends. We are always growing, if we choose to. But to grow, we need to allow things to get messier so that they can get better. We need to be uncomfortable and surrender to the process before we can find peace and joy.
To make progress, we need to be fully aware of our current situation and realize we have the power to change it. If we focus on how a situation will feel when it has evolved into what we want it to be, progress becomes a pursuit of joy, instead of a fixing of problems. When we realize our power and take action, our self-worth increases dramatically.
So let’s embrace the mess. Let’s show ourselves and each other compassion and grace through the process and celebrate even the smallest signs of progress. Let’s appreciate the blessings and beauty that surround us, always. Let’s stay open to all the possibilities and be grateful for this journey of being human.