Every year around Christmas, I get the urge to declutter. I don’t know if it’s the relatively few decorations I put up or the fact that I spend more time at home. Or maybe it’s the memories of “A Christmas Carol” which my Dad would read to us every year as we snuggled under blankets in front of the fire, but the words of Marley’s Ghost echo in my head. “I wear the chain I forged in life,” I hear as I look in my kitchen cupboards and out of the way places.
And honestly? As a motivation for crap removal, the thought of carrying supplies for long-abandoned projects and all your orphaned socks with you into the afterlife is a pretty good one.
I am also tempted by the lure of the planner at this time of year. The idea of being able to get it all down on paper and move my dreams forward while at the very same time remembering to get Ruffles to the groomer when he’s due is just so enticing.
Most years I resist the urge to buy into a planner, especially if it claims to be an entire life-planning management system that promises that this is the year you will live your passion/launch your thing/take charge of your life once and for all and finally, FINALLY make something of yourself. Any old calendar will do usually and I am mature enough to realize that stuff gets done, with or without multi-coloured highlights and inspirational quotes.
This year I fell for a downloadable system. It was practically free – I only had to whore out one of my tweets. I only printed out two months of pages. Because the only thing sadder than my chaotic, unmanaged life is coming across one of these hope-in-a-book planners with the new enthusiasm of September and realizing I’ve wasted another one. I mean, sure, I can start up again and really work those last four months. But there will always be that desert of blankness stretching back to February.
So now I’m enjoying feeling a bit less scattered. Just as I’m enjoying my extra breathing space.
But here’s the thing.
As I nose about the internet and find posts on decluttering (minimalism is HOT) and life planning (making time for your passion is KEY), I start to feel a little uncomfortable.
Because while these both are great tools, they are not, in fact, saviours. They cannot protect you from Basic Dread. They cannot protect you from Life or what I think of as The Rogue Element, that influx of chaos that we cannot control, no matter how many systems we put into place.
Because along comes one of those years and no planner on earth was going to save me from the deaths of my sister or my parents. You can’t plan for that. You can’t plan for falling in love or needing to declare a snow day or having your sweetie whisk you away for a day out together. Stuff gets done. Shit happens and life moves on, whether your closets are photo-worthy or in need of a stout door to keep the crap corralled.
I don’t blame the writers of these posts for making it sound like they could. Unbridled enthusiasm is a lovely thing. But all the minimalizing in the world, all the planning, all the attempts to keep the chaos at bay won’t, in fact, keep it at bay.
Chaos is where we come from. Chaos is who we are.
And while I love knowing that for at least a few months this year Ruffles will get his bath when he’s scheduled to, I also accept that things will happen that will make us miss some of those appointments.
It’s good that I have a direction to try to move in with my writing and building this blog. And there will be weeks when I will implement those strategies and also when I won’t.
And stubbing your toe on excess crap is an added misery when you’re having a bad day and a minimalist lifestyle will lessen the likelihood of toe-stubbing if not the likelihood of bad days, so I will continue with the decluttering.
But I will try to forgive myself the Basic Dread. The chaos. The being human. It’s not a failing, of me or my systems.
If you’ve ever tried to maintain a garden, you’ll know. You pull the weeds and the weeds come back. You plant something lovely and it either withers and dies or it runs rampant and needs to be pulled out. It doesn’t mean you stop trying. But eventually you stop trying so hard to control it.
And with that need for control gone, you can maybe step back and see the beauty that has formed despite your best-laid plans.