To Declutter or Not to Declutter

If you haven’t heard about Marie Kondo you can’t possibly have been paying attention. The Japanese guru of organization is turning up everywhere. Her motto of ‘Tidy your space; transform your life’ by following six basic rules of tidying, is pushing even the most skeptical of us into evaluating our clutter.

(Ideally the fan and television should disappear, but there’s a closet nearby that’s in much greater need of attention.)

We’re told to sort through our belongings (in a specific order, I must add), scrutinize each item, decide if it brings us joy and, if it doesn’t, thank it for its service before tossing it.

Does that make you nod your head in enlightened agreement, hurl ridicule, or laugh uneasily?

The loudest response I’ve heard is from the reading and writing community. Latching onto Kondo’s suggestion that she keeps her collection of books pared down to thirty, sparked disbelief and rebellion at the idea of parting with any of our precious volumes.

“You can never have too many books” says a mime that circulates on social media. And Melissa Breyer, in an article for Treehugger entitled In case of rapturous decluttering, don’t throw away your books, says, “Should you get bitten by the Kondo bug, go gently with your book collection.”

“…a book collection in its entirety, nurtured over a lifetime of reading, can in itself be considered a thing of joy … and once it’s gone, it can not be replaced. Go ahead and alphabetize by author, dust the covers, and straighten the spines – but if you keep just one thing in your decluttering frenzy, consider keeping the books.”

Even Tsundoku – the practice of buying more books than we can read, thus creating our infamous TBR piles – has a positive spinoff in Breyer’s article. “That a book is unread should not be an indication of its uselessness, rather, a promise of its potential. It’s like having a gift to open or a vacation to look forward to.” Believe me, I have a lot of gifts waiting to be opened!

(This is just one of our bookcases — the one reserved for my writing craft books and my TBR ones.)

The phenomenon of de-cluttering isn’t new. I don’t think anyone admits to liking clutter. Certainly, I don’t. Author Sherri Shackelford said in a Facebook post yesterday, “I understand organizing isn’t for everyone. Some people work better in chaos.” I don’t. I get stalled amid clutter because it spills over into my mind and my creativity grinds to a halt.

For me, the challenge was to identify what constituted clutter and then figure out how to deal with it. Marie Kondo says it’s necessary to first visualize your ideal lifestyle. That’s always been a problem, too. What’s ideal and what’s realistic and how can the two be made compatible, especially in a household with four children, several dogs, and no budget for decorating?

To start with, I didn’t know one style from another. I knew I wanted our home to be a sanctuary, a place of serenity in which to retreat when the pressures of trying to survive as an introvert in an extrovert’s world got to be a bit much. Minimalism was the only thing I thought could achieve that goal, and the starkness of its décor didn’t appeal to me. I like my creature comforts.

It took me almost fifty years of marriage before I began to understand that regardless of style, what made our homes comfortable for me was being surrounded by things I love, just not too many of them at any one time – essentially what Marie Kondo advocates.

Next to being surrounded by my family and dogs, the things I love involve clear countertops, serene colours of the beach and woodland, specific pieces of art and pottery…and books. Lots of books. I’ve rationalized that doesn’t conflict with Marie’s idea, because all those books bring me joy. So, beyond a bit of reorganizing and dusting, I won’t be tidying my bookshelves. I’ll take my decluttering in other areas.

In fact, our bedroom closet is next in line for some attention. I can think of several items in it that don’t bring me joy at all. It’s hard to love pieces that need repair or no longer fit.

After that? Hmmm, not sure yet…just don’t ask about our basement!

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Preparing to Write

I’m with Aristotle, at least when it comes to creative achievement: “Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” I don’t do New Year’s resolutions because I’ve learned from years of experience that making them sets me up for failure and discouragement.

So it is with my writing; I’m not likely ever going to change my natural creative rhythms. I’ve learned that working with them is more productive than fighting to overcome them.  Identifying my optimum writing time was an important discovery. I’m definitely not a morning person. Ask anyone who knows me: my brain takes a long time to wake up. So I’ve accepted that mornings are better used for devotions, journalling, and/or social media.

My best time to write is in the evening … the late evening. When the day’s routines are over and the house is quiet, nothing needs me except my manuscript. There are no time constraints so if the words don’t flow quickly, it doesn’t matter. Nobody is around to pressure me. In the blackness beyond the windows, the world sleeps. At least, most of it does.

There are the occasional late night visitors, but, while admittedly they’re a distraction, they don’t create much of a disturbance.

I don’t write as long into the night as I once did — the older I get the more sleep I seem to need — but I can still produce more words in an hour after midnight than I can during a daytime hour.

Location is important, too. I need a quiet place so I can hear the voices in my head. (Did I just admit to hearing voices???) I have a well-equipped office where I can close the door if need be, but the recliner in our family room usually draws me at night. Part of the problem in my office is the clutter. I can’t seem to be creative if my space (or my mind) is full of unrelated messiness, and my office usually is.

Decluttering is probably my single most effective aid to writing. I’d do it more often except one thing leads to another when it comes to my office, and I could spend the entire day in there, trying to organize the piles of paper, books and photos. Setting a time limit on tidying or any other preliminary activity would help, but when I’m in the mood to write it’s far easier to choose a location that doesn’t require preparation. Hence, the family room wins at night.

LL Barkat has a recent post that inspired me to think more about mental decluttering. (Simple tricks to make space for your writing) I think I’ll head back over there and reread it. I could use some extra inspiration today. How about you?

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Happy New Year: 2019

This morning’s snowfall didn’t last all that long, but it seemed appropriate for the start of a new year. There’s something fresh and hopeful about a landscape blanketed in pristine softness. It’s akin to beginning a brand new journal, opening a calendar to the first of twelve untouched months, or stepping onto a beach where the outgoing tide has left the sand shiny and smooth, waiting for fresh footprints.

a beginning
filled with
unspoken promises
of new opportunities

Wishing you the exhilaration of a fresh start.

~

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord,
plans for welfare and not for evil,
to give you a future and a hope.”

[Jeremiah 29:11]


“One thing I do: Forgetting what is behind

and straining toward what is ahead,
I press on toward the goal…”
[Philippians 3:13–14)

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Time and Time Again

We’re ten days into September and my brain is reacting in disbelief, “Really???” I want to say, “where has the time gone?”, “time flies”, “the older I get, the faster time passes” — cliches I’ve repeated all too often, but there is truth in them … even a scientific explanation for that truth:

“Our brain encodes new experiences, but not familiar ones, into memory, and our retrospective judgment of time is based on how many new memories we create over a certain period.”*

As an infant, a child, a young adult, we’re constantly having new experiences, each seeming to be a lifetime of its own. But as we age, the tendency (at least for many of us) is towards fewer new experiences and more familiar ones and they slip away almost unnoticed. It makes sense but it doesn’t mean I have to like it.

As I get older there’s less time spread out ahead of me and I know it’s going to zip past. The sense of my mortality begins to hover like a doomsday cloud. Well, not really; but I’m well aware that more of my life is behind me than is ahead. That gives an urgency to those goals yet unreached. Get them done soon or give them up!

Trust me friend, a hundred years goes faster than you think
So don’t blink.”

[From ‘Don’t Blink’ by Kenny Chesney]

 

I suppose I’d better knuckle down and get a few more things done while I still have time!

~

“Time is the most undefinable yet paradoxical of things; the past is gone, the future is not come, and the present becomes the past even while we attempt to define it, and, like the flash of lightning, at once exists and expires.”       

[Charles Caleb Colton]

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* https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-does-time-seem-to-speed-up-with-age/

Time Out for Renewal

Many of us love renewing our homes (ahem…yes, guilty). Most love shopping to refresh wardrobes (meh…not so much). Some love travelling to discover new locales (hmmm…it depends on the locale). Too few of us take time out to renew, refresh or discover ourselves.

It could be as simple as snatching ten minutes to sip tea on the porch, a morning to wander or work in the garden, or a day to turn aside from social media and focus on something we’ve been wanting to do just for ourselves. Summertime is when we are most likely to take a break, but there is no ‘right’ season. For writers, it might be whenever the words are piling up against an invisible barricade; for parents, when exasperation is approaching an explosion point; or maybe for workers, when demands of the job have become numbing.

(Consider clicking on photo to enlarge)

None of those scenarios really describes my situation, but I am taking some time out to renew something important to me. August is usually my time to escape from social media. It’s my scheduled ‘time out for renewal’. My camera and I will capture my under-the-radar doings and share them when I re-emerge.

What will you be up to in August? Are you planning anything that will help you renew, refresh or discover?

~

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
[Romans 12:2]

“I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint.”
[Jeremiah 31:25]

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Tenth Anniversary Post

WordPress sent me a reminder that I joined the blogging community ten years ago today.

Ten Years! Wow! I guess that must say something about my stick-to-it-ness. It definitely says something about my ‘followers’ — all 850 of you. I’m amazed at your fortitude as you’ve stuck with me through 1,145 not-particularly-illustrious posts (beginning with the very first one when I became visible here). You deserve a bouquet.

I have no idea what the next decade may bring, but I’ll continue with my Musings and Mental Meanderings and see where they take me. I hope you’ll continue to join me on the journey.

~

“I choose joy…
I will invite my God to be the God of circumstance.

I will refuse the temptation to be cynical…
the tool of the lazy thinker.
I will refuse to see people
as anything less than human beings,
created by God.
I will refuse to see any problem
as anything less than an opportunity
to see God.”
[Max Lucado]

~

Summertime & Keeping it Real

When there’s deep snow to slog through, I complain. When it rains for weeks on end, I complain. When hot sun arrives and pushes the thermometer up past the 30C degree mark, I complain. Apparently I’m hard to please. LOL.

After several days of suffocating heat, the summer solstice arrived today in delightful moderation — filtered sunshine, a breeze and 21C degrees. It couldn’t be more perfect.

(Lantana ‘Marmalade’)

My bare arms were even a bit cool as I sat out on the back deck this morning. (But I did NOT complain!) Now I’m doing a bit of writing and revising, and have suddenly been faced with the realization that in this current manuscript, my characters haven’t complained. Not once. That made me think back to the previous book. Did anyone complain in it? They argued (sometimes a lot), they objected to some happenings and reacted negatively to others, but I can’t recall anyone actually complaining.

I may have to go back and check, because reality says ordinary people always seem to find something to complain about — the weather, a child’s behaviour, the condition of lettuce at the grocery store. Even glass-half-full people don’t live every minute of every day in a Pollyanna glow.

As writers, we have the ability to create make-believe worlds where everything is the way we would like our lives to be. The main characters can always be thoughtful and kind in their interactions with other likeable characters (we’re not thinking of the villains at the moment), but how realistic is that? How credible?

When writing dialogue, it’s important to make our characters speak ‘normally’, which means they won’t always use full sentences, or show a clear step by step progression of thoughts. Colloquialisms and abbreviations will happen. To have them speak formally would make for a stilted conversation. A similar parallel occurs in how they live their lives. There are going to be occasional speeding tickets about which they will grumble. Granted, storytelling should minimize the mundane and stick to the important scenes that move the story along. But a glimpse into the everyday reactions of our characters is necessary to keep it real. It’s okay if they occasionally complain.

In a word or two, how would you describe your main character’s personality? How does that affect how s/he reacts to conflicts encountered in the story?

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(Peony)