Cleaning has always been one of the things that keeps me calm. Especially the sorting-and-decluttering kind, where you finally grab that big jumbled heap of whatever that’s been growing in the corner and you sort through the whole thing and decide that This Thing Shall Go Here and That One Will Go There, and then when you’re done everything is all magazine-cover neat and orderly.
I was even this way in the theater – part of every stage manager’s job is establishing the “prop tables,” which are tables or storage spaces off in the wings where the random hand-held props and do-jiggies are kept during the show. But it’s not enough to simply have a table for stuff – you need to mark out the exact spot on the table for each object, mapping out little paddocks for each thing with masking tape and labeling what is meant to be placed in each spot. And woe betide the actor who used my prop tables for non-prop things – there’s a few actors who’ve had to sheepishly come and ask me to give them their book or wallet or what have you back after I’d spotted it on my prop table and confiscated it. (“Dude, that spot is for the feather duster, not your coffee.”)
People would tease me about my diligence, but they’d also tease me about seeming a lot more calm overall once I’d set up the prop table. And they were right – this kind of order does make me calm, and always has. At home as well. There’s something grounding about it, especially when other parts of your life seem given over to general entropy; your love life or your job status may be beyond your control, but dammit, at least your spice rack is totally organized.
But lately my organization efforts have been a little different. I still sort and categorize and such, but I’ve been doing a lot more discarding. A lot more. I’ve packed two big boxes full of random crap that I’ve accumulated over the years, and have just accepted I will never use – gardening tools for houseplants, crafting tools, all of the “I’ll use that for something someday” stuff. A couple months ago I did the same with a whole shelf of cookbooks, a few weeks after that I did that with my clothes, and I’m getting the urge to do that with my pantry and some other bookshelves. Some stuff I’ve finally just gotten around to using – like the big backlog of fancy soap and bubble bath (what the hell was I not using it for, I wonder?) – and I’m leaving that space empty rather than buying more.
I’ve been wondering at that over the past couple months, wondering if it was a sign I was embarking on some Zen minimalist phase or something. But then I started thinking about the travel I wanted to do – that’s a big goal this year, is to start getting out on the road more. I’ve always used a lack of money as an excuse, but recently I’ve identified that as an excuse – there is nothing stopping me from making travel a priority for the money that I do have coming in, even if it’s nothing more than a day trip upstate.
A few days ago, though, I noticed the word choice I’ve been using when I think about traveling – “I want to make room in my life for this.”
I’m even more motivated to shed some of the stuff now – on some level I suppose it’s been what’s been holding me down from flying.