Clearing the Inner Noise

Posted in Life in general, On writing at 9:36 am by Marion


It’s not unusual for me to open the week with a description of some kind of clearing out and cleaning up. Getting rid of clutter is one of the hardest things for me to do — clearing the home requires making decisions, many of them very emotional.

But my sister gave me this sweater … I say to myself … my Mom gave me this ceramic bunny … this wooden panel has been in my family for three generations … you get the picture.

We get busy … things enter our homes … dust settles on them … we’re too busy to take things down, clean them off and decide if they should stay.

Yet when I take time to remove everything from a shelf … a drawer … a closet … it allows me not only to clean away the dust, but also to clear away old emotions, and even old parts of myself. It allows me to return to who and what I am today — today’s projects, and not yesterday’s burdens.

Two expressions guide me. First: The landscape of the home is the landscape of the mind. In so many ways, this one is true. When I’m very busy, working on many projects, no time for peaceful thought, my home tends to reflect this state. Sometimes when I’m really busy, the house becomes nearly unrecognizable — dishes on the counters, clothes on the floor, disarray everywhere.

Yet these are times when I’m often getting a lot done. So there’s no need to focus on cleaning the house. There’s a flurry of ideas, so there’s a flurry of, well, stuff.

Nevertheless, this junk in the long term is very burdensome. Whether we’re aware of it or not, all the dust, all those objects that we really don’t want or need, weigh on our thoughts and minds, tangle us in them, literally and figuratively weigh us down.

The second expression that guides me goes: Only keep items you believe to be beautiful or know to be useful. That expression recognizes that we can appreciate and enjoy things because of how they appear — we don’t have to always use them.

I have a shelf with items most people might consider ordinary. I have two plastic tops, a couple of rocks, feathers and a plastic salamander. As I dusted this bookshelf yesterday, I looked at each item and felt something. The plastic salamander was a gift from the children next door when they were 6 or 7 years old. The pyrite belonged to my Mother when she was a little girl, and it reminds me of Medoc, the state park I used to visit as a little girl.

On the other hand, there was a bit of shell I once thought beautiful, but think it should be sent into the world. Likewise, favorite books that deserve to be read by other people, instead of sitting on my shelf. Books I accept I will not ever read. (Sometimes these books decisions are the hardest, as they bring me face to face with my own mortality.)

What is useful, what is beautiful? When we can make these decisions, we can better understand ourselves and what we value.

At the same time, these are decisions that we sometimes would rather put off, as we may not know the answers. And so, our homes become cluttered while we figure them out.

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