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Stacks of comfort or chaos? How are you filling your space?

April 01, 2021
I look around my basement and I see islands of order and clutter. It is a multi-use space containing my office, lounge area, and storage. Oh, and my exercise bike has a temporary home here. Another element of which I don’t know if it is more clutter than order.

In context this has been a project to formalize these spaces in a pleasing and functional design. Pleasing to my eye and functional for my needs.

My practice is to pile items. Piles start because I don’t have a clearly defined destination, the project is underway, or I haven’t completed the task of putting them away. Regardless of the reason, these piles are reminders of things to be done. I experience them as if they are a weighted sled being pulled behind me. They are an ever-present distraction diverting me from the current or next activity. Each one calls for a decision, an action to be brought to closure.

Within these piles are art books I long to sit and meander through. There are documents to be filed for archival purposes and remnants from projects completed except for the residual debris of that effort. I see my notecards compiled from the reading for my pilot’s license sitting askew on my desk.

Piles in our lives, what are they really? Are they evidence of a life in motion? A life being lived? A life with dangling ends and incompletions? What purpose do they serve for us? To live a life that I love, should these piles be eliminated? There is not a single answer as to what piles represent nor will there be a singular action to be taken.

I am brought back to the place of decision. The moment when I chose to act, when I chose to make a pile. How conscious was I of that moment? What rule was I following, or breaking? How aware am I of the bigger picture of how I wish to live my life? Am I inquiring into my experience of that moment and being willing to address it?

Housework, sweeping floors, and washing dishes are periodic activities. I do each of these when the clutter reaches a level that compels me to act. I do this because I reason other activities are of more enjoyment for me in that moment. What I am not noticing or taking into account is the distraction.

As I sit here writing this thought I am noticing the moments my eyes dart to the pile of statements on my desk that are to be filed with the thought they don’t belong here. There is a file box, partial ream of photo paper, and emergency battery backup sitting temporarily on the woodstove. Temporarily has been three weeks. All of these items would be addressed if I were having friends visit. Hours before their arrival I would commit to the effort required to file the papers, clean the dishes, wash the floors, and find homes for all of the other items out of sight. A joy and pride will emerge in the cleanliness of the place and my apparent organization.

Why do we care more about others than ourselves?

The truth is I live with a level of chaos that is different than what I would accept when entertaining. I think that may always be true. What is also worth asking is this level of chaos contributing to my enjoyment and satisfaction in life? Am I tabulating the moments in a day of distraction I have created by leaving something incomplete? Am I always justified in moving on to the next project or activity before I am truly done with the current project? As I said before, there is not a single answer that will work for every situation. However, there is a practice that will make a difference.

Every decision we make is the selection from one of the alternatives presented. Decisions are arrived at by applying some set of values or logic to justify the choice. Include in that logic or list of values how does a choice impact you? What is your experience of that choice? Does it feel like a burden, a joy, an empty abyss? How does this experience compare with the experience from the other alternatives? Select the option that gives you the most energy or bounce in your step. If all are burdens, choose the one with the least weight.

What difference will it make in the long term should you include time to notice a decision’s impact on yourself? If you are picking the option that is the least burdensome; the one that gives you the most joy, you will be investing in yourself. You will be putting out effort that results in building your joy coefficient. It is the foundation for building sustainable happiness.