Monday, February 20, 2012

Cleaning the Clutter

Realization hit a few days ago, as I helped the boys "shovel" out their room. We got rid of clothes they'd outgrown, bundled up toys they no longer played with, tidied and vacuumed 'til it fairly shone. Then I looked at a few other cluttered corners of the house. I mercilessly threw out garbage, got rid of toys the kids no longer played with, put things in their places and gave the dust bunnies a permanent residence in the vacuum cleaner bag. Then I called a cleaning company owned by a friend and made an appointment for them to tackle the larger chores in the house that as a single mom I don't have time for.

As I surveyed my domain, I realized that as I physically cleaned the clutter from my home, it was just another way I was de-cluttering my life. For the past year, I've been letting go of a twenty year relationship.  For a while after it ended, I just wanted to make it through another day. As time went on, I began to rid myself of old insecurities and past hurts. Then I began ridding my brain of old notions of love and relationships. I am twenty years older than when I went into that relationship, and I figured if I wanted something different, I'd have to think about things differently. Over the past few weeks especially, I've been reading spiritual books, embracing new ways of thinking, letting go of anger, and feeling good about life.

In my debut novel, Claire LeMay had to de-clutter her thinking to realize she's in charge of her life. Here's an excerpt:

Angry again, Claire said, “When is someone going to ask me what I want? When are people going to realize I’m the one who makes the decisions in my life?”
“What are you talking about?” Shelley propped her elbow on the table and rested her chin in her hand.
Claire sighed in exasperation. “You know how it’s always been.” She picked up her spoon again, scooped the tea bag out of her cup, and threw it in the garbage.
“Is this some childhood thing you’re trying to get over? I’ve only got so much time. Our flight leaves in a few hours.”
Claire shuffled over to a chair and sat across from Shelley. There was so much truth in that question. She’d always felt like everyone else had called the shots, while she'd dutifully agreed to their plans for her gymnastics career. Maybe the only reason she hadn’t jumped at the chance to move here to be with Justin three years ago was because he’d never asked her to, he'd just demanded it.
Last night she’d been upset that no one had asked her what she wanted. One of the parents had even suggested she could teach gymnastics anywhere, but at the time, she’d only been thinking of the job she had. Did she love her job more than Justin? Three years ago, she’d accused him of loving his career more than her. Now she supposed he thought the same about her.
What did she really want in her life?
His name popped into her head before she even had time to consider. The more she thought about it, the more she realized it was true. Was she willing to give up the one thing she really wanted in her life simply because of her need to be in control?
Shelley drummed the fingers of one hand on the table top. “I’m waiting.”
Claire put her head down on her forearms. “Oh, God,” she moaned. “I’m so stupid.”
“There, there.” Shelley patted her on the back. “We can’t all be smart about everything.”
“No, Shelley, I have been stupid. I’ve been fighting so hard for my independence all these years, I didn’t realize I had it.”

 As they say:  "To get something you never had, you have to do something you've never done." So, here's hoping that my new outlook on life will bring me things I never had before. So, how about you? Do you often find yourself repeating the same old thing? Or do you periodically clean out the clutter of your mind so you can look at life in a new way? I'd love to hear from people.


  1. Great post! Clutter makes me extremely grumpy. I can't stand messes. Since I have a messy husband and 2 messy children -- all of whom can come home and start making piles of shoes, clothes, belongings, etc etc, I've learned I have to tolerate some degree of mess. But not much. Every once in awhile when it gets to be more than I can stand, we have a "come to Jesus" meeting and they all pitch in a help clean up their mess. And it lasts for a little while. Mostly I clean everyday to keep on top of it. Keeping the house straight really equals keeping the "crazy" out of my life! Well, for the most part. Seeing everything in place, the laundry all done and the floors shining/vacuumed makes me so happy it's unreal. I know, I know, that makes me weird.......... Gonna go sweep the kitchen floor now ;)

  2. I change my hair when I feel the need to change my life. I also think that one can't wait for others to ask them what they want; one needs to grab life and go for it!

    I have a blog post about cleaning forming in my mind -- but it's from a different take.

  3. I agree Jenn - with 4 kids I can stand a little mess, but then it gets too much! That's when I get grumpy and we all clean, LOL

    Yeah, Cara - changing my hair color just makes me feel like I've done something different. I'd love to read your post on this topic.

  4. Hey Kellie, I know what you mean about the clutter...for me that time has come for a little action. Sometimes I force it, like scheduling a baby shower in MY house a couple of weekends from now. It'll force me to clean and de-clutter. I'm lucky I have a hubby who doesn't mind cleaning, because since I've started publishing my books, I've pretty much let things go to hell in a hand basket around my house. Writing and marketing books is like having children in the usually takes a back seat to it.

  5. I hear ya Lori! Promotion takes up a lot of time and cleaning has taken a back seat, LOL I've done that too - invited company over just so I HAVE to get the place spic 'n span! Besides - don't they say a little dirt is good for a kids immune system?? LOL

  6. I am changing, surprising to realize (for me). For years attending school, I could carve a little hole for myself on the couch and surround myself with books, notes, papers, etc. and step in and out as needed. When the boys were young and I held down a fulltime job (sometimes two), I had the ability to shut out everything around me except what I was doing at the time. Guess I've lost that degree of concentration, because I can't tolerate chaos any more. Every now and then, I'll look around and think, "That's enough." Then I throw away and consolidate. (And inevitably the next week I need what I just got rid of.LOL) Good post.

  7. I can't think straight if I don't have 2 or 3 things going at one time. Speaking of clutter, I just swept, vacuumed, washed clothes, and I'm sure I've forgotten something. Oh, and learning the new job is not as easy as I first assumed....

    Can't tell you the last time I was able to write anything, and I'm sure that pretty soon it will only get worse! But I won't let that stop me from trying to find time for it.


  8. Thanks, Barb! I guess we all go through phases throughout our lives

    Trish - with cleaning, there's always something to clean! It's a neverending task, at least in my house!