A tale of two spaces
I keep leaving comments on SRB’s Who Needs It! clutter challenge posts saying that I’m not participating, but the truth is, I am. In my own individual, self-paced, self-defined way. And that’s just what she intended, which I so deeply admire. It’s not an IMMA CHANGE YOUR LIFE forced march, it’s a Let’s Think About This Together supportive thingamajigger. This will probably be all I have to say about it, but I find I want to say it.
I do NOT naturally tend towards clutter. One of my heroes is Cordelia Grey, a PD James character. In An Unsuitable Job for a Woman Cordelia notes that she can fit her entire wardrobe in one suitcase. FUCK YEAH. Plus, instead of a social life, I tidy and organize. It’s a hobby. While you are all out having rich, interesting experiences, I am alphabetizing my neatly-pressed linen napkins. I enjoy tidying more than people. So you think I’d have nothing to have EMOTIONS ™ about when reading about clutter. But I swear these posts have been making me weep and gnash my teeth. WHAT THE FUCK! I poked around in my feelings, and they are VARIED, but the most relevant ones are:
1. Fear. My house will gradually fill with crap until I can’t move. My husband DOES tend towards clutter, you see. And babies tend to generate a certain quantity of shit. Left to my own devices I would be fine. But my devices are part of a whole family of devices.
2. Grief. One of the main clutter sites is the basement. It contains (aside from the neatly organized and stored tubs of holiday ornaments [no worries, the giant snake lives in the attic, where it’s dry], which cause me no angst)… The baby gear. I don’t know if it will be used again. Either possibility makes me cry. My dead dad’s stuff.
3. I am two people. More on this below.
1. When the time comes for me and Mr. Bunny to leave this house for the charming little in-law cottage on Bun Bun and/or Bunlet’s Tuscan property, where I will be surrounded by frolicking grandbunnies and olive trees, I will be ruthless as fuck. I have it in me, and I can unleash it. Now is not the time to worry about it.
2. Now is not the time to worry about it. I can’t deal with the baby pile. I am not ready to be done and I am not ready to not be done. I can’t make myself ready. I can’t deal with the Dead Daddy Pile. I am not ready. I can’t make myself ready. It may have to wait till we move to the Tuscan property. I don’t know. Now is not the time.
3. Part of me is controlled and needs order, and part of me is not and does not. Pictures are good for this. Here’s my closet.
And here’s my table in our studio.
The closet holds things I wear regularly and like, and that’s it. (Okay, and my journals, because they need private spot, and a moth catching device, because we have moths, and Mr. Bunny’s shoes, because he needs a place to keep them.) The studio table is a pile of varied Stuff. Things that inspire me, things that need to be done, like the books the babies have torn, things that are full of meaning, like that awesome black cut glass item on the top shelf. It’s from my great grandmother. We call it the Chalice of Satan. It contains my dad’s ashes. These two kinds of spaces represent two sides of me, and neither can conform to the other. Sure, I tidy the studio space when it needs to be tidied. And other spaces in the house get messy when they need to get messy. But each serves a purpose for me.
There’s a study I share with my students that I love to death. Participants are randomly assigned to take a standard measure of creativity in two environments, a disorderly one and an orderly one. The very best part is the pictures of the environments, for example a table strewn with folders and golf pencils, and one with the folders and pencils neatly lined up. Adorable. I love social science. People in the disorderly environment did better on the measures of creativity. But on leaving, they were offered an opportunity to donate to charity, and an apple or a bar of chocolate. People in the orderly environment were more likely to donate and to choose apple over chocolate.*
There are two sides to STUFF. It feeds different facets of our souls. Mine, anyway. I don’t need to be all zen as fuck with just one mat to lie on and a rice bowl. I will never be swallowed alive by stuff. It’s okay. There’s an acceptable balance.
*Because they were randomly assigned, the findings are unrelated to the participants’ normal preference for order/disorder. Let me know if you want the reference.