Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy new year!

It's January 1, 2015. We made it through another year, woohoo!

In years past, I've thought about and wanted to do some of the traditional things a person does on December 31st and January 1st, but this year is the first time I've had the energy to do them. In this post I'll focus on the cleaning, which you're supposed to do on December 31st to get the old year out of the house.

We did indeed sweep last year's worries out of all the rooms and out the back door. (One room needed vacuuming, too, but we're counting that as sweeping.) It felt good. As I swept, I kept thinking: I can let it go, let the worries of yesterday go out the door with these dust bunnies.

But there was something else, too, something kind of unexpected.

A couple of days before the 31st, I suddenly had the urge to go through some of the stuff in my study, a room that used to be our den. (Last year we moved the teevee out, got a big teevee for the front room for Christmas, and converted our little-used living room into a place where we actually hang out--for reading as well as teevee-watching). It was a big change! And my office went from a corner of the living room to the den--a whole room in the house just for me, with a door that shuts and a couple places to sit and work on writing or reading. I'd been wanting that for years, and it feels wonderful to have it, finally.

The problem was that we moved stuff in kind of a hurry, and then there was a cat peeing issue (which might be resolved now, I hope I hope), and it still looked like a mess, a year after the original shift.

I did not put "clean my study" on my to-do list for the winter break, though I thought about it. In fact, I ended up not even making a list; it felt too confining. I survive the semester by making week-by-week lists of all the things that have to get done. I live in fear of forgetting deadlines and such, so the list is necessary. It's even pleasurable to check things off the list, during the semester. But I just couldn't bring myself to make a list for this week.

Instead, I just asked myself, each day: what do I want to do today? What do I feel like doing? What will make me feel happy with this day?

And one day the answer was: clean up some of this mess.

At first I just limited myself to a couple areas; no way was I tackling the whole dang room. Good thing, too, because of course the next thing that happened was that it looked like a worse disaster than it already was. I started to sort through things and make piles and gather things to be given away, things to be recycled, things to be put somewhere else in the house... and it looked like all that stuff had exploded.

(Too bad I didn't take any "during" photos! But really, I could hardly bear to look at the mess, it was so disheartening.)

But I kept at it, and things started to look better, at least to me.

Here are before & after photos of the corner built-in shelf. It probably only looks better to me; the stuff I had crammed on three shelves is now on four.

Before: a bit more crammed and crowded.
After: now I can see stuff!

Before: the cardboard boxes may be practical, but they're depressing.
And then the next day, I thought: okay, I'd like to tackle one more area--a couple shelves, a corner, a box. On the last day I tackled my desk and the bookshelf next to it. There is actually empty space on my desk now, where before there were piles of stuff, some of it stacked precariously.

After: okay, still not exactly beautiful, but sorted, at least. I'll get some nice organizational thingies next time we go to Ikea...
With all those bits of time added up, I now have a study where I've gone through everything, sorted it all out, kept what I want in here, and moved or tossed what should not be here.

It almost feels as if I were carrying that unwanted stuff around with me and I've now dumped it. I feel lighter, somehow, when I sit and work on something in my office. It's really lovely.

I think if I had made a to-do list and put "clean my study" on it, and tried to do it all in one day so I could cross it off the list, it would not have gone as well. I would have ended up resenting the task, and not enjoying the result nearly as much. I'm so glad I let myself enjoy the process, and the result.

Oh, and one other thing. Here's a really good way to feel loved as you turn into a new year: find a pile of notes and cards people have sent you over the years, and read them as you sort the piles, and wonder if your sniffles are from the dust you've started up, or the tears that inevitably come.

Happy new year, everybody!