Live in the layers
Not on the litter.
We all do it, however neat and clean our home may be. As soon as we learn company is coming, we rush to straighten the pictures, fluff pillows, buff mirrors, sweep away cobwebs and desperately camouflage any rumple or pile of untidiness. In other words, hide all the evidence of our day-to-day existence. Suddenly we want not only to welcome our guests, but welcome them into a home that is a reflection of our inner ideal. Serene. Gracious. A woman who possesses repose of the Soul, which of course, is evident in her surroundings.
Does the natural state of your home express your serenity, or lack of it? Of course it does. That’s because every relationship you have—with other people, with your work, with Divinity—reflects in some way your Soul’s intimate union with you. Nowhere is this spiritual truth more apparent than in the relationships we have with our homes. All you have to do is take a good look around. Is your house tidy on the surface but hiding chaos and confusion in the cabinets and closets, or have you completely thrown down the towel onto a heap on the floor? “There are some homes you run from, and homes you run to,” Laura Shaine Cunningham reminds us in her touching memoir, Sleeping Arrangements (Riverside Books, New York 2000).
In which direction are you running today?
The emotional attachment—good or bad—that we have to our home is a daily spiritual tutorial in Love. “Everyone longs for intimacy and dreams of a nest of belonging in which one is embraced, seen and loved,” the Irish poet John O’Donohue acknowledges. “Something within each of us cries out for belonging. We can have all the world has to offer in terms of status, achievement, and possessions, yet without a sense of belonging, it all seems empty and pointless.”
What does the natural state of your home express today? Do you feel as if you belong there? Or is your space filled with the excess baggage of old relationships—parents, siblings, roommates, lovers or spouses, children who have moved out—or a self that you parted with long ago? Are there pieces of furniture, equipment, knickknacks, that might be stylish but don’t resonate or reflect you anymore? Who is this woman who lives here? Are these things hers? If they’re not what are they doing in her most intimate, personal spaces?
And where exactly are you in this picture, Cherie? Are you waiting for a magic wand to cause “real” furniture, a matched set of glassware, complete window treatments to magically appear? Does your home look as if you just moved in? (Especially if you’ve been there longer than a year). Or is it a ramshackle of “making do” until some other life comes along (perhaps with someone to share it) or until guests to impress arrive. Every day isn’t just a moment in time, it’s where you Live!!! Please note the present tense of the verb. To live. Now. You don’t have to be on the streets to be homeless, and isn’t that the sad, sorry truth?
Clutter is “not just about clearing a physical space. It’s an emotional and spiritual act,” says the English writer Lesley Garner in her book Everything I’ve Ever Done That Worked (London, Hay House 2004). “Like all acts of emotional and spiritual significance, the act of clearing out can be surrounded by deep resistance. I only have to lay my hands on a well-loved old jacket or a jar of assorted screws for my mind to start screaming ‘You can’t get rid of that!’ Things of sentimental value are the worst. They develop psychic tendrils and draw me in. Old letters and photographs stick to my fingers and refuse to be thrown away. Instead they bind me to them, insisting that I hear their story once again. ‘We’re family history’, they rustle insidiously. ‘You can’t get rid of us---[but] once you pay attention to your possessions in this way you realize they have a life of their own. And sometimes the day comes when their life with you is over and you both need to move on. The word that has the power here is ‘move.’ Movement is life.”
Clutter is much more than objects that live on the surface of our lives. It is the wall that is standing between you and a future of serenity. Begin to think of clutter as the tip of what lies beneath, struggling to show its face to you. Clutter “symbolizes what is outworn and unfulfilled in our lives,” Lesley Garner assures us. “That is why it is so very hard to give away and clear out because that is an acknowledgement of hard truth. It means admitting that I will never be a size 10 again, he will never love me again, I will never read War and Peace and the children won’t be coming back home. I admit it. What is left after that is reality, and truth and space. That is a wonderful place to let go of the past and begin the rest of your life.”
A serene one.
PS - You have just enjoyed a bit of a classic from Sarah Ban Breathnach, from our archives. As we recreate our website, we hope you will stop by from time to time and share your thoughts on Simplicity below.