After our celebrations to bring in a New Year have taken place, we’re left to our own devices. But does this new and pristine block of time mean anything to us, or are we just going to move ahead as we always have. Possibly. Books and articles on the net (this one included) like to offer ideas as to how to make change, remove clutter from our lives, (a very popular topic) clutter that can be about putting away holiday decorations to reorganizing our very lives and futures.
Peter Walsh in his book “Lose the Clutter, Lose the Weight” states rather profoundly: ONE DEFINITION OF CLUTTER IS DECISION DELAYED. I actually love that. He suggests that we should eliminate the word LATER from our vocabulary. The scenario we can all envision is super simple–if we have decided to do those things on our list…we should not relegate such decisions to LATER.
- clean the garage
- apply for a new job
- ask the friend we hurt for forgiveness
- write a paper so we can complete the requirement for a degree or a job application.
Because we are in fact CLUTTERING our lives with indecision, and when each new year arrives, at some deep level we can feel badly about our lives. The cure? Walsh says it’s about creating a new habit. Thus, if every time you walk to the garage and you don’t just set something down on the floor BUT YOU DEAL WITH IT, the job starts to get done. And if you just assume you will never be able to change jobs and don’t search, investigate, redo your resume, YES, you’ll stay in the same job. And if you shun the friend you hurt–you get the point. Even hurtful arguments and feuds are clutter.
POSITIVE STUFF: SMALL BEGINNINGS GET BIGGER
A beginning can be as tiny as vowing to go through one drawer a week. Only one?? Hey yes! It’s a start. Small starts lead to big finishes and better habits. You could work 30 minutes on that resume and email that friend just to say hello. Because we all know: habits can make us or break us. If I want people to read my posts, I must write a good one each week. And if I need to clear the air with someone, that also requires that I start the process: an email, a phone call, a knock on that person’s door.
And yes, habit change of any kind takes work. It is not silly stuff. Making an attempt to declutter your environment helps declutter your mind. Henry David Thoreau wrote: I had three pieces of limestone on my desk, but I was terrified to find that they required to be dusted daily, when the furniture of my mind was all undusted still, and I threw them out the window in disgust. ...A man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone.
OF COURSE: NEGATIVE STUFF STILL EXISTS
But the New Year doesn’t fool us. Hours after the ball drops signaling our hopes for peace and understanding–the news is full of anger and sorrow. People across the globe still face hunger, war, intolerance and persecution. Refugees are still streaming from their homelands. And I have to admit that making a resolution to clean a drawer seems almost silly in the face of the angst and sorrow in our world. But in some way it is not.
Have you ever looked in a mirror that is reflecting another mirror and the image is repeated over and over as if into infinity? It’s something to marvel at. Like life. We have to decide to clean that drawer or whatever resolution we make–because it is a start. The change in the clutter and chaos of the world can begin in a simple place–you, your home, your environment. That first step can CHANGE you, maybe in a small way. Always in a good way. That small change moves out like the reflection in the mirror, touching someone else. You find in the cluttered garage the box of photos your mother-in-law has been asking about for months. Your relationship is buoyed, improved, a small step but a good one.
PATCH ADAMS, VIKTOR FRANKL
Making change in 2024 is about choice. Peter Walsh would say it’s about making decisions; its about digging in. And when you do, that process changes you, hopefully for the better. The key word is HOPE. Because deep inside each of us is the desire to help ourselves and others. Oh yes, in some people that desire has been stomped on and twisted, so that anger and hatred take its place. But healing can occur little by little. I like to think about Dr. Patch Adams who traveled the world with his clown costume bringing laughter to the sick and dying. Adams says: the practice of medicine can be a thrill, an exchange so fundamentally loving that it’s difficult to contain the excitement … Scientific brilliance is an important tool, but it is not the magic inherent in healing. For Adams it’s the gentle touch, the warmth of communication that truly brings healing. It’s human contact providing hope in the face of living and in the face of death. Are we not all capable of reaching out, helping others?
Viktor Frankl, author of Man’s Search for Meaning, and a German concentration camp survivor wrote: We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts, comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms-to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.
My father died when my brothers and I were very young. Our mother worked at home typing insurance policies to pay the bills. At night she did what she called “processing” her day’s work. All we knew was it was her routine to sit at a card table in the living room with paper clips, a stapler and stacks of paper that she turned into a finished pile after 2 hours of work. And while doing this, she monitored our television watching or stopped to help us with our homework; this every night, except weekends. She taught us the rewards of a consistent and well organized routine—maybe today we call that multi-tasking.
I hope that for all of us this coming year will be filled with good decision-making and the freedom to follow or choose a path as 2024 unfolds. Thanks for reading.