Voluntary simplicity means going fewer places in one day rather than more, seeing less so I can see more, doing less so I can do more, acquiring less so I can have more.- John Kabat-Zinn, Wherever You Go There You Are
The best things in life aren't things.- Art Buchwald
Less is more.- Mies van der Rohe
Goal number four is to lose the clutter, both the physical clutter....the stuff, but also the emotional clutter, those things and scripts that keep me awake at night.
Clutter-free gurus suggest if you haven't worn it for a year, or a season, get rid of it. Since I lived on the east coast for one nasty winter, I have coats that aren't usually necessary here, but I always go to, "what if?" Or I look at that sparkly top. Although I didn't wear it this year, the right party may come up next year...and so it goes. I guess the one season thing doesn't really work for me. I can justify keeping almost anything!
So, I have been thinking a lot about my attachment to things. I don't mean to sound morbid or depressing though this may all come out that way. First, I realize I won't be around forever, and having had to sort through my aunt's and uncles' things over the last few years has made me think about what my son and nieces and nephews will have to sort through when we are gone. Second, after watching a friend of ours downsize from a mansion, to a live aboard yacht -- and his fast forward to a homeless shelter -- has helped me see how simply one can live. Finally, recent losses have put into perspective the importance of people and experiences with those people, over things. Things, stuff, just get in the way.
DH and I started the year like gangbusters. We cleared out two closets and filled four large backs for the shelter. We planned to keep going until every closet, dresser, kitchen cupboard and cranny was purged. But then we hit a wall when I went back to work. So now my plan is less ambitious. Get rid of the 4 bags. Then tackle one thing every weekend. It could be one drawer, one closet, one shelf in the storage unit. Just one thing.
That takes care of the house. What about my classroom? My first student teaching assignment is with a dear woman 9 months from retirement. She'd apparently taught most of her 30+ years in the same classroom. The hope was that I'd be placed in her classroom. This didn't happen. But I always think about her stuff when I keep something in my class for that project I might do someday. My colleague Tanya Hobson-Begraft writes in her blog:
I’m still working on making my classroom a learning space free from unsightly teacher storage. I really believe that students need a beautiful learning space where they don’t have to sit on top of curriculum kits, or see distracting boxes, piles of textbooks, bundles of computer wires, and baggies filled with things around the room. I’m nowhere near this goal, and will be working to clear space from my cupboards so that everything I need is inside of them, and not in the student’s learning environment.
I want my shelves cleared of storage and instead used to house things that children can take and use. I love the Montessori model of shelves filled with trays and displays that have been thoughtfully laid out, connected to the curriculum, and ready for children to explore. So that’s my goal: move out the dust collecting storage, and move in something more accessible for students. My rule is going to be: If it isn't something I want the child to touch and use on a daily basis, then it's not going to be within their reach or in our sight.
Since I've had to move 5 out of my 7 years teaching, the only thing I've acquired too much of is books, and really, can you ever have too many books? No, my clutter at school is more around my work space. I have noticed that my students notice that and tend to follow suit. Just as I want to be a good example in my reading and writing, I'd like to be a good example with my organizational skills. I do have them, I just haven't really been employing them in the classroom as much as I'd like. My main classroom de-clutter effort will be around my teaching space.
Which addresses the physical stuff.
Decluttering the mental stuff is a little harder. I do find that my writing helps me get stuff out of my head, so I plan to write more this year. I'm also trying to worry less and be more present. When I used to run, I had a zen mediation to help my cadence, one which I'd be wise to practice again: If there is nothing I can do, why be unhappy? Why be unhappy if there is something I can do. .
Location:Santa Clara,United States