I lured you in with that gripping title, didn’t I? But before we get to that essential question, let’s take a moment to reflect on how dreadfully busy we’ve been these last four weeks. Ah December–a tossing, turning, swirling, churning head clutter of a month if ever there was one. On an up note, it gives me the chance to re-post this brilliant guest illustration from blogger Darlene Campbell. It’s so on.
Darlene gets it, and so does the always honest Anne Lamott. She wrote of the December onslaught of swirling busyness in a recent Facebook post:
…. I had woken up early with a number of Excellent Ideas, which had me convinced, before coffee, that I needed to break off contact with a couple of people, correct the misperceptions of another, buy a new car, and either do the Paleo diet, or go on a horrific bender at IHOP. And–the tiny tiny tip-off that I was cuckoo in the cabeza–that they were things that all needed to be as soon as possible.
You’ll have to read the whole thing for her brilliant writing, but here’s the short version: Lamott returns to bed, prays and meditates, and gets her head in a place that decides to do loving things all day. Then she puts the coffee on and “did the sacrament of putter while it brewed.” She banished the internal noise in favor of grace. As for bestowing a little more reverence on the act of puttering? I’m in.
So there’s managing the clutter in one’s head; what about the clutter in one’s home? If Anne Lamott speaks to the former, than Marie Kondo, organizer extraordinaire, is perfect for the latter. A celebrity in her native Japan, Ms. Kondo is spreading her decluttering message across the world. Penelope Green details the essence of it in this New York Times piece:
Ms. Kondo’s decluttering theories are unique, and can be reduced to two basic tenets: Discard everything that does not “spark joy,” after thanking the objects that are getting the heave-ho for their service; and do not buy organizing equipment — your home already has all the storage you need. Obsessive, gently self-mocking and tender toward the life cycle of, say, a pair of socks, Ms. Kondo delivers her tidy manifesto like a kind of Zen nanny…
Ok, she’s not good news for the Container Store (with which I have a love/hate relationship, as it almost always fails to deliver the perfection that’s promised). But a Zen nanny? She’s like Mary Poppins for 2015! Which brings us to the essential question of 2015:
Do your socks spark joy?
It’s a bit tricky that one. One does not initially consider one’s socks as joyful items. But Ms. Kondo would ask you to carefully consider the sock. And you’ll find yourself considering which socks do their jobs and keep you warm and happy, and which socks are, sadly, past their prime, including all those singletons. Thank them for their service, then off they go. Of course, once one has had the joy conversation with one’s socks, there’s the logical follow-up question: what else sparks joy?
That one’s even more fun to answer. Coffee sparks joy. And my lovely people when they’re not arguing. Writing. Musicals. Novels. Mountains and oceans and woods. Anthropologie and its flowy tunics. And travel and friends and more coffee again the next day.
As for those things that do not bring us joy–perhaps they will bring joy to another. Think furniture that goes unused or unloved; towels and sheets that aren’t used to their potential. We have a wonderful charity in Maryland that works to make sure everyone in our community has a bed to sleep in, furniture for their homes. In a recent email, A Wider Circle’s founder Mark Bergel shared the words of a client named Maseray:
A lot of things can happen when you have a home and everything that turns an empty space into a home. There’s a lot of love in my home now. But this isn’t just about a bed and a dresser or even a table and chairs… This is a movement to end poverty.
The donors gifts that furnished 4,000 homes last year are not just tables, dressers–they’re sparks in a powerful movement.
So there’s the third variation of our essential question: If this thing does not spark joy for me, how might it spark joy for another?
Here’s to a peaceful and loving 2015. May we all encounter sparks of joy in our sock drawers and closets, in our work and our people, in our charitable outreach and everyday encounters. And may we find reverence in the still moments while we wait, our minds sleepy and uncluttered, for that perfect first cup of coffee.
Happy New Year.