With more time on our hands, we may find ourselves at home much more than we have ever been. Spending time in our homes, we notice the things we want to improve: the unfinished doorframe, the “junk drawer” in the kitchen that always seems to be jammed shut, the worn doormat that we’ve been meaning to replace. We also notice the beauty that we may have been blind to when distracted by busy-ness: the needlepoint pillow carefully stitched by our Aunt Maude, the view of the lake we had come to take for granted, the wildlife playing in the trees whose antics we can now take the time to enjoy. Allowing ourselves to engage in and observe our surroundings, we are often both moved by appreciation and called to action.
There is creative potential awaiting us in our homes: decorating, furniture-making, needlework, gardening… and now that we are home with time to experience and embrace our environment, it does us good to take care of our space.
In our work life, our work arena was often under scrutiny. As a result, many of us tended to keep our areas neat. After all, mess seemed disrespectful. Retired, we may now find ourselves the victim of clutter. With no one to scrutinize our behaviors, we find ourselves leaving our environments unchecked. Papers pile up on papers. Magazines create rubble. Is it any wonder that when we sit down to our desks, we find it difficult to think clearly? Clutter is the enemy of clarity. A few minutes spent de-cluttering our environment pays off in increased mental acuity. Most meditation practices favor twenty minutes of committed time. I have found twenty minutes of cleanup an effective form of meditation. As we toss out our papers and discard those which are extraneous, we begin to have clarity about our life’s priorities. Straightening the piles of excess paperwork leads us to clarity about what really matters. A messy desk—or sock drawer-- equals a messy mind, and of course, the opposite is equally true.
Decluttering and “tidying” powerhouse Marie Kondo speaks of keeping only those items which “spark joy” in our homes, and discarding the rest. While this may perhaps sound radical at first, the minimalist idea of not only taking stock of everything we own— but keeping only those items that serve us-- is very powerful indeed. Her belief that, by handling each item we own, we will know whether to keep it or let it go on its way, has provoked many, many practitioners of her methods to remove many, many bags of items from their homes— leaving only what “sparks joy” behind. It is a concrete, active way of honoring our possessions and respecting ourselves and our choices. For recent retirees, this process of “clearing the old to make room for the new” is especially powerful. When we clear our space, we clear room for new ideas. We make room for insight. We literally clear our minds.