I’ve always tried to live by the motto, “A place for everything, and everything in its place.”
For the most part, I’m successful at this. I like things to be organized and visually appealing. Yet, every year I end up doing a massive clean-out of my living space, and I’m amazed at the things I’ve held onto that just didn’t need to be kept. As a writer, you can imagine that most of my clutter amounts to papers and books. Yesterday was spent going through both of those things, among a handful of other items that I kept pushing to the back burner.
When it comes to papers, I’m being proactive in keeping things under control. If I write physically with a pen, I do so in a notebook. This keeps all the scattered papers I once threw in piles instead bound nicely and able to be tucked onto a shelf, or even in a filing box. For books, I made a custom shelf that fits every paperback I own neatly so that I can see what I have and then get rid of what I don’t need any more.
And that’s a lot. I went through my book collection and managed to get rid of about twenty books to start that I would never read, or that I had digitally. Before you get worried, most of these books were bought at used book shops where I paid fifty cents for each, so it wasn’t totally heartbreaking. However, I have come to realize that if a book is too much effort to continue after two chapters – no matter how much prestige my brain wants to award me for muscling through the rest of the 800 pages – it just isn’t worth continuing. I need to focus on reading books that entertain me and keep me reading. For everything else, there’s the library.
So, what is the point of all this cleaning besides just being organized?
Well, I believe there is a connection between our living space and our peace of mind. Whenever I look at a photo of a beautiful personal library with everything on the shelf and the sitting area laid out just-so, I think, “What a nice place that would be to just sit and enjoy a book. There would be no worrying about clutter at all.” The same goes for writing spaces. Having a neat, organized writing desk, both on the desktop and in the drawers, has helped me immensely. My mind has stopped worrying about all the needless papers that are taking up my space and focused on creating. (The papers also found a great use in their second life – as fuel for our wood stove.)
So, what about your living space? Are there areas where you know that things could be neater? Areas where you kept tucking away items you just didn’t want to deal with any more?
I encourage you to find those items and sit down with them for a few hours. Go through them a little at a time and anything you absolutely don’t need, throw into a large trash bag. After a while, you will be amazed at what you didn’t need, and you will in return get open space that can be used for better things – like displaying a new book, or perhaps even a hobby piece that you’ve been toiling over.
As the spring quickly approaches, I want to work hard to keep my life and my mind uncluttered so that all the empty space can be filled with new ideas and refreshing stories to experience. As for the poor books that I deemed unworthy of my time and bookshelf real estate? I hope that someone who really wants them will find them at the used book store now and that they will find the love that all books desperately long for. For fifty cents, you can’t beat that price!