Thursday, July 04, 2013

Project Haven

When things seem out of control, I naturally try to find ways to regain control of some element of my life. But with limits on finances and food due to a semi-failing diet, buying a new TV (or even lots of bags of mulch) are out of the question, as is drowning my frustration in a container of ice cream. In the past, this attempt to reassert control has even manifested itself as unfriending binges on Facebook. But since I instituted decided to cap my friends list at precisely 200, that sort of self-inflicted damage is also off the table. There's also just diving back in to the To Do list and trying to get some satisfaction there. But this week I couldn't bring myself to even that.

So, what's left is serious decluttering. This is an area where chaos reigns supreme and try as we might, it's something we've never fully been able to get a handle on. We're a busy family with, arguably, too much stuff. And probably insufficient, inadequate or inappropriate storage options. 

After this latest round of feeling out-of-control (the heat, this week's trip to the ER, the subsequent trip to A&W), I was again feeling the need to do something. I'm just grateful I have grown past the age of wanting to throw a tantrum, whine, say bad words or break stuff. I don't want to call it maturity, but maybe plain or boring practicality of knowing that won't solve anything. Or perhaps just realizing that I'm just too tired.

Yesterday morning I woke up before work with time to do a bunch of chores before leaving for work, but I couldn't bring myself to do them. Instead, I found myself on Thesaurus.com looking up the word "sanctuary." I was looking up the word because that's what a bedroom should be, in some sense of the word, and due to clutter, I've always thought ours failed us in that regard. And let me tell you, there are some great synonyms, like: asylum, retreat, refuge, base, harbor, haven, hideaway, safety, shelter, nest, enclave, shelter, burrow, cave, snuggery, cozy, escape, stronghold, seclusion, solitude.
I dashed off an email to Lori and proposed that maybe we could successfully declutter the bedroom. It's a smaller, well-defined space, the contents of the room are usually entirely ours, and it's the one space that's generally considered ours, its intended uses are generally understood and access is only available to the children/pets by invitation. (Or occasionally by not expelling an invader.)

We've tried our hand at decluttering before, but it was only surface. What I was proposing now was far more dramatic: I was proposing nothing less than a truly critical, ruthless and aggressive look into what really belonged in the room. Is it best stored in the bedroom? Is it where it belongs? (If not, does a proper storage location currently exist?) And finally, if it weren't in the bedroom, would we miss it in the next six months, or would it be a chore to go and locate it elsewhere?

I said that I was going to start with my side of the bed. I was going to move stuff that wasn't immediately necessary to my use of the bedroom. For the moment, it was going downstairs to the family room to be dealt with later, but it wasn't going to be in the bedroom anymore. That was a done deal, I was going to do it. I said I would move on to some shared surfaces, but I wasn't going to touch anything clearly hers.

In the end, I said, it was my goal to make sure the stuff that was left was stuff we needed, stuff we could easily find, stuff that was properly stored. (So there is a potential for a little spending if we need extra or different storage, but it will be strategic - not something to hold stuff, but something to properly store the right stuff. That is, it would be a restful place we could walk into and think "Yes, I am in control here. This is a little eye in the middle of the storm."

Well, it must have been a decently written email because Lori's mentioned it a few times over the past day and a half and decided of all the synonyms one of her favorites was "haven" - that was one of mine, too. Some of the others she felt talked too much of escaping or fleeing, that while this space would have a certain significance, it wouldn't be a place to get away from or run to. I felt that way, too, but also because I hoped that if we were successful in banishing clutter in the long-run, that it would help us to learn how to do it in other parts of the house where things move more quickly and more people are contributing to the changing nature of its contents.

And so, Project Haven was born. I have high hopes for this. I know it will take some work. It will not be easy. In time it will cost some money, like finally getting the curtains or painting the bedroom or bathroom. There may be some new storage to purchase. But I am certain we are on the right track to creating a place we will not just inhabit, but which we will enjoy, which we will take comfort in, one which will remind us that even when things get crazy and feel out of control, that we do still possess some sense of control.

So the first step will be to start removing obvious clutter. We will probably also want to define what the space is to be used for. It's a bedroom so that's probably somewhat self-explanatory, but it will probably be good to come to a shared, agreed understanding anyway, as it may inform some of the choices we make, especially when it comes to furnishing and storage. Some clutter may be harder to spot initially. I think some of the picture frames one dresser is clutter. It might be that we need some picture frames. Or I might find out that it's not clutter and I was mistaken. We'll figure this stuff out as we go.

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, so the first step is to start removing clutter. So here goes.
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