Clean Counters Clear Mind

by Apr 19, 2020Uncategorized

I have lost track of the moments spent standing here at my kitchen counter working.

The days flow together now in a swirling symphony of similarity. “Corona time” is a lot like reservation time. A mystical stream that defies greenwich accuracy.

“Corona time” is punctuated with family, friend and work calls, Zoom meetings and online endeavors. There are breaks to pick guitar, eat, make beds, grind coffee, hug and water garden seedlings.

Most days are peaceful, flowing. Occasionally there comes a tightness. Three meals a day prepared in the very same space where 2 people are set up to work can create issues.

Each meal prep can result in a pile up of dishes, containers, coffee cups and a few random project papers all mixed together. Most days we clean up as we go. On days when meetings are tightly scheduled the unaddressed pile can become a focal point for pent up frustration.

Too much caffeine perhaps, tense words, silence, then a scurry of activity cleans and sends objects quickly back to their rightful homes.

The counter returns to neutral space. Danny and I return to our respective work corners. The tension subsides.

For the moment the kitchen is neutral and asks nothing of our brains. Nothing of our emotions.

As someone who works on the internet from home, my world is filled with outward pulls and distractions. As a result, I want to have less and less to ponder in my immediate environment.

Am I the only one ? Or are we all noticing being inundated with carefully staged and curated home decoration blogs and lifestyle posts that celebrate clean and clear surfaces in modern and minimalist environments?

Even in the blog space we are being told to keep it open, lots of white space, shorten paragraphs, make it graphic, clean, more photos and less text. Why? Because they say we readers cannot attend.

We have become skimmers in order to survive the onslaught of information.

The pile on the universal counter is mounting……….

In my Functional Feng Shui workshops I meet people who are either becoming aware that their home environment is having an effect on their life story or conversely that their life story is being played out in their environment. A classic chicken or the egg scenario.

In the middle of the workshop I ask the participants to lay on the floor and place themselves virtually in the center of their home. With closed eyes, I ask them to relax and let their mind simply wander to a room or area of their home that feels like it is messaging them.

Once they have discovered that hot zone. I have them move to that space in their meditation and spend some time there noting their body and mind sensations. I also ask them to reserve any feelings of judgement of self around the “state” of this area. To simply observe and feel.

Most often people are called to areas that are in need of de-cluttering. Areas of high traffic, high activity and disorganization.

As participants slow down in the meditative process they note distinctive feelings of unease in their body as they remain in the space. They also notice that they have learned to dissociate or shut down those anxious feelings in order to co-exist with the room in its current state. To be able to get on with life and ignore what is in their daily line of sight.

These pushed down feelings affect them but in a less linear way. The indirect feelings of guilt, shame, overwhelm, avoidance, procrastination, and perhaps accompanying low self esteem or depression are felt but not traced to the source.

“Clutter can play a significant role in how we feel about our homes, our workplaces, and ourselves. Messy homes and work spaces leave us feeling anxious, helpless, and overwhelmed. Yet, rarely is clutter recognized as a significant source of stress in our lives.”

Ralph Ryback, M.D.

The upside of this exercise is that it becomes a motivating force for the participants. It seems that everyone goes home with a new found need to de-clutter and reconfigure their target space.

It appears that carrying any extra emotional load is something we humans would rather not continue if there is truly something we can do about it. And there is.

“De- cluttering” an area is of course the first physical step in minimizing the amount of decisions one must make in a day. Even the decision to constantly ignore a space is an intentional thought that continuously takes up time and space in our daily life.

One of the first powerful conclusions I have had around clear counters, clear mind is this:

Order equals no decision and no decision helps free up head space.

When I come up with a plan for a space I can relax. This means simply that I have figured out how to store things in a space that is both intuitive for me and sustainable for everyone else who lives in the space.

Personally I don’t want to look at everything I use in that space all the time so I might keep those objects near, say in a basket, but hidden from my equally over-cluttered mind.

It can take numerous tries to find a “pattern” of organization that works in a space. I simply try and fail until I find something that works that I can maintain.

I am also a fan of recycling objects so that budget doesn’t have to dictate whether you have a zen like home. There are storage containers, baskets and containers galore in thrift stores just waiting to be brought home and utilized.

In my days as a movement teacher , I delighted in arriving at my studio early in the morning and walking through the door to 1200 sq. feet of nothingness. Padded floors, white walls, one painting, no mirrors and a completely fresh canvas on which to “paint.” (sounds a bit like a happy asylum doesn’t it?)

I could literally walk in the door and actually start dancing through my class plans for the day. I didn’t feel the need to tidy up or make any decisions.

There was nothing to do before I could start “doing.” I could leave the outside world and flourish in my little “bubble”. There was “room” for creativity to happen.

And here we are in April of 2020. A time and space where creating a bubble takes on new meaning and urgency.

I designed my studio space intentionally. Like me, my first clients of the day were working mothers who were attempting to fit exercise and meditation into their tight schedule.

The last thing that I wanted for them or myself was to walk into a busy or cluttered space. We women are far too triggered by such things.

I did not even install mirrors as I knew these lovely women could just as easily be distracted by images of self. Something else for the mind to chew on.

As a grand experiment that space “worked”. I noticed a palpable “de-compression” for my clients in that glorious studio.

A virtual out breath. Quite transformative. And what was good for the goose (me) was equally as good for the gander.

This is the best way to think about the effort it takes to clear a space. It can be of immeasurable benefit to the wellbeing of all who share life and home with you.

Before stay at home orders were in place in Colorado we had a friend visit. Without judgement I can simply say that he lives in a very complicated household. There isn’t a corner or a space of that huge home that isn’t filled with something.

As he walked into our home I could immediately feel some discomfort. He surveyed all the open space and the simple interior. It was easy to read him as he took a seat and put his feet up. He was fascinated by the lack of “stuff.” He actually commented on it at one point.

As the visit went on I watched his body fall into almost a trancelike relaxation. I thought he might actually take a nap. It was sweet and telling.

And from a lifetime of more versus less, I could so relate.

What area of your home is talking to you today? How can you listen with no self judgement. Simply listen…..

Stay tuned for more on the discussion. I would love to hear your thoughts and comments.