For most of our marriage, The Papa and I moved a lot. A LOT. The every 2-4 year moves were pretty much a built-in guarantee that we wouldn't accumulate too much "stuff." Our government move benefit limited us to a certain number of pounds and charged us an EXORBITANT rate for overages. I'm thankful for that restriction--it saved us from carting around loads of stuff we didn't want or need and trying to find places to put it in the next house.
Well, we've now lived in this house for seven and a half years, way longer than I've ever lived anywhere in my life. (I grew up in a military family as well, so I'm well acquainted with the transient lifestyle and all its advantages and disadvantages.) And the downsides are beginning to show, including a slow collection of irritating, useless clutter. My physical limitations have made it worse...I can't climb, I can't bend all the way to the floor, and I can't lift heavy boxes of things, so I'm not as "on top" of stuff like this as I was for many years or as I would be if I were still, shall we say, "spry."
But that's not the purpose of this post. What has struck me in reading this book is something I didn't expect to find: a re-evaluation of my life. It has had such an impact on me that I'm going to quote a section here from Walsh:
Never one to shy away from a challenge, I decided to take Peter Walsh seriously and really ponder the question for myself. So I closed the book, closed my eyes and asked myself, "Cathi, what is the life you want? Imagine the life you want to live!"
One of the most common errors people make when attempting to declutter and get organized is that they start with "the stuff." This is a huge mistake. Just moving the stuff around, into different rooms and new plastic bins, doesn't solve the problem. In the beginning, remember: Clearing the clutter isn't about "the stuff." Don't focus on that or you are doomed to fail before you even begin.
The things you own are a distraction to getting started on the right path. The key to getting--and staying--organized is to look beyond the stuff and imagine the life you could be living. Put most simply: It's about how you see your life, before all else. Before the moving and the sorting, before the decision making and the negotiation, before the tough calls and the tears. I've mentioned it before, and now it's time for you to take it seriously. The first task I give my clients, and the first challenge I want to present to you is: Imagine the life you want to live.
Imagine the life you want to live. I cannot think of a sentence that has had more impact on the lives of the people I have worked with. I'll repeat it again: Imagine the life you want to live. Life is never perfect, but we all have unique visions of the lives we wish were ours. When clutter fills your home, not only does it block your space, but it also blocks your vision. It has often seemed to me that people at some stage stop seeing the clutter--even when they can't see over it! They move around it as though it were not there. This first step takes you beyond the clutter, the mess, the lack of organization, to determine how it is you picture your place in the world. It's a deceptively simple question and one that we seldom ask: What is the life you want?
I pondered my schedule, my house, my marriage, my family, my work, my possessions, my interests, my friendships, my values...everything I could think of that is part of this life in my 50's. I tried to picture how it could be different, how it could work better, how I would change things if I could. I imagined all sorts of alternatives and dreamed of finally getting to some magical place where I'd experience bliss for the rest of my years.
And then came what might have been one of the most important moments in my life, one that's important enough for me to stop and write about here: This is the life I want. I'm living the life I "imagine."
For some reason, this really stunned me. Not because I've felt dissatisfied...on the contrary, I've been quite satisfied. But I think that like most other people I've been semi-conscious that maybe there's some alternate universe or parallel life that might make me happier, and that maybe someday I'd get there. And this little exercise, prompted by a secular book about very temporal things, brought me to a realization that God has already given me the life of my dreams and that I haven't been grateful enough for that reality.
There are some circumstances in our lives that can't be improved by imagining the life we want and making changes inside our four walls to get there. Nothing about a terminal illness, or divorce and single motherhood, or unemployment, or wayward children, or an abusive husband can be erased by getting all your kids' toys in bins or culling out your scrapbooking supplies. And I'm not claiming that everyone should be as satisfied with his or her life as I am with mine; there are some really wonderful people who are living lives they legitimately don't want and are working hard to change.
What I'm saying is that sometimes we have a mindset that discourages our ever being satisfied, and it was good for me to reach a point where I admitted that I'm already living the life of my dreams. Not your dreams--you may think I should be wanting more, or less, or different. But my dreams and my life line up pretty much perfectly as I sit here at 54 years old.
No, life isn't perfect. There are always things I would change at the margins--daily irritations, things breaking down, pain, sales calls at dinner time. But my dreams and my life are in sync, and that feels good. Not only does it feel good, it is good. And recognizing and giving thanks for it is good. Only God's grace has preserved me to this point and given me this gift, and not being able to see it would be a shame, wouldn't it?
I hope you're living the life of your dreams. If you're not, I hope that God will be glorified in your circumstances as you wait and watch and pray. Most of all, I hope you'll be able to see all the places where life is what you imagine and give thanks...