A Simple Table: Peacefulness through Releasing Clutter

Having fun with simplicity lists lately, so here's another. I really think there are practical little things we can do to cut down on inner and outer clutter, and though thats not the only thing helping with peacefulness, it's still an important layer there i feel. Don't know if it will be of use to anyone or not, but its been fun to gather...

1. Sacred vs Profane

Doubt and worry are exhausting, and scatter us so much inside. And one of the surest ways to declutter the heart (among other things!) is to open to trust and to deepen one's faith. I know, kind of a no brainer there : )

2. Time vs Noise and Clutter

Having a bunch of appliances and machines is not only clutter for the eyes but bombardment for the ears as well. It takes more of one's time to use less machines, but the reward in peacefulness is rich. A favorite article on this is here.

3. Embellishing vs Decorating

For our more ancient ancestors, seems beautifying wasnt about decorating so much as about embellishing....and i think they were really onto something there. Decorating is about frilly "extra" stuff that doesnt stand alone or serve any other purpose...knick knacks, a bunch of pictures on the wall, decorative pillows etc. To me this brings clutter and chaos, not peacefulness. Embellishing is far different. It is about taking the items you actually use each day, and making them more beautiful in themselves. Such as putting nice but subtle embroidary (or whatever is liked) on your tablecloth or dishtowel or bedspread and the like, having nice looking/feeling cooking utensils and dishes and furniture, etc. Or getting creative in beautifying other things used each day, like the covers or insides of favorite books and the like. Embellishment like this, on the essential things we actually use, i think it brings richness in a very nice sense of the world, instead of extra stuff as clutter.

4. Cherishing vs Displaying

Special momentos are so important... our memories, our ideals. And those momentos that are in the form of things we use each day (just love those!) its wonderful to have out of course. But for the rest, they dont need to be used as stand alone "decorations" to clutter a home. There is instead the classic idea of using a hope chest for example, or the modern equivalent of drawyers ear-marked for the purpose. And for pictures etc there are scrapbooks of course. But also, what i really enjoy is lining the inside of closet doors and cupboards with special pictures. It makes me smile when i open up the doors in the course of the day and then see them....and yet at the same time the home stays peaceful and uncluttered.

The last thought there, that of incorporating momentos into things you use each day instead of using them as seperate cluttering decorations....i'm sure there are just a million other ways to do this. One could put special momentos inside favorite book covers, on the lids of one's pantry jars, or...i'm sure there are many more ideas. The point is just to naturally incorporate things into the things you use, rather than clutter the home with "decorating". If folks have any ideas there i'd so love to hear them! And any peaceful simplifying ideas really : )

5. Polished vs Collected

Personally, i think only two things belong in a home....what we truly need, and what we truly love. And i mean truly need or love. I'd much rather care for a few things so they are loved and made to "shine", rather than collect a bunch of things to gather dust and add chaos. A home that is simple enough to shine, it really does helps bring peace i feel.

6. Small vs Large

In one sense, its a myth that smaller homes are easy to care for. Sure, there is less space to clean, but everything is closer together and more visible all at once.... so things have to be cleaned much more often and immediately, its a constant thing. In a small space for example, one little item left out will stick out like a sore thumb, and so will a little spot or a bit of dust. And you sure can't spread out a project and leave it there and just close the door on the room for example either....instead, there it is, right in front of you, and if its not cleaned up its instant clutter. So keeping things clean is constant, far more constant than it has to be in a larger home.

Yet, in spite of that, it IS easier to care for a small space surprisingly. Much easier. And that is because of less mind clutter. Though the work is more constant in a smaller space, yet it blends in with natural motions of your day, by cleaning as you go. It is natural and automatic (rather than mind cluttering) becuase you are ~in~ your whole home when you are there... not just in parts of it at different times of the day. This does something to a person i think, draws your energy into one place rather than being spread about so much, centers a person. And this too i feel is a large part of decluttering.

7. Wash vs Waste

I know this may sound counter intuitive, but using cloth for things vs paper products (ie instead of kleenex, toilet paper, paper towels, kotex, dish sponges etc) can make things simpler and less cluttered. And as a friend of mine was mentioning in an email recently, there is something very freeing about knowing one doesnt have to run to the store when one runs out of TP and the like. For an introvert, the freedom to not have to go run out into the people filled and the senses bombarding environment of a store so often, well the relief there is huge. And using cloth vs paper helps bring some peace of mind and less brain clutter becuase it is one less thing to have to worry about constantly getting more of. And its less physical clutter too because there is less to store.

8. Thinking "Realness"

When something is more basic and "real", it feels more natural and less like clutter. Using real tangible ingredients vs abstract feeling products helps there (see #10).

But its can also go deeper than this. Take the above paper products vs cloth for instance as an example. Rolls of paper towels and such, thats not "real" solid stuff you will keep using over and over and be able to get familar with and bond with. Rather, its stuff you will quickly throw away and then replace and replace and replace...and that feels cluttery, inside and out. To explain, picture if you will being with someone you know well and are familar with and like. It becomes natural over time to be with that person, so it naturally blends in with your life rather than stressfully clutters it. But that doesnt happen when folks are flying quickly through your life and constantly being "replaced". Well, its the same with our "things" too i feel.

9. Getting Beyond Schedules

A typical daily chore list and schedule, personally i've found just does not work. There is something mechanical and mind cluttering about typical schedules we draw up, unreal feeling too, and so i find i resist them. But having a "palette" approach instead, now that actually seems to work for me. What that means is two things. First, arranging it so the daily things needing doing will just happen more automatically. If your home is small and sparse for example, you will automatically keep it clean simply as you go about your day (see #6 ). In terms of cooking, if your ingredients are simple and few and easily visible (see upcoming post on palette cooking), you will naturally plan your menus and think ahead of steps needed, again simply as you go about your day. And then there are natural rhythms to naturally follow as the day unfolds. They too are simply right there as you are going about your day, you don't need to worry and plan over them, they are just part of your life rather than cluttering it. Way better than any artificial schedule....see here for a great post on this.

Then for less obvious things, there is making a "palette" list....as in a palette ready to choose from. This is a list kept that occasionally (maybe once a week or so for me) can simply be scanned down and see if anything there "stands out" as needing doing now. And when just having a palette list to turn to now and again isnt enough anymore...well then i know my life has gotten too full and has to be pared down!

Something about having a nice orderly list like that to turn to, yet still being able to have a creative daily response to things rather than an artificial schedule... well it makes days more peaceful i feel.

PS, Added later: Came across this on "Intuitive Cleaning"...such good stuff:

"Intuitive Cleaning: There was a great blog post that I read a while back that I have searched for and can't seem to find. A woman was musing at why we obsess with cleaning schedules of what to clean which day of the week. She said that our grandmothers didn't use day timers or elaborate scheduling for their housework. They just cleaned as things got dirty. Why clean the blinds on Tuesday if they aren't dusty? Why mop the floors every Saturday if this week they may need it twice? Her premise was that we should stop complicating our housekeeping and just clean as the need arises. Wake up, see what needs to be done, and do it. Is that simple living or what? I began cleaning intuitively and boy, I began to really enjoy myself. I saw that the master bathroom needing some sprucing, so I did it. I saw that the front of my kitchen cabinets needing wiping, so I did it. I saw that just the little boys' room needed vacuuming, so I did it. I didn't go hunting for jobs, I just saw needs as I went about my day and took a moment to meet them. It has been very freeing and enjoyable. And actually the house seems cleaner than ever! I just am doing "here a little, there a little"...doing the next thing as it shows itself. Even as I sit here I am noticing the computer is dusty, so when I am done here, I will grab a cloth and give it a little care."

10. Ingredients vs Products

This stuff will be detailed in later posts, recipe and how to ideas. But for now just the general idea...

There is something so centering and soothing, and definitey de-cluttering, in more just having ingredients to create from. It makes such a difference from having to gather a bunch of "products" all the time. Food, medicine, cleansers, candles, journals, organizers, paper product replacers can all be homemade. Now i know there are situations where one cannot, but in other situations there are ways awaiting. And i really do understand that there are limits folks have, live with a serious chronic injury myself. Yet seeking out ergonomic tricks in order to do things a bit more direct and hands on like this, truly it has been so rewarding. Not to mention less expensive.

Will go into all this more in a later post, but for now here is a favorite qoute that helps explain why this focus on creativity vs product gathering is just so key to peaceful living. Its from 1955 and it applies tenfold today. From Anne Morrow Lindbergh's Gift from the Sea :

Mechanically we have gained, in the last generation, but spiritually we have, I think, unwittingly lost. In other times, women had in their lives more forces which centered them whether or not they realized it; sources which nourished them whether or not they consciously went to these springs. Their very seclusion in the home gave them time alone. Many of their duties were conducive to a quiet contemplative drawing together of the self. They had more creative tasks to perform. Nothing feeds the center so much as creative work, even humble kinds like cooking and sewing.

Well, more at some point later : )

(First image is by Jesse Wilcox Smith via here, and second image is from Corey Amaro of Tongue in Cheek (from here))

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