My having a high need for change is actually a character trait. I learned this while training to be a United Airlines flight attendant. Up until then I had wondered what on earth was wrong with me when friends and family could sit by the ocean or a river and gaze at it at length and have an almost worshipful experience yet I would sit for two seconds and think, “what next?”. I also learned during my training to steward passengers and arm doors that it is also a personality trait to flip flop between being a complete orderly neat freak to being a complete tornadic slob. I am thankful for the two days of training that involved understanding why some people were wired this way and others were not.
But because I knew I had the utmost capability to be orderly and to accomplish things since I do that in certain areas daily, I knew I had to tame this beast of disorder that showed up in my home, in my family time, and in my taking time for myself to rest. On a recent trip to NYC I picked up the New York Times bestseller, The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. In a nutshell it’s an inspiring book about her life and each chapter takes you through a way that she tries to bring order and intention to her life in her effort to be, well, happy. And it inspired me to do the same thing. Not that I was unhappy. At all. I am freaking so ecstatically happy to live my life and jump out of bed daily to seize it yet order in my world sometimes eludes me. And that makes me unhappy or not as happy as I could be. Because when Rubin talked about how much lighter she felt going through each room of her house, starting with her closet, getting rid of things, I thought, I can do this!
Now, let me be clear. My family does not consume much. We rotate toys which are kept in bins so my kids are always entertained and they have neat spaces. I keep very few things for sentiment. The only reasons my wedding dress is in my closet are because 1/ I want to see if it still fits (it does!), and 2/ my daughter wants it when she gets big (okay!) and 3/ it is not a ball gown which would take up too much room. But my problem isn’t getting rid of things. Well actually it is. I should say it is not the intention of getting rid of things. I just don’t make it to the trash, good will, etc. Take for instance the 20,000 plus emails which I will never read again on my lap top. Not in the trash; not discarded. And that is just one account!
So while I seem to be excelling in some areas, I am totally failing in others. Remember my pendulum swing between neat freak and slob. And my areas of disorder (of not cleaning out old clothes or dishes or worse, not filing things that need to be filed) are hanging over my head like a ton of bricks!
So I decided to start. With my big Rosewood kitchen table. My dream has always been to have a big kitchen table for my family and a revolving door of guests. I am extremely laid back in my entertaining not trying to prove how amazing I am at it or how formal my place settings are. (On the contrary; help yourself). But my table was a complete catchall! Backpacks, homework, matchbox cars, unopened dog treats, mismatched socks, bills, laptop, and unplanted herbs are just some of the things you could see on any given day. One end was usually clear for our family dinners but it was really annoying how messy we all were by being completely disorderly with of our things. No, markers don’t live on the table. They go in the art box you were given for Christmas…
For some reason, I decided one night after doing dishes to clear off the table by putting things away on that one end and then cleaned its entirety with my special essential oil spray. I thought about how nice my family would feel coming down to congregate here the next morning. And it was wonderful! I did it again and again. Soon I realized it was becoming a habit when I resisted the temptation of heading upstairs to wait until the next day to honor it. In as little as ten minutes, I was able to create my family sanctuary. A family sanctuary which is a hub of solidity, accomplishments, and lots of conversations.
You might be thinking, wow, she’s messed up. My kitchen table is always clean. That’s no rite of passage. Yet, it is. I am not dirty but I am messy. And so is every single person in my family including Paris Frances Hilton, my strewing poodle who sometimes gets on the table. And what it has shown me is that it is possible to create small habits which then turn into bigger habits of order in home (or fitness, eating, lifestyle, sleep…). And in this I have raised the expectations of my children to put things away. Especially those things that land on the table!
So as I walk up the stairs thinking of my next projects which are my own closet and taking one day a week to do nothing but enjoy my life and the things I love which are not virtual, I turn and gaze back at my big Rosewood table and it is an almost worshipful experience. At least for 2 seconds.
What are ways that you have made big or small changes in your life which have stuck?
Are you like a pendulum? Swinging back and forth? Or are you an all or nothing person? (Doesn’t matter the area of your life. Just consider it).
Are you overwhelmed on where to start? Do you think that you could create a small habit like I have done and in that habit, you could create order which would give you some peace and happiness?
Do you think you need help? (I know I need help!)
Have you read The Happiness Project? What are your thoughts on it? Have you read other books which have helped you create more enjoyment out of life? Could you share them?
I am sure Rubin’s book and her upcoming Happier at Home will inspire more posts…
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