The Intensity of Cleaning Up & Clearing Out

 Photo by  Paul  on  Unsplash

Photo by Paul on Unsplash

We spend huge amounts of our lives surrounded by "stuff." Piles of possessions. Mountains of things: things we bought, things we were given, things we don't even remember how we came to be in possession of.

And we spend so much time with these things of ours, that at some point we stop seeing them. We stop seeing the piles of clutter as piles of clutter - they just become part of a daily landscape.

We know the piles are there, and that they are clutter, and that we should probably do something about them, but that never quite happens.

And at some point, the clutter becomes comfortable - familiar. We get attached to our piles of possessions, so that when we do decide to tackle our piles - thoroughly and completely, once and for all - it's a very intense experience.

It turns out that many of us, don't have lots of experience detaching ourselves from our possessions - that's why it's so important to have support when you do a major clean out. Where that support specifically comes from doesn't matter quite as much as making sure you have it.

Support can come from friends or family members, an online community, a book, or even a professional organizer - we just need someone to help us get all the way to the end.

Cleaning up, clearing out, and taking an honest look at everything we own is an extremely intense process - it's why we work so hard to avoid it.

But the feeling of being free, unencumbered by our possessions is completely worth the struggles we go through to get there.

The Difficulties of Describing, and the Inherent Contradictions of Wabi-Sabi

 Photo by  Cater Yang  on  Unsplash

Photo by Cater Yang on Unsplash

How do you describe or explain an aesthetic that is inherently contradictory?

Perfect imperfection is wabi-sabi's inherent contradiction, and as an aesthetic that embraces life's imperfections, wabi-sabi also embraces life's ambiguities.

So, maybe the best way to describe wabi-sabi is through other author's writings and quotes.

And we're not alone in our stumbling over an explanation for wabi-sabi, in "Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers" Leonard Koren writes,

"When asked what wabi-sabi is, most Japanese will shake their head, hesitate, and offer a few apologetic words about how difficult it is to explain. Although almost every Japanese will claim to understand the feeling of wabi-sabi - it is, after all, supposed to be one of the core concepts of Japanese culture - very few can articulate this feeling."

From the book description of "Living Wabi Sabi: The True Beauty of Your Life" by Taro Gold,

"Wabi Sabi helps us to see the beauty in imperfection, to discover that our unique flaws also can lead us to our greatest strengths and treasures…. What is Wabi Sabi? A universal ideal of beauty, Wabi Sabi celebrates the basic, the unique, and the imperfect parts of our lives. Wabi Sabi is the comfortable joy you felt as a child, happily singing off key, creatively coloring outside the lines, and mispronouncing words with gusto. On a deeper level, Wabi Sabi is the profound awareness of our oneness with all life and the environment. It includes a deep awareness of the choices we make each day, the power we have to accept or reject each moment of our lives, and to find value in every experience."

And from Taro Gold's book itself, "Appreciate this and every moment, no matter how imperfect, for this moment is your life. When you reject this moment, you reject your life. You don't have to settle for this moment, you are free to steer a different course, but for now, this moment is yours, so be mindful to make the most of it."

In "Wabi Sabi Simple" Richard Powell writes, "Wabi-sabi nurtures all that is authentic by acknowledging three simple realities: nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect."

"If an object or expression can bring about, within us, a sense of serene melancholy and a spiritual longing, then that object could be said to be wabi-sabi." Wrote Andrew Juniper in "Wabi Sabi: The Japanese Art of Impermanence"

And bringing it back to Leonard Koren, in "Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers," "Wabi-sabi is exactly about the delicate balance between the pleasure we get from things and the pleasure we get from freedom of things."

So, maybe wabi-sabi really is best summed up by the phrase "perfectly imperfect." Everything - life, us, our families, our neighbors, our homes, even the description of wabi-sabi is - perfectly imperfect.

Leonard Koren's take on Wabi-Sabi

I've written a bit before about the concept of wabi-sabi. Wabi-sabi is the Japanese aesthetic centered around imperfection, impermanence, and incompleteness. Another reason I am grateful to Marie Kondo of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up::The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. I met the concept of wabi-sabi years ago, but as things go, I had forgotten there was a term that describes my philosophy in poetical terms.

My favorite writer on the subject of wabi-sabi is Leonard Koren, who writes about design and aesthetics, he wrote "Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers," published in 1994. According to a 2005 New York Times article, the book "explains the Japanese aesthetic of wabi-sabi, which celebrates earthiness, chance, unpretentiousness and intimacy of scale."

And in 2010, a different New York Times article said "'Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets and Philosophers,' first published in 1994, presented the Japanese notion of imperfect or humble beauty — you know the look, splintered driftwood against a winter sky, or a single flower past its prime."

From "Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers" itself:

"Get rid of all that is unnecessary. Wabi-sabi means treading lightly on the planet and knowing how to appreciate whatever is encountered, no matter how trifling, whenever it is encountered. [...] In other words, wabi-sabi tells us to stop our preoccupation with success--wealth, status, power, and luxury--and enjoy the unencumbered life. Obviously, leading the simple wabi-sabi life requires some effort and will and also some tough decisions. Wabi-sabi acknowledges that just as it is important to know when to make choices, it is also important to know when not to make choices: to let things be. Even at the most austere level of material existence, we still live in a world of things. Wabi-sabi is exactly about the delicate balance between the pleasure we get from things and the pleasure we get from freedom of things.”

Wabi-sabi isn't about lack or sterilized minimalism, it's about finding the poetry within the essence of life, and the delicate balance between having enough, and having too much stuff.

Leonard Koren advises "Pare down to the essence, but don't remove the poetry. Keep things clean and unencumbered, but don't sterilize."

The year 2015 is going to be about accepting (and living) Perfectly Imperfect

 Photo by  Andreea Chidu  on  Unsplash

At the end of 2014, I discovered Marie Kondo's work, and her book "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing" which, along with sparking all sorts of realizations, reintroduced me to the concept of wabi-sabi.

Wabi-sabi is a Japanese aesthetic, which centers around the ideas of imperfection and transience. "Wabi-sabi" is sometimes described as finding beauty in the "imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete."

In other words, wabi-sabi is about live being perfectly imperfect. As much as "perfectly imperfect" sounds like a contradiction (especially as when it comes to organizing our homes), it's really not a contradiction, and is a quite freeing concept.

We all know life isn't perfect. Things come up. We fall off the wagon. Not everything stays in it's place. No system is perfect.

Wabi-sabi is living your life by finding the beauty in those imperfections, while embracing impermanence and the cycles of growth then decay. It’s heavy stuff, and also, I think quite liberating. The imperfect parts of our lives, are the parts that make our lives, ours, so why not embrace them (as hard as that can be.)

I’ve decided that 2015, for me, is the year of embracing and living by wabi-sabi, and letting life be a little more perfectly imperfect.

Do our Perfectionist Tendencies Get In the Way of Being Organized?

cupboard 1 VivianJohnson.jpg

God knows I keep looking for good reasons why I struggle with my own organization and clues to solve the dilemma. I won’t give up on the dream of my own organized life. meaning every every piece of paper, tool, article of clothing has it’s home once and for all.

You know what I just realized? No way can that fantasy of an organized life happen yet--I am still searching for a place to call home.

[Dear clients: no need to fear, I am a wizard when it comes to organizing others--it's an intuitive thing. The irony is that I am the perfect organizer BECAUSE I am always searching for the newest organizing tips and tricks. And I love sharing any and all things that will help you]

In one of my research bouts I came across a review with this novel idea that caused immediate relief: (paraphrased)

"Perfectionists are in a state of disorganization as they struggle to find the perfect organizing solution."