Clearing Mental & Physical Clutter
The material world is full of stuff. Rocks, bananas, telephones, birds, etc. Objects can be experienced externally through the sensory organs and translated into inner experience that convinces us fully that we are engaged in a participatory interaction with all other things. It’s a kind of play, eternal galactic theater, where each observer can bump into the other observers, and where a lot of stuff just kind of sits there not observing, but capable of being observed. We think of inorganic matter like plastics and automobiles in this way. They are things. Conscious observers may interact with these objects. They can look at them, drive them, wear them, and cook dinner with them. It’s participatory. The objects go with the observers, and outer sensation with objects draws the observer’s attention to the experience at hand.
Just now, as I am sitting outside watching the trees sway to a gentle breeze, rain is lightly falling and I am hearing the symphony of nature. My environment is providing me with seemingly unlimited information and I notice my attention moving from here to there, scanning different particular trees, shifting my focus from looking to listening. It is in this way that we experience a relationship with our environment that is a kind of constant contact. The opportunity to gain insight simply from drawing your attention to your environment is there in every moment.
Occasionally you might walk by a magazine that has been sitting on a counter top in your living room for a long time unnoticed, and for a brief glimpse your eye catches the image on the cover and your attention is drawn to it. However fleeting the experience, all the stuff that occupies your environment waits with the dormant potential of grabbing your attention. As Feng Shui dictates, if you want to clear your mind, then you must clean up your living space.
Clearing the clutter in our living space is of course difficult and requires effort. You need both the time to dedicate to cleaning, and the willpower to confront the objects you have acquired and all the memories that pour out as you confront them. Hoarders are extremely adverse to the process of continually de-cluttering their environment, and thus their problems grow exponentially over time. If you’ve ever seen the tv show Hoarders, you will see that in the decision moment when they finally face the clutter, am I going to keep this or am I going to throw it away?, the object and the memories attached to it overwhelm them and they cannot bring themselves to part with it. Our memories are tied to these objects, and we hold onto them confusing the symbol for the real thing. We feel that by keeping he objects around, we keep the memories close by as well. But if you keep a souvenir of every good experience, you are destined to continually de-clutter or succumb to becoming a hoarder.
I was raised in a home where the perfectly functional garage ceased it’s function as a garage and became instead a storage locker for the least functional junk my family had accumulated. My wife and I have had the good fortune, paradoxically, of downsizing our stuff from an entire house into a single bedroom. In this seemingly “riches-to-rags” scenario, we learned a great deal about our relationship to our stuff. In terms of free space to move around in, since everything you hold onto takes up some space, the more you have the less free space you have. Additionally, we found that the less objects we held onto, the more likely we were to interact with them individually rather than letting them stack up. Most curious were the books on the bookshelves; was I holding onto books simply because I had read them, or was I keeping the books I still intended to read?
Free space vs stuff on top of stuff. Tokens of past memories vs practical utility. Elegance and minimalism vs ever-growing collections. We all face challenging relationships with objects, but as we consciously face them we learn the truth behind the simple maxim: Less is more.