Ruminating On Rumi

As you start to walk out on the way, the way appears.

~ M. Rumi

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Thoughts on Tidiness (Rather Longish)


As i was cleaning and reorganizing my living space this morning, a memory came to me. It was a gentle reminder that i have always been meticulous, some would call it anal. If it needs to be labelled, i would prefer to call it attentive to detail. The memory was of living in our big, old turn of the century house on Atlin Avenue in Prince Rupert.

Being the eldest, probably to the chagrin of my three years younger sister, i got the largest bedroom. And to further exasperate her, i had to walk through her bedroom to get to mine. There was absolutely no reason she would need to go into my room (unless invited). So i don’t know how that stack of 45’s (an ancient term for the smaller size of records that spun at 45 revolutions per minute) got accidentally knocked over and swept under my dresser. 
My room was larger then Mom and Dad’s on the main floor. It took up nearly two-thirds of the top floor. i can exactly visualize it in my mind. The main portion of the bedroom is larger then my living space here on Faithful Street. There was a very large alcove, a walk-in closet with window, two large windows and ,to a child’s great delight, a wonderful attic that you could crawl through behind the walls of my sister’s room. Her room not only had a large attic space but two extra large attics, one of which was her playroom and the other, the length of my bedroom and about half as wide was where the parents’ kept their treasures and memories. It was in that attic where i would look through Mom’s photo albums and i even found and read some of her diaries. (It seems snooping was popular on the top floor of 1919 Atlin Avenue.)
I could go into much more detail. I won’t. As you can read, even the description is precise. My room would be spotless. i would rearrange all the furniture on a fairly regular basis, like every week or two. My parents allowed me to paint my room and my wicker furniture. For awhile my room was mauve and the furniture was purple. i would constantly sort through and purge my belongings, either giving them away or selling them to my sister. With her money, i would most often go out and buy my brother and sister little gifts. i would categorize and sort books, records, treasures, everything.  This activity, for me, was and still is, very comforting. Yes, it certainly does smack of a control issue. It was a way that i could, and still can, feel safe in my environment. 
Even though, i had a few friends, i spent much time alone. I read, cleaned and spent time in my room with music and books, writing and thinking and playing guitar. It seems that from a very young age ,i had found a way to self-soothe. As far as i can remember, i have been a very sensitive person. Too much stimulus either outer or inner could and, occasionally still does, precipitate much anxiety. When i enter places that are crowded, disorganized and cluttered, i feel a rising sense of panic. If i am able and it is okay, i will release that tension by offering to clean or organize. 
In 1997 an article, i wrote was published in a “green” parenting magazine called “Natural Life Magazine”.  i went searching for it just to illustrate how i have attempted to accept a degree of messiness. Have i succeeded? Not really?  Are my children, as adults, now self-directed in their own tidiness? Well, it’s all a matter of degree.  If anything, i believe they are accepting of how clean, or not, their living space is. 
Perhaps, the greatest difference is i try to use my tool of tidiness in a positive way and not as a anxious response. Note the chosen word, “try”.  I also try not to demean myself for when i am unable to be impeccably organized and tidy. This being, me, with conditions and responses is both perfect as is and still a work of art in process.
Anyway, for a laugh here is what the article said.:


The Messy Room
By Linda A. Boulter
Here are some positive reasons to let your kids’ rooms stay messy until they decide to clean them!
  • First, it enhances their coordination. The children get to practice their balance, a sort of tight rope walking, dance-like movement through and around mounds of toys and clothes without breaking or slipping on anything.
  • It contributes to developed memory skills, better than “The Memory Game” (and definitely more real). Now where is that purple sock? It could be under the bed, stuffed in that dollhouse.
  • They learn practical, handy person skills. They can develop the fine art of unsticking drawers that are jammed full of clothes stuffed in every possible space.
  • They learn the clever art of positive thinking. “The room is fine; I like it the way it is.” They learn the power of persuasion. If they share a room with a sibling, they learn how to persuade the other to help clean. Parents learn how to mediate a non-violent, cooperative effort.
  • They learn that they too have rights, that they can have their own space, their own privacy, a place that parents won't violate with their values and standards of cleanliness.
  • When and if they finally make the decision to clean up, they learn the art of discrimination, sorting dirty clothes from clean ones, useful junque from junk junk. They may learn creative thinking. They may organize a system of orderliness that is uniquely their own, not imposed from without.
  • And – this is a biggie – they also learn one of the easiest ways to punch their parent's buttons. This was one of my biggest emotional buttons until I readjusted my thinking. I gave them power by showing them that a messy room can inflame to high levels of passion and anxiety.
  • But, in the end, the key is that they do learn. And we learn that learning cannot be imposed from without because it only has true value when it comes from within.