News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Spring cleaning: imagine the possibilities

It was getting bad. When I walked by the doorway of my home office, I looked the other way. After years of shoving papers into drawers and filling the closet with wayward objects, I was stuck. Old photographs, unhung artwork, writing samples, tax and medical records were all jumbled together.

The room doubles as a place for guests to stay. Usually, the imminent arrival of a houseguest got me tidying up so there was a place to hang a few clothes, put luggage on a chair and have a spot on the desk for a book, cup of water, and reading glasses.

But COVID-19 quarantined any chance for visits, so the room accumulated more orphaned possessions.

Somehow, I still wrote a book in the clutter, using the bed as a flat surface for laying out photographs and chapters. I got it done, but in retrospect, I saw how working in such disarray made the work harder than it had to be.

With the stirring of spring, I decided to do myself a favor and make a more inviting space for the final phase of my next book.

There’s time when I sit at my desk waiting for the computer to start, or the printer to warm up, that could be used for something other than checking Facebook posts on my phone. That’s how it started: just a few minutes pulling out a pinch of papers from a long-ignored file drawer that became a boneyard for documents. It created a new habit when I had a few spare moments.

I began to increase the time I spent sifting through drawers. Each drawer had a story to tell. Some went back 10 and 20 years. Old insurance records, receipts from the veterinarian, letters from our daughter’s school, and unread articles, all lay forgotten in crinkled repose.

I found the missing school pictures I needed to finish a montage of our daughter from kindergarten to high school graduation. There were cards and medical records from 2008 when I was hospitalized for complications from H1N1. I found old holiday cards and get-well cards from 2014 when I was going through cancer treatments. I found the paperwork for the fundraiser dear friends organized when we were struggling under the cost of surviving cancer. I found another folder with the paperwork for a fundraiser I helped with for another cancer survivor a few years ago.

So many stories and memories. Seeing reams of paper from hospital stays, insurance documents, and doctor’s visits opened me up to remembering the hardest and most blessed moments in my life. There were memories of joy, sorrow, and drudgery. Putting it all in its place was triggering, reenergizing, and comforting. I was finally facing the clutter and disarray in my life and doing something about it.

As the room transformed and the bags filled with recycling, shredding, garbage, and giveaways, I felt lighter. The space began to feel inviting. A place of comfort where I felt inspired instead of quelled. A place with enough space to create, stretch out, and imagine possibilities.

The stack on my desk is smaller and more manageable now. I keep up with it and choose to recycle items right away instead of keeping them around for years for no good reason. It feels liberating; like all the possibilities emerging this spring have found their way inside our home.


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