The Experiment: Day 114 ~ I Can’t Believe I’m Showing You This…

(In full disclosure I will tell you that if you right-click on the image and open it in a new tab you can view this picture BIG and see how shockingly awful this mess really IS!)

It’s bad. It’s SO bad that I went to the site I use to get images for my posts to try to find a picture of a “messy desk.” I looked at hundreds and there were NONE as bad as mine. I did not want to show this to you but you will be better able, thought I, to appreciate the “After” photo if you saw this one first. And really it’s worse for me because I don’t just have a desk, I have a 9′ antique Farmer’s Table that I use for my “desk” and it holds a lot of stuff! My whole life is on, or under, or around this old table. I love this table so much, it’s a little uneven, was found abandoned in a barn, and thank God survived the fire. I love it more than I can tell you, but using something like this for a desk is not conducive to staying neat. And then there’s another problem.

Well, you see, I live here. I spend almost my entire life right here. Once I get up in the morning and take care of the dogs and the wildlings outside I sit down here with my coffee and except for getting up and down to do little household chores or get the dogs out and back in, I literally stay here all day until late afternoon when the pugs and I like to take a little nap before dinner and go in the Cozy Room to our big recliner chair. Then after I feed them their dinner I make mine and bring it in here and here I stay for the evening until it’s time to shut everything down and get the pugs and I ready for bed. And because I do live like this and I am whatever kind of person I am, and because this room and this table are so big, I need to feel very cozy here so after the whole thing is once more clean and tidy I begin to gather things in around me and make a kind of nest, a little area in front of the computer that is just big enough for my keyboard and hands. And it has closed in around me again and I can barely move. I have wanted to start making art again but there simply isn’t room. It’s enough! I have to clean and organize things and I dread it and I have put this job off as long as I can and it is making me CRAZY (or crazier than usual!). So today cleaning in the house at large and laundry are getting done. This weekend I tackle this table.

It is a gruesome task and I don’t know where to begin, but I’m going to try something Casey, whom I follow on the ketogenic diet, says that she did to get an impossible job done. She set a timer for 5 MINUTES ONLY. She kept resetting it as she could but after she did her 5 minutes she went on to do other things. In a week she had a whole room cleaned out that she had to get done before she could get TO the scary closet to clean out which is what she wanted to do to start with. 5 minutes at a time she got the job done. I’m going to try this because, and I’m ashamed to say this, while a lot of people set their timers for 20 minutes that’s just too long for me. My mind wanders. I go astray. I used to only be able to get my kitchen cleaned up by jumping up and working on it in the commercials while I watched a tv show. By the end of the hour I’d have the whole kitchen cleaned up by just running in and cleaning up as much as I could while the commercial was on. Something about the pressure of just having that little chunk of time really makes you work hard and fast. It’s amazing what you can actually get done in 5 minutes!

So this weekend I begin. I think it’s because I started this new book. When I begin a new book all of a sudden I get VERY organized. I want everything around me clean and clutter-free so my mind can be clearer to work on the book. It’s amazing how my peripheral vision kind of goes blind, and then one day I wake up — like today — and look around in shock and go “Yegods! What happened in here? Where did all this STUFF come from?” I’m serious, I work all day here at the computer and it’s as if there is nothing but the computer and I and my hands and a lit candle in front of me and maybe a cup of coffee or bottle of water but I get so focused the whole rest disappears. And the thing is as messy as everything is I know just where everything is. My darling friend Noni who is an organization freak and has done amazing and wondrous things in here clearing and organizing this space and has made this all beautiful for me more than once works her magic but then she leaves AND I CAN’T FIND ANYTHING! And I go NUTS and have a NERVOUS BREAKDOWN and call her in tears and somewhat hysterical because it’s something IMPORTANT I can’t find like my property tax bill or something and Lord Have Mercy I just LOSE IT, the point being that as much as I have appreciated the help — and I have — I’ve got to do this myself so I know where things are. There are a lot of things “missing” in my house which is to say not really missing but Noni has just done such a wonderful job organizing and putting things away that I can’t find anything. It’s a whole new year and I have to find out what’s where in my own house!

I didn’t used to be this bad, well alright, I’ve never been a great housekeeper, I mean my house isn’t dirty it just gets cluttery, but you see before the fire I felt different. I bought this house, redid the whole thing inside and out and made it mine, I loved it so much, I adored it, it was my darling little house and I had spent years collecting the vintage and antique things that my house was full of. I loved and treasured every little thing. And then the fire happened, and I lost my treasures, they were irreplaceable, and I came back to this beautiful newly built house and it didn’t look or feel like mine, I was never comfortable here for 4 years. I holed up here in my nest in the studio and barely lived in the rest of the house, in fact, didn’t even go into most of it. I was so disconnected from this house that I didn’t even see most of it. But thank God, something shifted, I’ve come to feel at home here again, a little bit at a time, I’ve begun to love my house again, and I want my house to feel like a home, and to that end I have to take it in hand and organize things so I know where they are.

And what you have to understand is a peculiar thing about life after a fire. I mean the fire happens, and then the insurance company sends the people in who clear out all of the burned and now useless stuff and they take THOUSANDS of pictures of every single little thing because they clear out the house of whatever is left and put it in storage, and after the house is rebuilt they go by those pictures to try their best to put things back in the same place. Which means they put every little thing away in the whole house. And then they have you come back, and, ta da, “Lookie, a whole new house!” And it is, just that, a whole new place, and further they have put away every single tiny little thing but not really exactly where things were so that you can’t find ANYTHING. You despair. Whose house is this anyway? So I shut down and the pugs and I began to live in two rooms and I came completely detached. I didn’t know WHAT I had left, and I didn’t know where anything WAS, and I didn’t know how to conduct my life without all my familiar things, and I didn’t have the money to replace them. I got some money from the insurance company but it wasn’t all that much, not surely enough to replace a lifetime of treasures. I was lost, and I remained lost.

But my beloved table made it through. And I have clung to it like a liferaft because I was so lost at sea. I have made a tiny little life here at this table but something changed a few months ago. I started this blog experiment and started to wake up again, I actually WANTED to be happy, I WANTED to be more connected to life. And then Christmas came and I started decorating for the first time in 4 years, and I started falling in love with my house again. And now it’s a new year, and I am doing new work, and I am physically and mentally so much healthier and happier that I am ready to make a home in this house. It is truly an amazing thing. And so today the house got cleaned up and smells and looks lovely, and the laundry got done, and I am ready to tackle this table and organize it MY way. I can’t guarantee that it will look like those workspaces in a magazine but it will be much better than what you see here, and it will make sense to me. So here I go. I think I will set my timer a time or three tonight just to get started, to say I have begun. And I kind of think what I will do is start from “the nest” and move outward, making more and more space each day. And then I can work here and make art here and I will be able to see the forest AND the trees! I’m actually pretty excited about it.

You will see an “After” picture when I’m done but I can’t guarantee how soon that will be. I’m going to do as much as I can each day and let it all unfold. It will be an adventure, a journey. I’ve got this big old table to hold onto (It is so heavy it took 4 guys to get it in here.) and it is not going anywhere. It will support me through the process, and I want to make it proud. I will polish it until it gleams once it’s cleaned and organized. It’s going to be grand. 2018 is going to be a transformational year. Onwards and upwards and away I go! I’m ready!


The Experiment ~A 365 Day Search For Truth, Beauty &
Happiness: Day 1 ~ Introduction To The Project
“Do or do not. There is no try.”

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  1. Oh Maitri, I can so relate! I lived in clutter too and actually liked it for the most part. It was me! It was my stuff (mostly books, magazines and papers). I even wrote a blog about it as I was trying to decide what to do with it all. We started downsizing getting ready to put our house up for sale. I gave away over 30 boxes of books! I will never be totally neat and tidy but better than I was a year ago – so far.
    I cannot imagine how you felt after the fire and for the years later. I am glad you got your table and all the things you love. Be kind to yourself if you can while you straighten up. Yes, little at a time. In my therapy we call it baby steps.

    Much Love, Jean

    • Ah yes Jean Baby Steps, it’s the only way, I write of that often. And really I plan to take it slow and really sort of enjoy the process and I think I will learn something too about caring for my space so it doesn’t shrink down to an inch and I can’t move! Onwards and Upwards! And thanks for stopping in honey, I hope you’re having a good weekend! 🙂

  2. I have also heard about the 5 minute timer approach to clearing clutter. I hope it is very successful for you Maitri and that the start you make this weekend will inspire you to keep going! 🙂

    • Thanks so much Joan. I am doing so much around here now that I haven’t done since the fire and it feels really good. I look forward to really living my way into all the spaces in my house and making it a home again. It’s time and I’m ready… 🙂

  3. Such a lovely and hopeful post, Maitri! Downsizing into our space in Asheville requiring lots of shedding and decluttering — and it take vigilance now to keep it decluttered. There’s some stuff on the dining table that needs to be put away, as I write!

    • Hi Lisa honey, thank you. And yes, downsizing, shedding and decluttering, never easy and always a good thing. I tell you there’s nothing like a fire to get you downsized!!! It’s a shocking way to do it. But I tell you, it teaches you something. I will never get over the loss of my precious birds, but things are just things. Yes I miss all my vintage things and things, collections, collected over many years, but a fire changes you. I used to always be buying too much stuff. Now I think twice before I buy something. Yes funds are limited but I don’t mean in that way. When you see it all go up in flames you realize that it could all be gone in flash, and then what. I pay my bills, buy good food, take care of my animals, and a used book here and there. My table is cluttered, yes, but there’s really no “downsizing” to do here anymore, the fire took care of that. It gives you a new perspective on things… 🙂

  4. My house, too, is cluttered but not dirty! I can totally relate to it.

    • Yes darling Marge it’s a thing isn’t it? For me, here, in the nest, as I am this morning having my coffee, it is just so cozy. It’s like when a bird makes a nest they fly here and there and bring back twigs and cotton and grasses and maybe a feather, just all kinds of things and weave their little next, and then they are in it all snug and tight with their little family and they feel safe. In this whole big house (Big for me!) I have this little safe haven, and I always create it, no matter how often I have to clean and organize again. Maybe if I did it once a week when things hadn’t had a chance to get real bad I could keep it up better. A lot of this is still post-Holiday stuff from wrapping presents here and more. Sigh. It will be an ongoing quest to work it out just right. Today, as I look around, I feel like Don Quixote tilting at windmills and dreaming the Impossible Dream. Alas I am a dreamer too. Here I go… 🙂

  5. how synchronistic. after TEN YEARS of saying “I must clean out my file cabinet(s)! i am actually doing it, yes 2018 is the year. I work for one hour in the morning and one hour in the afternoon, unless i get jazzed and work a little more – especially in the mornings when my energy is the best — and it has been an amazing experience, giving me something of a “life review” as i go thru each folder. i am far from finished but i am determined. when i was writing Prison Wisdom, i instituted “office hours” to make SURE i worked every day toward my goal, and this was a big success. Now I am using office hours to clean out (distill the essence, toss what is no longer needed/applicable), so i totally understand your desire to make order, while still having a creative and cozy environment. !!! I love the humor you infuse this blog with, because there was alot of sadness just under the surface (the fire is all i need to say), but you are learning to reprogram and re-infuse your life with promise and peace and joy, even when you face uncluttering not JUST your desk, but your home. so, put on music and dance after your five or ten or fifteen minutes: celebrate!


    • Ah darling Ka, what a wondrous thing you are doing. You know a lot of what you are sorting through now I lost in the fire. And I’m not saying that in a sad way though I was sad about it for a very long time. I have moved on. But what losing all those things did for me was to make me far more present and mindful, able to live in the present moment. In a way I have no past. In 2010 I destroyed nearly 400 journals, mostly because while there were incredible things that I hated to lose it was also a history of my life in therapy since young and there was just SO much in there I did NOT want my kids to ever read. I had to release it, and it was hard, and then it felt wonderful! And then the house burned down. There I lost the history of all of my work of my adult life. All those writings as Marcia Tyson Kolb, for magazines, newspapers, my own journals and zines, the many books I had written even if they never got published, even, interestingly, the huge file of information I had from when I searched for and found my biological mother. It turned out very badly. I had no choice in the matter, it all burned up, but now it’s gone. And the last vestiges of Marcia Tyson Kolb died in that fire too. It truly is as if what I absolutely have is NOW, the present moment. Be Here Now as Ram Dass said. And now I have no choice. And it is absolutely perfect and right for me. I’ve never written this all before like this so it was interesting, but there you have it. My life is now. And in THIS moment I wouldn’t have it any other way.

      Onwards and upwards dear sister. We will work on out parallel paths in 2018 and I think we will both be amazed what we accomplish this year! I love you Ka…

      M. xoxox

  6. my heart aches for your loss but celebrates the wisdom you have embraced to
    be here now, fully, open, and “lacking nothing.”


    • Yes Katya my love, “lacking nothing” indeed. In every moment we have all that we need if we are living with an open heart. I do believe that. “Be Here Now” is all there is…

      M. xoxox

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