Inching Toward Simplicity: Pragmatics and Prose

Saturday, January 03, 2009

What Lies Beneath


***See the January 2009 Oprah magazine issue for the article Back to Basics! It discusses Simple Living America, which published Get Satisfied and for which I wrote an essay and the House Party discussion guide! ***

  • -Take the glass half empty or full quiz.

  • -Speaking of positive thinking, my glass half full “lecture” also brought back a happy reminder of an influential childhood book focusing on “the glad game”. Peek into Pollyanna (Chapter 4 = The Game) here!

  • -Here’s Kohler’s 101 on kitchen clutter rehab.

  • -I could have used the kid’s version of these tips for cleaning your desk in elementary school. I spent way too much time rooting around for my ruler and eraser.

  • -For my writer and editor friends (or those who want a peek into the craft), here’s a piece on literary triage.

This morning Gavin and I played Scramble, a timed shape-sorting game where you fit pieces into their slots, as many as possible before the shape tray pops up and startles you. I had to laugh when Gavin said, “I didn’t get the last piece in,”, rather than focusing on the 17 of 18 that he had inserted!

I went to the kitchen and ran the tap into an empty glass, dismayed to find that he labeled it “half empty”! We talked about positive thinking, something I can use a talk on myself at regular intervals. I thought about the wholly human tendency to focus on what hasn’t been accomplished, as in the old story of authors focusing on their one negative book review (versus the 10 blurbs of glowing praise!).

As the New Year unfolds, both Tom and I seem programmed to want to sort, to purge our lives of clutter. We get the surfaces managed, at least periodically—-papers in the recycling bin, dishes in the dishwasher, dirty clothes in the hamper, blankets refolded and shelved. But lately I am plagued by “what lies beneath”. The cabinets in the bathroom and kitchen are cluttered jumbles of empties, duplicates, and "can’t identifies". The pajama drawer is overstuffed with what no longer fits. The list goes on (you can probably fill it in, based on your own experience).

I have a fantasy of efficiency, one where I sort one drawer a day until I strike perfection. Then, of course, it would be time to start over on each area! Tom’s fantasy is to “take a week off and get everything done.” As if that would be a one-time proposition.

Of course, we know that not everything will get done. Ever. So I get back to one task at a time, maybe one or two good “spring” cleanings a year, bags for the dump, boxes for garage sales, some decent nods to a more streamlined existence. It would be a full-time job to completely order things as I’d like them. Being that I already have a full-time job and a freelancing business, I must settle for triage on the battlefield of clutter and sometime chaos.

I used to be a triage nurse in an Emergency Room, and there was a good exercise in cutting through unnecessary anxiety, looking at the big picture, and making decisions based on real and in-the-moment priorities. I wish I was so efficient outside of the hospital!

Here’s wishing you a year of effective triage—may your priorities rise to the top, your most urgent needs be handled with calm. May your distractions sit patiently in the waiting room while you tend to the business of life.

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