If I Can't See The Clutter, Does It Exist?

(This is part one of a two-part exploration)

image by andymangold, Flickr Creative Commons

We have boxes in our garage that I haven't opened in years.  There are cups in the back of our kitchen cabinets that have held more dust than liquid.  And then there is our utility room, which contains stacks of items we meant to sell after the last big decluttering session....

When we have guests over, they never see those boxes nor cups.  As far as they are concerned, the utility room doesn't exist.  I might joke about a a pile of mail on the counter or the dust bunnies lurking under the couch, but oh my, ...if they really knew....


We go weeks at a time without thinking about that clutter.  keeping the high traffic areas in the home clean takes long enough.  And then there is the lawn, and dinner, and the kids' swim lessons at 4:30.  That pile of stuff doesn't realy matter, does it?  And yet, 

Even if it can't be seen, it still exists.  

And because it exists, it matters.


I can keep my ship nice and tidy, and skillfully maneuver around all of the icebergs peeking above the top of the water.  But I also must acknowledge what lies beneath the surface.

The unexamined thoughts in my mind are just as troublesome.  I might even forget that I have so many pushed in there as long as I keep the high-traffic-thought-areas organized enough.  If I make it through another day without losing my keys, forgetting to pick up the kids at the school bus stop, and remembering my actual age at the doctor's office, I could consider it a successful day.

I might even appear highly adept to the casual onlooker if I maneuver around those visible icebergs.  A last minute schedule change - whoosh - a child's meltdown in the middle of Target - whee!


But as my yoga teacher liked to say,

what we resist, persists.

I know those boxes are in the garage just like I know there are unexamined thoughts floating just beyond my conscious recognition.  

I really don't want to deal with any of it.

But just because we don't want to deal with something does not make it go away.  

In fact, I'd argue that our habitual tendency to ignore all of the noise and clutter and responsibilities and thoughts happening each mundane day of our lives has created far more problems for us then if we'd just dealt with them when they arose.


We've collected dozens of folders of email tucked behind an empty inbox.  We've amassed piles of trash neatly hidden underneath grassy hills or tucked out of our view.  We operate daily in environments filled with constant noise and enough stimuli to ensure we are constantly distracted from silence.  

Our mind chatter tries to keep up with it all.  Behind those survival thoughts are the closets of emotions and desires and secrets and judgements and beliefs that we never bother to examine.  Every moment, we lug those thoughts around with us.

And most of us see nothing wrong with this.  We've become so accustomed to looking away from what isn't readily seen that we consider it normal.  In fact,


We are destroying ourselves by not opening our awareness and dealing with that which we've resisted.  

We pass along judgments that we meant to rid ourselves of, but somehow slip through to our children.  We leave behind mounds of clutter and trash and figure they'll find a way to live with it.  We use more and more resources that we know are finite, but that we somehow believe we are entitled to over-consume.



"Your beliefs become your thoughts,

Your thoughts become your words,

Your words become your actions,

Your actions become your habits,

Your habits become your values,

Your values become your destiny."


-Mahatma Gandhi


We don't need to start with the millions of homeless and the countless wars or the animals near extinction.  Those issues are so vitally important, of course.  They must be addressed alongside our ongoing return to self.

We need to start in our own lives.  In our own closets and garages, in our own minds.  

We begin, again and again, by acknowledging that which we hide within ourselves.



Coming Up Next:  

Part Two: A Path Through