Ordering the chaos (or at least a small part of it)

Sometimes life throws us a curve ball.

Shit happens.

Whether it’s on a personal, national or international scale, there are those events that force us to take stock of our circumstances, to re-evaluate and put things into perspective. In these instances you find yourself re-prioritising and it becomes eminently clear what really matters and what is actually quite trivial.

Recently, such happenings have found me reflecting on my own priorities and how, and to what, I assign value. Placing this alongside Graham Hill’s TED talk evaluating the correlation between material possessions and happiness and a recent reading of Marie Kondo’s book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying has resulted in some serious working of the old cogs.

There is a risk, when writing about such matters, that profundity may come across as hackneyed or insincere, so I will try my best not to be too trite in the ensuing cogitations.

While I try to be readily grateful and seek to practice the Holy Grail of ‘mindfulness’ as much as possible, (to the point that sometimes I fear my Pollyanna-ing may border on the mildly irritating), this past week I have been especially focusing on appreciating the little things. Be they a telephone conversation with my mum, a Saturday morning yoga class, a photograph of my nephews sent by my sister, the first delicious cup of tea of the day, baking with my house mates, a riverside run in the rain, or a lazy lido swim with friends, actively enjoying these small pleasures seems to help to chip away at larger adversities.

When assessing what matters to me and what makes me happy I need go no further than my family and friends, who sit at the core of my concept of value. To this end I have been focusing on doing at least one thing that brings another person happiness each day, or that demonstrates how much I appreciate them and what they mean to me.

An extension of this re-evaluation of what really matters has been a rethinking about my possessions.

One of my good friends, Kathryn, introduced me to Marie Kondo’s book, which addresses how we regard our belongings and how we can streamline our lives so that we place the right value in those items which mean something to us, but feel able to cast off those objects that we feel weighed down by but until now have been unable to relinquish for one reason or another. This material clearing out is taken as a physical manifestation of a wider life audit, which can take place once the spaces we inhabit have found order.

Graham Hill’s TED talk reaffirmed this notion of freeing ourselves of the baggage of materialism and suggests that there is in fact an inversely proportional relationship between the number of items we possess and our happiness levels.

While I would certainly not regard myself as materialistic and I am a far cry from a hoarder, (as a child, I was known to go through phases of spontaneously throwing things away, both mine, and perhaps more problematically, those belonging to other people in the house), this week I discovered that even the most minimal of us can benefit from a good clear out.

Each day I have been focusing on a different aspect of my life and, in line with the KonMari Method, removing those things that don’t ‘bring me joy’. The result has been several trips to the charity shop, a number of bags of rubbish, and a surprisingly greater sense of calm and order, brought about by my newly-Spartan surroundings.

We tend to invest so much emotion in our possessions and place such great stock in ownership, yet there is something cathartic and cleansing about separating ourselves from the material aspects of our lives. Sorting through drawers, boxes and files, throwing away old paperwork and consigning to the charity shop those items that you haven’t so much as unfolded for the past couple of years allows you to realign and properly enjoy the items that you do love, unadulterated by the clutter of excess.

There has also been something very empowering about taking control and making a conscious decisions to discard and reorder, not least when other aspects of life seem so full of disorder and beyond the reaches of my control.

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