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NOTE: I was putting finishing touches on this piece when Russia invaded Ukraine. It is not my intention to ignore the state of world affairs. I do, however, feel that whatever light and kindness we can contribute to a sometimes brutal world, is a worthy pursuit, so in that spirit I have decided to publish it, with a few changes. I hope it serves useful purpose.

Change is a funny thing. It wants to be done, but in its own way. A couple of months ago, our current series of changes started because we need new carpet. But to replace carpet you must move everything that sits on the carpet. (I guess this also applies to invading a country. To bring in the new, or return an old regime, the current occupants must be displaced or at least severely disrupted.)And since we are not as young as we used to be, I could see this was a big task. It occurred to me one day that if I reduced the amount of belongings in the cupboards, I could move much which was on open shelves into cupboards, thus making the movement of furniture easier. And of course I reduced the amount on the shelves before moving what remained, into the freshly cleared cupboards. Once we decided to do a declutter and new carpet, we also realised our walk-through wardrobe needing updating. The lighting has always been inadequate and the shelves and rails are an inefficient use of space. Thus grew a side project, having new shelves built and tiles to replace carpet on the cupboard floor. Isn’t this what we have all heard about? You paint a wall, and suddenly the adjacent wall looks dingy? And off you go into a domino effect of updating and refreshing…or invading another country, evidently.

In the beginning, back in early January when our events started, daily changes to life threatened anxiety levels, appetite, sleep. The pastel painting had nearly ground to a halt. Counterintuitively, I became obsessed with needing to clear out our living space, even though at first, it didn’t appear to need it. It was something I had control over, which is nothing to be disregarded in our current world. And even more true every passing day. So every day for weeks I have minimised, decluttered and tossed what no longer seems useful. I hasten to add, if you had walked into my house you would not have thought it cluttered. There was even space in most of the cupboards. But what was here, was excess to needs. It clogged the energy highways…just as the rain clogged the literal highways into Alice Springs. Just as delusions of grandeur or testosterone clogged the brain cells of Russian leaders.

I’m a maker. I always have been, even as a child. I need materials with which to make things, whether it is sewing, mosaic, art, jewellery or any number of other bygone interests. However, once I have learned whatever it is I’ve needed to know from a passion, I’m often done with it. The trouble is–realising when that end has come, because very occasionally I do return to something for another burst of making. However, never have I felt the need to invade another’s space to assume control of their interests. But for a time, creative energies had slowed to a trickle. (One of the good things about learning from life as you age is that you can sometimes feel when the time is right for something, invasions being the exception, which seem to always be a wilful act of Ego.) I had a deep feeling reassuring me ‘once you have cleared the way, creative energies will return’. In fact when I was only about halfway there, I began to feel tiny bubbles of energy fizzing through my insides. I wonder, do tiny bubbles of energy surge through a certain Russian leader’s insides at the moment?

I had another large clean out five years ago. How could there still be this much that needs to go? It is interesting when you start down this road how much you see once the process has been initiated. I shudder to think what other applications this practice might have… Back then, it was too soon to let go of some things, so I made the decision to hold on to them for a while. (And perhaps this has been true of Putin and his strong love of Russian culture, he just wasn’t ready to let go of control over it.) But most of the clutter, I just couldn’t see back then. Truthfully, hardly any of it has been acquired in the subsequent years after the first declutter. Most of it has been with me for years and years. And I now wonder if it has somehow been a comfort to me—a reassurance of a former life in another country, raising a child, being a different person—sort of? What would Putin do?? People from my parents’ generation had this idea that their children would value and want what they had to leave them. And certainly that is true in some cases, but mostly we have noticed that children seldom value the same material possessions as their parents. It certainly doesn’t seem as if many of the younger generation in Russia want whatever is to be gained by invading Ukraine.

Just as I began the declutter, this phrase came into my awareness…

‘Clutter is the result of not making decisions…and procrastination.’

It clarified my mental processes like a bolt, and slotted me squarely into the process. I had become weary, as are many millions of people living through the last couple of years. I realised I didn’t care about holding on to ‘stuff’ any more, except what I’m using or what truly enhances my life. It was pointed out to me, it takes energy to ‘hold on’. And so it does. Holding on to things takes a lot more effort than letting it go. Apparently in extreme cases, it also requires killing people and destroying their lives to recover what was no longer yours to hold on to.

In a couple of months when the weather has cooled my friend and I will have one giant lawn sale. I’m lucky she is in the same place as me, both mentally and physically, and so together we have enough to supply the local lawn sale attendees with many bargains, a couple of times over! This is not about making money, it is about freeing energy which is at a very low ebb, and more valuable to me than a few dollars.

It was an interesting observation…as my purge and energy renewal continued, the rains and flooding subsided. After a few weeks the flow of groceries and goods, back to the Centre of the country and our town, began to return to normal. The macro and the micro happening simultaneously, as it sometimes does right in front of us…and has continued to do with recent eastern European invasions.

With the decluttering came a new mantra…

‘Get out of your head, and get into the moment…’

This is the typical process we introverts try to balance all the time. The culling decisions are all in my head but the results enable me to rearrange things, make them work better in the physical space. Things I hold on to are right there in sight so that I will readily see them next time I’m looking. I found that so helpful when I decluttered my wardrobe contents five years ago. I can pack a bag in about fifteen minutes now, though I laugh as I write this sentence since the world I desire to travel in is getting smaller by the week. I’m certainly glad our visit to Russia is in the Past.

Here are a few brief observations from the process that might help you:

  • Know your ‘why’ (do you want your domicile more orderly, easier to clean, or maybe you want more energy, or to take over a whole other country?)
  • Set an end date but give yourself plenty of timeas you uncover, you will find more places to conquer.
  • Do a little bit every day, whether cleaning one shelf or drawer, or gradually moving troops into place. In my case I set a time goal of an hour a day. Some days I did more and toward the end there was less to do, but I hardly missed a day.
  • Phone a friend. I have found it easier to have a friend to do these things with, or at least someone to consult, especially when the going gets tough and you feel a bit overwhelmed. It is always easier for someone else to think clearly and see your stuff without the accompanying emotional baggage. Friends in a bubble of delusion are perhaps not the best to consult, however.

Getting out of my head and transitioning to the practical moment is great, but I also appreciate that I now have more space in my head (so to speak) for creative thoughts, that are now threatening to be overwhelmed with more suffering in the world. To date, the new cupboard drawings (done by me) have been sent to the cabinet builder who has committed to installation in May. The carpet has been ordered and is committed to being installed in April. My purge is nearly finished, save the lawn sale…but I am truly shaken inside that other purges are not. I’ve located an electrician to install new lighting, and a tiler to replace the cupboard carpet with tiles. What could possibly go wrong from here?

fresh off the easel…MacDonnell Ranges