Thursday, April 23, 2009

New broom

It's spring cleaning week here at the homestead. And although it wasn't my idea, and I really haven't done anything to help, I heartily approve of the results.

Both Noel and I are pack rats. We accumulate stuff at an alarming rate, accelerated by our occupations and avocations. Noel gets dozens of CDs and DVDs in the mail every week. I buy yarn. The kids collect little prizes or toys from various crane machines and kiddie-meal purveyors around town. And while it's difficult for me to throw things away when there's still any value left in them, it's equally difficult for me to find a way to get them out of the house without throwing them away.

Periodically Noel has to make a purge. His philosophy is that if I don't notice it's gone, I didn't need it in the first place. It's just the attitude that's needed, because the clutter in our home takes a mental, physical, and spiritual toll on me. Even though there's a hypothetical moment somewhere in my future where I'm disappointed that we don't still have something I thought we'd kept, there's a very real, concrete present moment in which every glance around the room is more peaceful and calm because I don't see clutter angrifying up the place. I think it's a good tradeoff -- or at least, I try to calm my anxiety during the purge by reminding myself that it's a good tradeoff.

After a hard week in the trenches, my boss is taking a mental health day tomorrow. He told me that he's planning to spend it spreading mulch on his backyard landscaping. It's a job he's hired out the last two years. But this year, he's doing it himself because it's an accomplishment he can have control over. That's something that's often missing in our middle-management jobs in academia. And while Noel probably gets more of that kind of satisfaction in his job as a freelance writer -- although getting paid can be a struggle sometimes -- he's probably prone to seek the same kind of accomplishment in his physical surroundings. I just enjoy the fruits of his labor. Knowing how hard it would be for me to get up the gumption and discipline to do it myself makes me appreciate it all the more.

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