This post first appeared on The Porch Swing Chronicles in October 2014.
Last night, I took down the birthday cards I had displayed in the dining room. Sounds like a good thing, right? Except the birthday was over a month ago. And it was mine, so I can't blame their extended stay on top of my microwave on anyone else's sentimentality or lack of initiative. This one's all on me.
I didn't leave them up on purpose. And I'm busy, but not so busy that I don't have thirty seconds to take down the birthday cards and put them away, especially since I actually do have an "away" in mind. These aren't homeless items, or even sentimental knick knacks that I intended to leave out. They aren't a physical replacement for a to-do list. They simply became so much a part of the landscape of my dining room that I ceased to see them.
I'm definitely a piler. An "I need to see it," "out of sight, out of mind" visual organizer. But, like so many others who share my special way of organizing the world, I often find myself walking the fine line between useful strategy and insurmountable hurdle. Okay, walking is an understatement. I've camped out there.
And so I suspect that a brief walk through my house (should I be brave enough to embark on such a journey) would reveal countless other "collections" that need to be attended to. In fact, right this minute, as I sit in my living room typing this blog, I can spot four such piles -- without even moving from my seat.
Why does this happen? How come these things aren't where they belong? I'm not a slovenly person. And I can guarantee you that as soon as I finish typing this, I will right three of these long-overdue wrongs. And it will probably take me less than five minutes.
So why didn't I do it before?
Because until I took down the cards and started writing this blog, I really didn't "see" those "collections." They began as reminders to do something, or to finish something, and as time went on, they blended right into the landscape of the room -- so much so that it took an awakening of sorts to remind me that they were, indeed, out of place.
These awakenings often come in the form of expected company. Knowing that visitors will be arriving, I will look at my house with a critical eye, removing the blinders I wear when I am home alone. For the first time in weeks, I'll see my house as company would see it. Appalled, I'll tidy up, put things away and make my house fit for non-family companions.
Once things have been put away and clear space has been restored, I will revel in the beauty of the uncluttered space. I will remind myself how easy it is to gain that space, and how nice it feels to have order restored. And I will promise myself to try to keep it that way....
....but will stop just short of vowing to do so. Because I know that's a vow I can't keep. I know that when I put things out of sight, they often go out of mind as well. And the fear inspired by that possibility is greater than my need for clear spaces.
So the best I can promise myself is to try to strike a balance. To continue to work toward leaving out only that which it's necessary to leave in plain sight.
As for the rest, I'll keep looking for organizational options that keep things visible but not intrusive. I'm only partway through that journey, but I am making progress.
One collection at a time.