It was one of those appallingly overstuffed closets which creep into our homes without warning.; this one's condition was terminal, and it was mine. It was jam-packed with useless objects and clothing units which for one reason or another seem too historical or potentially viable to discard. Coats with life still in them; never-worn hats in search of an authentic event to attend; a bowed-but-unbroken suitcase, boxes of paper, books, shoes, boots, belts, questionable mufflers, odd bits of ribbon and elastic, magazines, old hairspray.
A recess flaunting its chaos; the kind of staggering mess which suggests that the road to order is way too long for any human to travel. On a normal day I would stare into this pocket of horror and my heart would sink into discouragement. Then I would sigh, close the door and walk away.
But one day something drove me to take up the closet's challenge -- possibly it was the fact that the door was no longer able to close properly. In any event, I wasn't thrilled with my decision to cut through the fashion jungle, but, having accepted the assignment, I moved forward with a certain courage. The closet was Everest; and I was going to climb it. That was that.
My method was routine: I threw everything inside the closet out into the hall in two discrete piles. One would return to the closet, one would move on to the garbage. Bit by bit, handling one item at a time, I plodded through the wreckage until Garbage Pile A was impressively larger than Closet Pile B. (Of course I tortured myself over several pieces along the way; weighing my attachment to the item against the sublime goal of simplicity.) Finally the closet was returned to its orginal nature: lean, neat housing for a few key fashion elements. The Garbage Pile I enclosed in plastic bags and deposited out back in a trash can. Usable items went to Goodwill for recycling.
This surgical process took several hours, and at the end I was worn out, a limp rag. I stood and stared at the newly elegant closet, applauded its spare look, and then sat down and had some coffee. At this point, it occured to me how lovely it would be if one could do this same intensive housecleaning on ill-fitting relationships, or uncomfortable jobs.
And of course, we can do this - it's just that it takes longer and we're much more resistant about throwing away the stuff that keeps cluttering up our human situations -- things like judgments, opinions, inertia, or wanting to be right forever and always. It's one thing to reluctantly toss out an old sweater, and it's quite another to say "Well, I think I'll just accept her the way she is, even if she does appear cold and calculating." That requires relaxing a judgment, and if we've had that judgment on hand for a number of years, the reluctance to parting with it is enormous.
But every once in a while I bump into someone whose closet of opinions is lean and tidy and sparsely furnished. And I notice these rare beings seem to live a happier life, and that other people feel amazingly comfortable in their presence. Champions of low-maintenance living, these amazing souls have not only heard that less is more, but have incorporated that concept into their movements.
For example, I have a friend who is so relaxed and unfettered by judgment that even when insulted, he just chuckles. That's a rare art form: chuckling over insults. Whenever I see him I wish the rest of us could adopt this man's amazingly wide scope of good humour; clearly it would make our days brighter and our communications sweeter.
He's a treasure to know because his interior closets are clean as a whistle. He can laugh at almost everything, brush away small annoyances like lint, sidestep explosions with elegance and charm, and forgive nearly everything. This leaves him free emotionally to employ major qualities like compassion, problem-solving, and humour.
I want my mind to look like that.