The quality of my life has improved since I moved to a village. I adore the space I have now.
One of such offerings is a big garage. But even such a garage can easily be filled in no time. And, indeed, our garage has imperceptibly become a land of stock and stuff.
Not on purpose, of course, but merely as a result of our careless storage.
The garage has not called for an immediate attention, so it has patiently waited for its turn. I’ve had more pressing issues to handle for months. It has gracefully stored everything needed and not, or perhaps needed-one-day-in-the-future, islands of old articles, heaps of papers, buggies, tables, chairs, car seats, garden equipment, paints, tools, toys, boxes and whatever you will think of – surely we have had it there.
It was a mess.
The cleaning of the garage was on my to-do list as a some-day project. And perhaps it would have stayed there for a long time, but there was a sudden call for action.
While we were away, the garage was flooded by unexpected heavy rains. As a result, on return I was welcomed by unpleasant smell, rotten card boxes and damaged stuff.
“OK, I’ve got it now. No more excuses.”, I said to myself.
I decided to clean the garage.
“Easier said than done”, I thought. The mess was truly overwhelming.
I was standing there in the middle and feeling the heaviness of the space filled with stuff. I heard a cry for order. The things were not happy, to say at least. However, instead of having a clear plan of action, my thoughts were cluttered and foggy as if in response to the disharmony around.
I had no idea how to start and how to end. I had no clear sense of direction of how to sort things out. It was too much stuff everywhere in all sorts of shapes, sizes and condition. And I felt small, overpowered and tensed by the task. Yet, it had to be done….
I decided to shake these feelings off. I took a few deep in-breaths followed by long out-breaths. I slowly started to relaxed.
“Let the dance begin”, I’ve smiled to myself.
“I need the space back”, I thought.
I decided to take the stuff out.
“But … hey … I am in a dance.” I’ve reminded myself.
“I like the free-style.”
So, instead of a dedicated effort to move things out, I took a series of seemingly unrelated or even distracting small steps. From the same dance, of course 🙂
As with dancing, I needed to warm up, with various exercises first. In doing so I gave myself the possibility to both feel and appreciate the space and surroundings. I wanted to feel the dance floor, as you can imagine 😉
I was moving out the bulky items and the small ones, both in collections and individual ones. At the same time I was introducing other steps. For instance, when I discovered a few garden tools I had been desperately missing for some time (that I knew were there but had no idea were), I choose to collect them all in one place first. There was no logical order of moving things out, but inspired by what I thought was compelling to focus on at a given moment.
The moving-out steps were easily interlaced with floor sweeping ballet, re-packing and sorting hip-hop, gracefully jumping over the rooms and collecting new members for the garage, and some lovely speed-ups with the kids playing outside.
Such an approach is certainly unusual for me. When I set to do a task such as cooking or cleaning the house I simply do it. Now, I’ve set myself to a creative (even if chaotic) dance. What did cause the difference? Well… I usually know what to do and how to do it. I have a vision. Now, I had no idea but the motivation for a clean and neat space.
The challenge of garage un-messing was new, or at least very different from my usual undertakings.
There was a hidden structure in my free-style dance. For an outside observer I would have been randomly jumping from a task to a task. For myself, I have acted in response to the moment following the natural choreography that has slowly revealed itself.
After some hours, I’ve finally arrived at a place of space. The bulk of the stuff was outside.
I was again standing in the garage in the appreciation of such a big storage space. Even though I still had no clear vision for order, the insights were there. I’ve paid attention to the sorts and kinds of stuff so I’ve slowly gathered the impressions.
I decided to place the most bulky yet not-to-be-moved items first so that they could define the space in a solid way. Then, I decided to place the opposite – the stuff that would often be in and out such as kids bikes or garden equipment. Finally, I was left with a vast land of stuff of varying sizes and heaviness.
In creating the space for all these items I’ve pre-classified them based on purpose and I was dancing some of them away towards garbage or donation boxes (to be taken to a recycling center and charity shops). The dance has continued but now it was fast paced. I was moving, shifting, holding, pushing, repacking and re-boxing things around. The space was there and I had the freedom to move as I wished.
Every number of steps I made myself stop to feel the space again and the overall surroundings. When I recognized any discord I repeated the parts of the process of moving, shifting, holding, pushing, repacking and re-boxing. Whatever was needed.
The hours flew fast and I arrived at the final result. I was pleased with it. The garage has become a welcoming and very spacious space. The stuff found their new places in friendly neighborhoods. The light came in.
“I’ve done a good job” I thought.
The whole dance of space creation was a pleasant experience in contrary to what I anticipated from a tedious task of moving bulky stuff and getting dirty hands.
What is the moral of the story?
When faced with new, uncomfortable challenges, be it a serious disease of your child, a threat to loose a job, a big loss, an accident or a serious injustice, choose a dance approach. The conditions of your challenge are the music but it is your style and your moves that matter.
You need the space, the feel of the music and environment, the freedom to move and the dancing steps. It will make a difference.
Create the space first. This can be done in small steps by either creating it in a physical environment or in a mental/emotional one. Perhaps you need to reorganize your office, shift stuff around the house or clean the garden. Or, perhaps you need a mental space created through relaxation such as a walk in a park, climbing mountains, a long bath, volunteering help, or a good book. Or, perhaps you need to create an emotional space by letting flow the emotions freely through a physical exercise, cry and talk, reflection or a deep tissue massage.
Every tension is contraction. Contraction means the space is restricted and confined.
Every relaxation is expansion. Expansion means the space is abundant.
Be present. Feel the situation, the circumstances and the environment. Hear the music. It is by probing, taking small actions and experiencing the responses, you will begin to feel the way forward.
Take the natural steps. Make them in the direction that feels natural. Learn about the problem, the circumstances, the disease, the people, the negotiations, the skills or whatever needs to be dealt with. Dance freely. Interlace your learning, thinking and doing with other activities or aside tasks. Take a day off. Go hiking. Rent a boat. Do a bungee jump. Reset.
Your mind needs to digest the information and experience without your inner control freak. This is possible when you begin to feel the in-and-out rhythm. The out is necessary for progress.
The image above shows a beautiful quilt by Inge Duin. See more of her works on www.ingeduin.nl.