Last night I had a dream that I was stuck in an elevator. I hopped on quickly to ride up one floor. For a split second I entertained taking the stairs, but that was the same second my feet were moving through the doors I allowed to close behind me. I was in the elevator with a few other people. Of course it came to a stop, stuck just before the doors were to open to the next floor.
I’m not claustrophobic but in my dream I was. In that moment I knew I could panic or I could just take one breath at a time, so paused. Another lady was there panicking as she and I kept pushing buttons to try to make the elevator move but nothing we did worked. There was a small window at the top of this tiny room that trapped us. I could faintly hear other people outside and I could see light, but I couldn’t get through those doors. We were screaming for help but it seemed like nobody could hear us.
To myself I thought, “I knew I should have taken the stairs. I wished I would have. In the end, the stairs would have been faster, healthier and with certain outcome.” But I didn’t realize the risk I was taking with the the elevator – the faster option. I was convinced it was better. The appeal of that option took away the time I really needed to consider anything else.
Sometimes we live there, stuck in that elevator. We get carried away by the faster options. We give into the appeal of the convenience. But in real life, convenience comes with clutter and the faster option takes shape as the stuff within our homes. We buy things that promised us freedom through convenience until we’re stuck in the hoards of these spontaneous purchases. Our homes become the place that no longer allows us to move. We feel trapped by everything we thought we needed. Within our clutter, we work to maintain, manage and care for our things to a fault. All of our doing helps nothing. We feel suffocated and we’re left with little time to consider, “Could there have been another way?”
And doesn’t it seem like everyone else just keeps on living. Like they have no idea that you’re stuck in that house, trying to find the solution to all of this mess. Well take heart, because that’s not true. You are not alone, because there are others there with you, trapped in their own houses with their own stuff, working tirelessly to find a solution and feeling completely stuck.
When our homes can no longer function, the system is broken but if we keep moving on autopilot we’ll never stop to find another way. The other way is not a fast and convenient one but it promises resolution. In my dream, initially the stairs were not faster but they would have been better in the end. The stairs would have made me walk along an intentional path to take tiny steps towards progress.
That’s what decluttering is to me. It’s not a weekend purge or even committing to buying less, although those things can help. It also not buying more stuff to organize what you already have. It’s piece-by-piece chipping away at the clutter that surrounds you. And it’s also the change in perspective we need to see that we need to do it.
No one in that elevator dared say that we were foolish for having trapped ourselves in there. Perhaps it was because we didn’t realize that we were, although we felt it. It was the elevator that broke. Our own accountability to walk into the trap was dismissed by our justification to blame what was expected of us to do. And let me tell you, “The world is not advertising for you to buy less, get rid of what you don’t need and make smarter purchasing decisions.” Instead, the phone is your pocket is tracking your every purchase, like, and web search to formulate algorithms to present to you the next thing you ‘need’ to buy.
Freedom from clutter is taking the stairs and it’s also the wisdom to know that the stairs were even an option before we walk right back into the other way. It’s pausing before doing. It being aware of the risk before you’re convinced you can’t live without a BOGO or a $1 bin snag. I feel it too. I live it as well.
The habit of taking the elevator didn’t happen in a day. It was familiar because I had walked into it over and over again, believing it would always get me where I needed to go until it didn’t. Let’s take a detour to the other option and walk the steps needed to live a Life Less Cluttered.