Month: <span>December 2020</span>

Our clutter isn’t relegated only to material things.
We clutter our lives with destructive relationships, careers, obligations, rituals, busyness, minutiae, news, media, politics, gossip, drama, rumours.

We clutter our attention with glowing screens.
We clutter our creativity with distractions.
We clutter our free time with trivialities.
We clutter our desires with attachments.

Our lives are brimming with existential clutter, emotional clutter, mental clutter, spiritual clutter.
So much so that it’s hard to distinguish what is clutter—and what is not.

We are stressed out, overwhelmed, and anxious because we’ve filled our lives with disorder, chaos.

Though there is a solution.
Look at an object, a commitment, a habit.
Does it bring tranquillity or increase your well-being?
If not, let it go!

Not an easy fix,
but a simple one.

Joshua Fields Millburn

I’ve been decluttering again.

In my never-ending battle to get rid of unneeded stuff, and find places for the things that are needed (half the battle sometimes), I’ve taken a different tack and started sorting through different parts of my life and questioning what is truly important to me.

It’s not been easy. The last few months, pandemic aside, have been very trying for me and my family yet, in a way, they’ve been hugely instructive as well, especially as I now have a little distance from which to view things.

Obviously, the sudden death of my father in August is the largest disruption, but since then my Mum has had issues with an abscess causing her to need a short stay in hospital and more recently she had not one but two falls, cracking vertebrae the first time, and her pelvis the second; My Mum is a stroke survivor of 9 years with limited use of her left side so that makes things a little trickier still. I spent a couple of weeks living with her to get her through the worst of it. And still, more recent news includes the death of a close friends mother, the list goes on…

This is all to say that, as always, life continues to throw curveballs because clearly a global pandemic that is killing people and destroying livelihoods – not to mention a Prime Minister that is killing people and destroying livelihoods (but none those of his chums obv) – is apparently not enough to deal with.

But enough with the woe is me.

I’m lucky, very very lucky in comparison to many.

I’ve been able to work through the pandemic and my boss has been supportive of my need for sudden time off and the resulting skewed working hours here and there, something that would’ve been impossible to manage if I was still office-based.

Throughout all of this my amazing partner has been an absolute rock, I don’t think I could have gotten through all of this the way I have without her and it’s helped me learn a lot about our relationship, and myself. My friends too have reached out and been there whenever I asked, and all in all, I feel very loved and supported. I hope I’ve been able to offer a shred of that back to them but, I fear as always, I’ve not quite been there enough.

I look at my acquaintances, more recent friends made in the past few years, and can see that I’ve fallen out of touch. It’s natural, I think, to shrink your world when things get hard so I’m looking forward to a time when it can start to grow again, to embrace those people once more, figuratively and literally.

In a way, this minimised life has forced me to look at how I live more than anything, the habits I have, the things I do and don’t do. As I’ve mentioned here I’m now someone who meditates almost every day, I stretch almost every morning, and even though we are heading to peak food consumption day, I’m still being (mostly) mindful of what I put in my body.

Christmas is another good time to focus on why we have so many things. I look at where I’m sitting now and can see things I don’t need and/or don’t use, and I’m glad that my family is adopting a no presents for adults rule (small mindings aside). We do the same, Becca and I, and it’s twice the fun to spot something small that I know she’ll love.

Next year will bring more challenges no doubt, Brexit will loom large through January and February as we adjust to whatever that brings (does anyone really know?), and as the vaccination and COVID variants continue to battle perhaps we need to look to the summer for more respite, and the chance to reconnect.

However I’m convinced there will be good news next year, one way or another, and as an aide to that part of my recent decluttering thoughts have been about the news I consume, both in terms of volume and source. I’m still reading and keeping up but find myself spending far less time getting lost in the discussions and what-if-ery that seems to be more and more prevalent.

Ultimately things will play out as they will so let’s focus on what is here and now, right in front of us. This is the now we can be a part of, and now, more than ever, I feel the need to push all of the other noise away, taking a broom to the clutter that feeds in via social media, news website, radio announcements and newspaper headlines.

It feels good to be clearing out a little, even if it’s only really a mental adjustment, a bit of stock-taking here and there to remind myself of the things I’m keeping in my life as much as the things I’m pushing away. Switching the focus away from all that clutter to only the things I’m keeping, the things I really need, make it all so much easier.

Life

The nights are fair drawin’ in, eh!

Walking a black dog at night can be a little tricky, and while he doesn’t get off the lead we do have a light-up collar for him, just in case he makes a bid for freedom (to chase a cat, or a bird, or a leaf …). And so, safely adorned, Dave and I take our evening pre-prandial wander around the locality and given the time of year we are delighted to see an ever-growing number of emblazoned homes, festooned in their Christmas finery. It’s such a joy to see them popping up, a tree here, a glowing star there, especially after such a turgid year.

But wait! Something is amiss! It’s something that seems to have changed over the past few years, like the subtle change of a tide, and if anything it seems to be getting worse!

Where are all the colours?! Where are the tawdry baubles, the glowing bulbs, the dazzling tinsels?

Walking through our neighbourhood is a sad affair these days, as more and more houses light up for Christmas it seems that more and more of them are opting for Instagram friendly, exquisitely decorated trees that all have one thing in common; THEY LOOK BORING!

Looking across a few windows the other night and the only difference between the lights on the trees, proudly displayed in grand bay windows, is which type of white/yellowy light has been used. One house has a vibrant white twinkle, the other a gentle golden glow, and not one had any other colour on display.

Yawn.

These are not the Christmases of my youth. Now I know that trends come and go, but I’ll be so happy when the current trend of these seeming magazine perfect Christmas trees, in all their matching decorative glory, is gone and we can again return to the fun and frivolity of a nonsense Christmas tree. One decorated with all manner of weird and wonderful ornaments, gathered together over the years, festooned with coloured tinsel and ablaze with multi-coloured lights of every colour imaginable!

It feels churlish though, this year of all years, to let this pet hate bubble up. In reality, I’m just glad to see the lights, the feeling of some normality, the season of goodwill and all that but it still gnaws away at me. Whilst I no longer buy into the rampant commercialisation that Christmas has become, at least it was always colourful and upbeat. To look at some of these trees I have to wonder why, when you have the PERFECT excuse to brighten things up on these dull winter nights, why you would opt for ‘warm gold’ as the colour scheme of choice.

Last year I was wandering around our local DIY superstore and was boggled to see perfectly laid out displays with matching tinsels and baubles and ribboned bows in perfectly dull and boring colours, a deep teal there, a bronze shimmer here, boring boring boring!

Is it just me?

Or is it just where I live? Is it only the homes that can afford to follow fashion that indulges in new lights, new decorations, matching this, coordinating that, because they have the money to be able to? Is this some form of class divide? Glasgow is small enough that by simply changing my walk a little, taking in slightly less affluent streets, brought a noticeable change in the colour of the lights blinking at me from their windows.

Regardless, the thing I enjoy most about Christmas is the lights that seem to glow all the brighter on these dark nights. And if I’m being truly honest I don’t mind the boring lights all that much, it’s just nice to see them cropping up more and more, bring some joy to a year that desperately needs it.

Life