“Some call it chaos we call it family”
That is a saying I have hanging in my kitchen.
I have always had my “corner” in the kitchen filled with my “stuff”...
Bills. Papers. Gift cards. Old iPads. A can of WD40... just “stuff”. But my house is always clean (ok almost always minus some varying degree of dog hair depending on the day/week/month). And equally, my house is almost always cluttered in some parts and some ways with varying degrees... Or maybe the kinder term for “cluttered” is “lived in”. Yes my house is “lived in”.
I have been in this house for 15 years.
15 years of pictures
15 years of Mother’s Day gifts
15 years of “chachkis” (Knick knacks)
15 years of life
But as summer is flying by and the boys will be home in just a few short weeks, I feel I need to wrap up some unspoken “loose ends”. I want to be in control of something. I want to bring some kind of order into my recently extra chaotic world. And I naively thought “organizing” some “clutter” would be a good start.
Last week, when one of my yoga teachers was telling me about her recent move, she described her decorating style by saying “I want someone to walk into my house and wonder if it was robbed?” Uncluttered to the point of bare?? It sounded intriguing. And motivating.
So this past Friday, after a long week of Teacher Training at Powerflow Yoga, I decided to model my teacher’s idea and tackle my bathroom. Why start there? I’m not really sure but probably because it’s the least cluttered room and seemed most manageable.
I quickly packed up and gave away candlesticks and old pictures and fake flowers with fake water in a vase... and an hour later, I looked at my bathroom and it felt brand new... fresh and “light”.
But I’m not naive. I understand that besides Ryan’s minion bath sponges or his old rubber duck collection, there isn’t a whole lot of emotional attachment in a bathroom. And that was the likely the real reason for starting my “cleanse” there...
Fast forward to yesterday.
Yesterday, I decided to tackle a closet. The kids’ linen closet.
As I went through the shelves and piles and boxes it quickly became clear that what was staring at me was so much more than “stuff”...
I was faced with Ryan’s favorite character blankets... which he loved dearly and changed often.
His sheets which still have a faint scent of “him” ...
An extra bottle of Spongebob bubble bath...
Character bandaids (although he hated to wear them but would be so concerned if anyone else ever had one on...)
Cases of various medication and extra feeding bags and nebulizer equipment...
A lone baby toy was hidden on a shelf... one of Ryan’s favorites...a cute frog with arms he could pull to his mouth. Like a scene from an old movie, I pictured baby Ryan... as he learned to track and swat at toys and hold his head up... with my dad at his side.
High up on the next shelf was Ryan’s first (and thankfully only) suction machine. Not the kind of thing most parents would look at and say “aww remember when...?” but for me it was different. I kept that machine because not only was it part of Ryan’s past but it was literally like a scar he bravely endured from a battle won long ago. For those that have known Ryan since the beginning, remember when he couldn’t even swallow his own saliva without choking? That machine saved Ryan many times when he was younger and it reminded me what a warrior he was from the beginning.
Childhood memories of a different kind. But milestones nonetheless.
I came across Ryan’s very first cochlear implant harness. 17 years ago, as you can imagine, cochlear implant processors were much bigger than today (think of how big phones were back then)... and unlike today’s implants where the whole device sits lightly behind the ear. Well, that big device... was what Ryan was supposed to wear in his “pocket”. But Ryan was 13 months old and baby clothes don’t come with many pockets. And I refused to let him wear some ugly black nylon “fanny pack” that came with the processor as an alternate to the non-existent baby pocket idea. So, I found a woman in Florida who made custom harnesses with all cool animals and character. I can still see Ryan running around, often half naked... with his implant securely and proudly by his side.
Living memories. Recalling days long ago. Reminders of a future void of “new” and “uncharted” memories with Ryan.
And it hit me. This was not at all in the same league as the bathroom. That closet was so much more than just “stuff”...
It’s only been two months. I hear that echo in my head over and over. It’s only been two months. But I’m not great at stopping... or even slowing down (as those closest to me like to point out). I barely know how to “be” calm in the “ata”... the “now” without pushing forward through some obstacle...and working towards the “future”. And even though I fully appreciate my blessings in the present, I am learning that I also always have a toe dangling in the future... testing the waters and trying to prep for what is yet to be...
So I’m re-examining my thinking. I’m giving myself permission to slow down... and pause...
And literally, I guess I’m reexamining my “declutter”plan. Maybe instead of tackling Ryan’s bedroom or the family room filled with Ryan’s videos and printed pictures and Mc Donald’s toys, next I’ll work on the kitchen. I’ll stick with the unemotional old frying pan or half melted spatula or mismatched silverware and give myself permission to hold off on the harder stuff for now.
It’s still so fresh.
And that’s ok.