As I sit in my room typing this, I’m overwhelmed by all of the clutter in my room that I’ve been trying to sort out over the past year. By “trying to” I mean I’ve made half-ass attempts to make a plan to clean up and organize – but I generally give up before even really trying. I leave it to the ever elusive tomorrow. Just thinking about it stresses me out.
In this current moment, I’m both physically and mentally cluttered.
I mean well, but I’ve been absorbing way too much information for my body to healthily process. There are the various forms of social media, TV shows, and articles online. Then on top of those, there are all the books that I impulsively borrow from the library and end up not even having the time to read half of them. Not to mention I own all these books that I haven’t read yet.
It’s like I’m compelled to fill up my space and fill up my mind to distract myself from the discomfort of what isn’t there – the emptiness. I fill up my environment so I don’t have to face the blankness.
I still remember when I first moved into my house as a teenager. The room and the house were so much bigger than what I was used to. My mom would urge me to clean my room, but when I did the room felt unbearably empty and I felt so alone. Ever since then I’d resolved to keep my room a little messy. It just felt more comfortable that way. If it bothered my mom, then she didn’t have to come in my room and look at it!
Over time, I grew into my room (literally and figuratively) and it doesn’t feel as big anymore – but I’m still compelled to messily fill up the extra space.As innocuous as a slightly messy room seems, it symbolizes something much greater when I realize that it reflects a larger pattern in my life.
“The way you do one thing is the way you do all things”
Some people are super good at cutting people off, throwing away uneaten food on their plate, and getting rid of old clothes – I’m not one of those people. Or at least I haven’t been one of those people so far.
I’ve been the person who holds on to relationships until they die a painful and drawn out death, the person who never leaves a restaurant without a to-go plate (even if just for 1/4th of a sandwich and 2 fries). I’ve been the person who’s closet is half full of clothes that I haven’t worn in over 3 years (because I might change my mind about that dress and wear it one day).
This isn’t to say that either extreme is better than the other, but it gives me a realization: my hoarder-like behavior isn’t just due to discomfort – it’s the result of a more specific mindset. One rooted in beliefs of scarcity and lack rather than the more virtuous belief of abundance
I somehow came to internalize that I needed to live as though good things were scarce and once I got anything “good” then I had better hold on to it for as long as feasibly possible (because who knew when or even if I’d ever get anything good again). This mindset is to blame for feelings of unworthiness and instances where I decided to settle for things that were less than what I truly wanted. I held on to good enough things until they got sour instead of practicing patience and coming to peace with a temporary void.
What if instead of seeing it as lack I looked at it as a blank canvas that I could paint any way that I wanted over time? No rush.
Now that my room is so cluttered, when I see cute pieces of furniture or accent pieces that I’d like, I look at my room and find that there’d be nowhere for me to put it. In my rush to haphazardly fill my space with comforting junk, I left no room for things that I actually wanted – things that I would cherish and value.
When we’re lonely or uncomfortable, we rush to fill the empty space in our lives with whatever we can get. We just want to fill the void. We distract ourselves from our discomfort with things, food, clothes, the media, and other people’s drama – things that ultimately don’t really matter. We focus on getting rid of our feelings but, in the process, we compromise our true desires.
How much suffering would we avoid if we simply reframed our perception of emptiness?
The word “empty” is synonymous with bare, hollow, and void – words we go to when we feel dejected and unworthy. But it’s also synonymous with words like available, free, and open – words with a completely different connotation. When we say we’re free, we’re able to do whatever we choose. When we’re open, we’re ready to invite in new things. We have hope for the future.
When I quit my job last October, it was initially a relief but it soon grew into a discomfort. Rushing to fill it with another unfulfilling job wouldn’t have been productive so I came to peace with the new free time in my life and resolved to focus on things that mattered to me – writing, building strong relationships and self-development.
Don’t get me wrong – It wasn’t an easy transition. It was difficult dealing with outside perceptions, comparison, and feeling inadequate. It’s easy to feel defined by what we perceive to be lacking, but what good is having something if it’s not what we want? Why let our impatience cause us to settle? We deserve better than that.
It’s in the open space that we have the room to create and house the most beautiful things.
So what matters to you? What is it that you truly want? Are you seeing it in your current environment or are you filling your life to the brim with comfortable distractions? What goals could you be achieving? What could you be building? What beautiful life could you be painting on that blank canvas?
I urge you to let go of the things that aren’t serving you and make space for something new. The universe can’t give you what say you want if there’s nowhere for it to go.