It has been a really cold, snowy winter. January felt like it dragged on forever and also like it was over just like that. Probably typical for this first month of the year. I think part of the reason why it seemed like it lingered for so long was because we really slowed down our pace this month, especially on the weekends. There were five of them, if you count the New Year’s extended sort of weekend / time off, and we didn’t travel for any of them. The first was long and leisurely, the second still felt holiday-ish, and the third brought a massive snowfall that quieted the city (and cancelled everything but sledding and hiking). Weekend four stretched out because of head lice, so the laundry piled up, but the commitments were low. Weekend five stretched out with the flu – again with the laundry – but also the cancellations. I’m not saying I loved all the components of the month, but I really dug the pace.
But now that we’re into February, it feels quick. February has full weekends, lots of travel, and longer to-do lists. I want to try and carry that January pace into this month as best I can, so I’m tweaking a few rituals to see if that helps.
I know there’s a massive craze to clean up and de-clutter these days. I haven’t seen the Marie Kondo show on Netflix, but I purchased her book “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up” when it first came out in the US. I really liked the book, but I remember that several friends had really negative reactions to it. It was pretty controversial at the time (and maybe still is), although I’ve heard the show is a little more mellow and approachable.
The thing is, it really stuck with me. And as much as the idea of holding each one of my objects in my hand to determine if it does indeed “spark joy” seems a little corny, I’ve never forgotten it. I started with my dresser drawers, and changed the way that I folded all my clothes. (The folding technique seems to be the thing I remember the most from the book.) I still edit my drawers and the single rod of my wardrobe continuously. I do the same with most other spaces in the house – not all at once, but I’ve slowly tackled most of them, and I maintain them as I go. I do it weekly with the refrigerator, and monthly in the pantry. Some days I pull everything out of a drawer or two and clean and sort and put away. Most weeks I stop by Goodwill at some point, on the way to work or home again. Small amounts each time, but I try not to let it pile up in the house. The editing feels good.
Last Sunday I had to cancel most of the things I had planned to stay home with a feverish F. I washed her sheets (again), and put her in fresh, cool clothes and sheets to rest. I moved the old bench out of our room – the one that I still haven’t replaced – and into the hallway for a week or two, as I contemplate just letting it go. I wanted to vacuum and mop our room again, and I knew I could do a better job without the bench in the way. We re-gifted most of the dress up clothes that usually live in there to my littlest niece for Christmas, and the storage component of the piece just really isn’t necessary.
The bench-less room feels so much more expansive and… quiet. It’s felt so good all week in that room – the nights have been so cold outside, but this room feels like a warm haven. We have this sort of unspoken ritual in the evenings – at some point one of us goes into the room and turns on the reading lamps over the bed and taps the bed heater buttons on both sides to gently warm up the sheets. When I’m the one doing it, I enjoy the ritual of turning on the lights, relocating my book from my work bag to the bed, and turning down the top of the blanket. Our room is in the center, the most visible place when you move vertically through the house, which is what we do a lot of in the evenings. It might be another hour or two until we get there, but it feels like a promise of sorts, as we catch glimpses of those lights above the bed. When he beats me to it, it’s even better. It feels like a promise to me – we’ve tackled all we can of the day in two different directions, but eventually we’ll meet up again here, to read and talk and rest and reset for another day. It’s a little thing, really, but it’s one of my very favorite things.
So as February ramps up the busy, I’m looking for ways to get more benches out of the way. To find those things that I can hold in my hand as a promise to myself that quietness and restfulness are still here. A reminder to turn back someone else’s side of the bed when I can, and to feel gratitude when my own sheets are warmed by another’s attentiveness and care.