It’s 6 months after moving into my apartment. I look around, seeing evidence of a lived in space. There’s a throw blanket on the chair closest to a window with glass marked by the nose prints of a curious dog. A small pile of books, a sketchbook, and pens are nearby. Further into the space sits my first dining room table… the very one that saw me through many years of graduate school (and was rarely used because of my perfectly good lap and cozy sofa), and the very one that my dog, much to my chagrin, finds pleasure in jumping on.
And yet, despite the initial signs of a homey apartment, further scrutiny (but not much further) reveals a pile resembling a haphazard cardboard castle. Boxes are stacked high and labeled carelessly, each filled with the relics of my past that need a home within my present.
Frustrated with myself and the chaos both contained and created by the wall-to-wall brown cardboard, I act. Instead of tackling the visible boxes out in the open as I have attempted to do time and time again, I move to the closets. These tiny spaces are daunting and filled with piles of old clothes and boxes labeled “Bedroom” in permanent ink.
Hours pass. I fill three large garbage bags with clothes to donate, and I throw away several things that are unusable or simply trash. I hang up clothes and fill drawers. I open boxes and begin to sort. I feel empowered and productive and accomplished…
Until I look around.
My bedroom is a MESS… my productivity unnoticeable. Discouragement threatens to take hold. How could I have worked so hard for so long, and it looks WORSE?! I am tempted to stop… or simply cram the mess back where it came from. A part of me wonders if I’m flawed… and that part wants to run into the cardboard castle to hide for eternity.
But then I remember a truth I often remind my clients: lasting growth tends to look worse before it looks better. Chaos must exist for it to be organized.
This is true of cleaning, and it is especially true of therapy.
… you unpack the relics of your past, the things accumulated over time, some burdensome and some treasured.
… you learn how to cope with your chaos instead of shoving it back into the closet.
… you invite someone into your mess, and realize that you don’t have to be “clean” to be worthy of love.
… you let go of the things that no longer fit, and organize what you want to keep.
… you find that even when it’s chaotic and overwhelming and hard to see the growth, you’ll eventually start to see your true self in the midst of the mess.
… and, perhaps most importantly, you don’t have to face any of your mess alone.
It’s 7 months after moving into my apartment. I look around, seeing the ruins of a cardboard castle. There is more to do, and chaos is ever-present. Yet, I’m beginning to see the bits and pieces of my true self showing up amid the mess. Not many others would notice, but I can see it: the bedroom floor that is now visible… a closet of organized clothes, some new and some old, but all fitting me in the present… piles of my favorite books that are filling spots on a quirky bookshelf… There is even a newly assembled table that is tall (i.e. dog proof), with a vase of flowers in the shades of autumn at its center.
My apartment is beginning to feel like my home.
Perhaps by embracing your mess, you can feel at home, too.
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