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MUSEUM OF MODERN JUNK: Zen-Sweeping: Self-soothing with Sweeping. Putting a Hold on Recycling and Composting.

Click on this link: Sound of Sweeping Close your eyes.  How do you feel?

There is a reason that the act of Sweeping figures prominently in art, it is such a soothing and familiar image.  Think about sweeping for a moment.  What does this image do for you?

Look at these images by clicking on these links:  Japanese mythology Woman Sweeping, oil on panel by Édouard Vuillard, c. 1892; in the Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. Intimist.

When I was in high-school it seemed like everyone was reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. by Robert M. Pirsig. It seemed that everyone was carrying that pink-purple paperback around at school. I don’t want to spoil the surprise, but this book is about life and the way we live it. You can read about it by clicking here and here.

So how does this apply to us? We are going to start practicing some new behaviors today! We are going to try deep focus on sweeping. This deep focus is restful and pleasantly t distracting; and in the case of a clutter-bug, it also helps with the clean up.  Take the broom and the mighty dust-bin. It will be hard work but as you sweep do not think. Every time a thought comes into your mind, sweep it away, concentrate on the sound the broom makes as it moves across the floor, see the amount of sand, dust, and dog fluff. Do not assign feelings to this. Just see. Feel your hands on the broom. Feel the strength in your muscles and feel the movement in your body as you sweep. Notice the outer boundaries of the swept area (at this point it is just a tiny area and that is OK). Move along as much as you can even if you have to crawl over stuff to get to another spot clear enough for sweeping. Do this every morning and every night. I am going to go do my morning sweeping now and then we can talk about it.

OK.  I just did my sweeping. Apply the scientific process of observation to the dust bin! Have a trash container and recycling container next to you.  I don’t recommend trash containers in every room yet unless you have a clear path to the trash containers.  For now, just have an easily recognizable bag labeled TRASH (with a trusty marker) and your lawn and leaf bag labeled RECYCLE (single stream).

Before we document what we swept up…Did I talk about taking a break from some forms of recycling?

I give us all permission, until the house is a home to:

Stop mulching or composting!  In most areas compostables can go in a paper bag in the green waste can.  If you feel overwhelmed, give yourself permission to throw this stuff in your regular trash container.  Trust me, you will be back to your environmental-saving and protecting ways soon!  Why do I recommend this if we are all concerned with saving the planet?  Saving yourself and your home and family is the goal now.  Compostables can pile up, smell, and attract critters.  This is just not the right time. Don’t have the time and energy to compost now?  Don’t have energy to garden?  These beautiful activities will be waiting for the future.  Take a break and get the house clean!

Stop taking cans and bottles to recycling center for money.   You do not have time for this.   Put all of your recycling in a single stream container.  If you do not have curbside trash removal get it.  It comes with free recycling and green waste pick up in most areas.   Many companies will let you have two blue recycling bins and two green waste bins for free.   If you cannot afford trash pick up ask for help.   I will assume that you have trash pick up for now (…to be continued).  Many clutter-bugs have a defective system for dealing with trash.  Since you have already stopped spending money on non-essentials because you have prohibited any visits to stores,  it is imperative (super-important) to have proper waste-management.   Call the company, get a trash bin and two recycle bins and two green bins.  Ask about the least expensive plan, but get a plan!

Applying science to sweeping.  I have my trash bag, my recycle bag, and an empty top of a box to use as a sorter.  We are recording what is in the sweep so we can learn.  I pick out the things I know will go in the trash or recycling and I have picked out the things I think might need saving and I put them in the sorting tray (don’t worry friends and family, we are working toward skipping this step in the future).  I immediately throw the rest in the trash (dust, sand, dog hair, chewed up ? from the pets).

When I was still married, I used to sweep up and then leave the little pile of swept up debris in a corner with the broom next to it.  I didn’t know that I had a problem with throwing away little objects (OCD).  My husband would come along and we both thought I had just become distracted.  He would sweep it up and throw it away.  I think he did pick out any coins because he had jars of coins everywhere!

Here is my list from the sorting tray:

  1. fluff from a pillow the dog chewed up — possibly could go into single stream recycling (cloth) but since I am not sure, trash
  2. 3 socks — two thrown away and one to wash.  It is possible that the socks could go in single-stream recycling, but when it is not clear…trash
  3. a money belt — into my suitcase so I know where to find it.  If you can’t find the suitcase, toss it.
  4. 4 coins — three went into my wallet (which I always keep in the same place next to the keys.  One went in the trash on purpose!
  5. one rubber band animals bracelet (very big in elementary schools a few years ago) — trash!
  6. Small pieces of paper –recycle?  No, trash!
  7. beans and seeds — trash!

So how did it feel to read through this?

Were you uncomfortable?   In support groups for OCD or for anxiety, it helps to rank your feelings:  1= very calm and at peace  5 = very uncomfortable, can’t take it.

Now wait a few minutes and see if your discomfort decreases.  I bet it does.

People with clutter often are very thrifty and love to recycle.  So why did we throw out money, beads, and recyclable items?  We are practicing DESENSITIZATION, (click here to read more).

Desensitization is part of the process.   We are practicing throwing away perfectly good things and being present while we do it.   We feel the discomfort, but then we slowly stop feeling the discomfort.

The battle against clutter requires desensitization to perfection.  Comfort with doing an O.K. job is key.  Good enough is GOOD ENOUGH!

Homework:  Sweep even one small area everyday.  Focus on the sound and feeling of sweeping.  When you finish, sort through the dust bin.  Separate out seemingly important stuff such as coins, crafting supplies (embroidery thread, beads, cool little bits of stuff for collages, small bottles of paint), pills, buttons, etc.   Throw the dust and obvious trash away immediately.  Now try to throw away as many of the so-called precious items you have saved.  Yes, even coins!  Desensitize yourself to the need to save and find a purpose for everything.

Take the time to do this everyday until you can throw away almost everything that you sweep up.   Keep one container for all the bits that you couldn’t throw away.  Now look at even this with your newly trained eyes.  Can you throw it away now?

Tips:  If you have large quantities of the following, start a lawn and leaf bag for them and dispose of them properly:  Medicine and Batteries: hardware stores have pill recycle bins and battery recycling.  Find a local site for this.  Arts & crafts:  when you are ready, have a friend take your whole giant leaf and yard waste bag to the nearest youth center, thrift store, or even craft recycling center such as Legacy (click here) or Scrap (click here).  Do not drop stuff off yourself! Stay away from shopping or acquiring more stuff!  Most friends or acquaintances will help out by picking up stuff and dropping it off for a good cause.  They can get a receipt for tax purposes.

 

Now you have learned to sweep away your cares and you can do this as often as you would like when you need soothing.   Self-soothing with sweeping is lovely.  Try to do it at least once a day.  Teach your children and your dog to self-sooth with sweeping too!

 

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