Learning about de-cluttering has been a challenging process in many ways. On the one hand, I feel like I have made great strides in moving toward a more organized, tidy, and user-friendly classroom environment. During the process, I have found some valuable online resources to help guide me, and one of my classmates in my M.Ed. program gave me some lovely tips on how she used KonMari in her own classroom. However, although I spent hours and hours online, searching for resources and pleading with others to help me in my search for organizational strategies, there is little to show for those efforts beyond what I have mentioned. I would like to think that my posts might help other teachers in their process of de-cluttering, but I have found that there is nary a result in any combination of search terms that lead to my site. Hopefully I am better at teaching than I am at building applicable online resources for others!
Surprisingly, considering the wealth of knowledge available online, what was most helpful in tidying my room were the insights provided by other teachers at my worksite and those I know personally but interact with mostly via social media – they were the ones who provided me with the suggestions that work best for my space. I can say with confidence that I have a much better system in place now, and it is one that I feel I will stick with in the long-term, which was one of my concerns early on. Each type of item now has a home in my classroom and a procedure for dealing with it. Most importantly, papers are now handled in a specific way that ensures tidiness and timely processing, as well as smooth transportation and storage from school to home and back again.
Throughout the quest for organization, one theme repeated itself time and again: everything must have its home – the place it belongs. This idea resonated with me in a way that extends beyond tidying my classroom. In KonMari, Marie Kondo exhorts her reader to keep only those items that “spark joy.” This is liberating in some ways. After all, when your life is not cluttered – whether in objects and items or in worried thoughts and anxiety – it is easier to be focused and to see the good around you. However, it can also be frightening: when you have cleared out the excess and the distractions, it is also easier to see the areas that need your attention, and some of those can be issues that you have, perhaps subconsciously, worked to bury under your busy-ness.
This insight came to me from one of those young adults who call me Momma, though she isn’t my child by blood. She was watching me putt about my classroom, tidying at the end of the day. We were talking about how many elements of our world are in a state of upheaval, and how it is difficult to feel in control of what is happening around us. Suddenly, she commented, “That is one of the reasons you love this project of yours – your tidying. It makes you feel like you have a sense of control over something.” I nodded in agreement, we shared a wry smile, and the moment passed.
But that thought has been in the back of my mind for the past week now, and these last couple of days have served to reinforce this concept even further. Life has been so very busy and complex and full of chaos – I worked 16+ hours on Monday and Tuesday, and I then took a day out of the classroom on Wednesday to work on the yearbook deadline with my staff. Then, on Thursday, I woke up with my neck and back in spasms. It was worse on Friday, making it so I had very little mobility. Yet I was at work, and my room was as tidy and neat as could be.
When I got home on Friday, I posted on Facebook how I was headed off to urgent care, and I was met with much support and many suggestions.
One of my teacher friends from another school posted there, but then also followed up with a text message, exhorting me to take care of myself. She cautioned me to prioritize time for myself in the midst of life’s busy-ness and to let go of the things that are not serving me or my family well. I know this: I need to hold on to the elements of life that “spark joy” and to release those that do not. At the same time, I also know that I base much of my identity on being able to take on a multitude of tasks and responsibilities, and I have difficulty relinquishing control. This has spiraled into a schedule that has no room for rest. It seems, though, that the universe has conspired to ensure that I see why I initially wanted to claim a corner of de-cluttered calm in the midst of teaching and learning and yearbook deadlines and family and bills and taxes and politics and more. I understand why the desire for order took the form of de-cluttering and organization, an external symbol of the internal struggle I was dealing with.
During this project, I found so many homes for things, and my classroom space has benefited from that immensely. What I was really needing, though, was to tidy up the aspects of my life that cause chaos and to embrace my own sense of home, that space occupied by those I love and who love me in return, both at home and at school.
It is in the sweet simplicity of calm and contentment – in living mindfully and in the moment – that life becomes less cluttered and more meaningful. As my friend said in her text message, there is a “struggle with guilt for not performing more in my job or guilt as a wife and mother for missing something” and that it is impossible to perform any task well when you are depriving yourself of sleep and time for yourself. And so, while my efforts to expand my online network seem to have failed, this process has drawn me closer to those who are dear to my heart. I have made plans to reconnect in person with the friend who suggested I needed to make more time for myself. I have carved out time to spend in the company of dear friends from my youth. Most importantly, plans have been made to fully devote time during this Thanksgiving to my own family – away from the distractions of work, technology, and studies. I need time with those who nurture my heart.
In the end, while my digital identity has remained largely unchanged, my personal one has undergone a significant shift. Toward that end, I have realized that it is perhaps time to move on to another project, one that involves organization of another sort: the way I prioritize my time and energy so that I am better able to cultivate that sense of home and happiness in my heart so that I can be the wife, mother, and teacher that I truly desire to be. Living should be less about the things that “spark joy” in us and more about the people who do so; my goal now is to live such a life.