Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Storyteller (OOTD & A New Year)

There's a story I liked to tell. It went something along the lines of, "I've never been terribly domestic. I have a high tolerance for mess. My husband calls me 'creatively messy.' I tend to stack and pile things - it's very characteristic of ENFPs (Myers-Brigg Typology Index), they say. But I always know where things are!" (Insert big smile here.)

Shirt: Burberry white shirt (similar here, here, and here)
Shoes: Sole Society Suede Wedge Pump (similar here, here, and here)
Watch: Michele CSX (Watch head and bracelet band)

It was a very compelling story. In fact, it was so compelling, I lived it for decades. Don't get me wrong - I love a clean house. Once, I shelled out the big bucks and had a team of cleaners come in and clean my house for me. It was wonderful. But guess what? The house reverted to its more usual messy state soon after. Every so often, we'd have company and I'd whip through the house like a frantic whirlwind, to get it in shape and make sure it was presentable.

As a family member once noted (with surprise and some sincere admiration), I'm actually pretty good at cleaning. I'm quick and thorough and can get a messy room into shape pretty quickly. I know what needs to be done and how to do it.

I just hated doing it.

And then, a few months ago, I was talking with a friend and she asked me, "What would it be like if you could have anything you wanted?" I remember looking around my then incredibly messy bedroom and laughing to myself, thinking, "Well, I'd start with having a clean room to rest in."

It suddenly dawned on me - I actually could have it. I could give it to myself. And so, that day - I cleaned half my room. Really cleaned it. I started with the area around my bed. I sorted out and carried away all the kids' toys. I went through the piles of magazines and papers and dumped things in the recycling bin. I shelved books and put away clothes and dusted and when necessary, scrubbed. I got into all the random bags of stuff that had been stored stashed in corners and niches and either put things away, threw things away, or placed them in bags to be donated. I vacuumed. I changed the sheets and duvet.

It was pretty bad. But it was also really good. And a few hours later, I could stand at one end of my bedroom and look admiringly towards the other end, which was clean and sparkling.

And I breathed.

That was over a month ago. Since then, I've tidied up the rest of my room. I've kept it clean. During the two-week vacation I took over the holidays, I extended my tidying to my closet, the downstairs coat closet, the first floor bathroom, living room, kitchen (which was already pretty clean - I can't abide a messy kitchen for long), and dining room. The entry way. I'm tackling the kids' room next. I'm living in - gasp! - a clean house.

I'm telling a new story now. One where the house is clean and stays relatively neat and orderly. The one where I set boundaries and expectations for myself and my family and we respect them.

I told my friend (the one who asked me the first question about what might it be like to have anything I wanted) about this recently, and she replied, "Wow - that sounds really powerful."

It is powerful. But there's a part of me that's a little embarrassed by it too, because that's the person I am, of course. A powerful one. I've always been. She shows up in my public life - a woman who can manage lots of people, large and multiple projects, competing timelines, etc. My husband observed to me once that while I was a pretty strong ENFP, my public face projected an ENFJ - someone much more orderly, disciplined, and detail-oriented. People might expect my house to be neat and well-appointed (which it is, when you can see under the clutter - which you now can!) but for the longest time, it was anything but.

2012 has been and gone. We made it through yet another round of birthdays, anniversaries, work schedules, holidays, get-togethers, alone-time, television seasons, natural seasons, sports seasons, fashion seasons, elections, and shopping seasons - Mayan calendars not withstanding.

I for one am looking forward to an incredible 2013. As my good friend Mary wrote, "May this be a year of choices that bring us all joy."

And rather than making resolutions this year - which, let's face it, is a futile, sort of self-deluding exercise, since we all know New Year's resolutions tend to lose their luster after the first couple weeks months of the year - I'm telling new stories.

I'm telling new stories about my life and who I am.

What about you? What are the stories that you've been telling about yourself? What are the new stories that you might tell instead?

In case you're looking for more tools or resources to help you kick off your new year, I used Susannah Conway's Unraveling the Year Ahead 2013 workbook (free download in the post) and thought it was a  great way to reflect on the past year and develop intentions for the coming one. 


  1. Happy New Year, Carol! Sounds like your 2013 is off to a wonderful start!
    Like you, I am definitely a stacker and piler. It's been tolerable in my personal life, but when I started teaching a few years ago, I quickly realized I had no idea how to structure a room so that a classroom of fifth-graders could stay organized. That whole year my room looked like something had exploded! The second year was better - but only because I spent the whole summer thinking about what I wanted to see in my room and the systems and routines I needed to construct and teach. I still have a long way to go, but it was heartening to see that I could improve. :)
    Thanks for sharing this - I started organizing my room in the last few weeks or so, and it's great to hear your story and success. I'll also have to check out the workbook!

  2. Happy New Year! I had a bit of a lightbulb moment when I read your post. It's exactly that, we buy into the stories we tell about ourselves, and they become a self-fulfilling prophecy, but we can change that.

    Also, I love your outfit, it's so cute.

  3. Hoping that 2013 is indeed a year of joy! And you're off to a good start, love your outfit.

  4. Happy 2013!!! I'm so glad you're back!!!! :D katejones.me

  5. thank you for sharing! this same "chapter" happened in my story a couple years ago -- relatively stable, a new side of "me." I think it was triggered by my kids getting older (at that time 4yo and 6yo) and me getting tired of painfully stepping on toys. Very cool to make this change, in a gentle and consistent and positive way.

  6. Oh, then there's hope? I try and become neater but always seem to fall back on the clutter blindness, much to my beloved's frustration...

    I'm so heartened to hear that this could be possible! You always look so put together, but we all know how that can be a slob's best front! :)

  7. Thank you for writing this. I am a HORRIBLE housekeeper. I used to follow the Flylady routine and it worked very well...but, I just quit. I think I am going to try it again.

  8. Hey Carol,

    Well done!!! Are you telling *my* story? lol! I also decided to declutter my incredibly crowded living space and raise it up to *real* apartment standard. Worthy of my 'new' mature 30 year old status and making a good resolution on the way.

    It makes such a difference not to have to climb over stuff to find other stuff, stashed underneath more stuff. ***sigh***. One day, my MIL came over to bring us some food goodies from her holiday and I was so ashamed of the mess, I pretended there was no one home!!

    So here's to 2013 and great new year's resolutions, to tidy houses and to finally extending a dinner invitation to our friends and neighbours!!


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