We all have reasons
to keep things whole.
You should see my house right now. I’m writing this from my bed, which is now merely a mattress on the ground, and I’m surrounded by cardboard boxes and half-packed belongings. Fine white dust covers the hardwood floors along every baseboard, remnants of the spackling and sanding my husband did last weekend, patching the holes we’ve made in the walls over the past six years. The more we pack, the more stuff we discover that needs to be packed. Isn’t moving grand?
Last September, just a few weeks before the Brave On conference, we got a note in our mailbox from a family looking for a home in our neighborhood. They liked the look of our house and wondered if we’d consider selling it. The note came after years of us renovating and wondering if we should stay put or move closer to the beach. It also came a few days after a very pricey quote for the next phase of renovations we were considering. It seemed like God was showing us the next step to take.
The family came to see our house a couple days later and put an offer on it. We miraculously found a new home closer to the beach that satisfied all our floorplan puzzles, and we are moving in two weeks! It’s been a roller-coaster FSBO process, and I’m glad we’re almost at the finish line. As I look around my disheveled home, I can’t help but laugh at this month’s theme of “order.”
I’ve moved around my whole life, so something about the disorder feels familiar and almost soothing. Mark Strand’s poem “Keeping Things Whole” feels like a testament to my entire life, in which transience has become the norm. Physical stagnancy can feel like death to me, and I love throwing a wrench in the status quo in order to make things better. Moving offers a chance to reorder the disordered aspects of my life, a chance to recreate myself, and I have come to crave it.
This sense of satisfaction, however, is always accompanied by deep agitation as I cull through loose photographs, children’s artwork, and random belongings that seem to have no place. It’s emotionally draining to examine the material fragments of one’s life and have to decide what to do with them. Do I still want this or need this? Do I donate it, trash it, or keep it? And if I keep it, where on earth will it go? I’ve tried to keep Marie Kondo’s words closely in my consciousness: Does this spark joy? Does it serve a purpose? If not, it’s going away.
But it’s not quite that simple, is it? I’m forced to accept that life is full of miscellaneous belongings, things that, despite our best creative organization skills, we still don’t know what to do with. These things may not spark joy, but they are part of who we are. Like dusty brown leather photo albums filled with old memories we’ve almost forgotten, these aren’t things we necessarily want to display, but we also can’t get rid of them. Life feels less like an actual story and more like a pile of random experiences that are somehow connected by a fuzzy theme.
No matter how often we physically declutter, the miscellaneous pieces will always be there, living inside of us.
The other day I was cleaning out my email inbox, a catastrophe as grand as my current house, and I reread a Richard Rohr meditation that my dear friend had sent me months ago. Rohr writes that transformation happens in three stages: order > disorder > reorder. If we are to be evolved human beings, we must move from a place of order to disorder. All of our neat labels must crumble. The final stage, “reorder,” is a place that holds room for paradox. It isn’t about tidiness and well-defined boxes; it’s about allowing perfection and imperfection to coexist. Here, opposites can collide and unite, and even the fragments belong.
As I sort through the junk that’s slowly infiltrated the drawers of my home for the past six years, I can’t help but chuckle at the obvious metaphor. Living a whole life isn’t about sorting the miscellaneous parts of life into tidy cubbies. Sure, life is easier when we have less stuff, but for a recovering perfectionist such as myself, I’m learning that transformation happens when I can learn to bless those pesky fragments of my story, remembering that sometimes the best creations are mysteriously born from all the crap we just don’t know what to do with.
Libby Kurz holds a BS in Nursing and an MFA in Creative Writing. Her work has been published in The Poet’s Billow, Relief Journal, Driftwood Press, Literary Mama, and Ruminate. A veteran of the US Air Force, she now resides on the coast of Virginia with her family. When she’s not reading, writing, and keeping tabs on her three kids, she works as registered nurse and teaches poetry workshops. She loves a good cup of coffee, bohemian home decor, bumming on the beach, and finding meaning in the ordinary moments of life. You can find her at https://libbykurz.com