I am much better at making messes than at cleaning them up. My Mom tells me I’ve been than way since childhood, especially when I’m doing crafts. For example, as a serial crafter, I have a potential archeological dig site in my “craft room” at home, with layers of craft projects and paraphernalia, accumulated over time. Right now, the area is a mess, and almost completely unusable in terms of space to create. I have an amazing capacity to ignore the mess, but it’s getting beyond me now. It needs a good cleanout, and decisions about what to keep and what to get rid of – my grandmother’s tatting tools, my jewelry-making stuff, scrapbooking supplies, knitting needles, quilting fabric and partially finished projects, earthquake emergency kit …. ?

In a work setting, I tend to pile things up and work comfortably that way, increasing stacks – until I can’t stand it (or successfully ignore it) any more, and go through a big cleanout process.

Part of what I do while I’m building stacks is using them as reminders of what I put there – an article about a topic I’d like to research, an invoice that needs to be filed with tax materials, a book I still want to read. Seeing the stack triggers the memory, and sometimes pieces start to come together. I use similar tools and techniques electronically – book lists on Goodreads, electronic notes and calendar reminders that send email alerts. I am very visual, so somehow “seeing” these things in place helps my mind pull them together.

I made a muffaletta sandwich (a large one) to share at my church Mardi Gras party last night. The olive salad has to marinate at least overnight so that the flavors of the olives, pepperoncini, celery, fresh herbs and garlic come together. Otherwise, it’s just not as good. It occurred to me today – Ash Wednesday – that I’m doing a form of mental marinating with my stacks when I use them productively, by letting things sit until something comes together for me. Sometimes, the flavors come together, but sometimes the mess needs to be cleared out. Sometimes, there is an aha! moment and I find what I need to move forward.

So, for a Lenten discipline this year, I’m going to focus on clearing out some of the messes in my life where the metaphorical flavors aren’t coming together.  We’ll see where that leads. Meanwhile, I’ll be having leftover olive salad for lunch.

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