I teach yoga and mindfulness for a living, and so people might assume that I have it all together, but you can tell a lot about my life by the state of my closet.
I know that probably sounds shallow, but it’s true. If I am feeling in control of my life and “on top of things,” my closet will reflect it. My things are organized, easy to find, even pleasing to look at. On the other hand, if I am feeling rushed, stressed, behind the eight ball (you get the idea) then my closet is a wreck. Things are piled on top of each other three and four to a hanger. It’s an ugly mishmash and when I go in there I can’t find a damn thing. I end up feeling bad about myself when my closet is in that condition because I know it is just the tip of the iceberg. I’m too busy, too rushed and way too preoccupied to be mindful. Not being in the present moment leads me to chaos and confusion.
Living in New England means we have seasonal wardrobes. Switching my sweaters out for t-shirts is a seasonal ritual as much as planting the gardens in the spring and putting them to bed in the fall. It’s a way that I keep in touch with what is happening in the natural world. Laugh if you want, but switching from cold drinks to hot tea, dips in the cool lake to warm baths, cotton to wool and back again is all a part of being in touch with Mother Nature. I usually switch out my closet in phases. I start in September when the nights get cool and finish the transition sometime in early December, when we might still get the rogue sixty degree day, but mostly the weather is on a steady march towards freezing with intermittent spells of nasty and damp. I start the transition back again in May when the ice is gone and the black flies are swarming. It’s like clockwork.
This past year, in October I was really busy. November was even busier and by the time Christmas rolled around my to-do list had grown out of control. My plate was so full that things were spilling off. Needless to say, I did not take the time to go through my things and pack them away, wistfully thinking of the day I stayed in my bathing suit from sun up until bedtime, or the lovely party where I wore that great sundress. Nope, this past year I just piled the winter stuff on top. I hung my wool sweaters on top of my sun dresses until the hangers sagged from the poles. No time to linger or fool around with packing things away. No time for rituals or mindful transitions. I didn’t take one hot bath this past winter, a fact that anyone who knows me would find unbelievable. My head was down, my jaw was clenched and I ignored the closet, the bath tub and lots of other things too if I am to be completely honest. Friendships and family connections went untended, holiday parties went unplanned. I felt tired a lot, cranky a lot and overwhelmed.
I cancelled a meeting today to clean my closet. I just couldn’t ignore it any more. It was like an archeological dig. It was a very real, three-dimensional reminder of how over scheduled I have been these past few months, how quickly I have been moving and of the things I have neglected. Someone is famously quoted as saying “After the ecstasy, the laundry.” I have always liked that quote and think of it a lot when I hang my clothes outside in the summer. It’s a ritual that I really love. It connects me to my grandmothers who always hung things on a line, and it feels good to take care of my things and myself and to be fully present.
Sip your tea, light your candles, and tend to your soul. If you are too busy to tend to the things that matter in life, then you are simply too busy. Maybe go check out your closet. It is spring cleaning time after all, and it's funny how doing simple chores can bring such peace of mind when you are feeling overwhelmed- fold your clothes, sweep your floor. Breathe. And to all of my neglected friends, you are now on the top of my to-do list.