Our Own Advice Can Be the Hardest to Follow

by: Sara on 09/23/2016

Today, the second day of our Fall Book Sale, we are celebrating 'wabi-sabi'  the act of appreciating the simple and letting go of the superficial with Robyn Lawrence Griggs, the author of Simply Imperfect: Revisiting the Wabi-Sabi House. Robyn shares the story of moving out of the home she raised her children in, and the process of letting go of the materia,l and rediscovering the joy of clearing the clutter. Be sure to come back tomorrow to download Chapter Two of Simply Imperfect: Teasing out its roots:zen, tea and wabi-sabi.

In May, my dog Rug died. The next week, my daughter Cree graduated from the high school across the street from the house where she, her brother Stacey and I have lived for nine years. This house once rang with hilarious laughter during dinners with the neighbors (who became family), giggles and shrieking during slumber parties, sometimes sobs because life and high school can be hard. Stacey left for college three years ago, leaving a hole that deepened when Cree left last month. It’s too quiet, without even the thump-thump of Rug’s tail on the wood floor.

After we dropped off Cree, I realized I no longer wanted to be here. I looked around at all the memories, the flea market finds, the pottery and artwork that I’d found places for over the years. In my bedroom, I’d covered a wall-size bulletin board with photos, ticket stubs, the kids’ artwork and every other souvenir that had come my way. (It was like sleeping inside a scrapbook.) It was time to take it all down, and it was not going to be easy. I hadn’t even considered the storeroom, a terrible little crawl space under the stairs that’s far too deep and narrow, encouraging layers of crap that become increasingly impenetrable. The woman I bought the house from warned me about it during the closing. She’d thought she could show the house furnished until she looked in there. I felt her pain.

I started out in this house with post-divorce bare essentials. Entropy sneaks up. I break one rule—oh, I’ll just add a hanger to the closet so I don’t have to get rid of something to bring this in, or, gosh, these bottles look so great on the windowsill—and it starts rolling, picking up weight like a ball of yarn unraveling in reverse. Stuff stacks up, and I stop seeing it. I walked around an awkwardly placed Eastlake chair in my bedroom for nine years believing some day I’d find it a good home. This month I did, on Craigslist, with a guy who’s giving it the reupholstering and refinishing love it deserved.   

I’m almost done hauling away everything I no longer (and probably never) needed. I’ve purged before, but this one has been ayahausca-strength. I dumped a camper truck and several carloads of stuff into the Goodwill bins and left several large loads for the Vietnam Veterans Association to pick up. I gave furniture to friends. The relief is palpable.

It’s hard to admit this, of course. I wrote two books about wabi-sabi, the Japanese art of finding beauty in things that are impermanent and imperfect, with a heavy emphasis on space and simplicity. Wabi-sabi is devoid of anything extraneous, focuses on form and function and eschews ornamentation. You can literally feel the tranquility when you walk into a space shaped by the philosophy. So, I know better.

I ran into my box of Simply Imperfect: Revisiting the Wabi-Sabi House books, damaged during the floods that hit Boulder in 2013, while I was clearing out. The box had gotten buried in my office closet during after-flood “cleanup,” and I hadn’t read my own book since then. Sit and listen, I told myself, and opened up to my own words. “Clutter smudges clarity, both physically and metaphorically. Things you’re holding onto because they were expensive, because they were gifts from your mother-in-law, or because you might need them some day are all just getting in your way. In a wabi-sabi home, space and light are the most desirable ornaments.”

We write the books we most need. Our own advice can be the hardest to follow. I’m taking that wrecked book with me to the next place, along with very little else, as a reminder.

35% off all New Society Publisher books until September 30th. Enter the coupon code Fall16 at checkout www.newsociety.com


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