Comfort With Clutter


[Listen to me read this reflection here]


There is a difference between learning how to tolerate something, or someone, and learning how to accept something, or someone.


For example, I now realize that I have been tolerating the endless pandemic lockdowns in Canada over the past year. The level of fatigue I have felt as of late is evidence that my capacity to continue tolerating this has been depleted.


On the other hand, I have accepted the benefits, and challenges, of having a work from home culture with my business. I do not see us opening offices again, and expect to remain fully distributed on a long-term basis. I have fully embraced it and am continually searching for ways to strengthen it.



On the topic of tolerating versus accepting, I cannot help but reflect on my relationship with my parents.


Last night, while enjoying a backyard patio home cooked Mexican dinner, I began to reflect with them about the past fifteen months of mostly living together.


While there is a lot that I can share, what stands out to me the most is how my relationship with my parents has evolved, even matured, from a place of continuous tolerance to now frequent acceptance.


When I shared with my parents that this past year together has taught me how to accept them, as opposed to tolerating them, my mom remarked ‘but we have not really changed’.


This was exactly my point.


My parents have continued to be their loving, and annoying, selves without changing to my liking. However, the way I feel towards them has changed.



For example, I am a fairly (okay, very) neat and tidy person. It comes naturally to me I suppose. I organize people, ideas and projects for a living, and have done so for decades.


My parents on the other hand are not.


They love their endless stuff and constant clutter. Where I feel uneasy and uncomfortable with clutter, they feel at peace and comforted by it. I don’t get it.


Over the past year, the number of times that I have quietly and secretly rearranged their office, cleaned the kitchen counters and cabinets, and tidied up the family room, is beyond embarrassing to admit at this point.


What boggles my mind though is that my parents have yet to notice. Not once have they commented. I am convinced that they do not see the clutter. It is the only way they can operate within it. That would also explain why they do not notice when it has been temporarily tidied.


Now within days, usually hours actually, of them entering a newly tidied space, it becomes filled with clutter. Like a silent tornado touched down. It is truly remarkable.


The first few times I noticed this happen, I felt frustrated. Now, a smile appears on my face as I realize that trying to change their ways leaves only me frustrated.


My parents find comfort with their clutter. I do not get their clutter, but I do not need to.


I do not see them anymore as separate from their clutter, it is part of their identity. I do not see their clutter as something that needs to change or tolerated, it is something that can be accepted.


Over the past year living with my parents, I have learned how to accept them, without any desire for them to be different than they are at this moment.



There is the reality of the situation or the person in front of me, and then there is how I choose, consciously or not, to feel about this reality. The latter is when I feel most empowered to make my own choices, without any expectation that the reality of the situation or person be any different than it is.


This is how I am learning to glide through life with a little less friction, and a little more ease.


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