Ideal spaces and small places

I live in a relatively small house with two other generations of my family. And while I’m generally content with this arrangement, there’s one glaring flaw which is always present: I don’t have a whole lot of space.

The most obvious manifestation of this is the fact that my also-relatively-small bedroom has to pull quadruple duty as bedroom, office, ritual space, and “general storage.”

This is less than ideal, to put it mildly, but I’ve been dealing. And by “dealing,” I mean “growing increasingly frustrated and loathe to spend any more time in my room than absolutely required.”

See, one of the challenges with having to live and work within a tiny space is that any amount of clutter, any clutter at all, makes trying to get anything done in that space all but impossible.

Or at least very, very annoying.

Move things out of the way, take other things down off the shelves, slide still other things off to the side…

It’s like having to solve a sphinx’s riddle every time I want to work on a project, and the riddle is always: “Alright, where the hell did I put that thing?”

Last week, I finally got sick of it, and decided to spend a couple of hours re-arranging and organizing my room.

Well, to be fair, I got sick of this situation months ago, but I had no idea how to even begin to fix the problem, and even less energy to apply to the actual fixing. Figuring out how to begin was the hardest part, believe it or not, because it led me to ask a question I wasn’t prepared for.

How do I want my space to feel?

I’ve written before about the importance I put on what I call “living your ideal life,” and that really our only guide on this journey is how we feel as we approach that goal. It’s sort of like doing a Marie Kondo on yourself and what you’re doing from moment to moment.

Does what I’m doing now “spark joy”? Does the place I’m in?

So, I spent a few weeks sitting with my room. Not sitting in it, mind you (although I did do my fair share of that), but rather sitting with the idea of my room as it existed, and sitting with the feelings I wanted to feel after I’d put it all in order.

That resulted in another surprise, although it really shouldn’t have been surprising.

Because I use my room for vastly different things, I wanted it to invoke vastly different feelings. For instance, when I sit down to write, I want to feel inspired and ready to work. When I stand at my altar, I want to feel powerful and in control. And when I lay down to go to sleep, or sit down to meditate, I want to feel relaxed and at peace.

After sitting with these conflicting feelings, I decided that the best way to arrange my tiny space was to divide it up in multiple, even tinier spaces.

This seems counter-intuitive, I know, but hear me out.

If I’m sitting at my desk, it’s probably because I’m doing “desk things.” Using my laptop, writing in my journals, or playing around with calligraphy.

In other words, there are a limited number of reasons as to why I’d sit at my desk in the first place. And as it turns out, that means there are a limited number of things I need there. My laptop, of course, but also pens, pencils, my current journals, bottles of ink, paper, etc.

This means that I could kind of look at my desk as its own space-within-a-space, and simply put everything I needed for “desk things” into that space. I say “simply,” but it took me a couple of hours to pull all the odds and ends off the shelves and out of drawers, as well as re-arrange it all in a logical way.

Now, when I look up at the shelves above my desk, I have all of my paper, dip pens, and ink. To my left, sitting on my small set of drawers, I have my journals. In the top drawers, I have all of my various “normal” writing implements like pens, pencils, and markers. I also have all of the assorted charging cables and peripherals I use with my laptop.

Then I did the same for my altar’s space-within-a-space. Everything I need for my magical practice is now literally within arm’s reach of the exact place where I stand to work.

Like I said, this all took a few hours. It involved a lot of dust, a lot of sorting, and just about a full bag of trash I had to toss out, because I’m a packrat who likes to hang onto things like old cellphones, and manuals to calculators I no longer own.

Even with this much work done, I’ve only managed to de-clutter and organize about a third of my room. There’s a lot more to do, but…

I’ve never been happier to sit in this space.

The very air in this room seems healthier and more pleasant now. When I walk into it, I know that whatever I want to do, I’ve now made about ten times easier. If I want to sit and write in my journals, I need only nudge the laptop out of the way and get to writing. If I want to work on the laptop, I only need to slide it back over.

I don’t need to hunt for a pen that works, or a pencil with an eraser. I just open a drawer less than eighteen inches away, reach in, and pull out what I need.

This probably all seems like a very small thing in the grand scheme of things, and yeah, it is. Also? How hard is it to work out that if you want to be more organized, you should put your tools and materials closer to where you use them?

Even so, living one’s ideal life is both vitally important, and also not something one can just manage in a single day or with a single act.

Sometimes the moves are big, but mostly they’re small to the point of being almost insignificant on their own. It’s a journey of a thousand steps, or a battle of a thousand cuts. You start where you are and with what you have, and then you feel your way forward and through.

Last week, I made my personal space feel much, much closer to my ideal space.

What can you feel your way toward this week?

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