Have you heard the news? Life is not about finding balance. It’s about finding steadiness in the throes of imbalance, always keeping close eye on your center. Since balance is not an end point that you can rest in without thought to the next bit of choppy water, it’s best to become expert at sustaining through the movement and see fluctuations as questions to be kindly answered, flashing beams to be followed, or even signals of surrender.
When I talk to clients about downsizing and organizing, I know their first thoughts excite around immediate reduction of stuff and an opening up of their space. I share in this but my mind swiftly races past the finish line and asks, “How will they be able to maintain this?” I know bringing up maintenance is like a dentist bringing up flossing after enjoying a fresh teeth cleaning. Everyone likes buying a car, no one likes taking it in for service. So I keep this to myself but begin to plan, based on the client’s personality type and habit tendencies, to implement maintenance-friendly organizing. I know that once I leave, even with suggested maintenance strategies and scheduling, it will be up to them to act.
Constant recalibration. This is the key. You’ll never find the perfect balance because life always changes, in all the positive and negative ways and every way in between. The cornerstone of experiencing a healthy living space is maintenance. It’s why many try and fail, why the hamster wheel continues spinning, and how life’s general administration always appears daunting. If we acknowledge the challenges of maintenance, we can creatively devise remedies. Beginning with the end in mind, personal awareness, mindfulness, and focus are our tools. And, of course, my usual pitch: minimalism. Constant recalibration is yet another reason why an eye toward minimalism is so very helpful. It allows us to see all of our life’s parts and pieces so that our center is visible, with less distraction, in our pursuit of equilibrium.
I see this approach to downsizing and organizing maintenance work as analogous to landscaping. For example, if you choose a natural landscape for your home, one that includes only native and adaptive planets, eschewing the desire for varieties that may put a strain on water resources or plants that require expensive and damaging chemical pesticides, you reduce cost, labor time and are environmentally considerate in your actions. If you go lawn-less (uncommon but far more practical), you don’t need motorized machines at all. Away goes the work and maintenance of buying a lawn mower, storing it, purchasing gas, and the mowing itself. Maintenance is often overlooked when making purchasing and design decisions. This is where beginning with the end in mind and working backwards is particularly effective.
Natural landscapes can also be more beautiful or rich in design. They work with the flow of nature, rather than against it. A lawn is a story we tell ourselves; something we miss or believe we must pass down to our children because we enjoyed it, as if there aren’t multiple ways to enjoy a childhood. We do the same with our stuff, however impractical for our own lives or however unnecessary for our loved ones. Choosing what you own and arranging your landscape (or life), with simplicity in mind, becomes the more elegant solution on multiple fronts.
We don’t have to chase equilibrium. We can embrace simple lifestyles built with maintenance plans that we embrace. We can let the back and forth become our own version of balance because befriending the fluctuations allow us to rest in an exciting calm that is of the present moment.