The folks on my mom’s side of the family (loud! fun!) gathered at Louie’s in Yukon last week when I was at home visiting in Oklahoma. (Good food, lots of space, highly tolerant staff — I recommend it.) I rode with my mom and James in her car, and to get into the backseat I pushed a batch of resistant shopping bags over into their own half of the back seat, got in. I then began battling them as they tried to spread out again. I realized, of course, that they needed was (ooh, and oh yes) organizing — heaven!
My mom really does use her reusable bags. Unlike me, whose bags languish, out of the way — and unused — in my trunk. About 10 different-sized reusable shopping bags had free rein to run amok in her back seat.
Once we were on our way to the restaurant, I began to fold each of the bags. I folded them in thirds, and tucked in the straps. As I went, I stacked them by size on my lap. After adding the last bag to the stack, I could see what size bag would hold them all. If only I had a stack of bags sorted by size, I could find one that would hold them all… guess what — I found a bag!
A few days later we were thinking through arrangements for taking my mom’s across-the-hall neighbor Willie to lunch at the Thai Orchid in Yukon. (Yes, I do recommend it also.) “You can drive,” my mom said. “And Willie can sit in front with you… and there’s a lovely place to sit waiting for me in the backseat now!”
And it was indeed a lovely place to sit. I had put the little back seat pillow in with the bags, since there was room, and I had put the ice scraper and collapsible umbrellas in the seat back pockets. The back seat was pristine. (The little bit of trash in the back seat footwells was of course also in a neat little pile when I was done with it.) I noticed that I felt calmer when I was sitting in the cleaned back seat than I did when I had ridden there the day before, holding the bags at bay as they slid around on the seat next to me.
And to keep it a nice space, there’s really no need for my mom to change what she does. In the future, as she uses the bags each day or week, she can drop them on the backseat as usual whenever she heads out next, if she doesn’t feel like folding-and-tucking-and-putting right then. Then once in awhile — maybe when she gases up — she can refold them and return them to their home.
When things have a home, they tend to find their way back to it.
The point is not to deny or try to change who we are. If you’re a person who uses the reusable bags that live in a riotous pile in your backseat, there’s no reason to try to “re-home” them and change your patterns. Just make a home for them where they live, and carry on as usual. Telling yourself that you should keep your bags in your trunk to keep your car looking nice is likely to lead to a) not using them at all, or b) pretty quickly ending up right back where you started with a riotous pile of bags in the backseat — only now they’ve spread to the trunk as well..
The key is to notice and facilitate what we already do. If we keep a batch of bags or boxes or tools in some convenient place where they are easily retrievable and we use them often, we need to simply recognize that that is their place, and then honor them by figuring out how to give them a secure home. Then we can just keep being ourselves, more comfortably and more powerfully.
Similarly, if we find that we spend a lot of time doing a particular activity, we might benefit from giving a little attention to where and how we do that activity. How can we make doing the things we do often more easy, more comfortable, more deliberate, less haphazard?
Grading, reading the paper on the couch, playing with the cat… alright, that’s the list of things happening at my house pretty regularly. Each of those activities could be make more enjoyable if Bryan and I spent more time thinking about what we really need to be more comfortable in the spaces where those things happen. Like the back seat bags, each of these things deserves a little attention to the needs associated with their reality.
How about you — what’s happening in your spaces?