In my ideal closet, everything has a place: short sleeves on one rod, long sleeves on another, dresses and skirts on another. Belts and strings are tied up at the waist, never dangling. Sleeves are smoothed out. Hangers are equidistant. Each rod is an array of color in the order of ROY-G-BIV.
Every time I’ve gotten my closet to that point, I’ve always had plans for keeping it that way, but it’s like sweeping the the beach. Just as soon as I think I’ve got my spot smoothed out, the winds of busyness keep moving the sand around, and I just can’t keep up. Within a week, the clothes are lingering in the laundry basket and the dryer steam cycle has to save the day, springing them to life again.
As we are packing for a day trip to the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore this weekend, my laundry is piling like those sand dunes. Do you know how dunes are formed? Sand moves through the air on bursts of wind and stops when it comes upon an obstacle, like the trunk of a tree or a large rock. And then it builds.
For me, that “obstacle” is creativity and the written word. Each day, when nap time comes around and the kids are tucked quietly (well, on a good day, anyway!) in their rooms, I retreat to my notebook and pencil, my keyboard and screen, a little vacation in the middle of my day.
In my last post, I mentioned Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s affirmation that women need solitude in order to “find again the true essence of themselves”. Sometimes that may mean taking some time to get away alone like she did on Captiva Island in the early 1950s. Sometimes it means resting from our work in the middle of our day and taking time to find our own contemplative corner.
On vacation, domestic work is cut to a minimum. I make simple meals, dirtying only a few dishes. Clean up is quick and easy. I bring a minimal wardrobe and wear things more than once. Often, I forget about make-up and doing my hair, and instead let the wind give me the tousled look.
Of her own vacation, Anne said, “I find I don’t bustle about with unnecessary sweeping and cleaning here. I am no longer aware of the dust. I have shed my Puritan conscience about absolute tidiness and cleanliness. Is it possible that, too, is a material burden?”
When nap time is over and I return from my mini-vacation, I do have to work to keep us from getting lost in the laundry. I simplify and speed up the task by keeping myself from perfectionism. Sometimes I do laundry games with the kids to make it more of a fun, communal activity. I overlook the sloppy folding in favor of the time spent building good habits and good connection. When laundry is piled high, if a shirt comes out of the dryer inside out, that is how I hang it. The seconds I save on each item add up into valuable minutes of time spent in creativity or with my family. My creative call may be an obstacle to a perfectly clean house, but I’m willing to live in view of a few laundry dunes and inside out shirts in order to get a daily mini vacation.
I hope you’ll join me in exploring more of these ideas as we dig into Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s classic book Gift from the Sea in our summer book club! This memoir helps women contemplate how to live a simple life in a complicated world. Take a virtual vacation with us as we ponder love, marriage, motherhood, friendship, the creative life, simplicity, solitude, generosity, youth, and age, all through the metaphor of beautiful seashells found on a quiet island. This is a short, refreshing read perfect for an easy, breezy summer book club. I’ll write on a different chapter each week until we’ve wandered our way to the end. It’ll be our own little getaway.