Room of Failure

I recently caught a snippet of an interview where a person referred to her garage as ‘my room of failure’.   She went on to say:  “I look around my garage and see everything I’m not good at, all the items I don’t know where to put, all the hobbies that I never get to.  I look around me and all I see is failure”.

This resonates with me.  When I lived in Oregon our garage was incapable of holding the two cars it was designed for.  Over 20 years of raising children we collected family photos, toys, school craft projects, trophies.  Such accumulation carried emotional ties that I wasn’t ready to sever by giving the stuff away or sending to the dump.

Eventually we moved to Massachusetts and carried much of our emotion laden stuff and general clutter with us.  It cost effort and money to do so.

Now we are in a house half the size.  We have a small basement and no garage.


While we downsized by 1/2 we still have too much stuff to store.  In addition to the emotion laden objects we also have my tool bench.  Another area of failure.

I’ve accumulated tools that for the most part I don’t know how to use.  Those that I do know how to use (screw driver, ratchet set, drill bits) often have missing pieces or are jumbled up in boxes.  When I look at my tool bench I’m reminded of what I can’t do or can’t find.

A professional organizer would tell me that disorganization and emotional clinging gets in the way of my living in the now.  An organizing guru (they seem to be everywhere) recommends the following steps:  Make a list of what I love (keep);  what I’m somewhat emotionally connected to (take a photo of my kids 3rd grade painting and get rid of); what I need (screwdriver, pliers, drill) and what I don’t (that box of empty picture frames, 30 year old hockey skates and box of slightly used coffee mugs).

As my jumbled, cluttered basement goes, so goes my life.

The pros say that as we jettison our stuff we begin to feel lighter emotionally.  As we donate, put in recycling or into the dumpster we make room for our heart, mind and imagination to expand.

On a spiritual level I know this to be true. When I do make the time to de-clutter I sense that my heart and soul open up.

Within me there is tension.  A part of me that wants to accumulate and hoard.  Another part that wants to let go, get rid of, make space for.

Which part of me will win?  Depends on the day.

How about you?



Naomi’s Potlatch

On an appointed Sunday, Naomi invited her friends to her apartment to go through boxes of books and to take whatever we liked.  Naomi was raised in a family that treasured books.  She worked for many years as a book buyer and had accumulated many boxes of books.

Over the course of the afternoon a steady stream of friends stopped by.  Many of these books had a special place in Naomi’s heart and each was a gift of friendship.   It seems that Naomi had far more books than her lovely, cozy apartment could make room for.   For sometime the boxes had been stored in that uniquely American growth industry, a storage center.

Naomi however is a soul who values both books and friends and it didn’t seem right to lock away what she no longer needed or had room for. So she entered upon a profoundly counter-cultural act, to give away most of her books.   No storage locker, no garage sale, no eBay.

She served wine and cheese and provided box upon box for our sorting pleasure.  Often she would recommend a book to a particular friend making the gift even more special.  I was reminded of the Native American potlatch.   A potlatch is a gift giving ceremony and economic system practiced by indigenous Peoples of the Pacific Northwest coastline.  The word comes from the Chinook language meaning to give away.

To give something away simply for the pleasure of another is a wonderful experience.  To give that which you value away for the well-being of the community is beautiful to behold.  For the tribes of the Pacific Northwest the potlatch was based upon the core belief that the community was to be valued and honored.  What better way than to gift what you hold most dear with those that you rely upon the most.  The indigenous people believed that our true security rested not on what we accumulate but rather upon the support and caring of one’s fellow community members.

The potlatch is based upon the belief that there is always enough to go around, that those with much will share with those who have less.   The potlatch teaches that we all go through times of wealth and scarcity and what is constant is the support of the community.  In our highly individualistic society Naomi’s book potlatch is radical stuff.

Naomi is a generous soul by choice and by nature.  A relative newcomer to McMinnville she has come to treasure the friendships she’s made and the ways she has been welcomed into people’s hearts.   Her book potlatch was a reminder that we belong to one another.   Thank you Naomi for the great books, particularly the one by Robert Coles that you recommended.   Thank you for reminding us of the importance of community.