Tag: home organising

Adopting the living organism as a metaphor for a balanced lifestyle leads us to seek a natural harmony or equilibrium, so that a balanced environment becomes a space in which we can safely and comfortably dwell.

Dwelling in Balance

The various metaphors we might choose to represent balance and imbalance offer different perspectives on how we might achieve that illusive balance in life. The balance of the tightrope walker captures the experience of navigating our way forward through through time on a tight schedule. However the equilibrium of the living organism offers a richer perspective in relation to balancing objects within a space, or our lives within a living environment. This allows us to look beyond the physical stability of a single object and consider the balance of all of the interrelated components within a living system in the same way that you might think of a living cell, or the human body.

This broader view of balance offers a more complex scenario where the organism attempts to maintain equilibrium or homeostasis in the face of constantly changing conditions. Balance in this context is an attempt to maintain the overall stability of a wide range of factors in the face of constant change for the purpose of supporting life. Balance takes place across the whole system of interrelated parts, and while different aspects can be viewed independently, they dont exist in isolation. Unlike a single pointed balance, the balance of a complex system has an inbuilt ability to adapt and adjust, which means a wider range of conditions can be accommodated.

Quote form Dwelling in Balance Blog PostThis model of balance drawn from the natural world includes the concept of boundaries or membranes. The organism has a defined boundary or wall, like the cell wall or the outline of the human body, but it is permeable, allowing flows inwards and outwards. It also has internal structures and flows within the main boundary, like the organs and blood vessels within the body. These living systems depend on a healthy flow in, around and out, to survive. Some inflowing substances are life giving, others are toxic. Depending on what you take in, a little bit might cure you, but a lot might kill you. In the meantime the system strives to maintain balance across numerous variables.

There is enormous diversity in the natural world, and a wide variety of ways in which the challenges of life – such as finding food, shelter, successful reproduction and child rearing – are satisfied. What each organism has in common is the need to satisfy these challenges in a way that retains the basic integrity of their particular way of functioning.

We can extend this metaphor to how we organise our lives within our own homes. We can think of the walls of the home as the membrane or boundary that protects us from the outside. Within the home different functions are performed, just as the different structures of the body have different roles. The house provides shelter and within that framework there are objects that support our needs for eating, sleeping, clothing ourselves, reproducing, raising children and so on. The health of this system depends on objects entering, leaving, and being internally organised in a way that one element does not overwhelm other aspects and compromise the smooth operation of the whole. An excess of objects that is traditionally described as “clutter” can be viewed as a signal of imbalance where the volume entering the space is out of proportion to the volume leaving. Or there may be a lack of definition of roles and boundaries within the different spaces of the home.

In our homes too, there is a wide diversity of solutions to the challenges of living. The issue is not how much you own, but whether the whole system is working in such a way that it supports your needs. This allows us to think of creating harmony by constructing a congruent environment that works as a whole, rather than limiting us to any particular lifestyle or ideology about what to own an how to organise it.

If the balance we are seeking has the qualities of a natural harmony or equilibrium, a balanced environment becomes a space in which we can safely and comfortably dwell. Rather than adopting the do-or-die model of balance of the elite athlete or performer, there is the possibility of creating a harmonious way of living which is spacious and accommodating. This model of balance has within it the capacity to adapt and respond to changing circumstances. There is a sense of peace, calm and generosity in having room to move and the capacity to gently shift direction or graciously accommodate change. Perhaps this image brings us closer to the essence of the balanced lifestyle that so many of us are seeking.

What I Learned from Bedbugs

I think enough time has elapsed to admit that on one of my overseas trips I had a close encounter with bedbugs. I had not seen them before, so I was quite alarmed when on my last night at this particular hotel, I found that I was not alone in the bed. It was the middle of the night and I was restless. For some reason I inspected the bed and found a few little critters, and a few small spots of fresh and dried blood, presumably some of it mine from bug bites.

At first I was alarmed because I thought they might be ticks, and I was concerned about the diseases you can get from them. However at 6am the concierge reassured me that they were bed bugs, and totally harmless. He then advised me on what I needed to do to avoid taking them with me to my next hotel, or even home to Sydney.

Since I was due to check out and change cities that morning, I was not amused. Every item of clothing I had with me needed to be put through the dryer at the hottest temperature it could stand. This would kill the bugs. On the bright side, the hotel gave me handfulls of coins for the dryer. On the downside, I had a lot of things with me that were too delicate or too bulky to go through a hot tumble dryer.

As a consequence before I could get on with packing I needed to do one load of washing and drying for clothes that were dirty anyway, and two loads of dry only for clothes that were clean. In between running down to the basement to feed the machines in the laundry, I attempted to iron what I could. Heavy jackets and woollens as well as delicates.

At this point it occurred to me that I had packed too much. Even though I thought I had been conservative with my luggage, it seemed like an awful lot when I had to deal with all my clothing in one hit. To be honest, I had been fairly conservative given that I was going to be away for a few months in the northern hemisphere spring and was expecting the weather to change from quite cold to quite hot, which it did. I encountered both snow and heat waves while away. Even so, I seemed to have a lot of backup options for both hot and cold weather, and it was proving a burden, quite literally, to carry around and look after.

Even before the bed bug incident, I had a few occasions where I had waited so long to do a load of washing that I needed to do two. Thats a lot of coins in foreign currency to have to scrounge up at once to run the machines and buy the soap.

So here’s what I learned from bed bugs. When travelling, it pays to pack light and make good use of what you have. I know its boring to wear the same clothes over and over again when you travel. But not as boring as hanging around in hotel laundry rooms supervising half the dryers.

When packing for a trip its easy to get caught up in “I might need it” thinking, and pack too much. We don’t want to be caught out wishing we had taken that particular item, especially after considering it. We don’t want to regret a bad decision not to include something. I think it feels comforting to have a mini version of  home in the form of a suitcase or backpack and a few favourite items to remind us of our home life. We don’t want to miss out on the familiar and the comfortable. However after encounters with US Customs and bedbugs, I think I am going to err on the side of packing light next trip.

Fortunately I never saw any more bedbugs.