A couple weeks ago, I saw a sudden flurry of Facebook activity talking about the “40 bags in 40 days” Lenten challenge. Even though I’ve not been aware of the movement till now, I guess it’s been going on for a couple years or so?*
Anyhow, the challenge is concisely summarized over at White House Black Shutters:
A forty day period in the spring (coinciding with the 40 days of Lent) where you focus on cleaning one area per day. In this one area you challenge yourself to declutter, simplify, decrapify, and get rid of things you don’t need. The goal is one bag a day but you can have more or less.
The 2014 challenge officially goes from Wednesday, March 5th to Saturday, April 19th. Sundays are your day off.
Even though this tradition seems to have started among Christian bloggers, the discussions I saw this year included individuals of other faith traditions also taking up the idea as a way to bring inspiration and structure to a spring cleaning/decluttering effort.
I can absolutely see the appeal, and I gave the idea a long think for myself. After all, I’m betting we still have 40 or 50 boxes left to unpack,** and a lot of the unpacking process is about sorting through all the clutter I didn’t get rid of in Philadelphia and determining what’s going straight from a moving box to the Goodwill pile.
But ultimately, I opted out of the 40 bags/40 days challenge for 2014.
I have a well-developed skill of setting high bars for myself. I can take just about any structure that is meant to help in goal-setting and supporting regular practice of a thing — meditation, exercise, decluttering, what-have-you — and I will use it as a club to beat myself with when I inevitably fall short. ‘Cos I’m human, and sooner or later I’m gonna miss a day’s practice. But I’m not yet all that good at forgiving my human foibles, dusting off the day’s “failure,” and getting back into the practice tomorrow.
So it just didn’t sense like I had the internal capacity this year to be kind to myself within a set structure like the “40 bags” challenge. I’ll be curious to see if I’m in a different place when Lent and spring roll around in 2015.
Till then, I’m doing what I am able to do within the boundaries of my limitations. Work weeks are tougher for me to do any unpacking/decluttering, but I’m building better Monday-Friday habits than I had in Philly about simple things like washing the dishes, putting my clothes away (or in the hamper) rather than leaving them on the bathroom floor, and making the bed.*** And then, each weekend day, I try to get at least one more box unpacked.
At some level, these are very much like goals for a daily practice, but there’s just enough softness and looseness around them that I’m better able to let go any sense of “failure” if there’s a weekend where I don’t unpack any boxes, and instead of immobilizing myself in the beat-up, I just get back to it next weekend and keep chipping away.
In my system, there can be something of a razor’s edge between “practice” and “pressure,” but I seem to be managing to keep myself on the right side of that fine, fine line.
* Considering that last year at Lenten time, I was finishing one job, starting another, and doing phase one of the “3 moves, 2 houses and 1 apartment in 6 months” relocation odyssey, I think I can be forgiven for my ignorance of this tradition.
** Small boxes (file box size, for the most part), so it’s slightly less terrifying than it sounds. Slightly.
*** Yes, the fact that these are victories says a lot about the dire straights we lived in back in Philly.