Search for a Laundry Basket: What your Environment Tells you About Yourself

I’ve been looking for a laundry basket, two actually, to replace the ones I have currently. The ones I have work, they’re functional in that they hold dirty clothes, but they just don’t sit right with me. I recently bought one of the baskets I’m using and the other is a hand-me-down. But the one I recently bought has since bent in a few places because it’s not the most sturdily designed basket. And the hand-me-down is cracked, dirty and an eye sore.

For a while I was telling myself “they were only laundry baskets, it doesn’t matter what they look like”. But the more I used them, cleaned around them and walked past them, the more I realized they were not only less functional because of how cheaply they were made, but I also feel as though they were saying to me, “are you willing to settle for this? Two cheaply made hampers that you will be looking at for however long it takes for them to break?”

And the answer was a resounding no! So why was I holding on to them when I could replace them with so much ease? The easy answer is, if you’ve read my post on budgeting, you’ll know I’m saving money for an emergency fund. So being frugal was my default, easy out. But the tough answer is that I just didn’t feel like I was worth something better.

The more I thought about it, the more it made sense to me and the sadder it all felt. They were something I looked at everyday and every time I looked at them I felt a little worse that they were there. But I just kept telling myself that they were doing their jobs. Don’t fix what’s not broken. You can make do.

So there they sat. And when I dressed in the morning or evening, I just accepted that I was settling for less. Until I got it in me that they needed replacing. I’m not positive what the final straw was, but by the grace of God, I decided to start searching for new baskets. I’m looking for something sturdy and preferably sustainable, but most importantly, I’m looking for something that makes me feel better about the ways I choose to live my life and what I surround myself with.

As a comparison, one of the first apartments I lived in more resembled a trash heap than a dwelling. I was living in a run down part of town. And I remember one day or maybe it was a week, the trash had piled up so high on the floor that I had to wade through calf high drifts to get to the bathroom. And that’s how I lived my life. Surrounded by piles of garbage.

And my surroundings were definitely a reflection of how I was feeling about myself. Worthless. As though I wasn’t worthy of the time or effort to deserve nicer or more quality things. This was most likely the catalyst for my decision to replace my laundry baskets, but it took a long time to come to that conclusion. It has been 17 years since I lived in that apartment. My house is much cleaner than it used to be and I was still clinging to parts of the past that I no longer needed. So why was I holding on so tight, what was I afraid of?

Well part of the problem was that my experience was a learned one, from my care-givers. Not that either lives in squalor, but they never expressed a sense of inherent self value to, or around me. No doubt they in turn learned from their care-givers as well. So much of their value was based on the things they owned and wore.

So it’s not their fault as they fell into the trap that is perpetuated by the never ending chase to feel accepted and cool. But the message still persisted: I’m not worth the time and effort to take care of myself and my surroundings. I’m willing to settle for less. And it was this mindset that I grew up with, was surrounded by and carried with me into adulthood.

The more we decide to take care of ourselves, replace the broken things in our lives with the things we enjoy, the more we are telling ourselves that we are worth the time, effort and care. We don’t have to just settle for what’s here because it’s working for now and that’s good enough.

And this may seem to run counter to the message of my blog. That buying things will bring you happiness. And in a way, it does. But the act of replacing things that are causing you suffering, or at least some dis-ease with those things that bring joy, seems to me anyway more an act of self-care than setting our values at what we purchase or how we are seen. The more we can enjoy the spaces we dwell in, the greater the ability we have of cultivating a sense of ease, joy and comfort. And these things are important. If they weren’t, places like prisons wouldn’t feel like you were paying a debt to society, it’d be more like a hotel.

This type of settling for less is also another form of self neglect. Settling for less or letting the broken pieces fill up your life until you are surrounded by a life’s time worth of cobbled together pieces of the unuseable is not the way to feel as though you are a whole, dynamic person, worth something or have inherent value.

This is what I am talking about when I say our environment is telling us stories about ourselves. All you need to do is look around the areas of your life where you spend the most amount of time to get a feel for where your self values lay. Are they filled with trinkets that remind you of loved ones or good times? Are they cluttered or disorganized? Do you use or appreciate the things that are in these places or are they just taking up space?

For me, the bedroom, kitchen and living room are the big three where I spend the most amount time. They all have aspects of them I’d like to change and unfortunately I’m not in a position to make the definitive decision on how or when to change them. But regardless, it’s worth the time to take stock of your surroundings and notice, what are the things you’d like to see changed?

As I said, I’m not able to make the changes I’d like to, but I have a list and a few boards on Pinterest where I’ve already planned out what my future living spaces are going to look like. So even if you’re not in a position to make the changes you’d like to, it never hurts to make some some-day plans for when you’re able.

Or if it’s a shared space, bring everybody together that uses the space and find out how they feel about it. Start a discussion about it. Who knows where it could lead. And you’d also be building better, stronger relationships while doing these projects together and healthier communication skills by understanding and attuning to each other’s needs. Getting to know their likes and dislikes and in turn, know them more wholly as a person.

So if you’ve been holding on to something for far too long just because it still works. A chipped glass, broken mug or a shower caddy that’s seen one too many showers, maybe it’s time to ask yourself, “what am I holding onto this for?” Changing your surroundings may help to bring more ease to your day to day life. And in may help to establish a stronger feeling of self-worth and value. Peace, 🙂 and thanks for reading.

Image Credits: “Dirty Laundry” by Changhai Travis is licensed under CC BY 2.0