Finding The Beauty of a Mess

Sometimes I get grouchy. Some fits of grouchiness are preceded by me noticing a mess somewhere, such as this one that has been accumulating by the fireplace.

Because we just moved, we don’t yet have fancy things like shelves and book cases. Art supplies have their designated corner-of-floor and so do the books.

Within this one mess, there are a lot of things going on. In the foreground, we have envelopes for some Martin guitar strings that my dear friend gave me on my recent trip to Connecticut. I just got around to putting them on my guitar (seen in the very background!) last night, which is why they have an elegant place in this mess at all.

Next to them are a pair of Alpaca socks from the very same friend. I opened those while on the road to Austin many months ago. They still feel like that adventure and joyful transition when they are soft against my feet.

Behind them, we have some pliers on top of a box of beads. One of the pliers was given to me by a friend in Northampton; we were both in the same alternative healing arts class at the Pangaea school which I think is no longer in existence. The other pair I have had for years, back when I sold jewelry in Colorado and across the country. They work just well enough to justify keeping them.

The rolls of green string called Power Pro on that same bead box are from Hawaii, which is the only place at the time that you could get that string. It’s heavy duty and doesn’t break; ever. I still remember the long hot walk I took trying to find the store that was selling it, feeling the big sky above me and thousands upon thousands of miles away from my close friends and lands I knew.

The bead box itself is from my mother’s boyfriend and is filled with colored copper wire that he got for me when I was experimenting with wire wrapping. The bottom has red felt and it makes me happy just to open it.

Behind that, we have the Writer’s Market book that comes so highly recommended by Stephen King, or so they say. That heavy thing was given to me by my mother because she believes in me and my skills as a writer. Behind that, we have a stand that my sister recently gave me for displaying jewelry I made; and on it, some jewelry I made!

This mess is beautiful when I look at it this way. That is, when I take the time to look at it this way. At first glance, it’s a big mess. Just like a bad mood. At a glance, it is unmanageable, unattractive, and a big nuisance.

But at a more detailed and slower glance, it is made up of parts. Little parts. Manageable parts. Parts that have fuzzy warm memories or icky memories. Parts that are much more manageable.

Messy Moods

When I’m grouchy, there are lots of parts. How can I apply the beauty I find in the mess to the mood? The key seems to be to break it down somehow in the heat of the moment. Here are three ideas that might work:

  1. Pick some body parts. Hands. Feet. Forehead. How do they feel?
  2. Pick a thing to look at through the lens of that mood. Like the coffee mug, the wall painting, the dog. What do those things look like through that lens? What if I look at them for five whole minutes without doing anything?
  3. Maybe the mood has a recipe. What exactly is it composed of? Maybe 1 part anger to 2 parts irritability, or 1 part bitterness and 2 parts impatience? Maybe one part insult and two parts insecurity. It’s always different.

Of course, during the moment of the grouchy fit, these three things are going to be hard to remember to do. Maybe I can pick one tiny thing to remember. Like my feet. Next time I’m grouchy, I will pay attention to how my feet feel. Warm, cold, neutral, sore; who knows. I’ll have to see. Then I can try to work in the other things on the list if possible.

How About You?

I have a fantasy that you guys will find a mess within eyesight and tell me about it in a creative way. Any chance of that happening?

If not, it would be fun to hear any ways you have of talking yourself out of grouchiness…unless you have magical grouch-repellant, in which case, do share the recipe.

Or just anything you feel like sharing in regards to these ideas would be most appreciated. Your words always stick in my head for so long and bring plenty of joy, so thank you!



27 thoughts on “Finding The Beauty of a Mess

    • Cool! I’m glad you are glad 🙂 Let me know how they go. I’m eagerly awaiting my next grouchy episode to find out how they work as well..except I guess waiting for it kind of makes it not happen…perhaps just as good!

  1. “This mess is beautiful when I look at it this way. That is, when I take the time to look at it this way. At first glance, it’s a big mess. Just like a bad mood. At a glance, it is unmanageable, unattractive, and a big nuisance.” I loved you working through your mess like this! Reading through your mess description was perhaps helped by listening to the soundtrack from The Terminal as I read. Maybe there’s a clue there for seeing our messes – and finding our way out of the pit that a grouchy mood can be. Music. Something that slows us down, takes us to a contemplative place, and opens our eyes to the same old world that is somehow now new.

    • Ah, yes! Music DOES do that! It’s strange, because with music I feel that the songs I’ve listened to the most will actually help me to notice and acknowledge change the most. New songs are fun too…but there is just nothing like the old ones. They do slow us down, take us to our little place, and open our eyes “to the same old world that is somehow now new”. Ah, yes!!

  2. My whole house is a giant mess. And yes, bad moods are just a big mess we haven’t stopped from snowballing. That’s why I’m glad my partner is the kind of person who I can talk to because he always helps me clean away everything and get to what is making the mess in the first place.
    Great post!

    • That sounds so good and useful!! I’m so glad you liked it. I intend to get better at catching the snowball at the top of the mountain…but it’s like my eyes can only see it when it’s halfway down and has gathered too much precious momentum for me to torch it with the fire of awareness…but I shall keep trying. Thinking of it in that way is actually really useful…I need to be willing to let go of that momentum. Snowballs! Thanks for sharing that analogy 🙂

  3. One mess at a time. When it really bothers me and I feel it`s too much, I focus on just one area and work on it. Is it my living room? well, first the papers on the floor. I have to find the right place for them. Or the bookshelf. Or the couch. Just one little area, and then I move on to the next.

    • Yes, yes, that is how I have learned to clean as well when it is a full-house or apartment endeavor. Instead of doing it all at once like I sometimes am tempted to…must focus on one area at a time. Very good technique; and it definitely helps in the task of breaking it down into manageable increments 🙂

  4. Mess can be viewed as a personal collage. Look at it in totality, the arrangement might be appealing, but mostly the appearance is, well, messy. When we begin to analyze what is there and the relationship to the whole, another vision emerges, very personal. Our brains work on connections and when we allow connections to be made, as you illustrated, ideas emerge. What you have described is really a brilliant writing exercise! Terrific idea!

    • I’m so glad you like it! I didn’t think of it before as allowing new ideas to be made from connections, but now that makes lots of sense! And it does double as a fun writing exercise for those what-do-I-write-about days 🙂
      Now that I think of it, some of my favorite things to look back on that I’ve written are when I just literally jotted down everything that was on the table at the time. Each mess is so unique!

  5. Very great post. You have a fantasy that people will find a mess in eyesight and tell you about it? Be careful what you wish for Jennifer…
    My desk…initially a creation of elm; thin chunks of wood plied together to form a box like shape promulgated purposefully to work upon – but now relegated to an obscure storing space. From left to right; a cluster of paper in numerous irregular piles, each pile overlapping the next and each pile moreover being comprised of a separate set of ideologies for projects, both personal and educational, relating to both my university studies and private literary projects. In the corner of this, a Ned Kelly paperweight from the Melbourne Jail attempts to hold all the paper in place, for when the fan is on or the window is cracked open, the sudden gust of wind orchestrated by such things cause the papers to voluntarily attempt escape. A blue pencil case, filled with my many USB’s sits alone atop of this mass of paper. In the centre, my Lenovo laptop stands proud, its battery on the verge of death as this blogger looks down upon it enraged, yelling ‘don’t you dare die on me you fiendish contraption! You disgust me!’
    Behind this, a small collection of stationary; a Christmas pen that has hardly been used, purchased in 1998; a number of black felt markers; three erasers, each one in its own unique state of decrepitude; a pencil sharpener with a Goosebumps design that has served me well, with a moving eyeball bouncing around within some watery goo that resides inside a glass case atop of the contraption; three highlighters, each one either deceased or dying, pleading with their owner not to be hurtled into the trash receptacle; two Bic four-pens that only have green ink left; two Loony Tunes designer grey leads, a sticky tape dispenser; a Bostik blue stick that is dryer than the Sahara desert; a nice pair of scissors that don’t like to work and a ruler that has been snapped in half from someone who shall not be named accidently standing on it one day. In the far right corner I have a lamp; jet black in colour, with dust coating a majority of its features; its bulb having not been used in several months because the light from the laptop and from the ceiling fan above are sufficient enough in keeping this blogger bathed in artificial lighting. In front of this is the last piece on the table; a mouse pad with a militarian scene depicted across its template, a red mouse that squeaks delectably as this blogger gives it a squeeze seated atop of it, patiently waiting for this blogger’s next move. Oh, and did this blogger mention the dust that coats the table? Like a life form it is; gently moving across the desk with ghostly fingertips, hoping to avoid the vacuum cleaner that is soon to be hurtled in its direction with deluded purpose.
    Okay then, that is that. Also, in regards to your grouch repellent… I’d recommend a good punching bag.
    BTW – a jewellery stand – could that be a masculine thing? I’m just wondering cuz I’m drowning in my jewellery from wrist bands to necklaces and am running out of ideas about what to do with them all.

    • YES! Thank you for indulging me. I feel like I am a part of your desk now! And yes I am sure you could find a jewellery stand that would keep all of your wrist bands and necklaces in perfect order. I do need a punching bag!

  6. I never thought of a mess as such! although I am a huge mess myself 😉 Specifically, a 14 year old kid occupying the body of a 22 year old! 😀 Coz I laugh more than anybody of my age whom I know.

    bdw, that plier on ur desk made me think u were another electronics engineer 😛 It is one of the many things always present on my desk nowadays

    • Those pliers are awesome! I would love to be an electronic engineer someday. Maybe in another life, or I’ll pick it up as a hobby. I use them for twisting wires around and for jump rings on jewellery.
      Laughter is certainly the best medicine, keeps us all healthy!

  7. I’m in a room right now that is filled with boxes. They are all empty but they take up the majority of the room. They make me grouchy. They take up so much air and I can’t seem to find my kitties in them, they are so intricate. There are boxes bigger than me and some that are smaller than my hand. It will take me a while to break them down and recycle them, or pack and store things in the basement that I am tired of looking at and moving around.

    Your post helped me take a second look at those beautiful boxen and realize what was in them. A new speaker for the music shows that I can play through, spreading my voice to as many people in ear shot. A mascara that my boyfriend bought me that makes my lashes look like RuPaul’s. A litter box enclosure that doubles as storage and is very pretty. A amplifier rack that makes my apartment smell of new plastic and that will keep my equipment safe when I am on the road.

    It is funny how quickly my mind took good things and turned them into reasons to be grouchy.

    My feet are warm.

    • You could also build a massively fabulous kitty playscape…
      That mascara sounds crazy, the boxes sound immense, and the products sound very useful for the future. Isn’t it great how that works once you look at what they are?
      Thank you for indulging my question 🙂

  8. I love this Jennifer! What a beautiful way to perceive mess. I am going to try this too, and apply it to all corners of my house! I also want to remember those grouchy tips. Like you I can never think what to do in a moment of grouch. Maybe I will choose something simple and stick with that. When I am grouchy I just bustle about being grouchy,then remember I am just making myself feel bad, so I try and let it go. Thankfully I haven’t much to be grouchy about. X

    • Haha I think I get the most grouchy precisely when I have the least to be grouchy about. It’s so strange. I hope that you have a fun time applying this to the corners of your house, I’m sure your messes are beautiful and full of cozy mother-daughter things!

  9. My little Yorkie is chewing a stick on the rug I just vacuumed. I can hear my Doberman in the other room, chewing on what is probably a much bigger stick. Yesterday was my Big Monthly Cleaning of the House.

    I would feel grouchy, but I’ve just read your post and I’m considering the fact that I am so very, very fortunate to have these two dog-people in my home. They are my friends. A little extra vacuuming is nothing compared to the acceptance and safety I feel around my dogs.

    My response to bad moods is to try and concentrate on the mood itself. It’s hard to locate the nexus of a mood, and often when I try, I find that some very different emotion is the generator for how I feel. Anger almost always tends to grow out of anxiety. By focusing on the anxiety, by finding that I can’t actually find it, I can cause it to dissipate. This doesn’t take long, and it is very beneficial.

    Here’s to paying attention to our feet… and loving our messes.


    • Isn’t it crazy how little space a mood can actually take up in the body when you look for it? That has been blowing my mind lately, for sure. Especially the anxiety.
      My dog used to chew up sticks on the carpet. Right now, he doesn’t have inside sticks, but when he did, he would shred them and spread them right after I vacuumed. I think he liked having stick everywhere because it was like his scent or something; and let’s face it, carpets are kind of more fun with sticks all over them…partially because they remind us to pay attention to our feet! Ah, full circle. Gotta love it. 🙂

  10. I love you creative messy people. So many of you artists–you want a bit of this and that around so that you can create and mix and match if necessary. OK, the alpaca socks sound cool, too. Love your suggestions, Jennifer.

  11. The idea that a mess could be beautiful is comforting. Too often I look around at my mess and think, this is impossible! But that’s not true, is it?

    Yesterday I was very grouchy about work, mostly because I wasn’t sure how to fix things. Instead of dwelling on the failure of it all I went for a bike ride.

    I have to say, playing out in nature gives me a fresh perspective. Like a kid with endless possibilities ahead, I rode, clearing my head of all its grumpy clutter of negative thoughts.

    Thanks for giving me this insight. Looking forward to reading more!

  12. I used to be an artist…. did the whole shabang… artshows, crafting till all hours and now my daughter has been bitten by the bug and along with acting and writing herself, she is doing art shows. It is strange to have given her all of my notions and makings that she can utilize Just barely over a year ago, I finally officially, passed the baton over to my daughter. Funny but we have joked that a true artist never has an organized studio or work space. At leasf not us! Beads and lace and boxes of trinkets seem to get pulled out and never put back in exactly the same way. At least that is how my studio looked, It kind of always looked like Christmas morning after all the presents were unwrapped! Now, in my head… I have my writer’s studio much more organized… never mess! Every paper and pen in it’s place! Beautiful!
    Yeah right… in my dreams!

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