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Control What You Can and Let Go of the Rest

“What’s going on in here?” my husband asked.

Muttering to myself, I continued to yank tiny glass jars out of a kitchen drawer and plunk them on the countertop.

“I can’t find anything,” I snapped.

In the middle of cooking yet another pandemic dinner, trying my best to make the most of things in an uncertain world, I’d lost it. On that gloomy winter evening, the chicken recipe called for one teaspoon of a spice I knew was in that drawer. But among the jumble of jars and packets and boxes, with tiny labels I could barely read, my 15-minute treasure hunt turned up empty.

I couldn’t find the garlic powder.

I like my cupboards, closets, calendar—my life—organized. I like to feel in control and am happiest when I have a plan. When I know what to expect and when it will happen.

My Tuesday and Thursday morning exercise classes are on hiatus—and scratched from the calendar—so my workout routine is haphazard. And more weeks than I care to admit, non-existent. My age group and health status land me at the bottom of the vaccine chart. All I can do is wait my turn. Health ordinances will determine whether I can celebrate my son’s wedding—already postponed—without wearing a mask with my gown (the one I bought a year ago and hope still fits.) My nails look ragged, I dress in joggers, and I’ve yet to wear the black blazer or cute booties I bought on sale last winter.

Right now, my world is disorganized. Amid the past year’s turmoil, I realize I’m not in control of much at all.

Studies show our bodies and minds thrive on routine and order. Anxiety and clutter go hand-in-hand. When our homes are organized, we are calmer and happier. We feel more in control.

If you’ve watched The Home Edit, you’ve seen the jubilant reactions from folks with the newly organized and decluttered spaces. Clea and Joanna, the Nashville mom bosses behind the brand, descend on playrooms and pantries and garages. They turn the targeted disaster zones into rainbow-hued, picture-perfect masterpieces. And the resulting spaces now bring the owners, to borrow a word from Marie Kondo, joy.

In this uncertain world of mine, I crave control. I want jubilance and organization and joy. And I can take control of that drawer.

One Saturday and Saturday, I attacked that spice drawer, and its elusive inhabitants, with a vicious sense of purpose. I bought, washed, dried, and filled forty identical flat-sided jars with matching black lids. On each spice container I slapped a label with a fancy font I don’t have to squint to read. I stopped short of arranging them in alphabetical order—I don’t need that much organization. The cinnamon and bay leaves and oregano are all lined up, like miniature soldiers marching off to battle.

Nowadays, I open my revamped drawer multiple times a day. When the cumin and coriander and curry powder stare back at me, in their uniform rows with matching nametags, I’m flooded with satisfaction. A silly, small item in my life is exactly the way I want it to be. And, yes, this teeny-tiny pocket of stability brings me joy.

When I can’t control my vaccine status or travel where I want or even see my ailing parents, that drawer reminds me to concentrate on those things I can control. And let go of those I can’t. Watch out sock drawer—you may be next.

PS—Downsizing and Letting Go of Stuff

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