I have been spending a lot more time in my indigenous garden during lockdown; it is my happy place. I have so enjoyed the abundance of butterflies and birds and the change in season towards winter as the aloes start to flower.
During our hot and humid summer months the garden got quite out of hand because everything grows like weeds in our sub-tropical climate in Durban. And I hadn’t had the time or energy to keep on top of it all. So now I have been systematically pruning back several trees and shrubs.
Pruning is an essential part of gardening and farming. Fruit trees and grapevines, for example, need to be pruned annually to maximise their yield of fruit in the next season. During pruning dead and overgrown branches are removed, enabling the plant’s resources to be directed towards new growth. Pruning also improves the structure, stability and long-term aesthetics of the plant. In the short term, pruning can appear harsh and visually the plant looks a bit forlorn and bare. But in the longer term the benefits far outweigh the costs.
So why am I writing about pruning in an organising blog? Well, pruning is a great analogy for decluttering our life and our space to focus on what really matters. Here are some key aspects to ponder on:
Time and activities
Our lives can get overly busy with work, family and social activities. This can leave little time to sit back and take stock of who we are and where we are heading. Lockdown has given us a bit of a breather by ‘pruning back’ many of our activities for us, although much of this has been painful and frustrating.
At some point the Covid-19 restrictions will be over and life will get full again, if we let it. So now may be a good time to really think about what we want to fill our lives with, in the future. This is an opportunity to minimise our stress and to focus on what truly is important. It will require deliberately pruning some activities or areas to allow others to flourish.
Achieving your goals requires some letting go
When I was younger, I naively thought that I could juggle all the different things that I enjoyed and interested me. But I have learnt that to immerse yourself fully in one thing you love and/or excel at, you also need to let others go. Think of Olympics athletes – they let go everything else in life to focus on achieving their goal. This may be for the short or longer term depending on your particular goal.
When I am pruning it almost seems cruel to cut off a perfectly beautiful branch (especially if it is still flowering)! But it is the best thing you can do for the plant’s long-term health. Likewise, if we have specific dreams and ambitions, we will need to prune back on other activities, interests and even time with the people we care about, to achieve them.
Seasons come and go
Life is all about seasons. As we progress through life, different priorities will emerge and others will fall away. For example, a young adult will focus on their studies and then career, while a decade later, family may become more important. The material stuff that we have in our homes will reflect the season we are in. But as we get older we often hold onto the stuff from past seasons for far too long. In pruning terms, our branches are overgrown but we cannot bear to lop them off.
There is a time to let go, and it is a healthy part of life. Often my clients tell me that they cannot move on fully into the next season of their lives because they are holding on to material things that relate to a season that is past or that is ending. An example is a client who took over someone else’s business, but could not fully make it her own until she had practically got rid of the majority of the previous owner’s files and papers.
Although they are inanimate, material things can exert huge power over us because they are linked to the past through memory (a topic for another post). They may be documents from an old job or career, remnants of a past relationship, your grown children’s toys, or the belongings of a loved one who passed away some time ago. Whatever the situation, there will be a time when you will need to let go, to prune that season of your life in a healthy way, if you want to move forward in the present.
I am not only a pruner in my own garden; I also act as an assistant pruner in my client’s lives, homes and offices. Together we work together to prune back those overgrown areas that are preventing them from moving forward to achieve a specific goal, to enter a new season or just to make life simpler and more enjoyable.
If you are finding this process difficult on your own, I would love to help you with your ‘pruning’ project.