Open the Mail

It may seem strange to think of cleaning house as a practice, but I absolutely do.

For some of you, cleaning house is as easy and natural as falling out of bed in the morning.  But for me it has always been a struggle.  I can remember being a college student, and looking at my room knee deep in papers and trash, completely fed up with my life as a slob; yet having no idea where to begin.

One of my favorite books on practice is Steven Pressfield’s book, “The War of Art.”  I love this passage from his book:

When I lived in the back of my Chevy van, I had to dig my typewriter out from beneath layers of tire tools, dirty laundry, and moldering paperbacks.  My truck was a nest, a hive, a hellhole on wheels whose sleeping surface I had to clear each night just to carve out a foxhole to sleep in.

The professional cannot live like that.  He is on a mission.  He will not tolerate disorder.  He eliminates disorder from his world in order to banish it from his mind.  He wants the carpet vacuumed and the threshold swept, so the Muse may enter and not soil her gown.

Every day I fight two battles.  One is to write at least one essay.  The other is to process the mail.

I hate the mail.  It is pile of decisions that have to be made one after another.  And each decision requires subsequent actions: recycle, shred, file, record, pay a bill, or write a letter.

And if you put it off, the pile quickly becomes a tower of Babel, a black hole of chaos and entropy.  Just the sight of such a pile can immediately suck the life right out of my day.

Hence the keystone habit of my household practice is to process the mail every day, and don’t stop until every decision and action has been taken to its penultimate step.

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