What do Kaizen and Mouse Poo Have in Common?

Originally published 5/5/2016

Other than being small, Kaizen and mouse droppings were the impetus I needed to tackle my clutter and clear my space.

As an introvert I need my space.  I crave space.  I long for a special space to call my own.

That special space came to me, via my husband, who gifted me with what I like to call my Studio Cottage.  At our marina there are two main buildings.  When a long term tenant moved out of one, I moved into their office space ... a room build within a large unheated quonset hut boat shed.  One wall is curved with two windows looking out onto Georgian Bay.  I painted it bright happy colours and had a new floor installed.  I swore that I would keep this sacred space clean and clear of clutter.

Several years later, many projects plus and the selling of my childhood home found that longed for sacred space a repository of stuff.

This past winter for the first time, mice found their way in.  They explored every inch and excreted everywhere.  Did I mention I have a phobia about mouse poo!  Ugh.  The combination of cumulated clutter and mouse droppings was too much, too overwhelming, way too big of an energy drain and so I just shut the door and walked away.

But as the weather warmed the space once again beckoned to me.  

I decided to use my Kaizen training and start small.  First I just thought about how I wanted the space to be.  I would mentally rearrange the furniture.  Small thoughts are so less overwhelming then big thoughts.  Clean one window sill was so much easier to contemplate than cleaning the whole space.

Then I added some small questions.  How did I want to feel in this space?  Not resentful and angry at the mice but creative, inspired, calm and rested.  How could I feel more of the latter and less of the former?  The great thing about small questions is they don't require an answer right away. Once asked, the brain percolates and ponders to produce plenty of possibilities.  

Next came small steps.  Small steps helped me to get started.  They helped me to break through the resistance I was feeling about tackling what seemed like such a huge and impossible task.  So with broom in hand I began a little at a time over, several days.  

I actually started to thank the mice because it made throwing things out so much easier.  Those ancient unfired pottery creations lost all appeal once they had mouse poo in them.  And so the contaminated objects found their way, one by one, into the garbage bin.

As the space became cleaner and clearer I started rearranging the furniture and fixtures.  I took some pieces out and swapped others for items that fit my needs and space better.  Is it perfect? Nope.  But it is so much closer.  And that is really what Kaizen is all about, moving in a positive direction closer and closer to your ideal.  The goal is not about reaching an ideal but growing and being enriched by the process of moving continually towards it.  

What I find so wonderful about the Kaizen approach is that using it reduces fears that can paralyze or overwhelm us.  I can be far more productive taking small actions and celebrating with small rewards, like time in my hammock, then in the past when everything had to be perfect or not worth doing at all.