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We dissolve stuck and rewrite patterns. We apply radical playfulness to life (when we feel like it!), embarking on internal adventures (credo of Safety First). We have a fake band called Solved By Cake. We build invisible sanctuaries, invent words and worlds, breathe awe and wonder.

We are not impressed by monsters. Except when we are. We explore the connections between internal territories and surrounding environment to learn what marvelously supportive delicious space feels like, and how to take exquisite care of ourselves. We transform things.* We glow wild.**

* For example: Desire, fear, worry, pain-and-trauma, boundaries, that problematic word which rhymes with flaweductivity.

** Fair warning: Self-fluency has been known to lead to extremely subversive behavior, including treasuring yourself unconditionally, unapologetically taking up space, experiencing outrageously improbable levels of self-acceptance, and general rejoicing in aliveness.


The Piling and the Depiling: Part II

Follow-up! To this bit I wrote about my relationship with making piles of things.

It’s part of an ongoing process/investigation:

Figuring out why I create these giant piles of iguanas and doom, what their purpose is, and what needs to happen next.

So I’m documenting both the piles themselves and everything I know about them, as well as everything that I’m trying/learning/noticing/perceiving/experiencing in the investigation.

And I’m also documenting the variety of experiments that I’m using in this destuckification practice. And letting you peek.

Hey, piles. What do I know about you?

Oh, piles! Piles of paper, piles of information in my head, piles of Direct Messages on Twitter, piles of messages at the Frolicsome Bar, collections of things.

Why I make them

To not forget what is important.

To keep projects in view (even though I know from experience that the second one lands in the pile, it’s gone). But there is something calming about knowing that at least I will stumble onto it eventually. The security of knowing that it’s there.

So that’s the mission. Does it work?

No. Because knowing that it’s there also stresses me the hell out. And the only time I consistently look at piles is while depiling every other month or so.

Then what will help me remember what is important? Hmmmm.

How I make them

Everywhere. On my computer. In my documents. At the Playground. In the bedroom. In the gwish room.

I make them because the pattern says build.

The purpose they serve is…

Aside from reminders that don’t work? Hopefulness.

Oh! To hide iguanas.*

* Translation! Iguana = anything you don’t feel like doing.

Like that letter from X. I didn’t want to look at it because looking at it was reminding me that I had to deal with it, and that was depressing. Since I wasn’t ready to deal yet, I stuck it in a pile.

Ha! I am like the Witness Protection Program for iguanas.

I protect iguanas. I’m trying to protect me from them, but in effect what happens (bing! shivanautical epiphany!) is that I am protecting them from me.

On one level, there’s this beautiful attempt to be helpful: solidify, structure, keep everything together. I am compiling to create more order. Because better a pile than 70,000 papers all over the place.

On another level, obfuscation and hiding: keep the iguana away from me. But not too far away.

Really, I should thank my psyche for being so creative and for coming up with the best possible solution it could. That’s kind of sweet.

What I know about them, me and our relationship

Apparently I still need them. Both the piles and the iguanas.

I need safety. And the iguanas need safety.

Also needed are systems and forms to emerge that will hold things differently.

So this is about need, and releasing all these symbolic pieces that are not working.

I want to be able to say YES to needing things like support, creativity, order, freedom, hiding places.

And to identify the part of me who desperately needs worry, fear, iguanas, something hanging over my head what’s that called, dread. Ah, the dread.

Where the pain is

Monsters, iguanas and deadlines, oh my!

But really? Why am I keeping an iguana compound in my space? That isn’t helpful to anyone.

So I need:

  1. structures and containers for things to flow into so the piles pile less frequently.
  2. And when there is a pile, it still needs a box to live in. A home! And that box needs a date and a plan. And rituals that can be fun.

Ooh! Idea! International Iguana Depiling Day. I.I.D.D. Once a month. And time to work on the Book of Me.

Also the home for the Pile could be like a dollhouse. Or a Cardboard Box that is a house, with a door and a chimney. Oh, adorable. I want to make it a home.

Oh! My piles are pieces of me that are homeless. I identify with them. Just like there are safe rooms for my various selves, of course there is a safe room for my pile. But not to keep it safe from me. To keep us all in a general state of safety.

Oh! And I can spray the pile with the magical spray-bottle-of-making-things-better. And other rituals for it that can be fun.

What they symbolize

The parts of me that need containers, boundaries, a home. Lost little orphans who need love, support and acknowledgment.

Why I need them

To remind me of my creativity. To remember that I am the queen.

Why I’m done with them

Because the queen needs spaciousness to create. And piles are not conducive to spaciousness.

What is the connection between my past and piles:

There are people in my life who need boulders. Friction. They choose the way of friction.

Not out of intention but because they are disconnected.

This new thing is about committing to this new way of EASE and FLOW instead of living in friction.

The version of me who is done with them.

Ah. The me who knows about this ease and flow thing.

There is spaciousness. Support. Structure. Shiva Nata.

Sweetie, you are moving into the world where that old way cannot exist anymore. One day piles will really truly be like cigarettes. Or sugar. You just won’t need them anymore.

And you won’t even remember why you did.

What I don’t know yet.

How. But I’m closer to finding out than I realize. And that’s what the next Rally is for. Rally!

Playing. And the comment zen blanket fort.

My goodness. I have no idea if any of this makes sense to anyone who isn’t me. I was pretty spectacularly brain-melty from all the awesome Shiva Nata we’d been doing before writing this. God I love Rally.

What I would love:

If you wanted to think out loud about any of those questions, investigate your own relationship with piling, or do some of the super-speedy word association thing too.

If you would say Vhoooooosh! Which is the sound of stuckness dissolving and all the right spaces opening up.

What I would not love:

Please no advice, recommendations or pep talks. I am sharing a really personal and intimate process in my own way and in my own timing, and I need lots of spaciousness with that.

As always, we all have our stuff. We’re all working on our stuff. It’s a process.

Love to all the commenter mice, the Beloved Lurkers and everyone who reads.

27 Responses to The Piling and the Depiling: Part II

  1. jilliankay says:

    i think the part that really stood out to me, and stuck with me, was the need for flow in the piles – so that instead of growing, there was a continual ebb and flow. i like that. i need more process that supports that.

    of course, it makes me think of work, and the whole lean/six sigma leadership stuff, where (supposedly) you take something about the business that isn’t working, you lock a group of people in a room for a week, you map out how it works now, you dream as a group about a magical ideal, and then you map out a reasonable future. and then you empower people to actually make the changes. and there are colorful post-its and markers and toys and games.

    and up till now, it all seemed a little hokey (even though I’m a trained leader in the stuff), and didn’t seem like something i really wanted to do…but all of a sudden, in this context, it sounds fun again. but maybe just for me personally, and not at work. :) i think i’ll be doing some work on my flow this weekend! yay cross pollination of ideas!

  2. […] course, then I check facebook.  Then twitter, then email, then my blog feed.  And then I read this lovely post by Havi of The Fluent Self about depiling her piles. And the need to create flow for the piles.  Or at least that’s the part that stuck with […]

  3. Eve
    Twitter: evejacques

    Vhoooooosh!Speaking for myself, this totally makes sense to me. I love it when you walk us through your shivanautical epiphanies like this – it’s really inspiring.

    Wondering how much of this applies to me, as I definitely have a lost-homeless-orphan complex. Interesting, interesting, interesting! I’m actually really wary of having a home, of making a home mine. Huge wariness and reluctance around personalising my space. Wanting to live on a boat, to have a home that moves so it’s not really a house. Wanting to be a homeless urchin who lives up a tree so that nobody can tell me what to do. Wanting to have nothing so that nobody can think I deserve less than I’ve got. Rags, dirt, scrabbling for food and basic needs – very relevant to my piles! Epiphanies binging here too!

    I think what’s happening here is I want sovereignty but I’m afraid to say MINE. And what do you do when you want to belong to yourself but you don’t want anything to belong to you? You run away. (Very relevant to procrastination here too!) It’s very much a child thing. Childhood fantasies of not being parented, not having anyone to make you wrap up warm and be sensible. Not being treated like this soft little vulnerable thing to be protected. I’m Huckleberry Finn, dammit!

    Which segues into MORE relevant stuff. Utena, a fictional heroine I identified with a lot way back when, said: ‘I don’t want to be a princess to be protected. I want to be a cool prince.’

    (I can’t believe I’m telling you about Utena. I’ll be telling you about Mary Poppins next!)

    Which takes us back to sovereignty. Princes are sovereign without being homeless, princes have palaces and beautiful clothes, and I wore (I thought!) beautiful clothes myself during that stage of my life, and decorated my room how I wanted it, and was outwardly very confident, but I still had huge insecurity underneath and when I failed to live up to my fairytale ideal it all went crash, badly. And since then I’ve just been living up a tree, metaphorically speaking.

    How can I have princeliness without perfectionism, sovereignty without selfishness?

    That’s a long way away from ‘why do I make piles’, but is it the same question? I THINK IT IS.

    What can I do, practically, about this? I have no idea yet. Brain overloaded. I’m in the process of tidying my room – it’s such a mess I’m basically just throwing everything into the attic and bringing it back bit by bit in a sensible order. Maybe this epiphany could influence the way I put things back. I could design my room for maximum sovereignty! And allow for things to not be perfect sometimes (so no structures that only work if I stay constantly on top of them. As it were.)

    Wow, Havi, I’m starting to realise just how worthwhile it is to do the homework (bad word, what’s a better word?) you give us in these posts…

    Much love. xxx

  4. Caroline
    Twitter: Cazzylina

    My piles are responsibilities and possibilities that are too scary to look at because I just might ROCK them. And there are tender orphaned bits that might not withstand that. I don’t know how tough I am or they are. So they lie abandoned but in sight, homeless. They need a home, a place to be held.

    That’s the bit that stuck out for me. There’s a metaphor, I have been living in this house 13 years now, but only just moved my Self in. i need a place to hold all the bits of me.

    Other piles are things that are done with, hold so little interest I can’t even seem to be bothered to let go. That sounds like it’s code for something else. Maybe a lack of system.

    Homework? Something like that. This resonates and dovetails with a process I already started, and stalled on, restarted yesterday. And suddenly bits are snicking into place and making, well, if not Sense, then don’t seem so hideously unreasonable. Part of a process that I can have and keep on processing. But not homework. Not work. Making space and holding bits of myself that I’ve been not-seeing, and exploring those spaces and what’s in them. Peeking at my stuff as well as yours, Havi. Longer peeks and then looking and then interacting, in time, in process.

  5. Hannah
    Twitter: Hannah_Savannah

    This was beautiful to read … and also hard because it resonates.

    The part where creating piles and piles of things is a way to have your things around and to not feel so lost. The part where being afraid of the piles is linked to the past and little scared parts of yourself.

    I am belatedly working on my taxes today (8 months late and for the first time since i started working). Auch! So this post helps!

    The most beautiful part – the idea that emptiness can eventually be something one can grow into and enjoy, without panicking and creating a new pile.

    HUGS out there to everyone who is terrified of admin like me.

    Thanks you for writing it up Havi!

  6. Sarah says:

    Havi – I’ve been a lurker for about a month, and this post is so stinkin’ insightful that it has compelled me to come out of lurking and into community. Wow, wow, wow, wow. I’m not sure it has made sense to other people but man oh man it made sense to me. The bit about your your connection with your past:

    There are people in my life who need boulders. Friction. They choose the way of friction.

    Not out of intention but because they are disconnected.

    This new thing is about committing to this new way of EASE and FLOW instead of living in friction.

    Ahmazing. I get this – I totally do. I have one of those people…my MOTHER.

    Thank you for sharing your processes….they are so helpful. I love this blog. And that, my beloved screen friend, is not a pep talk. :-)

  7. Kathleen Avins
    Twitter: spiralsongkat

    Vhooooosh! Vhooooooooooooooosh! Vhooooooooooooooooooooooosh!

    I think that’s all I can say today. Well, that, and thank you.

  8. Briana
    Twitter: brianaaldrich


    I just love this so much. Oh my god, this: “Really, I should thank my psyche for being so creative and for coming up with the best possible solution it could. That’s kind of sweet.

    Awwww. Vhoooooooosh!

  9. Leni says:

    i too have piles. i use them to hide from my own resistance and procrastination. I avoid depiling and add more. they become bigger and scarier. i avoid more.

    But when I get to depiling, it feels better. the piles have held my projects/desires/resposnibilities in place, held them still, so i could get ready to deal with them.

    Like pinning my daughters between my knees, so i can brush their hair. They won’t stand still for their hair being brushed, so they have to be held still. Once they are compleled to stop struggling, hair brushing is easy-peasy.

    So my piles are holding my iguanas still, to keep them calm and keep them from running amok, until I can brush their hair.

    Brushing an iguana’s hair. Not the best metaphor, but I’m sticking with it today.

  10. Elizabeth
    Twitter: elizabethhalt

    Ohhhhhhhhhh. A rush of insight. I keep piles in my head. It is too scary to put them down on paper. What if things don’t happen. What if they do happen. I sort of can’t bear the thought of one and the other is too scary to imagine. This is why when I make lists of things I want to do before I die, I feel like they’re incomplete, like I am missing the things that really really hit the core of me.


  11. Hiro Boga
    Twitter: HiroBoga

    I have abandoned my piles in favor of a massage today. Great for dissolving piles, and reconstituting them with only the essentials! :-)

  12. Sue T says:

    @Havi, thank you for this Part II and for yesterday’s post on tools. I’m getting so much *bing* … it’s just amazing!

    @Leni, I think “brushing an iguana’s hair” is brilliant!

    I have piles of many kinds and I have been working on piles of tools this last week, fairly successfully. Among the reasons for that success is that the reorganized/stored office tools are getting to live in containers that are artful, colorful, and visual-distraction-free.

    Naturally, there are still piles that are or contain iguanas. Of course I am avoiding them at the moment. Er, that is, I am letting them hide in a safe, calm place
    until I can find their hairbrushes.

  13. Emily says:

    This made me laugh: “But really? Why am I keeping an iguana compound in my space? That isn’t helpful to anyone. ”

    I may need to meditate upon it.

  14. sarra
    Twitter: waxworker

    Oooooohhhh. I’d like to think this one out loud, yes; all the things which chime with me.

    to keep projects in view.
    This one is tricky and interesting. (Piles for me are not just piles but also lists and pinboards, by the way. Also the fridge door.)

    So there’s the good intention: keep it seen.
    And also: keep it all in one place.
    But the result is: I stick a lovely bunch of things on a list, or on my noticeboard – best example – and then I get very good at ignoring them.

    I had a bing on why that is a few months ago – if I have a pile and just one experience of seeing it and then dismissing it (based on how I feel about it in that split-second), that gets repeated. A lot. And there’s the genesis of that habit.

    So the piles – my ones – aren’t designed to get full of iguanas, but that’s what their design means they do. Hmmm.

    That’s my current stuck.


    I put things outside me and then they remain outside me. Starting that sentence clued me in to the ‘inside/outside’ pattern I’ve been working on. Oh goodness. Hence the Oh.

    I think I can use that. Playing with different ways to meet Outside. (Writing this comment is one of them!) I think the initial piling does serve, for me, a positive purpose: I put something outside so I can see it, which I can’t do is easier than when it’s inside.

    Ah. But – then it needs to meet the Inside again. That’s the missing piece.

    I can see that one way this happens is if the Pile Outside has an instruction I can act on. There’s a letter on my noticeboard at the moment that says I have an appointment on the 21st. I can put that in my diary. Next time I look at it I can think, hmm, I could do some preparation. Once it’s exhausted its instruction-giving potential, I could remove it.

    There are a lot of things on the board that’ve exhausted that potential. Hmmmmm again. So I could alter them, rather than vowing instead to alter myself in response to them (note ‘vowing’ – it might – will – does work if – when – it’s not such a frustrated process). Outside could be flexible, instead of concrete. And a flexible Outside both means and comes from a flexible Inside. This gets toward the dissolving-boundaries aim which my heart says yes! to – it fits.

    Mmmmmmm; it Might Just Work.

    Many bits of me are thanking me for revisiting this. Such a lovely feeling.

    I may reframe the bath I’m about to take as a congratulations :)

  15. sarra
    Twitter: waxworker

    PS links – flow; orphans are things which are Outsided. Also, also want to thank myself for mostly avoiding shoulds. Ten four, signing off now. x

  16. Imbrium
    Twitter: nerdknits

    My piles seems so much more negative – full of guilt and resentment. Either things that I want to do but don’t, which makes me feel guilty (hello, inbox full of emails I should answer!) or things that I deeply resent having to do (hello, life insurance information that I need to update!) So it all goes into a pile, usually until time has passed and life has changed and the items in the pile are no longer relevant. Then I sort through the pile and feel deep remorse about opportunities missed, throw everything away, and start a new pile.

    Sounds healthy, doesn’t it? Yikes.

    Hmm…perhaps it’s time to sit down with the piles and have a little chat.

  17. Claire Tompkins
    Twitter: clairetompkins

    I love the idea of a doll house for piles! And having a magical spray bottle to keep the piles fresh till you can deal with them (if that’s the purpose). Maybe just because it’s fun to spray magic spray.

    I’ve been thinking about how to make the more tedious and anxiety-inducing aspects of getting organized more appealing for my clients. Catherine Caine suggested rituals too when we talked about this. Rituals that help contain negative emotions so they can be honored but not succumbed to? Rituals that make depiling fun AND seem like an important thing to do (the self care of overcoming an obstacle).

    For my own piles, thinking of them as warm, cozy napping spots where the items will be safe till I can handle them makes me feel much more compassionate toward them, and toward myself. Nice.

  18. […] got some inspiration for dealing with my own piles reading Havi’s post about Depiling. If I think of my piles as being warm, cozy nooks for the paper to nap in till I’m ready for […]

  19. kat says:

    @Leni – I not only love the idea of brushing an iguana’s hair, but I would have to give it a bow, or a flower behind it’s ear when I was done!

    I still see my piles as something that relates to a fear of lack – of going back to those many years when I really had nothing that could be piled. I barely had clothes, or books, or art tools, much less any papers or pictures. And I also had no one that really knew me, much less cared for me, close by. My one stalwart support was on the other side of the country, and it was hard to phone often. That was such a painful time of my life, though necessary, that I find that the iguana havens are comforting. And, as before, when I get rid of one pile, it either appears somewhere else, transformed, or the empty space draws something else into it so that it isn’t so scared and bare.

    Havi, how right you are about a queen needing spaciousness for her creativity. That becomes more clear daily. And I love a house for the piles! I just need to find the right real estate for said house. And, of course, the decor and colors have to be perfect, too.
    I have found a very pretty box with a bow on top for some of the piled stuff – stuff I really do need for my creations. So that’s one step on my path.

    And, even though I’ve yet to really hear it very loudly, for you, and for me, Vhooooooooosh! Oh, I really do like that sound. I want it to happen more! (How does it go again?) Vhooooooooosh!

    Thank you, Havi, for sharing this journey. It helps to know we all have iguanas and even some of our iguanas have iguanas, too, I think.

  20. Annette
    Twitter: annette maxon

    I have a personal theory about piles. It has to do with memory. Piles are the same as bumper stickers, or magnets on a fridge, or pins on a jacket. They’re like reminders of what we want to believe about ourselves, I think. Stuff that isn’t fully integrated into ourselves yet but we want them to be. I will be LOUD because I need to hear myself. I will be BOLD because otherwise I’ll overlook myself. I will save this, because otherwise I’ll lose myself.

  21. Sara V says:

    I couldn’t even read this. My eyes were sliding over the words while my brain was saying “hold on! THAT’S interesting” Monsters are going MAD and don’t want me to think about it. SO DEEP BREATH, and we will start to read again. Come on guys. Don’t be scared!

  22. Cherilyn
    Twitter: Bikeblisschick

    Wow. Great understanding about piles!

    Mine also speak to me about possibility and control. I have piles of stuff I’d like to think about or think I could do, but don’t know if I can schedule it in. So the pile keeps it close, which means it might be possible. Putting that possibility in a filing cabinet feels like I’m putting it in a casket or drawer at the morgue.

    I also pile the stuff to assert my control over the stuff I need to deal with but don’t want to yet. I’ll do it on my own time, thanks.

    But the piles really don’t work. Thanks for shining some light on this.

  23. sarra
    Twitter: waxworker

    Annette – had another ‘oooooooh’ at your comment. Wanted to tell you on twitter but your name doesn’t work!

  24. Caroline
    Twitter: Cazzylina

    Please tell me I’m not the only one that has the bigger moments of “BING! Oh! That’s TRUE!” for the posts that Havi worries are unlikely to make sense to anyone.

    Hair-brushing iguanas. I think mine have multicoloured mohawks. Punk Iguanas. And it isn’t just one guy, it’s half a dozen, rocking out on a rock or maybe a rocking a pile.

  25. R says:

    *lurk, lurk* I somehow found a way to stop piling current things but now I have these really ancient iguanas that are hiding in dark places (like closets or bottoms of bookshelves) from before I stopped depiling. It’s like an Ancient Iguana Resthome. And I know why these Iguanas are still hanging out in places where I can baaarely see them… it’s because these papers are so old that I don’t know what to do with them anymore and there is some kind of sentimentality attached to them now… like, ‘aww that was that little thing I did back then…’ and there also might be some minefields hidden in there from my ex-husband… exploding iguanas. But now that I’ve written all this maybe I should just throw the whole pile out. Why worry about it anymore? It’s been at least 5 years, apparently I don’t need it.

  26. Annette Maxon
    Twitter: annette maxon

    I’m not on Twitter. I don’t know why it says I am. Sorry!

  27. Lisa Murray
    Twitter: blisstribe

    I used to know what was in the piles… and then I moved house… twice within 6 months… so I’ve been repiling and deleting wherever possible, with the help of my mum!

    I have a lusciously creative brain that just doesn’t do admin, so I’m totally grateful for her natural abilities in ordering my paper war… the recycling bin is filling and the minefields are disintegrating! And it was so fast… who would have thought a tribe of iguanas could disappear that quickly???

    How does it get better than that?

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