A while back I mentioned the idea of “micro-annoyances” here on the blog, planning on following up on them later. Today’s the day!
In case you don’t have time to click the link, the idea of “microannoyances” is working alongside the term “microaggression”, defined as:
…the everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership.
That’s a whole bunch of social and historical stuff that is, happily, not the province of this post. Instead, the idea of microannoyances is something like the “the everyday environmental irritations that register consciously or unconsciously based solely upon the systems and environment a person inhabits.”
I want to be clear: I’m not talking about things people do. That’s a whole other thing! I’m talking about things like my old coffee cup.
I loved that coffee cup. I bought it when visiting a mentor and friend in San Francisco, and it was expensive. It also didn’t work terribly well. It didn’t hold very much coffee, the base was too wide to fit in most drink holders (including the one in my car), and the lid was prone to leak. Actually, there were two lids, one to seal it up tight (i.e., only leak sometimes) and one for when I was drinking coffee (i.e., leak and/or spill at the slightest provocation).
Oh, and did I mention that the perfectly cylindrical form meant that it would roll quickly and erratically across any flat surface, often spilling hot coffee everywhere? I learned to be extra vigilant when I used that coffee mug, because I never knew when things would go terribly wrong…
So the question becomes: why did I keep it? If it caused me that much stress, why did I keep it around?
The answer is: because I loved it. Or, rather, I loved what it represented to me.
The Shattering Desymbolizing
Kon-Mari-ing the kitchen helped me look at that travel mug in a different light. Did I really love the mug? Or did I love what it represented to me? The answer was pretty obvious: what I loved was my mentor, the things I’ve learned from her, the conversations and friendships we’ve had
By transferring that love to an annoying little object, I was actually tarnishing the affection. In fact, I was connecting it to a lot of stress, to inefficiency and worry and even scarcity (remember, it didn’t hold much coffee in the first place). Recognizing all of that as part of the KonMari process was pretty liberating.
It wasn’t just coffee mugs, of course. I did it with everything I owned. But the coffee mug makes a good example, because I got rid of every travel mug I owned except for two – one, the StoJo that I backed on Kickstarter and that makes plane travel immensely more convenient, and two, a Starbucks mug that is the exact opposite of that other one: it’s stable, it holds lots of coffee and keeps it hot forever, it’s stylish, it has a handle that doubles as a clip and it even can be configured for left-handers like me.
Can you imagine what a pleasure it is to drink coffee out of that mug? What a reversal of the experience
Monday I’m going to be recommending a practice, but for now, let’s just take a look around at your environment and ask: what don’t I love? What are the irritations that I overlook everyday, the things that drive me just a little nutty but don’t seem like enough to really take action against?
The list might be surprisingly long. Don’t worry about it; we’re not saying you have to do anything about it. Just being aware is enough.