It is that time of year. Spring cleaning is what many people call it – that time in which it is out with the old in order to make room for the new. The reasons for such are quite obvious. In ancient times, people often lived indoors during the colder months and not all the trash was removed as frequently as it should have been. The advent of warmer temperatures as spring rolled around was the perfect time to clean out one’s living abode. Often, people prepared for the fruits of their previous labors as plants began to give fruit. While we think of harvest as occurring in the fall, crops actually begin to give their product within as few as four weeks after planting, depending on the seed and location.
Recently we had to cut down two large trees in our backyard. The trees were not healthy and one bore the scars of previous lightning strikes. For ten years, at the base of another tree in the same backyard, I have watched the leaves grow on what appeared to be an iris patch. However, all we ever got were leave, no blooms. Within two weeks of the trees being removed, however, I noticed lovely purple iris blooms at the base of this other tree. Cleaning out the yard afforded the flowers necessary sunlight that the canopy from the other trees had kept away. The decluttering of our yard had allowed the irises to bloom and thrive.
Decluttering our lives can do much the same thing. Many people associate such with Feng Shui which is a Chinese philosophy that seeks to bring people and their environment into a sense of balance and harmony. Feng Shui dates to thirty-five hundred years before the invention of the magnetic compass and is thought to have been used for the alignment of buildings and statues with the stars. Today it is a system by which one’s environment is designed for greater productivity and less stress.
If you have ever tried to find something and couldn’t, you might appreciate such a philosophy as Feng Shui, a philosophy in which everything has a place and everything is put in that place. Clutter is not a word that is found in the Chinese language so one cannot say that Feng Shui was designed to eliminate clutter. It does offer a way of living that helps us function better.
Clearing away the clutter in our lives gives us more breathing room and allows us see what we truly have and compare that with what we truly need. It also allows space for growth and new things. However, sometimes it is not just clutter that blocks our functionability. After all, there are some things we just cannot do without and life can get dirty at times.
Lyda Newman was a woman who saw the daily necessities and the clutter or dirt they can leave or cause. In 1989 she was living in New York City and received a patent for a vented hairbrush. Hairbrushes are one of those everyday necessities that we all need and have. They also, if doing their job properly, create clutter within the bristles of the brush.
We don’t think of human beings as animals that shed or molt but the truth is that we all lose hairs every day and most often, this is done in the brushing of our hair. Old hair is removed to allow new hair growth. Lyda D. Neman invented a hairbrush that could be taken apart and so cleaning it was much easier.
She not only is a great example of a female inventor, her life is also an example of discrimination. We know only what was on the patent application for her hairbrush – her name, race, and address in 1898. You see, Lyda Newman was of African descent. We do not know her age or anything about her life before or after her patent was granted. Lyda Newman lived in Manhattan at the time she received her patent. Her hairbrush allowed impurities from brushing hair to fall into the back of the brush, a section that could be removed for easy cleaning. Her patent application describes her brush as “simple and durable in construction” and being “very effective when in use”. Widely separated slots allowed for the hair to flow through the brush easily.
I, for one, have hair that tangles easily and I appreciate Lyda’s hairbrush, the forerunner of one I use daily. Life often catches us in its tangled web and we need to remember that we all can, with a little effort, think our way through our difficulties. Too often people are seen as invisible and less than another. We must make certain that in our decluttering we do not throw away another’s life. No one person or group should be deemed unworthy to be recognized. All lives matter.