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Doing it NOW

“Don’t wait until you are old and tired to simplify your life. The Swedish art of death cleaning is not consigned to the elderly.

We can declutter and embrace minimalism at any age. Doing so will unburden you, allow more time for loved ones, and create an abundance of memories to cherish for a lifetime.”

from Death Cleaning – by John P. Weiss

John P. Weiss is a fine artist, writer, and retired police chief.
He blogs at JohnPWeiss.com about living a more artful life.

 

Since I got my living room back to rights again–and have maintained it–I’m very pleased with myself.  I’m more settled, I’m more focussed, I’m less bone-weary and heart-tired.  Yet I wish I had more time to sort out more of my own stuff, and unload it.  I’ve promised myself that I’ll do more come September, as it’s time to enjoy some space now.  I’m learning to be in the present–most days, anyhow.

The garage sales haven’t properly happened yet and I haven’t divested myself of every box.  The first sale was cancelled because of heavy downpours.   The second one was held at a hall where I’d been promised heavy traffic; however, visitors were far fewer than expected.  Still, some things went to good homes.  I have a plan for a couple of other sales before the end of the month.

Frankly, some of me just doesn’t care.  The remaining boxes can sit in my garage for now.

I realize that I’m going through a period of care giving, but of a different kind:  caregiving of ME.  I’m sleeping better because I can close my closet doors.  I’m happier when I walk through my front door because I’m not faced with boxes lining the hallway, so I feel more welcome in my own home.  (Imagine that.)  And I’m learning to cook again and eat better.  That’s because (1) there’s room on my kitchen counters to sort, wash, and chop veggies, and (2) I have more interest in doing so since there’s more time to sit and enjoy a good meal, even by myself.

There’s still a long way to go.  I’d like to write more.  I’d like to do more art. I’d like to focus more on my mediumship and doing private readings.  After all, there’s room for someone to sit down without having to wend their way past a pile of boxes to find a chair that’s heaped with things that needs moving somewhere else before they can settle in.  How novel.  I’d forgotten how nice it is to be able to invite someone in and not be apologizing for the mess.  Sure, they may understand, but still …

Anyway, it’s one day at a time.  I’m okay with this, now that I’m not buried alive and so overwhelmed with the never-diminishing, crushing heaps of stuff.   One day I’ll get to mine and do some more decluttering.  For now, I’m okay as I find my direction once again.  At least the way is clearer now, and I’m not falling over the flotsam and jetsam of someone else’s life.  Sigh.  And I’m definitely finding more joy in everything.

 

 

Wonder of wonders!  I finally, finally, finally, got through sorting the last of the big boxes and figuring out that I don’t need most of what’s in them.  As a result of doing this, time consuming though it has been, I finally, finally, finally have a living room again. And a bedroom.  And a hallway.  And counter space in the kitchen.

It’s taken me well over a year, with forcing myself to be very focussed all this past month.  But it was just as Ruth Hill explained in the previous post, it was important for me to go through each box, looking at each item, touching and holding it and making sure it was all right to let it go.  Saying goodbye.  (Or good riddance, in a few cases.)  😉

But it was daunting and demoralizing.  Nothing was easy.  I slogged away, alone and unsupported.  Fed up and frustrated.  Tired and overwhelmed.  Nothing I read or heard helped me, though I devoured several books by various authors on the topic.  I realized quite some time ago that this Marie Kondo method of clearing out wasn’t working for me.  Asking, “Does it spark joy?” is not, for me, very helpful.  Too many of the items spark joy.  Too many of them invoke memories.  Too many of them spark happiness at least, if not joy.  All of them have a story.  And it’s the story that is the kicker, the tie, the obstacle to letting go.  That’s because I possess mostly what Peter Walsh calls “memory clutter”.  More accurately, I think, is that it possesses me.

For those of you who have large families, for those who have moved frequently, or who have a load of children and grandchildren to pass things on to—assuming they don’t get broken during family visits—none of this will make sense.  For you, it’s much more likely to be an ‘easy come, easy go’ process, where you have no trouble in deciding what to trash, what to donate, what to gift, what to keep.  Lucky for you, since you are spared the pain of parting.

Recently I had a most interesting and edifying conversation with another woman about clearing out the residue of a parent’s lifetime and how difficult it can be to let go of items that meant so much, items that comprised the every-day meaningfulness of a life well lived.  It was this woman who agreed that KonMari-ing doesn’t work for everyone—most especially me, apparently—and who suggested that maybe I ought to be asking a different question.

It was an “Aha!” moment, for I recognized that this is absolutely, totally true.  This is why Peter Walsh is best for me.  He’s the one who originally said it’s never about the stuff.  His clearing-out questions are more helpful and easier to apply to just about every single object in my house.  For example, Do I love this?  Do I need this?  Can I easily replace this?  How many do I need?  Does this fit into my lifestyle?  What sort of life do I want to be living?  What sort of space do I want to live in?  What do I want my life and my home to look like?

“If you focus on the stuff, you will never ever get organized,” states Walsh, author of the bestselling It’s All Too Much: An Easy Plan for Living a Richer Life with Less Stuff.  “The starting point has to be, ‘What is the vision you have for the life you want?,'” he says. “Then you’re in a position to ask, ‘What do I need for this space?'”

Martha Beck has three questions.  (1) Do I truly need it?; (2) Do I truly adore it?; and, (3) Would I trade inner peace for this?  Again, these are more effective than the single question of sparking joy.  Sorry, Marie.

In Soulful Simplicity (a fabulous book I’ve read twice and dipped into several time more), Courtney Carver tell us that if it doesn’t bring value to our life, let it go.

Either way, Walsh or Beck or Carver, I became aware I had to redefine my space, redefine my life.  The things that had belonged to my mother, that were important to her life, that were important to me while I was growing up, were mostly who I used to be.

Once I figured out and accepted that I’m weighed down, depressed, unmotivated, unable to move or think because of Mum’s stuff and that none of it fits into where I want to go and where I want to be, it became easier.  This is not to say that it happened in a matter of days, nor have I divested myself of every little what-not utterly and completely.  Oh, no.  After all, it’s taken me months to get this far.  There’s more to do yet–soon I can start on sorting my own cupboards and drawers and ridding myself of even more unnecessaries.  And then I can go back to the beginning and begin again.  This is one thing I’ve learned already:  that each time I went through a box or piles that I’d previously sorted, I found more things I didn’t need.

But there’s time.  Now that I can walk though the door without falling over boxes, now I can see my carpet—vacuum it, even—and revel in the fact that not every surface is covered in a myriad of articles and that boxes no longer line the hallways and perimeters of my rooms, I can again take pleasure in my surroundings.  Space there is, and peace will come.  The energy is different, freer.  I smudged away the negativity and cleared the air and the cobwebs in my mind.  Yes, I am nearly home.

Here are some links I love:

They’ve helped me; perhaps they’ll help you.  Good luck.

And the photos below show how it was after I brought in Mum’s stuff to what it is now.

my stuff 2018 05 05 (1) sm

my stuff 2018 05 21 (2)

my stuff 2019 06 09 (2)

 

As I continue to be totally bogged down by the extra Mum-stuff in my home, I find myself sometimes totally paralyzed and unable to face it.  It’s a never-shrinking pile, littering nearly every surface in my home, narrowing the hallway with boxes that are never emptied, covering the couch unless I shift something out of the way so I can sit down for a quick meal in front of a TV show.  My busy life is uber-busy, crammed with too many projects that somehow never get completed because yet another new situation comes along and broadsides me.  I spend an inordinate amount of time putting out other people’s fires, so that when I do have a couple of hours that could be for me, I want only to sleep.  It’s a total aloneness and it’s not fun being here.
When I came across writer Ruth Hill’s comments, my heart felt an immediate kinship to her; then, as we wrote back and forth, I found that for once someone truly, totally understood, and knowing this made my situation just a teeny bit more bearable.  I particularly love her statement, “But my burden was not just the boxes, my burden was doing right by the deceased and respecting their lives.”  Exactly.

The exchange here is used with permission.  Thank you, Ruth Hill.

In the past few years, due to deaths in the family, and moving for work, I have had to clean out a 5-bedroom home, a 3-bedroom home, and another 5 bedroom home. I ended up with everything at my house to sort and distribute. Then I got very sick, mostly from overwork, and the clutter just sat there. So far I have had two surgeries, and have two surgeries to go. Last year I was down to the remaining 50 boxes to sort. I am pleased to say I got up the gumption to get down to my last 10 boxes. We are back to minimizing possessions. I am getting my life back after hitting rock bottom.


Julia M. Schoennagel Congratulations, Ruth Hill, and thanks for your inspiration. Hearing your story makes me feel better about having boxes of Mum’s stuff around for the last year or so, overwhelming my own home. I got through quite a bit of it, but then got stuck. Some days I can’t begin to think about it. Some days I pretend it’s not there ‘cos I can’t face it, but then every so often I am able to stir my stumps and make some decent inroads. A garage sale at a friend’s this coming weekend is major motivation.
Ruth Hill I know, Julia M. Schoennagel! I would just look at the mess, feel guilty, and walk past it all. So many days I did not feel like doing anything at all. It was hard to find the right spirit to force myself to do it. What I hated most was no help, no company, no empathy or encouragement. Just alone.
Julia M. Schoennagel Ruth Hill Exactly. And it really frosts my cookies when people say, “You have too much stuff” (tell me something I don’t know) and talk about the clutter as if I have a disease and it’s all my fault for my place being this way. They can’t understand that it’s not clutter, really–it’s the detritus of my mother’s life. I don’t even talk about it anymore to most folks ‘cos they don’t get it. And certainly they’re no help. 😦 Actually, now that I think about it, the best progress I made was a few months ago when a friend visited from out of town. She dedicated one whole day of her holiday to helping me; the moral support was fabulous.
Julia M. Schoennagel Ruth Hill I don’t even think I feel guilty anymore–just apathetic. But I can’t wait to get my life back.
Ruth Hill Julia M. Schoennagel I felt responsible to go through every box. My husband wanted to put it all in the trash to speed things up and relieve my burden. But my burden was not just the boxes, my burden was doing right by the deceased and respecting their lives. For my mother in law, I created one legacy chest of her everyday possessions. I feel strength from that. I also made a legacy box of my daughter’s things to give to my granddaughter. Lastly, I downsized my own lifelong accumulations by half. Next time I move, it will be easier. I got through it. I don’t know how. I don’t know where the motivation came from. I am in awe that I have even survived. I was very sick. Now I am starting to feel better, but I still have a way to go to get back to normal. fb helps me. Even people I have never met, communicating on fb helps me.
Julia M. Schoennagel Ruth Hill Absolutely how I feel. These are things that my mother used every day, that were important parts, even necessary, to her life. You state it brilliantly about doing right by her and the respect; I hadn’t thought of it in quite those terms, but it makes perfect sense to me. I have a giant box in my bedroom that I’m filling with things I can’t decide about: her watches, a couple of scarves I remember her wearing but that I probably never will, and so on. Things that I can’t part with or can’t make a decision about, so I’m deferring this to another time when I’ll be better able to. I also have made a box of photos and letters from family. I’ve several small boxes packed up for the garage sale on Saturday, and after that I’ll work again at downsizing my own self some more. It will be easier, I tell myself, and sometimes I truly believe it. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

The Season of Love

At this time of the year–Valentine’s Day–love and friendship is on almost everyone’s minds, especially those who are celebrating new romantic love, perhaps with a hope of marriage.  But for some, this isn’t a great time.  Those who have loved and lost, whether it be through broken relationships, still-existing-but unfulfilled relationships, death, divorce, disease, or other trauma, probably don’t appreciate the hearts and flowers and chocolates.  For these people, it can be a very lonely, heart-breaking occasion.

When I was a child, our family celebrated everything:  every season, every holiday.  My mother was an art teacher, so she decorated the house, made special foods and meals, and created wonderful, happy energy by making these holidays special.   Certainly she and my dad exchanged cards (sometimes mushy, sometimes funny, sometimes both!) and he usually presented her with a large, heart-shaped boxes of chocolates.  [Where I grew up, fresh flowers weren’t an option in those days.]

In any case, I learned the story of St Valentine, who, if you know his history, was not about sending paper hearts to one’s best beloved.  (See some interesting facts here:  https://www.history.com/topics/valentines-day/history-of-valentines-day-2)

Because Mum made heart cards from her and Daddy, from our pets, from secret friends, I also learned that love comes in all forms, and it is this belief that makes this day special for me.

Valentine’s Day is an especially good time to honour and remember the many people who have influenced me along my way (for good and bad).  Some are currently in my life; others, sadly, have gone on before and are memories only.

I wish I had paper (and time) long enough to list them all, but it’s impossible.  But know that I am grateful to each and every one for being part of my journey.

My thoughts today, by the way, are inspired by Joshua Becker’s beautiful words about remarkable people in his life.  Read more about “The Men Who Made Me” at https://www.becomingminimalist.com/men/.

Happy Hearts Day!

artistic blossom bright clouds

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

So Why Isn’t Everyone a Minimalist:
The Four Monkeys of Materialism

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Tara Button of Buy Me Once and A Life Less Throwaway.

Imagine there was a pill. It lessened your debt, made you more fulfilled, saved the planet, and tidied up your house for you. (Side effects might include smiling more.) What if that pill existed…?

I mean, everyone would be taking that pill. People would pay big bucks for that pill. All you would see on TV would be ads for this pill. All the big pharma companies would try to patent it.

But here’s the best part: the pill is free!

Minimalism, which I define as only bringing objects into your life which you have mindfully chosen to help you live your unique purpose, is a magic medicine.

So why hasn’t the whole of the USA swallowed the pill? Why has the minimalist movement, while passionate and growing, not been taken on instantly across America and the world?

I reasoned that there must be something fighting against us taking that magic medicine. While making my own minimalist journey for my book, A Life Less Throwaway, I found out what that was.

As we try to get the pill to our mouths, there are four jabbering, distracting, monkeys hanging off our arm. Yes, really.

Let me introduce you to the four monkeys of materialism and what we can do to overcome them.

Monkey One – The Advertising Monkey

The first monkey is insisting, hundreds of times a day, that buying this thing or that thing will make us happier, healthier, more beautiful and likable. We mainly ignore this monkey. We think we can’t hear it and that what it’s saying isn’t going into our heads, but it is. (Otherwise advertisers wouldn’t spend the money to make ads.)

While our conscious brain might be musing other things, this monkey is clever. It speaks directly to those bits of our brains we don’t control, the bits that create deeply hidden urges and impulse buying.

We must mute this monkey if we can, and teach our kids to mute it on the TV and internet, too. Where ads are unavoidable, like on the street, break their power by becoming mindful of them. Look the monkey straight in the eye and say, “I’m good just the way I am, thanks.”

Engaging this monkey consciously and confidently is the only way to quiet it.

Monkey Two – The Trend Monkey

The second monkey makes fun of your shoes! It’s telling you, “You can’t possibly wear that again, everyone has seen you in it. Besides, it’s out of style.”

It’s the monkey that points out that your couch is “a bit 90’s” and hypnotizes you into thinking that things you used to love have somehow stopped being beautiful and interesting.

This monkey can be silenced by taking the time to dig deep into your unique sense of style.

Spend a few hours really considering which colours look great on your body, and calm and inspire you in a home environment. Put in a weekend to nail down the shapes and textures that make you happiest.

When you consciously build a sense of your own aesthetic, you can then dismiss the fads and tell the trend monkey you don’t give a hoot if “spots are in” and “stripes are out” because you’ve taken the time to find what makes you feel fabulous forever.

Monkey Three – The Status Monkey

The status monkey is the trend monkey’s evil twin. This monkey lives inside your head and is constantly pointing out to you what other people have and whether they are “above” or “below” you.

This monkey is obsessed with being on top, because in ancient times, a human with low status might get kicked out of the tribe and starve. This is one paranoid monkey!

So now it hisses in your ear, “We have the worst house on the street, the oldest car. Look how big that woman’s engagement ring is. Everyone else gets new backpacks for their kids each year.”

The status monkey is massively encouraged by the advertising monkey. Models look haughty in advertising and on the catwalk because, whether they know it or not, they are trying to activate this monkey in your head.

The monkey sees the ad and says, “See how she’s looking at you? That means you’re below her! If you buy this designer bag, then we can go up a level and feel higher, too.”

Kids can suffer cruelly under the tyranny of the status monkey. “Everyone else has one!” is a familiar cry.

Working on getting self-worth from what you do and who you are, rather than what you have, is the only way to quiet this monkey.

Ask your kids why they are pals with their friends. It will never be because they have the latest toy, but because they are fun or kind – intrinsic things. Reassure your kids that it’s this stuff that other kids care about too. Reassure yourself of this too, while you’re at it.

It’s been shown that whether you’re rich or poor, how you feel about your status can affect your immune system and actually shorten or lengthen your life.

So please, don’t let the status monkey trick you into thinking that people with more stuff or more expensive stuff have higher status. You give yourself your status.

Calm this monkey by telling it that you appreciate it looking out for your survival, but it doesn’t need to worry because you’re king of the jungle where it counts.

Monkey Four – The Attachment Monkey

Many of us want to declutter and let go of excess items that aren’t adding to our happiness. However, the attachment monkey clings hold of all of your possessions, no matter what, and makes big monkey eyes at you.

“How could you possibly let this go! It’s yours! You spent money on it! It’s worth something! What if you need it? It reminds you of someone. Maybe you’ll use it someday!”

This monkey needs to understand that objects which aren’t being used or appreciated are non-objects. In fact, they are draining, negative objects. They’re just clutter, and a waste of the materials and time that went into making them. The mere fact that you own them isn’t a reason in itself to keep them.

How can we beat this monkey?

Well, if the monkey says you might use an object one day, choose a specific time limit. Write the date on a sticker and put it on the object. Make a deal with the monkey. This is that objects expiry date. If you haven’t used or appreciated it before the date goes up, it goes.

If it is the waste of money that bothers the monkey, try and sell it to make a return. But think of it this way, it’s even more a waste of money if it’s sitting there making you feel guilty. Who wants to spend money on an object that makes them feel bad every time they see it?

When it comes to mementos, instead of clinging to them all, satisfy the monkey by picking one or two special items that can do the job of all the items you don’t use or look at.

These four monkeys all claim to have our best interests at heart, but at the same time they’re all trying their very best to stop us doing what will actually make us happier, less debt-ridden and more connected to what really matters.

Treat them as you would treat any monkey: kindly but firmly.

Say, “Thanks so much for the advice, but at the end of the day, you do not know what’s best for me… you’re a monkey.”

Then take the pill.

***

Tara Button is the creator of Buy Me Once, which was recognized by the Guardian as “[the] holy grail for those looking to prioritize quality over quantity.” She is the author of the new book, A Life Less Throwaway: The Lost Art of Buying for Life, out now. Through her writing and speaking, she inspires a lifestyle of reliable and responsible consumption.

 

https://www.becomingminimalist.com/4-monkeys-of-materialism/

Today was a me day, where I spent time on me, doing for me, paying attention to me, and listening to me.  This included a lot of reading.  Through the two simplifying/decluttering blogs I’m following, I found this well-written article which really resonated with my own feelings about where I am.  Consequently, I read the foregoing article several times today, and each time got something more from it.   The five things to remember are most useful.  I’m very grateful to the author, , who put some of my confusion into perspective and inspired me to get more done this evening than I have in donkey’s ages.


5 Things to Remember
When Simplifying Brings Up Complicated Emotions

On a fairly mild March day laced with the promise of spring, my 63-year-old dad went to a doctor’s appointment to review his CPET results and received good news: his heart was in great condition and his cholesterol levels were normal. Buoyed by the results, the next day he and mom, along with 4 friends, left for a 2-week vacation in Florida.

Two days after their arrival, my mom called with the news that my dad had suffered a massive heart attack and had died. Later in the week, the autopsy would reveal he had advanced heart disease which had somehow not shown up in any of his tests.

The fallout after an abrupt and completely unexpected loss like this is monumental, like a giant arm has swept itself across the surface of your life, dumping all of the contents on the floor, and you’re left sorting through the debris. There’s been no preparation, no sense of gearing up… just the task of clearing up and getting on with what’s left.

Fast forward almost 20 years, to a fairly mild March day laced with the promise of spring, when my 77-year-old mom and I went to her doctor’s appointment to do some memory testing, and received difficult news: the slow cognitive decline she had been experiencing for the past number of years had deteriorated into a diagnosis of dementia.

This confirmation of our suspicions was a gentle next step in this gradual loss we’d been experiencing. The changes continue to advance slowly, providing time to reflect, adjust, and grieve when we see certain parts are simply gone for good.

In the spring/summer of 2012, a variety of reasons (led by my mom’s failing memory) compelled us to make an abrupt decision to sell our side-by-side houses (our home was joined by connecting doors to my mom’s home), and move my mom into an assisted living facility while we moved into an apartment. My husband and I had 3 months to sort through and radically down-size two homes’-worth of accumulated memories and goods (all while I was working full time, taking 3 university courses, winding up an old job while preparing to start a new job). Needless to say, there wasn’t a lot of inner preparation or gearing up… we just had to get on with the task of clearing things out.

Decisions about all of our possessions, from kitchenware to high school yearbooks to garden supplies were made on the fly. Very strong and very painful emotions that arose during this process had to be acknowledged but put on hold until after the work was done. Since we knew we didn’t want to rent a storage facility for items that wouldn’t fit in our apartment, we chose to sell, donate, or trash whatever wasn’t coming with us. We were brisk, methodical, intentional…and almost robotic in our approach.

Even though we were making all of these decisions ourselves, it still felt as though items and memories were being snatched right out of our hands.

And then it was all over but the crying… when the tasks were completed and we were settled into our apartment, it was time to reflect and process and do the emotional work of letting go of the things we had already physically released. Our minds were so relieved to have less “stuff”, but it took our hearts a little while to catch up.

2 months ago, it was time for my mom to be moved to a fully-assisted living environment, so my sister, husband, and I gathered at my mom’s apartment to sort through her belongings and decide what would stay and what would go. Since the huge purge had taken place some 6 years earlier, this process felt much more manageable and gentle. There was time to carefully reflect on what mom could use and might love to have with her in her new place, and what items we could let go of with good grace. There were certainly some “pangs” involved with letting go of some of her things, but it seemed as though our hearts and our minds were (mostly) on the same page.

Letting Go – of relationships, possessions, identities, dreams, ideas, beliefs – is rarely easy for me to do. When I love something or someone, I tend to hold tight, wanting some kind of permanence and stability. The notion that “Change is never easy. We fight to hold on and we fight to let go” (Mareez Reyes) resonates deeply with me.

I used to prefer changes that would come roaring upon me, where my only job was to withstand the storm and then sift through the wreckage… like when my dad died… like when we chose to move quite suddenly. There was no preliminary sorrow leading up to the event – just the overwhelming grief when the powerful impact hit. The only fight in these instances was the fight to let go.

I was terrified of changes that could be spotted a mile away, where the losses are small but incessant, and the need for processing these griefs is continual and requires intentionality and mindfulness… like my mom’s slow decline into dementia… like sorting through her condo to prepare for her move to a nursing home. I was afraid of feeling both the fight to hold on and the fight to let go.

When it comes to dealing with the complicated emotions that can arise when starting the journey of simplifying, my various experiences have taught me the following:

1. Change – even change we ourselves instigate, invite, and welcome – usually involves a measure of grief.
Change always means a loss of familiarity of some kind, and it’s simply OK to sit with the difficulty and sadness that can arise in the tension of wanting to hold on while simultaneously choosing to let go. Feeling this way isn’t an indication that you’re doing it “wrong”.

2. Since change tends to involve grief, inner courage is required.
I’ve come across many people who are afraid of the emotions that may arise when sorting through their possessions, and so they choose to wait until they think they won’t feel an “emotional charge” when going through their things. This fear and procrastination are perfectly understandable, but I’d like to gently suggest that if you’re waiting until you’re not afraid, you may never actually begin. It takes courage to let yourself feel discomfort and unease in an endeavor that you know is for your benefit and gain. It takes courage to sit with the unexpected fears that bubble up throughout the process. And it takes courage to keep on going with the process in the midst of this discomfort.

3. There is no “one size fits all” technique to sorting through and removing our excess possessions.
There may be a season of life where a huge, intense purge might be the best and kindest way to rid ourselves of the extra “stuff” we have. Other seasons of life may require a gentler, longer, one-thing-a-time method of clearing out. Both approaches will most likely require a measure of inner reflection and processing; neither approach will spare us from the discomfort that might arise.

4. Gratitude is helpful.
I’ve only grown into this learning over the last few years, but I felt its profound effects when sorting through my mom’s things this past March. As I was sifting through various objects or papers or cards, if I came across something that caused an emotional pang, I’d take an extra moment or two to soak in the memory I had of this object and to say “thank you” for it. Then I’d visualize how a new family might use the item to create their own, new, meaningful memories together. I was grateful to recognize that something that felt valuable to me was being passed along to possibly become another family’s treasure.

5. Give yourself permission to grow.
In both our “upheaval” version and our “slower-paced” version of clearing out, we ended up having small “Not Just Yet” piles. Initially, this felt like a cop-out, but I’ve come to see it as a gentle way to help my heart transition from “holding on” to “letting go”. Having a bin of items ear-marked as things I would probably be ready to release in the future, but not just yet gave me permission to acknowledge that I was on a path of growth. Objects I wasn’t able to release in 2012 were much easier to give away in 2018. Having packed them away meant that I wasn’t using them, and re-visiting them down the road meant I had some time to grow into the readiness to send them on their way.

Taking the first step into a simpler, more minimal life may seem daunting and overwhelming, but compassionately allowing yourself to feel the complicated emotions that may arise at these beginning stages while continuing to move forward will set the stage for a more expansive and uncluttered heart-space and living space in the future.

Design a simple life. Start here. Start now.

You can design a life of less—and more. More of what you love, less of what you don’t. It’s a process, and we’re all in it together. We have created a 30-day email course that will inspire + encourage you on your journey.

The entire article is here and Karla also offers a 30-day course to help us in our journey.

Likely the most useful thing I understood after reading many of clutter guru Peter Walsh’s books (Lighten Up: Love What You Have, Have What You Need, Be Happier with Less, It’s All Too Much: An Easy Plan for Living a Richer Life with Less Stuff, Lose the Clutter, Lose the Weight: The Six-Week Total-Life Slim Down, Enough Already!: Clearing Mental Clutter to Become the Best You, and so on)  was that truly “It’s not about the stuff”.

Now that I’m moving my mum out of her home and into full-time nursing care, I am faced with the Herculean task of clearing out her space and ridding us of her collected treasures.  Someone else will be moving in soon–too soon.  I don’t have enough time to do this.

As I stood in the living room and looked around one day soon after she’d gone, I realized with deep, soul wrenching sadness that this is her life.  These things are her possessions, her treasures, things that she’d collected on road trips with my dad, trips with me; presents I’d given her, things I’d made for her as a kid, things we’d bought together in happier times when we were able to shop together.  Gifts given to her by long-ago students and friends.  Beautiful paintings by both of us, the artists in the family.

Friends in helpful manner keep telling me, “You’ll have to get rid of everything.”  “You can’t keep it.”  “You’ll have to be brutal.”  “You don’t need any of this.”  What do they think, that I’m a moron?  Of course I know thisI know that I can’t keep everything, that I don’t need two–or three–of anything.  I must get rid of as many items as possible.  Much of what Mum has means nothing to me anyway.  These are the easiest things to divest myself of:   old books by authors I don’t even care much for, her clothes and shoes.  These are packed up by friends and sent off to the thrift store with a sigh of freedom.  Excess kitchen ware, pots and pans, dishes go to a friend of a friend who is re-starting another, new life on her own.  She’s promised to invite me to dinner.  A fair trade.

The two hundred or so VCR’s give me momentary pangs.  These are mostly recordings she did herself, the one thing my technologically challenged mum learned to do, and she did it well.  They’re all neatly labelled:  “Manhattan, Pt. 1 and Pt. 2”.  “Queen Elizabeth, Coronation”.  “Marco Polo”.  “Murder She Wrote.”  Movies.  TV shows.  Comedies for my dad.  Mysteries for her.  And ice skating.  They both loved the skating.  The labels are blurry and faded; some of the tape is dried and peeling, so the tapes will be unidentifiable by the time they get to the thrift store.  Likely the thrift store will trash them all; after all, most folks don’t watch anything but Netflix these days.  But these tapes represent so many happy hours of shared TV-watching, dinner or snacks in front of a good story, family times of togetherness.  Her patience, her thorough work.  But go they must.  A kind friend boxes them up and hauls them down to her car.  I don’t look.

Unneeded furniture is easy enough:  Facebook Marketplace becomes my new job for a few days, although it takes me away from sorting and packing up.  Short ads, a few photos, low prices, and 32 responses in two hours.  But it’s work that needs dedication and complete commitment, I find.  One woman was most interested in the sofa and chair, so I e’d her back to find out when she’d like to come between certain hours that evening.  Then I went out briefly to do some errands.  Upon my return, I checked to see if she was still interested in coming.  She replied that since she hadn’t heard from me, she’d found another bargain.   I’d been gone barely two hours!  Guess that’s not fast enough in this hurry-up, techno world.  Didn’t matter, though–the sofa and chair eventually went to a rec room do-over by a lovely lady and her daughter with a dear little dog who would revel in its comfy-ness, just like our cats and dogs had.

The piano was the killer, though.  It was my dad’s wedding present to my mum fifty odd years ago, and it was old then.  Its lovely carved rosewood case always shone with polish, and I recall my mother playing Chopin and Ketelby and Beethoven while my dad and I squirmed in boredom.  (What I wouldn’t give to hear her play again.)  Finally, a friend of a friend took it to someone who refurbishes pianos.  He’ll check it out, put it on Craigslist, and get a few hundred bucks for it if we’re lucky.  But it cost me a pretty penny to have it moved.  Sigh.  But it’s out of the way.

Even so, there’s not enough time to do everything else before the movers arrive with the new tenant’s stuff.  I can’t keep up.  I’m overtired, overwhelmed, and overburdened.  I’m trying to keep up with work.  I’m eating on the run from fast-food places while visiting Mum in hospital.  Not sleeping properly.  There’s too much stuff, too much to do here.  And now it’s down to the nitty gritty:  things that I can’t part with so easily because they are paraphernalia I always used when I was cooking dinner for Mum and me in recent months; the pots and pans that she used to prepare the many delicious meals I enjoyed growing up; books of poetry she read to me when I was a child; small ornaments that have always stood on her shelves, plus other keepsakes, that speak of the familiarity of home.  Even asking Marie Kondo’s clutter-busting question, “Does it spark joy?”  can’t properly be answered now, because too many of the items do.  My heart hurts.  I’m giving away my mother’s home.  I can’t make any more decisions.  My earlier, fairly productive regime of using boxes for keep, donate, share with friends, garbage doesn’t work for me now.   Most things have become “I’ll decide later” as I stuff them into boxes and bring them to my place.  The boxes pile up.  My home looks like a hoarder’s hell.  Narrow pathways lead to the bedroom and the patio door.  Boxes line the hallway, are stacked up on the other side of the bed—I can barely reach the window to draw the blinds—and I can’t open cupboards in the kitchen without first moving something.  The bathroom’s always clean but the bed doesn’t get made for days.  Aarrgh!  I can’t stand it.  I can’t live like this, yet I have to, or bear the anguish of chucking everything out willy nilly and later realizing I’ve made some dreadful mistakes that can’t be undone.

I know this will surely happen, because three years ago, when I was renovicted, time was my enemy then.  In my hurry to pack up and move by the deadline, I ended up trashing things I didn’t mean to and keeping (and moving) things I later realized I didn’t need and didn’t want.  I can’t face this again, so now I’m keeping it all and am forced to live in a constricted space jammed with stuff.  My friend’s place looks great ‘cos all the focus has been on getting Mum’s belongings out of her way.

I AM SO TIRED.  I’d like to go to bed for a week or two, doing nothing:  no phone calls, no emails, no appointments, no errands.  NOTHING.  Then maybe when I get up, the boxes will have magically sorted themselves and everything will be put away, the empty boxes spirited away to the recycling bin.

I wish.

I dream in despair about the days when my life will be back to normal and my home will be my home, when I’ll have time to do what matters to me:  meditation, reading, writing, painting, preparing healthy veggie meals from my plant based food plan.  A bit of patio gardening.  A walk by the river in the sunshine every so often.  Daily, happy visits to Mum, making our last memories of time together.  Time is indeed running out.  For both of us.

In the meantime, the stuff is in the way.  It’s crippled me and is weighing me down.  My only hope is that once I can regain some energy, I’ll have to tackle it again, box by box, room by room.

Then perhaps I can re-create my life the way I meant it to be before this huge life change.  As it’s often been said, “Life is what happens when you make other plans.”  As Peter Walsh also says, “It’s not about the stuff – it’s about the life you wish to live.”  And I look forward to the day when I find a whole lot more of Marie Kondo’s joy and less becomes more.  That’s what I’m wishing for.

Inner Journey Events Blog

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Launching a career in poetry after a life-transforming event

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