If you’ve been reading our blogs for a while, you will know that one of the topics I like to write about is clutter–how to manage it or just plain get rid of it!
My struggle for forty years is paper clutter (books, magazines, files, and the like). I am improving my handling of incoming books (mostly for review), by giving them away and magazines that I try to read as soon as possible and toss or give away. But the forty custom courses I’ve created and delivered over the years–all that work!–I can’t seem to let go. Maybe writing about it here (in a very public way) will enable me to come to terms with letting go of this stuff too. But the process is slow; because I have this need to review everything once more.
If managing our own clutter is not enough, what happens when you are tasked with not only caring for Mom or Dad but also clearing out the family home as I was?
It was a nightmare!
People might say, “Wow, look at all the treasures, the valuables … our family history!”
But what happens when you start pulling a few boxes away from the living room wall and your spouse exclaims, “Wow! I didn’t know there was a fireplace, here!”
What happens when you must clear out three commercial garbage bins–the size of semi-trailers–worth of stuff!
It’s time to revisit what’s gone wrong with how we manage our possessions.
When a long-time hoarder friend wanted to name me as executor of his estate, I warned him:
Until you clean up this mess, you’d better not!
If he did name me executor, it would be a very cruel joke indeed.
Fortunately, I don’t enjoy spending my scarce time shopping. And those of you who have met me know, I will think of the following before I reach out to accept something you are giving me:
- Can I use it?
- Where will I store it?
- What will I get rid of, instead?
- Do I know someone who can use it who I can give it to immediately?
And when I do accept you have more often heard me say, “I don’t think I’ll be able to use this, but if it’s all right with you, I know someone who will benefit greatly from your gift.”
This past weekend while walking to the park with my neighbor, we spotted a couple friends who were hosting two of their friends from Palo Alto–one, a psychotherapist and the other, a school aide.
We got to talking about clutter and hoarding. (What can I say? This is something I’m working on.) I wish I had a video camera to record our 15 minutes of spontaneous discussion. Before parting ways, the school aide suggested I look into the new book entitled, STUFF. When I searched online for the word “stuff,” I came across a video–The Story of Stuff. I still don’t know if this is connected to the book she was talking about, but the video was eye-opening.
The Story of Stuff Project is a creatively executed line-drawn video with a powerful message about our consumer- oriented society. Although the economic collapse has tempered our need to buy, what will happen when we finally see a sustained recovery? Watch the video when you need some time to sit back and relax.
Years ago, we’d use things until they were worn out. Today, we go through cell phones every 2 years! Considering how many of us have cell phones, what do we do with our perfectly fine “old” 3G iPhone now that the 4Gs are available?
Now’s the time to really learn what we can do, while we’re still feeling the pain. After all, as I recently asked caregiving attendees during a conference: How often do we stop when things are going stupendously, and ask ourselves, ‘What am I doing right?’ We should, but we don’t.
Watch the video and really give thought to what you bring into your home. The clutter, the mess adds to your stress. And if your “stuff” is not enough, remember, there’s Mom and Dad’s “stuff” too!
I look forward to your comments. Who knows, your comments might find themselves in my ninth book…with your permission, of course!
Brenda Avadian, MA
The Caregiver’s Voice