Clutter: What are You Really Holding Onto…and Why?

I did this quick watercolour sketch of swans in my notebook thirty years ago – hence the wrinkles – while I was supposed to be writing a Yeats essay.  I came across it during my recent clear out.

I used to spend weekends walking on the beach near my boyfriend’s home, and occasionally I’d take my camera.  As an English Studies student, I spent most of my time reading and writing, so it was relaxing for me to capture moments then paint them later.

It’s the same process I use now, living the moments then recapturing them in my writing. But seeing the serenity I enjoyed back then and remembering the dreams I had of a writer’s life by the sea , I’m inspired to start painting again. Sometimes dreams don’t work out, but those captured moments make a life.

How do you capture the patchwork moments of your life?

~~~~~~~x~~~~~~~

The following piece was a guest post at Silver and Grace today.

What are you really holding onto… and why?

Your conscious mind has learned to ignore untidy shelves or rooms filled with old things. But your unconscious mind is overworked and weighed down by these things. It becomes free only when you get the stuff out of your house. ~ Tiki Kustenmacher

 I turned fifty recently, and my birthday brought with it a visceral longing, a craving to get clean and clear, to pare my house down to the basics so I could crawl out from under the weight of ill health, exhaustion and overwhelm, to build a bridge between a past that was anchoring me and a future beckoning me like the promise of a sea breeze.

We’ve all had that feeling at some time, that driving urge to declutter, but why does the clutter mount up in the first place? And I’m not just talking about clutter; I mean anything that clogs our spirit and bogs down our days: unfinished jobs, unwritten letters, stains and broken appliances are all tolerations dragging us down. Lots of posts give tips for getting rid of clutter, but maybe if we look at why we hold on to stuff, it’ll help us get rid of it permanently.

Insecurity or ego

Do you keep objects to show others who you are, who you were, how well you’ve done, how much you earn, how artistic, creative, well-read or well-loved you are?  Or do you keep them because they’re useful or still fill you with delight and inspiration?

Options…

Ask yourself why you display things, why you keep things. How many books are on your bookshelves simply to show people what you’ve read? Is your home office overflowing because you want folk to think you’re a very busy person?

If all the objects in your home are for you and your family, and they’re well-loved and useful, keep the most precious, take care of them and enjoy them. But if ego is in the picture at all, and you care what visitors think, ask yourself what other folk might actually be seeing and thinking. And remember, how they see you will be based on their own life view. Are they seeing clutter? Mess? Vanity? A disorganised mind? Pride? Insecurity? Cloying sentimentality? More money than sense?

Depression, reluctance, and keeping stuff  because we can

Sometimes we get overwhelmed without realising, and low grade chronic depression can creep in. This, in turn, can lead to clutter blindness or anxiety paralysis when we see the clutter piling up. If you think this might be you, then please seek professional help and ignore the rest of this paragraph. But sometimes we simply avoid clearing out clutter because it can be really hard work because of all the tough decision making it involves; sometimes it’s just easier to acquire and store than it is to get rid of stuff. Maybe you don’t think of it as clutter if it’s tidily hidden away in the attic, the garage, the basement, the spare room or the wardrobe in your study. Maybe you have so much space, it became easy to acquire and store stuff without you having to think much about the eventual consequences. But your unconscious brain knows it’s all there, and the more it mounts up, the less in control you feel.

Options…

Create a vibrant vision. If you’re lucky enough to have more rooms than you need, you could seriously consider the advantages of downsizing to gain financial freedom. Or if that’s not an option, consider how wonderful it might feel to give each room its distinct purpose back.

Imagine having…

  • …a tempting guest bedroom you long to fill with visiting loved ones; imagine a beautifully dressed bed and empty drawers and wardrobes waiting for a guest to fill them.
  • …a garage empty enough to get a car in, with enough space to reach essential tools easily.
  • …a basement empty enough to be a freshly decorated deluxe laundry room or a gleaming sports room/gym or a den.
  • …a study that’s organised and inspirational, with everything in its place.
  • …a clean, bright and tidy attic you can use to recycle belongings so they keep their energy when you bring them back down to the house. Is your attic scary, or a place that kids love visiting with you because it’s a treasure trove of clean, interesting objects waiting to make a seasonal appearance?

If you have a vision of where everything should go, then it becomes easier and emotionally less overwhelming to make the effort to put something in the right place. It also becomes less tempting to ruin beautiful new spaces by filling them with objects that don’t have a natural home there. Ask yourself what’s more enticing: keeping Aunt Edna’s horrible tea service or freeing up the space the box is currently taking up? Which brings me to…

Respect for others…

Many of us keep unwanted objects because they’ve become synonymous with those who have bequeathed them or given them to us as presents.

Options…

Take digital photos and start believing that possessions are objects, simply objects.  Then give them away, recycle them or bin them.

A present isn’t an object; the gift is the thought and the love that went into it, and no-one can take that away. The object is yours to do what you want with. Anyone who loves and respects you will understand that. Their love is not stored in the object. If you don’t love the object or it’s not insanely useful but instead is depleting your space, your simplicity and your fresh energy, then what they’ve actually given you (or bequeathed) might be clutter, sadness, an organisational headache, extra cleaning, the expense of storing, the bother of auctioning off or selling, or the guilt and anxiety of having to hide it and pretend. I’ve never looked back since the day someone asked where I’d put a gift they’d given me and I explained that it wasn’t my style but that someone else had loved it and we’d swapped.

Fear

Many of us hold onto objects out of fear of what folk will say if we get rid of them; we’re afraid to offend, to lose friends, to hurt others.

We’re also afraid of lack; what if we need something in the future, if something breaks or we lose it? What if we don’t have enough money to replace it?

There’s also the fear that if we get rid of objects, we’ll forget folk, lose our precious memories.

Fear is also one of the many reasons people keep books, the fear of boredom or loneliness as well as the fear of forgetting information. Some folk think they’ll never be lonely or bored if their home is bulging with books, picture frames or ornaments to dust and clean and rearrange. But are they taking the place of a home filled with friends or a future as tempting as a blank canvas?

Options…

Trust. Trust that you’ll always have exactly what the universe thinks you need. Trust that the heart will always, always remember what’s most precious, with or without prompts. Trust that when it comes to material objects, you need less and will be happier with less. Trust that decluttering will make you richer, slimmer, sharper and more energised. Trust that it will save you time.

Go digital. Take digital photos, scan documents and get books on Kindle. Donate books to charity shops, schools and hospitals, or to the library; if they’re in your local library, they’ll be there if you panic and need to access one. Investigate www.bookcrossing.com and set your books free. Sell them on Amazon or Ebay, in car boot sales or yard sales.

The need to provide

Some parents feel they have to pass on objects as a legacy, not just their own possessions and their children’s memorabilia but antiques, property and valuables.

Options

Pass them on now and watch their distressed faces as you clog up their homes while they stand there stoically, unable to say “No thank you”, because they love and respect you. Or let them earmark a few objects now, so you’ll know there will be no squabbling or disappointment after you go. Better still, bequeath an empty attic and happy memories to your loved ones when you go, maybe money, if there’s any left over from you living a full and generous life.

The need to collect

I read somewhere that it’s a human need to identify with something, like a totem, and that really resonated with me. Collections help us bring order into the overwhelming number of things the world has to offer us. But there’s a difference between selective, systematic collecting and simply keeping things.

Some of us inherit collections, and as I’ve mentioned above, some people feel they’re doing it to provide for others or out of respect for the dead. Some people collect because they experienced hardship in the past, some because they’re passionate, maybe obsessed. Some people keep their collections simply because so much money has been spent on them.

Options

Learn to see your own collecting as a search. Ask yourself what you’re really searching for. If you can’t part with an inherited collection but would like to, ask yourself what your deceased loved one really wanted you to have. Then you can keep the emotion and part with the objects. Sell unwanted collections to folk who would love them more. Keep only a few potent, symbolic pieces.

Emotional constipation

There is a clear link between obesity, depression and clutter collection. Obesity is often associated with emotional constipation; some folk can’t get rid of the physical memorabilia associated with certain emotions and the body switches over to store or self-protection mode, too. Clutter blocks the flow of energy, happiness and prosperity in our lives.

Options…

Treat your body and home as precious shelters for your spirit. Get very clear about what you need, then get those needs filled healthily, not through impulse buying, acquiring possessions or overeating. Only the best and most nourishing of food and possessions should be allowed into your life. Less is best. Get energetic about decluttering, and you’ll see the weight disappearing. Strip away the clutter that anchors you to the past, and enjoy some emotional freedom as your body lets go of its protective layers, too.

Seek out healthy fuel for the body and spirit, and watch as your life becomes more vibrant.

This approach to decluttering may feel like opening Pandora’s Box, not a treasure chest, but when you’ve faced up to what you’re holding onto and why, I promise you, you’ll find hope at the bottom of the box.

47 thoughts on “Clutter: What are You Really Holding Onto…and Why?

    • Thanks, Julia. I long to paint again. I can’t even really use the excuse of no space any more, seeing as I did the swans with a tiny wee kids’ water colour box, one brush and a glass of water at a tiny desk in a student room in halls of residence! I prefer oils, but right now I’d be happy if I could still make things look like they’re supposed to.

      I worried about the guest post because it encourages folk to ask themselves some hard questions, but my coaching has taught me that when it comes to clutter clearing, clients often need a compassionate, empathetic coach in their corner to ask the tough questions. They’re the questions that often get buried under the clutter.

    • Thanks, Dani! As it’s my coaching specialism, I’ve been writing about this kind of thing for years but you’re right about it being a season for letting go. I always have my biggest clutter culls in late August, September and October. (I also put the garden to bed for the winter at this time, too.) It’s a physical necessity to get my kids thinking in terms of new toys and clothes IN, old clothes and toys OUT. As well as Christmas approaching, this is our family’s birthday season and we have a small house.

    • Thanks, Hayden. My mum used to despair when I was wee, wondering if I’d ever get a ‘proper’ job. When I wasn’t doing school stuff, social stuff and sports, I spent all of my time reading, playing guitar, singing, painting, embroidering, making things and writing plays, stories and songs) My husband says I’d have been packed off to a Swiss finishing school if I’d lived a century ago. I told him he really should have been a rich Mr Darcy so I could just stay at home and call myself “an accomplished young (at heart!) lady”!

      Seriously, though, I often feel like an empty jug that gets filled with inspiration and something I want to express; the problems start when that interferes with the practicalities of the real world or if something, like illness, stops the jug from filling up. A lot of bloggers make it very clear they hate endless posts about why folk haven’t been blogging. I’m having a quiet wee revolution; I can’t see the point of folk torturing themselves with a blogging lifestyle more stressful and demanding than the employment many folk left behind!

  1. Hi Janice,

    You are definitely one very talented lady. Thank you so much for sharing that painting with all of us. I have seen some of your other work and it is so beautiful that you are so intune with your creative spirit. It is always such a joy to see it on display.

    As for clutter, someone once told me that a cluttered home means a cluttered mind. So often I think people identify who they are by what they own. While in reality, we define ourselves by our actions and not our possessions.

    A few moments after my mother took her last breath, it hit me that she left all her material belongings behind and all she took with her were her thoughts, feelings and actions. It was then that I realized that it was so important to not be so attached to material items. It reinforced the idea that those items should not enslave me but liberate me.

    Soon afterward, I went through my closet and gave away about 98% of the clothes that I had. It was one of the best feelings ever and every year, I donate whatever I no longer need. We do not have much and I am so grateful for it.
    .-= Nadia – Happy Lotus´s last blog ..Trouble Is A Friend: Investing In People And Not Things =-.

    • Thanks, Nadia. Now that my house has demanded a makeover and repairs (I never planned such an upheaval!) I’m longing to have a sit down at a clear space and get creating again

      My mum’s death, while I was pregnant with my son, had a profound effect on me, too. I was looking after my toddler at the time while my mum was in intensive care for weeks, wired up and unable to move. The staff were divided on whether or not my mum could see her only grandaughter, but one nurse let my daughter in and it helped my mum to turn a corner and she nearly pulled through. My dad lives in government housing, with only one bedroom, so all I had with me were a few clothes, books and toys. My husband could only visit at weekends. It became very clear to me what was important and what I could easily manage without. It would have helped back then if I’d been digital and computerised like we are now. Humankind has made so many leaps in such a short time and we take so much for granted. I didn’t even have a mobile phone (cell phone) back then.

  2. Glad to hear you are going back to painting, yet another site for your talents and expressive powers, Janice!

    Well, a new word resonates my response to this post: “expungiac” (something that make expunging easier, like an aprhodisiac makes…)!

    I appreciate the synchronicity, too, as earlier this morning I visualized tossing more papers, an effort often considered and as equally avoided ~ not convinced I’d follow through. And now post-your post, thank you, I will!

    You’re a role model for decluttering of homelife space and subsequent creative flow…

    • I’m glad my post brought some expungia to your day! What I’ve learned over the years is to ask myself why it’s so hard to part with things. Most often we feel like we’re parting with memories themselves, or validation that we existed, happy days, dead loved ones, creations we feel we gave birth to, friendships etc… symbols are good if they work for us, but you and I aren’t alone in finding it harder to get rid of objects if they’ve once held symbolic power. That’s why I worried a wee bit about my Silver and Grace post; it wasn’t sugar coated.But it always frees up a torrent of creativity and energy for me.

    • Nice to have you with us in the comments boxes, Josh! First of all, congratulations on an amazing achievement – everything but the books is awesome. Sounds, though, like you do re-read the ones you have, so you must have a great system in place. I could never live without books either – I love the “little suckers”, too – but I’ve just tried to become more organised about what I buy and keep.

  3. Janice, this painting is beautiful. You are good! Better than good. I like how you say, “I did this quick watercolour sketch of swans in my notebook.” You make it sound so easy 🙂 As for de-cluttering, it’s interesting I landed on this post today. I’ve been taking note of some of the possessions I have around my apartment and realizing what I appreciate and what I can easily let go of. It does make a difference to surround ourselves with beautiful things. Cept… now I feel like a need a new apartment, new furniture… blah, blah, blah. A huge shopping list!

    Please paint some more! I so admire artists.
    .-= Davina´s last blog ..10. A Thyme You May Embrace =-.

    • Thanks, Davina. That means a lot coming from someone else who loves painting. Maybe it turned out OK because I did it quickly. I didn’t have any analysis paralysis back then. I also love doing skies and water because it’s not crucial to get every wave or bit of cloud looking perfect, although this one came out looking like the photo but filtered through in-love-ness and serenity, if that makes any sense!

      It’s great that you’ve done that mental checklist – the next stage is to decide if you’re going to do anything about it. We’ve had three redundancy threats in as many years, so it really forces us to sit down and think about what we’d keep if we had to downsize even more than we did when we moved here.

      Are you into recreating your current apartment to make it feel like a new one?

  4. Hi Janice – your swans are lovely .. enjoy your painting. I’ve a friend who’s just taken it up again .. and I’d love to have that talent .. Laura’s promised me a picture! Which is a treat in store.

    I’m glad I’ve held onto the letters I’ve written on some of my travels – I’m sure the others will come to light soon! I can use them for my blog .. and others’ stories in reply are giving me ideas. The pictures and cards we’ve received I’ve festooned around my mother’s two walls at the Nursing Centre, as she has left sided neglect and can’t turn her head much after her strokes.

    I have however to declutter some of the stuff I’ve just tidied out of the way – it needs to be got rid of – now I have a little more time I’ll do some as I go.

    Clutter does tie you down – especially if it’s of no benefit. I enjoy my books though …

    Thanks – have a good week up there! …
    Hilary Melton-Butcher
    Positive Letters Inspirational Stories
    .-= Hilary´s last blog ..Grovel at Gravel … Recipe for a Moss Milkshake … =-.

    • Sounds like you know what’s important to you and where you’re headed. If you ever need to get rid of those wellwisher cards and photos but want to make something creative from them, you could scan and reduce them and then print off patchwork images onto special iron-on transfers and make a special scented cushion for your mum. They also lend themselves to being made into coasters and tablemats. Good luck with the scarier, permanent getting rid of things. You’ve done well to get this far!

      • Hi janice .. I could too – the thought of taking down the old ones and putting new ones up – Christmas card pegs (tiny gold and silver ones) .. I should do .. but the time element is the frightening thing – but my poor Mum must be rather bored by them . Your idea re the scented cushion for my Ma sounds a wonderful idea .. once I’ve finished my course end Nov – then perhaps I’ll try that .. my creativity hasn’t been around for 30+ years …

        I’ll get there .. just one thing at a time .. Thanks .. Have a good wet by the sound of it weekend? Oh & it’s the beginning of half term isn’t it? Enjoy …
        .-= Hilary´s last blog ..Provender Hedgerows with Autumn Colours =-.

  5. My journals holds the “captured patchwork moments of my life” along with the lessons I learn from them.

    Following, is the comment I left at Silver and Grace:

    This is heavy stuff Janice. I see myself in several of the scenarios you listed. I have some serious work to do so I’ll begin today. With trash bags and boxes I am embarking on a journey to de-clutter at a deeper level than I have in the past.
    .-= Cheryl Wright´s last blog ..Save time with Ping.fm =-.

    • Thanks for popping over to Eliza’s and then coming back here, Cheryl – I appreciate it. I usually close the comments when I do guest posts, but I seem to have done that a lot lately. I’m just going with the flow when it comes to blogging at the moment, hoping that it’s more respectful to readers to write when I’m inspired and feeling well than to simply keep to a timetable if I’m under the weather and have nothing inspiring, supportive or useful to say. I’m hoping folk will be encouraged to do the same, to stay true to themselves and not become slaves to a blogging routine that no-one else forced them into.

      Thanks for validating that sometimes the hard questions about why we acquire – and then can’t let go of – certain objects are the very questions we need to ask ourselves. I hope that deeper level of clearing out you’ve embarked on will lead to deeper levels of clarity, happiness and creativity. Let us know how it goes!

    • Thank you! Lovely to see you over here, and thanks again for the link.

      Isn’t haiku a wonderful way to create a life patchwork? Maybe it’s because such intensity is captured in each moment, but when I re-read mine, I re-live the experiences, more than with any other kind of poetry I write. Are your short stories fictional? I recently re-read my oldest Coaching Moments pieces and was a bit saddened to see how much brighter and chirpier I was a few years ago, at the height of my coach certification mentoring, before I got ill and menopausal.

      (PS I think some Scottish friends of mine worked in or near Cairns; it rings a bell. )

      • Yes~ the short stories are fictional. I have a comp in Australia at end of October and have signed up for NaNoWriMo this year~ pressures!

        I have been blessed this year with my online work now sustainable~and I am now able to explore my passion for writing.

        Cairns is a wonderful place to work and live. Tropical paradise~ we are so fortunate here…I’ve been watching docs about the oppression in Ingushetia~ we really have no idea sometimes how lucky we are…
        .-= Char (PSI Tutor:Mentor)´s last blog ..A Collection of Student Resources =-.

        • Good luck with your competition and with NaNoWriMo. I absolutely know I couldn’t manage it, but the community spirit it generates is amazing. The internet is crackling with it.

          You’re so right about how much we take for granted; I’ve been an unbearable misery for weeks now and although my mind tells me that gratitude and awareness are the best cure for everything, my body’s not co-operating. But my family is happy and healthy, safe and warm, and I’m alive, not tortured, shelterless, starving, dying of thirst and disease, afraid or abused in slavery. If I keep stuffing myself full of minerals and good food and reminding myself how fortunate I am, I’ll get my zest back and turn the corner soon. Thank you!

  6. Janice,
    I don’t have clutter because I don’t buy stuff and bring it in my home anymore. However I have paper clutter in my office that doesn’t go away. Why do I like to print and read?

    Someone told me if I threw everything out I could just go to Google and get it again! I know it’s true but it didn’t help;)
    .-= Tess The Bold Life´s last blog ..Bold Colors and Bold Fun With Family =-.

    • Hi, Tess. I don’t buy much either, but that doesn’t stop folk giving us stuff or us getting rid of all the stuff already we’ve had for years and have been recycling between attic and living spaces! I guess it’s one of the downsides of being sentimental and frugal, and of taking good care of things. But as we evolve, our needs change, and even formerly precious objects can lose their emotional charge. That’s why I chose to tackle difficult issues in my post, like what to do with inherited objects, gifts, books and ‘potentially useful’ things. (I’ve already mentioned what to do with kids’ stuff on other blogs.)

      I tussle with the paper tiger a lot myself; I don’t like reading online for too long as I get headaches and like to scribble notes on paper printouts. Sometimes I’m vindicated because things do become obsolete, and some of my favourite online coaching materials were ’sold’ when the author died; luckily I still have the printouts from when they were free and available to all. But tough love tells me there are some printed materials I’m holding onto for some of the Pandora’s Box reasons I mention in my post, everything from ego and fear to validation and false frugality.

      Let me know if you ever want buddy coaching on office clearing. It’s one of my specialisms!

  7. Interesting that you write about this. I just did a post on cleaning and purging. We all hold on to too much! Letting go gives us room for more good energy. I love the way my home feels right now…like it can take a deep breath.

    Beautiful painting by the way!!! Perhaps finding this is a message to pick up your brush again???
    .-= Caroline´s last blog ..Clean! =-.

    • I love the description of your home taking a deep breath – that’s exactly what mine was screaming out for. Me, too, in a way. I felt I was drowning in not only clutter, but the past – dead dreams, lost loves, fading friendships. When I talk about clutter, I don’t just mean the messy kind, I mean anything that’s dragging my soul down, from unsewn on buttons, to undealt with paperwork. Purging is such a good word!

    • I’m relieved to hear you’re still enjoying my journey towards getting clean and clear. I worry, because even though I try to be authentic, I don’t know how much more of my decluttering details folk will be able to take. But that’s where I am right now, so that’s where the writing takes me. You’re right; clutter’s bad for the mind and spirit, and as I have less control than I’d like over my health concerns at the moment, at least purging and buffing up my home is something I can control and see the results of.

  8. If you could quickly sketch a beautiful art like that, how much more if you took more time! Your talent if magnificent. Still, we have to make a choice in our life, choices that will make us happy. But looking at your past painting, maybe there’s something you need to relive. 🙂

    • Thank you so much for visiting, Walter, and for a comment that made my heart smile. (I have a friend who says it makes her want to gag when I use phrases like that, but I’m absolutely convinced that everyone who visits this blog knows exactly what I mean!)

      I’m becoming more sure every day that I need to start doing a few wee paintings again. I find it totally absorbing, just focusing on one tiny wee speck of colour and texture and then trying my best to reproduce the exact colour on my palette and get the proportions and relationships right. I need to get even more resourceful when it comes to creating a space to work in. Life’s too short for excuses and time really does expand sideways when I’m in the flow and doing what I love.

      I’m so sorry I didn’t reply sooner. For some reason I haven’t been able to figure out, WordPress has stopped sending me alerts when someone comments and I found yours in moderation. It’s happened to me at other blogs and I felt awful, even though I guessed the same thing had happened. I hope it won’t stop you visiting again.

    • Thank you! Caroline above asked me if maybe coming across this painting was a sign to start painting again. I think it is. I love writing, but sometimes it’s just nice to share photos, quotes, paintings and recipes. If I come across any more of my old paintings, the lovely comments I’ve had here will make me brave enough to scan and post them.

  9. Oh Janice, you are ever the surprise with your gifts and talents! The painting is beautiful. I would dare say that even the wrinkles add to it, because they give it that “watery” feel. I would love to learn to paint like an adult, and not like a child. I tend to still do artwork as taught in kindergarten, e.g. water =blue. How does one look at water and see those myriad colors that make it look so real? You truly have an eye for the beautiful.

    Now, off to answer your questions!

    How do you capture the patchwork moments of your life?

    I blog! 🙂 Each week I am able to capture those fun, meaningful, fleeting experiences of life, that I would otherwise forget about, through blogging. Blogging has helped me see meaningful moments as they happen. It has refined my “eye” so to speak.

    I also scrapbook. I adore taking photos and creating a piece of art with the photo, some paper and embellishments, and my own journaling words.

    What are you really holding onto… and why?

    This is the question I have had the most anguish with. I’ve been back here several times this week, asking myself that same question. I think I finally know the answer, after several days of brutal honesty and self-reflection. (Oh if only everyone would truly take advantage of a life coach’s questions when they are asked!)

    I hold onto things because of one root need: security.

    I grew up in the home of an alcoholic, and things were never secure. We never knew if dad would come home and be Mr. Nice Guy, or if we would be grounded because he found a piece of thread laying on the carpet. We never knew if we would be yelled at for asking a simple question, or for smiling during dinner, or for bringing a friend home.
    I grew up trying to create a safe environment for myself.

    Unfortunately, I believe that security came in the form of collecting “things.” As a young adult, I did not throw many things out. “What if I need it someday?” became my cry of security. Knowing that I had my things, and that they were where I needed them, made me feel less unanchored. But what does an anchor really do? Sure, it keeps you from being rocked about by a storm, but it also does something else. It weighs you down. It’s heavy.

    Over the years, my things became heavier and heavier. They were also of less and less use. Since I had so much stuff, I could never find it half the time anyway. My catalyst for change came this year, when I realized that I have moved on the average of once a year for the last six years. I was simply carting stuff from home to home, usually never even opening more than half of the boxes.

    This last summer was a breakthrough for me. I realized that I was simply carting stuff around. I went through box after box, throwing away “stuff” that I was only keeping “in case.” I threw away pictures that small children had drawn for me twenty years ago. I realized that by throwing away the picture I was not throwing away the love that was behind it. I threw away hand lotion that made me sneeze, but that was given to me by a precious friend eight years ago. I gave away a table that had been in the family for forty years, because someone needed it worse than I did. I learned that by getting rid of stuff, I was not negating the love that gave me those things to begin with.

    And now, you have asked the biggie of all questions. Why did I hold onto it in the first place? And the answer I learned this week, because of your prompting, was safety. Security.

    Now when decluttering I will be able to ask myself if I am only holding on to something for safety or security reasons. And I will be able to ask, and hopefully answer with honesty, “Will I still be safe and secure if I throw this thing away?” I think I’ll be ok…
    .-= Randi´s last blog ..Thoughts of a Twitterless Thinker 10-23-09 =-.

    • Thanks, Randi. I have a very simplistic approach to painting. I take photos of, or directly paint, what inspires or expresses me – that’s what puts the heart into the painting and makes it easy to really get absorbed in each tiny bit I want to copy. When I do landscapes, I often just miss out tricky bits. When I’m gloomy, I enjoy doing grey, cloudy skies and stormy seas!

      Thanks, too, for your wonderful, detailed response; it’ll inspire a lot of folk. I hope you do a version of it on your blog as a post. In the full version over at Eliza’s Silver and Grace, I deliberately compared investigating our reasons for holding onto stuff as opening a Pandora’s box. The reasons are rarely pretty, and I’ve been guilty of most at some time.Your story moved me and made so much sense. You’d be a joy to coach!

      I grew up in a poor area, and one of the reasons I became so creatively resourceful was because we had to be. I also looked up to my dad. He’s a natural inventor and he made things at his work and in the shed. But the downside was a tendency to keep things because there was nothing wrong with them and they might be useful.

      I also had to share a room and that made me long to express myself in small ways, through objects, posters and music because I had no say over the bigger stuff.

      I know you’re going to see in your next half century with a renewed, refreshed spirit after the marvellous start you’ve made to clearing out this year. I have dozens of what I call my homelife coaching books that I’d love to upload into my poor neglected bookshop at some point. I think you’d like them.

  10. My grandmother used to say, “Three moves are as good as a fire…” for getting rid of Stuff! It always amused me that she was so clear about her attitude to things.

    I am a life-long chucker! Even my diamonds, (doesn’t that sound grand!): they meant nothing to me, would yield little if sold, and made a lavish gesture when given, perfect!

    I burnt my diaries once I realised I didn’t want other people ever to read them. There is very little I regret shedding.

    Gran also said “It’s no loss what a friend gets.” What I really miss is her.
    .-= Tricia Rose´s last blog ..Potlatch =-.

    • Hi tricia Rose,
      I’m sorry your comment got lost in moderation because of my WordPress problem, but I enjoyed it when I found it. Your grandma sounds like she would have made a wonderful blogger! Have you written a wee book full of her wisdom yet?

      I love your energy around letting go of stuff, especially the part about “lavish gifts.” When I coach folk through decluttering, there’s always a box called RECYCLING. Gifts come under that.

      Like you, I’ve also shredded most of my old writing and diaries this year. I read them, learned, shared a few bits, kept a few bits then let go.

    • You’re a sweetheart – thank you! I love Eliza’s title, too. I’ve gone much greyer in the last few months -probably another unwelcome symptom of mineral deficiencies, along with the clumps that have been falling out, so I’m going to have to investigate some silverification 😉 Silver haired sounds better than grey. My kids aren’t happy about me dyeing it in case I get white roots or the colour wrong. Part of me fancies that colour that looks like it could be white or platinum blonde. But I’m still too dark to go there yet.

      I love my comment boxes, too. Good people come here. I’ve been worried recently that I ramble on in my replies to only one or two folk who subscribe to the comments, but when I get glimmers of my old positivity back, I remind myself that no-one makes me write so much. I do it because I enjoy it, because the replies are there for anyone to read and for the commenters to find if they ever come back to see what’s been happening.

      Blogs are an amazing invention, but there are just so many good ones out there and so little time (and eyesight) to enjoy them all and suport everyone worth supporting. I’ve let a lot of folk down recently in blogs I used to visit daily, but I simply can’t keep up the pace anymore. Some days I do email; others, I do reading, catching up and commenting; I was in bed at the weekend writing two of my monthly columns. I sometimes wonder how I used to manage it all six months ago. Today, I plan to post in my own neglected baby bloggling.

      I’m glad you love the watercolour!

      • (re: “if they ever come back to see what’s been happening.” You do know, don’t you, that every new comment posted here, along with your reply to each, shows up in our email after we leave a comment. No need to ‘come back’, except to check for new posts.)
        .-= Brenda´s last blog ..Laughter is a Funny Thing =-.

        • Ah if only… the only ones who get those emails are people like you who’ve clicked the subscribe to comments box at some point. It’s not automatic. A lot of folk choose not to subscribe to the comments on blogs because it can mean a lot of email alerts on the more popular blogs.

          I’m really pleased you read my comments though; you’ll understand why I’m wondering if I should be replying less and posting more. I always hoped I could do both. Maybe when I’m feeling brighter or when I’m used to what’s happening to my body and I can build new routines around it.

  11. Thank you for the reminder to declutter. I’m still awaiting the opportunity to do it systematically when we are able to finally unpack. My brain and heart are almost ready.
    .-= Daphne´s last blog ..The House of Me =-.

    • I’m confident your heart and mind won’t just be ready, come the day, they’ll be desperate to get going and overflowing with pent up energy and creativity. We’ll be here when you start, and every step of the way with you as you work your way through it. It’s not easy at the beginning, but it’s do-able. And then it starts to be fun, and some bits get to be so liberating they become addictive. Good luck!

  12. Yes, I’m cluttered! I’m in the process of giving blog-birth. (Who said men cannot have babies?) Though, it is unusual at nearly 70! I think I found you on Write To Done or Zen Habits over a year ago. I always love your header picture. It has taken me a month to work out how to link with Google’s SE. (Thus ‘http-‘). Although my blog is a light-year away from yours in subject, and may scare you off, I just wanted to say thank you for the encouragement found on your pages- before I forget! I am one of those that have almost sent a comment and never did. Today, I must attack my clutter! (Whisper: I de-subscribed a week or two ago! A way of getting through 600 emails. But, I’m re-subscribing.) Thank-you, Janice!
    .-= Alastair lancaster´s last blog ..Blowing Up Parliament =-.

    • You’re welcome! I know from my subscriber numbers that there are a lot of folk who don’t comment so it’s great that you’ve joined us in the ‘boxes’. I’m glad you found support here; I’ve been determined from the start to try and make this a place where folk can feel comfy just ‘being’. I’m very lucky to have the visitors I do. It never fails to encourage me that so many good people gift us with their thoughts and time here.

      Don’t worry about the unsubscribing. I’ve had to do that myself a lot to stop the overwhelm. Reading blogs can suck you in and consume a lot of time without you noticing the creeping pace it happens at. Declutter first! It’ll help you get clarity in your blogging and your life.

      I’m really impressed that you’ve started a blog at 70! It took me ages to get over my technophobia and I’m still plodding along with my learning every day. I’ve been lucky that there are a lot of folk in our blogging community that are genuinely kind to new bloggers. I’ve had to ask a lot of folk for a lot of help.

  13. Strange. My email to you failed. The address was correct. Hey-ho! So I pop the message here. Which you can wipe.

    Dear Janice,

    Thank you very much for your good advice, which I intend to follow! It is nice to think of zen habits, but delay their adoption. After all, Babauta is on an island in Micronesia somewhere. He can’t get at me. You, however, are a bit closer to home! (That was partly why I was interested in your blog at the beginning.)

    Your advice was sent to me personally, which I appreciated, as it came out of your time.

    That’s different.

    http://ddiff.com/uncategorized/a-blog-i-like/
    .-= Alastair lancaster´s last blog ..“Wet” Conservatives =-.

    • Hi Alastair,
      I’ve been encountering all kinds of blog related problems involving emails I no longer receive. I’m sorry yours didn’t get through.

      Thank you very much for the link on your new blog and the kind words you wrote. I’m glad you take the time to sit down with a cuppa and read my longer pieces. Not everyone does these days.

      You’re right about the subject matter of our blogs being very different 😉 , but as long as no-one’s harmed by what folk choose to express in their blogs, differing, authentic opinions make the blogosphere a kaleidoscope where everyone is catered for.

Comments are closed.