Attacking Anchors in the Attic

side porch

Because after all, a home is the empty space of possibilities in which you write your life. ~ Dawn Ritchie.

This is the longest I’ve gone between posts, and you know what? The sky hasn’t fallen. My kids will be back at school soon and summer’s already fading, so I’ve been limiting my time online, loving my family better and blessing my home with a thorough clean. After a week of broadband, browser and server problems, it hasn’t been such a hardship to shelve my cyber life for a bit.

I planned to write a post on Sunday – began it even – and then, as I was sitting curled up in the sofa, jotting down notes, I looked down and decided I wanted to swap our living room rug for a lighter coloured one that’s stored in the attic. Suddenly, out of the blue, it seemed very important to get into the attic and find that thick rug; hand-woven in the colours of sea shells and sandy beaches, we’d bought it in our first year together in Portugal.

My husband lowered the loft ladder, climbed up and started stomping around. He banged his head and cursed as he looked for it behind Christmas boxes and kids’ keepsakes. I joined him in the search then my heart sank as I saw the mountain of vacuum packed bags.

I’m fairly ruthless about keeping clutter tamed in the house, but fabrics are one of my danger zones. I shouted down to my son and started tossing the plastic bags down the loft ladder, not sure what on earth I was planning on doing. He carted each one off into the living room.

I was horrified when I saw just how much I had. My husband shook his head in disbelief, then quickly went off to put the kettle on. The living room smelled of mothballs, reminding me of every house in Greece I’d ever visited.

There were bags of curtains I still like but have rotated; curtains from my old house which don’t fit the windows of this house; bright woven blankets and cushion covers from Greece; sentimental scraps of old fabrics from previous clear-outs that I’d planned to make wall hangings with (I used to sew) and my precious bag of antique lace, cut threadwork sheets, embroideries and doilies.

embroidered jugI inherited those from my mum, my mum’s cousin, and many a Greek lady who wanted to add to my dowry. I took out every piece, admired every stitch, then carefully smoothed them and repacked them, ready to put the bag back up in the loft. These little hand-crafted works of art give me immense pleasure. Lives are woven into them, daydreams and moodlings, memories and wishes captured in every stitch.crocheted lace

Each bag contained its own stories. I found the blanket that had covered my bed before I met my husband; the baby patchwork quilts that had covered my babies in their cots; the jeans I was wearing the day I met my husband, the suit I wore to the interview that got me my first post in Greece and my first job in a university; the sparkly red Lurex top my mum wore for ‘posh’ at Christmas; the dress I’d made and worn to my graduation in Athens and to church for a baptism. I hugged and laid aside the Lurex top and the cot quilts.

Overcome with ruthlessness, I decided that most of what the bags contained was dragging me down, anchoring me in the past, connecting me with other homes, other lives and the stillborn dream we had a few years ago of moving into a new-build home here in Scotland. We were able to input into the standard design so the architect’s plans included a front porch, lots of interesting landings and small windows as well as larger windows and a sun room opening onto a sunny south facing back garden. (The contractors let us down and sold their business; the house was never built, and the curtains never hung.)

My husband, dreaming of a safe and empty attic, brought in a roll of bin bags, knowing that there was a brief window of opportunity before sentimentality stalled me, We’ve worked together so often in the past, he knows my system. One bag is allotted to each of the following:

  • car boot sale or antique shop
  • charity donations or charity jumble sales
  • the rubbish bin
  • recycling
  • raw ingredients for creative craft projects
  • gifts to friends
  • things to be kept

My system is simple: an object gets kept if

  • …I think it’s beautiful and it never loses its positive emotional charge for me or becomes ‘invisible’.
  • … it’s been used at least once or twice in the last year.
  • …I want to give my children the choice of whether to keep it or not when they have a place of their own and they’re old enough to make the decision
  • …I’d replace it in the event of damage or theft.

I no longer hold on to objects to honour a memory; I honour those I loved and lost by living as fully as I can. For many years now, I’ve also refused to hold onto unwanted gifts that other people have given me;  I’m more afraid of the unhealthiness of emotional blockage and physical clutter that I am of offending folk.

yellow antique laceOnly three bags went back into the loft, each of them filled with dreams that inspire me to move forward, memories cherished, or practical items for rotation in this existing home. (Swapping rugs, curtains and cushion covers every season gives me colour co-ordinated flexibility and freshness without spending a fortune.)

Blogging has distracted me from a lot of things in the last five months, and gutting my home is just one of them. But as always happens, the minute I cleared that corner of the loft, I longed to log on and share it with you. I have some guest posts lined up with colleagues, but in the next few weeks, I hope to be doing a lot more posts about getting clean, clear and unstuck. Whether you’re a writer, a homemaker, a coach yourself or someone who works from home, I hope you’ll find something to inspire you to get that vacation-home feeling for yourself.

Today, my son was online and came in saying he’d found a house with a porch in Canada and a few homes in our town that he thought I might like as much as the one we nearly built. (My son and I are spookily connected when it comes to houses.) There are rarely any homes for sale within our price range where we live, yet he found five. I suddenly realised that the universe had nudged me into the loft to make room, room for new dreams and possibilities. We’ve built a good life in this house, but when synhronicity speaks, I sit up and listen. We’re going to check out a few of those houses this week.


In homelife coaching, areas of  the home can be seen as symbolic. Some say the attic can represent ideas or the future.

 A crammed storage space blocks your personal and professional development. It acts like a lid that prevents your tree of life from growing. If you get rid of old souvenirs, keepsakes, worn-out clothes, and other things, you will discover new perspectives that you never dared even to dream before. ~ Tiki Kustenmacher


A Feng Shui  colleague of mine once said “Clutter holds your dreams.”  What could you get rid of right now to clear some space for new dreams and possibilities?

photo from My Home Ideas via The Inspired Room


  1. I am so tickled that you are indulging in all the things that count. Putting out the “Gone Fishing” sign is good. Keep them wanting more. Collective Inkwell dot Com has “Gone Fishing” until 8/20/09.

    Cheers to summer, children and everything else in between that REALLY counts.
    .-= Cindy´s last blog ..Taking Off =-.

    1. This is the first summer with the kids that I haven’t spent the whole time indulging in the things that count – blogging could blow me off course if I let it, so I’ve decided not to let it! Hope you’re having a great summer too!

  2. Good for you! I feel the same. When we moved last year I got rid of so many things. I found that they really weighed me down. I love to de-clutter. When you think about it, we really do not need much. I love how your son found some homes to look at…have fun!

    In regards to blogging…I get it! Being off line for almost 10 days has really made me re-think some things. I will not be posting as much… There is life to be lived and enjoyed off-line too.
    .-= Caroline´s last blog ..Determination =-.

    1. I start to feel physically ill and put on weight if I don’t keep things simple and keep on top of decluttering. These few days away from the computer, like other ‘breaks’ I’ve had, have helped me get some real clarity about how I work best and what I need to do if I’m to share anything of worth with folk. I look forward to seeing the photos of your holiday!

    1. Your circumstances are exceptionally difficult, Lori. I don’t know how I’d cope in your situation, but I do know you’ve got the strength of character and wisdom to find a way to smile through this and help everyone else at the same time.

  3. Hi Janice,

    I always feel better when I donate things I no longer need. It is nice not to be enslaved by what we own. In our home, if something has not been used in a year or two, we give it away. It makes the house look cleaner and it feels lighter too. Simple living is the way to go.

    I loved the pictures too. I am happy that you had a nice break. You were missed! 🙂
    .-= Nadia – Happy Lotus´s last blog ..Make It Happen – Sunday Song for August 9, 2009 =-.

    1. Hi Nadia,
      I do feel refreshed. You’re right about that “lighter” feeling; I always feel physically lighter when I see the black bin bags sitting by the door, ready to be taken to their various destinations. And “enslaved” – although a strong word – is how a lot of folk get when they become overwhelmed and can see no way out from underneath. I have a friend who’s addicted to books and almost recoils in horror when I mention that I’ve donated books to the library or given them away.

      One thing I always tell folk to do when they’re decluttering is to completely clear a space and clean it till it shines before they put anything back. Most folk are stunned at how much space they actually have and are loathe to refill it with clutter.

  4. Two or three times a year, I get the itch. I take one room at a time and sort through my stuff. Some things are hard to let go. If my efforts to loosen my sentimental hold on them brings me to tears, I transfer them to my For Consideration box and keep the box where I can glimpse it every day.

    Usually, after a couple of weeks,I can re-open my For Consideration box and give away or throw away some items and close the box without any regret.
    .-= Cheryl Wright´s last blog ..Saturday Soirée – AAARRRHHHGGG! =-.

    1. The For Consideration box seems to work well for you! I sometimes use a box with a big ? on the side, date it and stick a label on it with the contents. It breaks the abrupt connection between keeping something in situ and permanently getting rid of it. If the ? box is full of stuff that used to be in a room, I put it in the loft and go through it a few months later. Like you say, the emotional connection is often weaker the second time you sort through it.

  5. It seems you’ve had a wonderful life so far, with all those treasured memories. I’m glad you had a chance to take stock. I do like so many organizers’ suggestion that you photograph special pieces before sending them off to be shared by new folks.

    Giving away things you don’t use or even see any more is a worthy and charitable pursuit. When I think of all the lovely things I bought at the Goodwill store when my first child was born… I have to thank the women who parted with these special baby clothes and toys. I’m sure it wasn’t always easy to let go of infancy.

    I have to tackle the hall linen closet we packed with things when we moved in 6 years ago. There are some things in dark corners I know I planned to finish. Giving up plans to finish things provokes feelings of the finite side of life. Only so much time. What do I want to do with it?

    You still have your children with you? Once they leave it gets harder to part with the past. It’s like no one will remember if I don’t.

    I’d like to exchange my love of the past for a love of the future, please.
    .-= Diana Maus´s last blog ..Well, excuuuse me! =-.

    1. Hi Diana,
      My kids are with me but I have a system. We part with most things at car boot sales and charity shops, but a few precious things they can’t bear to part with (but don’t want in their ‘grown up rooms’) are stored in labelled boxes in the loft waiting for the day they leave home or have kids. I also have a secret stash of things that intoxicate me with memories, like their first baby sleep suits and socks, just to remind me of the size they were. The key for me is control and choice. I choose what to store and keep and so it empowers me; I don’t feel I can’t get rid of things. Except books. Now that’s where I struggle as a lot of mine are obscure and unavailable in Scottish libraries. I know the theory, but have challenges simply due to space. We lost our study and a garden room when we moved here.

      I do photograph lots of things and it really helps; I also do an energy regathering ritual sometimes which attracts any part of me that’s in the object back to me before I part with it. I read that somewhere, thought it sounded daft and far fetched but tried it once and I swear I felt something easing inside me.

      I was thinking of some of your unfinished projects and wondered if you might be able to photograph any finished parts of them and then piece them all together as a patchwork/mosaic, maybe even scan the finished image onto an iron-on printer sheet and then iron it onto a canvas. Life in its essence is unfinished, always evolving. Your unfinished pieces might evolve into a piece of art symbolising the beauty of creativity that continually renews itself. I know it’s hard to let go of dreams that didn’t happen, projects never finished, but sometimes it can be very empowering and free up space for new dreams and projects.

      You might enjoy Davina’s post over at Shades of Crimson at the moment.

  6. On my last job I worked with drug addicts, abusers, troubled children and teens and hoarders.
    All of the hoarders had diabetes and numerous other health problems. I think letting go and living forward is vital to a healing process and to an abundant life.

    I think houses represent the self?

    People need to learn how to let go….more than the acquiring part of life – it is the bigger portion.
    .-= Patricia´s last blog ..Home Again, Home Again – Higgity Fie =-.

    1. You’re so right, Patricia. There have been lots of studies done between unhealthy hoarding and weight issues. I know myself that every time I have a decluttering session based on clarity, values and a desire to move forward, I not only get that lovely holiday feeling of simplicity, but I lose weight. I’ve lost three pounds this week.

  7. Hi Janice .. well done for not getting blown off course, and obviously havving a family that understands and helps the process makes life simpler. I really want to get stuck in here and once things have sorted themselves out then I’ll do as there’ll be clearing out to do here and in Penzance .. the logistics are slightly mind boggling, but there we go ..

    I work better when things are clean and tidy, organised etc .. but at the moment I have to transcend that and do what needs to be done – and the way things are panning out it seems I’m making the right decisions and the de-cluttering will (rightly) wait a while, while I concentrate and move my life forward.

    Enjoy the rest of the holidays .. the memories and pictures are lovely, as is the porch! A welcome to yourblog ..

    Thanks & have fun –
    Hilary Melton-Butcher
    Positive Letters Inspirational Stories
    .-= Hilary´s last blog ..Where would you describe a population of 22 as dizzy, amazing, extraordinary? =-.

    1. Thanks Hilary,
      You sound very aware of your priorities and values and of what needs to be done and what can’t be done at the moment. No matter what the difficulties are looking after your folks, that kind of clarity can only be a good thing.

      Hang in there; we’ll all still be here to support you when the time’s right to go for it!

    1. This is a HUGE point you’ve made, Hayden. Digital photo frames, laptops with photos, Mp3’s, backup on CD’s, online storage sites – they’re all fantastic ways of prying our anxious souls away from the deep attachment we have to objects, while preserving the emotions they represent.

      My only problem with this – and I do photograph things before I bless them, reclaim my essence from them and let them go – is that many things mean a lot to me because of their sensual aspects. If I could digitally store smells and the feel of fabrics and textures, I’d be one happy bunny!

  8. Most people tend to collect stuff. My husband and I are minimalists, so we tend not to buy too much. When we moved from a 4-bedroom house with a huge basement to a 1 bedroom condo, we learned not to hoard stuff. When we sold our condo and moved to a boat, we put all our possessions in storage for five years. Thousands of dollars later, we moved the stuff from storage only to throw half of it away. If I knew what I know now, I would have sold everything then! Now, we are in a 4-bedroom home again, and it is so easy to fill it up. We try hard not to get tempted. We still have our yearbooks, vinyl albums, photos, letters, receipts, paystubs (the packrat that I am). Whenever I can, I scan them in and digitize them. All our memories are in an external hard drive or on YouTube for friends and family to share.
    .-= Eileen´s last blog ..The best vacation destinations in Tennessee, part 1 =-.

      1. Thank you for popping over from Goodlife Zen! I’m glad you enjoy the site; it’s always good to know! Your story will inspire loads of my readers. Most folk realise that hoarding can take its toll on our health and available time if we store at home, but your tale of downsizing is a great example of how holding on to stuff can actually affect our finances, too. As Hayden was saying above, digitizing is definitely the way to go – as long as everything’s backed up. My next digital investment will be a better scanner. I know in my heart that my family could manage on much, much less – but we’re getting there, steadily and painlessly.

    1. The kids go back to school this week, so I’m looking forward to spring cleaning my blog next then seriously trying to create a blogging routine based on balance. I’ve had a wonderful summer with my family – one of the longest, laziest ever!

    1. You’re welcome. I didn’t want you to risk alienating three quarters of the UK! 😉 Thank you for being so gracious!

  9. Hi Janice

    I read this post yesterday and have been thinking of your many forays into the attic as somehow symbolic of reaching toward your “higher self.” You really must frame that beautiful embroidered pitcher. Finding that beauty in your “higher place” and bringing it back down to share with your readers in the form of a picture is symbolic of all that you do. Your generosity of spirit continues to inspire me.

    My newlyweds are living with me temporarily, and my attic is full of wedding gifts. I think of these gifts as symbols of their future together, the place from which my grandchildren will come. What a great gift that will be. If your family is still looking at houses, be sure to check out the attics in all of them!
    .-= Brenda´s last blog ..Electric River =-.

      1. Jeeez, Brenda – I know decluttering creates a vacuum that attracts good things, but what kind of clutter did you get rid of to make room for a whole BABY!!!? Please keep us posted so we can feel like unofficial doting blogodparents!

        Congratulations – you are going to be such a wonderful grandma!!

  10. Hi Janice,

    Well you sure made the right move in more ways than one! Instead of blogging you’ve made space for your future home and dreams. Loved the photos.

    I remember when I cleaned my attic in MI and told my four daughters if they had anything in the attic they still wanted they had better come and get it because I wasn’t moving it to our new home. They came, they remembered, they cleared and they left. We were all given back our freedom!
    .-= Tess The Bold Life´s last blog ..Have you dealt with your shadow? =-.

    1. I could almost feel an empathetic weight lifting as I read this! I think part of me fancies moving because it’s much easier to be ruthless when there’s a genuine timescale and you can ask yourself “Do I really want to clutter up my new home with this?!”

      I’ve been to visit a few of the houses my son found, and may write a post about it.

  11. This is the first time I have visited you and it looks to me i have found a woman who has very similar values and desires as I do.

    I so enjoyed your post. Like you, i so believe that the universe is there to nudge us gently if we fall into simple ruts.

    Very nice — I will be back. TTFN~~ Claudia ♥ ♥
    .-= Claudia@DipityRoad´s last blog ..Plush Lush Pillows =-.

    1. I’m glad you found my ‘home’ blog. I’ve enjoyed your comments on pieces I’ve written elsewhere, but the folk who take the time to comment here (or email me in private) make it a good place to be. You’ll find lots of folk here who share our values.

      Sometimes the universe nudges me – sometimes I get smacked soundly in the face!

  12. Great though provoking post. It makes you really think about the things one can declutter in one’s life. I used to be a pack rat for many years, but as I have gotten older, I want things more simple and less clutter. I tend to hold on to things given to me by loved ones and I keep greeting cards given to me as well. I have gotten rid of or donated a lot of things that I could part with and make “room for new dreams and possibilities.” Thank you, Janice, for sharing your journey.
    .-= Ana-The Writer Today´s last blog ..The Story Inside The Writer =-.

    1. Hi Ana,
      I think getting that bit older has helped me, too. As the years speed by, I want to live more and dust less. I’d rather spend time making memories than dust souvenirs!

      The only cards I keep are from my kids and any handmade ones from my husband. The others get photographed and stored digitally if they’re special.

  13. Hi Janice. It feels great to let go of old things. Over the years and after having moved a number of times I’ve been more aware of “stuff” and am getting better at accumulating less. Letting go of blogging…? Now that’s a bit more of a challenge. 🙂
    .-= Davina´s last blog ..If You Could, Would You? =-.

    1. I’ve moved lots of times and until a few years ago, it got harder every time; I accumulated stuff I associated with places, memories and friendships. It was when we moved here and lost two sheds, a study and a 12ft b 12ft garden room that I was forced to do something drastic.

      What scares me is how often I get the urge to let go of blogging, but when I ask myself good questions and hone in, I always realise it’s much more specific than that. There are just certain aspects I find more challenging than others.

  14. Hi there Janice.
    First time to your blog and I’ve really enjoyed your post. Thanks.
    I was a hoarder, big time. It wasn’t until I realised that I was in-complete with certain situations or certain people that I could begin to let go, clear the clutter and move forward. Once complete, it was easy to get rid of the numerous cardboard boxes under my house. There is something very peaceful about living in a clutter free space and creating a vacuum into which new experiences can become treasured memories.
    I too agree that the Universe guides us along the way. Happy house hunting!

    1. Welcome to our weird and wonderful wee café! I’m glad you checked out the comments boxes; I’m blessed to have some gifted writers, coaches, parents and homemakers sharing their time with us here.

      You’re so right about the relationship between how complete we feel and what we hold on to. For example, my career has been patchwork so there’s a lot of anxiety around books, simply because I genuinely don’t know if, for financial reasons, I may have to take up translation or teaching again some day as well as go flat out to refresh my coaching skills to build a better business and make it slicker. A lot of my Greek dictionaries are obscure and unavailable so I keep them, even if I don’t use them often.

      I’ve been enjoying checking out the houses the universe nudged me towards, but I’ve been smiling at why I was nudged…

  15. This post came at just the right time for me. I have moved 5 times in the last 5 1/2 years and it seems that all I do is move my boxes of clutter from one place to another. I never seem to have time to really go through everything and de-junk before circumstances require me to move again. I knew I have had enough when a friend emailed this weekend to tell me that her house is now for rent if we wanted to move there. I actually cried when she brought up the topic, feeling like I could just not move one more time.

    Her place would be perfect–larger, more storage space, cheaper rent. Yet the thought of moving my still unpacked boxes to one more location was so upsetting. I told my husband that I cannot move until I can go through boxes and do what Janice recommends in this post–figure out what to recycle, what to give away, what to throw away, etc. This is a project I have been working on all summer and I am only about half-way done.

    I can attest to the Feng Shui quote because I feel trapped somewhat until I can get rid of lurking objects–things I’ve been carting around since age 23, thinking I might use them some day. And who knows, maybe when I declutter I’ll FIND A GRANDBABY like Brenda! 🙂

    Congratulations, Brenda! That is wonderful news. I’ve been having such fun with my new little 4 month old grandson. Is this your first?
    .-= Randi´s last blog ..Sunday Serenity 8-16-09 =-.

    1. I know you always subscribe to comments, Randi, so listen carefully. If your friend’s house really would be perfect to rent, please, please don’t let the boxes daunt you. My coaching specialism – a mixture of coaching and my obsession with interior design and decluttering – is talking folk through their decluttering, coaching them before we start and ‘holding their hands’ on the phone during the process while we make it fun. I’m good at what I do and it would take less time, effort and pain than you might think. I’ll email you. Just consider it before this opportunity disappears, please.

    2. First grandchild, Randi. Congrats to you too on your new grandson. Is he your first? Now I’ll know who to contact when I have a grandbaby question. Or you could just go ahead and start sending me a steady stream of good grandmothering adivice! 🙂
      .-= Brenda´s last blog ..On Abundance =-.

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