This week I read Clutter Busting Your Life - Clearing Physical and Emotional Clutter to Reconnect with Yourself and Others by Brooks Palmer.
This book too an interesting look at the root causes of clutter as well as some alternative forms of clutter that aren't generally thought of (e.g., self-criticism, busyness, relationships).
Of particular interest was the section about inherited clutter. Since August, my sister, brother, and I have been working on cleaning out my parents' home. After 42 years of my parents living in the same house and 51 years of being out of their parents' home and living either in their first or second home, they accumulated a lot.
On top of that, they themselves had inherited items when their last remaining parent died in 1982 (my mom's mom) and 1983 (my dad's dad). So, not only were my brother, sister, and I cleaning out items that belonged to my parents, but some items that belonged to our grandparents.
We donated a substantial amount to various non-profit organizations and - unfortunately - had to dump a lot either because it was damaged in some way or it wasn't something that secondhand stores would take.
After donating all those items and getting rid of two dumpsters full of other items, we were still left with a tremendous amount of stuff. My parents took exceptional care of their items, so I am thankful to acquire much of it to either supplement what I would never be able to afford and/or replace lesser-quality or damaged items in my own home.
Still, there is a lot left to go through in my home. I have, thankfully, been able to put it in one of two spaces - a room that is rarely used in the home and in the hobby shed. Once we close on my parents' home, then - I believe - the real work begins here in going through the items I've acquired through inheritance and determine what will stay; what will be passed onto a sibling or other family member; or be donated.
Taking my time with these items also gives me time to reflect and not make rash decisions. I would rather be careful and thoughtful than quickly go through items and have regrets at getting rid of something later.
So, going back to this book. It does have many things to think about as I pare down my life and the things that no longer serve it. Already I know areas that I need to address...I want to get through one thing at a time - and the first thing is transitioning my parents' home for sale and staying present in that process to deal with the grief and loss of a childhood home and my parents.
The notes below from the book will help me as I move through other areas of my life after the home is sold. Other passages I included because I found them interesting:
- When clutter in your lie cuts you off from experiencing the basic relationship with yourself, you can experience anguish over different aspects of your life. You can experience great worry and fear about possible future events. Your relationships with others are often chaotic.
- There's something called the clutter of self-criticism where you criticize yourself for not living up to your own expectations.
- A long to-do list (pages long). That's clutter because it's not something you like to do. It's not in your nature.
- Busyness as a buffer: staying so busy and involved with work at the expense of family. The situation will eventually wear out a person.
- Busyness of life can, for a while, protect us from feeling fragile, hurt, and sorrowful. But we have to stay busy constantly to hold those feelings at bay. We can only take so much before we start to break down.
- Find any places in your body that are tense or irritable. This is where some emotional clutter lives.
- We're easily distracted from the present by our clutter. When there's more than one thing vying for our attention, we get caught up in those things and lose our connection with ourselves and others.
- Overinvolvement only takes us away from what matters: the present.
- When we surround ourselves with things that don't serve us, our attention bounces off everything....We get caught up in everything but the present moment, and this exhausts us.
- Trying to change another person is itself clutter. It hurts the relationship.
- Acceptance of what is, when it can't be changed, gives us peace of mind.
- Sometimes we hold on to the broken pieces of a relationship because we've lost a connection with someone we once held dear and we feel a deep sadness. The person is gone from our life, and we want them back, or we want to remember how wonderful it was to be in love with them. A part of us lives as if we were still in relationship with the person. We are trying to keep the past alive in the present moment, and this creates conflict in our hearts.
- Look for an item that is emotionally loaded. You'll feel tension in your body. The antidote is realizing that you don't want to live with those kinds of feelings. NO one wants to be in pain, physically or emotionally. Anything that warps us doesn't serve us. Don't live on the crumbled foundations of the past. When you find these disturbers from the past, donate, recycle, or toss them. The sooner they go, the better you'll feel.
- Sometimes relationships stop serving us. Maybe we just don't enjoy it anymore, or maybe it's causing us great emotional pain. The relationship now affects our well-being and other aspects of our lives.
- Ask, "How does being with this person make me feel? Does this relationship serve and nourish me or not?
- All relationships go through rough times, and this doesn't mean you need to end them. But sometimes relationships clearly no longer serve the people in them.
- Let go of your desire for a friend's approval, which undermines your own sense of self.
- Do you own any objects that remind you of a past painful relationship? It could be clothes or furniture. Sometimes you may have to let little things go - like a jacket - or big things - like a bed (if you aren't getting good nights of sleep). The quicker you get them out of your house, the sooner you'll feel like yourself again.
- You may discover that resistance to letting go of a cluttered relationship is fear of being alone, which is often the source of clutter. As the clutter begins to go...you may feel uncomfortable in your newly unencumbered space. You are no longer buffered from the difficult emotions that you don't want to feel and you find yourself longing for distractions. Rather than experiencing those feelings, it can feel easier to stop letting go and merge with your stuff again.
- Change can cause fear, sadness, and discomfort, but the majority of the pain is in the healing.
- People who parents have died and left them with inheritance clutter. This can be furniture, books, letters, photographs, papers, clothes, cars, property - anything the relative once owned. It is clutter because they can't let it go because its connection to the deceased makes them feel lie they are letting the person go. The situation makes them feel depressed, tired, and overwhelmed.
- By hanging on to these mementos, we attempt to maintain our connection with the person who died. But in most cases this makes for a weak connection. Nothing fully replaces the deceased person's presence. Our longing remains unmet.
- It's natural when a parent dies to want to preserve their things. Their stuff contains their presence, their attention, their personality. It's as if a person's scent lives on in their things. Though they are gone, it feels like they are still with us. And if those things remain an active part of our lives, it serves to keep them. But often they aren't, and they clog up our living space.
- When we let go of the things from our parents that don't matter to us, our memories of them are no longer clogged up in their stuff. Our parents become a living presence in our hearts, where they resonate much more strongly.
- We don't cherish the people in our lives by hanging on to them through things we don't care for. We cherish them by living an unencumbered life and being free in our hearts to remember who they were to us.
- The best gift we can give our loved ones after we die is not to leave them with our piles of clutter. We can do something about this by going through our things now so that they don't become a tangled mess by the time we're gone.
- Go through your financial papers and get rid of any paperwork that doesn't represent your current financial situation, such as closed credit card and bank accounts. Then arrange your finances in a way that would make sense to a stranger.
- Do you have clothing you no longer wear? Donate it now.
- Let go of old technology you no longer use.
- Keep clutter busting all the rooms in your home, thinking of what message you want to leave the people closest to you.
- The gifts [my parents] have given me were intangible, inside me, and I strive to live my life every day.