Mad Hatter Lives

Living, Loving, Lasting

Archive for the tag “clutter”

Cleaning and Sorting

I have been doing some cleaning and sorting.  Every so often I get this sense of being buried alive in all the crap we accumulate, and I have to get a shovel and go through and throw stuff away.  When I reach the point I have been at of late, it’s no longer sorting and figuring out what goes to trash and what goes to the second hand store.  Nope. Everything goes in the garbage.

I like the idea of living minimally.  My husband and I live in a relatively small home, and we do so because we are trying to focus more on what we need rather than what we want, and having to keep our material goods within the confines of a small space is a good way to learn to clean and sort to fit.

I was sitting in the morning light with my cuppa Jo thinking that this cleaning and sorting  thing is a great analogy for healthy emotional psychological living.

Sometimes we get so bogged down with paraphernalia we are carrying from the past that it prevents us from making a leap onto the back of something great that will take us into an exciting phase in our lives.  I have said for many years that nostalgia is very dangerous, and there is nothing productive or forward functioning about it IF you spend a lot of time accessing it.

Notice how you hear a song or smell something and it transports you back in time to a place in your past?  Very strong isn’t it?  This is the only place nostalgia is truly healthy, because it naturally occurs in life.  We cannot help when that happens and we find ourselves standing, in a very real way, in a moment that occurred decades ago.  I had this happen the other day when we had a rain storm and the sound along with the smell was so strong in my senses that I found myself at 19 standing in the doorway of a hotel room where I used to work (as a housekeeper, let me be clear :)), watching a Montana rainstorm power its way through the afternoon.

It was like I was there, so strong was the sensory experience.

But I wasn’t, and the thing to remember with nostalgic moments is that they are only moments, and it is best not to spend a lot of time engaging them.  Now, that nostalgic moment had no significance on its own; no underlying meaning. However, there was a sense of longing, a sense of loss tied to it that I can only associate with the fact that I was young in that memory.  I had my whole life ahead of me, and time was on my side.

I am over halfway through my 40’s.  It is debatable as to how much time is on my side these days, and if I had spent time on that memory and how it made me feel, I could have gone down a rabbit hole that would have left me feeling old and discontent with my life.

Memories are not bad.  They are the recordings of our past, and we need them to sometimes remind us of where we come from, what we have done, and why we have ended up where we are.  But the problem with engaging in memories with the transport of nostalgia is the danger of choosing to live in the past rather than the present because we are distanced enough from the past to sort of “remake” it into what we want or what it should have been.  Notice how the further out you get the more the past has a golden glow to it?  We can’t do that with the present.  It’s at large in the realm of reality.

The danger with accumulating has to do with the reasons we accumulate.  If I am just lazy and don’t throw things away, that is easy to remedy.  A few hours on a weekend, and I’m golden.  The danger is when we accumulate to help us remember; to take us back to a time when things were “better”.  Keeping things because they take us back to a time so that we can live in the past, produces discontent with current life, grief over what has been lost between past and present, and often leads to serious depression.  Ask yourself when you experience nostalgia, how often do you come out of it feeling uplifted and ready to face the future?

I was reminded this weekend, as I sorted through items I have kept because they remind me of someone, I am not obligated to hang on to things to remember people or times.  Many of those people are still in my life.  Because I have such a terrible memory of the past due to my illness wiping the slate every time I have a crash, I tend to hang on to certain things, as they trigger or reinforce the memories I have managed to hang on to.  Some of those items I am keeping, but some of them I determined I simply did not need in my physical space or in my mental space.

If you are a person who hangs on to things but you feel you are becoming buried in reminders of the past, maybe don’t tell yourself you are going to get rid of everything.  Maybe start out small.  Get rid of a couple of things.  Give yourself time to see how that sits with you.  Then go back and eliminate a couple more things.

I have discovered that cleaning and sorting often not only clears my living space but my head space as well, and I find I feel a bit freer and a bit more the captain of my ship.



Learning to Toss


This blog is a continuation of the last  blog The Lesson in Tossing.  In both I am addressing the concept of learning to toss items that may have outgrown their usefulness or are just plain constricting your ability to live freely in your own life.

Minimalism is a catch word in our culture these days, so I am not going to pontificate about it in this blog.  There is plenty of info out there on what being a minimalist is.  The interesting thing is that it is just as easy to go to extremes in living minimally as it is to live encumbered by things.  Living a healthy lifestyle is about learning what works best for YOU, and it is about balance.

So.  Are you in need of a de-cluttering?

How do you know if you are?

The holidays are a great time to take stock of where you stand in the world of what I fondly call, crap collection.

As I am going through, pulling items I generally have out on a day to day basis with those I put out during the holiday season, I force myself to look at the items and asses whether or not they have value to me.  If I have so may things that I don’t even realize I still have an item until I go to pull it for the holiday season, I will most likely be putting it into the toss pile, because I don’t need it and have not needed it for some time.

Sometimes it’s more about having so much that the things you love you can’t see because they are buried in other things.  So, the first step in decluttering is to go into a room and  start on one wall working your way around.  Look at each item and determine first if you knew it was there and if you have been able to see it.  And second, decide if it has value for you.

Do not allow yourself to go down the road of, “Oh, this is a perfectly good ____!  I can’t just throw it away!  That would be a waste!”  You don’t have to throw it away.  There are lots of places to take things to donate.  You can also auction items off on Ebay.  But one thing you must not do in the throes of decluttering, if that is indeed your goal, is to indulge counter productive thoughts that muddy an already challenging process.

Keep it simple.

Did you know the item was there?  Is it possible to have it in view where you can appreciate it on a regular basis?  And does it have value?

The last question is the most important.  Do the items you have in your life have value to you?  And. Are they important enough to take space in your life?

Start making two piles.  One pile is for the items you have determined do not have value.  The other pile is for the items you have determined do have value.  If the term “value” is a bit nebulous, consider this…

How much physical space do you have in your home?  If you live in an 800 square foot home, you will find yourself buried if you have moved from a 2000 square foot home and have gotten rid of nothing.  Also think of the term “value” in the context  of what you would put in a room half the size of the one you are in.  If you are in, say your bedroom, and you want to downsize the artifacts in the room, imagine a room half the size. You have to have your bed and a dresser and a couple of night stands.  What else will fit and not make the room look like a storage unit?

What is of value should be those items you feel really speak to who you are as a person, where you have come from, and where you are going.  They should make your bedroom feel like it truly belongs to you.

Oh and let us not forget perhaps the most derailing of thought processes, “So and so gave this to me, and I can’t get rid of it.  They would be offended!”

Here is how you work through this one…

How well do you know the person who gave said item to you?  If they are not a close friend or a distant relative you do not know well, and you are not in LOVE with item, get rid of it.  That person will most likely never know, and it is possible they felt obligated to buy you something and didn’t know what to get so they bought that.  If they should ask at some point if you still have the item, tell them the truth.  “I had to do some downsizing, and unfortunately that was one of the things that had to go.”  If the person gets offended, that is their problem, but don’t make it yours.

Sometimes when you know you are going to need to get rid of items given to you by others, it might be a good idea just to give the person a call and tell them you have no room for the item but you wanted to give them the opportunity to have the item back.  This is a good idea if they are very close to you, and you know they used thoughtful introspection in choosing the item.

I remember a situation when my sister and I went to Alaska. I had a table my dad had made for my grandma when he was a teenager.  It was very tall and would not fit in my car.  The legs could not be removed, and I was just devastated that I couldn’t make it work.  I called my dad crying and told him about it.  He said, “Don’t let a table keep you from moving forward with your life.  Give it to Candi (My good friend).  I will make you another one!”  It killed me to do it, but I reasoned it had a good home with someone who could appreciate its history.  It was a bit traumatic, but I recovered.

It can be awkward getting rid of things people have given you, but remember THEY are not housing the item.  YOU are.  And if you do not have room and are encumbered, it’s really not a blessing anyway, is it?

Throw it in a pile and leave it there.  Give it back or to someone else who can appreciate it.  Donate it somewhere to people who actually need it or who can benefit.

I have always thought if we could just get those who have a knack for accumulating things hooked up with those organizations who help people in need, it would be an impactful scenario!

Learning to toss things is a healthy way to manage life and can lead the way to organization and maybe even inspire you to look at life a little differently.


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