I'm still here, underneath my pile of stuff. What I've learned.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

It's been a month since I've blogged or visited any of my blog friends. I'm still here. Actually not underneath my pile of stuff anymore, but emerging from it. We've donated three huge loads of stuff, not including furniture, and thrown out even more.

We've been shredding papers like fiends, emptying out one whole file cabinet and a dozen or so boxes of papers that were stored in the basement. Old cross country skis, sports equipment, lamps, china and linens, 80s decor, clocks, baskets, clothes, framed art, you name it . . . they've also been given the boot. If it doesn't spark joy or serve a useful purpose, out it goes. I've had to grit my teeth and override my all-too-present feelings of guilt over and over again. 

But the more I let go, the easier it becomes, and the better I feel. There's a lot more to do, but I'm burned out at this point. I'll come back at it again in a couple weeks with a fresher perspective. 

In the meantime, I present to you some of the things I've been learning during this process.

1. I am not responsible for everyone's stuff.

How did I get to be the caretaker of all this stuff? Loved ones have passed on or moved, and I somehow got all the stuff nobody wanted to deal with. Why? And how did I manage to save every. single. paper. my children ever scribbled/wrote/drew on?

I either agreed to take these things on because I felt that it was my "duty" or because I genuinely wanted to keep them.

But there comes a point when all this becomes a burden and I start to feel resentment at the weight of responsibility. How can I make the decision to save or throw out photos of people I'm not even related to? How do I know if someone else might want this handmade item? Do I have the right to just make the call, and throw it out? Do I need to check with others first, even if they've shown no interest in all this stuff?

I have come to the conclusion gradually that I do not have to sort through every thing myself. Other people can take the responsibility. I can ask them if they want to sort through the stuff, or if not, tell them I'm getting rid of it. 

In the case of my children, I can box up all their stuff and allow them to decide. I don't know what they want to keep or not. I've been afraid they'll just end up throwing it all out, but it's really up to them.

2. Things are not the same as people.

I've held onto so much stuff because it's felt disloyal to give it away. Gifts, handmade items, items handed down. Like if I get rid of them, I'm throwing the person out, or disrespecting them. No. It's just stuff. It is not them. Now, of course, we do want to save some things that remind us of people we love, but we don't need to save everything; how much we save depends on us. But letting go of something doesn't mean letting go of our memories.

This was a gift from a neighbor after the birth of our second child.  I've held onto it all these years because I associated it with my son sleeping as a baby. I realized that letting go of it doesn't mean I'm letting go of those memories. And, to be honest, I never was too fond of Precious Moments stuff anyway.
3. I can make new choices and do things differently.

I have a rare opportunity to start over in terms of decor as we have been redecorating our living room, dining room, and foyer.

I am no longer tied to a certain color/style/decor. I had a very large mural painted on the foyer wall. It was here when we moved in, and has stayed for the almost 20 years that we've been here. The colors and style of it dictated the entire downstairs decor.

Some time ago I asked you all to vote for whether I should paint over this or not. Most of you thought I should keep it, my husband included. But I have to say, I've been very happy to say goodbye.
 All of a sudden, with this gone, all kinds of possibilities have opened up. Instead of being tied to blue and sage and burgundy and yellow, I can do fuchsia and turquoise if I want! 

I also realized I didn't have to keep the art on my walls. Why did I feel guilty about donating it? I've looked at some of it for over 30 years. It wasn't expensive. It's okay to let it go and do something different, even if it takes a while to figure that out. 

So now what? Modern abstract art? Am I a modern abstract art person? I never thought so, but I could be if I wanted.

With some of the older furniture gone, I can do something different as far as style, not just color. I could do farmhouse, French country, mid-century modern, anything. I could do glam, with gold and mirrors and animal print. 

I didn't choose many of the things in my house. They were hand-me-downs, appreciated and loved, but like the mural, I didn't pick them out. Now I have a chance to think about what I like.

It's actually been a good time for thinking outside of the box about a lot of things, letting go of not only things, but of guilt and unrealistic expectations, and old, unhealthy ways of thinking.

*****

I hope to be around to visit my blog friends soon. Thanks for stopping by! xo

26 comments :

  1. I am SO SO proud of you. This is awesome. Love your epiphanies. Keep up the good work. Purge, purge, purge then peace and joy and inspiration shall follow - already has for you! Whoo hoo! ♥♥♥

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  2. Bravo! You are doibng great! Change offers opportunities
    Changing how you live your life, even in a small way, can present you with more choices than you ever dreamed possible—so you can create a more fulfilling and authentic life. I loved your post! Keep going and thank you for sharing what you learned! it is so helpful to me.

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  3. You have been working very hard to free yourself! Well done. (Not sure about the mural....did you paint or paper? Course it’s entirely your call! That’s the whole point.) I think a lot of what you’ve said here will help me. Now if I can just find the energy!

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    1. Yes Vee...ENERGY. When you find it will you let know where...and how? :D

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  4. I could have written this article myself. Is this is a trait of our generation of women? Hmmm.

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  5. Oh my goodness, Deborah, I love this! That Precious Moments comment....really hit home. I'm holding onto a couple myself - tied to my kids! And that foyer mural - I remember that post. Good for you! Wow. And here I am just giving away a few of my vintage things....if postage wasn't so much, I'd give away so much more, but I feel guilty asking for shipping, and simply can't afford the expense all myself. I suspect I'll be in a similar situation as you in the not so distant future, donating, and that will be ok too.

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  6. Congratulations Deborah! You've gone through so much clearing out, and I know personally how emotional and difficult it can be. I wrote a post about this a couple of years ago when I began the great decluttering of my house. That chore is continuous I find. But I said the exact same thing about getting rid of possessions of loved ones (ie. my parents). I too felt like I was throwing away the person, and it was really difficult to come to grips with that. I found myself saying "sorry Mom" when I tossed something that was completely useless for me that once belonged to her. We have to believe that our loved ones would not have wanted us to suffer in this way when dealing with their things. I too am the caretaker of lots of my kids things. Whenever they don't want something, but don't have the will to get rid of it themselves, they offer it to me to deal with. I also understand the resentment of being the one left with so much to deal with. I'm still sending things out to my brother on the far side of Canada that I removed from my parents' house 7 years ago! I hope we can both become better and better at letting things go and even not bringing so much home in the first place. Your plans to redecorate areas of your home is going to be great incentive to keep it all nice and minimal ;)
    Wendy xox

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  7. Bravo, Deborah! Your post truly called out to me. I even showed it to my hubby. We have a garage that we cannot walk in; every cupboard and closet in the house is at critical mass: no room for anything more! We have decided that the time has come to purge, and your post is a rallying call and great example. Thank you!

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  8. Well, you have been busy and I agrre wholeheartedly with you! I still continue to go through things around here a a few years ago got all new furniture in all my rooms! It was fun and refreshing, I did keep china hutch and most my linens. But a new picture on a wall and new throw pillows are a breath of fresh air. When we went through the paper work it was amazing all the stuff we had. I enjoyed your post and your perspective "You Go Girl" Hugs, Roxy

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  9. Congratulations on standing firm and ditching things you don't love or make you smile. Ugh, I've got things that need to go but I'm not quite as strong as you are. Working on it, tho! Have a marvelous day! xoxo

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  10. Wow...you have been a busy girl! I am not what I would call a saver. I mean there are a few things (only a few) I have kept through the years that my kids made, etc. We recently went through the attic above the garage where many of the boy's things had been kept. We gave them both their "piles" and let them do the keeping or the purging...so much easier that way! I'm so glad you have found this new freedom and and am truly looking forward to seeing the upgrades!

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  11. Your recent purging must have given you the power to let go...its a very freeing exercise to get rid of things that are no longer needed. You are walking down a new path...and who knows where that will take you. Bravo!

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  12. It's good to hear from you again. It's hard for me to let go of stuff. When we were preparing to move from CA we got rid of a lot of stuff. It was hard and it was difficult to get rid of things. Even worse was items we left behind in our old house because we had no room in the pods or moving trailer for them.

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  13. What a great post! I kept none of my children's papers, crafts and the such. I did scapebooks for each of them and that was the only memories of that type that they have or I kept. I clean out and get rid of all the time but that is not the case with my husband. He cannot get rid of anything and it really distresses me but I don't think he's going to change and if he predeceases me then I'll have my work cut out for me. Ugh! Know you are sure feeling good about the progress you have made. Blessings abundant!

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  14. I am in a parallel frame of mind...I have begun doing the same...the shredder is getting overworked. But it is an investment in what/who matters. A lovely and timely post for me.
    Ruth

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  15. Oh decisions, decisions, they are soooo hard for us!! You, my dear, are doing such a great job, and I love your thoughts and process. It must be very freeing to purge. I'm proud of you! xx

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  16. I've been de-cluterring a lot lately as well. And I'm so happy with the results. When I have a hard time getting rid of something that I'm not longer using or loving, I just tell myself that I'm giving this item a chance to be in a home where it's really loved and valued.

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  17. I can just imagine the lightness that you feel after ridding yourself of not only things, but also the weight of conscious or guilt about keeping things for others. I admire your thought processes and conclusions. Wonderful!

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  18. Those are some good thoughts, Deborah, and I can identify. Especially the "it's an object, it's not the person" idea. I still have lots of clutter, little nick-nacks around. I get rid of a lot, but there's so much left. I must've devoted my 30s and 40s to collecting things I thought I liked, or thought I OUGHT to like, and placing it all around the house. Now in my 50s, I'm slowly shedding it.

    I must've missed your blog post about the mural. I would've recommended getting rid of it. It's too bold and sure to dictate everything around it. Did you know -- in the past month we gutted our whole kitchen, took out all the cabinets and put in open wooden shelves, hand-made by Adam? It's a rustic country cabin feel. I'm thrilled. It's not everybody's cup of tea, but we like it :) Isn't that how it should be?

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  19. You'll be proud to know that your post inspired me to purge 3 years' worth of credit card statements/receipts (I'm bit of a paper hoarder). I also finally got rid of some outdated travel guidebooks. Thanks, Deborah!

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  20. Dearest Deborah,
    Happy to read that you have tackled a lot into the right decision of rigorous clean-up and down-sizing.
    It does make life simpler and we all need to go that way.
    As for me, the furniture that I did bring across the Ocean (trice - back and force!) stays with me as it is a connection to the way I lived and loved to live. It fits in here perfectly and was too precious for dumping all this solid French oak. I've never followed that hype of painting everything white. To me that is murder to the beautiful wood grain... But that's how the economy keeps going, all those that are impulsive followers will figure out what they did after a while.
    I'm also making still progress on digitalizing things. Planning on writing the story about our 1st trip to Australia together. Pieter of course had been there a couple of times, speaking at Mushroom Congresses. It means a lot to Pieter and all I can give him is the story of his and our life; our BEST times together and it does lift him up right now.
    Even for me it will be a great memory for later, when there is nothing else left but the memory!
    We just performed this morning with our choir at a Joint Civic Luncheon, organized by Pieter's Rotary Club. The National Anthem we did and O, America! You can find it on Youtube, sung by Celtic Woman. It is such an emotional, powerful and patriotic song.
    Now we have to practice and work on our choreography for the May Revue at the Theatre. But we got this off our list so we can narrow it down.
    Hugs,
    Mariette

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  21. I am learning these things, too! A couple of thoughts run through my head more and more as I get older:

    1) No one will know if I got rid of this. -quickly followed by:

    2) No one else cares about this stuff!! and if they did ever think of it, they would be relieved that I was clearing space and not having to deal with certain sorts of clutter again and again and again....

    Thank you, Deborah! I think you will be reaping the joy and fun of your paring down and freshening up for a good while!

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  22. All so true; good for you! I've given away enough furniture to help fill 3 other people's households...who didn't have much to begin with. I'm still giving away but am keeping, thus far, what really appeals to me. I've laughed about giving stuff away that was given to me with the admonition, "Now, I want you to keep this, don't throw it away or give it away." I LAUGH! If you wanted it, you should have kept it. One of these days, it'll ALL be someone else's; I might as well live with what I (wish I could more boldly capitalize I) want and love.

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  23. I'm so happy for you ... what a freeing journey you have been on. Enjoyed reading the things you've been learning and realizing in the process. Hope you are starting to feel refreshed and that you'll be in good form when Spring finally arrives and stays.

    Hugs, Brenda xox

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  24. Deborah, you are truly an inspiration. I still have the high chair sitting in my basement, that we bought to have at our home when my oldest grandchild was born and for the other three after her. They are now, 14,12,10, and 8. I don't think I still need it but it is hard to give it away! My basement is a mess too. I have two vintage formica tables one from my mom and one from my good friend who passed. I really need to get rid of at least one of them. I have old chairs and an end table and lamps down there too. The thing is, we don't use our basement to sit because I have a family room. Add to that old cd's, dvd's, photos, books, art supplies...the list goes on. I am hoping that my hubby will get inspired to help me clean, as I have horrible arthritis in my knees and back, and I cannot do too much bending. I want to simplify and declutter this stuff. It is a freeing feeling, isn't it? By the way, I read your book on depression and it really helped me a lot. I have depression, yet, I cannot take anti depressives, as they make me sick. So, I try other things to help me. Your book made so much sense to me. perhaps this summer we can finally meet. I'm not one for driving too much on the freeways, because I always get lost! However, since I have a GPS on my phone, I'm not as intimidated. God bless you. ginny

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