I am confident that as I have gotten older, after years of accumulating stuff, I have now spent more time trying to get rid of it then I did in accumulating it. It’s an interesting phenomenon if you stop to think about it. When you’re young you dream of a house, and a car, a boat, a motorcycle, maybe even two if your spouse wants their own, 2.3 kids, all surrounded by the white picket fence.
What nobody talks about is all the stuff you need to make that dream come true. First you need a lawn mower and hose to water the grass, a boat trailer to cart your boat around, a motorcycle trailer for when you want to take the camper – yeah that’s right, your spouse had to go out and buy a camper for all those camping trips you take – all the clothes for kids, your clothes, their toys, their precious artwork from when they were in preschool and you just don’t have the heart to throw it away despite the fact that it is almost indistinguishable to what it once was… I could go on and on and on and on, but you get the picture. We spend our youth, amassing stuff.
Oh! And don’t forget about the rakes, hoes, shovels, sprinklers, gardening gloves, life jackets, helmets (if you’re smart), fishing poles, tackle boxes, the tackle to go inside the tackle boxes – oh wait. I said I could go on but I would stop. Sorry. My bad.
So let’s fast forward a few years, maybe 20. The kids are in college, you’re an empty-nester, and you walk across the floor tripping over all the stuff; and after you’ve cussed, swore and screamed about stubbing your toe; you look around and wonder why in God’s name do we have all this stuff? While I am guessing the chances are pretty high you can picture yourself in this scenario, I cannot tell you why. And why is that?
Because I’m still standing in the middle of all our stuff.
And do not get me started on what guys have in their garage because that post would take me days to write. Especially if you are married to someone who keeps complaining about all your stuff in the house, yet he cannot even walk through the garage with the amount of his stuff (which apparently is ALL used for work despite it not moving in the last ten years <insert eye roll here>).
When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I found it very odd that I was waking up at 3:00 a.m. and spending hours going through stuff – my closet, my clothes cupboards, my books, my magazines – anything that would occupy my mind from this battle that was taking place within me. I mean what other fight do you go through where they inject your body with poison in order to remove a “poison” that is going to kill you? In the beginning stages after being diagnosed, it did not make sense or compute. Heck, even now there are some days where it does not make much sense.
But it is simple really. You attack a ferocious beast with a ferocious weapon (other than David who could kill the giant with a slingshot, and I say this with all honesty – that never would have happened if I was in David’s shoes!). Why did I wake up in the middle of the night to purge? Simple – when I woke up after eventually falling asleep it gave me great relief to realize I had eradicated and removed stuff I had not used, worn, or looked at in years. It gave me peace knowing that I had one less thing to worry about, even if it was just that pile of magazines. I thought perhaps it was all a coincidence, a hallucination while dreaming, so I tried it with some other things as well.
A while after I finished treatment, I went in the basement and started weeding through boxes of Christmas decorations, ones we had not opened since we moved over 7 years ago, my daughters keepsake boxes, and I started doing some more purging. I began to have huge garbage bags full of things to donate, things to throw, and things to keep (because let’s be honest, some of those precious little things our kids made when they were in preschool are just too cute to bear getting rid of). And wouldn’t you know it! I felt lighter. Like I had shed a bunch of weight I had been carrying around – now if that only worked with my actual weight – oh, but I digress.
So to keep this post simple – is it too late for that? – I will wrap it up. The simple life has many advantages including, but not limited to: the ability to focus on what needs to be focused on (surviving chemo, rads, surgeries, etc.), focusing on each other instead of what needs to be done (stuff maintenance is the worst!!), taking more road trips (or if you decide to keep the motorcycle, more rides – yes please!!), taking more vacations, and in case of nuclear attack – easy packing!
Keep reading to view three of my favorite tips for letting go:
1. When it’s 3:00 a.m. and you can’t sleep…
Ok, I jest…. a little. But there is some validity to that. I found that I was not so sentimental at 3:00 a.m. Items that I might have been hanging on to for years because one day I might fit back in to them, did not have the same attraction in the middle of the night. So maybe that isn’t the most ideal time for purging your closet, but I strongly advise timing your purging so that it is not during an emotional time such as watching your favorite Hallmark commercial. Schedule, yes schedule otherwise you will find excuses to not get it done, a time when you know you will be full of energy, lacking emotion (perhaps after your teenager has sent fifteen texts asking for your advice and then after every wonderful idea you share tells you “naw”), or right after the nuclear attack alert. On second thought… that last one may not be the best time.
2. The three bag system…
Well maybe two, perhaps four, but when I typed the “three bag system” I could hear the tune “three blind mice” in my head, and I’m all about that music, that music, that music. Or was that the bass? Anywho… on those sleepless mornings I found myself making piles on the bed: one to keep, one for Goodwill, and one for garbage.
Now before all you bean counters start throwing a hissy fit because I have not talked about the possible “fourth” bag, I am gettin’ there! The fourth bag could be for clothes you could sell, or for “maybes”. And yes, I can hear you all shouting, “But Myra! Maybes are not purging!!”; and you are correct. However, I discovered in the pre-dawn hours, there were some items I just could not decide on, and so they went in the ‘maybe’ bag. After a few weeks, if I had not thought of them in any way, shape, or form – off to Goodwill they went. Or the garbage. I guess at that point it’s your choice.
3. Celebrate – or maybe organize/re-organize …
After all the hard work of letting go what you once thought you needed, but now do not; hauling bags to the garbage; and calling Goodwill three times to remind yourself of when drop-off days are; instead of purging, splurge a little and organize your space. There is nothing more refreshing than to sit back, with your beverage of choice in hand, surveying all your hard work and effort. I went to the Dollar General store and found some boxes to hold my socks and personal items. You could, if you wanted, go all out and buy “purdy” baskets from your favorite store. Just remember! You are not buying things to replace the stuff you just purged. You are buying items to simplify and organize in effort to perhaps stop yourself from getting to the point where you might need to purge again.
So there you have it. Three little tips to help simplify your life. The odd thing is, they don’t just apply to “things”. Each of these tips I used during my cancer journey, regarding the cancer as well. I spent time evaluating what was good for me, what I needed to give away, and what I needed to share/donate. I spent time celebrating. I spent time just being. All important tips when you are on this crappy <insert swear word of choice here> journey.
If you have any other solid gold simplifying tips, or ways you cope with the every day “cancers” in your life – post ’em here. Let’s give each other a hand. Hey! That could be a fourth tip … invite your girlfriends, grab some wine…. fudge. I digress again.
Until next time, Capture Life Kreatively!
P.S. I love comments! Leave me a note and let me know your favorite tips to de-clutter, simplify, and/or minimize.
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Photo Credits: Kreatively Captured
Special thanks to: Smithville General Store for so graciously allowing me to take photos of their absolutely divine store. It was like walking into someone’s home with how beautifully it was decorated. A definite must see if you’re in Smithville! Head on over to Facebook and like their page! Tell ’em Myra sent ya!