From Hoarding to Hope

Are your emotions tucked under a pile of possessions?

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“Before you came, I felt so tired, and I thought it was my health problems. But since you’ve been here, I have a new excitement–I have energy again!”

I’ve put these words under a magnifying glass and I’m analyzing them from every angle. It’s not the first time I’ve heard them. What is the explanation for this phenomenon? It isn’t the first time nor the last that we’ve explored the connection between emotions and organization in this blog, and it certainly won’t be the last. This time, all I have to offer are random thoughts that I’m going to attempt to sort and file in their proper places.

Clutter accumulates for a number of reasons. Often, due to the American Dream and the accompanying lifestyle, time is the main factor. However, many times our emotions and past experiences dictate our habits. For instance, often I find that those who have lived thru the depression or who had very little growing up are reluctant to subtract anything from their homes– after all, what if they need it some day? Or perhaps, possessions have been kept due a loss where one attempts to hang on to a person or time period. This leads to a situation where nothing is ever parted with. And, as with anything, you really can have too much of a good thing. What people thought would make them feel happy and secure is the very reason they tell me they now feel burdened down.

Other times, an individual or family was fairly tidy until tragedy struck or some major life changed occurred, and things simply kept piling up. It may be a combination of all of the above.

And that’s my cue to enter the scene. Sure, it’s possible for people to do this on their own. But it turns out that’s another issue. On your own. Alone. Life is, in general, better shared with others. It makes the road smoother and the load lighter. This is where my meandering thoughts finally land. As clutter often comes out of difficult or stressful circumstances, the relief experienced in tidying up with an organizer is twofold. First, there is the obvious that one can move and breathe freely in a space again (and find their belongings!). But also, and maybe more importantly, is the fact that someone joined alongside and helped make life look doable once more. This sentiment, perhaps, is what makes organizing for others so gratifying, and I’m thankful to all those to walk my road with me as well.

Letting go…

I sat there in my basement staring down into a bin full of 14 year old baby clothes. My heart wrenched within me.

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This wasn’t the way things were supposed to have gone at all. The original plan was this: Fall in love, get married, have 3 kids (two boys and a girl), a big house, and live happily ever after. But things rarely go according to our wishes and I found myself confronted with these tiny clothes which I now both loved and loathed to look at. So many memories there, but after so many years resulting in one teenager and a failing marriage, I knew more children were out of the question for me. My dream had died. I gripped some of the little garments tightly…and then I folded them and put them in a bag. Little shoes, overalls, the bomber jacket that had turned my baby boy into a cool dude. All but a couple of things went to a friend about to have a little boy. I put the bag in my car, took them to her and simply let go. It hurt and felt good at the same time.

Typically, when we hang onto items, we are really hanging onto something less tangible. Our childhoods, our children’s younger years, a time in our lives we wish we could get back, a person in our lives we wish we could have back, a dream of how we thought things should be.

When helping a close relative weed thru items recently, there was quite a bit of back and forth about whether a whole storage bin labeled “paper goods” was a necessity. She claimed it was– I begged to differ. As I opened the box, I understood what the problem was. These were paper plates, napkins, and party hats that had been set aside for grandchildren’s birthdays and ladies’ tea type activities. However, the tea party era of her life had passed. And there were no grandchildren in her life anywhere near young enough to want to don a Sesame Street party hat. With her youngest daughter having just married, there was the possibility of grandchildren years into the future, but of course that would likely require new party decor with new characters.These were not really needed. However, with the health problems she had been suffering and a relatively recent divorce, she was in a holding pattern in life. She didn’t want to let go of hope that there were still happy times to be had. And she didn’t need to. She needed to let go of the paper plates, and get the rubble out of her life to make room for new and different happy times. For now, these types of things needed to be discarded so she could live comfortably in the smaller house she was forced to downsize into. And although things may not always be the way they were, and they may not even be what you originally dreamed of, they can still be wonderful.

As for me, and my dreams of  children and a large home…well I’ve already done the larger home thing in the past, and now find myself in a smaller apartment. And I love it. The home came with worry and constant maintenance, but the apartment frees my time for doing other things I enjoy. Not what I planned, but who knew? My letting go of items helps me to fit in it comfortably and not be burdened down by “stuff”. And while I may not have those three children I imagined, I have one really amazing one that I enjoy very much. Fortunately there are lots of friends that come with him which I can love like my own and then send home. While I have some great memories and a few mementos from my son’s childhood, I don’t let wishing for the past to keep me from enjoying the fun of the now. Letting go is by far one of the greatest things we can do for ourselves. The best could very well be yet to come– don’t miss out by staying in a world comprised only of yesterdays.