Saturday, June 11, 2016

Dear John Letter to my Excess Stuff

I like challenges and experiments. They seem to motivate me to move forward on various goals.  So, I was listening to a video by Courtney Carver today that was part of her 21 day Declutter Challenge.  She recommended writing a goodbye letter to your stuff.  I've never heard this idea before and I probably should have done it years ago, but here goes....

Dear excess stuff,

We've had a long relationship.  Growing up I had a small bedroom and it was pretty full.  I especially loved my stuffed animal collection.  As an only child the animals served as my friends and confidants.  My parents did not have a lot of money but they spoiled me at Christmas.  It was an expression of love.  I also saved much of my school work as proof of my accomplishments.  So, I guess you, my stuff, represented love and accomplishment.

During the early years of marriage, I went through my first episode of depression.  I was in a very isolated environment and my husband and I both turned to acquiring things to fill a void.  (I also turned to food but that's another story.)  We collected movies, books, crafts, electronics, and much more.  It filled our free time but not so much the loneliness.

Years later, I looked around our house and felt like I could not breathe.  See, even as much friendship, love, and pride as you had given me over the years, it had slowly turned to suffocation.  I was buried under piles that no longer gave me joy.  I could not share my home with my friends because it was embarrassing.  I spent way too much time looking for, taking care of, shifting, organizing, and buying more stuff.

So, I began to dig myself out from under your cover.  I gathered the first bag of things that I was no longer using.  I sent it to a thrift store and got a huge surprise.  It gave me great joy to know that you, my stuff, were going to go to live with other people who needed you and would find uses for you.  Instead of sitting idle in my house, you would be helping someone else. 

Also, I discovered that the more excess I cleared out, the more useful space I found.  My house felt clearer and more peaceful.  I began to find new priorities in my life that I did not have room for before. 

So, thank you for serving me so well, but now it's time for me to send you on a new journey as I continue mine. 


Monday, June 6, 2016

Don't Rob People of Their Problems

Several years ago a counselor told me that I had all the knowledge and resources I needed to solve any problem in my life.  In my mind, I was thinking "If that were true, I wouldn't be here."  Years later, though, I began to realize the truth in his words.  I wasn't paying him to solve my problems, I was there to learn the tools that would allow my to do it myself.   

Nowadays, I have lots of coping strategies for analyzing my own issues and facing life's problems head on, but I still have a major issue with trying to fix other people and situations.  I hate to see anyone in emotional or physical pain.  I rush in and do whatever I can to rescue them.  However, often times I do not have all the facts and my solutions are ineffective.

For example, there is a wonderful family that I know through church and school that was in deep crisis last year.  There were mental health problems, financial need, and academic issues.  I was able through my position at school to get the teenager on homebound services, but he still was unsuccessful.  I tried various other strategies and sought out community support services.  The husband was working two jobs and I feared for his health.  Nothing seemed to be working.  Eventually the husband got a third job doing something he loved.   I could not believe it but adding something to his already heavy schedule did the trick.  His emotional state improved because he had an enjoyable escape which allowed their finances to begin to improve as well.  Later we found a tutor who bonded with the son and he ended the year with two A's.  All of my striving and worrying was fruitless, but the right solution (one I never would have considered) came from the people themselves.

Other times my solution may seem to work, but it creates other unwanted consequences.  For instance, I might walk through the living room and pick up a few toys or socks so that my husband doesn't reprimand the children.  (I hate conflict.)  This solves the immediate problem, but does not teach my kids to be responsible.  Also, they do not have to face the consequences of their actions.  This gives them no reason to solve the problem themselves.

Here is another example - a coworker sees that you are not doing your job effectively.  He knows from experience that this will cause problems for you and for the company in the future.  He may or may not try to give you guidance.  Eventually, he jumps in and does the job for you.  By fixing the problem, he doubles his own work and assures that you never see the natural consequences of your mistakes.  Thus you see no need to change your behavior or, worse yet, you expect him to always bail you out.

For me, it comes down to boundaries and choices.  I want to give people tools to solve their problems like my counselor did for me.  I want to share my experiences and advice if it applies.  However, I do not want to rescue people any more.  I can't neglect my responsibilities to take over what someone else is capable of doing for themselves.  Besides, I have plenty of my own issues to keep my busy. =p





Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Simplicity has Layers

    I joined a cyber-class a few weeks ago on decluttering and minimalism.  It's led by Joshua Becker and the primary theme is eliminating things that are useless and distracting from your life so you can focus on what is truly important.

    So, I'm going through my house again looking for more items to get rid of.  I will soon have to rename my book - The Journey of 200 Bags.  As I revisit each room emptying every cabinet and drawer and physically touching all of my possessions, I still find a few things I don't even remember owning.  I also find things I bought to try out but they no longer serve me. (I'm talking about you, corn stripper.)  These easily go in the donate pile.  I also find various collections of items that I set aside last time when I was not quite ready to let them go.  Many of these now hold no emotional value or usability now.  Time has proved I am ready to let them go.  Some other items have been set aside again, put on probation a second time.  I am beginning to see that this is a journey.  Each time I go through the process I peal back another layer.  I dig a little deeper and find new value in the process. 

    The other day my husband, seeing me fill up another bag from the kitchen, asked if I was giving more things away.  It was sort of like the time my child asked me when I would be done organizing the house.  The answer is yes, I am still finding things in my home that hold no value for me but might serve someone else quite well.  I am still finding great joy in giving away my excess to help others.  I am still learning to let go.  I am still finding peace in the space and order that is created.  I am still moving forward.