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Dealing with the Clutter in my Life

Clutter is an understatement for the chaos in my life right now. I had decided to tackle it head on. And then the unexpected moving of my office this month presented the perfect opportunity for the change . But I had no idea that dealing with the clutter would be so difficult, and emotional.

“Out of clutter, find simplicity.

From discord, find harmony.

In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity”.

– Albert Einstein

I am obviously not the only one with this problem

I turned to Feng Shui Home and found the chapter on “clutter’. It was dead-on in describing the problem:

Not merely items or belongings, clutter is also a state of mind, It can be the things that we haven’t done, like unreturned telephone calls and appointments not made [like my ever-growing to-do list], or the ideas and perceptions we hoard which prevent us from doing the things we really want to do. Everything we do not use or wear, or which we are keeping in case it comes in handy one day, constitutes clutter. Inherited objects, and those given to us as presents which we do not like but feel guilty about parting with, are also clutter.

The book also offered motivational guidance which should have sent me running for the recycling bin:

“Things” or “stuff” constitute a major problem in most homes, and it accumulates by the day. … We do not need these things in our lives if we are to open up and let new experiences in.”

Here I was faced with another chance to de-clutter and open my life up to the new experiences of my semi-retirement. And instead, I was absolutely paralyzed!!! It is far easier to sit down with a second cup of coffee and the crossword puzzle – which I am not even good at – than to face the mountains of junk occupying every corner of my apartment. Why?

Perhaps the worst one issue for me is my books and files. As a writer I collected these items thinking that someday I will need them / use them, as research for something I am writing about. It doesn’t matter that they are no longer relevant. I still cling to them like a small child holding their security blanket. Why can my “rational brain” not see that dumping them would make me feel better? And holding on makes me feel obligated to do something with them even though the interest is not present any more. It is like dragging a sleigh filled with rocks (in this case unread books) around with me every day. It weighs me down and it tires me.

The advice that I found is spot-on

The authors of Feng Shui Home obviously know my problem well as they seem to be speaking directly to me:

“Books are difficult to get rid of as many people believe it is a sacrilege to throw them out. If a book sits and gathers dust for years on end, unread, and not referred to, they too constitute clutter and stuck energy and we should move them on. The world is changing fast and information becomes out of date almost before it is in print. Should we require a fact in ten years’ time, the information will be accessible elsewhere. Magazines and newspapers also constitute clutter. We are unlikely to read last week’s, or even yesterday’s, papers and we can always extract any information we require from magazines provided we file it immediately in a place where we are likely to find it again.”

That’s “great advice”! But how do I get past the guilt of buying, collecting, and saving all that information in the first place. I have countless unread books on the shelves. Most were important to my consulting career when I bought them ten or twenty years ago (at $20-30 each). Now they are past their prime. Some went all the way to Australia and back and survived three years in the darkness of a storage unit while we lived in the RV. A few are so old they are now out-of-print editions.

Finding a new home for stuff is challenging

I think of the money I spent on them – buying, moving, and storing them. Surely I should at least try to find the time to scan each book before it departs. As for the articles, surely they will inspire me when I am in need of a topic or some data – about the past. I think that every item has so much value. And yet I lack the motivation and enthusiasm to do much more than dust them.

I know that I should bundle the books into boxes and put the magazine and newspaper files into the recycling bin. And yet – why do I find it so hard to “let go”. Drowning myself in a third copy of coffee is an easier option than tackling a life-long habit of collecting stuff – “just in case”. Right now – I wish someone would throw me a life-saver!

Are you a hoarder? What do you hoard? Is clutter overwhelming you also? How do you  successfully discard unwanted items?

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