This follows on from my musings after helping to clear out my parents’ house. There were many things that I realised and I kept on writing notes to myself as I reached certain milestones or achieved a key goal. Most important was how was I feeling? Did I feel good? Did I feel sad? Did I feel ‘lighter’? Did I feel free? Did I feel guilt? Actually as I moved on through the process, I felt all these emotions. One of the worst moments of hat clear-up was finding cheques worth a lot of money, cheques that had not been cashed and now were worthless. How much my mother had saved and scrimped; and yet so much money that was already there had simply wasted away because we hadn’t found them. And the sadness from seeing her pristine and unread books given to her as marriage gifts now being bitten by rats which also had to be thrown out. So from my notes here are some points-
- Fear of deprivation– Some of the stuff my mother was storing, like plastic bags, were not really needed- she had so many of these. Despite feeling angry and frustrated at this, I realised that my mother’s needs to hold on to things stemmed on from her very deprived childhood. I had to be sympathetic and understand where she came from. But there was also a fear that my mother felt that if she let go of these things, she wouldn’t get anymore (again stemming from her childhood). So my solution was to put all the plastic bags in front of her and ask her how many did she really want? Could we get rid of some that were torn or dusty? In the end, slowly, after selecting a few useful ones, my mother let go off most of the bags.
- Delayed action– My mother put things away for another time to do-, so one day she was going to sort out her children’s clothes. In the years that followed, her children grew up and moved away from not only her home but also country. Now that my mother is old, she doesn’t have time. I wondered how much clutter accumulates because one day we are going to tackle it- receipts, clothes, etc, etc. As my parents have grown older and less mobile, the growing clutter was actually becoming dangerous to them in their daily lives. After I explained that to her, she realised that she and we were at a stage in our lives where the things she’d saved up were of no use to either us or her and she was able to let go.
- Achieved function– Each thing that comes into our lives has a function. So the purpose of the envelope is to bring to your a letter or bill. Once that thing is has done its job, then you have to let it go. I have heard that Thoreau used to look at something once and then chuck it if it was of now use. Now in our current age, we can’t just chuck things like that- we need to sort it out as most of our waste is not biodegradable anymore. So we need time to do that and we should but let it go as you can. It is now possible to recycle everything. Give away unused presents. This was the most useful thing I learnt about getting rid of clutter for others.