Tuesday, May 31, 2011

It All Started With Two Ugly Sweaters

It did. Really.

I come from a long line of "collectors."  Stuff just sort of accumulates around us. We are like eddies in a stream- whatever is floating past circles around and settles on our shores. And we tend to be sentimental about things, and to highly value any connection a thing has to friends or family. Just to illustrate: I still own my childhood rock collection. I just got the rest of it from my dad a few years ago. He had been hanging onto it for me since I got married...twenty-three years ago. I have some really cool rocks. And shells. :)

Add to that tendency about fifteen years of slowly fading health and mental clarity, which seriously compromised my ability to sort and make decisions. I could not go through a box of things and make the myriad small decisions necessary about the contents. The thought of it exhausted me. When I would  hit that point of overwhelm, the sound in my brain was like hissing static. Show's over; nothing more happening there. Shutdown. Needless to say, in those years a lot of stuff accumulated in our home and it became increasingly cluttered and non-functional.

We didn't enjoy living in a cluttery, inconvenient home, but for years I was sort of crippled by my sentimental-collector-static-brained self. I started reading books and looking for ideas that would help me.

Back to The Sweaters. The Sweaters are very symbolic to me, as they are the first two things I was able to part with. They were the very first baby step in my "journey of a thousand miles." I did not have good feelings about them while they lived here, but I have very fond feelings about their departure. :)  These sweaters did not look good on me. I'm fairly tall, and they were not made for someone tall. They were too short in the sleeves and body. They were bulky cotton and too big. One was hot  pink; the other was off-white (a terrible color for me) with sort of geometric cave-art brightly colored animals galloping across the chest. They had been given to me by my mother-in-law (who had also given me some really beautiful dress clothes that I loved). Though I did not like them, and they looked so very bad on me, I wore them about once a year out of a sense of  (drumroll please....) guilt and obligation. Tadaa! Guilt and Obligation. The chains that bound a lot of stuff to me. "But she gaaaave them to me!"

These unflattering Guilt Sweaters were the first two things I was able to get rid of. This was probably about ten years ago. What helped me to release them was when I thought about why I owned them in the first place. They weren't gifts, but hand-me-downs. This is how I finally saw the issue clearly: "I only own these sweaters because my mother-in-law did not want them. She only had them because her friend did not want them. Her friend most likely bought them on a clearance sale, which means she only owned them because every single person who shopped in that store did not want them." I only owned them because hundreds of other people did not want them! And I was keeping them...why? Realizing that set me free. I donated them to a thrift shop. What a relief!

My entire journey with Stuff is far too long for one post, so I'm just sharing my first baby step here. It is a long, slow, baby-stepping journey toward freedom and order and peace of mind and...freedom.


  1. It sounds like my journey! Funny how similar we are! ;) I was reading this post and I thought to myself "her writing and humor are the kind that just belong on a blog :)" Your baby steps are getting bigger though! THREE! Count 'em Three! (three right?) FULL truckloads of stuff to Goodwill! :)

  2. I just found your blog through Heather's blog! And I have a book recommendation for you. In fact, you can borrow it from me when I'm home this summer if you'd like! It's called 'Organized Simplicity' by Tsh Oxenreider.
    The baby steps are the best steps because they mean we want change! :)

  3. Thank you, Heather. It feels so so very good to be lightening the load of excess stuff! :)

  4. Hi Katie! Organized Simplicity- that sounds like Heaven on Earth! :) I long for that beautiful balance of organization and simplicity. I would be interested in reading that book. I'm always interested in new tips and ideas. The book "Messie No More" was a real help to me, and I also gained some very helpful ideas from the FlyLady website. I think that real, lasting progress is built mostly of steady baby steps. Great quantum leaps of progress are great, but rare. Finding satisfaction in small steps of progress keeps me moving forward.