New Beginnings

table top clutterEdna is using the momentum of a new year to focus on becoming the curator of the things in her home. She has taken my advice to begin with purging the stuff. That means eliminating as much stuff as she can possibly part with. What has stopped her in the past is her sense of attachment to things. New England thrift is deeply ingrained in her, so she always wants to be sure that before she gets rid of anything it is thoroughly used up.

We started with her clothing. She had many old turtleneck jerseys that were stretched out or too stained to wear except if covered by a sweater. She used some of them as pajama tops but she agreed that she had far more than she would ever use. I suggested that she evaluate them according to whether she loved them; if the color gave her joy, the texture provided pleasure. If she could give herself permission to keep only those that gave her pleasure and feel no obligation to hang on to them until they were utilized as rags, she might pass them on to charities that can make decisions about whether to resell them as clothing or as rags. So she began her curating process with her wardrobe.

Another area Edna has trouble dealing with is paper. She really values information. She has file folders with articles of interest she has clipped for many years. She admits that she seldom  looks at them again once they are filed but it gives her comfort to know she does have that information.

In the past she has carefully folded and saved the wrapping paper that gifts came in. Sometimes she would reuse them but, more often, she chose new gift wrap. It was just that ingrained habit of “not wasting” that caused her to keep rather than throw them out.

Another thing that confounds her is the unsolicited mail that has address labels or even a nickel attached to the page inside. It just didn’t seem right to toss such mail and then there was the sense of obligation to send money in return for these unsolicited ‘gifts’.

Again, I asked her to judge all these paper problems in terms of whether they brought her a sense of joy. If she goes through her files and takes out articles she has clipped she might ask herself if the attachment to them was still there. Time tends to take away the relevance of information. She could also give herself permission to toss the junk mail regardless of whether they had ‘free stuff’ inside. A sense of obligation is different from a sense of joy.

Harriet Vaughan

About Harriet Vaughan

I am a Senior Move Manager, working with Senior Citizens and their families when it is time to downsize or just make the home safer and more comfortable for aging in place. I help these people make decisions about what to keep, throw out, donate, or sell. I also offer workshops on "Getting Things Done When You Are Over 60". I write about how to overcome memory lapses and how to use your physical energy well. I have a degree in Home Economics from the University of Maine. I live in Coopers Mills, about 14 miles east of Augusta. I have been married for almost 50 years to my husband, Chuck Vaughan. Our business is called Legacy Years Transition Services.