Last night I gave a clutter busting talk at a local Chicago library. I dressed up in my pseudo super hero outfit which means I wore my red and white Clutter Busting cartoon t-shirt, and blue jeans. I'm normally kind of shy so it helps to be kind of in character. I felt kind of like Will Rogers, Mister Rogers, and Underdog.
It was a snowy night out, but a lot of people showed up. Being the Clutter Buster never loses its newness. I don't plan what I'm going to say. I think I opened with a joke that the head librarian was going to back up my talk with improvisational piano. I talked for a few minutes about my definition of clutter: anything in your life that is no longer serving you. Then I opened it up to questions.
Someone asked about what to do with sentimental things that are hard to let go of. I said that when I was a sophomore in high school I really loved the album, "Frampton Comes Alive!" I played it over and over. I had long, blond curly hair and played guitar, so it made me feel like I could do anything. About twelve years ago, his record company released a special remastered CD with 2 new songs. I was so excited, I bought it immediately. But when I listened to it, the connection was gone. I tried listening all week, but it got to be kind of painful. I was disappointed. I wanted to feel the old magic of being a rock and roll 16. Hanging onto it would have made me miserable, so I donated it to a library.
It's amazing what our memories can make us do. We sometimes think that happiness is relegated to only a few remembered moments, and they need to be saved. For me it was like trying to fit into a pair of pants I wore when I was much younger. They didn't feel like they did when they actually fit. Plus over-treasuring the past makes us miss out on really special things now. I figure as long as we are alive, there are some really nice things to be enjoyed in the moment.
A woman in the audience said, "What should I do about the journal papers I leave all over the house? What can't I get rid of them? It's really bad." She said it in a disapproving tone. It's common for people at the talks to describe their clutter situation in a critical tone. It feels like they are trying to make themselves change their behavior with harshness. I could tell that she'd been doing this for a while because her voice sounded frustrated.
I asked her if she liked to write. She softened and said yes. I asked what she liked to write. She said she enjoyed writing her observations on life. Her face brightened. I said it was great that she does something that she likes so much. I asked if she reread what she wrote. She said often. She would randomly pick up a journal page and read it and feel inspired. I said that her writing isn't clutter. Her writing is part of her life. The clutter was the criticism about the writing. Sometimes we can feel uncomfortable about our unique self-expression. There's a lot of societal pressure for uniformity. But doing what others want us to do is a certain way to feel miserable. It's nice to find something that makes us feel alive, vulnerable, and creative.
A man asked about his collection of magazine articles. He had many in his home and he wanted to read them, but he wasn't. He wanted to know how to organize them. I asked him how the presence of the magazine articles made him feel? He said overwhelmed. I said that we don't do well with too many choices. We think lots of choices is ideal. But too much makes us shut down. Organizing won't help. I recommended looking at each article and deciding, "Do I want to read this today?" Sometimes we save things because we want to read it, but then time passes and so does our interest. But unless we ask ourselves if it's still relevant to us, we won't know. I said that reducing the volume will help him enjoy reading again. He may feel a pull to keep many of them, but what's the value of things if they aren't actually a part of our lives? We are creatures of action. We enjoy life more when we are engaged in it. When we reduce down to the things that matter to us, we feel more compelled to use and enjoy these things. Our life becomes richer.
Tonight's another library talk. My semi-super hero costume waits in my closet for the transformation!