Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Noticing When Things are Hurting Us

One of my blog readers sent me a letter from her mom that had specific questions about clutter busting. I wanted to share some excerpts plus some answers that I think could be helpful to her and maybe some of you too.

Her mom said:

"His blog is very inspiring about getting rid of stuff -- but does he address where to take them? This is what's nagging at me -- everything that I want to not be mine anymore must be: EITHER, put in a box for a child to get later, OR, mailed to a child now, OR, taken to a used bookstore (books and DVD's), which will take only a few of my things -- then I can give the rest to Goodwill, OR, try to get sold to an antique store, OR, taken to a consignment antique store, taken to a consignment non-antique store, but has beautiful things, OR taken to a consignment clothing and 'things' store that is also nice, OR, given to Goodwill, and take the tax write-off, OR given to Habitat for Humanity"

I said:

She can certainty take things to the places she mentioned. It's good to remove the things from your home that are no longer a part of your life. But tell her I recommend making as simple as possible choices for where things would go. If the process is too stressful, or delays getting the clutter out of the house, it's not serving her. There's the ideal...and then there's the action that would serve her best in the moment. Ask her to think what's the most kindest clutter removal solution for her.

Her mom said:

"I'm having the most trouble with Mother's old things, and just can't let those things that Mother got from her mother and treasured -- how can I just 'let that go' too?? It makes me sick at heart. I have several beautiful hand-painted bowls of hers, and an absolutely gorgeous china pitcher with creamer and sugar bowl -- I just LOVE these things -- but I won't ever actually USE them. What would he say about this?????? H-E-L-L-L-P-P-P-P!!!"

I said:

Tell your mom it's okay to let go of the things her mother once valued if she doesn't value them. By value I mean enjoy without trepidation. Sometimes there's a resistance to letting go of things that once belonged to loved ones because it can feel like we are letting go of the person with their things. We associate the things with our loved one and it can be hard to separate the two. But hanging on to something that causes us grief and anxiousness ("H-E-L-L-L-P-P-P!!!") doesn't serve us. It divides and hurts us.

I'd gently suggest that she notice the effect it's having on her. Your mom says she is, "Sick at heart." That's a strong statement. Anxiousness is a red flag that we are being hurt in a situation. It doesn't mean she loves her mother any less by letting go of the things that are causing her such grief. Love doesn't mean putting yourself in harm's way. There's never a good enough reason to suffer. If our loved ones who have passed on could come back for a moment, they would feel terrible that we were suffering in their honor.

Maybe your mom may find an item that she likes to display to remember her mom. But by letting go of the bulk of her mom's things that are making her heart sick, she may find the peace of mind she's looking for.


Suzanne K. said...

Brooks, I am getting much better at "this is outa' here", but there are moments I still have the same challenges you describe here. Some guiding principles for me are: Simple decisions are important. Do I love this? Aesthetics are important (my environment). Thanks for writing this!

Brooks_Palmer said...

You're welcome, Suzanne!

Kady said...

I have found that if you keep the inherited things that you really love, and enjoy them, then it's easier to give away the rest of the things that you inherited from that person.
Also, it's possible that the person from whom you inherited them didn't love them either! Perhaps she wished she could be rid of them but couldn't bring herself to do it!
Most of all, it is your life, your space, and your decision.