descend into a fractal hell of meta-truthiness (jmcarlin) Sun 25 May 14 15:43
> "Oh boy, a flat surface to put stuff on!" AKA "flat surface syndrome".
It's all done with mirrors... (kafclown) Sun 25 May 14 18:34
Also, I feel like the people that say "touch each piece of mail once" don't live in the real world. I get mail, I have to call somebody about a bill, I have to put in a file, I have to pull it out again when they don't answer, I have to sort it into a folder-- how do you touch something only once?
descend into a fractal hell of meta-truthiness (jmcarlin) Sun 25 May 14 21:28
Of course there are exceptions but I can give you an example from my own house. A catalog arrives. There's something a bit interesting in it. So the catalog goes on a stack to "think about it" and make a decision. Months later when the stack has gotten too high or we need to clean up because a guest is coming over, the catalog goes into the recycling pile and out to the can.
Ari Davidow (ari) Mon 26 May 14 07:42
Catalogs are tricky, because they ask for time that you don't necessarily have when they arrive. But I try to be a disciplinarian when it comes to periodicals. When the new one arrives, the old one heads straight to the recycling bag.
descend into a fractal hell of meta-truthiness (jmcarlin) Mon 26 May 14 10:12
That's a fair statement about catalogs but when you have several months of them on the same stack, that's over the top IMO.
Frako Loden (frako) Mon 26 May 14 10:42
When I receive a catalog in the mail, I make a deal with myself: Either I leaf through it right now or it goes in the trash. When I leaf through it, I put a post-it on the page where an item interests me. If I don't get back to it in 3 or 4 days, it goes in the trash. Catalogs don't pile up in my house.
Mark McDonough (mcdee) Mon 26 May 14 13:48
I got a late start with the book because I lost my copy, but I'm loving this quote from near the beginning: "You only have time and space for what you love." All of us do have a few things that we must keep even if we don't love them, e.g. last year's tax returns, but that is a powerful thought. I'm already looking around the room I'm writing this in and thinking "hmmmm..." I do see some things I love, like my favorite bathrobe. But I also see many things I do not love!
Jennifer Powell (jnfr) Mon 26 May 14 22:02
I don't have kids but I do think about what I will leave behind for others to deal with. And this bit from Lauren really struck me as a perfect way to approach the stuff. >> A few boxes of curated, meaningful objects is a gift. An attic full of stuff we didn't have the time or energy to sort through is not.
Frako Loden (frako) Tue 27 May 14 12:35
Yeah, those sentences resonated with me too. I'm currently reducing big useless boxes to a few more meaningful ones.
Lauren Rosenfeld (lgosenfeld) Tue 27 May 14 13:21
Hi Everyone. It's been a busy day at work for me and tonight I am off to a high school awards ceremony, but I'll be sure to check back in and answer questions when I get home. Thanks for all the great feedback, the great questions, and your willingness to open up this part of your lives for discussion. I'll talk to you soon. Lauren
Lauren Rosenfeld (lgosenfeld) Wed 28 May 14 08:43
So today I wanted to answer the question from @kafclown: "So, my question is about regrets-- I am overall glad that I got rid of my albums (which I hadn't listened to in 10+ years) But I am having a few regrets that I left money on the table, that I will want them, that I just sold stuff for a pittance that I spent a lifetime collecting. How do you get past the regrets?" This is really an excellent question. And it really has two dimensions. One is about regret, which you specifically asked about. The other (which you didn't specifically ask - but which is in the subtext) is about value. Let me talk first about value. One of the reasons we have a difficult time letting go of objects we purchased is about wasting money: either dealing with the regret of having purchased something we did not really need in the first place -- or on the other hand -- regretting letting go of something that may still have some monetary value. So I'd like to redefine value: An object of value is one that creates happiness, peace, or ease in your life. Period. If an object is not serving that emotional function in your life, it does not really have value, no matter how much you paid for it or no matter how many generations it has been in your family. So the opposite side of that same coin is true as well: If it is making you unhappy, if it is making you anxious, if it is creating regret, if it is making your life harder -- it has negative value. So regardless of how much you paid for it, or how much money someone else has paid for it, if it is draining you of your happiness and your inner peace -- that is too high a price to pay. How would you price out your happiness? What is it worth to you? Would you sit on $100 worth of records (or dishes, or books, or clothing) if it ended up costing you years of happiness and peace and ease? Here is what I tell my clients: If you love doing yards ales, go for it. If you love listing things on ebay then packing them up, printing labels and running them to your local post office, by all means, do it. If you enjoy listing things on Craigslist and enjoy the social interaction of receiving calls from potential buyers and inviting them to your house (and some people really do!) then you should definitely do that. But if doing any of these things puts the fear of G-d in you and you get stomach cramps just thinking about it, please just give them away. Because you are paying too high a price to house them. And how do you get past regret? You can't. At least you can't get around it. You have to listen to it. You have to talk to it. If regret tell you, "You never should have let those things go for so little a price," you can tell regret, "I understand your fear, Regret, but I want to reassure you that I was paying too high a price to live with these items. In letting them go, I have regained freedom and peace of mind. And so I feel I have come out on top of deal. I may have lost a few dollars, but I have gained something that is priceless in the bargain."
Lauren Rosenfeld (lgosenfeld) Wed 28 May 14 08:58
Q: Also, I feel like the people that say "touch each piece of mail once" don't live in the real world. I get mail, I have to call somebody about a bill, I have to put in a file, I have to pull it out again when they don't answer, I have to sort it into a folder-- how do you touch something only once?" Paperwork tends to create a special form of anxiety in us. We're afraid to touch paperwork because it creates anxiety and so we put it away and ultimately it becomes piles and boxes of anxiety. Some paperwork takes time that we don't have at the moment. Some paperwork takes courage that we don't have at the moment. Some paperwork takes decisiveness that we don't have at the moment. So it's important that we recognize why we are putting out paperwork away for later, because there are different reasons. So the paper I put away because it is going to be a thirty minutes conversation is different than the paperwork that we put away because it is a two minutes conversation that we are afraid of having. I'd like to suggest that you sort you papers as such. So maybe a pile that says, "come back when I have time" -- "come back when I have courage" or "come back when I have patience" -- and then set aside time and energy for dealing with those particular sources of delay. There's never really a time that you or I are going to enjoy talking to the insurance company about the bill they declined to pay. But if I know that I am going to build my patience and courage muscles by doing it (and in the end will have benefited by exercising them) then it is worthwhile to set aside that time for my personal growth. Touching things only once may indeed be a bit unrealistic and perfectionistic. But on the other hand, not touching them at all can create a huge problem. So the balance is this, look at touching your paperwork as an opportunity to touch some very important strengths within yourself: courage, patience, and perseverance. And remember this: If we spend two months avoiding a five minute task -- that task turns into a two month and five minute task. That's too much energy given over to a very small task. :)
Jennifer Powell (jnfr) Wed 28 May 14 10:10
That's excellent thinking on paperwork, Lauren. Thank you.
Rip Van Winkle (keta) Wed 28 May 14 11:44
Great conversation so far! That's a great insight that not all things postponed are for lack of the same ingredient. It's so easy to assume we just don't have the time, but you're right, sometimes it's really patience or courage that is needed. I have a lot of thoughts and comments about the book, but for the moment I just wanted to chime in with a question. How do you recommend approaching the relationships with other people who are also affected by your stuff... or in the case of a family, how do you approach finding a mutually agreeable way to handle individual and shared space and stuff?
Kathy L. Dalton (kd) Wed 28 May 14 12:46
I like this thinking on the paperwork, sounds like it is adaptable to how I operate. So, I tried an exercise in my book, the one about the entrance to your house, which in my case is the foyer -- a room of doors. But straight as you come in is a little table full of problems. It is where I put the mail and the phone is there too. Stuff does just PILE up there. I couldn't keep coming in & out to fix it; I gave up. The real fix is moving it to my study...but my study is the most enormous job of decluttering in the house. Not a good spot to start on. I think I will at least designate one other spot for my three folders: come back with time; come back with courage; come back with patience. But man oh man I need deadlines. Putting it in little chunks is also what I need. I find it draining even SLICed. Stealing a bit from the pomodoro (sp?) folks I have found that for me, setting aside a time and then an alternate activity does seem to help me move forward. If I try to set a whole task it is often TOO MUCH. Also, I am eminently distractable. Like Mark, I was a bit put off by the woowoo but have been able to see that it makes some sense. I do not want a whole breathing room, but I do want the spaces I spend the most time in to have some peace and respite along with a certain lively clutter that feels homey to me.
(katecat) Wed 28 May 14 13:31
the woo woo is what brought me here! I really love the idea of being clear and present and compassionate about your own clutter. I am as cluttery as the next middle-aged person who has lived in the same house for 16 years; and my husband has more serious hoarding tendencies. So most of our house is a bit cluttered, and then his two domains (his never-used office and our garage) are just jammed with boxes and old busted computers and dust. It is depressing. So I will get your book and see what I can do. Does it talk about working with more determined hoarders at all? I am sentimental and indecisive, and thus cluttered; but Ken has a lot of anxiety about letting anything go, and it seems like it's so painful for him when I push it that I often just stop. I guess another way to look at it is that although decluttering is a bit hard and anxious for me, I feel marvelous afterward. I don't think he feels _bad_ afterwards, but he doesn't feel marvelous, and the process is incredibly painful for him.
Mark McDonough (mcdee) Wed 28 May 14 15:01
I came for the de-cluttering, but stayed for the woo woo! :-)
Lauren Rosenfeld (lgosenfeld) Thu 29 May 14 12:39
Thank you for asking about the difference between hoarders and clutterers. As you all know, my co-author, Dr. Melva Green was an expert psychiatrist on the A&E series, "Hoarders". The main difference between hoarders and clutterers that we talk about in the book is that hoarders find it nearly impossible to distinguish variance in value among their belongings. So for example -- a cluttered person might find it very difficult to let go of a pile of old receipts -- they may feel very anxious and worried about the consequences of letting that pile go. But if I were to ask that person to decide between old receipts and their grandmother's handwritten recipes - they would know the difference and would let go of the receipts. A hoarder would find that decision near impossible. They tend to have equal amounts of attachments to all their possessions (and thus equal amounts of fear and anxiety about letting them go. As one hoarder on the show told Melva, "When you ask me to give away my things, I feel like you're asking me to give away my skin." It is not unusual for different feelings about clutter to give rise to relationship issues within families. One person feels comfortable in mess, while another feels like it makes their skin crawl. Some people feel they need a certain amount of disorder to relax. Others can't relax when there is the least amount of disorder. I really recommend that we have "I" conversations about such things. So, for example, instead of saying, "I just can't relax in the midst of your mess," try saying something like, "I relax better when my visual field is clear. Stuff brings up worries for me and when the room feels decluttered, I feel like I can breathe." Or -- instead of saying, "You're constant cleaning makes me a nervous wreck," try saying, "When the house is too picked up, I feel like I can't put anything down for fear that it is going to be seen as trash; so a little disorder feel natural and comforting for me." This isn't about pointing fingers - it's about looking within -- which frankly is much more challenging work!
Lauren Rosenfeld (lgosenfeld) Thu 29 May 14 12:43
And as for woo woo -- I guess I am unabashedly woo woo if you want to call it that. I believe there is a deeper dimension to even our most mundane tasks. But honestly, when it comes right down to it -- this isn't about conjuring or candle lighting or calling on spirits (though I have no problem with any of that!) -- it's about getting the work done: the very real work of looking at how our internal emotional clutter tends to generate the clutter in our homes. No amount of wand waving will get that work done. It takes willingness, discernment, compassion, and courage. I have decluttered with folks from all walks and stages of life and love and loss. Woo woo or not -- I've seen this method work. So thank you all for sticking around and being part of this conversation. :)
Teleological dyslexic (ceder) Thu 29 May 14 13:05
Although virtual, blog-sites give me the heebie-jeebies! Talk about clutter--sheesh.
It's all done with mirrors... (kafclown) Thu 29 May 14 18:30
Thanks for the responses-- I don't think of myself as a clutterer or a hoarder-- I think of myself as an archivist or a collector. Maybe I am on the hoarder spectrum, though. Up until recently I've had plenty of space (although I've been steadily filling it) I am moving to Chicago this summer, and doubt I will have the kind of space that I have now. I have been going through my office trying to get rid of stuff. I just shredded (the county has a mobile shredder every saturday at different town halls) 15 years of documents-- 19901--2005. They were my mundane documents, phone bills, fidelity statements, etc. I feel a little bad about it in that the record of that is all gone-- but I also know I was never going to look at that, it was just taking up space (about 9 banker's boxes) I now have the boxes of financial documents from 2006-2014, which I am keeping (just in case) plus all the tax returns. That's another 5 bankers boxes. I also have a large plastic bin full of programs of shows I've seen (not exhaustive or complete, but a lot), a large plastic bin full of posters and artwork I've saved, a large plastic bin full of clippings and reviews of my work (and I had 2 bins-- got it down to 1 by throwing out all of the complete newspaper sets and duplicates that I had saved of the Newspaper that day), and a bin of all the personal letters that I wrote (or that people wrote me) back in the day (for a while I photocopied everything I wrote to save) And a couple more banker boxes full of paperwork from the non-profit I used to run, and some of my mom's paperwork and artwork. I don't want to get rid of this stuff, but I know I need to. Not sure how I am going to.
die die must try (debbie) Thu 29 May 14 18:57
scanning has made a huge difference in our lives. We are on the extreme side of decluttering, having gotten down to two suitcases each for a total of 30 kg each, but it isn't like you just get to that place and stay there, it is an ongoing process of constantly working at getting rid of stuff. the worst for us is the stuff we should sell - some camera lenses, tripod - that's our current challenge. We find if we are about to move, then it is too late and harder to work on.
Julie Sherman (julieswn) Thu 29 May 14 19:57
I used to save lots of paperwork and books from old jobs, houses, etc. But I realized that I never looked at them again. So when I moved across country last time I got rid of as much as possible. I shredded 20 boxes of paper and got rid of 15 boxes of books. I do not miss any of it. Paper still accumulates but not as fast as it once did.
descend into a fractal hell of meta-truthiness (jmcarlin) Thu 29 May 14 20:43
I was inspired by this topic to toss old jeans that I had planned to turn into shorts for several years.
J. Eric Townsend (jet) Fri 30 May 14 06:06
Coming in a bit late, but I think this is a great discussion. Moving across country can reset your "what should I keep?" answers. It cost us $.68/lb to move from the bay area to Pittsburgh, we got rid of a lot of stuff we'd have kept if we moved across town. Scale it up for inflation -- if it cost you $1/lb to move, what would you keep? I no longer buy books thinking I can sell them if I didn't like them. I use my library card or buy used books so cheap and common I don't mind recycling them when I'm done reading them. When I buy a book it's one I plan on keeping and re-reading or using as reference text. We also give away 'decent' clothing at donation events to help people who were hit by a natural disaster. I'd rather see it go to someone who lost everything than to the dollar bin at a charity store. At the end it's still a bit personal, it's a way to get stuff out of our house and lead a simpler life.
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