Archive for February, 2010

Anti-hoarding: junk the crap and emotional baggage

February 23, 2010

Everyone is talking about Hoarders and A&E. I’ll admit that I begin every show by saying I won’t be able to watch the whole thing, and then I’m mesmerized to the end.

While some people watch and admit that they have tendencies to collect unneeded crap, I am quite the opposite. I find myself peering around the house for any areas that might be victim to pileup. With the exception of one organized – yet stuffed – closet, my house is very tidy.

I used to be a clutter bug, if not a hoarder in training. I had a small apartment with dozens of houseplants and prized possessions hanging everywhere. I wouldn’t clean for a few weeks and then I’d freak out and deep clean everywhere. Most of the items that cluttered my space were valuable and/or memorable.

When I decided to quit my old life and go west for a new one (yes on the Oregon Trail), I had to downsize. Knickknacks, collectible plates, clothes and almost every piece of furniture had to go. I wanted to sell valuable collectibles, but there was no marketplace. So, I had a free garage sale and forced all visitors to leave the house with something.

Hoarders have emotional reasons for filing their homes with stuff. I found emotional release in giving stuff away. I was holding onto boots that climbed summits yet killed my feet, gifts from old boyfriends I hate and even the leg cast I wore in torment after destroying my ankle. I let go and old emotions stopped strangling me.

Our first apartment in Portland was so small that we emptied half the moving truck at Goodwill. (I do regret ditching the snow shovel.) The bed was our only furniture, yet we felt free.

In the six years since, I’ve tried to only keep sentimental, valuable or useful items. Clearing clutter seems to open my life to change and release negative emotions.

The day I was laid off, I sorted the entire garage. I recycled boxes of school papers my parents dropped off when we bought the house. The next day I attacked the crammed walk-in closet. I’ve gone through both again since, getting rid of more.

If there’s a medical condition that makes one consider packing a backpack and walking away from all other belongings, I am prone to it. I’d rather have very little than a house full of junk and filth.

Likewise, if I see a chance to shed emotional baggage and make room for growth, I will. I don’t want my head and heart full of junk either.

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What to give up for Lent? How about complaining

February 16, 2010

It’s Fat Tuesday and I’m thinking about the most difficult things to give up for Lent. I was raised protestant, but my friends were mostly Catholic so I adopted many Catholic practices. (And now I am converted and married to a Catholic – but that’s another story.)

In high school I gave up material things I loved, like chocolate or sweets altogether. One year I attempted to give up swearing. Every time I swore, I would do ten pushups or sit-ups. By the end of Lent I had great abs and arms.

Learning about Catholicism during nine months of required adult education provided a better insight to Lent and what it means to me. Personal changes can be made in any season, regardless of religion. However, Lent prompts me to look at myself honestly and the changes I need most.

I’ve found that as difficult as it might be to give up – gasp – beer, it’s much harder to renounce a negative trait. (And since I quit sugar in January, I have very few drinks anyway.)

Instead, I will continue to attack serious downfalls in my spirit and attitude – the areas in which I do not behave like Christ (or Buddha or any enlightened being). I’ve learned that you’re not supposed to announce your Lenten plans, so I’ll talk about past years instead.

Two years ago, I gave up complaining. Yes, complaining. I can’t say that for 40 days I never thought or voiced a complaint. Who could? But I learned to catch complaints in thought, ask myself what good the complaints served, and then keep most of them to myself.

It’s amazing how many complaints our heads come up with in one day. I get out of bed and complain that my back hurts. Then I complain that the cat puked on the floor. The shower runs out of hot water mid leg shaving and I complain again. Plus, there’s always dishes in the sink, traffic is bad, and on and on.

I caught myself complaining about good things like a messy fridge filled with too much food. Or the sun was too bright. Or there was too much work to do (who would have known I would loose my job). I needed an attitude adjustment and it started with being aware.

Why was I complaining? How could I be grateful instead? How much of this could I just turn over to source and let go?

It turns out that most complaints are not warranted and serve no good purpose. I still complain, but a lot less. Even my husband notices the difference and catches me if I start complaining.

This year, I’m tackling a pretty huge lineup of issues. If I have success, I will find peace and joy in every day. For anyone who wants to keep chocolate and give up something hurtful, this little reflection is from one of our church bulletins last year. I cut it out and it’s still on the fridge.

Give up complaining … focus on gratitude.
Give up pessimism … become an optimist.
Give up harsh judgments … think kindly thoughts.
Give up worry … trust Divine Providence.
Give up discouragement … be full of hope.
Give up bitterness … turn to forgiveness.
Give up hatred … return good for evil.
Give up negativism … be positive.
Give up anger … be more patient.
Give up gloom … enjoy the beauty that is all around.
Give up jealous … pray for trust.
Give up sin … turn to virtue.
Give up giving up … hang in there.

Blogging keeps the monsters out of my head

February 9, 2010

I don’t know why I took a break from blogging. Let’s just call it laziness. (A bad habit is as easily set as a good one). Some readers missed my writing, but I realized yesterday I am the one suffering.

Blogging keeps me in the habit of writing, which is good. Plus, rewriting and editing each blog hones my wordsmith skills. More importantly, writing helps me think creatively and explore unexpected thoughts.

Analyzing my thoughts helps me distinguish between fact and fiction. Often, I create a truth in my head that is upsetting and detrimental to my goals and relationships. Those negative thoughts roll around in my noggin. Like a snowball, they get larger with every roll. Pretty soon, the thought is a horned monster that stabs at my confidence and enthusiasm. He gnashes his terrible teeth and roars his terrible roar just like the characters in my favorite book.

Then, I put him on paper (or screen). When I dissect the monster, I see it is either a tiny, baby monster or no monster at all. Either way, it is no match for facts.

So, I need to get those pessimistic thoughts out quickly so they cannot build momentum. I know some people write their fears and concerns and then burn the paper – or freeze it in blue water.  In some exercises you write the worst possible scenario imaginable (in regards to that fear or worry) only to find it ridiculous or comical. Some people journal or write letters they’ll never send just to work out their thoughts.

Method aside, I must examine my thoughts continuously. In Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill says the subconscious mind is like “a fertile garden in which weeds will grow if the seeds of more desirable crops are not sewn.”

His work focuses on feeding the subconscious creative thoughts – and mine must too.

An avid gardener, I know my love and passion for the crops is unequaled. Sure, people enjoy my tomatoes – and my blogs – but the genuine nourishment is mine.

So I’ll strive to tend the garden more often and rid it of weed sprouts and imaginary monsters.