Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue

St. Peter’s Tool

Clearing clutter has got to be the number one tool used by God’s watchdog of the pearly gates (St. Peter) to distinguish the advanced souls on earth–the Dalai Lamas with absolutely no attachment to material objects–from their infant brother and sister spirits, who clutch petals from their wedding bouquets and movie tickets from a first date 30 years ago in hopes of hanging on to the good memories of the past.

As for me, I’m locked both in Christmas past–with boxes of journals and college notebooks I can’t throw out–and Christmas future–with crates of research for books I intend to write in 2010 or 2012, when I’ll have more time.

“It’s simple,” Eric instructed me the other day as I attempted this torturous exercise. “If you haven’t used it or pulled it out in five years, chuck it.”


He walked over to a box in the garage labeled “mystic friendships.”

“What on earth is in here?” he asked.

“Research for a book I am going to write about the friendships between some of the great Christian mystics.”

“Right. Have you opened the box in five years?”


“Then chuck it.”

“I can’t.”


“Because one of these days, I will write that book.”

“Okay. Then buy the resources you need at that time.” (Note to readers: If any of you would like to write the book, I’d be happy to ship my photocopies and books to you.)

My handicap in the garage points to a much larger issue, of course–one that feeds my depression. I’m terrified to let go. Of everything in the past. And of all the potential in the future. I’m a flaming “P” (Perceiver) on the Myers-Briggs personality test, which means I see possibility in every sheet of paper and notebook and journal and movie stub and wedding napkin. It’s all so meaningful! Until I can’t find what’s truly important–like the last letter my dad wrote me before he died–because I’m drowning in stuff, like the memorabilia from his 50th birthday party (including a photo of me dancing with Rob Lowe, whose father was a friend of my dad’s).

Perhaps if I got better at living in the present, then the tokens of the past and future wouldn’t matter so much.

  • http://HASH(0xd0845fc) Jennifer

    My first instinct is to say “keep the box, chuck the husband.” But I don’t really mean that, it just sounds catchy. To put it in a more nuanced way — don’t throw away your hypothetical-book-box just becuase someone else thinks you should be using it more. Keep it if it speaks to your heart. It ain’t your “handicap” that you want to keep it. It’s just you having a different attitude about the box than the other person. I’d be terrified to let go too, if it was someone else ordering me to do the letting go. When you’re really ready to let go, when it is really right for you to do so, trust me, you will.

  • http://HASH(0xd08506c) Teresa Hayes

    I’ve just managed to get rid of various items,which in my oppinion were important and useful. I found once i let go of the big things, i’ve been able topart with the less significant stuff. My head feels clearer. I think i subconsciously married someone who is not remotely a hoarder, but its taken me 24 years to do it his way. It was very difficult but i feel, the wright decision. The first thing i did was stop buying things i didn’t need.

  • http://HASH(0xd086364) Ann Marie

    Flylady says it best: Only keep the things you really love, that way you will be surrounded by things that make you peaceful and happy. Get rid of the guilt, you write the book or you don’t, you may even write the book without the box of research material…

  • http://HASH(0xd086664) Christine

    Dont worry, Therese, I struggle with the same problem…you are NOT alone!!! Maybe you could help me go through my stuff and I can help you with yours and the objective support of a friend could be the key to our success…

  • http://HASH(0xd087374) Lorrie

    I agree with Ann Marie!! Keep it if it makes you smile. If it makes you feel guilty…pitch it. The box weights what, 5 – 10 lbs? That’s 5 – 10 lbs of guilt. It’s all in the way you look at it. We are perfectionists. How many unfinished projects do you have laying around making you feel guilty, tearing apart your immune system? Making you feel less than you are? Release the clutter. Erase the chalk board. Start fresh. ONE project at a time. And don’t give me that lame multi-tasking excuse. You obviously aren’t made that way or you wouldn’t be drowning in clutter. If you’re worried about losing research origins, take the box and compile the sources onto your computer. God knows you love to make lists. How do I know that? hehehe Take 15 minutes a day(set a timer) and go thru a project box until it’s done. Pitch the box. Your life didn’t become Chaotic in a day…and it won’t be fixed overnight, to paraphrase Marla Cilley.

  • Margaret Balyeat

    Having been forced after my father’s death (My mother had passed eight years previously) to wade through seventy-odd years of accumulated clutter gave me a new perspective(Not necessarily BETTER, I said “New.”) what was interesting was that although my mother had been labeled the packrat of the family(justifiably so, both the attached and unattached garages and the basement”workshop” as well were equally cluttered; it was just different thngs which had accumulated. And who’s to say that boxes of nails, screws, nuts and bolts are more or less valuable than boxes of family photograps, cards received from loved ones, motivating articles and sayings or clipped recipes? In many very real ways it was similar to an archealogical dig; there were truly “treasures–inEVERY sense of the word unearthed at every bend! Once they were dusted off and catalouged, they were an amazing(though not necessarily pretty record) of who each of my parents had truly been. Ar one point my sisters and I discovered what was like a “message from beyond! In my mother’s bedroom closet, tucked behind out-of-fashion shoes and purses we found a cardboard box that had to contain virtuallyEVERY greeting card and note mama had ever received from each of us four daughters, my father and any of her six grandchildren. Scrawled across the side of the box in my mother’s nearly-perfect Palmer-method script were the words “Just cards, no money! Ha! Ha! (It had been necessary for us to go through everything very carefully, because Mama had a habit of hiding money from herself to “save” and later forgetting that she’d even done so, let alone where! We discovered hoardes of pure silver coins, several two dollar billsand a stash of twenties secreted away in “The love chapter” of her Bible (II Corinthians 13) All told, it amounted to prabaly less than five hundred dollars, but who wants to accidentally toss even that amount of money? (Especially with the expenses of a funeral and burial already straining each of our already-stressed budgets.) We all four laughed out loud at her little message to us; it was another illustration of exactly how well my mother had truly inderstood each of us We also found priceless folders(one on each of us) in which she had collected memorabilia such as grade school report cards, notes we had written to her during our childhoods and various other items that chronicled the experiences of our childhood and young adulthoods! I confess to thoroughly enjoying seeing my chilhood script and creative spellings and discovering what thins had been important enough to me as a child to write to her about, including one letter signed “your irresponsible daughter” in which I was apologizing for having forgotten to turn off the bath water resulting in a flood which effectively destroed the ceiling of our living room! The “clutter’ she had chosen to save on each of us gave us a clear picture of how much each of us had meant to her and brought back long-supressed memories of both the goodand not-so-good days of our lives! It was an increibly daunting task, but a journey which I wouldn’t have missed for the world and much more meaningful than sorting through nuts and bolts and spare machine parts. One of the really wonderful things we ‘unearthed’ was a notebook in which she had carefully catalouged the history of every family heirloom from the original Currier and Ives lithograph which the great-aunt whose name I carry as my middle name had been awarded when she won the county spelling bee in the eighteen hundreds and had picked and sold wild blackberries door to door in order to frame to the gilded individual salt cellars which had pride of place in my mother’s china cabinet for as long as any of us could remember. so in addition to the heirlooms themselves, mama left us the gify of knowing exactly where each item had come from, which of our ancestors had treasured it and why. To paraphrase the master Card commercial”….Priceless!” I will admit, however that the experience sent me home with a resolve to go through my own clutter and eliminate those jars of assorted nails and screws in my own garage as well as create a folder of momentos for my own son to file when his turn comes!.As an only child, he’ll have to deal with my clutter on his own, and i dont want th task to be TOO daunting, but i’d like for him to see himself through my eyes in the same way my mother allowed each of us to understand the many ways we had each been precious to her–even this “irresponsible daughter!” As you said in another post, Therese, clutter DOES serve a worthwhile purpose at times and in many different ways. now, years woth of old National Geographics or Life magazines are another story altogether!(We could have done without the many old unmatched Tupperware lids as welll…and Daddy’s collection of used spark plugs werwas another unneccesary and undesirable inheritence! I share this to say ‘Don’t get TOO crazy with the dumpster; it’s impossible t know which of your “treasues will matter to someone else when you’re gone. Discovering the letters daddy had written to mother when he was serving in W.W. II(and hers to him) gave us a new picture of our parents as young lovers which was eblightening to say the least as was the scrapbook his own mother had made chronicling his time in the service. it gave me a totally new perspective on the events which had contributed to the man my father had become. We also discovered pgotographs we’d never seen of ancestors whose physical traits we each separately inherited. One profile of daddy holding his first biece was so like my son’s profile it was almost spooky and it gave him his first taste of truly feeling as a biracial child that he really ‘belonged” to our family he now has it framed and sitting on his bedroom bureau as a reminder that he is INDEED one of us!

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