As a survivor of cancer, life has enough difficulty without daily painful reminders. Let go of items that create emotional clutter today.
Barbara Tako is a breast cancer survivor (2010), melanoma survivor (2014) and author of Cancer Survivorship Coping Tools–We'll Get You Through This. She is a cancer coping advocate, speaker and published writer for television, radio and other venues across the country. She lives, survives, and thrives in Minnesota with her husband, children and dog. See more at www.cancersurvivorshipcopingtools.com,or www.clutterclearingchoices.com.
For a while, as a cancer survivor, I was hanging onto cancer items — a combination of gifts and practical cancer-related things — longer than maybe I needed to. How do you decide what to keep? Maybe you have things you keep because of a memory or a feeling or you don’t want to jinx yourself into a cancer recurrence? As a breast cancer and melanoma survivor and a clutter clearing speaker and author, these are my thoughts.
Don’t Keep Misery:
Remember that people give each other things as acts of kindness. No one intends to add to someone else’s clutter misery. Appreciate the intent of gifts and inherited items but feel free to sell, donate or re-gift items to others who might have more appreciation for them. If there is a bad memory associated with an item, pass the item on. If you feel you need to keep a cancer-related item that evokes negative feelings, box it up and store it in an out-of-sight location.
Items can be given away on freecycle.org, or sold in the newspaper, on the internet, or they can be taken by local estate sale or auction companies who will buy stuff outright or accept things on consignment. If you aren’t sure how to price things, look for similar items online to see what prices people are getting for items similar to yours.
Other People’s Clutter:
This is about clutter boundaries. Don’t let anyone else’s clutter drag you down. Life is too short. If people try to get you to store their stuff, it is fine to be generous with your space on a short-term basis. Establish a specific deadline for them to retrieve the item. Remind once, and then feel free to dispose of stuff as you see fit after the deadline.
Parents, you are not responsible for indefinitely storing stuff for your grown children. It isn’t fair or respectful to you. Furthermore, do not “gift” stuff to your grown children with strings attached. It isn’t really a gift when you are basically asking for free storage under the loving guise of “keeping it in the family!”
We can give generously to get rid of clutter. Give respectfully, however, by giving to those who can truly use what they receive. Do not dump on a fellow clutter bug because you know they too have a weakness for stuff. If you pass items down in your family, remember to pass down the stories too. Write down why these items have monetary or sentimental value. If you don’t, the treasures may get tossed with the trash.
Getting rid of clutter is not about getting rid of everything. Keep what is beautiful, useful and sentimental, or go with your gut response to it before your well-intentioned rationalizations kick in — you know, “It was a gift,” or “It was Grandma’s,” or “I paid good money for it …” Life as a cancer survivor brings enough stress without the stuff that evokes stress. Let go of items that create emotional clutter today.