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Post-Holiday: Free Your Mind From Cancer

A breast cancer and melanoma survivor clears her household and cancer clutter.
PUBLISHED December 28, 2016
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,or

Cancer adds to our internal and external clutter. Physical clutter in our lives adds to internal clutter and stress in our heads. During active treatment, I had a lot of physical pharmaceutical clutter in my bathroom. After active cancer treatment, weeding out clutter can be a cleansing process that purges mental clutter and frees us up to move on, even from our cancer. After the holidays, it is a great time to begin.

Think about the thoughts, cancer and otherwise, that weigh us down. "Shoulds" create guilt. Guilt can wear people down. Guilt can suck the life right out of us. Sometimes it takes less energy to weed out than to think about and worry about weeding out. Clear clutter to have more energy. I needed to find energy after chemotherapy, radiation and surgeries.

Physical clutter takes up space. How can something new and positive come into my life, if the space is full of old clutter? Clear clutter to free up space for good things.

Physical and mental clutter eats up time. It take time and energy to store and maintain excess stuff. It wastes time to hunt through stuff. Clear clutter to free up time for your new priorities. Consider removing lingering cancer items—at least from direct and daily sight.

Emotional clutter, especially cancer, eats at us. Things can remind people of bad moments in their lives. An example would be a gift from someone from a relationship that later ended badly or cancer paraphernalia that is still hanging around. We don't need stuff in our lives to beat us up for something in the past. Clear clutter to toss emotional baggage.

Finally, clear clutter to enjoy peace and order. It can be hard to maintain inner calm when faced with outer disorder. Our homes can be relaxing, rejuvenating and healing places. Our homes can enhance our focus rather than drain it. You deserve and can achieve greater peace and order by clearing household and cancer clutter.

Are you feeling motivated to weed out clutter? Keep in mind there is no one right way to clear clutter. We all have different personalities, styles, ages and perspectives on how we want our homes to support us. The two techniques below can be tweaked to fit your way of doing things:

The piece method: This technique is for busy or low energy people who can't create large blocks of time to deal with household clutter. With this technique, you whittle away at your clutter for as little as 10 or 15 minutes each day, or you limit yourself to tackling a small amount of space per organizing session, perhaps one shelf or one drawer at a crack. Try using this technique three to five times per week to stay on top of household clutter. You really can make significant progress this way.

The as-you-go method: I created this technique to make clearing clutter and staying organized into a life habit. With this technique, you can get in the habit to look for clutter as you move about your usual household activities. If you open a drawer in the bathroom, remove the stuff you never use such as any expired medicines or samples that have never been used. If you open a kitchen cupboard to get a cup for coffee, quickly donate the extra mugs that have been cluttering up your cupboard space. How many mugs do you have in how many styles? If that many people actually all stopped by at once, wouldn't you probably use disposables? Make it a habit to look for outgrown items in your space and regularly sell or donate them.

Try making your home into a more clutter-free space that becomes a calm haven to restore and energize you—a needed event after cancer. Weeding out clutter isn't to achieve a magazine-cover home "perfection." The goal is to free up your time and energy to create a home that supports you as you move forward.


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