Decluttering Can Help With Cancer


I experienced unexpected rewards of decluttering.

cartoon drawing of blogger and MDS survivor, Jane Biehl

I have thought for years about doing serious decluttering. I have moved several times and during the last move, I donated over half of my items and furniture. Goodwill asked me when I would be done bringing things to them! It was a brutal move as I went from 2,000 square feet to 800 square feet. But in my two-bedroom apartment, I still felt overwhelmed.

Several times during the confinement of the pandemic I thought about doing these tasks, but used that time to write my next book, which is now at the editor’s. I am social, and when I feel well enough, I am usually going out with friends. We all know how much time our medical appointments take, which is fodder for another article! I just did not have time — or so I thought.

Lately, I felt like my life was in chaos. I had serious financial issues, an editor was holding up my book; I would sit watching television, eating too much and gaining weight. I knew I had to do something rather than waste precious time, as my depression was paralyzing me.

Slowly, I began to get some control of my life again. My finances began to straighten out when I went to financial experts for help. I found a new editor who is working on my book. I had a close friend named Kelly, who has a beautiful condo, and has volunteered several times to help me with this huge task of getting rid of things. I finally asked her, and she has become one of my angels. I frequently tell her she has no idea what a difference she has made in my life.

She explained that decluttering is more than throwing things out or donating them. It involves reorganizing, so I have everything together in one place where I can reach it. My writing journals, papers and articles were neatly placed into notebooks and labeled. Paper clips, pens and pencils were gathered and put into beautiful containers. Stationery was all put in one place instead of three different drawers.

We moved to the bathroom,where I had six pairs of sheets and only needed two for each bed. I also felt good, since I donated some to a domestic violence shelter. The kitchen involved getting rid of all those coffee mugs. We moved carefully from room to room and rearranged them so that I could find things easily and not waste time searching.

What was amazing to me is how my attitude changed. I have scoffed at all these articles explaining how clutter affects us and that decluttering can help. Well, my friends, it is true. I no longer sit on my couch looking around and being depressed. I am amazed at the time I save not wandering around trying to find what I need. I had beautiful gifts and dishes that have been used for housing loose items like those scattered pens and paper clips.

It was not easy. We spent one afternoon every week for months. I was prone to just organizing the parts of the apartment that are visible and hiding stuff in drawers. Kelly would not allow me to do that. She explained that cleaning out these drawers were also important to find what I needed. These time-consuming tasks have opened up a whole new world for me with lots of space. Now I am excited to have people over and entertain again.

Those of us with cancer need this more than anyone. Our lives are so cluttered with simply staying alive, going to doctor appointments, and fighting through fatigue. There are so many things we can't control. This is one part of our lives that we can and the benefits are enormous.

Kelly has taught me that this is also fun. She will clap when we are done with each room and has forced me to look at my little apartment through new eyes. My one huge bit of advice is to have a friend or several friends help. If you wish, you can even invite several friends over, attack each room, and order pizza!This is not something to tackle alone. You need someone to guide and help you with the decision-making.

We all know that life is hard and anything we do to make it easier is a bonus. Now if I am wondering where my scissors are; I know exactly and find them immediately. Thank you to angels like Kelly in our lives!

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