Fall Cleaning and Cancer 'Clutter'


This two-time cancer survivor and clutter-clearing author struggles more thoughtfully with clutter since cancer.

"Pitch it. Toss it. Let it go. Enjoy the new possibilities created by having room to breathe."

Those were my clutter clearing training mantras for my audiences. As the author of Clutter Clearing Choices, I am a fan of weeding out household clutter. Sometimes things change, at least a little. To be honest, nine years after breast cancer, I still have a cancer box, and frankly I intend to keep it.

When you are done with cancer treatments, it can be healing and freeing to weed out the cancer paraphernalia that has accumulated - in the kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, and maybe next to the comfy chair by the television? Getting rid of your cancer reminders may help you move forward. Still, I did keep a box with my medical records, wig, and helpful reference resources and books. You know, just in case.

After treatments, I wanted to leap into new normal. More accurately, I staggered, stumbled and tried to drag myself there. It took longer than I thought it should. File that under "things they don't always tell you," and come up with a better term than "new normal." Sheesh. "New normal" is way too trite to describe trying to get back to some semblance of the life we lived before a cancer diagnosis.

When I teach clutter clearing, I remind people that home is ideally the place where we can rest, recharge, and recover. Our home is our safe haven, so I believe it is worth the effort to make it a restoring place, not a reminder that we had cancer! Remove the visual reminders from the rooms you use all the time. Toss what you are ready to toss, give away what will help newer cancer survivors, and put the rest in a cancer box, a box that doesn't have to be stored where you see it daily. Perhaps the basement or attic or the back of a closet.

So, as a cancer survivor and clutter-clearing "expert", here are some tips for clearing your own clutter - cancer-related or not!

Keep important stuff. Clearing clutter, even cancer clutter, is not about getting rid of everything. It is okay to keep sentimental stuff, costly supplies like the wig, and anything that is personally important to you. And truly, it is especially important to keep the medical records!

Don't let cancer constantly peer over your shoulder. As I mentioned before, put the cancer box somewhere you don't go every day. Silly me - I originally had my cancer box on the top shelf of my bedroom closet, literally hanging over me every day!

Begin by dealing with the most visible items. Clear off the front of fridge and the kitchen counter tops and bathroom counter tops and your nightstand. Maybe especially your nightstand - you don't want cancer reminders to be the last thing you see at night and the first thing you see when you wake!

Think in layers. Keep in mind that clutter can be like Shrek, the ogre. Sometimes it works best to deal with it layer by layer instead of the rip-off-the-band-aid approach. I have always said that sometimes clutter comes off best in layers, like peeling back an onion: you get to choose how often and how many layers you are ready to peel back at any point in time. Eventually, I decided I did not even want to see that pink breast cancer sweatshirt in my closet every morning when I got dressed.

Reclaim your life. Don't let cancer steal any more from you. Do not let tomorrow's worries ruin today's joy. You deserve to get back to the things in your life that spark joy. You had cancer and you can move forward again. It comes down to a clutter clearing term I call prime real estate. Don't give cancer prime real estate, or visible important areas, of your heart or your home. Be vigilant going forward and live your best life.

Related Videos
Image of a woman with blond hai
Dr. Manisha Thakuria in an interview with CURE
Dr. Beth Goldstein in an interview with CURE
Treating Skin Cancer Panel
Dr. Anna C. Pavlick
Lorenzo G. Cohen
Dr. Jedd D. Wolchok
Multidisciplinary Approach Panel
Dr. Nicholas Sanfilippo