Holidays, Cancer and Clutter


Two-time cancer survivor offers ways to reduce clutter during the holidays and beyond.

Cancer survivorship and household clutter seem to clump together sometimes. As cancer survivors, we often feel short on energy and short on time. At the same time, our perspective on “stuff” has changed. Since cancer, do you feel like you have an overaccumulation? Do you find yourself thinking more about your mortality or maybe just downsizing because “stuff” just isn’t as important as it seemed before cancer?

Reducing clutter can be challenge regardless of whether you are a cancer survivor or not. Consider weeding out while you are healthy enough and able enough, and not under a time crunch. Cancer survivors are all too aware of how health issues suddenly can happen.

Clear clutter now to create the time and energy to do what you enjoy. Now is the time. Purge clutter to free up time and energy to pursue your priorities. Are you ready to share and pass some things on to others? Try these ideas:

Give gifts now to see the appreciation and hear the thank-yous. If you have more than one heir, label and write down who will inherit what. Prevent future arguments or hurt feelings: If you let family members weed out later, there may be arguments about who gets what, where things should go (sell/donate/trash), and information about family heirlooms may become lost. Sometimes good stuff could be lost and silly stuff might be kept because the sorters aren’t as knowledgeable as you.

Capture your stories for your family now. Our life stories are not clutter. If you hope to keep certain items in the family, physically attach the history stories to those items--who made, bought, or owned something and when, where, and why it has been kept in the family. Maybe someone in the family would like to interview and record your story.

When family members know the stories associated with things, they will be more likely to keep those things. An “old plate” becomes much more interesting when it becomes “Grandma Edna’s from her childhood home in England.” Create a win-win situation. You can clear clutter and pass some things along to family members today, or for holidays and birthdays.

Now for the tough stuff.

Make sure you have a current will, health declaration, and written funeral and burial wishes. Line up the important things before worrying about little things like who gets what plate.

As survivors know, unforeseen circumstances do happen. Select someone you trust to do their best for you if you aren’t in a position to voice your healthcare wishes. Discuss what kind of life prolonging you would want with and without your mental and physical capacities long term.

Create a folder that would direct someone to your finances. Include information in the folder about banking, safety deposit box, investments, assets, and debts that you may have in case someone had to step in to manage your financial affairs for you for the short or long term. I am not saying that you need to tell them all about your assets now. Simply tell them where the folder is in case you suddenly became unable to manage things on your own for a while. A little bit of paperwork organization could save you and your family agony and frustration later.

Reduce clutter and take care of the important basics to focus time and energy on the people and activities you care about most. Reduce the worries floating around in your mind and help your loved ones too!

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