This summer I spoke at the Massachusetts Teachers Association Summer Conference. During my program on Blending and Balancing Your Professional and Personal Lives, one of the teachers was looking for help on eliminating a time & energy drain. Our dialogue went something like this:
Teacher: Mitzi, you suggest eliminating time and energy drains so that we can have more time and energy to spend in areas of our life that we want to. I have something that is draining me.
Mitzi: What is it?
Mitzi: Worrying? Is there something specific that you are worrying about?
Teacher: Yes, my dog. She is becoming more aggressive and it's really becoming a problem.
Mitzi: What steps have you taken to help your dog?
Teacher: I called our vet and he gave me the name of a dog psychologist.
Mitzi: Did you call the psychologist?
Teacher: Yes but he hasn't returned my phone call and that was weeks ago.
Mitzi: OK, so what steps can you take now, instead of waiting for your call to be returned, to help your dog and reduce your worrying?
Teacher: I don't know.
Mitzi: It's important to find some actions that you can begin to take. For example, contact your vet again and ask for another referral or go to your local pet supply store and see if they have dog training classes, call friends with dogs and ask if their dogs have taken any training classes?
The point of this example is that many times we get stuck and either our anticipation of something unknown or an intangible emotion, in this case, "worry", prevents us from moving forward. We get too close to a problem and lose our perspective. Not all worry or emotions can be resolved as easily as this example but what becomes critical is to turn the intangible (worry) into something tangible (an aggressive dog needing help).
A client discussed her anxiety over a very difficult project. As she described the project, she started coming up with ideas on ways to begin. Once she started thinking it through, she was able to clarify her obstacles and ways to overcome them. All of a sudden, starting didn't seem quite so overwhelming.
Look for ways to turn those intangibles into tangibles. Define the problem, the cause of the anxiety or emotional build up. You will then see more clearly what your next steps should be and begin moving forward.
How do I overcome the sentimental / reminiscent factor. I have a great deal of clutter that I can't seem to throw away because of the sentimental factor involved. I have several boxes of school memoirs and memories. In addition, there are boxes of old dishes, linens, and items from both my Mom's and Aunt's house that I can't seem to part with even though they have passed away several years ago. My sisters don't seem to have this problem, but I have difficulty in letting go of these everyday items. I justify it by saying I will pass it on to nieces and nephews, but who is to say 25 years from now, they are going to want what looks like from the outside boxes of old household bric-a-brac yet hold a special place in my past and in my heart. HELP!!! DPR
Getting rid of sentimental items that hold a special place in our heart is very difficult. As much as I talk or write about controlling clutter, I'm not the biggest proponent of getting rid of things that are special, one-of-a-kind, or an important part of our past.
However, if your "stuff" is taking over your home and you do need to do something about it, let me make a few suggestions on actions you can take.
1. Are there any items you can use in your everyday life? For example, when we moved I found some old silverware that had been in my family for years. Instead of continuing to keep it in the back of a closet, I started using it on special occasions.
2. Limit the number of items that you choose to keep. Are there certain items that hold the most sentiment for you? Are there items that aren't one-of-a-kind and could be bought again?
3. Are there ways to display any of the items either using memory/keepsake boxes? You may be able to create many memory boxes or shelf displays and rotate them throughout the year. Do a Google search for "Memorabilia Storage" and you will find products that will give you ways to store and display your bric-a-brac, etc.
4. Hire a professional organizer who specializes in organizing homes and memorabilia. Contact the National Association of Professional Organizers: www.napo.net.
5. Donate. Have your donations picked up by calling Big Brother/Big Sister: 774-776-7200 or Viet Nam Veterans: 617-371-1790. Knowing that you are helping someone in need may make it easier to get rid of things.