Posts Tagged ‘ junk ’

Is Cleaning Better Than Therapy?

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013

If you are a regular reader of mine, you know the following:

a.) I am an obsessive clean freak.

b.) I had hypnotherapy 18 months ago to curb–not cure–the obsession.

c.) I want to be buried with my dust buster.

But because of hypnotherapy, I no longer meltdown when I see crumbs. I can walk past them and they no longer taunt me. Plus, now I have cleaning ladies once a week. If I didn’t I would never leave the house and my tots would not survive. I would be strapped to my vacuum all day while they played with knives.

However, since we sold our Brooklyn apartment and had all our stuff moved out here, the boxes, even though out of sight, have been driving me mad. Just knowing they are there and full of “stuff”–stuff we haven’t used in 18 months–is enough to send me back to hypnotherapy. Not only that, but we are in a rental house where in less than two years we have accumulated enough to warrant another moving van when our new house is ready.

The clutter is mentally draining.  I get so cranky thinking about going through all the closets and the boxes and getting rid of stuff. It’s like the world’s worst term paper hanging over your head. And when I have little snippets of time (like when the kids nap) I think, “Well, what’s the point in starting, since they will wake up and then what?” It’s a procrastination tool I use frequently.

So a few weekends ago, I was in uber b-tch mood. I think it’s because the clutter was infiltrating my cells. Phil took the kids to the playground and told me to do something to snap out of my mood. I had 45 minutes. Not nearly enough time to clean out an entire house. But guess what? I started. And by the time he got home I had filled 3 garbage bags full of clothes to donate. What’s even better is the mood it put me in. I was downright giddy.  Confirmation for Phil that he married a neurotic.

Since I’m a person of extremes I couldn’t stop. I got on a manic roll. Over the next week I cleaned out every closet. I even scrubbed all the shelves. I did it even when I had small snippets of time. I realized you can accomplish a lot more than you think when you just dive in and stop procrastinating. I went through at least 12 of the boxes, piling up more stuff for donations and garbage. It was better than any drug or drink I’ve ever had. Well, almost.

The high lasted well after I finished the projects. Like two weeks longer. I honestly think that getting rid of the clutter also got rid of clutter in my brain. I felt less scattered, and far less miserable and blah. It was a remarkable undertaking with extraordinary results.

Of course now I’m back down from the high. But in the back of my mind I know there are more boxes waiting. So as my clutter starts to build up in my head, I know if I just unpack a box or organize a shelf I will probably feel better than drinking that bottle of wine in its entirety.

It’s like the revelation I had when I wrote The Mom Mystique. I need that sense of accomplishment that goes beyond child-rearing. Cleaning isn’t intellectually stimulating but the results strangely felt the same.

Now when we move in and are perfectly unpacked and organized I may need another “project” to tackle. But that is months away. Plus, I found a new therapist so maybe she can help me get to a happy place without filling up 8 garbage bags.

One of my favorite expressions from the days when I hosted Simple Solutions reports still rings true:

“Get rid of the mess, get rid of the stress.” Amen.

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Too Many Toys? Ideas to Avoid Toy Overload

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013

Cynthia Roelle, mom to a 2-year-old daughter and award-winning photographer, offers a homemade gift alternative to store bought toys while making a point about excessive consumerism.

Jill’s recent blog about Toy Overload really struck a chord with me. How many toys are too many? How do you measure? Whom do you measure against? Who’s to say?

In 2008 on a trip to Rwanda, my husband and I came across a bunch of kids who had made a bicycle out of wood. Wood. I mean every part of the bicycle was made of wood. Okay, maybe there was a nail or two holding the wheel (also wood) on but everything else was wood. The most striking thing about the bike was that it didn’t belong to any one kid. It belonged to all of the kids in the village. Collectively. They took turns riding it, without fighting or crying. Can you imagine?

In another village we found kids playing with a soccer ball they had made from discarded plastic bags. This was all the more impressive because plastic bags are banned in Rwanda, which makes them hard to come by. What will they play with when their makeshift soccer ball is nothing but tattered shreds? I’m pretty sure they’ll come up with something ingenious.

Not long after returning from Rwanda my husband and I moved to Hawaii. Oh man, to be a kid in Hawaii. Year-round fun in the sun. In the military community where we lived there were kids galore. It wasn’t hard to figure out who in the neighborhood had kids (which, apparently, was everybody but us) because their yards looked like a cross between a gigantic yard sale and a trash dump. Full of every toy imaginable.

But here’s the thing. You almost never saw kids playing with any of that junk. Like kids around the world, they ran around in packs doing what kids do.

The toy disparity between the Rwandan kids and the kids in Hawaii was hard to swallow. My husband and I made a pact that if we had kids the rule in our household would be: get a toy, give a toy. That is, for every toy received, our kids would have to choose one toy to give away.

Four years later, we now have a little girl. Our house (and yard) has not been inundated with toys. Since our daughter was a newborn I’ve been going through her toys about every other month and pulling out the things she has outgrown or now shows no interest in. Some I pass on to friends, some I save for later, some I donate.

Many of her toys are hand-me-downs anyway, from her twin cousins who are 9 months older. We get the toys they’ve outgrown and send them back when we’re done with them. My sister then passes them on to others.

I’ll admit I haven’t actually implemented the get a toy, give a toy rule. In my defense, our daughter is only 2½—old enough to realize that in our house, toys sometimes disappear.

After Christmas my daughter caught me squirreling away some of her toys and wanted to know what I was doing with them. I explained how fortunate she is to have so many toys and how it’s good to give some of her toys to kids who don’t have any. Surprisingly, she seemed okay with it. When she’s a little older I’ll have her choose the toys she wants to give away and together we’ll go to donate them.

That’s all well and good but it doesn’t get to the root of the problem of having too many toys to begin with. Jill mentioned that she felt they received too many toys at Christmas. She wouldn’t have that problem if she was related to me.

My sister has no qualms about asking people not to buy toys for her boys because they have so much. You don’t have to tell me twice. I still want to do nice things for my nephews of course, but instead of sending toys, I send supplies for a simple craft. I send everything—supplies, instructions and a picture of my daughter with the finished craft—and my sister gets to make it with her boys. Our Easter craft is a perfect example. My daughter is on the left; my nephews are the other two.

Okay, so our mangy bunnies would make Martha Stewart cringe but I truly believe we all got something out of this. It helps that my sister is the least creative person on the planet, but still.

And the best part—no more junk! We can throw it away when we’re done. It’s just an idea to throw out there for those of us who think toy overload is something to overhaul. Especially when you know that kids have the creative capacity to come up with far more than we give them credit for. For some, just having a plastic bag or a piece of wood is enough. That’s by necessity, but we can still learn from their examples.

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