One of the advantages of living to an old age is to be able to look backward and see the patterns in your life. For instance, thinking of my relationship with money – when I was a young married woman I didn’t want any responsibility for handling money. I wanted my husband to deal with all things financial and tell me what to do. I had grown up in a home where my parents fought constantly, mostly about money issues. I was truly frightened by their fights as a small child and decided that money was something that caused fights and I wanted to avoid it.
That attitude changed, many years later, when I became one of the first two employees of the Rising Tide Market, a natural food store in its fledgling days. I was also asked to become the bookkeeper, to my horror. But I was coached by two remarkable women who did not get upset when I made a mistake but, instead, showed me how to track discrepancies and make corrections. This took all the emotion out of it and soon I was enjoying the activity much as I would doing jigsaw or crossword puzzles. I eventually took courses in bookkeeping and accounting and developing a business of traveling to small local businesses and keeping their checkbooks balanced and papers filed. This was in the days before personal computers.
Eventually I bought a Sears Catalog and Appliance Store franchise and ran that until Sears ceased operations of such stores. In the years since I have developed my talent for bringing order out of chaos by becoming a professional organizer and downsizing consultant. I have often helped people untangle their financial messes and set up filing systems for retrieving the information that proves vital at critical times.
Looking backward reveals the way life opens up for us when we let it.
This year I am trying out the Bullet Journal system. I am predicting it will help me keep track of what I do, where I put stuff, and what I need to do next. My mind is far too busy and my memory too short to keep everything in my head as I used to. This is a pencil/pen and paper, analog system instead of a high-tech system. It involves writing by hand and frequently moving forward the same items to the next day if not completed. The beauty of the system lies in building an index in the front of the journal and numbering all the pages. Then, when I write about something I want to find again or follow through on, I list it in the index and can thereafter find every instance where it crops up.
“Pretty Planners” are all the rage right now as you can see if you follow Pinterest. I love them too, so I am liberally applying Washi Tapes as emphasis on the pages and doodling with colored pens. This holds my attention and keeps me engaged. I work hard at keeping myself cheerful and productive. It is too easy to just give up and settle into old age so,instead, I fight the good fight.
In terms of keeping stuff, are you more like a conduit or a cesspool? Can good things flow into your life, stay for a while, then pass on?
When I was a child of 11 in the 1950’s, I was very impressed by a woman named Muriel. She lived in the same new housing development as my family on Cape Cod. She was a retired showgirl and her husband was in the merchant marine. She was flamboyant and enjoyed the good things of life. She had lots of material possessions. She enjoyed them for a while and then she would come knocking on our door with her arms full of things she wanted to pass on. She had taken a shine to my mother. This was our first new home. We had always rented but now we were owners. We had very few possessions to furnish our home but, thanks to Muriel, we soon had draperies and knick-knacks that we could only have dreamed of. The most amazing thing about Muriel was she had no sense of scarcity. She was abundant in every sense of the word.
Looking back over my life, I see that I too, live with that sense of abundance. This does not in any way resemble wastefulness, but is a sense of holding things lightly, of detachment. I have many items of sentimental value that I will keep as long as I am able, but my identity is not wrapped up in the things I possess. I have what I call a “conduit mentality” about keeping stuff. For every new, trivial item I purchase I discard a similar item. For instance, after a small kitchen renovation, I purchased some newer, small kitchen items. Instead of adding them to the collection of what I already had, I gathered up several older items and set them aside to go out as donations to GoodWill or to a more local “swap-shop” at the recycling center.
I’m the same way with my books. I recently purchased some books to help me learn Windows 10, so an equal number of “how-to” books on previous versions of Windows are set aside to be given away. I chose to donate rather than sell these items because it is part of my life as a conduit.
However, most of the people I work with in downsizing or organizing have great difficulty giving things up. They are older people with a lifetime’s accumulation of stuff. There are many reasons for hanging on to everything, from sentimentality to fear of making a wrong decision. But mostly they are unable to think of being a conduit for the many good things and blessings that have come into their lives.