Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Clean Sweep

Clean Sweep’s Peter Walsh has a new book out. All about the physical cleaning out of one's junk. This is what he said in a recent interview about the show:

Our show was never about the stuff. I told the producers early on that you can only organize so many closets and garages before people lose their minds… We all have stuff. What we had to do was tell people’s stories through their stuff, and see them realizing what their relationship to the stuff had become.

This last move, I purged. A lot. I did what I’ve seen on Clean Sweep. I made piles. Then I made those piles go away based on what was unnecessary. It’s amazing what you take with you that is unnecessary. Many of my choices were made for me based on the rental that we were moving into. It's fully 1,000 square feet smaller than our last home. Talk about simplifying your life!

The relationship I have to the six tubs of stuff that I could not part with is a deep one indeed. Nineteen years of being a mom plus eighteen years of being alive prior to that. I have old journals, albums, corsages, paintings… nothing I dare part with. But that's all I allowed myself for fear of becoming...

my Mother.

I have real issues with that woman, so it’s easy for me to criticize her shortcomings… bear with me. She has homework… HOMEWORK… from the 50s. She has almost every drafting project she ever worked on rolled up in tubes. Lots of tubes. She has blurry, underexposed, and just really bad pictures. Endless boxes of them. She has stacks upon stacks of magazines that she keeps for decor ideas for her dream home. She even holds on to items that make her angry. Physically hangs on to objects that cause her pain. Why? Lord only knows.

There's an old Spanish saying: Aprende de cabeza gena. That loosely translates to “Learn from the mistakes of others.” I have learned a lot from my mom, but in a rear view mirror kind of way. If she did this, then I’d make sure to do that. If she suggested to do one thing, I'd investigate the opposite. The most visible example of how I've made sure to be very different from her is our relationship to stuff. Nowhere did I learn more about the dangers of holding on than from my mother.

She doesn't just hold on to items. She holds on to regret. Not about anything she's done... that would be too hard... anything she never had can be directly linked to a number of usual suspects. My dad, her parents, old bosses, me… always someone else’s fault. That’s another lesson she taught me… let me rephrase that… that’s a lesson she modeled for me, again in the rear view mirror: Accepting my part. This act even has it's own column in Step Four of the recovery process. Some of you know what I’m talking about. Step Four is all about inventory. The yuck. The baggage. The poor choices.

Owning up to my part hasn’t been easy, but neither is carrying around a lifetime of junk.


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