Help for Healing

Bitter & Sweet, living daily with grief


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It’s Just Stuff…Right?

One of my businesses is called “Less Mess, Less Stress.” My “nickname” on my business cards is “The Clutter Cleaner.” I’ve been doing organizing for several years, but I don’t really advertise it. Usually I get someone by word of mouth and have one to two clients a year. It’s relatively physical work so that is just fine with me.

When I first started, it would be what I envisioned- helping people cleaning out that junk room, or maybe cleaning out the garage so you can actually park in it. Then for a while, it became more hoarding or condemned houses. Sometimes I would have to hire an entire crew and we would literally have to shovel the house out. The latest psychology diagnostic manual now actually has a diagnosis for hoarding. It has probably always been around, but now there is much more exposure.

I always say that this job overlaps quite a bit with my counseling profession. First of all, people’s relationship to their belongings is very emotional. Especially when there is grief involved, my counseling skills come in handy. Then there are the people who go beyond a bit of clutter. Often times their relationship is connected to something so much deeper. Even for myself, I say only half-kidding that I put my own disease to good use. I don’t actually have OCD, but I do have some traits. Organizing is an excellent outlet for that so I find a way to make it a strength.

I’ve been asked to speak on this topic a few times as well. One of my favorites was with the Buffalo marital attorney’s group. How ironic that a couple’s counselor was asked to talk to divorce lawyers. But not as a counselor, as an organizer. A poetic moment. Anyhow, I say that if you hire me, you will love your space (whatever it is you are working on) when I am finished. You probably will hate me, but you will love your house.

It is my job to help people let go of things. The vast majority of Americans need to downsize. You don’t need more space, you need less stuff. One of my sayings that I think is typically accurate.

Recently, we’ve been helping my dad make the big decision about when it is time to live in a smaller place where there isn’t so much upkeep. It’s not only a decision about housing, but about aging. Which is always about acceptance. And aging is about approaching death as well. Which is also about acceptance. It’s emotional for Dad, but also for all us kids too.

After months of no, no, no, Dad has decided he’s ready to move. And when he is ready, he means now. We have been trying to sell the house, find him a new place, downsize his belongings, and everything in between. Life has been a bit crazy. Some of the most fun times for us have been being together and going through cupboards and reminiscing about whatever. And some of the most tense times for us have been being together and going through cupboards and disagreeing whole heartedly about how to help Dad make the shift.

That’s where I have to remember I’m a daughter before an organizer. No one in my family has hired me to take this on. But I’m used to doing it so sometimes I get a little bit bossy. But I also think that initially Dad (like all of us) needed a little nudging to move forward. Now there is no stopping him and the rest of us can’t keep up. It has been interesting to observe how he has changed over the years. My niece has been gone over 15 years. My mom has been gone nine years. Tim has been gone over five. That doesn’t even seem possible.

Over the years we have gone through various memories and belongings and initially- and even for years- so many things were untouchable. They were sacred. No one could bear to part with anything. Just looking at things would cause us to tear up or have moments of actual crying. Now time has gone by. I ask Dad about certain things and he looks at me like, “Why would I want that?” I know without a doubt that he still deeply misses and loves all those people he has lost. But he is moving on. I want to be that way too. We don’t need boxes of things and pictures galore to remember our loved ones. I see it as growth and it’s healthy. After all, it’s just stuff, right? Well, that all depends on what year you are asking!


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Aging…

Last weekend I attended my ten-year high school reunion. Ok, I mean 20. Ok, no more lying. It was my 30. 30! How can that be when I am barely even 30 years old? LOL…

There was a big difference between the 20 and 30, at least in my opinion. Two days before the event, my high school friend from Florida called and left an excited message. Am I excited? What am I going to wear? I chuckled and called her back. I am one of those people who absolutely loves these types of events. I knew I would have a great time. I knew I would talk to every single person that attended. That’s what I would do because that is just who I am. But what am I going to wear? Ha, I had no idea.

I was part of the committee for the 20th. We met for months planning every detail. And they took me shopping. I’ve never been a clothes/hair/nails girl so my peeps took me out for a makeover. We even picked out the jewelry. Planned for months.

But life changes. I knew months ago I would never lose weight. I’d figure out what to wear a half hour before I got in the car to leave. And I would hope I had some decent choices that were actually clean. I did splurge on a pedicure. I had gotten a gift certificate at Christmas and had saved it for this very week. It wasn’t because I wasn’t excited about the reunion. I was. But I had other life to live right up until I got in my car.

The first night was at a bar. It was hilarious, watching us all. We all greeted each other and proclaimed how the other hadn’t aged a bit. And some of us really didn’t age much. But let’s face it. We are all a little more wrinkly, a little heavier. Oh yeah, and our memories are failing us.

When you aren’t in a private bar, that meant anyone that walked in was fair game. We would all talk under our breath. Is that someone we know? Did we go to school with them? One of us would recognize someone and the other would frantically say, “Name?” and so the other would loudly say hello, announcing that person’s name so everyone else nearby knew who the hell they were.

One couple walked in and I recognized the woman as a relative I barely know. I walked up to her and asked if she was here because of the reunion and she said no, she was just out with her date. Ok. So I tell everyone nope, we didn’t graduate with them so take them off the radar. Then I found out later in the evening that her date DID graduate with us. Duh. She could have said that.

Another couple walked in and all the whispering started again. Someone said they recognized the guy and he was someone who was a year ahead of us. But that meant he was married to one of our classmates. And it didn’t look like her. Man, had she changed. But we all had enough doubt that I finally just walked up and asked. The guy was the guy’s brother. So the wife wasn’t our classmate. We were wrong on both counts. I told them it was very cruel to be present at a high school reunion where we have all already lost half of our minds and our memories. Showing up and looking like someone we know was too much to wrap our brains around. They laughed of course.

The funniest part of all, was watching how many of us- men and women alike- can’t see a damn thing without our cheater glasses. People were trying to read their phones and had them held so far away, they may as well have put them on the ground. Everyone was sharing their glasses to look at photos on phones of kids or grandkids.

The big joke of the night, was this:

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Our life of the party classmate, had this hand sanitizer that came out during the night. She said she has three teenage boys in her house so she is so no dummy. As if that wasn’t funny enough, it got passed around throughout the night. But no one could read the damn label without reaching for their glasses. So I just watched it get replayed over and over again and cracked up every time.

The best time, was when a bunch of us girls were sitting on the patio picnic bench. There was a screen that you could see through into the bar. The bottle got tossed into the group of guys at the bar. One of the wives told her husband to look at it and we were all laughing. So he started laughing. His wife said, “He has no idea what it says. He doesn’t have his glasses on but he’s pretending he can read it.” Sure enough, the next guy gets his glasses on, reads it, cracks up and then hands his glasses to the hubby. Now he reads it for real and about falls over laughing.

I don’t know if this all reads as funny as it really was. Sometimes you just had to be there. I told my classmates at the end of the night that they have given me blog material for months. So stay tuned!