Beware of Nostalgia; Live in the Present!

Remember that 1950s show, THIS is your Life?  The unsuspecting guest would come face to face with family and friends who had affected his life — a 2nd grade teacher, a long lost relative, a friend from summer camp, an army buddy.

I am in the process of decluttering our basement – where thousands of photographs overflow from shoeboxes.  These are the pictures  that didn’t make the cut for an album, but would never have been tossed.

The problem is that there are at least 50 photos of one single moment in time- Kacie as a puppy stuck in the grass that’s higher than her head,  Jared as a toddler in diapers playing with a plastic T-ball set in our bedroom, Alex as a preteen holding her first tennis trophy from a round robin with her grandfather.

As I pull each shoebox off a shelf, I  hear the voice of decluttering expert, Marie Kondo, Keep what gives you joy.  

OK, Marie, I will pare down 50 photos of puppy Kacie to 5.

What Marie didn’t warn me about though, was that a wave of nostalgia would soon wash over me.

Oh to go back to those summer afternoons  – with the turquoise plastic pool filled with water, our first dog, Jessie, rolling in the dirt, Alex giggling, Jared on the swing set.  Making sandcastles.   Playing tag.  Running the bases.

Graduations, birthdays, vacations, sports teams.

Halloweens, Christmas trees, visits to Florida to see grandparents.  That August afternoon on Lake Michigan when Brett and I got married.

 

Each shoebox triggers deepening nostalgia.

For there are no children giggling upstairs, no driving in the car listening to Barney songs, and definitely no wedding songs to ponder.

Kids have graduated and left.  Dogs haven’t lived long enough.  And trophies are not given out anymore.

So with apologies to Marie Kondo, I return each shoebox back to its shelf – lest  this nostalgia slip into depression.

 

Time for a walk with Codie.

 

Because all I have is NOW.  And those Marcell Christmas cards that boast of endless joy, are liars;   life has always had its struggles, not suitable for Nikon’s close-up lens.  Shoeboxes, unchecked, can lead our hearts toward sentimentality and romanticism.

 

Historian Stephanie Coontz wrote a NY Times op-ed called Beware of Social Nostalgia.  She says that “homesickness”, as nostalgia used to be called, at best, is a harmless self-deception that can  lead us to reignite relationships that have ceased being close.

But nostalgia is also dangerous.  It amplifies the good and minimizes the bad; it  paints an idyllic vision of days gone by that robs us of optimism for the future – a future which cannot compete with such a one-dimensional view of the past.

Memories, like witnesses, do not always tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. We need to cross-examine them, recognizing and accepting the inconsistencies and gaps in those that make us proud and happy as well as those that cause us pain.”

Nostalgia can distort our understanding of the world in dangerous ways, making us needlessly negative about our current situation.”

 

So I have a new plan with regard to the basement storehouse of idyllic memories.   Let the next generation deal with them.

For THIS is my life.  Present tense.  Present moment.

 

And the present is a gift.  Which no shoebox can take away.

 

 

Today’s Takeaway –

-When you feel nostalgia trigger sadness, cross-examine it.  And then tell your distorted memory to take a hike and your present self to take a walk- preferably with a dog,

-Be more dog-like.  Life for dogs  is always in the NOW.  And joy awaits with each meal, each time a leash is reached for, each new person to greet.

 

Enjoy the ride!  Present tense!

xox

Barclay and Joy

Do I need 12 pairs of jeans? A Decluttered Life is a Happier Life

Well, there’s the calf length jeans, the ankle pair, the boot legs, the ones with the tears at the knees (so current).  There’s the skinny jeans and the ones you wear when you’re snuggled on the sofa watching the 2 hour Bachelor finale.  Not to mention black jeans, washed jeans, and jeans with different waists.  (Mom jeans are coming back for sure…remember, even Barack was caught wearing them!)

Seriously, though, if your closet is overflowing with work clothes you won’t ever wear again, bikinis that you have no business  wearing, and jackets that were cute in 1975 but STILL have not returned to the runway, then your closet is not adding to your happiness.  It may even be robbing you of joy.

Decluttering expert Kathi Lipp says, “Clutter is a part of life, but when clutter stops your life, that’s when you need to make some changes.”

Ms. Lipp says that clutter is a “physical manifestation of overwhelm in our lives.” And the the root of clutter, she adds, can be traced to fear, guilt, and shame.

Fear What if I need this some day?  GuiltThis was a gift from my mother; how can I discard it?  ShameI spent money on this item and I shouldn’t have and so I will keep it for the rest of my life.  

She cites a fascinating statistic.  In the U.S. there are more storage units than there are McDonalds and Starbucks.  We are drowning in STUFF.  Think of what we Baby Boomers are leaving for our adult children to sort through??  (I rather doubt that Alex will want my comfy jeans…)

 

A few caveats though…

Stuff is not inherently bad.

And a lot depends on your season of life.  With little kids afoot, your house is taken over by Little Tykes toys.  As it should be.

But we Baby Boomers are in a season of paring down.  We know all too well we won’t be taking a darn thing with us at the end of the day.  And in the words of decluttering phenom, Marie Kondo, we should retain only that which sparks JOY.

So even though I’m certain mom jeans will be coming back to fashion (as attested by Barack Obama), I can say thank you and farewell to at least 9 pairs of jeans, leaving me the 3 that spark joy.

Ms. Kondo suggests that we start decluttering with our closets, taking EVERYTHING we own and tossing it ALL on a bed, in full view, where we can begin sorting.

If we are uncertain about a particular item, Ms. Lipp suggests we ask three questions.

 

Do I love it?    Do I use it?    Would I buy it again?

We love our jackets.  But we wear only 3 out of 10.  So bye-bye to padded shoulders and fringy leather.  If we haven’t taken up motorcycling by now, it likely won’t be happening.  And as for disco, it had its 15 minutes of fame.

 

Ms. Lipp’s website has a plan for decluttering FAST.

And Ms. Kondo offers a method that WORKS.  Here is a summary from Good Housekeeping.

6 Principles —

  1. Commit yourself to tidying up.
  2. Imagine your ideal lifestyle.
  3. Finish discarding first. Before getting rid of items, sincerely thank each item for serving its purpose.
  4. Tidy by category, not location.
  5. Follow the right order.
  6. Ask yourself it it sparks joy.

And five categories to tackle in order:

  1. Clothes
  2. Books
  3. Papers
  4. Komono (a.k.a. Miscellaneous Items)
  5. Sentimental Items

 

 

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So,  don those comfy jeans, curl up on your couch, ignore the time-sucking Bachelor, and binge watch Marie Kondo’s viral Netflix show.  Joy awaits.

 

 

And speaking of Joy, my co-blogger will be continuing this topic for Wednesday.   Stay tuned!

 

 

Today’s Takeaway –

-Don’t forget to thank your stuff on its way out.  Those ribbed turtlenecks served you well.

-Do a little bit each day.  Decluttering is a way of life. Savor the process.

 

Enjoy the ride!   And get rid of the storage unit!

xox

Barclay and Joy