De-cluttering For the Health of It

My Grandma Agnes met my Grandpa at the roller rink. They later married and moved to Pelican Rapids. I remember her wrists decorated with rubber bands, “to help her remember,”  she said. The drawer in the kitchen contained thousands of rubber bands, all saved, none new. My Grandpa was a barber, and never met an auction sale he didn’t like. His garage was a marvel, full of junk treasure. He could replace every part in his car at least five times over.

They were both children of the Great Depression. They scrimped by and were very frugal. They never threw anything away. They didn’t buy many extras, so their saved items didn’t overwhelm the household. They raised four happy children.

The “saving” gene got passed on to my mom, and then me. Yikes. With a busy household and a curious 10-year-old boy, our saved items have gotten to the point of overwhelming. And while it’s no longer the Depression, it’s hard to throw things away.

Society tells us we need more, better, faster, newer, so we get more stuff.

Why do I hang on? Well, I tell myself, I might need it someday. Books and magazines are a particular problem because subconsciously I feel that I should capture all that information, store it between my ears, and be able to quote the reference back to a patient or colleague.

But, my brain starts to feel very crowded and foggy. I get a little anxious realizing that I will probably never finish all those books in my lifetime. I realize my saved items, my treasures…have become clutter. And it doesn’t feel good.

It’s good to store things in boxes and bin and stash things out of site. I feel better, but still lingers and I am overwhelmed by it all.

Clutter is stuff, possessions, relationships, experiences, and obligations that no longer serve you.

Turns out clutter can wreak havoc on our health too. It increases stress, leads to fewer healthy choices, more depression and impairs focus because of visual distraction.

They say a pile of clutter is a stack of decisions needing to be made. The average American household has over 300,000 items, so that”s a lot of decisions. Experts recommend the One-Touch Rule. You decide immediately….throw, save or donate. Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, suggests keeping only those things that bring you joy. And anything you release gets a “Thank You” for its service.

In this day and age of repurposing and recycling, I feel better about letting things go. The magazines will go to a vision board workshop. Small toys that my son lets go travel to Haiti with Kevin Wallevand, in search of a new child to play with. Kevin kindly takes photos of the children with their “new toys” so that my son has visual proof that his toys are doing good work in a new country. Travel size toiletries travel either to Haiti or to the YWCA. Soap can be shipped to Global Soap, where it is sterilized, reprocessed and sent all over the world.

Spring clean up week is approaching early this May, so now is the perfect time to declutter and lighten your load. While you are at it, say no to a few more things, and lighten your calendar to enjoy the beautiful spring evenings. Your brain and your heart will thank you.


With love,


Dr. Sue

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