Cindy’s Weekly Wisdom ~ Is Your Clutter a Pile of “Should”?

Cindy

My in-laws are visiting, and I was thinking about my father-in-law. He really likes to do home improvement projects, to work on his own vehicle, and he’s done some truly outstanding woodworking projects.

My husband is not really like his father. No one else I know works on their own car, my husband can only do the simplest of woodworking, and although he does home improvement projects, he doesn’t love it. Yet at least some of his clutter reflects who he thinks he should be (see his Dad, above) and not who he really is.

The fancy name for this is “aspirational clutter,” but I’m going to call it “should” clutter because it defines who you think you should be.

You may have a bookshelf full of classic books, when really all you enjoy reading is popular fiction. However, you think you should be a person who owns, collects, reads, discusses, and enjoys classic books.

You may have a sewing machine – maybe even a sewing cabinet – and not even know how to thread the machine. But you think you should be the sort of person who is either so crafty or so frugal that you have need for a machine and all its accoutrements.

You have tools for home maintenance or automobile repair, but no interest, aptitude, or knowledge for doing these things, but you think that a “good” person should do their own home and car repairs.

You have craft or hobby supplies – probably a lot of them – for crafts that you’re sure you should try. The fact that you’ve owned them for more than a dozen years and haven’t tried the craft yet is only making you feel worse for not being what you should.

Stop “shoulding” on yourself. It’s nonsense. There is nothing you should be, just what you are. You are under no obligation to continue owning a bunch of items that simply remind you how insufficient you are in becoming what you (or maybe someone else) thought you should be. Move on! Sell it, give it away, return it to its owner, and free up your physical and emotional space for becoming what you are.

Today’s Mini Mission

Declutter any item you haven’t used in six months. This could be a tool, dishes, some other not very useful to you item or  even an ingredient. You could do a use it up declutter on that ingredient. These items are usually found underneath useful things in drawers and in the mirky depths behind everything else in the cupboards.

Eco Tip for the Day

 Natural way to clean silver ~ http://greenliving.nationalgeographic.com/natural-way-clean-silver-3121.html. Warning:- It always pays to test any cleaning product or suggestion on an inexpensive, easily replaced item first.

It matters not how fast I go, I hurry faster when I’m slow


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Comments

  1. Wonderful idea. We are made to feel we should be doing more or being as crafty or handy with tools as someone else, when we each have our own gifts to explore.

  2. Cindy, this is really good. I think we have the “shoulds” about a lot of things in our lives. One thing I have noticed is that as our lives change we tend to continue to think we “should” be like we were before. Thus we hang on to many things that were part of our past life from clothes to household items to craft items. Life changes and thus our need for some items will change. It’s really okay to move on. Really, it is.

    • Deb J…..I so agree with you! I am ready to let stuff go because my taste in decor has changed. But what do you do with a husband that really doesn’t care about interior design until I’m getting rid of things he considers “still good”? MY “should” is UFO’s (unfinished objects) in the form of started craft projects that I have no more interest in. I feel OK getting rid of some, but then feel the need to pass them along to the right person, not just dump them in the trash. I “should” do the responsible thing, right? And not add to the landfill? Thanks for the encouragement and permission to “let them go”!

      • Kim, I found that there are a lot of retirement villages and homes for the mentally handicapped that will take unfinished craft type projects and finish them. You might try that.

        • Deb J….Thanks for the tip, I had no idea! We do have a place nearby that does art with the mentally handicapped and I know an artist who teaches there. I will ask her about it. :)

    • Love your thought too on this great post, Deb J. We just have to give ourselves permission to let go of stuff and move on, and like you said it is okay. My problem is not so much the “should” but the “want to” clutter. I have lots of interests and love to learn and do different things, but there are only so many hours in the day. So I have to let go of some of my aspirational clutter because if I haven’t gotten around to it yet, I probably won’t. Some dreams I just have to let go :), because time is precious.

      • Jen, I understand the “want to’s” a lot. I have so many things I would like to do but have realized that I won’t actually do them. Or I won’t do them enough to start collecting things to do them with. I have realized that my energy got up and went. Grin!! So I am working on letting go of things. I have one right now that I think I am going to get rid of and I know Mom is going to have a fit. It’s mine but that doesn’t mean much around here. She is good at pulling things out of the trash or give away bags. So I will move it again until she gets used to not seeing it in the last two places it has been stored and then will get it out of here.

        • Coming to the decision that it is time to let something go is half the battle, so just do the shuffle with the item, until you can get it out of there. Good luck!

  3. Cindy, You are really speaking to me today. I started purchasing “the great books” a few years ago because there were a number that I had never read. Dickens, Fitzgerald, etc. I have the entire collections of about 5 authors but have I read them? Only a few. The rest never interested me and now I think I purchased them to make me think I was intellectual or to have others think that about me. The covers are not that appealing so they don’t even look good in my bookcase. (And I never purchased any others after I got these five authors – couldn’t afford any more). Anyway, the point of this is that I have been debating whether or not to donate them to the high school or community library but I keep coming back to “I should have these in my library”. With your post today, I realize that my should is just taking up space in a bookcase that could be better used to hold books I want to read not ones “I should have”. Now, I’ll have to look at other “shoulds” in my life. Certainly some craft items are still around because I “should” work on them or should keep them for the grands to work on (like a potholder making set) or the Christmas ornaments I should be making for our tree. Cindy, this is a great post and I “should” review other items in my house for decluttering.

  4. As I slowly work my way through the attic, I found two square pieces of decorative door mouldings. They are about 5″ square with a flower carved into the middle of them. They had been painted several times prior to my purchasing them in some flea market or antique mall. I never had a plan for them, so I was thinking it was time for them to go. However, I thought maybe they would be a good starter project for refinishing and decided they could be made into a set of bookends. I have never stripped wood before and bought an environmentally friendly product. There were EIGHT layers of paint and I am down to picking out the nooks and cranies with a dental pick. I have discovered the flowers are more intricately carved and have hearts carved into the center! What a find! I still have a little more cleaning to do on them and then a clear coat of finish, then attach to some metal bookends. When I rediscovered these in my attic, I thought that I wasn’t going to do anything with them so off they go, but now I think they are going to be super neat when finished. I’m giving myself about a two-week time limit to finish them. They were kind of “should” clutter, but maybe this time it was allright? ;)

    • Michelle – they sound lovely and I think you are right to set yourself a time limit to get them finished. When I need to nag myself I set up post-it notes around the house, usually in line of vision of wherever I normally sit down. Sometimes I really get on my own nerves! :-)

    • Sounds like you have a real treasure on your hands, Michelle, and they will have a use and purpose. That is awesome that you could refurbish what you had on hand without having to buy something.

  5. I had a friend who bought a set of lessons to teach her child when he was young. She wanted to color and laminate each one so they looked perfect. Problem was, he grew up before she got around to doing it. Sometimes we just need to use what we have and make the most of it instead of waiting until it is the way we want it to start using it. We have relatives who have piles all over the place. I think their problem is just one of procrastination though. They don’t want to deal with things so they just put them in a pile.

  6. Michelle,
    These decorative moldings sound lovely. Perhaps you can post a picture when you are done. I know you will be glad you did something with them.

    • Moni and Maggie, thanks for your encouragement! This might sound funny, but I am really good with deadlines. If I have a deadline, boy, I can really get cookin’ on a project. I began quilting several years ago and started my first one – hand piecing -never got done. Quilt 2 – baby quilt for a friend and done prior to baby’s arrival. Quilt 3 – baby quilt for another friend and done prior to baby’s arrival. Quilt 4 – a lap quilt for me that has been pieced and quilted and yet it sits there with no binding on it, which by the way, is actually cut out.

      I’m not sure why I cannot manage to get some projects done. I’m all excited in the beginning and then my gumption fades away.

  7. Cindy, I totally agree with the clutter of should or aspirational things. I call it clutter for my fantasy me.

    My fantasy self sets a beautiful table every night. So I have many table cloths including white damask, decorative place mats, napkins, napkin holders, many sets of crockery, silverware etc. The real me has my kids set the table quickly. The real me uses one table cloth for several nights (so white damask wouldn’t do as it shows all manner of spills), serviettes in a serviettes holder (so it only need refills every week or so), our everyday dinner plates (1 plate per person so no fancy settings required) and everyday cutlery. How much unused and unneeded stuff am I hanging onto? But I am not yet ready to let go of this fantasy self!

    Some people have an image of their fantasy self as a reader of “worthy” books so hang onto the heavy tomes, as you say. My fantasy self had a library with a room just for reading and books, of all manner of books, non-fiction and literature and modern classics. Looking all lovely and inviting on the shelves – hard cover, of course. (Think Downton Abbey!) My real me bought paperbacks. I also didn’t have a room that could serve as a library. And I like to read in the family room so I am with the family. I been able to release this fantasy me and have taken most of my books to a second hand book store, friends or charity.

    Cindy, maybe your husband is hanging onto the fantasy view of himself as he sees his father? That in his mind your husband does have the skill to look after his family as demonstrated by looking after the home?

    We all have fantasy selves. And as you say, this weight of should and aspiration, carries with it emotional weight as well as the clutter of things. I’m not ready to let go ofthe fancy dining room me, but I will look at the clutter for the fantasy picnicking me – the one that goes on picnic with a full picnic basket with everything packed in. Who needs a set of picnic plates and mugs in a large, unwieldy basket? And a second set, just in case we have extra guests on our picnic? And another set of neatly packed cutlery? Clearly not me, because we pack sandwiches which we eat without plates, we put all our needs in a shopping bag (easier to carry) or we use an esky (when it is hot) or we are going to BBQ. No butlers with damask tablecloths and quiches and salads and pasties.

    I am off to clear a whole shelf in my hall cupboard!

  8. Cindy, I totally agree with the clutter of should or aspirational things. I call it clutter for my fantasy me.

    My fantasy self sets a beautiful table every night. So I have many table cloths including white damask, decorative place mats, napkins, napkin holders, many sets of crockery, silverware etc. The real me has my kids set the table quickly. The real me uses one table cloth for several nights (so white damask wouldn’t do as it shows all manner of spills), serviettes in a serviettes holder (so it only need refills every week or so), our everyday dinner plates (1 plate per person so no fancy settings required) and everyday cutlery. How much unused and unneeded stuff am I hanging onto? But I am not yet ready to let go of this fantasy self!

    Some people have an image of their fantasy self as a reader of “worthy” books so hang onto the heavy tomes, as you say. My fantasy self had a library with a room just for reading and books, of all manner of books, non-fiction and literature and modern classics. Looking all lovely and inviting on the shelves – hard cover, of course. (Think Downton Abbey!) My real me bought paperbacks. I also didn’t have a room that could serve as a library. And I like to read in the family room so I am with the family. I been able to release this fantasy me and have taken most of my books to a second hand book store, friends or charity.

    Cindy, maybe your husband is hanging onto the fantasy view of himself as he sees his father? That in his mind your husband does have the skill to look after his family as demonstrated by looking after the home?

    We all have fantasy selves. And as you say, this weight of should and aspiration, carries with it emotional weight as well as the clutter of things. I’m not ready to let go ofthe fancy dining room me, but I will look at the clutter for the fantasy picnicking me – the one that goes on picnic with a full picnic basket with everything packed in. Who needs a set of picnic plates and mugs in a large, unwieldy basket? And a second set, just in case we have extra guests on our picnic? And another set of neatly packed cutlery? Clearly not me, because we pack sandwiches which we eat without plates, we put all our needs in a shopping bag (easier to carry) or we use an esky (when it is hot) or we are going to BBQ. No butlers with damask tablecloths and quiches and salads and pasties.

    I am off to clear a whole shelf in my hall cupboard!

    • Lucinda – yes I have a fantasy-me too. She is serene and competent. Yes beautiful table settings, flowers in vases (grown by me of course), home baked bread to accompany cooked from scratch meals, all vegetables of course, from my home garden. Alas, the real me lives a very different life and when I think of my 2-5 year plans it doesn’t actually involve this Martha Stewart existance, so time to ditch the vision.

  9. Cindy, excellent description of this kind of clutter. Now, I really need to think about what items I have still sitting around that fall into this category. I appreciate finding a way to look at things with fresh eyes – thank you.

  10. Fantastic post Cindy, one of the best you have written I’d say. I think nearly everyone has a little should in them that they should either try and reject or simply reject off hand and allow themselves to be who they are. Kitchens, garages, craft rooms and bookshelves are often full of should, or should I say full of someone you aren’t.

    This crazy elitist world that we live in has made people think they should fill every waking hour in pursuit of bettering themselves. Our children are so often victims of this too. Sometimes we just need time to rest.

    • I agree with you 100%, Colleen! Our children so many times are victims of this mentality. Most of us have dreams of our kids experiencing every possible thing, so that they can find their true talent, calling, and potential in life. So they are rushed around to music lessons, sports, martial arts, etc., not to mention school work that has to be completed. So many kids become overloaded and spend most of the time with their parents in a car being shuffled around. Oh, and when they are not doing that, kids are being shuffled around from store to store in an effort to ensure that no one is wanting for anything. We end up with kids who are miserable and unhappy, not to mention the parents who are tired and unhappy too. It is better to take time to enjoy the simple things in life together.

  11. Cindy – I have the reverse husband – he comes from a family of electritricians, electronics and mechanics, none of which he can comprehend. On the other hand Adrian can build, landscape and turn his hand to most things of a practical nature, plus he can draw & paint. Recently one of the tv’s wasn’t picking up a signal and this lead to several days of frustration on Adrian’s behalf and of me booking and then un-booking and then re-booking the tv guy – deciding that Adrian was probably making things worse while he tried to fix the problem. The family has banned him in the past from anything involving cables and leads, and given that he is colour blind I get nervous when he starts talking about undoing the wall sockets to “have a look”. He was ranting on that he should be able to do this sort of thing, the kids and I put him under surveillance in case he starts messing around with cables etc. In the end it took the TV guy 10 minutes to replace a faulty aerial socket and 20 minutes to fix up all of Adrian’s attempted solutions.

    We freecycled out our box of spare cables, av leads etc (a) because it was deemed clutter and (b) to minimise the chaos Adrian could achieve whenever he tries to “fix” the tv or dvd or whatever.

    • Moni, Adrian sounds like a hoot. This is my uncle and boy can he mess things up. The worst is the way he messes up his computer and then calls me long distance thinking I can tell him how to fix it when he can’t even explain what he is doing or seeing.

      I was raised with a father who could repair anything. He was an architect and engineer. He taught me a lot but I have found that there was a lot he didn’t teach me and a lot I can no longer do because of my disabilities. having to pay to have everything done is a pain in the behind.

  12. Michelle, I have the same problem with quilting. I have made about 6 quilts but have one that is nearly tied and the binding is already sewn on yet I cannot bring myself to finish it. It is for a friend whose baby is now 6 months old and I find many reasons to put off finishing it. Hopefully, tonight, I can work on it. Also, have many blocks made from classes I attended but never finished the quilt to the point of sewing the blocks together. I love planning, buying the fabric and designing the quilt but when it comes to cutting it out and sewing, I fall seriously off the wagon. Perhaps you and I need to get together and work on our projects together, Michelle. If you live anywhere in Northern Virginia, have Colleen give you my email address. :) As for the fantasy life, Lucinda, I think all of us have a vision of what we would like to be. I say, take what pieces from this fantasy that you can make work in your real life and let the rest go. I am trying to do that myself – it is hard but important to remember that people like us for who were really are not who we wish we were.

    • I like your advice to Lucinda Maggie. Why shouldn’t she use the fancy table clothes and the good china with the kids. It might make them seem special where as not using could have the opposite effect of sending the message that they aren’t good enough to use it. Give it a go Lucinda even if it is just one meal a week, break out the good stuff and let the family know they are special too.

  13. Great post, Cindy! I have reduced my “should” list a lot lately, but I still feel I must keep things because I might do something with them someday. My fantasy me, as Lucinda put it , has lots of table cloths. My real me has a plastic one that can be wiped clean. My fantasy me had some high heels. My real me never uses high heels, because of (fill the blank with whatever excuse comes to mind :D ). My real me also has a back and knees problem. So maybe it is time to ditch the heels. But that is not “should” clutter. My fantasy me wants to plant a garden. My real me simply does not feel like it at the moment. But I did save lots of seeds in little packets that I would plant “someday”.

    • You made me laugh about the packets of seeds. I have some of those too. I just know that I will plant them someday, so I have not let go of them yet :). Who knows if they will be any good by the time I get around to it.

      • Oh you guys, that is hilarious!! Last weekend I was gathering my seed packets together in anticipation of starting some and I tossed a whole bunch that I have had for years! This is so great – makes me laugh. LOL This year we are going to do our garden a little different with some new plants that we have never had before. Last year we had 36 tomato plants (way too many for two people) and I canned 34 pints, gave away a ton, and finally pulled them out to get them to STOP!! We’ll be smarter this year – - maybe. hee hee

        Maggie, darn, I am in Colorado – hard to have a quilting bee when we are across country! ;)

  14. A lot of quilters on here! I do fully hand sewed baby quilts, don’t have the set-up or patience for full sized quilts. I have a couple of abandoned projects too, and a bunch of finished ones that I need to get better about actually sending to people. I’m trying to decide if my sewing machine is useful to my future – I’ve used it in the past but it isn’t involved in the kinds of projects I prefer to do and its not small to store, but also probably not cheap to replace.

    I’ve been working on whittling down my aspirational books that I’m never likely to read, but books have more of an emotional tug than most things. I think it is getting easier. Aspirational clothes are still a work in progress too.

    Y’all were very naughty the other day and talked me out of getting rid of my springform pan! But I did decide to declutter two round cake pans instead.

    • I’m a quilter too! Half-finished projects or purchases used to weigh on my mind something fierce. One day, my husband questioned me about an unfinished project I was donating. I told him as a fisherman he should understand how important it is to “catch and release” some of the time. : )

      I finish the projects I truly love and feel are worth the extra expense to finish them. But, quilt blocks and projects I’ve lost interest in are donated to our guild’s community outreach quilters. I consider those things entertainment and in some cases a learning project. Or, the product of a class I took simply to enjoy time with other quilters.

      Never let those projects in the back of your quilting supplies haunt you! They served their purpose and it’s time to let them go. Once I’m retired, I plan to be one of the quilters meeting each week to finish other ladies’ UFO’s. : )

      • Hi Pat and welcome to 365 Less Things. Funny thing, when I started reading your comment I read “I am a quitter too”. I thought, well there’s someone who can be honest with themselves and then I read it again and realised you were a quilter. :lol:

        I like that you can participate in your craft to the extent to which you can enjoy the parts of it that you like and then generously hand over the incomplete items to others who will put them to use. I think that is the perfect set up. After all craft is about enjoying the creative process and if there is an element of the craft that you don’t enjoy as much as the others then what better than to pass that part onto someone else. The biggest problem with craft is having an outlet for the end results. There is only so much you can put in your own home or give as gifts to other, not always appreciative recipients. So unless you are managing to sell off the creations then what is one to do with them. You have got that problem beat. Well done.

  15. Cindy, great post today! I have aspirational clutter not based on “should”, but based on “want to”. I have so many things that I want to do, that interest me, and that I really want to learn about. but my problem is time. I have many careers that I would like to try my hand at also, but that is not realistic. Everyone has to be selective with what we choose to spend our precious time on and realistic about who we are as individuals. I learned, sometimes the hard way, that I can only be who I am, and people have to like me for me, nothing more. Beyond that, I do know areas in my life where I would like to improve but that is by my own preference, no one else.

    As far as my aspirational clutter is concerned, I have cloth that I have bought because it was beautiful and one day I just know that I will find something to do with it or I keep thinking that I will learn how to use the sewing machine with ease. I have books that I want to read and those are the only ones that I am holding on to because I do want to read them for my own enjoyment. They are still clutter nonetheless. I do question my attachment to all things fitness related though, whether it is magazines or books. Once I read something, I pass it on, but am I really going to read anything new in these fitness magazines or books? I know they are not going to tell me anything new that I don’t already know, exercise and eat right. Mostly, I think I look for inspiration or motivation from such things. Ultimately, we have to find it within ourselves, though.

  16. Awesome post Cindy! My move is now behind me and as I’m fitting the stuff I still own in my small apartment I’m running into several “should” items. But, they are already in the donation pile!! Your post has spurred me on though to look for even more. Thanks!!

  17. I used to use my good crystal and china and silver on holidays even when the kids were real little. I put their milk in crystal water glasses. My Mother-in-Law thought I was crazy but how else will they learn and they need to feel that they are part of the family and are special enough to use the “good stuff”. To this day, the only thing that was broken was a stem from a wine glass that my husband broke the first time we used them – long before the kids were born. So, let everyone appreciate and use the finery. I love it that my children do the same with my “grands”.

  18. Great post, Cindy! This is my first time to comment on this blog (although I’ve read it for a year now). I also have aspirational clutter. The china cabinet full of my formal dinnerware, crystal, serving pieces, etc. Like Lucinda, I have aspirations of setting a beautiful table and having beautiful dinner parties. However, my husband and I are very casual people. We have a son with autism and he doesn’t like having people come to our house, unless it’s family. My 16 y.o. daughter doesn’t like having people over very much either. I want to get rid of my formal stuff (keeping a few of the crystal serving pieces, because they are just beautiful), get rid of the dining room furniture, and turn it into a homeschool room/office. My husband wants us to keep the dining room furniture (he doesn’t care about the china or crystal), because he wants us to start entertaining and to have a nice room for it.

  19. I found a wonderful quote, unfortunately unattributed, that I printed out and stuck on my desk.

    “To wish you were someone else is to waste the person you are.”

  20. As soon as I read Whisper’s quote I remembered the column in our local paper today which had as the thought for the week: “Be yourself–everyone else is taken.” Isn’t that a great way of saying we are each unique.

  21. Apologies that this is so long but this the classic books thing is something I too have struggled with and I just wanted to say:

    I’m studying for a degree in English literature and love books, but even I don’t enjoy all the classics. Shakespeare? I liked some of his plays but the more I read the more I felt like he had just recycled a lot of his ideas into new plays. Any kind of epic poem such as Homer or Paradise Lost where it takes 10 lines to say that someone picked up their sword and turned around has me running in the opposite direction! Other classics on the other hand I feel far more passionate about – The Crucible by Arthur Miller was undoubtedly one of the best books I ever read for a class, and you’d have a hard time convincing me never to read Heidi, The Secret Garden or Around the World in Eighty Days ever again.

    Even if you don’t enjoy any of the classics there’s no reason for this to make you stupid – there are lots of very good books out there which will get you to think in a new way or see something differently which aren’t labelled classics – aren’t we all reading more and more about capitalism and consummerism and changing our lives because of those things the more we learn about them? Last year I read Maus by Art Spielgeman which is a true-life graphic novel about the Holocaust, but I was so passionate about it and its message that I knew I had to write my essay on it – cue me trawling the internet and various other books to back up my argument that it’s the message and the story that’s important, not the medium it comes in.

    So I guess my points are basically – 1. Just because you don’t like a particular classic you feel you should doesn’t mean you are a bad person or stupid. The classics are hugely varied and just because you don’t like Homer or Aristotle doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy later classics which are closer to our times or vice versa. Read a mix and decide what you prefer. 2. Any book where you walk away with something new or positive from is a good reading experience. It doesn’t have to be War and Peace to change your life or to be intellectual. We can gain lessons in life from many different sources – there is no one path to wisdom in life :)

  22. Jane, Loved your comment about the classics. I, too, love Heidi and some of the newer books. But was most interested in your comment about “Maus”. I just finished listening to an audio book called The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer. It, too, is about WWII and takes place in Hungary. It is about 2 families and their experiences during the time of the Holocaust. If you haven’t read this, I would highly recommend it. However, I am so glad I listened via Audiobooks because some of the words would have just washed right over me if I were reading the book but listening to someone speak as if the book were being narrated by the characters was riveting. I will keep my favorite classics but am definitely donating those that I don’t care for.

    • Go for it! I can’t wait for that moment when I can sell/donate some of the books I am having to study this year to next year’s lot of students! I don’t think I will ever get my head around, let alone actually like Flann O’Brien’s At Swim-Two Birds. Classic or not, I hate it and it will most certainly be de-cluttered in the summer! :)

      Also I will definitely check that book out :)

      • Jane – for some reason both my daughters have landed the same English teacher for NCEA Level 1 who loves To Kill A Mockingbird. I understand it is a beloved American classic, but alas, its not really connecting with the Kiwi kids.

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