Becoming the Best U: Advice on spring cleaning, letting go of guilt

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By Nancy Plummer, Columnist, The Times

Question:  I decided to try writing a few New Year’s goals after my sister’s suggestion. Last November I broke up with my boyfriend of four years and every room in the house is a horrible reminder of him.  I also want to clean out the clutter in my house. I don’t know how to begin. My sister read your column and told me to write you for some advice.

 Jocelyn, West Chester


Answer: Good for you to state your goals and even more impressive you put pen to paper. That’s a great step to attaining any goal. Making the decision to declutter can be overwhelming and most say the hardest part is getting started on the project. According to Mandy Godding, co-founder of Abundance Organizing, people who are extremely depressed tend to live in cluttered and unorganized spaces. She goes on to say that when we’re feeling empowered in our lives our space reflects this and is more organized. Another expert in this subject, Dr. Monica Vermani, a clinical psychologist writes, “Taking charge of our spaces helps us live in the present, lead a more fulfilling life, and let go of things – and people – from our past that diminish our self-worth.”

I suggest you start with getting rid of whatever reminds you of your ex or as Dr. Vermani says, “diminishes your self-worth.”  Enlist a good friend or relative who understands your emotional ties to your ex and can hold some of the emotional burden as you get rid of the memorabilia. They can also be your best advocate for keeping you accountable as you decide what to do with it. Some experts suggest using the “bin” method:

Bin 1– TRASH



Bin 4 – PUT BACK

Don’t throw away all of it as some things, say a lovely decorative platter you bought together, may be a great item to donate to a thrift store. If there’s something of value, perhaps consider selling it. Once you’ve accomplished ridding your ex from your home, pick one room at a time to start your declutter project. Let’s say you decide to start in your guest bathroom. Set a timer for fifteen minutes.  Tackle one drawer at a time with the bin method. If you’re finding it difficult to throw things out, that’s normal. Ask yourself when the last time you used it. If it was over a year ago, toss into one of the bins. That’s especially true with clothes. Another good rule of thumb is to have an equal amount in each box by the end of the decluttering task, depending on how much stuff you have in each room. Most people find once they get started they feel a good momentum sense of accomplishment. Fifteen minutes at a time of parceling your stuff into four different bins can quickly add up to decluttering a whole room. The most important thing is to get started, be kind to yourself, and if you get frustrated remember every day is a new day and a good day to reset. If you find it challenging to stay organized or decluttered, call back your friend or call in the experts. It’ll be worth it!

Question: I just saw my next-door neighbor and she complimented me about my weight loss. I found myself babbling on about my new exercise regime and healthy diet. She finished the conversation abruptly and rushed back into her home. I realize now I probably made her feel uncomfortable as she has put on some weight since the pandemic. She’s such a wonderful neighbor. I wish I could do something. I feel terrible. Any suggestions?

Susan – Wayne

Answer: I certainly understand how you feel Susan. I think most of us can remember a time when we heard a compliment and ran with it. As for what you can do about it, I recommend an honest apology. Perhaps you could bring her over a small present such as a plant (no food or exercise equipment) and share with her how grateful you were for her compliment and her being a nice neighbor. Take it a step further and share that you are also embarrassed how you went on and on about yourself. Finish by giving her a heartfelt compliment. Most importantly, share your feelings and then listen. You’ve done enough talking for a while. Don’t hold on to the guilt any longer. You’re human. You’ll make another mistake tomorrow.

Nancy is a survivor of stage 4 ovarian cancer, metastatic brain cancer, and other traumatic events. As a Wellness & Relationship Coach, she offers sage advice on ways to accept and navigate life’s challenges, and help you become the best you.

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