pocketplatypus (pocketplatypus) wrote,

Breaking free from guilt and clutter

I have a confession to make. I have kept clutter that I did not want in the house out of guilt. Yes, you read that right. When I was a child, guilt and shame were liberally used by my parents on me when I was given a gift that was unsuitable, didn't fit, ... "They spent good money on that. You should be thankful!" I wrote the thank you notes, threw the unwanted gift in the bottom of my closet since I wasn't allowed to put it in the Goodwill box, and my parents would drag the item back out and display it on the shelf in my room. I was taught that pleasing others was always more important than my own happiness, and that my happiness was unimportant. I was unimportant. These are lessons that I am not passing on to my children. Breaking free is a process. I'm sure it will take several years to clean out the items that we no longer need that we have purchased, and the unwanted gifts.  I've come to the point in my life where I have to stand up and say that I matter, too, and that my life is not just to be spent pleasing others at the cost of my own happiness.

A few years in to my husband and my marriage, my mother arrived at our house toting a set of windchimes. I'm sensitive to noise, particularly at certain frequencies/pitches. Windchimes are painful for me. She put them up on a hook outside our backdoor. In the middle of the night, we took them down, as they were driving me insane, banging away in the wind under our bedroom window. For the next three days, she put them up and we took them down. She left, and they remained in the laundry room out of guilt. She'd spent good money on them. They were a gift. They had to be kept and displayed. That was 1997. They have hung in the laundry room of each house we've lived in since then. We bought this house from an estate sale in 2005. There was a set of miniature windchimes hanging in the window of the blue bathroom when we moved in. The gift windchimes were duly hung up the in laundry room. The other set remained in the bathroom. I freecycled both sets last week. It was wonderful to get them out the house. I can open the windows in those to rooms and not cringe when a breeze comes through the window. No more keeping stuff out of guilt.

I have been given many cookbooks over the years. I have bought some for myself. One was a basic Betty Crocker, one was a history of cooking, and one was a World War 2 cookbook. Two were cookie cookbooks. I gave nearly all the cookbooks to the library booksale this past September. That cleared two large plastic boxes. The cookbooks I bought, and one from a friend that has a couple of recipes I would like to try, are all that is left. I will no longer be displaying cookbooks in my kitchen to please the people who gave them to me.

For two decades, we have been given a box of Christmas ornaments annually. I politely requested that they couple stop sending them, because we had more than enough, and did not have room to store them. Neither of us were, or have ever really been in to, decorating for holidays. My request was ignored, and for 20 years, each and every December, a box of Christmas ornaments has landed in our house, unwanted, unused, stuffed in the basement. For many years, our Christmas tree was decorated with ornaments we had no interest in because the visiting relative would otherwise demand to know where this ornament or that ornament was, demand they be brought out, and would hang them on our tree. This past year, I sent a clearly worded letter, stating that we were not accepting or giving gifts in the holiday season as our house is bursting at the seams. Any boxes arriving would be marked return to sender. The box marked "Open when you put up your tree" arrived. I took a red sharpie, wrote return to sender on it, and went out to wait for our mailman to go down the other side of the street. He was a little surprised. He asked me if I was sure I wanted to send this box back. It looked like a gift. Yes, I did, and I explained. He told to me that he keeps everything. His basement is filled with gifts, sorted by who has given it to him, and when someone is coming to visit him, he brings all their gifts up from the basement and displays them. I asked if he liked the items, and he admitted that he didn't, but it was important to make the people who gave them to him happy. His happiness doesn't seem to matter. He lives with a basement filled with unwanted items that he doesn't like, spends time and energy unpacking them, bringing them up to the main level of the house, arranging them, and when his guest has left, he packs them away again. I don't want to live that way.

I closed our house to visitors in December. The grandparents had to be content with seeing us in the city. The kids decorated the tree. They had a blast. Not one ornament that they didn't want on the tree was on it. What was on the tree, you ask? A couple of Star Trek ornaments bought on Ebay (Capt Janeway, Voyager, the Delta Flyer, the Enterprise-E), a space shuttle ornament, ornaments they made, some dinosaurs from the AMNH, a couple of ornaments I bought in Australia, and a bunch that Dinosauria bought in gift shops England at various historic buildings we visited. They were thrilled. My husband and I were thrilled. The holidays were much more pleasurable and less stressed. We did what we wanted and didn't worry about upsetting or trying to please others. My children overheard their grandmother trying to bait me on the phone the week before Thanksgiving, and overheard my conversation with my husband regarding the nasty email she sent me when the Christmas ornaments were sent back. My daughter's response was a humorous gift for me: a mug that says "Bah Humbug!" on it :)
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