Grandma Gertie always said there's not a savory dish that can't be made tastier by just a touch of tarragon.

Tsunami and Me

Tsunami and Me
too big to escape now....

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Clutter Chitter Chatter

When I got an email from John Benz a month ago, asking if I'd review his book, I decided to give it a go. Apparently he'd found my name and contact info from a Chicken Soup for the Soul review I'd posted on Amazon, and figured perhaps I was a like-minded lady, somebody interested in positive thinking. And I am, of course.That's why I write inspirational creative nonfiction. Additionally, I'm a licensed clinical social worker, and have worked as a psychotherapist.

While John's not a licensed mental health professional, he discloses this upfront in his book. Instead, he bills himself on his blog as a performance coach. I doubt that this is a profession overseen by any governmental regulatory board, but still I wonder what, besides life experience, compels people to enter into so many of these paraprofessional fields these days. I've learned that a friend of a friend is paying $50 an hour to a person to help her clear out boxes of old files and to decide what to keep and what to discard.

I've finished reading John's book, and find it full of constructive upbeat advice. I endorse his basic concept...we can free our surroundings and life of negativity. This makes good sense. Why should we wake up every morning to see an object given to us by a person who hurt us? Why should we continue to let our closets overflow with clothes that remind us that we no longer fit into items we wore two decades ago?

A great deal of the book resonated with me personally. Last year my late husband's son and I cleared out my garage in my country home in Colville. We took truckloads of materials Ken had accumulated in the '80s and '90s to the dump. Boxes and boxes of books and cassettes he'd ordered and never used...material on how to make money on the Internet, how to start a small business, how to get rich on the stock market, how to create money-making mass mailings. Ken never followed up on any of these projects.

When I put the house up for sale, I began to clear out drawers, closets, cupboards. I too had clutter dating back a decade or two, even though I'd given away a lot when I joined the Peace Corps in 1987. I was still discarding and giving away stuff up to the late October afternoon I vacated the house and started the drive from northeastern Washington to Southern California.

I'd traded three and a half acres, a four-bedroom 2500 square-foot two story house with a 1200 square-foot garage for a miniscule one-bedroom apartment in a senior independent living complex. I declined to rent a storage space. I gave away, sold, or trashed everything I didn't simply treasure.

Now I'm on the alert again to how quickly objects can pile up. I sort through the accumulated papers, the bills, the "to do" lists, the magazines and newspapers regularly, determined to not get caught up in clutter once again. Yes, it's freeing not to have to worry about how my son will have to sort through so much, once I've left this world.

A few of my friends apparently have grown so accustomed to living with clutter that they don't seem to notice that they can no longer close their drawers or closet doors. I wonder if this is a modern phenomenon. I can't imagine my mother or grandmother putting up with such an overstuffed drawer. I think many people these days could benefit from some of these how-to-clean books. But somewhere there must be a good word to say for moderation. There's no need to go all OCD about objects. Would you really trust an author who admits she cried in the shower when she discovered a trace of mould in the soap dish? Or who recommends we iron our socks and sheets?

Curious about the burgeoning popularity of books addressed to boarder hoarders and aspiring minimalists, I've read some of the reviews of such bestsellers as Marie Kondo's The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and Brook Palmer's Clutter Busting, I suspect Benz's book is a better investment and a more inspiring read. He doesn't recommend, for instance, that you talk to your old tee shirts to tell them how appreciated they've been before you heartlessly toss them in the trash pile.

John Benz's book reads as if it's written by a practical and sane man, or I wouldn't have plowed through to the final pages. He offers good advice and I plan to lend the book to a friend or two who might benefit from his suggested techniques.

I have a couple of minor quibbles, though, involving the title, Do the Clearing. One, it reminds me uncomfortably of the term used in Scientology, "going clear." Two, it brings to mind the 1960's dance crazes..do the twist, do the mashed potato, do the swim.

And there's one anecdote that certainly gave me pause. It involves a client's story that she lost out on possession of a trophy to her classmate simply because that girl "had boobs." I genuinely can't believe any teacher would say to her students what this one is alleged to have said on page 153. After working years as a psychotherapist, I learned not to believe every single word my patients would tell me.

If I were shopping for a performance coach, I think I'd go with John Benz. His website has a recipe for a yummy sounding peanut butter blossom cookie. http://johnbenz.com/blogs/news

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