'Making Peace with the Things in Your Life' - book

suz_naturalFebruary 27, 2005

I read this forum whenever I need a kick in the pants to organize my stuff.

Perhaps some of you have come accross this book already. I did a search for it in the forum but didn't find any mention of it. Just bought it from Amazon after having bought and read pretty much every Clutter / Household Orgazination / Storage book out there. I'm only into the 3rd chapter, but can tell you that this one is different so I thought I'd share the info. Sub-title is "Why your papers, books, clothes, and other possessions keep overwhelming you - and what to do about it" and the author is Cindy Glovinksy. She's a practicing psychotherapist and a personal orgaziner. Her tone is humorous, non-judgmental and her examples insightful. I'm very excited about this book and will update you on my progress once I've finished it.

Everyone is in a different place in respect to organizing the home and really, it's only when you feel that your things overwhelm you or control you that you have a problem. One of my debilitating mindsets has been thinking "when I'm finally organized, I'm going to..." start really living, I guess, so I had to laugh when I read: "And believe it or not, people have managed to date and get married without ever installing a new closet system." I recall declining many invitations to spend whole weekends "organizing" my office, closet, wardrobe or bathroom.

So, has anyone here read this book? Did it help you?


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Is that short for Suzy? Listen, I would be thrilled to read your summaries of this book. I'm so overwhelmed with my children's activities right now that a trip to the library or a bookstore would push me over the edge. This author's insights will be great to read. What a blessing this thread will be for all of us!


    Bookmark   February 27, 2005 at 1:31PM
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Here's an Amazon.com link to several pages of this book that you can read online. Sounds fascinating.

Here is a link that might be useful: Amazon.Com Making Peace With The Things In Your Life

    Bookmark   February 28, 2005 at 9:58AM
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Sounds like an awesome book! And darn I was just looking for another book on Amazon to put me to free shipping! Books don't push me over the edge of having too many. I love them. I guess I'll start another order! Now that I've organized...I need to be happy w/what I have! Except for books that is. :p

    Bookmark   February 28, 2005 at 10:16AM
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I was reading the excerpt and found this:

"To achieve ...(healthy Thing-management skills), all you need is the willingness to take an honest look at yourself."

Well, now I know why I'm so disorganized - LOL.


    Bookmark   February 28, 2005 at 1:01PM
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I started to read "Making Peace..." -- and at first, had high hopes for reading about organizational problem solving. If I recall correctly, it is broken down into 2-3 page "essays" After a few of these, it started to become too cosmic for me, (and even a little contradictory at times). I think a whole essay was devoted to the "why" of making a bed, when pages before it said it was "OK" not to, or something like that. Anyway, I didn't finish it since I hoped it would deliver more. practical advice than it did.


Maura :-)

PS -- Just got "Organizing, Plain and Simple: A ready reference guide with hundreds of solutions to your everyday clutter challenges" by Donna Smallin. Anyone read this?

Here is a link that might be useful: Organizing Plain & Simple

    Bookmark   February 28, 2005 at 2:58PM
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I have that one, Maura. It was moderately useful. Not phenomenal, but not too bad.

Like all organizing advice books, there's stuff that just doesn't work for me. And stuff that sort of does. It was kind of like that list that Blazedog posted. Lots of ideas, but only a few really apply.And that's really all it's fair to expect, actually.

And one day, I'm going to write my own, and quote all of you.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2005 at 5:34PM
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I agree wtih Talley Sue. It reminds me of all the training opportunities/requirements we had at work (before I retired). Or some training wasn't required but we could still sign up. Once I accepted the fact that about 90% (sometimes more, sometimes less) of the class would be a waste, either I knew it already or it didn't make sense and in some cases, was flat out wrong, I just learned to be patient and stay alert for the part that I would get something out of. I always learned SOMETHING that increased my knowledge from the teacher on the subject the class presented. (Usually learned other stuff too, of course, but that isn't the point of my post here.)


    Bookmark   February 28, 2005 at 6:51PM
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wise point, Alice--I have that experience in training classes, too. I already know the software, but if I sit there and wait, there will be some shortcut I hadn't heard of before.

My DH used to work for a newsletter--a subscription was expensive. But the folks he worked with said (as did someone I know who started a newsletter) that if a reader found two things in an issue that were useful or interesting, the reader would keep coming back.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2005 at 10:28AM
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Thanks for the feedback, everyone.
Cindy, Suz is short for Suzanne.
Maura, this doesn't sound like the same book. Haven't read much more than 3 chapters, but so far, I like how the author is helping me distance myself from my Things. Question my relationship with my Things and think of them in another light. How do I receive things? How do I let them in my home? Do I feel guilt about getting rid of things? Why do I keep certain things? Which ones do I keep? Etc.
I've asked myself all these questions at one time or another, but to go over them all at once brings Things into focus :) And focus is the one thing I can't do when I'm overwhelmed by my Things :)

But these organizing books are addictive. I'm always hoping to find that ONE nugget of information that will totally transform me (into what, I'm not sure...Martha's clone?) so I keep adding to my collection (a bit more than a dozen books right now). I can post my current collection for anyone who's interested. Heck, I could probably part with most. Help me get rid of my things :)


    Bookmark   March 1, 2005 at 8:38PM
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You are correct. It is a different book. The one I started to read is by the same author, called: "One Thing at a Time : 100 Simple Ways to Live Clutter-Free Every Day"

I will check out the book you are reading, since I, too, sometimes want to explore the "why" and it sounds like "Making Peace..." offers this perspective.

I have read many books, websites, etc. and find that now I skim most since they start to get repetative. My "problem" is maintaining and using the systems I set up for myself. They really would work beautifully if I used them (instead of continuing to search for a better way!)

And then I could focus on other books I've been putting off (fiction, parenting, that sort...)


    Bookmark   March 1, 2005 at 9:40PM
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Sometimes I think that I enjoy the thought of organizing things. I'd be lost if everything was perfectly organized. Reading self-help books such as organizing ones becomes somewhat of a hobby, looking for those few great tips. Does this make any sense?

    Bookmark   March 2, 2005 at 9:25AM
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I'm definitely getting that one, I find it motivating to read the psychology behind our obsession with our THINGS; granted, no one ever reinvents the wheel, but reading a fresh take on the subject usually gives me a push.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2005 at 6:05AM
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There is a website I went to on Hoarding. Maybe you all have seen it before. I swear it was the REAL turning point for me. I had already been trying to declutter for the last few years. After reading at this website something clicked in my brain and I cleared things out like crazy. Still fine tuning and will be for awhile. We moved 8 months ago into a much smaller house. I think this is why it is taking me so long to get it all straightened out and organized. It is getting easier now to let go of things. LOL Anyone want a brand new juicer???

Link for those that do not want another book to deal with, which leaves me out LOL, or wants to read something now and not wait. Not so much telling you how to organize but how to get started.


Here is a link that might be useful: Hoarding

    Bookmark   March 8, 2005 at 10:58PM
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Here's an article from the Obsessive-Compulsive Hoarding website:

"Saving the World"

By Fred Penzel, Ph.D.

I was recently reminded of a type of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) known as "compulsive hoarding" when a patient brought me an article from a British newspaper that jokingly looked into the homes of several people afflicted with this problem. The reporter, in his ignorance, seemed to think it humorous that these homes were knee-deep in possessions, papers, broken or useless things, or just plain trash. Even in our own country, those who compulsively hoard and collect are sometimes kiddingly referred to as "pack rats," and they are laughed at as being eccentrics.
Unfortunately, compulsive hoarding is no joke. It can in fact be quite excruciating, just like any form of OCD. When you look closely at the lives of compulsive hoarders, there is no doubt that they can become incapacitated and disabled by their habits, and their lives frequently become disorganized and unmanageable. Their home lives can be rather isolated, and socializing is often a problem. They are unable to have visitors or even repairmen come into their homes, due to the serious embarrassment they would feel at having someone see the clutter.

Hoarders may collect large quantities of old newspapers and magazines, greeting cards, bottles, junk mail, plastic containers, broken appliances, old clothes, shoes, furniture, etc. They not only save broken and useless things, they also tend to save quantities of stuff that can greatly go beyond what a person could possibly ever need. This could include buying things such as soap or paper goods several cases at a time, or dozens of an item that might bean sale, but which most people would only own one of.

Typical symptoms of compulsive hoarding could include any or several of the following:

- Saving broken, irreparable, or useless things
- Buying excessive quantities of goods beyond the amount needed for reasonable
- Purchasing large amounts of useful items and storing them away for future usage, but
never using them
- Retrieving numerous materials from the trash on a regular basis
- Having difficulty discarding anything due to a fear of accidentally throwing out
something important
- Saving excessive quantities of printed matter (newspapers, magazines, junk mail,
- Making and keeping extensive lists or records of certain things, even after they are no
longer needed
- Saving large amounts of certain items for possible use by others or for future

Actually, the urge to hoard and collect may well be strongly instinctive in many species. The familiar sights of squirrels storing seeds and acorns and birds gathering nesting materials tell us that humans are certainly not alone when it comes to collecting and saving. Among our fellow human beings, we can observe a whole range of such behaviors, both positive and negative. However, when it is expressed through OCD, it may be that an instinctive program we all carry in our brains has been inappropriately activated. This may resemble trichotillomania, where it has been theorized that grooming instincts are wrongly turned on.

I have observed that one of the main rea-sons for hoarding is this: a fear that if things are thrown away, they will almost certainly be needed one day, but will be gone for good. This loss will then lead to some kind of serious hardship or deprivation. This symptom is due to the chronic doubt of OCD. Because of this, many hoarders seem to lack the ability to discriminate between what is truly useless and what isn't. Ironically, hoarders rarely use, much less look through, the things they save. Even when they do search through their piles and heaps, they are usually unable to find what they are looking for.
There are some who hoard for what seem like sentimental reasons they keep many or most of their old belongings. One adult patient of mine had all of her childhood toys, as well as all the clothes she had ever owned since she was a youngster. There may be a number of reasons behind such behavior. One may be superstitious bad luck may occur if they let go of any of these things. Another may be the previously mentioned fear of the loss of something needed one day. Such doubts may be further compounded if the individual is reluctant to grow up or has some reason for not wanting to give up the past.

A different type of hoarding seems to relate more closely to the sort of hyperresponsible thinking often seen in OCD. Here, hoarders save things they believe will be useful to others rather than themselves. They would feel guilty and worry about being neglectful if they didn't have these things around for others who might need them someday. They may also feel guilty if they don't save a potentially useful item that could be repaired or recycled rather than discarded or wasted. In reality, no one ever really needs the things they save, and most of the things saved never get repaired or are too damaged to be fixed in any case.

Some who appear to hoard actually don't save things for their own sake. Their obsessive doubts cause a fear that, when throwing trash away, something important will be thrown out with it by mistake. These people compulsively thumb through every page of newspapers or magazines, and they double-check the seams of paper bags, boxes, and envelopes to be certain they have not thrown out money, jewelry, or important papers. Throwing things out can involve hours of searching and checking. This can become so difficult and time-consuming, that they may eventually just stop throwing things away altogether: This type of saving may not really be true hoarding, but something more like a type of double-checking.

Compulsive hoarders can accumulate such large amounts of things that they create storage problems and fire hazards. In particular, huge stacks of papers, excessive furniture, old clothing, non-working appliances, etc., can quickly overwhelm a house or apartment. The range of items saved can include something potentially useful such as reusable containers, except that hoarders may have hundreds. The other end of the range may include such unlikely things as cigarette ashes, pet hairs, or used tissues. Entire rooms become completely unusable. I know of people who have been evicted or threatened with eviction due to the large amounts they have collected. I also know of divorces resulting from a spouse refusing to live under such overwhelmingly disorganized conditions. Several years ago in our are, a case was reported of a woman who burned to death in a house filled with newspapers.

In the most extreme cases, homes can almost look as if they have been vandalized, with floors covered with debris and rooms filled to overflowing with boxes and bags full of possessions. The most famous example of a compulsive hoarder was Langley Collyer who, between 1933 and 1948, filled a mansion on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan with 120 tons of refuse, junk, and human waste. He would prowl the streets of Manhattan at night looking for items to rescue from the trash. Both he and his invalid brother, Homer, were found dead among possessions that included 11 pianos and all the components of a Model T Ford. Langley was actually crushed by a falling heap of heavy items he had rigged as a booby trap for burglars.

There are other types of hoarding, such as having to make a "complete" collection of a particular item to get a sense of "perfect" closure. There is "mental" hoarding, which is having to memorize all informa-tion on a particular topic. There is also the hoarding of memories or experiences. These symptoms seem to overlap with the problem of compulsive perfectionism. It is not unusual for some hoarders to buy and save large amounts of useful things that they then must maintain in a pristine and perfect condition. The items may be carefully wrapped, packaged, and stored away, never to be touched by anyone. Ironically, many of the saved items often deteriorate after years in storage, becoming totally unusable. Certain types of compulsive buying may be related to hoarding, depending upon what is done with the purchase.

Proper treatment for compulsive hoarding relies heavily on behavioral techniques. Hoarders need to be encouraged to gradually discard items that they find harder and harder to part with. A therapist may have to accomplish several goals: first, visit the home in order to survey the dimensions of the problem; second, determine the order in which things need to be tackled; and third, assist in the throwing-out process if the person can't seem to get started or is too great a procrastinator. I have sometimes encouraged people to begin by bringing bags of belongings to my office to start the discarding process.

Hoarders also need to be given guidelines for what is to be saved or discarded, now and in the future. We often use a "two-year rule." This states that if you haven't used it, worn it, or read it in the last two years, you don't need it. This obviously doesn't include valuables, heirlooms, or tools used only for special purposes. Some need even more specific rules. Most are discouraged from keeping more than the current week's newspapers or the latest issues of magazines, and articles are saved rather than entire issues. Mail must be sorted the day it arrives. Many also need help in organizing important personal papers and bills, and the purchase of filing cabinets is encouraged.

In serious cases, medication may help a sufferer approach the therapy process with less anxiety and fewer obsessional worries. It can also relieve serious depression that robs someone of the energy needed to clean house. The usual antidepressant drugs shown to help OCD are recommended. It is important to find a psychiatrist who is sympathetic and experienced in the treatment of OCD, which can take a certain amount of expertise to do properly.

With determination and support, hoarding can be conquered. I have seen people clean up some of the worst accumulations and keep them cleared up. There is no cure, however. In order to stay well, hoarders must learn to think differently and to keep up their new habits. Interestingly, upon recovering, the hoarder's reaction is often one of relief rather than anxiety. If this is your problem, get help. You don't have to drown in a sea of possessions and junk.

If you would like to read more about what Dr. Penzel has to say about OCD, take a look at his self-help book, "Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders: A Complete Guide to Getting Well and Staying Well," (Oxford University Press, 2003). You can learn more about it at www.ocdbook.com

    Bookmark   March 9, 2005 at 7:33AM
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I posted this short article because I had never considered myself a horder, but in reading the list I had to admit that I do have one or two of those tendencies. I hadn't even considered hoarding, which is why this article is so interesting. But I'm no OCD hoarder. I think my biggest problem is fatigue which compromises gumption. I'm just to tired to follow through.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2005 at 8:57AM
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The article seemed very interesting. Thanks for posting it. I also found some of the hoarder characteristics a little too close for comfort.

And I agree that problems with fatigue can sabotage. I definitely have problems with fatigue especially considering how much energy I had when I was younger. Big big difference. It takes energy to make decisions (sound decisions, that is) on what to keep and what to toss. And to keep making those decisions on a consistent basis, day in and day out. Way too tiring. It must be easier for non-hoarders to make these decisions. Is the answer for us not to care (that much)?

(Hope it's not too obvious that I didn't read every word of the article but I did save it. I stopped when it started talking about behaviour modification therapy...oh boy!)


    Bookmark   March 9, 2005 at 10:52PM
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