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Episode 31: Why I (GASP!) got rid of all my books

During my divorce, I replaced my old dresser with a new one at no cost. During cancer, I became obsessed with replacing my couch. I got rid of all my books. Here's why.

Transcript:


[00:00:00] Today, I want to talk about a simple but powerful thing you can do to help your mental health during something really hard, and that is get rid of everything you don't like in your house.

[00:00:13] And I'm serious about this.

[00:00:15] One of the things that really made a huge impact on my mental health during my divorce was getting rid of all the stuff that didn't feel like "me" anymore. I had been carting around a dresser since my year in grad school. I had it all the way through my marriage and then I took it with me when we divorced.

[00:00:40] And I remember looking at it in my living room and just thinking, like the TV is sitting on it and I hated it. It didn't feel like "me" anymore. It was white and crisp. And every time I looked at it, it reminded me that my ex-husband had this really weird thing where he thought only black furniture belonged in the living room and white furniture belonged in the bedroom. And I just didn't like it anymore.

[00:01:05] It was the first thing that I got rid of.

[00:01:07] And I was really proud of myself because at the time I was financially super strapped and I couldn't afford new furniture. But I sold it for like a hundred dollars, and then I found a vintage dresser that I still have today for exactly one hundred dollars. I think with Marketplace on Facebook now, it's really easy to do this.

[00:01:33] I love shopping at antique stores, but Marketplace makes it super easy and it was cheap - well, for me it was free at that point - and the amount of peace that I had with this new dresser that really spoke to me and really felt like it was mine . . . It really made me feel good.

[00:01:57] So that was the first thing, and I then systematically went through basically everything in my house. And if it didn't feel like something that made me feel happy or made me feel like myself or had weird memories attached to it, I got rid of it - and it was AWESOME.

[00:02:15] Then oddly enough, I found myself doing something really similar when I was diagnosed with cancer. And because the only thing that I had left after my divorce was this couch - we had gotten it right before we divorced, and I took the couch with me and it was a great couch and I liked it. And so that was why I didn't get rid of it during my giant divorce purge. But when I was diagnosed with cancer, for some reason, I just started focusing only on the couch and I sold that couch and I bought a new, more comfortable one.

[00:02:51] And I think part of it, like in my head, was if I'm going to go through chemo and have to sit on the couch a lot, it's going to be couch I feel comfortable in.

[00:03:00] But being able to focus on that took my mind off of the things that I couldn't control. And on the same token, I also purged literally every book I had.

[00:03:15] When I look back on this, I think, you know, throughout my history of going through really hard things and climbing all of these mountains, so to speak, I have purged things, physical things as time has gone on and it has made me feel a lot more relaxed.

[00:03:36] So I decided to do a little bit of research on why getting rid of stuff and simplifying things helps. And it turns out that this is backed up by science. Research shows disorganization and clutter have a cumulative effect on our brains. Our brains really need order, and constant visual reminders of things that are disorganized drain our resources, including our ability to focus on things.

[00:04:08] It makes you feel overwhelmed. It increases your cognitive overload and can reduce your working memory. If you need some science, that's some science for you.

[00:04:21] All of this to say that simplifying the things in your household and getting rid of excess clutter and leaving only the things behind that bring you peace or bring you joy, really has an effect on your mental health.

[00:04:38] So look around your home and ask yourself: what do you see that doesn't actually resonate with who you are? What are you looking at right now that doesn't make you feel peaceful or happy? And can you take that thing and get rid of it? And like, probably not even miss it? The answer is probably yes.

[00:05:03] Now, I am no longer divorced. I mean, technically I am divorced, but I'm in a partnership now and I share a household with my boyfriend and we are two completely different people in this way.

[00:05:18] He really likes to hold on to things because a lot of those things bring him positive memories. Like we have towels in our house that belonged to his grandparents, because they bring him peace to be able to look at them. Versus I'm like, "oh my God, we have nine million towels and there's only four of us in this house plus the dog, like, do we really need these towels?"

[00:05:41] So this can be a little bit of a complicated thing to do when you're sharing your household. And in our house, the way that we have dealt with this is basically to create places for him to just go hog wild. And I try to avoid those areas. Our garage really overwhelms me, I'm going to be totally honest.

[00:06:05] Nothing is perfect and that includes my life. So I avoid our garage because that's where a lot of these things live. A lot of the things that he really likes, and I have compromised on our towel situation.

[00:06:21] But for the most part, when it comes to things that are in my space, I try to get rid of them if I don't like them. I honestly don't own more than five books now and I LOVE to read. I know a lot of people...this is controversial. I have a Kindle and I can't handle the clutter of books. Some people love them, so everybody is different.

[00:06:45] My point is to look around your house and see what it is that is bringing YOU peace, see what is bringing you stress, and see if you can change your environment a bit and make a bigger impact on your mental health.

[00:07:01] One other quick tip I want to share with you before I go: Get rid of paper.

[00:07:06] The way I have done that is using an app called Genius Scan on my phone. I take pictures of receipts. I take pictures of any paper that I have and then I trash the paper. That way, I have a scan of it if it was important, and otherwise I don't need it.

[00:07:26] So I hope this helps you and helps you feel inspired to do something to minimize your life a little bit and clear your clutter. Talk to you next week.

Sara Olsher

Sara Olsher

Sara Olsher is the Founder + CEO of Mighty + Bright. She's a young cancer survivor, mom, and former single mom.

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