Tag Archives: clutter

Letters from the Dead


by Lillian Csernica on July 4, 2019

 

Last Thursday my mother died.

My brother lives in Southern California. My sister is currently bound by a temporary restraining order (soon to be permanent. The hearing is tomorrow). That means it’s all on me.

All the hospital stuff.

All the legal stuff.

And, most of all, every single item of Mom’s stuff.

It’s up to me to clear out Mom’s apartment.  It’s just a studio, but still. Furniture. Small appliances. Clothing. Books and DVDs, knickknacks and photo albums. The really staggering part? Mom’s personal correspondence, files, and papers.

Mom kept everything.

I could tell you stories about some of the keepsakes I’ve found, such as the inflatable jukebox wardrobe. Or the hand-painted bamboo parasol that would be a collector’s item if it weren’t for all the rainbow glitter. While such conversation starters are entertaining, and some are quite valuable, the downside of this particular duty involves discovering a few things that I really wish had stayed buried in the clutter.

colorful-envelopes-2997-colorful-envelopes-royalty-free-stock-image-image-8075126-1300-x-957

I found copies of letters Mom sent to me years ago. Some offered sympathy about my marriage troubles. Some gave “friendly” advice meant “with love” regarding how I took care of my baby, the child who would never walk or speak or do 90% of all the cute things grandparents look forward to in their grandchildren. I also found letters Mom had written to friends, letters that talked about matters I considered private. June was a horrible month. Given that I had to get a restraining order against my sister, then take care of Mom pretty much 24/7 right up to her death, I am exhausted, both physically and emotionally. I really did not need to come across Mom’s letters and the old issues they stirred up.

Have mercy on the family members who will be tasked with cleaning up after you’re gone. Do you really want your kids to read something out of context years from now when that material is subject to lingering resentments, old grudges, and well-meaning misinterpretation? Go through your personal papers now. You can’t have complete control over how you will be remembered, but you can certainly do yourself a lot of good by cleaning out potential trouble.

I’m not going to get all syrupy about making peace and building bridges before it’s too late. If you can do that, great. If you can’t, don’t feel bad, and don’t feel pressured to reach out to people when that might just make matters worse. I’ve had to take some drastic steps lately to preserve the health and safety of myself and my children. That’s going to make things awkward when it comes to Mom’s memorial service.

Unless you have family members who conducted personal correspondence at the level of Benjamin Franklin or Ralph Waldo Emerson or Florence Nightingale or Collette herself, do not read the papers that are left behind when said loved one passes. Burn them. Shred them. Recycle them. Spare yourself the torment of ambivalent feelings stirred up by unfinished business. If you just can’t resist, here’s a good guide for figuring out what to toss and what to keep.

Let me wrap this up on a positive note. One happy aspect of Mom having so much stuff is setting aside items that I know will mean a lot to Mom’s special friends. I’ve already passed on a few pieces of jewelry to the fellow artists Mom talked about from her art class. Those women thanked me with tears in their eyes, touched by knowing Mom thought enough of them to make sure I gave them those mementoes.

There are many ways to honor the passing of our loved ones. Remembering what was best about them can bring some comfort to everyone involved.

 

 

 

14 Comments

Filed under Family, family tradition, housework, memoirs, mother, parenting, therapy

How to Make Room for Fresh Ideas


by Lillian Csernica on January 4, 2018

desk-3

Courtesy of Debby Young

A New Year. A fresh start. We’ve got the laptop or writing journal ready, we’ve got our favorite source of caffeine to hand, and we’re ready to write.

Hello, blank page. The cursor blinks at us like a tapping foot, impatiently awaiting some outpouring of brilliant ideas. That’s when the trouble starts.

  • Anxiety
  • Self-doubt
  • Imposter Syndrome
  • The Inner Editor
  • All those other racing thoughts about everything else we should be doing right then.

Did you know that such thoughts can have their starting point outside our minds just as easily as inside? One of the principles of feng shui says clutter inhibits the free flow of energy. Stagnant energy interferes with a lot of activities, especially communication. What is writing if not communication?

I don’t have many writing rituals, but I do need clear space to spread out my notes, manuscript, laptop, pens, and whatever else I need for that writing session. This is why I go to the library a lot. There I can find nice long tables with plenty of space.

Want to do more and better writing this year? Clear out your space. We must make room in our lives for the fresh, new ideas by removing the physical items that jam up our minds with old negative energy and thought patterns. Open up your writing space, clear out the clutter that is damming up the free flow of energy, and you will see immediate results.

In the spirit of solidarity, I will show you exactly what I have to deal with, and how urgent the need really is.

ClutterStuff

 

Books Yes, I have too many books. More precisely, I have too many books for the amount of space in my office. This has resulted in cardboard boxes of books taking up floor space. Not good. I have to prioritize the books according to what I need for my current novel, what I need for reference, and what I need for recharging my word batteries by reading for pleasure.

Notebooks Piles of notebooks sit here and there in my office. Some are writing journals in that I’ve written scenes, outlines, and notes in them. Others are the more classic writer’s journal full of ideas, character sketches, lists, and critique notes. What I have to do here is go through and see which whole notebooks are worth keeping and which ones need to have a few key pages torn out and filed where they belong.

ClutterBoxes

Stuff I’ve let a fair amount of miscellaneous stuff collect in my office for one simple reason. I have a bad habit of not putting things away. Clothes, reusable shopping bags, jewelry making supplies, and my amazing collection of tote bags filled with who knows what. Time to take a bite out of that mess by devoting 15 or 30 minutes at a go until all of it has been cleared up and cleaned out!

For more specific suggestions on how to do this, I recommend reading:

9 Clutter Clearing Tips for Good Feng Shui

Four Life Changing New Year’s Lessons for Writers

How to Kick Your Clutter Habit and Live in a Clean House Once and For All

How to De-Clutter Your Mind and Become a More Productive Writer

cg4b8c759dad1780

7 Comments

Filed under creativity, Depression, Family, frustration, Goals, housework, Lillian Csernica, perspective, publication, research, therapy

Reinventing my personal space


by Lillian Csernica on March 12, 2013

Three months ago my husband and I bought a house and moved in.  What did I unpack first?  The manuscript, notes, notebooks, and other miscellanea involved in my current novel.  Then I went into the garage and began the excavation required to locate the boxes that contained my Japanese reference library (the novel is set in Satsuma, Japan, 1867).  Next came my favorite fiction, one whole shelf devoted to Terry Pratchett‘s Discworld books and another to Janet Evanovich‘s Stephanie Plum series and another to Jim Butcher‘s Dresden Files.  I find these series to be inspirational.  Not only is the quality of the writing great for recharging my word batteries, seeing the commitment those authors have made to producing novel after novel after novel gives me concrete motivation to do the same.  I’m still looking for the boxes that hold my collection of ghost story anthologies.  I love a good ghost story, especially from turn of the century authors such as A.M. Burrage and Marjorie Bowen.  I’ll find them.

The point here is simple.  Underwear and a toothbrush and caffeine and those other daily necessities can be acquired easily enough.  The exterior space you live in affects your interior life.  I now own the space I live in, both outside and in.  I must take care to avoid unnecessary clutter.  I must surround myself with all that is positive, nourishing, and uplifting, sights and sounds and smells and textures that will support me as I labor through each day, writing the fireworks and sword fights and love scenes as well as helping John with his homework and listening to Michael struggle to tell me about his day.

Beware unwanted clutter.  Beware even more so unloved clutter that stirs up bad memories.  Feng shui says such clutter gets between you and what you really want, slowing you down and sucking away your energy and sabotaging your dreams.  I still have boxes to unpack and tchotchkes to deal with, but I shall be ruthless in the defense of the spaces where I dream, both in my office and in my heart.

10 Comments

Filed under Family, fantasy, Fiction, Uncategorized, Writing