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Worry, and further down the same track, anxiety and fear, could be lurking behind the squalor.

Why do we worry?

To worry about something means to feel uneasy or concerned about something; to be troubled. In his book Your Erroneous Zones, Dr. Wayne Dyer puts worry at the opposite of the end of the same spectrum as guilt—both are futile emotions which use up your energy and keep you from acting in the present moment (the only space in which you can do anything) by causing you to focus on—in the case of guilt—past behaviours that you can't change, or—when you worry—future happenimgs which may or may not occur, and which you may not be able to control. Dr. Dyer takes care to point out that by his definition, worrying (which is "futile") is not the same thing as planning for the future.

Neil Fiore, in The Now Habit does not use the same definition of "worry", but he makes essentially the same point. He says, "Respect your ability to worry as a means to alert you to potential danger." But he points out that it is futile to identify possible future threats if you don't go on to develop a plan of what you will do if whatever it is you are worrying about actually happens.

But the rapid flow of frightening thoughts characteristic of most counterproductive worrying simple creates more threats—"it would be awful if that happened. I couldn't stand it. I have to do well or else." Stopping there, with simply the frightening aspect of worrying, is like screaming"Danger!" without knowing what to do or where to run. In effect, your scream has caused a lot of disturbance in people but has not told them what they can do to escape the danger. By alerting yourself to a potential danger without establishing a plan for how you will cope, you have done only half the job of worrying. You've left out the positive "work of worrying"—developing an action plan. Neil FioreThe Now Habit: A Strategic Program for Overcoming Procrastination and Enjoying Guilt-Free Play

Different fears for different folks

Worry and anxiety can cause us to hold onto our mess in several different ways. We worry that :

  • If we throw away something we might need it later.
  • We will forget the memory of an event, so we keep all the cards and wrinkled giftwrap, ticket-stubs and candle stubs, tangled ribbons and empty bottles.
  • We might not be able to remember all the information we come across, so we keep everything - out in sight and within arm's reach.
  • We might accidentally throw out something of value, so we don't throw out anything at all.
  • If we throw something out, we will feel distressed.
  • If we waste things, something bad will happen to us.

Something bad is already happening. It's called squalor.

Facing your fears

I might need it later

One question you might ask yourself is, "What do people who don't live in squalor do when they need something?" The answer is probably that they go to the shops to buy the item—or to a friend or relation to borrow the item—at the point in time when they need it. They don't stockpile goods as if they were a hardware store in case they need a 3/8" Phillips head self-tapping screw at some point in the future—when they need such a screw they toddle off to the hardware store and buy it.

I might forget something important


Journals and photographs hold on to your memories. You can keep your memories in a journal. Instead of keeping objects as mementos and souvenirs, preserve the past in a book. You can journal your way out of squalor. Record your memories, hopes, thoughts and dreams in words and pictures, rather than building piles as dusty monuments to your caring nature.

Sometimes a bulky item holds a special memory, perhaps because your child created it. Consider photographing it. Some cameras even date photographs automatically. You can preserve the memory in an album or photo box, without keeping the item itself.


Writing the Journey Online Journal Writing Workshop

Conversations Within Journal Writing and Inner Dialog


If you're attempting to keep and manage all the information you acquire, consider this:

As networks increase in size and number, the amount of data that these networks produce grows as well, and has long since surpassed the point where it can effectively be managed by human beings. Sometime around the summer of 1997, the amount of data being held in electronic form surpassed the total number of words in all the written works ever produced. Source: HTML Complete, Second Edition, Sybex

We are faced with such an information overload, that trying to effectively manage all this information yourself is like trying to empty a lake with a thimble. The good news is that you don't have to. Others will hold on to the information for you. Don't stockpile books, magazines, newspapers, recipes and articles in case you might use them one day. Use libraries and the Internet to retrieve information as and when you need it.

I might throw out something worth a lot of money

This could actually happen. Perhaps you can remember previous cleaning sessions when you found a rebate check or something similar. But while continuing to clutter or hoard guarantees you won't accidentally throw such valuables out, it also guarantees that all your embarrassment and other negative consequences will continue. Is that rebate check worth the price to you?

I might feel distressed or upset

The thought of throwing things away might be worse than actually doing it. It might not feel as bad as you think, and the bad feeling might not last as long as you think. It's important to test out your "feeling of doom" hypothesis. Try picking one small thing and throw it into the trash. Pay attention to how you feel. You may have anticipated that you would feel sick. Did you? Were you actually sick? How long did this feeling last? If you knew that the "sick" period would diminish with practice, could you practice throwing more things away? If this exercise is too much for you, perhaps you can try the next technique...

If I waste things, something bad will happen

Try sharing: dispersal instead of disposal. If you have difficulty discarding—if you can't let go of objects without anxiety, start slowly and gently. Try sharing or giving away to charities rather than throwing things away.

It gets easier with time and practice. How do you feel one minute after letting go of something? How do you feel 24 hours later? Have you given up anything of real value? How regretful do you feel? Can you tolerate this feeling until it goes away? Is there another way to think about this?

Trust that your future needs will be provided for. Take note of every time you let go of something, and disaster doesn't occur.


MagPortal.com Find individual articles from many free magazines by browsing the categories or using the search engine.

Project Gutenberg Fine Literature Digitally Re-published: classic books and well-loved favorites as e-texts.

The Online Books Page Book search.

Recipe Source formerly known as SOAR: The Searchable Online Archive of Recipes.

NutritionData.com NutritionData provides nutrition facts, calorie counts, and nutrient data for 7, 964 foods in 21,914 serving sizes, including fast foods.

Google Pretty good search engine.

Medline Plus Medical encyclopedia

National Geographic Mocking the piles of National Geographics dating back to 1950 is like the standard cheap shot at the packrat mentality, isn't it?