wings and things

I can’t do this until I do that!

on February 9, 2015


You know that feeling that you can’t do something you need to do until you do something else first? For example, here are some conversations with myself over the two-and-a-bit years since Anthony went into the nursing home:

I can’t have people visit until I clean the house from top to bottom;
– I can’t go on a diet until I have eaten all the cheese;
– I can’t sort my old paperwork until I have sorted my new paperwork (well I think I have a point there!)
– I can’t turn over a new leaf until Monday because Monday is a good day to turn over a leaf, or perhaps Sunday if the date is not an odd number (a little bit of OCD?);
– I can’t do the washing (laundry) until I find it;
– I can’t get back in touch with that old friend until I find all of her emails to me that I didn’t answer, and answer them.
– I can’t get a decluttering service to help me until I do some preliminary decluttering by myself (yes, this has worked to some extent);
– I can’t make healthy smoothies until I have the ingredients to make healthy smoothies with;
– I can’t write anything new until I sort out all my old writings (in case I find something potentially brilliant that has publication potential);
– I can’t blog until I’ve read everybody else’s blogs;
– I can’t have fun until I have solved all of the problems in my life and the world;
– I can’t think new thoughts until I have figured out all of the old thoughts;
– I can’t breathe easily until the person I love can breathe easily too (literally and figuratively);
– I can’t cook a beautiful meal until I feel hungry enough to do so;
– I can’t quit my old bad habits until I develop a comprehensive list of goals for new habits and that will take me a year or so;
– I can’t go back to work in any capacity until I am happy;
– I can’t get up early in the morning until I want to get up early in the morning;
– I can’t re-friend that person until I figure out why we became estranged;
– I can’t pick the figs until I figure out how not to be bitten by hundreds of ants;
– I can’t read this novel until I’ve read that novel….

These excuse-ridden conversations with myself go on and on and on and, even though the above conversations are somewhat tongue-in-cheek, all of the ‘can’ts’ and ‘untils’ have culminated in a great, big “I give up!” feeling of absolute hopelessness.

I kind of figured this out this morning as Dina (from Chaos-to-Clear) helped to declutter the back veranda which was crowded with boxes and crates of Ming’s baby toys, legal documents, empty diaries, sentimental quotes, letters, postcards, a lot of photos, and a multitude of bits and pieces. She and I could both see how I had obviously tried from time to time to organise all of the ‘stuff’ but I had to swallow my embarrassment at all of this spider-webbed clutter!

This is a photo of before Dina arrived:


It took around four hours to clear/sort/discard/box up/categorise most of the veranda stuff and at 2pm we stopped and I looked at what we had done. The feeling of freedom and elation was indescribably good. And then that feeling was trumped by the feeling of hope!

And it is only now that I see, in retrospect, that I must have been in a state of absolute despair, to let the house and its contents get the better of me in terms of clutter! Of course this was not just because of Anthony going into the nursing home (that was terrible enough) but all of the ghastly other stuff that happened in those two blurry years – Ming’s surgery, my mother’s broken bones after falling twice, the car accident which I can hardly bear to think/talk/write about despite the fact that everyone survived.

I have written about all of these things in past blog posts but I am reluctant to re-visit those posts because….

– I can’t re-visit all of this painful stuff until I learn how to stand up straight and tall and and smile at the monster!


Note to Ming: I promise not to go to the dump with the rubbish until you get back from your holiday. We shook hands about this so please trust me! (This deal he and I made is another story!)

54 responses to “I can’t do this until I do that!

  1. There is something so very freeing about decluttering — like you, when clutter abounds around me it is a reflection of my state of being more than the clutter simply being clutter!

    Hugs — and congratulations!

  2. frangipani says:

    I identify with so much of your list!

  3. now that is what I need = a declutterer. Trouble is I have one – DH – but I don’t like him chucking my stuff LOL

  4. Amy says:

    I did that this weekend too and it felt great!

  5. It only took a few hours to do one large task….For all the others.. just do one at a time and check it off the list….(easier said than done right?) Diane

  6. Terry says:

    I have some of the same excuses. I guess I just didn’t feel like doing what was to be done. Glad you made progress. It does make us feel better and lighter about the day

  7. susanpoozan says:

    What a transformation, how many decisions you must have made in such a short space of time, many congratulations for facing up to what had to be done.

    • jmgoyder says:

      Yesterday we did the kitchen and next week we will do two more rooms and it will finally become manageable. All (well most) of the china and silver and that kind of thing is now on the dining room table ready for an antique valuer to come.

  8. Anonymous says:

    I think this is so profound – I want to dedicate a song to you named “CLEAR!” Now that you are clearing the clutter in you house and in your mind, you have clarity and space to fill up with new possibilities. I love how you are taking care of yourself. That is a great thing because I was a caregiver, too. It’s easy to neglect yourself when life is filled with worrying about keeping everyone else going. You are a treasure and definitely worth taking care of!

  9. That list of ‘can’ts’ is very familiar to me! Congratulations on the de-cluttering. πŸ™‚

  10. ksbeth says:

    it looks great. i’ve found that the less stuff/clutter i have around, the less clutter i have flittering around in my head. i tend to donate stuff and give it back to the universe each month now )

  11. Luanne says:

    After you said your declutter expert, I had to run over here and check it out. I love your veranda! Decluttering is good, but throwing away too much is bad. Luanne’s philosophy for the day ;). I hope Dina is helping you choose wisely!

    • jmgoyder says:

      Dina is great in that she doesn’t choose anything. She simply puts boxes out – one for rubbish, one for donating, one for valuation and I have now added a miscellaneous box. I think this is going to be a longish journey, but rather exhilarating!

  12. Pat Bean says:

    This blog earned a Bean Pat as blog pick of the day. Check it out at:

  13. Tiny says:

    We all have those lists, many items quite identical. Good for you to get the back veranda done!

  14. It looks great Julie! I love that space. Closed in Veranda is a great idea! ❀
    Diana xo

  15. bulldog says:

    I can’t do this before I do that….. I can… maybe that’s why I am not sure if the thing I do next is gonna be right or just cause more chaos

  16. It does feel good to declutter but I am terrible at doing it, that said I also say many of those things to myself I can’t until are words I often hear in my head

  17. tootlepedal says:

    I don’t want to sound frivolous but the cheese point is the one that hits home with me. Well done for decluttering. We are going to do it too….when all the cheese has bee eaten.

  18. Fantastic post and I can relate to all on your list especially not going on a diet until all the food in the fridge is eaten and not being able to have fun until I can solve world poverty and peace.

    PS. I have a roll-top desk just like the one you have … we are soul sisters πŸ™‚

  19. Vicki says:

    Well done Julie.
    I’m immensely proud at what you’ve achieved my friend.

    Decluttering not only clears space in your house, it clears space in your mind and is truly liberating. I’m a wee bit OCD and can’t function without order and tidiness. These days I hate housework, so clean as I go AND have put everything away (or given/donated) that collects dust. I’ve even given all my valuables and inherited family heirlooms to my nieces as they would have been the recipients in my will. I never use them and they may as well have them to use for the rest of their adult lives.

    My type of de-cluttering is not for everyone, but it suits my lifestyle and chronic health symptoms e.g.. due to chronic back pain, I’ve put everything I regularly use in the kitchen in an easily reachable cupboard, not back of the ground level cupboard.

    My space now reflects of who I am and where I want to be (in my mind) right now. I can barely read fiction these days so I gave away (or donated) about 400 hundred books and about 120 DVDs (which I’d watched to death). I think I have about 5-6 small thin easy-to-read fiction left. I’ve kept most of my travel and non-fiction as I refer to them often. And I’ve kept all my favourite DVDs which I watch regularly.

    My family see this as wasting money and throwing away good things. I see it as rehoming and giving to others in the community (what I can’t use).

    As our life changes (work/location/retirement or whatever), I believe it’s helpful to change our living environment too. I like to make a clean sweep. Why keep things we haven’t used in 20 years (and quite obviously will never use again). Why keep paperwork when the info is stored on the computer and a separate back-up drive.

    Why cling to the past, when living in the present is what is important right now.

    The bigger the mountain of stuff cluttering our home (& work) space, the heavier ‘the load of chains’ weighing us down.

    • jmgoyder says:

      You are one of the most amazing people I have ever met and your empathy for me astounds. You always make me smile, Vicki, even when you are sad!

    • It sounds like your decluttering is the type my mother and I are trying to do now since my father (her beloved husband) passed away suddenly in March of 2014 and what we were all doing before he died. We were all working on decluttering and donating, what we don’t need. I had to go on social security disability in May of 2011 and my parents invited me move back home. We had planned to further declutter the duplicates that moving my apartment’s worth of things caused and the many things I still had that currently could be given away until I am ready to be out on my own or married. I also had to declutter the things I can no longer use due to my medical issues. We did not get as much done as we wanted before my Dad’s sudden passing, afterwards my Brother and his family moved into my parent’s home as well, renting out their home, to help my Mom and me around the house. It has caused yet another households worth of things to be added to this one home cluttering it up further. The list given of “I can’t do this” sounds very familiar to mine on many levels.
      You should be very proud of all the work you got done. It is great to accomplish decluttering and dealing with everything in one area of your home. I hope I can accomplish similar success on my own possessions as soon as possible, you have certainly inspired me to just choose one area, toss out the “I can’ts” and get busy. I apologize for the long comment and hope I can continue to toss out my “I can’ts” and get more done because it is needed.
      Thank you for the inspiration and congratulations on all you have done. Your veranda looks great! I hope you are able to continue to work on your list and wish you success in all you go after on it.

  20. Excellent for you Jules! I do likewise with the I can’t until I. I am so glad that you got past it. πŸ™‚

  21. I’m not sure what part of my brain you have been living in, but I surely appreciate you decluttering that list that has been living there!!!!!!

  22. paulaacton says:

    I am so jealous of that roll top desk even though I know in some ways it is totally impractical to work at with today’s mod-cons lol

  23. frankly i am surprised with all you are juggling that things were not much worse. all the things i thought i would organize or re-arrange when i retired are sitting waiting and probably will be here long after i am gone. i would love to find someone to help get things under control as you have! life just has a way of changing our priorities.

    sending you love and hugs my friend!

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