Posted by: Jack Hope | Thursday January 17, 2013

Laying the Foundation

Last week, I outlined the four building blocks/circles that I am going to use as the basis for establishing and I’ve been using that to formulate smaller goals. Small wins that will lead to bigger payoffs and my overall goal.

I’m still working on how to define that overall goal for the purposes of my 2013 plan.

In the interim I’m not being idle. While I had a few down days in the aftermath of the holidays (both my parents commented), my mood has been positive of late.

This overall upward trend which has been coming through all of December has opened up this opportunity to plan and to clean house, both literally and figuratively. It’s also opened up uncomfortable questions about whether or not I’m bipolar.

Setting aside the question of bipolar disorder for now (to be covered in an upcoming post) I’ve been using this burst of good spirits to prepare myself for the year ahead.

Out With the Old

Like all too many people in North America I have a tendency to accumulate too much stuff and then not to get rid of it when it’s ceased to be useful for me. While I’ve made a lot of headway over the last year, the job is still not finished.

Clothing, in particular, is calling for a major purge.

Over the last few years, partly coinciding with the onset of my last major depressive episode, I have lost quite a bit of weight.

So much so, that even now I sometimes don’t recognize myself in the mirror.

I wonder where this skinny person came from. Then I remember, this is more or less about the size I was before my first adult episode of depression.

I’ll be the first to admit that a significant chunk of this weight came off in an unhealthy manner, stressed off by a brutal depressive episode and then some more as a side effect of the medication I take. In short, not recommended methods of weight loss.

Despite that, I can proudly say I lost more than half of the excess weight I was carrying through my own efforts too, through better diet and modest exercise.

And I am much better off for having lost it, in the long run.

Still, I have a lingering issue from this rapid change in my physical body: a lot of clothes that don’t fit.

In part, I’ve kept a lot of them because I needed something to wear. Especially during my hermit phases it didn’t matter what I wore because I was the only one who saw me in my clothes and then berated myself for looking stupid. Isn’t depression wonderful?

Also, since I wasn’t leaving my apartment much, if at all, I didn’t exactly have a lot of opportunity to purchase new, better fitting clothing. Something which might have helped improve my mood slightly too.

Obviously, I’ve since begun the process of updating my wardrobe but the old items are still hanging in my closet, still sitting in my dresser.

It’s tough to get rid of stuff, even when it’s old and not useful to me anymore. Some of it is in good shape and can be altered. But for a lot, well, it’s just hanging around for no reason anymore.

There’s a sentimental attachment that goes with some of it: oh I bought this in Thailand or I wore this at that wedding.

But it’s time to say good-bye. I hope Good Will can get this stuff to where it’s needed.

A Shift to a Paper Reduced Life

Another element of my preparation is finally and decisively tackling the collection of papers that I have lingering with me. A lot of these papers represent important financial, medical or creative documents that are completely disorganized and strewn about.

So I’ve decided to begin a major scanning project to digitally record everything and then destroy the paper original. I am also making sure that I have a back up stored on an external hard drive in the event that my computer should crash completely.

But with the exception of items that I’ve created myself, there are very few items that I have that are irreplaceable from the various institutions that have issued them.

Any hard copy that is genuinely irreplaceable will be kept.

There are only a few items that fall under that category, most of those being things like letters from my friend Julie.

So I’m spending a fair amount of time over the next few days with a scanner as I clear out the boxes and baskets and filing boxes with paper in it. Unlike with getting rid of clothes though, there’s a lot less mourning and a lot more catharsis.

Using the paper shredder is especially cathartic.

Despite this slash and shred tack on paper, I’m not actually abandoning paper completely. For some things, pen on paper is still my preferred method.

From my maternal Grandmother I inherited a small desk, which I used as my desk when I was young. As you might imagine, it’s not very big but it’s the perfect size for use as a writing desk and I’m setting it up for just that purpose.

I’m also making sure to leave out a spot for a pen and index cards, for those sudden inspirations. Pen and paper can still be a lot faster than notepad on an iPhone.

But I also have a basket right beside it marked “For Scanning and Shredding.”

No more clutter.




  1. Good luck with your decluttering project. As you may remember I started the same last year. While it did go well, I do need to do it again as I can’t seem to rid myself of the packrat mentality that makes me save shit in the first place. I am getting better at it though. I too need to do a scanning project of my own, photos and the like, so that I don’t ever have to worry about recovering them from water damage or any other natural disaster like I just did for my mother in law. Losing things like that would be a horrific loss that I don’t think I could bear.

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