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July 25, 2005

25 Jul
My research into Parkinson’s Disease was interrupted by the selling of my beloved but oversized house to a sweet, young couple who are more than welcome to it. With the help of my stalwart adult children, I spent 8 weekends tossing endless amounts of stuff out
Hello again.

My research into Parkinson’s Disease was interrupted recently by the selling of my beloved but oversized house to a sweet, young couple who are more than welcome to it. With the help of my three, stalwart, adult children, I spent 8 weekends tossing endless amounts of stuff out, resulting each time in at least 40 lawn and leaf bags, overflowing with useless junk, decorating my tree lawn. (one of my kids hilariously suggested we think of these weekend cleansings as a sort of giant colonic for the house.) We found cancelled checks from 1965. I mean, what’s up with that? I guess if you have space for it, you end up forgetting you have it and you wind up keeping it by default. And since we bought this house when my husband became dean of a graduate school, to entertain huge batches of students, faculty and community leaders, boy oh boy did we ever have room for needless stuff.

Even though clearing out a big, old house can be overwhelming at first, it becomes very satisfying work once you’re into it. It’s liberating to sort, triage and toss. You literally feel lightened up. And, in addition, you find precious, evocative and even silly things from different phases of your life, things that spark your memory and remind you of long-forgotten scenarios, and this has a marvelously coherent effect on your sense of self and your personal narrative. It was a good exercise. All of us were reminded of many, many happy times witnessed and held by this dear old house.

At different times, each one of my kids stopped sorting and started reading and reminiscing instead. (They varied greatly in style, with my oldest being the most sentimental keeper of stuff and my youngest being the most ruthless and pragmatic tosser-outer, with my middle one being somewhere between.) This was a good exercise for them, too. And they got to choose what they wanted to keep, which I think is important.

Many friends and neighbors mentioned how they dreaded doing the same, although they knew they needed to sort through their stuff too. Some confessed to being of such an obsessive-compulsive bent that they would start sorting but could never bear to throw anything out. What if they needed it some day? (This question, needless to say, is the Road to Hell for those trying to downsize.)

To them, all I can say is, Try it you’ll like it! And, if you can’t manage it, maybe, after I’m done with the Parkinson’s imagery, perhaps I’ll try my hand at a CD for the obsessive compulsives among us!

Take care and be well,
Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award