Sorting Out the Stuff After a Lung Cancer Diagnosis

Sorting Out the Stuff After a Lung Cancer Diagnosis

In a previous post, I discussed some of the ways I reached out to sort out my feelings after my diagnosis with stage 4 lung cancer. That hasn’t been the only thing I’ve needed to deal with - there has also been all the stuff from a lifetime, especially since I’ve lived in the same home for 36 years. Rolling stones may gather no moss, but stones that stay put can grow quite a nice accumulation of moss and lichens.

When it comes to streamlining possessions, my husband is happy to just toss stuff in the trash, but I was brought up to avoid waste and have a hard time throwing out anything that might still be useful or that can be recycled. All The Stuff started to feel oppressive after my diagnosis. I was acutely aware that if I don’t deal with possessions I don’t need, someone else is going to have to do it for me some day. Plus stuff I don’t need or use still requires energy from me, as I clean the house and look for things I do want to use in cluttered drawers and shelves. Two things in particular bothered me: too many clothes and worn out textiles in our closets, and too many books on our bookshelves. Those items have been pruned down, and I have put together some principles of weeding out that work for me.

First principle: seize opportunity. I was spurred to take on my first project, getting rid of the excess textiles, when I read in the paper that there was a big cooperative textile recycling project in our area. We took 14 large trash bags of textiles to one of the participating second-hand stores, completely filling our car’s trunk and back seat. Old tattered quilts that I would never mend, wool skirts damaged by moths, and worn out underwear went to the textile recycler, while all the button down dress shirts that no longer fit my husband and the office clothes I would never wear again were happily accepted by a second-hand store. I am also much more likely to spontaneously pass on a possession I don’t really need to friends and family.

Second principle: keep what you or someone else loves. I used this one when weeding out our books. My starting point was learning what our daughter wanted in her library some day. I took pictures of each of our bookshelves and emailed them to her, and she sent me back lists of the books she wanted us to keep. They became the core of our collection. My husband and I added the books we still wanted, then pulled all of the remaining books off of the shelves.

Third principle: let it go. I was brought up to think of books as precious objects, and had to get over that when I dealt with the heaps of surplus books. Paperbacks in bad condition went straight to recycling. We also decided not to try to resell stuff. Some people do well at selling books and clothing on auction sites, but for me, life is too short to take on the work involved. We didn’t need the money, so we gave it away, for reuse when possible and to recycling otherwise.

Fourth principle: if you can, help someone or an organization you value. All the surplus books in good condition were evaluated by looking at the used book listings on the big one-stop online shopping website that specializes in books (you know the one I mean). Some of our books, like one on well drilling, turned out to be surprisingly valuable. We gave these to our local library, along with books we had really enjoyed or that seemed of interest. They go through all book donations and sell the ones they do not put on their shelves, and those oddball but valuable books could be easily resold to help boost our library’s income. Everything else was bagged up and carted away by our trash man.

We are not done. I still don’t know what to do with our daughter’s china tea sets, all missing pieces due to the casualties of play. There are two boxes full of her childhood art projects, too. I’ve got a drawer full of old calendars and odd items like vinyl iPod cases. And I don’t feel responsible for sorting out stuff in my husband’s world, such as tools and odd boxes of nails. It’s still a lighter feeling living in a little less clutter. Whether or not I had lung cancer, this is an improvement in my quality of life.

Have you sorted through your possessions since you were diagnosed?

Photo credit: Tom W. Sulcer, Public domain image made available under the Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication

21 Replies

  • Lots of good advice!

  • Thanks, Denzie!

  • Yes, I have been paring down too. I do find it takes energy from me to look around my home and see too much stuff, especially stuff I don't want or use. I've often said I want a simpler life in a small cabin in the woods. I would leave my house with one suitcase and my cat. With less stuff to deal with I can focus on what's important. I can do better at creating the life I want and spend more time doing what I want. I could see my world uncluttered and appreciate life all around me more. I don't have a cabin yet but I am more focused on letting go.

  • How I wish I could just go through my "stuff"! I've been trying to do this for years. Only problem, husband. He has never been able to part with Anything! Even if I put some of my stuff in the trash, he manages to go through it and take out what he feels he wants to keep. I am so frustrated! I don't want my children to have to deal with a house full of years of accumulation. I don't know what the answer is, unless I can manage to sneak things out when he is not around, done that before, lol

  • Sounds like you need to agree on what is your stuff, his stuff, and stuff you both have an interest in.

  • I just need to get moving on going through my things, put in bag and dump or donate. As for his stuff, it's not worth the arguments. As for anything else, if he still wants whatever it is, bottom line, if he wants it, it stays .

  • I need to do this BADLY! Thanks for the push! :)

  • You're welcome - and I need to do more of it, so I'm pushing myself, too.

  • Since my MRI showed I had recurrence of brain tumor ( stage 4 NSCLC since 20012) last Thanksgiving 2016 .My son & daughter in law helped me to down size from a 4 /bd house to a rental 2/bd apartment. Got rid of lots stuffs. My husband & I are now living 5 min away from my son's home. Esther

  • It sounds like you made your life a lot easier. It must be wonderful to be so close to your son.

  • I think we are the same person, Anita. Except you got busy doing it and I'm still looking at it. Tomorrow, I'll do it tomorrow. We all know how that works out.

    Unrelated, what is the deal with the tags on this site? Polyvinyl chloride is the tag for your post. Suspicious.

  • I have no control over the tags and the programmers who control them could do a better job, I agree.

    I got busy doing part of it, but the sorting out process has been fallow lately. This post is helping me to rededicate myself to sorting out more stuff.

  • Anita got me there,when I found out I had cancer,I thought I need to get rid of this stuff I don't want my children to have too do it. Its hard when a parent goes I had to do my moms and it was horrible. So get busy and get rid of all that stuff that you think you have to have. We came into this world with nothing and we'll go out with nothing. No no I can't rid of that yes you can. Jo

  • Jo, I hear you. My sister, brothers and I am lucky that our mom is weeding out on her own initiative. She is 90, got rid of a lot of stuff when she moved a couple of years ago, and getting ready to move and downsize again. My father and stepmother, however, have not shed an atom of stuff yet and someday someone is going to be very busy sorting through it all.

  • Jo - ha, ha! You just make me grin!!

  • FtB Peggy do you have children? I know thats personal but I just wondered.

  • Hey Jo,

    Yup, two daughters. One is 39 and is a mom; and my other daughter is 24 (today!) and will be graduating from college in May:) I am one lucky duck.

  • Peggy you absolutely do not look old enough to have a daughter 39. You are just full of surprises. your young and pretty and a grandma your lucky. Jo

  • Oh Jo, I love you! You are so very sweet to say that!

    It is all done with smoke and mirrors.

    But, yes. I am incredibly lucky:)

  • Interesting perspectives. I personally chose to use my recovery after chemo & radiation to let my husband know about the abundance of accumulated possessions that our two adult children would probably one day just trash or set out by the sidewalk after we leave this world. My husband of 40 years emotionally attaches himself to items but was surprised when he agreed to donate to a local charity many items stashed in closets. He did all the sorting & packing. Sometimes I think he felt sorry for me therefore agreed but really he has always been so supportive of my ideas. It felt so great to do this! Now I am contemplating telling him we need to let go of more items!

  • scifiknitter Blogger. way to go Anita,good blog you go girl. That was really good,now I need to get busy. Jo

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