For those of you who just joined us, I’m currently seven-twelfths of the way through chemo for fairly advanced brain cancer, having had brain surgery last August to remove as much of the tumor as was deemed safe and then six weeks of simultaneous chemo/radiation. Now with stepped up chemo dosages, I’m seven sessions down, five to go. I’ve had two scans during treatment so far and both have been encouraging, which is good news. A year ago, I would have told you that being organized while dealing with chronic illness is a great idea but this experience has taught me that in fact it’s essential. Going through cancer treatment has called on every organizational skill I possess.
Week one, I take the chemo tablets for five consecutive days. I’d naively assumed that since it’s a pill, no big deal. I’d take one before bed each evening and let my body heal while I slept. The reality is I’m completely sidelined. Nausea, vomiting, fever and chills. Organizing ahead of time helps me take the right pill at the right time. Having enough clean pj’s for a week is essential and if I haven’t been able to get that sorted ahead of time, we’re in trouble since laundry is way too complicated this week.
Week two I feel exhausted. The nausea has mostly gone, but this is the week I need to be able to reach into the freezer and pull out something I can just thaw and microwave. How it gets in there is a mystery I solve during weeks three and four, and if I haven’t then things go downhill rapidly.
By weeks three and four, I have some more energy but if I don’t stay close to my planner, I miss doctor’s appointments and deadlines for ordering prescriptions. Checking it morning and evening is non-negotiable as is creating realistic daily to-do lists. I can write blog posts and chauffeur my daughter around town, but I’m still dropping off to sleep way earlier than I used to. The prime directive is to gather strength so I can do it all over again.
In other words, all that slack time I used to have to “just” pop a load of laundry in (and see it through all the way to our dresser drawers) or throw an impromptu meal together out of leftovers is gone. It’s just too hard to figure anything like that out on the spur of the moment.
It reminds me so much of the difference between life before you have a baby and life afterwards. Before, you think you’re busy. You really do. And afterwards you laugh and laugh as you try to remember the last time you got a full night’s sleep or had time to use the bathroom in peace.
This is like having a baby, except I’m the baby and the mom at the same time. So I have to pull out every organizational stop I know in order to make things work. Sometimes as I doze and let my body heal, I ponder the use of my chosen profession. Organizing seems like such a luxury, but then I think about how this whole thing could be unfolding if I were knee deep in clutter. About how the bedside table seems to become confused and chaotic within a week, and I imagine how it would look if I had never decluttered my bedroom.
Because I’ve gotten down to the baseline of needing or wanting or loving everything I have, there’s room for everything. It may get shuffled out of place when I can’t walk much to do a quick tidy, but as soon as I can, it’s back to normal levels.
If you’re lucky enough to still be living in the bubble of not having had a serious illness, and your place is cluttered and chaotic, I beg you to consider getting started with the decluttering now. Please don’t wait until you’re dealing with so much more to realize there’s crap everywhere and you have thirteen thermometers but can’t find any of them. Twenty minutes a day may not keep the doctor away, but it’s going to make it so much easier for you to heal in comfort.
If you have upcoming surgery, plan to declutter for 20 minutes every day. If you’re fit as a fiddle but have way too much crap, plan to declutter for 20 minutes a day. If you ever plan to move, plan to declutter 20 minutes a day. Start today and keep going. Future You is enthusiastically agreeing with me, as she trips over tennis balls, slips on newspapers and digs through medicine cabinets full of outdated and unidentifiable meds.
Getting started: Hop on the Send it away Saturday train
This Saturday, the challenge is to let go of one piece of furniture you’re saving for a future house. You may love it to pieces, but it just doesn’t fit in your space. Unless you’re about to move into that magical house where all this furniture will fit within six months, it’s time to get real. This is where you live. The furniture you need is the furniture that works in this house, the house you actually live in.
What piece of furniture can you send on its way, to be used in a home it fits in?
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Joyful Surroundings LLC
Everything feels better with an organized home!