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April 27, 2013

From the Office: Try spring cleaning, organizing for stress release

The Daily Star

---- — Happy spring, everyone! Last year at this time, I had asked everyone to review some plans that they had drafted to address several areas in your lives: emergency plans, financial plans and health care plans. 

It’s time to go back, pull them off the shelf and take another look. How did you do? Where do you need to make changes and how are things different in your life today that impact what you had planned?

One area that I didn’t touch on was that of mental health. We are all faced with numerous challenges that come at us in our lives with varying degrees of stress. How we deal with that stress is critical to our health and well-being. 

As we are all unique, so too can be how we each cope. I have always told my children, “Don’t sweat the small stuff,” hoping that when their plans didn’t follow through, they can still enjoy the experience. There are many healthy outlets that you can use to help deal with stress. Call a friend, reach out to a neighbor, take a walk or if you are anything like me, clean!

Especially this time of year, I feel a need to clean. If you are overwhelmed with this thought, you are not alone. Everyone has anxiety over sorting and letting go of valuables, whether they are monetarily high or emotionally connected. 

One way that I try to work through both the amount of clutter that seems to multiply in my home each winter is to set up a three-bin approach. The first one I set one up for junk, and that always is easy to fill. Anything broken (and not recyclable) gets tossed out. When I was younger, I used to think that I should save something to fix later. Then 20 years later when I moved, it was still in a box in the back of the closet. So now, I just let it go. 

The other two bins are labeled “Donate” and “Keep with a Purpose.” My donate bin tends to have sub-piles: one for local organizations’ yard sales and one to family and friends. This bin is a bit more challenging as I try to pass on items that I have not used in the last year. When I pick up each item, if no one close to me has admired it or asked to borrow it, I place it in the yard sale pile. If items have been admired by more than one person, I find myself sorting those as well. When I do pass these on, I usually let that person know that when they are done with it, to pass it on to the other interested party. This makes a nice way for all to share. 

The last bin is definitely the most challenging bin. I used to just make those items “keepers,” but found they collected dust for yet another year. Now the “keep” bin must have a purpose. There really is no need for 10 vases, so I have counted the areas where each could go and not get in the way, and now that is my limit. Twenty towels are not necessary either for my family, so I count out my favorite 10 and the rest go on. 

It is really about how much you feel your family needs of any one type of item. Try to be practical and look at your storage capability and your daily need. If an item is placed into the Keep for a Purpose bin, I make sure it is used for a purpose. Pool towels (and only a maximum of five) go in the basket by the back door. Seasonal decorations are limited and stored in the sorted box in the basement. Each piece kept must have enough value to take up the precious space I have in my home. 

I have found that I feel so much better when I can easily find what I need and still move easily around my home. 

I wish everyone a happy spring season. May you be happy and well.

Nancy Dingee is director of the Schoharie County Office for the Aging. ‘Senior Scene’ columns can be found at