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As caregivers, we are guilty of spending very little time on ourselves.

Thanks to the CMHA and Service Ontario’s Housing Support program, my son, after seven years, has been able to find a place of his own and once more live independently. I realized that it was time for me too, to move on. I am currently downsizing to a bachelor apartment from a two-bedroom, single-story residence with a patio, so you can imagine that I am having to declutter in a big way.

An enormous help for me has been Marie Kondo’s book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up – the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing. Her message: if it doesn’t bring you joy, get rid of it. As an adjunct to downsizing my living space, I took a one-day seminar at my local yoga studio on “Clearing Your Clutter”. Bridget, the facilitator, had some important messages for us. As caregivers, it is easy to beat ourselves up – to think that we could be better caregivers, that we shouldn’t have feelings of anger about our circumstances and the unexpected turn our lives have taken. Sometimes depression sneaks in, and often we feel overwhelmed. We need to be easier on ourselves.

Bridget says that in order to deal with our emotional clutter, we need to be willing to “see what we need to see, feel what we need to feel, and know what we need to know.” We need to honour ourselves.

Think about what you need to make space for in your life. Ask yourself, does the stuff around me represent who I am now? The seminar made me realize that I needed to make space for calm in my life. That I was too busy being busy.

I am actually having fun decluttering. The Women’s Resources, the Salvation Army, The Restore and the dump have all benefited from my donations. I haven’t moved yet, but already, the calm is apparent. I look around me and see stuff I really love. The physical clutter is gone. The emotional? I’m still working on it.

I “see” that everyone is dealing with something, that it’s okay to “feel” overwhelmed, and I “know” that things won’t be perfect, but they will be better.

And Bridget’s final message to us: “When you nurture you, and give to yourself, you help those around you.”

About Bonita O'Neill

Bonnie O’Neill is a 67-year-old retired elementary school teacher from Ontario. At the age of 60, she began a seven-year journey – caring for her 26-year-old son who had just been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. This blog documents that journey. She loves to knit and finds that living with someone with schizophrenia is a lot like knitting. Sometimes your work is wonderful, sometimes it unravels, sometimes it gets tangled and sometimes you just want to chuck it.

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