This is a guest post written by Christa Mindrum, who recently attended my virtual talk at the Canadian Women in Medicine Conference.
The Tupperware Drawer
I recently attended a virtual conference and heard a talk on minimizing by Rose Lounsbury. The idea of taking control of my stuff with the goal of creating more space and time resonated with me. The very next day, our family took on the heroic task of emptying the play room.
We asked the kids how they felt in the space and how they wanted to feel in the space. They were amazingly clear and motivated. For the first time in nearly 9 years, after two full weeks we still have a clean and organized playroom that contains only the most loved and played with items! A miracle.
A couple of days later I opened my Tupperware drawer and it turned surprisingly spiritual. I have been reflecting and meditating on that experience for days since. Who knew? A mind-blowing moment of enlightenment came out of a stuffed drawer of containers and mismatched lids!
I’ve organized that drawer many, many times before. I’ve tossed the ones without lids, the ones with cracks. I’ve organized by size or shape. I’ve stacked. I’ve tucked lids in a tidy section. When I would open the newly organized drawer I would feel a sense of great accomplishment and hope that others will have the chance to gaze upon my mastery of organization!
Unfortunately, it would look good for a matter of days.
What I had never done was ask myself “How do I feel when I open this drawer?”
The answer: “I feel stressed.”
It’s just a little fleeting stress lasting a matter of seconds.
It’s a quiet hope (or hopelessness) that I’ll find my favourite glass one or one with a matching lid.
It’s a sense of frustration that it’s so disorganized.
It’s a flicker of self-judgment for not being more together or for not using all the various parmesan cheese and yogurt containers washed and saved.
It’s fleeting but how many times a day or a week do I open that drawer? Many.
Over and over again I subject myself to the physical and then mental chaos of that drawer which over the course of my life is a lot of time being victim to my Tupperware. And that’s only the freaking Tupperware drawer! I’ve got loads more drawers, cupboards, closets, shelves, and bins waiting in ambush.
So, as instructed, I asked myself “How do I want to feel when I open this drawer?”
The answer: Peaceful.
I want to open the drawer and easily put my hand on the desired container. I want my favourite glass ones with the rubber lids right there without all the clanging and digging.
As instructed, I asked myself “How many Tupperware containers do I need?” I realized that I only need the glass ones. I realized that if there isn’t one in the drawer then I typically make a trip to the fridge to find one that has long-neglected leftovers in it. Let’s face it, if I’m out of glass containers, then there must be food science projects growing in the fridge.
Next step – I emptied the drawer completely. I was faced with a ridiculous stack.
Why did I keep all the ones I don’t like or don’t use?
- Because “they’re fine.”
- Because they have lids.
- Because I had space.
- Because I didn’t want to be wasteful.
- Because maybe I’d need them someday.
- Because maybe someone someday will want to leave with food and I’ll need a random old container at the ready.
I was willing to give up a sense of peace for all these reasons??!
I had never looked at it that way before. Just because I have a Tupperware drawer doesn’t mean I have to keep all the Tupperware until one decides to die or lose its lid?! Wow!
Somehow I had a belief that I wasn’t in control, the Tupperware was!
It sounds so ridiculous to write but honestly, it was mind-blowing.
Now I have a huge Tupperware drawer that serves as a spacious Tupperware mansion for my beloved glass containers with matching lids. I open the drawer and ‘boom!’ there’s the one I want. I feel peaceful when I open the drawer. No wasted time. No swearing under my breath. Tupperware heaven. I hope someday a friend opens that drawer and is impressed with my mastery of organization.
This Tupperware epiphany has percolated into seeing all the ways in which I have allowed stuff to control me.
I have spent so much time organizing and gently culling over the years but I have never once asked myself “How do I feel in this room/space?” followed by “How do I want to feel?”
A step further, now I look at a single item and ask “How do I feel when I look at it?”
The striking thing is… many items make me feel guilty.
I feel guilty that it’s a dead loved one’s item and I haven’t used it.
I feel guilty that someone gave us that expensive item for our wedding but we’ve never found a time to use it because it’s impractical or not our style.
I feel guilty that an item was engraved but I don’t like it and no one else can use it.
Those items have continually passed the gentle culling test and held their ground – taking up physical and mental space. I realize more clearly now that the item wasn’t intended to induce guilt and nor should I allow it.
I have given myself permission to say “bye bye” to items that induce guilt rather than joy.
It’s very, very freeing!
With regards to non-sentimental things I realize that, like the Tupperware drawer, I keep things because they work, or fit, or there’s nothing wrong with them.
I ask myself:
- How many tee shirts do the kids need?
- How many pairs of pants do I need?
- How many coffee mugs do we need?
- How many bed sheet sets do we need?
- How many pencils do we need?
Turns out it’s a whole lot less than we have!
I’ve always made the mistake of thinking the problem was organization and not having too much stuff. I’ve also made the mistake of keeping things because they might be useful.
As Rose taught me, it’s only useful if you use it! I’ve worried about being wasteful but Rose taught me that “it was trash when it came into [my] home.” It’s not a matter of “if” but “when” it will make it to the trash. I have held onto so much stuff to delay its arrival to the trash heap. Somehow it seemed better to live with it. That’s crazy now that I reflect on it.
Michael, the kids, and I have been on a minimizing bender! We are aiming to eliminate around 30% of our stuff. I think we’re well on our way.
It feels lighter to remember loved ones in photos or seeing beautiful or useful items. It’s joyful to move things onto people who will use them and/or cherish them. I see how dealing with the physical things quickly moves into much deeper “things”. It’s empowering to take control. I can’t believe I didn’t get it before but I’m grateful to be here now.
I hope you enjoyed this post by Christa… and mostly, I hope it’s motivated you to declutter your Tupperware and change your life (really!)
To less stuff and more you,
PS: If you’re a busy working mom who wants to simplify your work-mom life, but aren’t sure where to start… join me for my FREE *live* masterclass: How to Organize Your Family’s Home Without Exhausting Yourself or Resorting to Threats. Click here to save your spot!