I wrote two books on two very different topics—clutter clearing and cancer coping. As one author, I am still trying to fit the two together. I am not sure they always do. My clutter clearing book touches on the commonality we share in trying to manage and organize all the extraneous stuff that creeps into our lives and it offers lots of seasonally organized suggestions to help work through clutter, sometimes with a touch of humor. It is a book on household organization written by a younger and, frankly, more OCD me who tells her funny clutter stories.

Cancer, on the other hand.. Hmm. Not so funny, and yet, there is humor in cancer too. Maybe cosmic humor, but from our perspective, cancer is just not that funny. Okay, it was funny the morning my husband and I were getting ready at our bathroom sinks and my head was bald as a baby’s bottom and he turned to me with his hair gel container and told me to get more the next time I was at my hair stylist’s.

It was also funny on a family trip to Wisconsin during my “chemotherapy summer,” that my daughter who wasn’t quite legal drinking age in Minnesota could legally have a beer in Wisconsin because she was with us, her parents, but I wasn’t drinking because of my chemotherapy. Have you had negative life experiences that had a little humor in them too? Maybe just a little?

My second book “Cancer Survivorship Coping Tools” honestly shares both of my cancer journeys and offers a variety of tools to help cancer patients and the people who love them cope with their cancer diagnosis. I wrote the book that I wish someone could have handed to me at the time of my breast cancer diagnosis, my first cancer diagnosis.

Both books, I suppose, ultimately deal with focusing on priorities and getting better at letting go of the rest of the “stuff of life.” I tried to go through my cancer honestly and I wrote about my cancer honestly. I decided it was best, given lemons, to try to make lemonade. I compiled the emotional coping tools I was learning as I journaled through cancer. I wanted to help other survivors and their loved ones from diagnosis, through active treatment, and after active treatment. Have you worked to find lemonade in the lemons that life has thrown at you? Have you tried to help others based on what you learned from the experiences? Do you keep any lemons hanging around in your home, your mind, or your life?

In truth, there were a lot of tears and fears for me with cancer, but I decided that both the courageous graceful people and the tears and fears cancer patients get through their treatment. Both, whether they share it outwardly or not, live with some degree of fear of recurrence and with this uncertainty for the rest of their lives. How can we cope for life with that or other consequences of negative life events?  Whatever that has been for you in life so far—a failed job, relationship, or difficult illness, there are probably reminders of it in your home.

Clear any negative clutter: Part of getting through cancer, was putting the cancer supplies away, maybe gradually or maybe all at once, but do put negative reminders away. Yes, I worry that I might need the wig and other things again, but at one point, I literally had the box of cancer supplies on a high shelf in my closet—that meant that every day, for weeks, those items were literally hanging over my head. Think about that. Sometimes it is extremely helpful to put the visual reminders away! Don’t leave reminders from negative life experiences actually hanging over your head! You deserve better. Do this for yourself.

How to weed out negative stuff: If medications were involved in your negative life event, safely and properly dispose of unused and expired medications. Clear out cancer/relationship/job paraphernalia that you don’t care to keep. Do save medical records in case you need the information down the road. Do properly store wigs, records, and any other supplies and information that you want to hang on to “just in case.” Store the keepers in a place that isn’t too hot or cold or damp or dry, but store them in a place you don’t see regularly like under the stairs or on a shelf in an out-of-the-way corner.

Limit the space for negative reminders in your home: Move forward with the other aspects of your life when you can. Yes, negative stuff, like cancer for me, was and is part of your life and you can choose here. Don’t give negative stuff real estate in your mind or your heart or your life or in your home! You can do this!


Barbara Tako is a clutter clearing motivational speaker and author of Clutter Clearing Choices: Clear Clutter, Organize Your Home, & Reclaim Your Life (O Books, 2010), a seasonally organized book of clutter clearing tips that readers can pick and choose from to fit their personal style and needs. She also is a breast cancer and melanoma survivor who wrote Cancer Survivorship Coping Tools—We’ll get you through this.

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