Going From Insomnia Through Nightmares To Clarity


Normally, a short time spent reading in another room is the best way for me to get back to sleep-staying in bed just does not work when I get a bout of insomnia.

Instead of the usual magazine I grabbed a never-read and long-forgotten book My Brother's Keeper by Marcia Davenport. The author was probably thinking about the mysterious house occupied by the Collyer brothers somewhere on New York's upper Fifth Avenue when she wrote the book.

The novel starts when the police, after neighborhood complaints, finally break into the once fashionable but now ruinous mansion. The first brother was dead of starvation in one of the few rooms in the house not stuffed to the ceiling with newspapers and assorted junk. Sometimes they found the second brother buried under a junk trap he had designed to catch intruders.

The story is a replay of how two men of education, charm and ability followed a life of self-destruction to such a bizarre ending

I had already viewed a couple television programs showing the tons (yes, TONS) of junk removed from homes of some modern day hoarders. People keep buying and / or saving in case the things could be used someday. I was flabbergasted that anyone could live under such conditions.

The experts explained that an obsession for collecting can escalate as the years go by. Anyone who has tried to help a parent downsize before moving to a smaller place knows how much emotion and pain can result. Memories get tied to the strangest items.

In that 50-year old novel the reason for collecting stacks of newspapers was that they might read them when they had more time. That was my explanation for printing out all the emails, courses and reports that I had stacked around the home office.

My problem: There is always something new or better-so the stacks to read kept getting bigger and bigger and the actual working space on the desk get getting smaller and smaller.

Considering all of the printouts, was I really so different from the hoarders on those TV programs? Or was it only a matter of degree? More information was arriving daily!

Being surrounded by stacks of paper (no matter how neatly arranged) is a quick way to feel overwhelmed. You unconsciously forget all about priorities and start whittling away on the easy projects just to get some space. Or is it excuses called procrastination?

The "great" plan is to get a big block of time when all your creative energy can be focused on the top priority project! But those little projects take longer than they should have. Time and energy are wasted on what is best described as busy work of no real importance while top priority waits for attention tomorrow.

One of the basic laws of work: The more you have to do, the more important it becomes to concentrate on one job at a time. Work organized for successful accomplishment is work organized to direct full attention upon the job at hand, with no dissipation of energy on nagging distractions.

I ended up having to spend a couple days sorting, filing and discarding. The big surprise was the quantity of paper going into trash bags-most of the time while I asked why it had ever been considered important in the first place. (Next project is the cupboard filled with "stuff" from my home sewing phase.)

It is amazing how much life has improved now that I start my day with a clean desk. No distractions-one project at a time. The number of projects quickly completed has multiplied as well.

There is power in the now! I like this feeling of freedom and space. Also, I am now far more careful in selecting what describes space in my home – in every room.