Why and How I Play Mind Tricks

36_Trick Trash_4-15-18My mom, a child of the depression and WWII, is the queen of re-purposing things and making stuff last.  “Use it Up, Wear it Out, Make it Do, or Do Without” was a command she took to heart, proudly demonstrating it to us kids as we grew up.

She made my apron out of re-purposed, retired curtains. My potholders are from sewing project remnants; the interior heat-resistance an old blanket that had seen better days.

Socks with holes? Mom darns them.  Jars and food containers others might throw out? Mom finds new uses for them.

Very few things are ever “single use” in her household.

When she needed a dress for a fancy party—at a time when the budget was slim and had to be creatively stretched—she pulled together some fabric, designed a dress to maximize the cloth, and cut and sewed away. Her gown was the hit of the evening.  When the ladies asked where she bought it, they were shocked to hear she had made it. With no pattern.  Straight pride for her; no shame.

The “use things up” concept was a track laid down deep in my psychology. My translation of the message was, everything has another use, even things most people would throw out.”

It was interpreted as “good people don’t throw things out.”

That piece of 6” twine? Save it to tie up the tomato plants. The lone washer? It can level the rocky table. The empty baby food jar? Store screws in it.

Its purpose might not be immediately obvious, but a use existed.

Don’t get me wrong; most of the time I value this lesson. It’s consistent with today’s “reduce, reuse, recycle” mantra and something I agree with.

But it has been known to get the better of me.  I’ll find myself staring at something that looks like it should go in the trash and…hesitate.

Maybe it’s some specialty shipping material a product was delivered in.  Most people would throw it in the trash without a second thought. Me? I’m not as sure. I give it a second thought. Maybe I could use it for…ummm…there must be something.

No, I decide. This is trash. I toss it out. I let it go. The garbage truck comes; picks it up; hauls it away.

36_Trick Trash2_4-15-18But you know what happens? My mind—the part applying the re-purpose message—didn’t let go of it when I threw it away. It anxiously held on, continued to process, to consider possibilities of how the thing could be re-used.

And almost as soon as the garbage truck pulls away from the curb, that part of my mind announces:

“That thing you just tossed? It’s exactly what you need to fix problem Y!”

“Wait, what?” says another voice within. “You figured out I need that trash? No No No!”

And with that, an angst is triggered that I haven’t lived up to my momma’s teachings.

I want to re-purpose things. I try to as much as possible.

But I also don’t want to end up saving every odd length of twine or ribbon or piece of wrapping paper that comes my way. I do not want my home to become a candidate for some hoarder reality tv show.

And I don’t want to feel anxious when I throw these types of things out. I don’t want to sit with dread that the day after I throw something out, my mind will find a use for it. Because even though I don’t want my mind to do that, historically that’s what it’s done.

So, I’ve had to get sneaky. My solution has been to trick my mind by hiding things from it.

I call it “Trick Trash.”

When I want to throw something out without angst-ing over it, I put it in a brown paper grocery bag under my desk; a bag I can’t see inside. It sits there. I add things. It sits some more. I add more things. Time passes. Eventually I poke it and realize it’s full. On trash night, I carefully fold over the top and seal it shut, never looking inside, and deposit it in the trash bin. The next day, off it goes.

And because my mind has no idea what I just threw out, it can’t imagine uses for the stuff.

The funny thing is, it really isn’t the stuff that’s the issue. It’s the mind.

It’s pretty mind-boggling I have to trick my mind this way; that I have to be sneaky to override a mental cyclone I get into from a reasonable childhood lesson.  But I finally just accepted that that cyclone is there and this little mind trick both works and is way simpler, and cheaper, than therapy.


20 thoughts on “Why and How I Play Mind Tricks

  1. Marie T Schrader

    Oh my, you did strike a nerve with me! Not only was I working on (once again) re-organizing my sewing room, but now I’m clearing out my dad’s house. Years and years of things that couldn’t be thrown away for one reason or another. The sheer amount of empty jars was amazing!! It’s a darn good thing I live 2,000 miles away with limited ability to transport anything home … or it just might have gone to my house! On this next trip back, I’ll be at it again …. know any good use for some books that aren’t antique, but look antique?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s incredible how childhood teachings can create unexpected after effects. I’ve tried to remind myself that moderation is key in almost all things. I really enjoyed reading your post and the lesson you shared with us! Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I appreciate your comment. The thing I’m fascinated by, and what I’m trying to make sense of through my writing, is when I don’t want my mind to get cycloned around something, especially something that isn’t important, and yet it does.

      I find myself wondering, “who is in charge of this being? Especially at those moments?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I can definitely relate there. I don’t know if it is tied to a specific event or habit of my childhood but I struggle a lot with feeling like a burden even when I know I am absolutely not. Little things like calling the bank to ask a question would make me feel like I was being a completely unreasonable human and that tied a lot into my parents having a rocky relationship with one another. It is easy to question who runs who, mind or soul or whatever I am? Are we just minds running bodies or are we separate from our thoughts somehow? It can get very philosophical!

        Liked by 1 person

    2. I couldn’t reply to your reply.Not sure why. Your last couple of sentences about getting complicated and philosophical hit it on the head for me. When I really pay attention, I discover I’m really rarely paying attention. And yet, I’m functioning: typing, driving a car, walking, eating. But sometimes I end up someplace other than where I thought I was going. Wait. What? How’d I end up at the bank? I meant to go to the grocery store. Who the frick was driving the car while I was driving? It makes sense in my head; haven’t figured out how to translate it into words. I guess that’s why philosophy and religion use a lot of metaphors and stories. Anyway, I appreciate your observations.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m so glad to hear I’m not alone in that experience! I left work the other day and got all the way to my daughters daycare (10 minutes drive) before I realized that it wasn’t a daycare day… I was supposed to be driving straight home. It’s really easy to start going on auto pilot. If you figure out how to say it in words you should post it! I’d love to read your take on it all.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Love this trick. I understand your angst – I too overthink throwing things away and it causes me anxiety. Yet collecting up a bunch of stuff that I never find another use for also causes me anxiety. I may have to try your trick for myself.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hope it is useful for you. Let me know if you try it and it helps. I’ve mentioned this idea to people before because it works so well for me. Because of the way I’m wired. Most people just look at me funny lol. Their wiring must be different. Thanks for your comment.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. It’s funny how we feel guilty for throwing things away. I grew up hearing: “But I just might need it tomorrow.” Sometimes tomorrow came, sometimes it didn’t. As my living space is limited, I have to learn how to declutter.

    Liked by 1 person

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