"Get Rid of It!": Terri and Duaan"

Treasured Memories vs. Clutter

"Everything sort of snowballed into a disaster," Terri says. She has four storage units and a two-car garage filled with stuff she's saving. Terri points out some of the items she's been holding onto: "This is a metal detector, brand new water cooler, gardening tools. My place is too small to really garden. Monopoly, we have games. Look: Snoopy and the Red Baron, my mom's chair, fashionable clothes from the 80s, tapes, and we don't have a tape player anymore." Terri knows this collection is
becoming a problem. "Accumulating more stuff is actually costing me money. In the last five years, I have probably spent between $5- and $10,000 on storage. There are a lot of things I go without, like health insurance."

Her friend, Duaan, is concerned. "Terri has so much stuff, she wouldn't know which box to open first," Duaan says.

"It's embarrassing, having all this stuff," Terri says. "I never let anybody come over to my house. I'm like a little hermit."

"My biggest fear is that she's going to find herself 60 years old, sitting in the house, single, alone, no kids, and I don't think she wants to do that," Duaan says.

"My dad saved everything, so when he died, he had boxes piled up in his house," Terri explains, going through the belongings she inherited from her father. "My dad used to put soup in these," she says, holding up a jar. "Saws from my dad's house that probably wouldn't even work anymore. Here's Dad's X-rays. My mom, she was just a pack rat. Here's Mom's broken purse, leg brace, Mom's little hat thing when she'd have curlers on, all of Mom's manuals to everything she's owned."

"Oh, sparkling cider," Duaan remarks, pulling a bottle out of a case.

"My mom gave us that about six years ago, but there are things floating in it," Terri tells her.

Duaan holds up a rubber chicken, which has seen better days. "Why, exactly, do we still have the chicken?"

"Because Mom loved the rubber chicken," Terri says, grabbing it. "I'm very emotionally attached to some of the stuff." She opens up a box. "These are every single bouquet of flowers that any guy has ever sent me. I have, like, three of these filled." She pulls out some clothing. "My prom dress from 1980," she says, laughing. "I don't know why I'm so attached to all these items. I think I just don't want to lose the memories."

Terri also has three cars and a truck. "Terri is, like, a car freak," Duaan says. "She needs only one car. She doesn't even have a place to park them all. If Terri doesn't start dealing with this now, she's never going to get there. Terri needs massive help."

Duaan tells Dr. Phil, "I think Terri feels responsible for everything that has been passed through to her her whole life, and she doesn't want to be the one to say, ‘It's got to go now.'"

"Yes, it's true," Terri says. "I'm attached to things, I think, because it's my parents' sentimental value."

"Clearly, there are things in there that mean something to you, right?" Dr. Phil asks.

"Yeah," she says.

"But there are things that don't."

"Yes, lots of things that don't," Terri admits. 

Dr. Phil assures Terri that she's not going to be surprised with anyone hauling her stuff away. Terri's mother's rubber chicken is brought out on stage. Dr. Phil squeezes the toy and laughs as it makes a funny noise. "I totally understand why you want to keep the chicken, because the chicken is sentimental to you, right? Tell me why," he says. 

"My mom, when she was alive, we had a joke in the office, and I worked with her, and she had the rubber chicken, so every company we'd go to, we would take the rubber chicken with us," Terri explains.

"It's a connection. See, I understand that," Dr. Phil says. He pulls out her father's X-rays. "I'm not sure those are of any great value," he says. He also looks into the bag of instruction manuals. "These are instruction manuals of 1980s blenders. You realize these are totally worthless, right?"

"Yes," she says.

"I did the math. You're spending $25,000 a year storing this kind of stuff," Dr. Phil tells her, holding the manuals. "Do the math. Six hundred and fifty dollars a month, and then you've got four cars. You drive one. You're paying $1,000 a month for insurance. If you cut from four to one, that's three-fourths of that gone, you're saving another $750 a month, so that's another $9,000. You can eliminate an outflow of $35,000 a year, and you can't even afford health insurance? If you get organized and deal with this, you're getting ready to come into some money, and some health insurance and the ability to take care of yourself.

 

"So what I'm going to suggest that you do is go through things and pick some things that truly do have sentimental value for you, and will be mementos of those whom you have lost in your life. And I would even recommend that you create a place in your house where you display those things proudly. You know, something special from your dad, something special from your mom,  but the other things that really don't reflect your memories of those people, they're just denial of wanting to get in there and do that. And we will bring some people out to help you," Dr. Phil says. 

"Oh, really?" Terri asks.

"We will get a donation place, a junk place, people who will come out and will safely dispose of those things, give away what can be donated and help you. But after you have made the decision of those things that you want to keep to honor those that you've loved and lost in your life," Dr. Phil tells her.

Terri's eyes fill with tears. "So, where do you draw the line?" she asks. "When I walk in a storage unit, I see things that were from my parents. Maybe they saved them."

"If you have pictures and things that she made, or you made and gave to her when you were a
child, those are the kind of things that mean something. The rest of it is just clutter," Dr. Phil says. "And you'll know that when you've found the things that are special."

Because this can be an emotional process, Dr. Frank Lawlis has offered to go with Terri to help her go through her collection and choose the items she wants to keep to honor her memories of her parents.

 

"That's very important, to be able to let them go with the honor and respect, and as Dr. Phil said, keep the love within you," Dr. Lawlis tells her.


"You're not going to throw away the memories," Dr. Phil assures her. "You're going to elevate those memories by a special ritualistic honoring of those times with some selected items that mean something to you. And then you can get rid of the junk, but not the memory " and you can get some health insurance."

"Thank you so much," she says.