Don’t let fear clutter up the life of your dreams

Yesterday, my grandmother turned 102. The two of us have been close my entire life, and it doesn’t surprise me that she’s still alive. She has always been a rule breaker (she has traveled the globe alone, went straight to business school after graduating high school, and established her career path before she got married at 30, which was rare for a woman in the Depression-era 1930s). She also is extremely witty, a voracious reader, and insists on wearing a strand of pearls and makeup every day. She ran a successful thousand acre family farm for more than 60 years and worked in the Kansas Legislature until they forced her to retire in her late 80s.

Whenever I see my grandmother or think about her, the word fearless pops into my mind. In all my life, I’ve never known her to be afraid of anything. She has strong resolve and even greater determination. I’m partially convinced the reason she is still alive is because she has successfully convinced Death that dying isn’t an option for her.

I’m writing about my grandmother today because I’ve realized that her fearless attitude has greatly improved the quality of her life. She has lived an incredible 102 years because she’s never been afraid to take advantage of each moment. She has also lived a life primarily free of clutter — even now all she has are her eyeglasses, clothes, shoes, some jewelry, a wheelchair, bedding, toiletry items, and hundreds of photographs of friends and family. When she still lived in her farmhouse, she didn’t own much, either. Her happiness hasn’t ever been found in things and it hasn’t been controlled by fear.

Is fear cluttering up your life and keeping you from experiencing the life of your dreams? Is physical cluttering keeping you from focusing on what matters most to you? Take a lesson from my amazing grandmother and get rid of the fear and clutter and commit to pursuing the life of your dreams.

29 Comments for “Don’t let fear clutter up the life of your dreams”

  1. posted by Kevin on

    Wow, that’s really special!

  2. posted by SMK on

    Your Grandmother sounds like an amazing lady. I think a lot of people are controlled by fear, without realizing that’s what’s going on. I spend an inordinate time feeling unproductive or worrying about the things I should do or have. It’s only recently that I’ve realized that the feelings of inadequacy or of being perpetually behind are elements of fear and that I’ve created that perception out of what I think others expect from me. If you aren’t naturally fearless, how do you break free from those notions and create more realistic expectations for yourself?

  3. posted by Shalin on

    Amazing story and lessons – thanks for sharing 🙂

  4. posted by MelD on


    My grandmother is 95 and going strong. She flew over to see us this summer for 3 weeks because her new passport is valid till she’s 100… and she wanted to show off her new outfit, which she reckons is very fashionable this year!
    Not having had the opportunities your grandmother had, she had to leave school at 13 but has remained interested and intelligent all her life. She married at 20, had a child at 25 during the war and apart from a few years working in a flower shop, she has always been a housewife (she had boarders living in the tiny house for over 25 years), including taking me in for 2 years when I was a troublesome teenager.
    Now she has been a widow for 12 years but remains full of interest and humour, enjoys visits and visiting and a day out, has patience beyond understanding and is always there for us, even though we, her family, are 1200 miles away. She lives in her own home (since 1937), does all her own housework and most of the gardening and never forgets a birthday. What marvellous role models we have!!

  5. posted by Sky on

    Grandmothers are VERY special. Enjoy every minute you can with them!

  6. posted by Miss Lynx on

    Your grandmother sounds great!

    My grandmother, on my mother’s side, has also been an inspiration to me. She led a fairly conventional sort of life for the most part – up until she divorced by grandfather when they were both over 60. Then she really blossomed – she didn’t seem to feel constrained any more by the need to be a proper wife/mother/grandmother, so she started spending her divorce settlement going on nature trips with the Audubon Society and Sierra Club, travelling all over the place. When she was 80 she hiked up an active volcano in Hawaii. Now that she’s well into her 90s, she doesn’t have the energy to do as much, but I still think it’s wonderful that she had the courage to reinvent her life at a point when many people feel like theirs are winding down.

  7. posted by Nancy Roessner on

    A belated happy birthday to your dear grandmother!

  8. posted by Alix on

    Erin, your grandmother sounds like the freakin’ BOMB! I would love to hear her thoughts on clutter-free living. Any chance you could score an exclusive interview with her? 😉

  9. posted by Gemmond on

    Great post about your fearless grandmother and a loving tribute.

    And good point about asking what clutter may be standing in the way of living your life. But the real clutter in this instance seems to be more mental than physical (and they are not always linked)

    But I’m not sure one can link being clutter free with being fearless. Think that is a bit of a stretch.

    I’ve worked with and for a number of professionally successful men and women who were zealous about being clutter-free. But as seemingly fearless as they were in their business lives, that’s how “fearful” they were in personal relationships. (And I knew this because I knew them personally as well as professionally. Their personal lives were, to put it kindly, quite dysfunctional. And messy. Very very messy.) Their physical space was clutter-free, but not their mental and emotional selves.

    I’ve also known some incredibly strong, risk-taking folks who lived life to the fullest. Although they had stuff in their homes, and sometimes very lived-in (AKA messy to some),they were mentally “clutter free.” It’s easy to link clutter with limits and negatives, but it is not always the case.

    With respect, I think people can often ascribe all sorts of positive traits to those who are clutter free–and vice-versa (if you have clutter, you must be disorganized, etc.). But I think that’s often more anecdotal than scientific.

    I worked with woman once who had the most cluttered office I’ve ever seen. She also was one of the most competent, talented and professional –and successful people I’ve ever known. Much more so than those whose offices and desks were always neat and tidy.

    Some people can only function well with no clutter. And some folks with minimal, while others, it matters not at all.

  10. posted by djk on

    your Grandma is an inspiration! This is the kind of woman I aspire to be (albeit as an aunt and great-aunt, rather than a Grandmother, as fate would have it)

  11. posted by Vanessa H. on

    She sounds amazing! Would love to see a picture of her, at any time in her life, that you feel really shows her spirit of fearlessness.

  12. posted by clothespin on

    Wow. I think that I remember hearing about your grandmother. I must have been in or around college at the time that they made her leave her job at the legislature… I grew up and went to college in Kansas. Crazy.

    My paternal gramdmother is 99 now, but had to fight her way to get to go to school past grade school. Her father didn’t think that girls should become educated. She was the only one of her sisters that continued on through high school. Things changed a lot in the next 2 generations – it was just expected that I go to college. Wonder what the next 2 generations will bring?

  13. posted by Rebecca R. on

    Erin–You should have your Grandma write on her experiences in life without clutter, and how she has seen our views in America change over the years about “stuff”. Thank you for the story of her!

  14. posted by canada voyager on

    Don’t let fear hinder you in reaching your dreams and goals in life. Very inspiring article you have here. I’m really grateful to be here. Thanks for sharing. Cheers!

  15. posted by jodi on

    I would echo the exclusive interview suggestions! It sounds like grandmas perspective would be very encouraging!

  16. posted by evelyn Cucchiara on

    Proves that possessions do not equal happiness – being in charge of your life equals happiness!

  17. posted by Bluecat on

    Thank you for the post! Your grandma is amazing. I am wondering now ….how do I declutter my fears?! Post by smk reflects my thoughts too.

  18. posted by Shanoboy on

    Thanks for the inspirational post about your grandmother. It is too easy to forget to take solid advise from those who have lived way more life than we have sometimes!


  19. posted by Kaye on

    May I ask your grandmother’s name? I lived in south Kansas from 1969 to 1987 so it’s possible I knew of her.

  20. posted by Kelvin on

    My friend told me that he did not agree with my choice. He didn’t know why I chose that. Although it is rude, I just want to say it is my life, not your life. Everyone could have their choice. If everyone follows one the same path/style, then the world is not interesting.

  21. posted by Rondina on

    What a wonderful story and a wonderful person to have in your life. Most people battle fear on a daily basis in some way, thus the saying, “We’re our own worst enemies.” This seems kind of stupid, but she reminds me of Food Network Star. I guess it is considered a “reality” program, but I’ve learned quite a bit watching it each season. Basicly, you begin with (mostly) qualified chefs and the entire season is spent getting them to become their authentic selves. When they reach that goal the fears seem to melt away. Winning the competition isn’t as important any more–they have already won and can walk away knowing that they are capable of a successful life. Your grandmother is comfortable in her own skin (another saying), so fear has not been an option.

  22. posted by Susan DR on

    Your grandmother sounds like a very down to earth but amazing woman. Thanks for sharing her story. All too often we don’t “get” the lesson until it is too late. More power to her, and lucky you for having her as your grandmother. This story put a smile on my face today, and provided me with some things to think about. How wonderful it would be to be remembered the way you think about her.

  23. posted by kristen on

    Erin – This post is brilliant. You’ve captured the essence of your grandma succinctly in a way that inspires me (people) to live better. We’d like to know more about this amazing person! Yet, if we never do get a chance to learn more, we’re already inspired by what we know of her and how she has lived her life. Thanks!!

  24. posted by Laura, The "Argie" on

    I love the way you described your grandmother. I have a friend who is just like her. And I try daily to be a bit more like them…
    It would be great if someone would ever remember me as a brave and unluttered person, someone who lives on shared moments and untangible but fulfilling HAPPINESS.

    Thanks for sharing this story with so much love!!

  25. posted by Cindy on

    Wow! Thanks for sharing the story of your grandmother with us! What a terrific branch in your family tree! I feel quite inspired just reading about her. I’m like djk, I aspire to be that kind of woman to my nieces. I wish my grandmother was still alive; I have thought of so many more questions I would like to ask her. It sounds like you are taking advantage of all of her time!

    Perhaps your grandmother should start a blog or write a book! She can teach us all some life lessons! Though I am sure we are getting a tremendous amount of her wisdom from her grand daughter!

  26. posted by Katie on

    Your grandma sounds awesome. Thanks for sharing her with us! I would also love to read an interview with her… it wouldn’t even have to focus on uncluttering. After all, the reason we get organized is to make space (mental and physical) for the important parts of our lives. Your grandma sounds like she really has her priorities straight.

    Cheers to you and Grandma, too!

  27. posted by Terry on

    I am so inspired by this story of your grandmother. I love that other people are too and that they have shared stories of their grandmothers. It is refreshing to read positive stories of older women. So very refreshing. I am a grandmother of a four year old and I can only hope she will always feel about me the way that you feel about your grandmother.
    PS I am a very clutter free person. People tell me that my house is so serene and that they feel very comfortable in it. I like to think that love fills it but does not clutter it up.

  28. posted by serin paul on

    i think people should come up with such great stories indeed it was interesting

  29. posted by lafou on

    Have you thought about doing a “Storycorps” interview with your grandmother?

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