Globe West People

Decluttering life

By Cindy Cantrell
April 19, 2009
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When Lisa Wessan (above) lived in New York City many years ago, she kept two file cabinets stuffed with travel articles. Although the alphabetized folders were carefully organized, she realized the information was taking up valuable space and could instead be accessed online. It was difficult to throw the articles away, she said, but purging the clutter proved to be empowering.

Wessan, a licensed clinical social worker, mind-body geriatric consultant, and motivational speaker, now teaches others how to free themselves. She'll be offering her insights Thursday in Westford, where she will present "Declutter Your Heart, Home and Office: A Holistic Approach" at 7 p.m. at the Roudenbush Community Center.

According to Wessan, common problem areas include desks and paper files; attics, basements, and garages; drawers and medicine cabinets; and closets, which are typically overflowing with clothes, shoes, and accessories.

In nearly all cases, she said, people experience "toxic shame" that must be resolved before they can address the clutter in their lives. To do this, Wessan combines cognitive behavioral techniques, spiritual principles from feng shui, and creative strategies for recycling, donating, and turning trash into cash or artwork.

"The things we possess that have outlived their usefulness end up possessing us," said Wessan, who lives in North Chelmsford. "When you clear the clutter that's dragging you down, then you have the energy to do what you really need to do."

Lisa Wessan presents "Declutter Your Heart, Home and Office: A Holistic Approach" on Thursday, 7 to 9 p.m., at Roudenbush Community Center, 65 Main St., Westford. To register, call 978-692-5511, ext. 222; for more details, go to

MUSIC'S HEALING TOUCH: After her father passed away in 2005, Newton resident Cindy Mapes was determined to do something to honor the "amazing" hospice care he received. A singer, songwriter, and music educator, she is now doing that musically, through an interfaith choir that will sing to those who are ill and dying.

Mapes and other members of the JourneySongs choir will visit the Newton Free Library at 7 p.m. Wednesday to meet others who would like to join, and those who would like to request its services for area patients. Its repertoire includes hymns, gospel music, rounds, and chants.

The program will include a screening of "Holding Our Own: Embracing the End of Life," a documentary that features a Vermont-based hospice chorus that served as an inspiration for JourneySongs. Cosponsored by the First Unitarian Society in Newton, the choir's organizers include Anne Watson-Born of Brookline and Newton residents Kate Mason and Nancy Wrenn.

"I see our choir as accompanying the person on their journey, whether they're struggling with chemo treatment, in a nursing home, or actively dying," Mapes said. "This is a wonderful way for each of us to use music while being as present as possible for the person who needs us."

For details on JourneySongs, call Cindy Mapes at 617-527-4858.

RUNNER'S FRIEND: As a senior physical therapist at Newton-Wellesley Hospital and coordinator of its Running Strong program, Carl Faust is accustomed to treating running injuries. He'll share his expertise with runners taking part in the Boston Marathon tomorrow, as well as at free running-injury clinics sponsored by the hospital on the next two Tuesdays.

According to Faust, up to 75 percent of "classic overuse" running injuries fall into the categories of shin splints, runner's knee, plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendonitis, and iliotibial band syndrome. On Marathon day, he will be helping to evaluate injured athletes and ease their uncertainties on whether to continue the run into Boston.

"It's rewarding to have the knowledge, skills, and experience to be able to help a runner get into that mental place they need to succeed," he said.

Free post-marathon clinics, which will include physical therapists, orthopedists, podiatrists, and physiatrists, will take place from 5 to 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday and April 28 in Newton-Wellesley Hospital's department of rehabilitation services, 2014 Washington St. in Newton. For an appointment, call 617-243-6383 or go to Walk-ins are welcome.

SWEET SUCCESS: When her eldest child left for Fordham University in New York six years ago, Susan Callahan of Westford enjoyed sending her care packages. Eventually, her daughter, Julie, told her to forget the store-bought items and just send "goodies," her childhood nickname for the cookies they used to bake together. Encouraged by the excited phone calls and e-mails from Julie and her friends and roommates, Callahan turned her hobby into a business.

Today, the online cookie venture - named Goodies - offers best-sellers like chocolate chip and oatmeal cranberry cookies. Website traffic soared after her chocolate peanut butter munchies were featured on the "Rachael Ray Show" in November 2007. On April 1, the same flavor cookie was part of the snack giveaway celebrating Ray's 500th show.

"I don't do decorated cookies, although I occasionally make a shaped cookie for a shower or favor," Callahan said. "I just stick to what's good."

For more information, go to

QUILTS AS STORY TELLERS: As volunteer coordinator for the Massachusetts Quilt Documentation Project at the New England Quilt Museum in Lowell, Martha Supnik of Carlisle said there are several reasons why pre-1950 quilts owned or made in the state should be documented.

She will be discussing those reasons, including how quilts preserve family stories and local history, on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. in the large meeting room at Cary Memorial Library in Lexington.

Quilt owners may not know or may be misinformed about their history, she notes. Instructions on the care of antique quilts can help preserve them for future generations. And once a quilt is archived, future owners are more easily able to access its history.

Supnik said nearly 6,000 quilts have been documented since the project began in 1994. The quilts, analyzed according to date, fabric description, construction, and patterns, have come from 94 historical societies and hundreds of private owners. "It's an opportunity to not only learn about the quilts and the lives of the women who made them, but to make sure the quilts and their stories stay together."

Martha Supnik will discuss making and preserving quilts Thursday, 7:30 to 9 p.m., at Cary Memorial Library, 1874 Massachusetts Ave., Lexington. For details, visit

People items may be submitted to Cindy Cantrell at