Transitions With Jean Blog

Don’t be a Monkey

Jul 6, 2023

Lately, I have been thinking about this older column. I first heard about this story at a Mass at St. Mary’s in Appleton in 2008. It was a sermon told by Fr. Mike O’Rourke. His take on it was a little different because he was talking about things that might keep us from entering the pearly gates. At the time, he did give me permission to change up the story a bit. In the end, you might agree that we are on the same wavelength. Here goes…

How do you catch a monkey?

Long ago, an interesting way was to let them catch themselves.

Hunters would make a hole in a coconut, put pieces of oranges inside and then hang the coconut from a tree.

As the monkey came around, it would catch the sweet smell of the oranges and reach into the hole.  Once it grasped the orange, it wouldn’t be able to pull its hand out of the coconut. It caught itself.  It could be free anytime, but it wouldn’t let go to save its life.

How like a monkey we can be sometimes.  Do you find yourself holding on to “stuff” that impedes your life?

Marilyn Ellis, billed as America’s Organizer Coach, put together a humorous, yet true, list of reasons we give ourselves for holding onto things:

  •  I paid a lot for it.
  •  It’s not good enough to keep, but it is too good to throw out.
  •  I might need it someday.
  •  My kids might need it someday.
  •  My grandkids might need it someday.
  •  It’s inherited, it’s ugly, but I don’t want to be the one to finally get rid of it.
  •  It might be worth something.
  •  It holds a lot of memories.

Earlier in our lives, we were trying to fill spaces in our homes.  But once we have filled all those spaces, many folks just keep bringing things home for all those reasons listed, and more.  Gasp!  When do you stop?

As we move into smaller places, it is time to reprogram our thinking.

When one is down-sizing, the list of reasons for holding onto things is much shorter:

  •  Does it bring me great pleasure?
  •  Is it practical?

And yes, because it reminds us of a cherished memory can be a reason to keep something, but perhaps not 36 of that something.

Yes, paper toweling is practical, but 27 rolls?  Take two.

The greatest mistake I see my customers make when they down-size is holding onto too many things that are irrelevant.  Look at each item you are considering, and have a spot in mind for it, like, “this will go on the kitchen counter.”

No matter what size place you are moving to, everything should have a place.

Start out your new home with instantly comfortable and enjoyable surroundings by hand-selecting items from your old house that are practical and give you pleasure.

Don’t be a monkey, holding onto those oranges that keep you from living a comfortable life.  Let go of those things that hold you back.

Jean Long Manteufel writes a column on the first Sunday of each month about life changes associated with aging. Send your questions to or call 920-734-3260.