Thanks to all those who expressed concern when I shared that something major was happening with my hoarding mother. What I thought was going to result in Mom getting in big trouble ended up resolving very mildly. I’m almost disappointed…while I don’t wish extra hardship on my Mom, I hoped this was finally going to force her to clean up her hoard. Crisis averted for now. I still can’t post the details just in case, but I do appreciate the warm wishes you all shared with me.
What’s a Blog Conference?
Blissdom Canada was all about bringing together like-minded people and helping them improve their writing, photography, marketing, and all other skills required for blogging. I went to Blissdom Canada for a few reasons:
- to connect with other bloggers who write about mental health
- to connect with other bloggers who deal with personal and really niche topics
- to improve the “findability” of Not Just Clutter in search engines
- connect with potential sponsors or brands that add value to Not Just Clutter
Connecting with other bloggers
I was really happy to have a chance to share my story with other bloggers, and hear theirs, too. Everyone deserves the chance to express themselves. That’s the great thing about the blogosphere. And I was surprised to meet so many people who had a hoarding relative, or who wanted to know more about compulsive hoarding. It helped validate why I continue to put all these personal details out there for the world to read. I was really moved by some of the stories I heard at Blissdom Canada. Compulsive hoarding touches more people than you might realize. Which leads me to…
Improve my Findability
When I started Not Just Clutter, not a single person knew about it at first. Slowly but surely over the last several months more and more of you are finding your way to me. I want to be a resource for hoarders and their loved ones, and can only be that if I show up in search engines. Attending Blissdom Canada gave me some tips for improving that, so hopefully I’ll start to see more comments and interaction on the site. If you find Not Just Clutter to be useful, please share with others and leave your comments. I encourage you to find me on Twitter and Facebook. Your input is just as valuable as mine.
Some one at the conference suggested showing more photos. While that works well for other topics, is that something you want to see on this blog? Would you find value in photos of hoards? I’d like to hear what you think about this.
Connecting with Brands
Don’t worry. I’m not selling out. I tell my story to improve public awareness and compassion for compulsive hoarders and their families. I lay it all out there so other children of hoarders know they’re not alone. I write about my relationship with my Mom so people understand how this mental illness affects real people. If I do connect with a sponsor, it’ll be related to compulsive hoarding, compulsive shopping, organizing your life, or relationships affected by mental disease. Perhaps even a charity; here I go on and on about the 1st World Problem of too much stuff, when most of the world’s population has too little.
The Future of Not Just Clutter
I’ve returned from this conference motivated to continue. I met with so many other talented writers, and their passion was infectious. It was great to be surrounded by a huge group of Canadian women who all understood what if feels like to share a personal story. Sometimes it feels a little raw to write about these problems in my family. I’m vulnerable and exposed and live with the fear that someone will recognize me and tell my Mother I’ve been airing her dirty laundry. I started this blog to get it all off my chest. Cheap therapy for me, in a way. And as people began to find my blog, leaving comments, and emailing me their personal stories about the hoarder in their lives, the more I realized Not Just Clutter has an important role to play. I’m humbled to be a part of it. Thanks for sharing my journey.
Is this the start of something good?
So Mom has started to talk about selling the house again. Can you imagine having to move a compulsive hoarder? She got her most recent property tax assessment and is delighted to learn they’ve appraised her home for a nice chunk of change. I gently reminded her that it’s unrealistic she’d get that much.
She talks about getting a dumpster. I don’t even know how much that costs in her city, but I know it’s going to take more than one. I offered to help her sort through some stuff, but she’s still resisting help until she has a chance to go through things herself.
There are a lot of items she talks about wanting to keep because they’ll be great in the new house. But then there are also items she’s identified as wanting to get rid of, like the living room sofa set. Which is fine by me.
I am pleased to hear her talk about this, even if it’s just words. I think maybe she’s getting glimmers of self-awareness, or she’s tired of being penned in by her hoard. No matter what, I hope this is the start of something positive.
On the other hand
Mom tells one story to me and a different story to Lynn. I’m not sure Mom knows that Lynn told me. Ya follow that? It means she’s giving me the brave face while there’s something else going on that’s actually pretty serious. I can’t really talk about that yet. Yes, it’s that serious. And in this case, Mom shows no self-awareness.
I just learned the local Animal Services are looking to talk to my Mom. They tried to visit her home but she didn’t answer the door (because of her disability, Mom sleeps a lot during the day so I can see her missing them). When they couldn’t reach her, they went to a neighbours house to inquire. That neighbour called Lynn.
I don’t know why the local authorities are looking for Mom. She only has 1 dog, and definitely isn’t an animal hoarder. Her dog is her pride and joy, and her only company in that lonely house, so I’m confident he’s well cared for despite the clutter. He doesn’t exactly have a lot of room to run around, but he’s a lap dog and Mom takes him with her when she goes out.
Neither Lynn nor I initiated this. I wonder who did? I’m also wondering how this will all resolve??
How do you say “let’s not exchange this year?”
A little while ago, Lynn & I discussed not exchanging gifts for Christmas amongst the adults. She and I are capable of buying anything we need and want, and we just can’t swallow buying gifts for a compulsive hoarder anymore. There are budgets to consider, and we thought this might be best for everyone. But then Mom learned of this, and thus began the guilt.
I know I’ve written a lot about gifts on notjustclutter.com already, but this is an ongoing issue in my family. Mom firmly believes that Christmas and other family traditions are deeply routed in gift giving and receiving. I would rather our traditions be experiential, and memory-forming. For instance, I love that we sit as a family and decorate gingerbread men and houses on Boxing Day. We chat, we share, we praise each others creativity despite clumsy icing bags, and it’s good fun for the kids. I remember that more than what I unwrapped, or even what I gave to others. I don’t want to see the art of gift giving turn into obligation. I don’t want to see anyone feel left out around the tree on Christmas morning, either, while the kids tear into their brightly wrapped boxes.
The truth is that if Mom wasn’t a compulsive hoarder, I would want to guy her gifts. I like to put thought into presents and she has so many interests, I usually had a good time looking for something to suit her. But she is a hoarder, and has so much stuff that anything I give gets lost in the mountain. Like a large canvas family portrait I gave her a few years ago…did that actually make it up on the wall? Don’t think so. How about the new computer desk chair she asked for and Lynn gave her? It’s still at Lynn’s, in the box, 3 years later. And that Kobo we bought her for Mother’s Day 2 years ago? She tells us she’s still working her way through the books we loaded on it for her, and sometimes she still just loves a paperback. But she’d admitted to another friend that she lost it, and now I know my own Mother lies to me.
After Lynn told her what she and I had decided about exchanging, Mom called ME to vent. She’s unhappy we want to just give up that tradition, and she’s mad she wasn’t included in the decision making. She wasn’t included mainly because when we DO try to discuss it with her, she shuts down and gets defensive…like she is now. I’m a peace maker, and always end up trying to please everyone. I empathize with both Lynn and Mom, but I’m the one who tries the hardest to compromise. I hate seeing Mom upset, even when I can logically tell this is a guilt trip. I try suggesting we draw names so we’re just buying for one adult and still respecting budgets, etc. She didn’t like that idea either. Essentially, she claimed:
“You and Lynn have already decided on this, so fine, have it your way. But just know that it won’t feel like Christmas to me.”
Well, that’s great, Mom. Thanks for announcing so far in advance that you plan on being a lead balloon during our family togetherness time. You stomp your foot and cross your arms with a pout, and the rest of us will decorate gingerbread men.
Is there a solution?
If there is a way to better deal with gifts and guilt with hoarders, I’d love to hear it. I’m at my wits end. I want to be glad I have my loved ones around me, and we’re all healthy and happy. That’s what I really want for Christmas. Forget the stuff. Forget the wrapping, ribbons, and bows. Forget the generic greeting cards, and the over-packaged plastic toys, batteries not included. I’m asking Santa for family unity.
Gift giving and receiving with a compulsive hoarder is complicated.
My Mother loves gifts. I don’t blame her; who doesn’t love gifts? I’ll tell you who.
Actually, let me clarify that. I appreciate a well-thought out gift. My husband Will is especially good at picking out something perfectly suited to me, and I love everything he’s given me. He doesn’t go overboard with quantity and that’s just fine with me.
When I was a kid, any holiday involved a mountain of gifts. When you’re little you think this is fabulous! Windfall!!!! Then I got older and (just a touch) wiser. I realized though the gifts were plentiful, they were either:
- poor quality
- unsuited to me
- had strings attached
It was quantity over quality. I started to fall into this trap too until one Christmas I exchanged gifts with my college boyfriend. I wandered department stores and dollar stores, and picked out all sorts of whimsical things that made me think of him. I gave him about a dozen little presents, and he gave me a gold promise ring. It finally dawned on me that while the pile of presents seemed impressive, it wasn’t about the stuff and more about the emotions. I might have spent as much as he did but while I received a symbol of our relationship, he got a pile of cheap trinkets.
Unsuited to Me
Mom & I haven’t been as tight as we used to be, so we don’t know each other as well as we should. Her mental illness has changed her, and I’ve matured since her hoarding took over. I know when she walks through her favourite thrift store she buys things because they make her think of me, but they’re bizarre. Like, the country-style apple quilt wall hanging she found. It was originally from Cracker Barrel and she told me:
“I know something like this would be worth at least $60 brand new. I just couldn’t pass it up when I saw it for $12!”
The quilt was perfectly nice, in mint condition, and would probably look great hanging in someone’s home. Just not mine. I don’t have a country theme in my home decor, and I’d never expressed the desire for a quilted wall hanging. So this was money spent on a gift for the wrong person.
SO many “treasures” have been shared with me over the years. On the surface, Mom is very generous. But if Mom considered these items especially interesting, she’d declare the caveat “Don’t ever get rid of this. If you don’t want it anymore give it to me.” That tells me she really picked this out for herself, and only felt comfortable giving it away if she thought she’d get it back some day.
My birthday was recently…we won’t worry about which one it was. 😉
Mom asked me a few weeks ago what I would like for my birthday. I told her nothing but her happy birthday wishes. I know she’s on a tight budget, shipping is expensive, and I really don’t need anything. Lynn & I had already discussed stopping gifts between each other and I mentioned all that to Mom.
I could tell she was hurt. She thinks we don’t want to uphold any traditions. That’s not true…it’s just the traditions I’m interested in don’t involve consumerism. And I get the sense she’s upset if she doesn’t give a gift to me, I won’t give a gift to her on her birthday.
She’s right about that. I don’t want to buy gifts for her any more. Anything I’ve given her in the last several years hasn’t been used. It ends up in the back of her van or in some pile at her house, never to be seen again. I’m tired of wasting money and effort when it’s not appreciated. And if I did want to buy her something, what would it be? She has triplicate of everything because she’s lost the originals. We’ve thought of buying her services, but she won’t let anyone into her house for housekeeping, repairs, etc. We mentioned the idea of donating to charity in her name once and she was offended.
So, I’d rather not bother with the whole gift exchange thing. I know it sounds cold, but I just can’t do it any more. I don’t want her to buy me trinkets I’ll have to donate away or throw out, and I don’t want her to spend the few dollars she has left on a gift for me when she keeps her thermostat set to 60 in the winter to avoid a high heating bill.
What I really wish for
What I’d like from her is a memory we can share. Perhaps go to lunch, or see a movie. Sit down and do a craft together. Take a drive and look at the scenery. Too bad she lives 3 hours away.
She called me last night to sing me Happy Birthday. And so we chatted and hearing her voice was gift enough for me.
How do you handle gifts with a Compulsive hoarder?
I’m curious as to how other children or relatives of hoarders handle gifts. Do you still exchange? Do you keep those things “loaned” to you…those gifts given but wanted back? If you’ve found a solution to gift giving and receiving when a compulsive hoarder is involved, I’d love to hear about it!
I feel so honoured to have been given to opportunity to write a guest post for Psychology Today. Recently, the same doctor conducting the studies about compulsive hoarders and their relationships touched base with me and we’ve been having some great conversation about the lack of resources on this topic. Truly, people like me, the hoarders son, and other children of hoarders have limited help in sorting out our feelings and relationships with our hoarding loved ones.
Dr. Amy Przeworski, from Case Western Reserve University, wants to raise awareness…and I’m hopeful when I hear mental health experts like Amy getting involved. I wrote a guest post about what it’s like to be on one side of the wall of stuff while my Mother exists on the other. I hope you’ll hop over to read my post on Dr. Przeworski’s blog…and stick around to read more of her own posts. She speaks of anxiety and other family mental health issues worth reading.
Find me on psychology today
There are 2 new studies about compulsive hoarders you might not know about. They’re being conducted by researchers at Case Western Reserve University. These online surveys explore the relationship between someone with OCD or Hoarding tendencies and their relatives or loved ones. Researchers hope the information gathered from these surveys will help improve therapies for OCD and hoarding (Goodness knows we need that!), and to also create an awareness of the complexities of the relationships surrounding those with these disorders. You must be at least 18 years old to participate. The bonus (other than science learning more about hoarding) is that entries are eligible for a draw for a Target gift card. You can choose to remain anonymous, and the site outlines their privacy procedures right up front.
I was approached by Dr. Amy Przeworski, Ph.D., Assistant Professor at the Department of Psychological Sciences at Case Western Reserve University. She reached out hoping to bring more attention to her studies, and I’m so glad she did. Currently, there’s no formal information out there about the effects of compulsive hoarding on relationships, and she seeks to change that. Our goals are aligned, as that’s what I’m trying to do with this blog. I sometimes compare having a relative with hoarding to having a relative who’s an alcoholic. I don’t dispute alcoholism is terribly serious and harmful, but the stigma isn’t as severe as it is for hoarders, and there are WAY more social supports in place from rehab to 12 step recovery to groups like AA, Al-anon, and Alateen. Other than the Children of Hoarders website and blogs like mine, relatives of hoarders are still mostly on their own,
Two Studies, Different Approaches
The 2 studies have different veins…one is for the relative or loved one of a hoarder. I completed this one, and encourage anyone in similar shoes to do so. It didn’t take very long, although I found some of the questions about OCD unrelated to my situation. You can skip anything not relevant to you, but your personal experience is valid!!
The other survey is for people who hoard or those with OCD to complete. You can imagine how difficult it is to get enough people for this one…most hoarders have a lack of insight. They don’t see themselves as having a hoarding problem, and so simply wouldn’t even attempt to answer this survey. I know the researchers need at least 40 more entries to get a solid base for their research, so I ask if anyone reading Not Just Clutter who IS a hoarder and are stuggling with getting better to reach out and complete this survey.
For individuals with OCD and/or hoarding: http://psychology.case.edu/
For relatives and significant others of those with OCD and/or hoarding: http://psychology.case.edu/
Guest post: How to Clear out a Hoarders Home
Remove Volume Quickly
look for Subset Categories
Set a number limit
Focus on the person, not the stuff
I’ve gotten some interesting feedback from my post about teaching children about hoarding. I wrote how I felt I am failing my daughter by not coaching her on better organizational habits earlier.
I was delighted to read your comments! Thank you to all who took the time to leave a note on the blog or email me in person. You were all reassuring that I haven’t ruined my kids just yet! Phew! There’s still time to teach them about personal organization!
Knee Jerk Reaction
I suppose I’m being extra cautious. Living so close to someone with a mental illness makes you paranoid (wait, isn’t that a mental condition too??? ). Perhaps it’s similar to those with an alcoholic parent and forbidding their own children to ever toast with wine at holiday dinners. I’m probably being hyper-sensitive, but I know I’ve read in several places that compulsive hoarding can be hereditary. Diabetes also strongly runs in the family…some future I’ve got facing me, huh?
Nature vs Nuture
Genetics aside, I think learned behavior goes a long way. I don’t want to go overboard and insist on unattainable perfection. I can’t maintain that myself anyway. But if I can begin to instill the proper techniques for organizing personal space, encouraging attachment to people instead of objects, and how to begin and finish any project, then I think I’ll be giving my girls some great life skills. And hey, it doesn’t hurt to practice them myself, right? I’m sure Will would agree, as he eyes my creatively chaotic craft room.
Your Suggestions for Teaching Kids About Personal Organization
You had some great ideas for helping kids learn about organizing, and learning how to let go of treasured toys.
- take photos of toys before donating them, and put photos in an album to preserve their memory
- designate a set number of keepers. Let them choose which keepers, but don’t go past the number.
- designate a box for toys and don’t let it go past the top. If it doesn’t fit the box, it can’t stay.
- trim pieces from favourite blankets, clothing, or stuffed animals and sew them into a memory quilt or pillow (careful this doesn’t add to your own long list of projects *cough*)
- Remind them of children less fortunate, and encourage a social conscience.
Feel free to keep sending your ideas, and I’ll add them to this list. I’m sure I’m not the only parent in this boat.
I also just came across the Overindulgence website. It discusses dealing with spoiled children, the feeling of entitlement some kids seem to have, and gives a few ideas about giving chores.
My own purge continues
Going back to my craft room for a minute, I worked on clearing that room out, too. Yes, I’ve been on a purging kick the last 2 months and it’s feeling great. I didn’t realize exactly HOW great until I sat down at my sewing machine and did a quick little project. I mentioned this to another creative kindred spirit, my best friend, and she said “Rae, I think that’s how we feed our soul.”
How we feed our soul. Yes. Yes, I think that’s it.
And because my craft room is the dumping ground for when we don’t know where else to put something, I had crowded out my opportunity to feed my soul. And I was starving. Funny how having too much can make you feel so empty.
Have you carved out a space all your own? How do you keep it clear for spontaneous use? I’d love to hear about it!
In case you’re wondering, Mom is still without a phone. We’ve not spoken since I saw her about 3 weeks ago. That seems like a long time to go without hearing from your mother, doesn’t it?
My eldest daughter, Maddie, has been sneezing up a storm. I figured this was a good time to give her bedroom a good deep clean and clear out the dust. When I gently suggested she give away some of her stuffed animals, I was met with great resistance. It’s time I start teaching my children about compulsive hoarding.
How To Start
It started by clearing out all the random stuff that’s been shoved under her bed. It brought up a lot of dust but also helped us find some little toys we thought were lost forever. The pile was a real mixture of things…board games, doll clothes, books, trinkets, and so on. I explained we needed to organize these into piles and put them away. Then I left Maddie to it while I worked on Quinn’s outgrown baby clothes in the next room.
After a few minutes, Maddie called out “Mom, I don’t know what to do with all this.”
It hit me that she probably had no idea how to sort through this random pile and make general categories. It’s one thing to sort by colour, or by size, but when you’re only 7, sorting by purpose is a little confusing.
So, we sat together and I pointed out how board games don’t get stored with books, and doll clothes have their own container. It was starting to make sense when I showed her we actually DO HAVE a place for everything…it’s just that I’d always done the sorting for her in the past. What a disservice I’ve done for her!
Once that pile got sorted out, it was time to look at all the stuffed animals she keeps on her bed. There’s about a dozen stuffies, and she wants them ALL on her bed. I’m thinking they’re a treasure trove of dust and it’s time to simplify.
I held up a stuffed cat. “What do you think about this? Can we give to charity?” With wide eyes, Maddie grabbed the cat and clutched it to her chest. “But I love this!”
Everything Can’t be special
We went back and forth like that with a few other stuffies, and I finally said “You can’t love all of these the same. Surely some are more important than others!” And I think deep down she knows that too, but when faced with the scary thought of parting with any of them, they were elevated to Must Haves.
I was at a loss. I tried to explain that sometimes we have to make tough decisions. That the memories we have can be kept in our heads and we don’t need to keep every thing just to remember. That if everything is special, it really means nothing is.
So far, I’ve been keeping the family’s dirty little secret from my children. Maddie doesn’t know the reason we never visit her grandmothers house is because there’s no room. She has no idea that compulsive hoarding even exists! But I needed to show her, so…
I grabbed the laptop, launched notjustclutter.com and called up the photos from my Visiting a Compulsive Hoarders Home post. I didn’t tell her I took the photos. I didn’t tell her it was Meema’s house. I didn’t even call it compulsive hoarding. But I showed her how little space there was to move around. How you couldn’t see the couch. I pointed out the piles were taller than her head, and there was no room at the dining table for eating. I showed her how food was piled on the kitchen floor with no sense of organized categories.
And everything I pointed out, she met with a rationalization. She had a modified action for everything I said that would allow her to cope with that appalling environment. In short, she didn’t think it was that bad.
Will My daughter become a hoarder, too?
Obviously, I’m failing. Not only have I lost my mother behind her hoard, but I’ve not done enough to develop the right skills for my first daughter. I can see this will be an on-going attempt to teach her how to organize, how to detach emotion from objects, how to truly value certain things and treat them with greater respect, and how to actually clean a home. I’m open to your ideas, so please share your tips for guiding my children away from a future in hoarding.
Well, that didn’t last long. Time for an update on the Case of the Silent Phone. Mom has already lost her new cell phone. She got it at the end of April, and now it’s lost in her pile of possessions. Apparently, it’s been lost for 2 weeks already, AND it’s the second time she’s lost it. I can’t say I’m surprised. I knew from the start it was going to be difficult for her. She’s got hoarded piles on every surface and no where to create a dedicated space for it.
I didn’t hear from her for our regular Sunday chat, but thought maybe she was just sleeping. Then I called on the anniversary of Dad’s death to let her know I was thinking of her, and figured maybe she was just feeling low and wanted to be alone with her grief. It makes a whole lotta sense now that I know the cell phone is lost.
At least, I got to see her today. She told me she just can’t imagine how she lost the phone. And how she lost another important piece of paperwork she’d filled out and promptly lost.
Then we got to chatting about the carpet in her house and how much she’d LOVE to replace it with hardwood. Uh huh. I know the carpet IS hideous. I lived with it, too. It was great when I accidentally smushed Play-Doh into it as a child and no one was ever able to tell; maybe you’re familiar with it, too, if you remember the 70s. But now, there’s probably only 1% of the carpet showing in all the house.
She did admit her house needs a lot of work. Ha. Let me repeat that. HA! And that the best thing to happen would be for the house to be struck by lightning. Yup. That’s what she wishes for. For her house and home of 33 years to go up in a big ball of flames. Can you imagine? My childhood memories in a pile of ash.
Lynn said to her “You’d never make it out in time.”
Mom got that thin smile she effects on when conversation takes this kind of turn, and smugly insisted “Oh yes I would. No problem at all. I’d just tuck the dog under my arm and away I’d go.”
Sigh. How do you answer that when you know it simply isn’t true?
And, how would I even know, when she has no way of calling to tell me?
It’s been about 5 years since I last visited my childhood home. It’s a compulsive hoarders home now, thanks to Mom’s mental disorder. Lynn and I snuck in while Mom was out and did a tiny purge of her hoard. You’d never even be able to tell we’d spent 2 hours working on a 4×4 foot area just putting spare papers in recycling bins. We removed 4 bags of trash and yet, it didn’t make a dent in her hoard.
How bad could it be?
I took photos while we were there of the general state of things. Given so many years have passed without anyone else stepping inside, I can only imagine how high the stacks are. Oddly enough, I found the CD of photos as I cleared out my basement decluttering my own junk.
I knew the photos were going to be bad, but they still took me by surprise when I loaded them up on my computer. If you’ve never seen photos from inside a compulsive hoarders house before, brace yourself. I know you’ll probably wonder how could anyone live like this? I don’t know if you can call it “living”, actually. I think having to survive in such a space is reducing to merely “existing.”
This was my home once. I lived here with my sister through all my childhood, and only left when I went away to college. I have good memories of birthday parties, Christmas mornings, and watching Sunday morning classic movies on PBS. And I’m willing to bet there are physical remnants of all my memories still left inside that hoard.
Now, we stay with Lynn when we visit my hometown. Mom comes over to Lynn’s house to sit with us for a while and we make thin small talk. I’m curious to try to get over to my old home while Mom is out again. I probably won’t get in because neither Lynn nor I have a spare key. But I want to see how the old place is holding up…or quite likely, falling apart. On the other hand, do I want an even worse mental image of my home if I should see it in such disrepair? It’s like when you visit an ailing relative in the hospital right before they die, and they’re frail and forgetful…they’re not the vibrant and fascinating person you remember anymore.
I do want to know how my Mom is existing, though. It’s important to me to understand what her daily life is like. No matter the mental disorder, it pains me to think of her living in such conditions. I wish I knew how to make it better…and I wish she actually wanted it better, too.
I have so much. Too much.
I write on this blog about my problems with excess. About how much of a struggle it is to control the amount of stuff in my life. The challenges of clearing out my basement. The woes of a mother who shops too much.
Due to a senseless, random act of violence, there are countless people facing the aftermath of the Colorado shooting. Children and adults alike became victim to a madman. It’s sickening, and there are no words to heal the pain caused by this incident.
Meanwhile, I woke up this morning with all my loved ones. My health. My life continues as expected. I have everything and everyone I need; and more. It’s shameful that I should consider having too much clutter a real problem in light of the news. I’m reminded what it is to be vulnerable, and grateful.
I send my prayers to anyone affected by the Colorado theatre shooting. My heart weeps for you.
I’m a Virgo. Most of the time, I’m ok with my home looking well lived in. Children leave toys out mid-game. Craft projects are in progress. And there’s always a DIY home improvement going on somewhere in the house. But when the perfectionist, pragmatic Virgo in me rears her head, I go on major cleaning streaks. I’m talking get-out-the-toothbrush-to-scrub-the-corners Virgo Clean Streak.
Virgo Clean Streak
Every once in a while this happens. Probably not often enough. And by now, Will knows enough to stand back and let me charge full speed ahead. It happened this weekend. I just couldn’t stand the state of our basement any longer. Since I use our 4th bedroom as a craft room/office, we don’t have any where pleasant for guests to stay. And Will doesn’t really have office space of his own, either, which impedes the launch of his new business.
How to decide what to keep and what to toss
We have a whole basement and it was uselessly filled with stuff. So I rolled up my sleeves, put on some tunes, and started working my way through everything as realistically and unemotionally as I could. And you know what? It was easier than expected. I must be at some sort of threshold because what I processed over the weekend had proven too difficult to deal with in earlier attempts to clear the basement. I allowed myself to be honest about whether I really needed or wanted all this stuff. Anything I really wanted to keep went into ONE laundry basket, and everything else went into boxes for donation or garbage bags.
There were a few moments where I wavered and wanted to keep some things. Like my Mom, I can see the “potential” of future projects. But I kept reminding myself that reclaiming this space was more important than vintage sheet music for decoupage, or a stacks of plastic party drinking cups left over from our wedding…9 years ago. I want to transform this space into a place to build memories and experiences. That has more value to me now than dusty boxes of trinkets packed up from our old house and never reopened when we moved here.
As I thought of that, it got easier and easier to move items into the donation boxes and wish them well in their future homes. And the more I let go, the lighter my heart felt. My mood improved. My skin cleared. Well, maybe not, but I certainly felt a glow of accomplishment to see the stack of boxes by the door growing.
What Did I Find?
In the clear out, I found a number of things to give to friends of mine. A book about dogs goes to a co-worker who just got a Huskie puppy. The bassinet that cradled my babies the first few months of their lives is going to a friend expecting his first child next month. And for myself, I found the CD of images I took about 5 years ago at Moms house when Lynn and I snuck in to do a quick “tidy.” I’ll share those in a future post.
In the end, Will and I loaded 11 donation boxes into the car. I filled 2 large bags of trash. I reorganized 7 mishmashed plastic and cardboard boxes of hand-me-down clothes for my little Quinn into 3 locking Rubbermaid containers, and found a whole bunch of baby clothes I didn’t even know we had. That gets shared with another co-worker having a baby girl in October.
There’s still some stuff to shuffle around and reorganize. I’m sure I could purge even more if I get another Virgo Clean Streak. Will needs to pack up all his wine-making supplies for a while. There’s a cold cellar to rip out and move to a different area. And if we can clean enough open space, we’ll frame in new walls to make new office space and accommodations for guests. Put up shelves to get what’s left up off the floor. Wall off the furnace. Ultimately, make this a warm and inviting space to spend quality time. And as much potential all that stuff had, the potential of the space is even greater.
Getting rid of all that stuff was SO liberating. I feel like I lost 100 pounds. In fact, I put on my skinny jeans to celebrate!