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Monday, February 13, 2012

The Bad Things About a Cluttered House (besides not being able to find anything.)

Sadly, the kitchen table is still not all the way cleared off--I really AM sorry about that-- but I'm definitely making progress in that direction.  I can tell you that three people ate dinner on it last evening, so that is a big improvement

Decluttering is not something I can do very fast or efficiently. I have to decide for each item:
 1. IF I'm going to keep it
2. Whom to gift it to if I am NOT keeping it  or WHERE to store it, if I AM keeping it.
That's two big decisions before I even pick up the item, and those decisions can be very difficult  for me to make--sometimes it makes me tired just THINKING about it.

Another step forward is that lately I have allowed three of my closest  friends to see the inside of my house.  This is a big step for me and to me, it means  that I have come to the point where I am no longer allowing the state of my house to dictate ALL of my actions.

 I also took two boxes of vinyl dolls to the Salvation Army this past week, and given one handcranked sewing machine to a friend. Wednesday I will give a couple boxes of fabric to the Lutherans.  I figure if I collect at least one small box or bag of items to give away every few days, sooner or later, it will make a difference.  I told one of my friends  that my situation is sort of like a person who has a large number of pounds to lose; you don't really notice much difference until they lose about fifty pounds. I will not notice much difference until I've given away about fifty boxes of "stuff." It can be discouraging, even overwhelming if you don't have patience with yourself and do it in "baby steps."

There are two especially bad things about having a cluttered house (other than having to have to look at it and live in it) First is the feeling of shame and embarrassment that results from it and this is huge for me. It's really hard to think very highly of yourself when your environment is cluttered and you feel powerless to change it.

Another very bad thing is that because of the shame and embarrassment, I really don't want my friends/relatives to see my house, so I don't invite them in or encourage them to visit, even if I'd love to. When someone DOES come for a stay, I totally exhaust myself working for long hours for several days getting the house decent enough to allow them in. Fast uncluttering like this usually results in stuff being put in places that are nonpermanent and it hasn't really solved the problem. To do it "right," in my book, takes more time and more thought.

A person that doesn't have the "packrat" mentality often has difficulty understanding how people who DO have it think/work or what we are up against. It is actually a "brain thing" if you can believe that--most packrats are very right-brained and extremely nonlinear, and some actually have ADHD or some other disorder. "Fixing" the situation is not as easy or straight forward as the "normal" person might think. Friends often understand better than family members do and don't get so angry as the latter. That said, I am not trying to excuse myself, and don't intend to "let myself off the hook." I'm just saying that it's not an easy thing for a clutterer to part with his/her "stuff" or to decide where it should be put. The process of decluttering is not easy--if it was easy for us to put our stuff away, we'd not be in this fix in the first place, right?

For me, it was a pretty traumatic personal event that set me on this course; I imagine most clutterers can point to something that precipitated their decline, and what it was and whether it should have is totally beside the point. It did and eventually the person has to face the clutter and deal with it (or die and let someone ELSE deal with it--this is no doubt on the minds of children of clutterers everywhere).  I might also add that "cluttering" is only one manifestation that trauma can produce--other things such as various addictions or compulsions can also be a result. The accumulation of clutter can also be considered an addiction or compulsion, I guess. I've always had a tendency to accumulate collections and supplies, but for most of my life, I controlled it, not the other way around.

It can take awhile before an affected person feels UP to dealing with their problem, whatever manifestation it takes.  In the interim, criticism, judgement, anger, and ridicule are attitudes  a person often encounters and endures, periodically if they're lucky and continually if they're not. Added with the self-recrimination mentioned above, it's not an easy place to inhabit, physically, mentally, or spiritually. When you add the negative feedback mentioned above, it can become a really dismal, discouraging place. Not a place a person would ever set out to create for oneself.

And so I, at last, have come to the point where I want to confront my clutter, and banish it from my personal landscape; it has damaged me enough and I am not willing to just look at it any longer. It has taken me a journey of over seven years down this path, and I have reached a point where I want to turn it around. It is important to mention that, in my opinion, a person has to determine for themselves when this point comes for them. Other people can encourage, enlighten, and support, but they cannot tell you when you've reached the Turn Around Point or force you to go through your stuff. This can be really frustrating for onlookers, but this is the way it is. It's also very unfair for other people who might share a home with the person. A lot of Life is not fair..

So I will occasionally chronicle honestly, my return from this place of ClutterLand--perhaps it will help a reader who really doesn't understand the clutterer in his/her own circle, or a fellow clutterer who is also dealing with clutter. If that should happen, I would be glad. To end on a postive note, the trauma that induced my clutter has also resulted in some desirable results in my life. But my cluttering doesn't fall into the "Good" category and so I'm out to eliminate it. Come along for the ride if you want.