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The power of clutter

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The siren song of decluttering calls my name but I don’t follow. It looms ahead as something I will accomplish, but the start date keeps getting kicked back. Why am I resisting? Why does clutter have such power?

I didn’t always live a cluttered life. I suppose I always had too many possessions, but I was quite orderly as a child. Perhaps not by nature, perhaps only because I was a ‘good’ child and did as I was told. The fact is that I was able to keep my surroundings fairly tidy, and I enjoyed the process of doing so.

Oh sure, there were the days when straightening up meant shoving everything in the closet, but by and large I was neat. Not obsessively so, but reasonably so.

As a young adult, I continued to be neat. I remember taking pleasure in the Saturday chores of cleaning our apartment, and later our house. When I found myself back in smaller living quarters as a single parent, I continued to live in fairly orderly surroundings.

But the process of living a life means accumulating possessions, and at one point the stuff started to grow exponentially. When I remarried, my husband turned out to be something of a pack rat, and Lord knows I have my share of that gene as well. I always thought I got it from my dad, but recent trips to my mom’s house have revealed the hidden truth that she too had something of the pack rat in her. In any event, my husband and I added two more kids to the household, and three of my four children were afflicted with the tendency. I’m not sure how my son escaped, but to this day he will clean and organize my house when he comes home. I’m not proud of this, but I do enjoy it when it happens.

When my ex walked out after twenty two years, he left behind two daughters, his possessions, as well as a house that had been neglected. Three years later I sit in that house with one daughter and an unbelievable mess. This child is the epitome of the pack rat, and her five rats add to the mess. I’ve really come to understand the literal term. As I banished the rats to her bedroom, they longingly look out of their cages at the utter chaos that is her room, wishing they could be out there among the mounds of dirty clothing, papers, dishes, and trash. Four months ago I straightened the room somewhat, washed every item of clothing, put up shelves with boxes to organize her belongings, and vacuumed the floor after I found it. Today the room is again unrecognizable. And the sad truth is that she’s spread her mess (it’s beyond clutter) to the living room and kitchen. She’s now invading the small bedroom I converted to an office, but I’m fighting back. That’s my sanctuary and she can’t have it!

I continue to declutter small corners of the house in order to maintain my sanity, but to date have resisted really getting after it. What am I scared of?

I think we all worry about throwing something out we might need the minute it’s gone. So the fear of losing something necessary to my survival is stopping me. I don’t know what that might consist of, but if I’m honest with myself, it’s not likely to be something tangible as that can always be replaced. What I would be throwing out is the excuse that I can’t do ‘whatever’ because I have to clean, because I have chores. I would have to see what’s beyond the clutter. I would have to really contemplate what’s next in my life. Apparently that scares me. I’d rather be cocooned by the clutter.

I would have to throw out that part of myself that gives in to my daughter, wanting to make her feel safe and loved. I would have to turn into the relentless disciplinarian that my mother was. Could that be stopping me? I don’t doubt that I’m still fighting my mother, I just hadn’t realized clutter is another battleground.

Yes, if I just do it and banish the clutter, I would have to get on with my life. Why is that so frightening?
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Oh do I relate!!!! Only I have NEVER been neat or organized. I've been working with my councilor for months to try to over come this lifestyle. Trouble is, when my kids were babies, you could eat off my floors! (cause I never knew when they would!) But your analogy of a cocoon is very appropriate in my case. Keeps people away. Have you tried Fly Lady? She helped me for a while. But I think you are going to have your hands full trying to overcome your own tendency to cover horizontal surfaces when you have so many other people doing the same thing. I wish you great success with this. I am trying to get ready to move next month, and the more I sort, the bigger mess I make! It's driving me crazy! (((((((BIG HUGS TO YOU)))))))))) Barbara
    3982 days ago
  • no profile photo CD2219650
    What a powerful blog! Thank you for sharing your feelings and insights.

    My home has become more cluttered over the years and I find myself very reluctant to tackle the purging neccessary to change the situation. I've often thought that I'm just too lazy to do it - and while there is some truth to that - I'm sure that is not the whole picture, but rather a piece of it.
    4000 days ago
    Recognition of your problem is the first step to your healing. You have expressed yourself so eloquently. You know by starting the purging of this stuff now, may actually help your daughter with the urge to hoard as well. You can release yourself and aid her in becoming a better adult...teaching her the stuff is not what's important in your life. Good Luck With Your Journey!!!!
    4001 days ago
    My mom is a hoarder. Clutterer is too tame of a word to put on it. She attaches a way-over-the=top sentiment to everything! She keeps old clothes, our old dance costumes, newspaper clippings, toys, you name it.

    She gets extremely defensive when we try to talk to her about getting rid of things. My sister and I have come to the conclusion that we'll just have to wait until after she's gone to clean out her house (two stories, a full basement and attic and two garages). I'm sure you are nowhere near this kind of thinking. I wouldn't wish it on anyone!

    Are you hesitating to clear things out because of the sentiment that will arise? And I like what one person said about closed doors. Your daughter's room could use one. You don't say how old she is, but maybe it's time to let her deal with her own messes. If she has no clean clothes, it could spur her to get the dirty ones to the washing machine. As moms, sometimes the hardest thing to do is to let our children grow up and take care of themselves. Lord knows we can do it so much better, but then how will they ever learn to stand on their own two feet?
    4001 days ago
  • FITKAT2010
    You did hit some valid points here. Not wanting to be like mommy dearest is one-but with the clutter aren't you? Not wanting to discipline a child isn't going to help the child live her life successfully, is it?

    That clutter covers up grief is true. That clutter sucks the life force out of us is also true. That clutter covers up fear is right on. That you are afraid to live life free of clutter, is this where you want to stop?

    We are comfortable in the element of chaos. As long as we can control the chaos. It is the unknown that terrifies us.

    If the desire for change comes up even stronger, something will simply snap and you will find yourself in a bigger problem than just facing the fear of the unknown and cleaning up the mess. It's all emotional hon.

    Are you simply comfortable with negative emotions?
    4002 days ago

    Comment edited on: 3/24/2010 8:53:43 PM
  • DEE797
    I can so relate to what you are going through. emoticon
    4002 days ago
    I believe it's the size of the job. It's just going to get bigger if you don't start taking small bites out of it now.

    I just moved all my stuff from my house to my BF's house and he was smart about it.. he put it in the GARAGE so I have to go thru it in order to get my car back in!

    It was boring and tedious yesterday, but I went thru a large paper box and a HUGE bag of stuff. I filled a large outside garbage can. I have many, many, many more hours to go...

    As for your daughter.. print the blog and put it on her door. She might wake up.
    4002 days ago
    I have had to deal with this myself. It was really some bible verses that got me to do it. Jesus says "store up your treasures in heaven where moth and rust do not destroy" and it elaborates some, to the point where I realized that my real joy will be with Christ after I am gone from this earth. These material things can not replace the realtionships I have with God, family, and friends. Thast what matters. Its hard to let go of things (I saved a silly ginsing box from my friends visit from san diego) but I feel that nagging sensation that I just need to DUMP stuff. I feel driven at times, and it helped when I moved into a much smaller apartment. I got rid of so many things. Also I know thatGod will provide for me, so it is okay to get rid of stuff, even if I think I may need it. He has taken care of me this far- and the less you want the less you think you need. That is why I am getting rid of that extra computer monitor in my closet soon. Seriously, if He got me a much newer one that was an upgrade comletely free, then I am sure I can turn around and bless someone else with this old one :)
    I wish you the best.
    God bless-
    4002 days ago
    I sat down over spring break and reorganized my room so that it was a lot more orderly, and during that process I threw out a lot of stuff that I just have not used in the past year or so, so I figured I never need it anymore. I even through out my old Palm TX that I had from high school (and it cost me around 400 dollars at that time) because it's sat in my way for three years now and I have an iPhone now.

    I feel so much better now that everything is clean and in it's place and I know where it goes. Part of the cleanup this time involved me going crazy with a labeler and I labeled every drawer in my room with what goes inside.

    Throw stuff out, it's kinda fun!
    JR :)
    4002 days ago
    Love you're writing style, you brought up some interesting issues regarding mother/daughter issues. Clutter is part of who we are and after 2 and a bit months I finally cleared the bed next to this desk of clutter. I think when our brain is otherwise occupied it is too hard to sort the clutter. So it stays.I like doors that close! Keeps the clutter hidden. Work out which area you want to declutter and one day at a time it will happen! We will support you in you're quest to declutter.

    4002 days ago
    I don't think it's about not knowing how to get rid of clutter - I do know. I managed it quite well for years. It's that I'm stopping myself for some reason - discovering the reason and facing it is what I need to do.
    4002 days ago
    Great blog! I agree begin with baby steps. I cant stand clutter either it engulfs us before we realize it. You can do it!
    4002 days ago
    I agree with TB. Break it down into smaller areas of focus and little by little, you'll see the change.

    I, like you, have work to do in this area as well and feel for you. I am trying not to let it overwhelm as well. Together, we can simplify our lives and live our lives.

    4002 days ago
    Maybe it's the size of the job that is intimidating you ... if so, maybe try decluttering one room at a time. That way the job won't seem so overwhelming.

    As far as holding into "stuff" I think we all do it - after all it MIGHT come in handy, we MIGHT need it some day.
    4002 days ago
  • JLITT62
    I have actually gotten neater as I've gotten older -- but that doesn't by any means mean I'm neat. Far from it. I would rather do most anything else other than clean.

    I keep trying to be neater, but somehow it never takes for long.

    Now, the dishes are done, the bed is made, there isn't dirty laundry on the floor (except maybe some of my husband's), but there is still a lot of clutter. I apply my baby steps to that, too. Sometimes I win, more often than not I don't. I'd rather cook than clean, but of course that creates even more dirty stuff to be cleaned!
    4002 days ago
    Dee - getting rid of the clutter is liberating! I always feel 'lighter' and more in control when I de-clutter an area. At the moment, my barn is a wreck. I was going to have a garage sale last fall but then they closed my road making that impossible. I boxed and packed it all up and now it sits looking at me - stacked to the ceiling. I can't stand it and I can't wait to re-set it up to unload it! What's left will go to the Goodwill.

    I'm still hanging onto things...I have the same mind-set as you. I might need this (or that). Truthfully, I've gotten rid of stuff I could have used later but guess what - I went out and acquired it again - yes, it's true, they still make this or that!

    Unload it woman! You'll feel so much better - get three boxes - one for keeping, one for throwing away and one for giving away or garage sale....then start sorting. Once you start, it's like an adiction - you keep going and going and finally, you sit down and say "Why didn't I do that sooner?" No kidding......
    4002 days ago
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