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?