This and that, everything including the kitchen sink.

Archive for April, 2017

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Down To The Nitty Gritty

Julie and David from Five Star Organizing, my new besties, were back again. Although they made huge strides in my studio last time, there was soooo much to do they tackled it again this time.

studio desk before and after

Then they finished categorizing my shelves. This helps immensely. Once I can see what I have I can get rid of duplicates and organize my shelves myself. No one can really know what an artist values.

It would probably take more than one lifetime to get to all the projects I want to do, so it’s time to decide which ones to keep and which to discard. Now I can see them all it’s much easier to be realistic. , As it is, I don’t feel I can start anything new because of the mess. The reality is I need to pick the things that give me the most happiness and release the others.  I know I can do it.

Once that was done, we discussed the game plan for the next time. Then they loaded my car for me with the donation boxes. It’s a wonderful feeling to see that area open up. I made sure I dropped them off the next day, otherwise they can stay in the back of my car for much too long.

We decided my homework for this time is to start on the sewing area. Since the kitchen is now clean, I can put my sorting table up on that side and get enough area to work on the sewing side. All my sewing stuff has been gathered from the rest of the house so it’s just a matter of categorizing and putting away. I’ve been hitting Pininterest for ideas and I’m ready to go. Plus it’s nice to know, if it gets too much for me I have Julie and David to back me up. I want to get my pay storage unit emptied and I know there is going to be a lot of vintage fabric in there. I need to make homes for things BEFORE I bring stuff in, even if the plan is to sell most of it.

Life is so much easier now. I have always had trouble making decisions, now it’s easier and I know I am making better choices. I can visualize my goals and see I am making progress towards the person I want to be.

Freedom. That’s a huge word for me. Hoarding keeps us prisoners of our past. I couldn’t live there, but I couldn’t move forward. Now I’m free to visualize who I want to be and work towards it. Freedom.

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Messies, Neaties, Hoarders-Helpful Things.

While I mostly use the term “hoarder” because that’s what I am, anyone can use this site and the insights therein. I want this to be a place we can help each other gain knowledge and feel safe to share. You may be a messy, you may keep a spotless house or like me, be a hoarder who is ready to quit. So I am just going to make this an ongoing list of things I found to be helpful. I hope you will share some too!

Photo journaling. I take quick snaps of storage areas so I can see what is in there without digging or having to drive to the storage unit. I snap piles of clutter before I start to clean so I remember just how much I’ve done. If I’m having trouble throwing out something I really love but it isn’t functional anymore, I snap it, then release it. Projects, so I remember how I made them and don’t forget they are still pending, or to put in my photo portfolio.

Keeping a journal. You can actually rewire your brain doing this. Write what you want to be like, accomplish, do. Keep adding details as time goes on. Picture it frequently. Something in just putting ink to paper helps rewire your brain. I found keeping a bullet journal the most helpful but you can do it any way it works for you.

Be gentle with yourself. You didn’t make this mess in a day, it takes time to change. And if you are a hoarder, you are probably going to need some help. That’s ok too. Making mistakes is how we learn. Take a break if you need it, but know you aren’t quitting. Know you can do it.

Cognitive Behavior Therapy. The absolute best therapy I have ever tried, and believe me, I’ve tried a lot! It seems simple, but it works and keeps on working. Google it, or start out with this link.

Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Something else to Google. I bought the book as a Kindle edition so I didn’t have one more thing to store. If you do buy it, please be aware that a lot of people think it’s about being a minimalist, it’s not. It’s different methods of thinking about tidying and only keeping things you really love or that works for you. Only you can decide what level of tidy is comfortable for yourself. My closet and drawers have never worked so well!

Keep on trying. Don’t feel bad if one method doesn’t work for you, no matter how many people think it’s wonderful. Each brain processes information differently. Give it a fair try then move on.

Set reasonable limits. Pick one small area that you know you can clear and work on that. Time yourself. You’ll feel better about yourself and will probably be surprised at how little time you actually spent.

Celebrate your victories, no matter how small. I’m a huge fan of lists. I like making lists. I can make lists so detailed, so down to the minute I have no time to do the action I made the list for. What I had to learn to do was at the end of the day, make a list of what I accomplished. How did it make me feel? What did I learn about it/myself. I’m talking nitty gritty here. Somedays it was merely getting out of bed, feeding the cats or eating decently. Seems silly I know but it worked.

 

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Less is More

If you are in full hoarder mode, those words mean nothing to you. By definition that’s a pretty silly expression. I now have a new insight on that saying so stick with me.

I was pretty excited for my next installment with Five Star Organizing. Had a busy in-between time so I hadn’t done much extra, just put away the loosely organized bedroom stuff that was residing on my bathroom counters. Amazing how much faster that goes when you can actually get to the storage places!

I was ready for Julie and David when they came. This time we were tackling my studio, which is the messiest room in the house and also the one with the most triggers. We dove right in. I couldn’t rest on my laurels this time, I was needed to make judgement calls on what things were, what they were used for and if I wanted to keep them.  I hadn’t done much sorting in that room for about a year, after the cats overturned a shelving unit the floor was packed with stuff. I’d try every so often but it just overwhelmed and frustrated me. I couldn’t put anything away in spite of having plenty of shelf space. I’d manage to reach a bin, but putting it back was beyond my capabilities. Because it was so disorganized I didn’t know what I had, or if I knew I had it, where it was.

I knew however, with Julie and David’s help I was going to get through this. At this stage I knew I wasn’t going to break down or give up. Plus they are super supportive about the work I’ve been doing on my own. That helps immensely!

We put up the sorting table on my now clear bedroom floor, and they began hauling things in. David wanted to tackle the closet first. I had put extra shelves up in it but had never gotten around to putting much on them. It had several big totes of fabric, family records and miscellaneous craft stuff.  Whew!

studio closet 4-17

There is another shelf above that I couldn’t get a snap of. All my oversized canvases and art is safely in here now.

Soon piles of stuff mounted up on my table. Julie worked with me and ferried things back and forth. To my amazement at no time did I feel I had to defend my decision to keep something. The only thing that bothered me was being surrounded by so MANY things. A few times I had to cool down, as the weather had turned warm. Once when I knew my blood pressure was rising, Majyk, who had been staying out of the way while we worked, turned up to comfort me. We opened a few more windows and pressed on.

A few things were tough for me. Old photographs I didn’t want to keep but found too difficult to throw away. Crafts and unfinished projects that I would never finish. Two large totes of fabric. I was determined to get it down to one tote of fabric to keep and one tote of fabric to sell. I even managed to throw some of it out.

At one time I had enough fabric for a small store. I sewed professionally and had a small dressmaking shop. I inherited my mother’s huge fabric stash. I love fabric! It was charged with memories.  But I no longer sew that much and it’s time to move that vintage fabric out of my life and find it homes with someone who will love it and use it. I got it down to one tote of keeper fabric and one to be sold. With a few exceptions, I don’t plan to buy much fabric in the future. I’m saving only yardage I know I will use. And if I don’t use it within a year, that will go too.

I must have said “Oh wow! I needed that!” dozens of times as I unearthed treasures. Wide velcro that I needed to make Majyk a new service cat harness for instance. I filled boxes and boxes of donations. After a little time it got easier and easier to let go. I had a few twinges, but I knew it was time to move on and I now have the freedom to do that.

When the session was done, I walked into my new and improved studio. The floor was clear. I could reach every shelf. The closet shelves now held all sorts of goodies that were scattered before. I was shocked to see one shelving unit completely empty! I have no idea how they managed that!

Boxes were labeled. All the excess stuff that had somehow ended up in my studio was gone.  Best yet, the floor was cleared! I’d never had that much floor space before! Only my work table hadn’t been cleared, but that is a small matter. It was miraculous how much they had done in only four hours!

studio floor 4-17

Never seen this much floor in here EVER!

Now back to that saying, Less is More. I now have less STUFF than I have ever had in my life. For the first time I can reach everything in my apartment. I have a good idea of what I have, so I don’t need to keep buying duplicates. Because I have less junk, I can have more life. More time to be creative. Less guilt. I can use all the wonderful things I have collected. Finish projects that I begun years ago. There is MORE of the me that I am today. My past no longer has the controlling edge.

I feel positively euphoric today. Without a house full of junk I’m so light I could float away on one of those lovely spring breezes we had today.  I sleep better. Enjoy my cats even more. I eat better, cook more.

I still have a large storage unit to go through. I’m not intimidated by it any more. I have more faith in my ability to make good decisions to donate and discard. I can let go.

Today I know I am done being a hoarder.

studio before

This is a before picture. There aren’t any more because I couldn’t get much further in. Actually it had gotten worse than this!

 

studio downside 4-17

Same area minus the chaos.

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Same area above the rolling taboret. Look! Empty shelves! This is the back wall of the studio

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Left side of studio. I did have this organized but couldn’t get to it. Now it’s a clear path. Those boxes on the drawers to the right are all empty!!!

studio front right before

Right front. I had these nice bins set up but I couldn’t get to them.

Studio front right

Lovely bins waiting for goodies and labels.

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Front of studio. Haven’t done the desk yet

 

Of Trash and Treasure

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“One man’s trash is another man’s treasure”

Last night, my first night since I’ve stopped being a hoarder, I was going through my pictures looking for “before” photos. As I went, I deleted any that no longer pertained. I’ve been photo journaling my progress for years now. I used it to keep track of what’s in storage, projects, reminders.  Once I decided to quit being a hoarder I used it to keep track of my progress.

For a few years, back when I had a helper I pulled interesting bits of furniture from the dumpster area. I bought furniture at yard sales to repaint and donate to Friends Of Felines, our local no-kill shelter which has a very good second-hand store. I felt I was making a difference. A little spray paint, some ingenuity and it’s good to go, right?

Like most hoarders I pride myself in seeing treasures in other people’s trash. Since I had a clear destination planned for those treasures, I wasn’t buying into my hoarding right? I did paint and fix. Then I happily took some of my loot to the cat store.

They don’t accept furniture. They don’t have room for it. Back home it came, to sit in one of my many piles.

In looking through the photos I realized just how much stuff I had accumulated back then. I also realized that 98% of those scavenged project had made it back in the dumpster when I got serious about ending my hoarding. A new rule about not leaving furniture outside the dumpsters (I didn’t actually dumpster dive) stopped me from being tempted by seeing the potential. I had even forgotten I had kept that stuff in the first place, so I certainly didn’t miss it.

I no longer feel the urge to “rescue” abused furniture. I go to yard sales armed with a list of specific things I need, along with measurements and a tape. When I’m tempted by some odd or end, I think about where it is actually going to fit in my life NOW. Not in some vague hopeful future. After all, I like going to yard sales, if I find I need that something in that future, I’ll buy it then. Yard sales are now a completely different kind of treasure hunt. More of a challenge. It’s still fun to see other people’s stuff. I just don’t have to bring it home to enjoy it.

Sometimes trash is just, well… trash.

Hoarding and Disabilities

If you watch hoarding shows, take a look at how many of those people have some disability besides hoarding. More and more each day, as I “unhoard” I realize how my hoarding made my disabilities so much worse. Each day I become a little closer to being able to deal with life in general. Each day I feel a little bit less disabled.

The shows usually mention some trauma that started the hoarding, but it goes beyond that. In my case I’ve been a hoarder practically from birth. I knew nothing else. I was never a healthy child, never fit in, usually picked last for anything physical. No matter that there was a reason, the main message was “Not good enough”.

Sometimes the trigger is the death of someone or the end of a relationship. But when as the result of physical trauma we physically can’t take care of ourselves it adds to the burden of guilt. I kept seeing other disabled people who seemed to have a much better take on their life. The blind friend who dumped sharp knives into the dishpan with the rest of the dishes and never cut herself. The deaf boyfriend who had been around the world, to places I could only imagine. A wheelchair bound friend whose house was always neat. All seemed to cope better than I did.

What we don’t see is the times they fell down, the helping friends and family, the caregiver in the background. Not all of us have a support system of any kind. When I asked people how they managed to cope so well, most of them were shocked. They didn’t see themselves as particularly successful or accomplished. Now add in a disability that keeps you self-isolated, a terrible fear that you must keep hidden at all costs. Any disability isolates you to some extent as it is. We are just beginning to understand. One reason I am so open about my hoarding is that I hope that in a small way we can come to understand and help each other.

I try to do my best not to be ashamed of my cluttered apartment as I know I am on the road to recovery. I focus on my achievements more than my disasters. I know my brain will happily conjure up every stupid thing, every mistake, every misunderstanding the moment I relax my guard. There is no danger of my forgetting. That relentless “reminding” my self conscious does has a life time of practice. I was taught if you blew your own horn, even a little, you were selfish, uncaring and egotistical. Every time I thought I might actually be good at something I felt guilty. When if finally started to emerge that there were physical reasons for my failures, I even felt guilty about that.

Other people’s perceptions didn’t help. “Get over it.” “You’re just buying into being sick.” “You’re just lazy.” All of these comments probably sound familiar to you. People who would never tell a person with a broken leg to just knock the cast off and run a mile feel they somehow have the right to judge someone with a less obvious condition. Well, they don’t. Some are just being jerks. Some are well meaning. You can’t stop them from commenting, but you can just “not buy into” THEIR judgments. Each and every person has something they aren’t good at. Each and every person has something they wish to keep hidden.

The point is, you are not alone. This is a recognized condition that is only now being discovered and studied. Those of us who have it need to give each other support and understanding and hopefully help others to find a way to accept themselves. Please feel free to comment. I’m not a therapist, just a hoarder in recovery. But maybe together we can find a way to deal with our disabilities and give encouragement to each other.

It’s so taxing….

Today I got my taxes done. I go to the same H&R Block office every year, when I dropped off my records my lady asked me if I was going to bring my service cat next time. I’m training Majyk to be my new go everywhere cat, so today I dug out his harness and leash an off we went. He was a gentleman during my tax session, so I decided a shopping trip would be a good idea. I have specific pet friendly business’ that I go to train my animals. We went to the pet store to buy some new treats. Majyk looooves treats. I needed lunch, so I went to a coffee kiosk for a blended drink for me and a puff of whipped cream for Mr. Majyk. (No, milk/cream isn’t particularly good for cats, but whipped cream is mostly air.) Then we went through the drive through for a sandwich, The nice man at the window was amazed to see Majyk sitting so calmly in the passenger’s seat. Actually, so was I, as this is only his fourth or fifth trip out. This time he seemed to know exactly what was expected.

A quick nosh at home and I was ready to head out again. As soon as I picked up the leash he was raring to go! Majyk, who frankly is a bit of a brat at home, seemed to know he was officially at work. We met lots of people and he got lots of attention which is the payoff for him. Since I am a sociophobe, the attention is on him and I have no trouble talking to people who stop to pet him. We compare cat stories and most people don’t realize cats can be trained. At the bank he schmoozed with the teller. At the Dollar Tree he settled down on the basket on my purse, looking for all the world like he was guarding it. He gets a little bored if I stay in the same place for too long, he prefers a more rapid ride. If he were human he would drive a bright red racy convertible. He is a Cool Cat.

I’m pretty stiff and sore today, so I’m pretty much keeping the status quo without worrying too much about making headway.  Lugging around a 13lb furry weight was enough for me. I’m back to being excited about cleaning and I’m looking forward to getting my bedroom in shape tomorrow. And a nice walk with Majyk if the weather permits.

The Second Coming

No, the rapture is not upon us, but I do feel blessed. This is about the second session of mine with Five Star Organizing.

As I mentioned in a previous blog, I was pretty hyped after their first visit. I steam mopped all but one of my floors and gloried in the space, floor-wise and counter-wise. I baked. I organized. I wanted to be ready for their next visit. I had big plans. Then my body decided it wasn’t happy with all that mopping and rebelled, leaving me mostly on my back. I lost momentum, which worried me because this has happened so often in the past. But I took my mental temperature and realized I wasn’t feeling as overwhelmed as I usually do when this happens. For one thing, it took minutes to clean the kitchen. So I didn’t get the livingroom picked up, but it’s not hoarder bad, just has my laundry waiting to be done. My bathroom, which was the one area I had managed to keep clean before I started this was just fine. And best of all, I knew it was just a matter of days before Julie and David came back. Hope on the horizon!

We greeted each other at the door with hugs. It’s been said you get close to people fast when you share a traumatic event and letting strangers into my hoarder house certainly qualified. Now they feel more like friends. I showed off my kitchen homework and got lots of pats on the back for my progress. After a short pow wow we decided to hit the bedroom.

When you are bedridden a lot, your bedroom becomes a mess. Everything that is usually done in the other parts of the house now takes place in the bedroom. Add to that five cats, who are keeping a close watch on me (they are therapy cats). Majyk, my big black buddy is a thief, so food wrappers get stolen and hidden. Things get set beside the bed in neat piles. The piles grow larger and less neat. Within a few days, the bed is in a sea of clutter and I’m so overwhelmed I just want to hide under the covers.  It doesn’t matter how often I clean it up, it’s a mess within days. Add to that a huge, unfinished cat tree project, laundry both clean and dirty, and miscellaneous art supplies that migrate there when I am bedridden, but never migrate back to the studio. Again, the problem is those things don’t have permanent homes. I Marie Kondo’d the heck out of my clothes, so they aren’t bad (because I don’t have many) but I can’t get to the closet to put them away. The foot of the bed has boxes stacked with the cat tree project and odds and ends of bedroom stuff.

Another problem is that in the past, I sorted things out into rooms. If it was going to be used in that room, that’s where you should put it right? Except there isn’t any specific place to put it in that cluttered room, so it gets added to boxes and the pile on the floor. My hoarder brain knows why it gets so messy, but tells me it’s a hopeless mess and it will always be that way because it always HAS been that way, since childhood.

My dream team took the mess by storm. The boxes were gone though, containers were filled and loosely categorized. Even when my engagement picture of my ex and I turned up, it didn’t faze me. I was perfectly happy to tear it up and consign it to the trash, because the woman in that picture no longer exists. The woman I am now is ready to let go of the past and dance headlong into the future. That’s the thing about hoarding. Your brain is telling you to keep the status quo, no matter how bad it is. It keeps you chained to your past, stagnant. It’s scary to let go and move forward. Each item is an excuse to stay put in your unhappiness. Memories, avoidance of traumatic triggers, it’s terrifying to be a hoarder because you are stuck in your own messy mind. Any minute it can tumble down and bury you, much like the stacks of clutter that fill your living space. Notice I didn’t say home. Hoarding makes every day a battle, to get ready for work, cook a simple meal, thinking up excuses to not invite people over. Each year it gets worse. Harder to break free. You need help, but letting someone in is the last thing you want to do. You are filled with the crippling guilt because if you are such a bad housekeeper there must be a fatal flaw in you. Your mind happily provides proof of your guilt by calling up every bad thing that has happened to you and makes you feel guilty that you allowed it to happen in the first place, no matter how unavoidable it was at the time. Hoarding builds walls, it feels like you are staying safe behind them, but really they are prison walls.

By the time my bedroom was sorted out, I figured it was probably close to the end of the session. But no! All that took place in about an hour and a half! On to my studio!

My studio is the most cluttered room in my apartment. It is full of shelves. Anything that could be labeled art or craft had been shoved in there. I had bought shelving units some time back, but cats had knocked things down, other’s  tumbled on their own. Only one shelving unit was actually organized and labeled. The narrow path led to my hopelessly heaped work space, but no further. I’m a mixed media artist and craft person, I have to try my hand at everything. I find possibilities other people’s junk. Even if I am no longer doing that craft I keep the supplies, because I might want to do it again someday. Those are the hardest things for me to let go of. It also holds my office supplies and the printer. Those too are difficult for me to let go, until recently I really wasn’t ready to admit I couldn’t work any more. Just thinking about weeding out my studio makes me feel breathless.

We started by lugging out two large boxes of things that didn’t belong in the studio, but the boxes were too heavy for me to move. I also have a lot of decor things, but no place to display them in a cluttered mess. The boxes were full of odds and ends that really had no specific space to store them in, so they had stayed, taking up precious floor space in my crowded studio. To my surprise, those went fairly fast. I threw a lot out. I found things that I knew I had but couldn’t find before. Things that needed to be sold, donated or just trashed. Since I hadn’t been to the bottom of those boxes in two years, I knew I didn’t need most of it, making it much easier to toss things. I want to donate everything. After all, it once had value to me, someone else might enjoy it. But the donation boxes get other things stuffed in there, I forget what was in the boxes, I buy new, and some of it just isn’t worth saving. Sure, someone somewhere might like it, but the chances are they are never going to see it. Time to toss.

For example, I was poor growing up. Pencils and paper had to be bought. I never really got past my past, so to speak. I probably have over a hundred plain old pencils. Some of them date back to the fifties. I rarely use a regular pencil, I prefer mechanical pencils or art pencils.  Actually, I thought of a use for them as I was typing this. That’s how my brain works. But the reality is I have a lot of other projects that need finishing first, so I will never actually use them. I assume that “normal” people wouldn’t have any problem with throwing them out, they would never accumulate that many in the first place. But being a hoarder, that was a pretty important change to make. The clearer my house gets, the clearer I think. Maybe because I simply don’t have as much stuff to stress over!

In the meantime, I can see my bedroom floor. My own steam mop should arrive tomorrow. My homework this time is to get all that sorted bedroom stuff put away in proper places. Also to toss out anything I won’t use, now I can see what I have.

At random times I have taken pictures of my hoards. That helped me gain perspective, it’s much easier for me to see the clutter I normally can ignore. It also is proof I’m making progress, which I need. Flipping through my files reminded me of how much junk I’ve rid myself of in the last year. I’ve learned that even if something is still useful, I don’t have to be the one who uses it. Sometimes junk is just, well, junk.