This and that, everything including the kitchen sink.

Archive for May, 2017

A Hoard Is Not A Home

When I moved into this apartment complex, I planned on staying only a short time. I figured I would only stay here long enough to get some ground under my feet, sort out my life and my stuff and move on.

It’s been eight years.

I’ve never felt I really belonged anywhere, renting means you live at the whim of the owner. But it goes farther back than that. When ever I think of my childhood home, I think of it as “Mom’s house”. No matter that my dad lived there, built most of it, paid the mortgage. Somehow we lived there on Mom’s suffrage. I assumed that as I grew older and more adult I would someday have my own home, as a natural part of growing up. Boy, was I naive!

I have major changes and challenges going on in my life right now. As I am getting to the end of my hoard, all the bits and bobs that are left are the ones I didn’t want to face, emotionally or physically. I think a lot about where I am at, and where I am going. How much I’ve changed just since the beginning of this year.

I remember when I lived mostly by candle light after dinner. The places my friends said they liked to visit because it was so serene. (Me? Serene?) The apartment where, when my daughter was at my parents for the summer, I painted her walls strawberry ice cream pink and redid her whole room because she loved Strawberry Shortcake, and I wanted her to have the special little girl’s room that I never had. The first time I realized I could buy furniture just for myself and didn’t have to “make do”.

I can’t remember the last time I felt like when I came home it was to my special place. When I got too ill to work full time, I had to live with roommates. Then I fell in love with the wrong person and it spiraled down from there. Somehow, even though I was basically homeless, I still had a ton of stuff. Mostly ruined stuff, most of my good things had been stolen, but still, a lot of stuff.

I’ve never felt safe throwing things away because I couldn’t afford to replace them. Yet will all those walls of stuff around me, frantically clinging to what I could, I certainly never felt safe that way either. I can’t remember when I last walked in the door and was glad to be home. Life had just turned into a long guilt trip about the mess I was living in.

The last time Julie and David of Five Star Organizing were here, we organized the sewing area. Not quite as scary as the studio had been for me, as we had pretty much cleared the dross out of it while we were sorting the rest of the house. Still, a lot of triggers that made it difficult to make decisions quickly. Not to mention dust and smells that triggered anxiety…and asthma!

Also, it’s the last space in my apartment to be done. The final step. Oh, there is still a lot to be done, getting things sold and donated and organizing what’s left into better working order, but I only have a storage unit left undone.

I looked at my still cluttered space and realized that with a little bit of help cleaning, I was finished. At worst, it looks cluttery, but normal. No one would suspect me of being a hoarder now.

Because my home is no longer a hoard.

I don’t think the same way any more. Things being out of place bug me. I have zero desire to bring stuff home. I see a good sale on something, I think about whether I actually need and will use it in the near future. I don’t buy more than I need. Today I saw a peacock ornament that would look awesome in my peacock art nouveau bedroom. After a bit of thought, I decided it would be a great reward for reaching my milestone. My other impulse buys are limited to food and cleaning supplies. I feel good about what my new peacock represents for me. I feel good about the decisions I’ve made. Like cleaning without all the junk in the way, my mental junk has been cleared out too.

I’m trying to connect with the part of me that used to make spaces my own. I burn incense and light candles. I plan projects using the things I have on hand, but I make sure I don’t start new ones until I’ve finished the projects already in progress. That’s ok now, because I can see a future for myself now. A future where instead of having stuff, I have things I love and things I’m creating. I am forming a new image of myself the way I want to be. I have the freedom to explore that now.

Now I’m no longer a hoarder.


Thinking Outside The Box(es)

Last time Julie and David from Five Star Organizing were here, we tackled what I call the storage/staging area. This is a space I hope to hold my things to sell, packaging materials, extra stuff like my vacuum cleaner, etc. What it actually contained was a mystery, as I cleaned and sorted, everything that had no place to live yet got shoved in there. Since it was one of those rare warm, dry spring days, we could set up tables outside and actually see what was in there.  I knew there were a lot of empty boxes, but every time I wanted one I couldn’t find the right size, the lid, or just couldn’t reach it. So we hauled everything out into the bright light of the day.

Like most hoarders, I have a ton of storage materials. I adore organizing stuff. I have spent many happy hours window shopping on the net, following the promises of the Final Perfect Storage Solution. Oh, and storage totes are on sale? Well, that must be the universe telling me I should buy them NOW! I felt so empowered as I happily hauled yet another bunch of totes home.

The magical thinking there is “If I have the right organizers, I will magically be able to clear up this clutter.”  Of course the reality is, it just adds to the clutter because after you fill a box, the ones that are left just get tossed on the piles. “I’ll just finish this tomorrow.” my little hoarder brain would whisper. But tomorrow my brain would say, “You did something about the mess yesterday, good for you! Now let’s go do something else since you have that all handled.”

Some time ago I decided cardboard boxes are good for sorting and putting donations in, but I want all my keeper stuff in plastic totes. This might also be because I lived through a pretty major flood year. Cardboard deteriorates, houses bugs and in general can degrade just plain sitting there if you live in the beautiful and moist Pacific Northwest. Cardboard boxes are also easy to come by. The ladies at the liquor store know me on sight, and I only buy a bottle of booze once every two years or so. Love those sectioned sturdy boxes. They love not having to break them down to be recycled. The only drawback to liquor boxes is when you move, your neighbors think you are a party animal. Even this is not a drawback if you actually ARE a party animal. At any rate, that allowed us to toss a lot of dusty cardboard in the recycling bin.

Once everything was outside, Julie organized it. Drawing on her vast experience as an organizer, she had three main piles. One was damaged or flimsy boxes, one was boxes that were often bought but rarely used in her experience and the third pile were keepers. I agreed with her almost totally on the first pile, donated most of the second pile. I now had a stack of nice sturdy usable boxes with lids I could actually find, organized as to size. Now when I need a container, I know just where to look. Also my needs have changed. At one time big heavy totes were useful. Now they are just something to trip over, since once they are full I can’t move them. I go with multiple smaller boxes these days. One thing to keep in mind while cleaning a hoard…does it suit my purpose NOW. Is it in good shape? That got rid of many things right there.

Then we went through the actual items on the shelves. More discarding, more donating, a lot of “Oh! I was wondering where that went to!” Julie helped me decide which items a local dealer might be interested in and which ones I will sell on line.

David, along with packing everything in and out (a Herculean task!) organized the space for me, moving shelves into a better configuration than I could achieve on my own. He also worked his way down a list I had made of things I couldn’t move/do for myself. This included putting my huge antique steamer trunk I use for sewing on a dolly so I can roll it around, shlepping a small cabinet upstairs and moving heavy things I’ve wanted moved for at least a couple of years, etc. Yes, I think ahead now! I keep a running list of things to ask the team the next time they come.

livinghallAt the end of the day everything fit back into my staging area. For the first time I have a three foot path through my living room all the way into my kitchen. Nothing to trip on, hook my skirt on as I go by, fall over on, fall over onto me. All the “stuff” is organized and hidden behind my entertainment unit, exactly as I had planned…several years ago.

Now if you aren’t a hoader, this probably doesn’t sound like much to you. That’s because the sheer volume of STUFF kept me from getting a picture of it all. At this point every area in my house has been sorted except my sewing area, and that comes next time.

The main thing for me is, I’m not alone in this. I know Julie and David will be back soon, and  I spend a lot of time thinking about what would be best to do next. We have a planning session at the beginning and end. I’ve gotten much better at this, now my mind isn’t as cluttered with guilt and anxiety by the mess. I know that ultimately I am in charge. Nothing gets thrown out unless I agree to it. If I hit a rough patch, I think about how I’m going to feel at the end of the day…relieved. Every single time. I feel lighter, happer, more able to plan what I want to do next. How I want my life to go. Sure, I still have nightmares. I have flashbacks. But less every time and I know why I get them now, and how to work through them.

This is really about mental progress. Yup, going to harp on that a lot. Because even if you aren’t a physical hoarder, everyone  hoards things between our ears. Old hurts, resentments, fears. Everyone needs to occasionally dust their brain off and decide which of those feelings are still valid, which have served their purpose and which to let go of.

Beyond that, I notice I enjoy things I have never enjoyed before. I doubt I will ever like doing housework, but I actively notice how much easier it is to do everything from cleaning to personal care. How some things I had a tough time dealing with in the past are now second nature. How maybe, just maybe, it might be time to crawl out of my safe shell and enter the world again.

Each time I do this, I look at the fact I am not the same person I was before that session. I am not the same scared woman that stayed in an abusive relationship because I was afraid to be alone. I just plain like myself a little bit better each time. Because this is tough. This is scary. This is uncharted territory for me. But I am winning the fight.

I watch shows with characters I can identify with, that I would like to be like when I grow up. Even though it scares me, I know I can find that way. It might not be a way others go, or even one they can understand. But that’s what makes life interesting.


Organizing My Brain

Now my brain isn’t fixated on hoarding, I am trying to build new and improved thought patterns. Since I have ADD, I have a very busy brain. I tend to hare off after multiple ideas at once, which causes me to rarely finish anything. Being an artist, it’s pretty easy to have multiple projects all going at once, hyper-focusing until another idea comes along, leaving the old project idea unfinished and scattered, adding to the mess.

This is where my ever-present bullet journal comes in. I love to get ideas off the internet, I can waste a day just following  intriguing links. My “favorites” links are legion. So easy to organize and don’t take up any real space. I think of my bullet journal as my real time favorites list. Instead of dropping everything to do something new and challenging, the idea gets put down in my bullet journal and logged in the index. Now I’m sure I won’t forget that brilliant idea (all my ideas are brilliant of course) I can stay on task. I also log the links from favorites that I want to make sure I don’t lose in case of disruptive computer/internet burps. My ADD loves my bullet journal. Not having 891 1/2 unfinished projects helps my hoarding too. By recording it, my brain accepts I have done something about the idea. It’s physically there, so I can read it and touch it. Then when I do have time or need for that project, I can clean up what ever project I was working on and concentrate on the new objective without a lot of clutter in either my brain or my worktable. I can also find everything for the unfinished project when I can get back to it.

lampTo illustrate: I bought a table lamp with a beautiful base that I love. It’s 45″ inches tall, 20″ of that is stained lampshade. It only fits in one space in my apartment because it is so tall. I can’t even hang art above it, wasting display wall space. So it idles in the back of my mind. Let me just say here that I think of lighting as art. I’m fascinated by it. My floor lamp looks like a chandelier. The floor lamp beside my bed looks like lilies, very organic and fits the flow of the room. I have three antique lights that need rewiring. I love lighting, so I know this is a project I’m keeping. However, it is low priority at the moment. I’m busy decluttering, it does work and gives a nice bright light, I’m planning on moving as soon as I can find a place, who knows what shape and size I will want for a shade in the new place.

However…I find pretty cool ideas for lamp shades as I’m surfing, shopping, just dreaming. Internet ideas get listed on favorites, in a “lampshades” folder. If I see something I like I take a photo of it and it goes into a lampshades file on my computer, with notes. Any other middle of the night inspirations go into my bullet journal, with sketches, pictures from magazines, what ever. Now my brain is willing to stop worrying at the problem and accept I am still on an inspiration gathering process. It will let me clean the kitchen and decide what to declutter next without shrieking in the background that I am going to forget the BEST IDEA EVER!!!! When you  have ADD, you have a very noisy brain.