This and that, everything including the kitchen sink.

I stayed up way too late last night. When I finally thought I could sleep, I went to do a final check on Calliope and say goodnight.

There were puddles of sick all over and she hadn’t finished her food. She greeted me, but obviously was still suffering. I soothed her and let her know she was ok and not in trouble. When she seemed better, I started to leave the room to get her a clean blanket. This little cat, who cheerfully rode in the car and let the vet manhandle her let out a quiet wail of misery. It was absolutely heartbreaking..

How awful it must be to still be a kitten and have a tummy full of babies yourself. In cat years, she’s just a teenager. I can’t tell her she will be alright, that she will have a home with me as long as she needs it. I can’t explain all the changes her body is going through or that I’m trying to introduce her to my cats so she can have the run of the house most days, that she isn’t being punished by keeping her in one room.


I’m not sure what this thing is, but I’m trying to please you!

So there I was, flat on the floor, instead of being in my comfy bed, talking to an anxious little cat. She doesn’t know the words of course, but she understands the tone and the love I have for her.  After only a few days, we are bonded, she looks to me for help. Finally she felt better and even ate a few bites of food. I already know she is going to be one of those cats who will want me to hold her paw when it’s time to give birth.

I put Major in with her for today. She is very relaxed with him in the room, even though they don’t make contact. Major is second in command of the cat kingdom here, so not only will he give her love, he can protect her a bit from Majyk’s more boisterous advances. She even rolled over so I could tickle her round little tummy. She played for the first time today. Progress!

majorsmUpdate: YES! When I checked on the kitties a few minutes ago, Calliope was lounging on my desk instead of hiding in the window sill, while Major was curled up on the chair. Callie happily rolled over for tummy tickles. Major hopped down to give me my chair. (Yes, he’s a gentleman) I put a feather on a wire for Calliope to play with, Major, who is making up for  his traumatic kittenhood, forgot himself enough to jump up on the table right next to Callie. She just rolled over so her tummy wasn’t showing, but didn’t move away. She seems more relaxed with him in there. Girls can’t resist that sweet face and those baby blue eyes. Willetta inherited her charm from him. He’s a sweet talker too, makes the same prrrt, rrrrr sounds like a mommy cat talking to her kittens. He rarely actually meows. It’s so darn cute!


Calliope text

Calliope’s On-Line Poster

I first saw Calliope as she was being passed hand to hand by the neighbor’s children. She was so sweet and patient with all that handling, I had to go meet her myself. She looked to be “teenaged”, a bit gangly and still very kittenish. We played hide and go seek/tag among the trees, and I fell in love.

She was such a gentle spirit, I wanted to make sure she had a home She was so thin and had bare patches down to the skin. Sadly, while everyone liked her, no one claimed her. Cats can get pregnant at four months and she was at least six months, probably older. I fed her whenever I saw her and she was always happy to meet me with purrs and rrrrows. I worried about her, because the kids in my apartment complex are unsupervised and some are either too young or too disturbed to be allowed access to an animal. I began asking everyone I saw her with if they knew who owned her.

No one did. Then, she disappeared. I hoped she had been adopted, but judging by the local tom’s behavior, I thought it was more likely she had been injured and maybe even died. Still, I kept an eye out for her and one day there she was, older, and obviously pregnant . I managed to track her down to the lady who was feeding her. She does dog rescue, I do cat rescue. The little cat was much more wary about being handled (smart of her!) but looked healthy if still thin.

I went into rescue mode. First, I put my cat cage outside, and got it ready for her to stay in until I could get a health check, with five of my own kitties, that’s always my first move. I popped in a nice warm cardboard box shelter with a blanket, litterbox, big bowl of fresh water and all the dry food she could eat. She seemed to immediately know she was being rescued, she checked out her new home and settled down happily, purring like mad and uttering little chirps of happiness. Because she is a “talker”, I named her Calliope. She knew that was her name within 24 hours.

Luckily the weather was good, because it was a long Memorial Day weekend. I foster through Salem Friends of Felines, a fantastic no kill shelter. I was hoping they would let me foster her until she was adoptable. They are extremely good at screening adoptive new cat parents and would place her and her kittens in good homes. I was already in love with Calliope, it’s always hard to give up foster cats, some are more difficult than others and I already had a bond with this small multicolored cat.

The next morning I went out first thing to check on her. To my surprise there was the huge black tom laying companionably next to the cage. I’ve never seen him up close, he usually is a black blur as soon as he sees me. He’s HUGE, with tattered ears and missing patches of fur over his many scars. Although he jumped and ran when he saw me, this time he didn’t go far. Calliope greeted me as an old friend. As I filled her food dish, the tom looked interested. I dubbed him Tough Guy (TG for short) and tossed him some kibble. She must have communicated with him because he came up and loved on me! Tough Guy has a soft spot! He looks so vicious, but when he is not competing for a female, he is up for  a cuddle. Calliope had already brought me a new friend. She preened like a teenage girl getting ready for the prom! Her fur may be a bit ragged still, but it was spotlessly clean and soft as a cloud.

Finally I got her into Friends of Felines and luckily she was healthy. She’s between 7 to 10 months old, about halfway through her pregnancy at a guess. I installed her in my studio so I could introduce her to my five brats slowly. I’m being extra careful with her as she is so pregnant. Majyk in particular plays too rough.

calliope2Since Willetta isn’t aggressive, she was the first cat I introduced. The girls growled and hissed at each other as Willetta cruised the room, looking for stray kibble. Things were going well so I left them alone. They didn’t become instant friends but there wasn’t any fighting either. Calliope has gotten much more defensive since she is carrying kittens, before she would play with any friendly cat. I put Willetta back in with her today and again they hissed if they got too close, but that was all.

I’ll try her next with Major Tom. For having been a tomcat most of his life, he is super sweet and loves kittens. Calliope is still a kitten herself, if she will accept him he will love her and help raise the kittens. Since she wasn’t worried about Tough Guy, who is probably the father of some her kittens, I’m hoping her hormones won’t tell her Major is dangerous. She could use a little extra loving.

Today, children, we are going to talk about attitude and motivation.

Once upon a time, on a blog far, far away, I was attacked by someone who assumed, based on a few lines on a comment, that I knew nothing about hoarding. At first I was pretty ticked off, but then I had a realization….

I was just slammed for NOT BEING A HOARDER!!!! Now, I also realize this person knows nothing about me and has never seen my home, but I’ve learned to milk every positive thing I can about a situation. My brain happily tries to keep the status quo by reminding of everything bad that I did or that ever happened to me, so I need to consciously acknowledge the good things that do come my way.

Currently I’ve managed to distract my OCD into cleaning. I’m obsessed by ending not only the clutter, but the thoughts that cause the clutter. I had already mentioned that I was a hoarder and was trying to NOT bring it up in every single post about it, since the article was about Minimalism. I guess I succeeded!

I’m hoping that someday I won’t have to constantly be on guard against hoarding behaviour, both mental and physical. I’m working towards finding out what “normal” is for me. I have no desire to be a minimalist, but I do feel it’s valuable to me to see how the other half lives and thinks. I DON’T think it’s helpful to attack anyone else for their living choices. I enjoy other people’s spaces as pertinent to that person’s lifestyle. Noticing I was more comfortable at my friend’s neat home than I was in my own house helped inspire me to do something about my own. I would actually hang out there when I needed motivation.

Hoarding is not all about “stuff”, it’s all about attitude. I had never lived any other lifestyle except hoarding, so I had no idea about how to end it. You can’t end your hoarding habit unless you realize there is a problem and change your attitude towards it. That takes time, and work. Then you can find motivation almost anywhere.

It was a great article by the way. You can read it at Apartment Therapy

The Quote That Finally Changed My Mind on Minimalism

I’ll put the link here as soon as I get permission.

I’m adding this one from the article to my own mantra:

“Desiring less is even more valuable than owning less.” Joshua Becker

Evidently the man wrote a book about Minimalism. I’m not about to read it, so I’m happy that the author of the post brought that quote to my attention.

See? Inspiration from anywhere! I feel that it expresses exactly what ails me as a hoarder. What needed to be changed was my attitude was that every thing had value. I have trouble distinguishing  what valuable is. I save things as memories or emotions. One of the problems with that is, things triggered memories I could live without. For example, I saved a formal dress that my mom had spent extra for. I loved that dress, so I kept it for my own daughter someday. However, by the time my daughter was 12, it was obvious she was never going to fit into that dress. Even though I realized this, I didn’t give it away. After all, mom had spent quite a bit on it. That had made me feel loved and treasured. But that also reminded me that I rarely felt that from mom, and that was not a good memory. Now I only have a photo of me all dressed up in my ruffled Gone With The Wind dress. I can actually see how I looked in all those flounces without having a big box full of pink tulle and netting. Also, my daughter values the photo, while she would have NEVER worn the dress.

On other other hand, I have a faded silk dress with beading from the flapper era that my grandmother wore. I love the 1920s styles. My daughter likes it too, so it’s a keeper. To us, that dress has more value than all my ruffles. It’s decisions like that which are really really hard to make when you are a hoarder. Our lifestyles are very different from the past, we no longer tend to stay in the same house our whole lives, or even in the same area. My mom had room to store stuff, my daughter and I live in small apartments. Mom only held a job for 6 months of her whole life. Her home and family were her work. My job required moving around a lot.

I felt a little guilty giving my pink dress away. I’m sure however that some young girl somewhere enjoyed my pink princess dress. After all, a dress has no feelings, nor does it pay rent for it’s storage.

Update: The person who made the comment did not intend it to sound that way, and apologized. It turns out we have a lot in common, so it’s just another case of text without nuance. But she did say that from what I wrote she had no idea I was a hoarder, so I still get to feel really good about that!

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.

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.

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.