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.