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Posts tagged ‘hoarders’

Hoarding, Attitude, Motivation

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.

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.

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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.

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.

studio back 4-17

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

studio sideB 4-17

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.

studio desk 4-17

Front of studio. Haven’t done the desk yet