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.
At 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.