Warning: I was almost eaten by the Clutter Monster

And when they come to look at that spare room they had to take soundings before they could navigate it.

Mark Twain

I had that room.

I’m great at collecting, which leads to accumulating stunning amounts of stuff.  I’ve done a lot of crafting and I’m an artist who sometimes work in analog. At the same time I’ve always hated cleaning.

Unsurprisingly, when I was young, my room was a staggering mess.  Most of the time there was just a walkway to get through it, or maybe a patch of cleared floor, and stuff all over.  Clothes, toys, art materials, books, half finished projects.

My favorite place to dump my extra stuff was my closet.  It was big and I didn’t have to live in it.

Later, my favorite place to dump my extra stuff was under my raised bed-platform.   Again, lots of space, no organization, and I didn’t have to live there.

If somebody said “clean your room,” it was like a death knell!

I had way too much stuff.

I had nowhere to put it.

That worked together to make cleaning nearly impossible, so I did it as little as I could.

So I got used to the mess.  I thought I was just naturally messy, and that couldn’t change.

Then I visited a neighbor who actually had bags of garbage in her living room, and lived with a chicken and a dog.  Trash was piled everywhere, ground into every surface, and there was no cleaning that place.  Later I started working, became an in-home caregiver, and saw things that were just as bad.

I’m talking stacks of dishes in the sink and all over the counter, mounds of unidentified stuff all over the house, baskets and baskets of dirty laundry, piles of cheap plastic objects, outgrown toys, disposable items, stuff piled in the closets in stacks so high that you couldn’t hang anything in them, half finished craft projects, and I was seeing a pattern.  Health hazards, tripping hazards, allergy sufferers beware!

Helping to clean up those messes helped me realize I didn’t want to end up like them, and I was closer than I thought I was.

How does a person get to that state?  Where they are ruled by the mess and it’s almost too bad to clean?  W

I know that I got a lot of my habits from relatives who, through utter necessity, always kept a lot of things around.  When you don’t have a lot of money, you tend to save things because you might need them later.  To make things harder, you don’t always have access to the best shelving or cabinets either, and when something breaks you often keep it around in case you can fix it later.  Not only that, but you are usually having to live in a very small house or apartment, so that makes it even more difficult to be organized.

Under those circumstances, it’s all too easy for the stuff to start owning you.  chaos-227971_640

I rejoice to see the decluttering sites and blogs out there.  My own Mom is preparing for a move and is beginning to see the decluttering light.  I heartily applaud her efforts!  Especially because the beginning of this journey can be a painful one.   Yet, I know she’ll make it, because her goal is something that’s very important to her.

If you are going to do something big and life changing, you need a solid goal that you want very badly.  For example, my Mom is moving into a beautiful 100 year old house that could be a museum, and she wants to live in a way that enhances that house, and not fill it with mismatched stuff.

When I did my first big purge, though utter necessity, it felt like I was throwing away memories.  When I gave away things people had given me out of love, it felt like I was throwing away their love.  I got rid of some very precious things during that time, because I simply couldn’t take them.   Do I keep a precious piece of art, or ten kilos of beans?  Well, which will feed me when I’m hungry?  Which will fit in the one vehicle I am able to pack things into?   There were many hard decisions.

I had to realize that my friends and family members’ love was still there, and mine for them.  The memories were still there.  They were in your head and in my heart.  That connection didn’t go away.  But most of the stuff did.  Ultimately, I kept the precious things where they belonged and then gave away the husks, the mementos, so that they could bring others joy.

I was able to keep a few things in storage, which helped me make some of those hard decisions.  I asked that person to safeguard my DVDs and CDs, and some of my art.

Do you know what I did when I got my other stuff back, much later?  I rehomed some of it, too.  What I had been so eager to save, really wasn’t needed anymore.  I’m really grateful to that friend for saving those things – I was definitely happy to get my media back.  However, it was also a very important lesson about what I really needed.

At this moment, I still have too much stuff in my house.  That’s because I’m a producing artist, married to someone who builds lightsabers.  That means equipment and materials.  I have that stuff organized though and I’m constantly thinking of old things to get rid of.  I no longer have stacks of books and papers.  The art materials have homes.  My clothes are actually organized so I can find everything.  Everything in the kitchen has a place.  You can see all the floors in our little apartment, and it’s easier to keep things clean.  I feel much freer.

I’m not tied down to junk.  Since it’s easier to keep the place clean, it’s also better for my allergies.  I don’t do caregiving anymore, and all honor to those who still do.  So I don’t have to deal with other people’s houses anymore either!

I wish my Mom well on this path toward freedom.  Maybe she’ll learn the sweet taste of organization, and having more space to move around in.  She’s already made a lot of progress and I’m proud of her for it.

For anyone who wants to talk that same path, the way to less clutter is pretty simple.

The first rule is, have and get less things.  Figure out what’s essential to what you need.

Have more places to keep things, like cabinets, shelves, etc.  Racks and specialty storage are good if you have a hobby that requires a lot of stuff.

Have some kind of system, so you don’t lose stuff and you can get to it.  That could be as simple as “keep all the tools together.”

The one year rule – unless you have a really good reason, if you haven’t looked at something in a year, you probably don’t need it.

Decluttering isn’t about having less stuff as much as it is about having more room in your life to do things.  There’s less time spent cleaning, you will feel more relaxed, and you will have a lot easier time when you have to move!

I no longer need soundings to navigate my room – all my floors are visible so I don’t even need a map!

 

doorway-crop-1000

 

via Daily Prompt: Warning

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