Monday, May 14, 2012

Tales of a Borderline Hoarder

I like stuff. I admit it. I like collecting it, looking at it, and sometimes even using it- but when the stuff gets in the way of life, you need to reevaluate your habits.

It started when I began indulging myself in all my interests, flitting from one to the other like a hummingbird amongst flowers, never really settling on just one thing. And it was never half-way either- if I was doing quilting, I had to have all the colors (just in case), all the threads, and as many patterns and doo-dads I could get my hands on. Then I wanted to do denim purses, and no pair of used jeans was able to escape my clutches! (insert evil laughter here). I also love to cook, so I gathered gadgets and gizmos that would turn me into a culinary genius- everything from cookie cutters to pasta makers.

Our two-butt kitchen was now nearly impassable from all the clutter, as well as the living room, dining room and the bedroom, because that was where I stored my craft supplies. I became so stressed over the mess I couldn't even gather the energy to do anything with it. I had shut down, mentally and emotionally. 

A few years back the show Hoarders pushed me in the right direction. I started seeing that my stuff was looking like the piles those hoarders had, only my things were nicer. Why? Because I hadn't left my treasures around long enough to fall apart- yet.

At first I denied this revelation- after all, I didn't have any bugs or dead yaks in my clutter, and my piles were organized- I knew precisely where everything was- I just couldn't get to it.  

I could sew all day every day for the next ten years and still have enough fabric left over to make a cozy for the Washington Monument. Okay, maybe two cozies.

I have enough jeans stashed away I could clothe a third-world country for the next five months years.

I would have to go to culinary school for a decade to know how to use half the appliances I bought, yet I only have the counter space for a toaster and a microwave.

And I hated the idea of getting rid of any of it! 

But with help from a friend (who is a neatnik and was totally shocked when she first walked into my house that she needed to sit down and 'contemplate my space', but I knew she was plain old flabbergasted), she encouraged me to get rid of things and reorganize my house to make the most of it.

The first decluttering wave took me two years. The second wave had taken a year. And now I do little waves on a regular basis to keep up with the clutter. This will be an ongoing job and will never be finished for someone like me, because I still like to collect things- I'm just in better control now!

Sometimes I still suffer from CHAOS (Can't Have Anyone Over Syndrome), but it's not nearly as often as it used to be. I still need to work on turning some chores into habits (like cleaning *shudder*), but things are coming along nicely- just so long as I don't have any more interests!

If you are like me in this capacity, let me share some of my mantras I used when I was going through things:

If it doesn't make you happy when you look at it, ditch it. 

Don't think about it- there is no second guessing. Keep it or get rid of it, now.

If it doesn't have a place, it doesn't stay.

Never ask yourself if you'll use it. You'll always say yes- eventually I will. Ask yourself, DO I use it- this is a yes or no question.

The more you declutter, the easier it gets.

Think about how nice it will be to have that space back!

These mantras worked for me, but you might want to add or change them. Do what works for you. But the main thing is Do It. It might take you a few months. It might even take a few years. But the results are worth it! I feel more confident about inviting people over now, and don't mind of someone drops by. I don't have to hide messes, or tell them they can't come in, and feel shame when I answer my door anymore.

It not only a blessing to me, it's a blessing to my family as well!



SallyAnn said...

Hi Beth,

I just finished reading your post about hoarding and felt as if you were looking into our house and talking about it.
That show you referred to Hoarders is a show I couldn't watch because it hit close to home. I am not the only hoarder in our family. I hoard craft items like you but my husband hoards anything and sometimes everything.
He can't part with anything that he has and he keeps things for many reasons. Maybe he will use it sometime is his top reason.
I say I want to start cleaning and clearing things up in the house, which means we have to get rid of some things, and he doesn't like it.
He knows I get frustrated with him and he will say "I know I have a problem, or I know I'm weird"
I get stuck in my tracks when it comes to tackling this mess. I did like your mantras and will use them. Especially numbers 1 - 6. :)
Thanks for sharing.

Beth Brubaker said...

Keep trying! Even if you can't get rid of his stuff, you can work on yours- that's half the battle right there!
Yes, it's hard. Yes, it will take time. YES, you WILL get frustrated! But in the end you'll have space that you can breathe in! I never even realized I was suffocating on my stuff until it was gone- and now, I don't go to yard sales, because I KNOW I'll bring something back I don't really need!
Start with one small spot and work from there. You can do it!

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