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Confession of a Near Hoarder

Friday, June 15, 2012

One of the most frustrating things about tackling big projects is knowing where to start. Everyone knows how to spot the big picture end goal. Lose 50lbs. Earn xxx in sales this quarter. Remodel the kitchen.

But where to start can seem overwhelming, and the temptation is to kick the can and 'start tomorrow'.

One of my big projects at the moment is reducing the clutter in my apartment. I've never been a terribly neat person. My room as a kid was always cluttered with clothes on the floor. My desk rarely had room for me to do my homework on.

Shows about hoarders scare me. While my home is nowhere near as bad as these horror stories, sometimes when they talk about why they do it, I hear eerily familiar echoes.

I saw a show recently where a woman hoarded food. She had 7 refrigerators filled with rotting food. This isn't something that I do, but when she showed a mountain high pile of empty food containers, I gulped. She said she saved these food containers because they could be useful for storing things, but she never used them.

This was a little too close to home. I've saved empty plastic containers and jars thinking I could use them to store leftovers, and be thrifty. But the reality is they just take up space in my cabinets.

I went and threw them all out.

Because I like to cook, my kitchen is the cleanest place in the house. I wipe down my counters after every meal. I am actually a bit OCD about the cleanliness of my kitchen. My drawers are organized in ways so I can get to things quickly. Since I've decided to work more on food blogging, this has been more important.

But other areas of my apartment are more cluttered. I know that I should tidy them up, but it seems overwhelming, and I kick the can. It's such a big task, and it's not especially clear cut. "I want a clean, neat house." What exactly does that mean?

My clothes drawers are full of clothes that I don't wear, but I cling to and don't want to throw or donate away. Many of them are still in good condition. Some I bought and have never worn. I'm loathe to give them away because I feel like I've wasted my money.

And yet they sit there, just taking up space. That's not very utilitarian value.

There are a lot of things in my house that aren't used, but I cling to and don't want to give away. My husband has been very patient all these years, gently trying to get me to let them go, and yet any time he mentions it, I panic. What if I need them later?

But I never need them later.

And then I watch the hoarding shows where the people talk about panicking when they think of throwing something away. It's a little more familiar and recognition then I'd like to admit.

So just like in various other aspects of my life when I needed to make change, I've decided to just do it. No excuses, just get it done. Even if I don't want to or don't feel like it, just do it anyway. I'm not a little kid, I'm an adult, and I need to do it. Whether I 'want' to is irrelevant. It 'has' to get done, so do it.

I've been doing a little at a time. Straightening up just a drawer or two a day. Folding, organizing, and throwing things into bags to take to the charity shop.

Here's what my bedroom looked like before. Only the cat enjoys the clutter. She mocks me by sleeping on my clutter instead of her cat bed.

After it is done, it wasn't so bad. And it didn't take that long either to sort things for laundry or charity. In moments where I thought to myself, "I should keep this, just in case...", I tossed it in the charity bag. If I thought that, then I probably didn't need it. The truth is, after the space was clean and I could vacuum, I felt better. A tidy space lifts the mood.

In the end, only the cat is unhappy with the declutter. But she still won't sleep in the cat bed. She preferred the clothes pile.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    I was having a conversation similar to your thoughts with my DD today. There are things I think I can't get rid of because of sentimental attachments. Her brilliant suggestion: You don't have to get rid of everything. Choose 1 or 2 items and get rid of the rest. I think if I do a room a month... and then 2 months in basement... rest for 4 months and start again, I bet in three years I would be soooooooo happy with my house.
    3141 days ago
  • no profile photo CD5575543
    What you described as 'hoarding' fits me pretty well. I keep thinking that 'someday' I'll sort through all the half finished or even half started projects and get rid of the things. Whether it means actually getting them to the charity or consignment shop is no matter. Just make the trip.

    You sound pretty well grounded so I think you'll make the changes. Good luck. emoticon
    3141 days ago
    Nice job on the clean-up! I have a weekly "decluttering" personal goal, which I really need to get more serious about, while I'm practically fanatical about cleaning the kitchen, the rest of the house could use some attention too....
    3141 days ago
    The hoarding shows scare me too. i watch about 5 minutes and then have to go clean stuff. anything. wither it is cleaning or just organizing.

    i have a few things i bought and have not used, but i did take some "repair projects" that were not done and created a timeline to do them. and if i don't do them in that time, throw them out. there was not use keeping ripped, damaged clothes/fabric if i did not fix them.
    it gets easy to accumulate stuff over time.
    3141 days ago
    WOOBIE: All good advice, and good to keep in mind!

    The letting go of things even though someone you loved gave it to you...wow. I dunno. That sounds like black belt decluttering. It makes sense, but I'm not sure I'm ready yet. **gulp**

    LADYROSE: Thank you for that piece of advice about if you hold on to things you don't want, then they can't be treasures for someone else. That really clicked for me. Things that are sitting around being useless junk could have a purpose in someone else's home.
    3142 days ago

    Comment edited on: 6/15/2012 10:33:49 PM
    Good for you! As a long-time Flybaby I frequently use her idea of "If I don't need it or love it why do I still have it?"

    Another good one is that if an item has a sad association to it, you don't HAVE to keep it just because it belonged to someone you love.
    3142 days ago
    Put some of your clothes that you don't wear in/on your cat's bed and the cat will probably then get accustomed to sleeping there. Maybe...
    3142 days ago
    Great challenge to tackle...ALWAYS WAY too much clutter 'round these quarters...! Good for you!

    3142 days ago
    I LURVE buying my clothes in thrift stores. One of the reasons is that they were so cheap I don't mind if I have to get rid of them because they became too big or wore out. :-)

    As for your cat, well, yeah. Clothes piles that smell like YOU are always preferable to cat beds, in my experience (4 cats so far - not all at once - I'm not a cat hoarder, LOL). My recommendation is to use her cat bed as the place you put clothes before they end up in the laundry basket. Or else make the laundry basket accessible as a cat bed. :-)

    I am not very neat either. I usually end up doing a clean sweep 2-3 times a year. And it's getting to be time for one again. I will NOT be posting photos of my house on here anytime soon. Ain't brave enough for that!
    3142 days ago
    Oh I can so relate to all this - being rasied by a clutter bug and am working on reforming myself one piece at a time.

    I had a similar moment as you did that really was the whack in the head I needed about 'hoarding'... because you don't have to have a house filled with stuff to be a hoarder. It's holding on to things that may be useful to others. One of the big lessons I learned from FlyLady is that if you keep it hidden/locked away, it can't be a blessing to others. That alone has prompted me to get rid of some of those 'just in case' items. Granted I still have a lot of those to release from my house and life, but think that I'll do some of that this weekend. Thank you!!
    3142 days ago
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