Sunday, January 26, 2014

Of Clutter and Stuff (My Hoarding Warning Signs)

        It’s what country folks call a “lived in” home, which is basically just a nice way of saying “It could use a little housekeeping.” It’s not that I don’t like housekeeping. To the contrary, I actually love cleaning my house. There’s nothing more relaxing than a day with no books to pack, no meetings to attend. Just me and a blank calendar page where I can stay in AND clean my home. But when in the course of a working day (which is every day on a farm, btw) given the choice of tidying my space or checking on critters I’m bad to overlook the piles mounting up and convince myself “It’ll keep.” (Problem is, it does keep. And it keeps on keeping until I have a serious clean up day and start to purge.)
        You know it’s bad when you watch that hoarder show to feel good about yourself. But it’s extra bad when you google hoarding to check for early warning signs.
        My best friend (who is dangerously creative and equally messy) blames it on creativity. What others see as a toss-able widgit, sparks all new ideas in us. Granted we may never get around to implementing said idea, but you never know. We might. Probably best we keep it just in case.
        Then there’s the whole “out of sight, out of mind” thing. If I’ve got several projects working, I need ‘em visible. When I start filing things away, it pretty much means I’m done.
        But when I really want to get serious about cleaning I have a trick that works most every time and that trick is “have company over." For reasons probably more co-dependent than hospitable, I’ll clean my house for a guest where I won’t for myself. (What’s up with that? Am I not worth it?)
        When I checked that hoarding warning list, I must confess, I was in there. Not all of them, but enough to make me pause…
-Difficulty getting rid of things …Check.
-Clutter in office, home or car…Check. Check. Check.
-Feeling overwhelmed by the amount of clutter backing up. Big ol check.
Fortunately I don’t take a lot of free items, like flyers or sugar packets and I was safe on stockpiling as I’m working on tossing the junk I already have, but it was enough to start me thinking about the bigger picture, as in “What’s with us and our stuff?
 Sure, we’re inundated by ads, and those late night infomercials can be seductive.  But 24/7 shopper channels? Ebay auctions? At what point do we bring in a therapist? Who would have imagined there would even BE a condition called hoarding (not to mention how serious it’s becoming or how fast it is growing), I mean, how many more storage units can we honestly rent?
             I am not proud of the clutter on my desk or in my basement, but as a control measure I’m forbidding myself to rent a pod because once it’s out of site, it truly is only benefitting the one I’d be paying each month, cause face it, I’m not gonna go visit my junk. So if this is the case, why not toss it now?
             I don’t have a clear cut answer for that, but I’m not resting til I find one. It’s a burr in my saddle…a pea under my mattress. My hunch is there is something much deeper going on in our cultural psyche…that what’s driving our compulsion toward filling our lives and our spaces with more stuff is a misguided longing for something to fill us…inside. Perhaps it’s a spiritual need we’ve chosen not to face. 
             One thing’s for sure: physical stuff is a poor substitute for whatever it is we ARE looking to fill our lives with and I suspect that until we clear the clutter out, there won’t be room for the good and the meaningful to enter in.
             Until I figure it out, I hold as my barometer, the last warning sign of potential hoarding which is: Refuses to invite others over for shame or embarrassment.
             If my friends ever take second place to my stuff, just go ahead and commit me. A true friend will overlook your dust bunnies (and if she's creative like you, she might even help you name 'em). And fortunately, where my friends are concerned, they are either graciously forgiving or equally messy themselves.


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