Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Ugly Truth

I have to face the ugly truth: I am a "hard-core hoarder" according to Peter Walsh's clutter quiz in the book It's All Too Much.  Mr. Walsh is the professional organizer from the TV show "Clean Sweep." I picked his book up at the library as extra help in my mission to simplify.  It sounds kind of harsh to me to be labeled "hoarder" when I really feel more like a "victim of clutter," which was another possible result for the quiz.  I'm thinking now that this is probably more like admitting the fact that I truly have a problem as the first step necessary to actually reach the "cure." It's kind of like an alcoholic admitting aloud before witnesses that he is an alcoholic and then taking the steps towards healing. 

So here it is out in the open: I AM A HARD-CORE HOARDER!!  Yuck yucky yuck yuck!!  The good news is that I have a plan and I *am* making progress.  Even my husband has noticed the improvements in the kitchen.   Sometimes progress seems so slow, and other times it seems to be amazing what I can accomplish in just 1/2 hour per day. I spent the last few sessions getting some of the kitchen drawers cleaned out and organized.  I am brainstorming about what to do with things I really do need but don't have a good, convenient and accessible place for.  One of these categories is chargers for things (phones, cameras, etc.).  

Now, I do feel that I am a victim of clutter to a certain extent due to the fact that I can be organizing and decluttering over in one area of the house, and my 9 wonderfully creative and exuberant children are in another area of the house creating art, forts, ransacking drawers, leaving towels and dirty clothes strewn on the floor, etc.  I think this is one of the reasons I scored high enough to be labeled "hoarder." However, I will readily admit that much of the junk that is pulled off shelves or out of drawers during fort-making escapades is due to my tendency to hang onto things "just in case."

Mr. Walsh's book has a chapter describing 9 excuses we hoarders tend to use to justify hanging onto our stuff.  I find myself guilty of using all of them at one time or another.  Here are the excuses:
1. "I might need it one day."
2.  "It's too important to let go."
3. "I can't get rid of it--it's worth a lot of money."
4.  "My house is too small." I can add, "I don't have enough closet space."
5. "I don't have the time."
6. "I don't know how it got like this."
7. "Its not a problem--my husband/child/etc. just thinks it is."
8. "It isn't mine (it's my dad's sister's husband's, etc)"
9. "It's too overwhelming."
10. Insert your own excuse if you have one.  How about "I have 9 children and live on a farm"?

Since, of course, to some extent the children are a part of our clutter problem,  I would like to get my kids on board as well. I plan to have them spend 1/2 hour cleaning their room with the goal of getting rid of things that are cluttering their areas and weighing them down.  My children are very good at cleaning up a room in a jiffy, but the problem is that often they are just "hiding" the clutter by jamming things into drawers or closets, and not really getting rid of things.  We are all guilty of the same problem--saving too many things!!

Even after reading through the excuses and admitting my problem, I continue to be surprised by my deep unwillingness to let things go.  I am not a materialistic woman!  What is my problem??  Part of it is that sentimentality.  I tend to hang onto things that were gifts.  I like to keep cards that people send to me.  I can't bear to part with a bit of art work a child has made.  This can add up to a lot of clutter when I consider the number of children who make precious art around here!!  I am trying to get better at throwing away art work after shooting a picture of it that I can put in an album.  I do save the special ones.  It is a delicate dance of the psyche to make myself decide which things are actually the special ones to keep!  I remind myself that I really don't want the children to have to deal with mounds of this stuff when Todd and I are not here anymore.  Just the few, simple things. I am planning to get each child a clear rubbermaid container in which to store these special things so I can give it to them later or at least let them look through it when they are older and decide for themselves what they want to keep.

As I work with the children, I will have to encourage them to do the same.  It is very interesting how their different personalities shine through when I look at their spaces in our home.  All the children except for the baby share a large room upstairs in our house.  So each child has a section in one of two closets as well as his or her own bed.  The oldest 6 children have desks to put their things in/on, and each has a few rubbermaid containers in which to store things.  There are also two drawer storage towers in the room with 6 baskets each in them for storage.  I have a couple of very neat children and a bunch of "messies!"  I have friends who have a child who lives to organize spaces.  I am not sure we have been blessed with anyone like that in our home.  If so, that is a latent gift!  :)  

I will post some pictures of the kids' spaces as well.  They will do a great job, I'm sure.  I may have to give out awards for pounds of stuff to give/throw away.  

By the way, I am open to suggestions on how to go about this journey.  So if anyone has ideas for me, let me know!

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