Tag Archives: clutter

using it

Now that we are more or less completely moved from the U.S. to Australia and consider that anything left behind is disposable, it’s easier to take an account of what we have. Remarkably, we shifted continents using only suitcases and small boxes over the past two years. We are settled and not encumbered with stuff. The war still wages within me to not use precious valuables that have become even more special due to the vast oceans they’ve crossed. I still have to fight daily to toss out recyclable crafts brought home from S.’s kindergarten. I have to consciously attack the clutter around me to keep my desk cleared. But progress has been made.

My Turkish rug made the journey to Australia along with its missing piece still detached. But for the first time since I purchased it in 2003, the rug is now on the floorImage being used daily by both people and cats. I look at the gnawed-off edge and say,  So What! Rather than protecting the very happy memory associated with its purchase, I get to make new ones while playing with S. and her legos on the floor.

it wouldn’t be easter

We Skyped with my father/HP/Santa Claus/Pastor this morning. I suspected he had been absent from the interwebs because he was preparing for Easter at church. Oh no, not at all. Tax season is upon him. I couldn’t see clutter behind Santa-dad but he said they had tax papers spread throughout the house. This brings back unfond memories of childhood paper organising. Very frequently we had to spread piles of papers around the office or the house and my brother and I were tasked with alphabetising and chronologically ordering the papers. It was always for taxes or for the small insurance agency he used to run. From this I gained excellent secretarial skills that helped me pay my way through my undergraduate education. Thanks, Dad.

In addition to the tax-paper-mess he declared today, he’s also taken to raising ducks. Peking ducks. Why not, anyway. 


D. left yesterday for a month-long trip to the U.S. to finish up his citizenship requirements. I have this nagging spring fall cleaning goal of decluttering in his absence. But who am I kidding really? I’m a clutteraholic (see desktop update below, and that’s only the half of it). I forget what I cannot see. I stress when my desk is clean. Really, it induces slight panic and a dizzying sense of being lost.

ImageMaybe I’m exaggerating a little. But my clutter makes me feel at home. It isn’t everywhere in the house. It is contained to my desk and a corner of our kitchen table which is cluttered with S’s amazing artwork and crafts and recent sales fliers. 

The clutter I can’t see, however, is perhaps less necessary for my mental well-being. I hope to sort through some drawers and donate or repurpose some old clothes. I’m not entirely optimistic, but a good purge might do me some good while my heart wants to clasp onto everything in the absence of D.


2012 in review

Thanks, readers. I apparently don’t blog much but still get visitors. If I believed in resolutions, I might promise more. Let’s see where 2013 takes us: may your New Year be clutter free.

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 11,000 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 18 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

it’s that bad

I’ve recently started to realize that I block out things that really bother me. Specifically, I ignore things that others do that I cannot change. I likely learned that at home growing up with a compulsive father. Look away and it doesn’t exist.

So sometimes I wonder if I’ve exaggerated this whole hoarding thing and, who knows, maybe they fixed the problem from the last time I saw it. And then when I see it again it just makes me upset.

We’re organizing our trip to the States over the holidays. My HP has decided that we can only see them for one day out of the two months that we will be in the U.S. because they are so busy and they figure we are too busy, too. He emailed me last week to confirm the date of our visit and this was tucked into the sickly sweet message:

I need to get busy and clean up the house. We are still in a mess from the remodeling project and we have your bedroom stacked with clothes from one corner to the other. If you will stay overnight, we would be more than willing to pay for a nice motel room for you.

I knew nothing of a renovation which is badly needed since my step-mother’s house had not been updated since we moved into it in 1991. I read this message with some surprise and disappointment, and then I tried not to think about it. When explaining the situation to a colleague, however, I started to get angry. My father is retired and my step-mother has recently gone back to work after retirement. I know she is exhausted with this full-time position. The last time we visited in January 2011, the two downstairs bedrooms were full but the three upstairs rooms were just cluttered. They are two people living in a five bedroom home. There is nowhere for us to sleep in the house.

The visit will be short and we don’t know when we will be in the States again after this trip. And yet, I’m a bit relieved that they do not expect us to sleep in the hoard with them. I’ll try to snatch some photos while I’m there, as obscene as that sounds to me now.

widespread problem

I have a spreading problem. D. has been gone for nearly a week for work. I noticed two days ago that with no one to keep my clutter in check, it started to snake its way down the kitchen counter. It has even spread to my office, both home and at work. Fortunately D. will be back soon and I will slay back the clutter demons to prepare for his arrival.


paper-free with a price

Oh Ikea, it’s always all about you. How could we survive without accumulating your gadgets to make our clutter go away? I have to admit, though, that I have a soft spot for organized hoarders. Maybe it’s because my father is on that path with his alphabetized and chronologically ordered crap. Maybe because it’s the kind of hoarder I would aspire to be.

desktop update

Unexpectedly, I have a new desk and home office for the holidays. We found this beautiful table while furniture shopping, and fortunately for me it is too large for our dining area. It served yesterday as Christmas wrapping central and today became my desk. How long before I muck it up with clutter? Taking all bets.

permission to accumulate

Yesterday we finalized an application on a new place to live: this time it is unfurnished and unequipped. We’ve already struck a deal with the owner to purchase his refrigerator, washing machine, microwave oven and kettle. In our current rental everything has been provided except for linens. That means in the last six months I have only purchased some bedding, kiddy plates, measuring cups, spatulas, a meat thermometer and a cupcake tin. We are moving in three weeks and D. has given me the green light to shop.

After spending the last 16 months in declutter mode, this responsibility is daunting. We want to keep things minimal in case we move again in six months, but at the same time we finally get to make things the way we like them. Do we buy only cheap things, throw our mattresses on the floor, forego a kitchen table and wait to see if we will ship some furniture over from the States? Or do we have an opportunity to make things the way we like them?

As I shop online (we do not have a vehicle here), I had to study the latest Ikea catalogue for options. I’m highly impressionable, and my normal response to Ikea’s marketing is, “My life would be better if my house looked like that.” Only this time, I realized these houses look unusually cluttered, cramped, and dangerously close to something not so beautiful. If one tiny little element (say that gorgeous set of cheapy vases on the make-shift mantle) is out of place, the whole room looks off-kilter. Yet, Ikea has the magic to make me believe it’s possible to have all that stuff in one small space. Look at those rows of books up so high no one can reach them. If they’re that high, though, even I won’t read them. And if I won’t read them – I don’t need them in my home. *sigh*

Maybe this little hoarder is reforming after all, but I still feel like my heart could jump out of my chest as I think about all that empty space.


caring about another’s stuff

As I work my way through material on hoarding, family members trying to convince the hoarder to change his or her ways is a recurrent theme. I’m starting to wonder if I should feel guilty for not saying something to my dad. My relationship to my parents has long been one of, “you’re grown ups, it’s your life, you will do what you want.” As long as it doesn’t affect my living situation, I’m not very concerned about it.

What scares me more, though, is my uncertainty of their own awareness. I don’t think they know they have a hoarding problem or to what extent it affects them. Frost and Steketee in Stuff have written that the hoarder will go to great lengths to hide their overrun homes from others, which demonstrates a certain level of awareness, but when they are challenged on discarding individual items, they are not able to see that they have a problem. (Ironically, it is exactly this confrontation with individual items that made me realize how susceptible I am to hoarding.)

The two researchers rightfully point out that their work is based on individuals who have volunteered for study. On some level, these people already know they have an issue that needs to be dealt with. On the other hand, public health and social workers encounter hoarders regularly – people who have been reported to them and who are unwilling to change what they do not see. They have a certain blindness to their clutter or squalor.

My dad and step-mom make small remarks about wanting to get rid of things so they can sell their home, or that they need to clean up the house before anyone can visit, or even saying once, “I think you know we aren’t very good about getting rid of things,” when I mentioned they could donate all of my things left in the house. But I’m not sure they realize that they have two bedrooms that are unusable, a garage that hasn’t seen a car inside it since the 1990s when my brother cleaned it out, at least four non-functioning grills around the outside of the home, I do not know how many storage units full of collectibles, and so on. They still have livable space. So far.

It terrifies me to think, however, what my father will become if my step-mother dies before him. My only solution up to this point has been to move far away. But that doesn’t help these adults who are old enough to take care of themselves and not too old yet not to.