clutter cure

Recently my husband and I have been watching a television show about people who hoard. It’s an enigma to me! I can’t relate. I’ve always been the one the family accuses of having thrown away whatever it is they are looking for! I’m the one who when cleaning out the refrigerator will toss the salad dressing if it’s the same month that they say to ‘use by’. I make regular trips to the local Goodwill store and donate all my cast-offs.

We watch the show where people can’t move around inside their homes, our eyes wide in amazement and disbelief. We hear people’s stories and ache with them at the losses incurred because of their hoarding. Boxes and bags and piles and clothing and trash, furniture and garage sale finds and who knows what else are all piled up so high it looks like the residue after a natural disaster. Family members refuse to visit. Friendships end because they can’t handle the truth that was kept hidden from them. Marriages are strained and even broken. It’s so very sad.

Some people never displayed the hoarding behavior until some grief happened in their life. Not knowing how to deal with it left them incapacitated or grasping for memories to hang on to. They felt safer when surrounded by stuff. Whatever the reason, they have found themselves in over their heads, literally and figuratively. They need help and have finally come face to face with it.

Every time I watch, I am moved to tears. Last night we watched one we’d taped earlier. Seeing the sorrow on the woman’s face and hearing her story of living in the same apartment she grew up in, her experience of starting projects and not finishing them but not wanting to part with them for whatever reason . . . oooooh, ouch, it started hitting a wee bit too close to home!

Maybe I can relate to her more than I’d like to admit!

I used to be the neatnik in the family. I was always cleaning up after everyone, which made my parents very happy, and my siblings irritated. Tidiness and order helped me feel good, secure, happy. I loved neatness and cleanliness; I still do. But children and busy lives, illness and grief, sorrow upon sorrow stack up much like the hoarders’ piles and who has the energy to clean? Who’s got the stamina to stick with a schedule of cleaning? Who wants more work when grief itself is more work than you or I have ever imagined? It’s absolutely draining.

I find now that I can understand how these people have gotten into such a situation. I can empathize.

I can understand grief. I can understand being overwhelmed with life. I can understand sorrow, depression, disappointment and wanting relief. I know what it is to want to ignore difficult things and anesthetize myself. My drug of choice is usually solitaire or other games to occupy my mind, but it could just as easily be shopping, collecting, hoarding….

So, I sit, watching someone else’s life and it helps me evaluate my own. It gently shows me how I have let certain things slip. It inspires me to not allow myself to fall into that black abyss of numbness and emotional hopelessness. I’ve teetered so close, and have even toppled over the side once, gripping the edge with everything I had, while others begged me desperately to hang on. So, I can relate after all.

I’m thankful that I have a relationship with God that gives me hope and encouragement even though I may be weary or discouraged. God is my security and provides help and comfort through his Word, and through people.  I’m very grateful to have the husband and children and friends that I do. They are such a support. They are love embodied. They are the ones who helped pull me out of the abyss.

I have to say, though, after watching that show last night, I got out of my chair and started tidying up!  This morning when I came downstairs, I tidied some more! I washed the trash can and wiped up the area under the sink that it occupies. I have a new resolve to put things away immediately instead of thinking to myself that I’ll do it later. I don’t want to end up picking my way through massive piles of belongings one day thinking, how on earth did I get here? How will I ever dig out?

I have more compassion, but I also have a heightened awareness and determination to never ‘go there.’ I will use this newfound resolve to my advantage! It will inspire me to stay on top of ‘things’ better!

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go clean out a closet!

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2 Responses to “clutter cure”

  1. merle Says:

    Kris I watch the show and am amazed at the power hoarding has on people. I can’t relate to that because I went the other way. Everything had to be cleaned, neat, sorted, put away etc. I was doing the dished in my head before the meal was finshed. Thankfully my daughters (3) did not follow in my foot steps. They keep clean houses but they live in them and have tought me there is more to life then a spotless house. I live with one of my girls and she has a fifteen year old with friends in and out and a 3 year old with spills and potty accidents. I love every mess and feel liberated. I love watching the healing the people go through on the show. Thank the Lord for Swiffers. Merle

  2. Marva Holt Says:

    Kris, thank you for tackling such a personal ‘secretive’ subject, especially with your very special mix of empathy, vulnerability and humor. I’m thankful that I’m not much of a ‘keeper’, but yes, suddenly a pile has sprung up behind my back! You are inspiring me to wipe down that wastebasket … and a few other cleaning projects I’ve been procrastinating about.

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