Brief background: I am very nearly a hoarder by nature. I’m not kidding about that. I develop a weird attachment to certain items in my home for no reason. Well… okay, if I think about it, there actually are a few identifiable reasons:
- guilt (“someone gave this to me, I have to keep it!”)
- guilt (“if I throw this out and then later I need one I’ll have to admit that sometimes I spend too much money on things I don’t need, so to make up for buying it I have to house it for the next five years until I maybe need it”)
- guilt (“we can’t get rid of this, it used to belong to X who is gone now and they would be SO SAD if I got rid of their old set of cloth napkins that are still in the package because they never used them”)
That’s what I came into this house (and marriage) with– twenty-five years’ worth of saved notes from school friends, trinkets from Christmas swaps, very old pillows, shoes that I loved that never actually fit, and… okay, bear with me… a bottle of old hair spritzer from seventh grade that was completely empty but I loved the smell and it was discontinued. Are you starting to build up a picture in your head now? Yeah.
On top of all of this, we moved into this house along with a whole lot of furniture from my in-laws, and when my father-in-law unexpectedly passed away a few years later all of their things became our things. This means that their three homes’ worth of everything they owned was now ours, in our half of the house we now owned along with it. We really tried to cram as much of it into our house as possible, but it was too much. We’ve spent the past few years since then slowly getting rid of things and it never seems to lighten the load.
I remember one day in particular, cleaning out my father-in-law’s apartment with my husband and mother. We gathered up 38 trash bags’ worth of clothing, kitchen items, books, unused toiletries, bedding, and other miscellany for donation. This was after weeks of cleaning, sorting, saving, donating and throwing away everything in that apartment. I looked down the stairway into a living room filled with the largest pile of trash bags I’ve ever seen and remember feeling both overwhelmed by the size of the project and the fact that a house can contain so much stuff. But it’s hard to part with the things that people you love behind, and it was especially so for M. There was a lot of his childhood left behind in those items, and memories were all he had left of his family.
So combine me and my stuff, M and his stuff, all his family’s stuff, and then put it into a moderately-sized apartment and you have a problem. There’s a silver lining, though– I now constantly want to throw everything away. I’m sick of stuff!
The feeling of “too much” has been particularly strong for me lately. Everything feels overwhelming a lot of the time. I am terribly, bitterly envious of people who start a life together and have the freedom to go out and get whatever furniture they want! Even if it’s all thrifted and doesn’t match! We have a lot of very nice, fancy furniture that isn’t “our style” but you don’t just get rid of that. You can get rid of the smaller things, but boy do I sometimes wish we had to start from scratch. A friend bought her first home a year ago and is still building up a furniture collection because she wants her home to be filled only with things she truly loves. I want that, too, but the idea of shuffling things in and out, moving some stuff to the side so we can get another thing in, then pushing it back the other way to get the first thing out… too much. It’s too much!
So I am de-cluttering. I am going to go through everything we own– everything. Every room, every drawer, cabinet, bin and box.
I started today, with The Closet at the Top of the Stairs. It’s more dramatic if you capitalize it that way, which seems appropriate for how bad of a mess it is. See also: dramatic camera angle!
A closer look:
A further look (because when you pan out, it gets worse):
Messy closet, small room off the hallway full of office furniture and stored junk (art easel, oscillating fan, laundry basket full of knickknacks, old maternity clothes), clothing in need of repair hanging on the banister, outgrown baby clothes that don’t fit in the tupperware… I just… what is all this stuff?
Oh, yeah, it’s our stuff. Stuff that we keep buying.
I found all sorts of things today. We must have had enough dentist office samples to comprise three years’ worth of visits. There were pump soaps I bought in bulk and then forgot we had (because duh, you can’t find anything in there). There were three Clorox Wipes containers, two half-full different kinds of generic Windex, almost no clean towels, and ahem, apparently I keep purchasing Always products and then forgetting I have some and buying more, and more, and more because the amount of that stuff I found was absolutely mind-blowing.
It was a daunting task. But guess what I did.
I cleaned it!
(If you look closely, you can see that I will “Always” be well stocked up. Cough.)
You can’t see it terribly well here, but I even labeled the shelves. (SRB, I GOT A LABEL MAKER!) This is a critical step in the “Husband, I love you but I just spent four hours cleaning one closet and SO HELP ME if you put a single towel out of place” negotiations.
I’m very proud of myself for doing this menial task that somehow took a very long time. I even went on to clean the bathroom and clear out both cabinets in there. Half of the medicines we owned were expired, and it hadn’t even been so long since I last went through them and checked!
Having even those two small areas of the house de-cluttered feels amazing. It’s such a load off. The next step is our bedroom (see foreground):
Cleaning the bedroom will be key for the sort of mental de-cluttering we both need. I want to crawl into bed at night in a room that is simple, manageable and clean. Right now there are dust bunnies bigger than our dog lurking under and behind everything on the floor in that room because I can’t even get to it to clean it. There might even be real bunnies in there somewhere. *eyes widen*