My house could probably qualify to be on Hoarders, I told a colleague at lunch one day. She looked like she was going to choke on her food.
Have you seen that show? another replied.
Well, no. Not that one. Aren’t all the home improvement shows the same? People dump out drawers and throw some things at the bottom of the closet and then someone comes and remodels their house for them? It’s all staged.
Ummm…maybe you better see Hoarders before you tell people that your house would qualify.
Well, maybe. I just want to come home some day and have my house look beautiful and smell good and have all new stuff — and I not have to do a thing!
A few weeks later, I downloaded an episode of Hoarders on Netflix. Oh my! I understood that the advice I was given was well-intentioned. I may have messy closets and one too many cobwebs but I don’t come anywhere near to Hoarders status — even including that time when the Mr. Chip Monk decided to take up residence.
Still, I struggle with household organization and sometimes feel like I haven’t thrown anything away for several years, despite the bags of trash deposited at the curb each week and the frequent trips with donations to Good Will.
I’ve had a carton — one of those big plastic crates with a lid — filled with old “important” papers like bank statements and insurance claim forms and records of paid bills, sitting in a corner of a room for about a year. Every time that I’ve thought about going through it, I’ve been overwhelmed. Or, letting procrastination win, I found something else to do. But, with painters and new carpet installation scheduled, I found myself sitting down with the crate yesterday afternoon.
I’ve become more ruthless about assessing things to keep since the last time I looked in “the crate”. I remember reading in Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project that she liked keeping an empty shelf in a closet. I tried that with a closet several months ago. It felt good knowing that I had extra space, although I was soon tempted to fill it up. Just like space abhors a vacuum, an empty closet shelf yearns for stuff. While my cleaned closets are still organized, I gave up on the empty shelf idea quickly. There just isn’t enough reward for me to dedicate an entire shelf to emptiness in every closet.
I don’t know why I kept some of the things that were in that crate. In 2007, it may have made sense to keep every month’s bank statement, but we’ve gone paperless and I don’t need them now. I don’t keep souvenirs now either. I may have a photograph or two (yes, an exaggerated understatement!) but I see no point to keeping other objects from trips. Those items went into the trash sack too. Somewhere towards the bottom there was a 3.5″ floppy. I don’t think I have a drive to read that, but if I did, I’m sure I would not have been compelled to keep my son’s English lessons from Jr. High.
But, the most interesting thing in the crate was the last item I removed: a small pamphlet titled “De-cluttering as a Spiritual Activity”. Oh, irony abounds!
I walked through the empty rooms today and smiled. For now, I like the look of the empty china cabinet, even though I know that the glassware has been temporarily located to a table and bookcase in the living room. Only the switchplates on a shelf interrupted the space. I liked seeing the late afternoon sun shining through the window and highlighting the wood.
I didn’t think of my de-cluttering chore as being at all spiritual. I read through the booklet and understand its point — that we get can get bogged down by too many possessions as well as by too many things to think about, things that we feel obligated to do. It’s a good point. Sorting through those papers was a good exercise, one that didn’t need a lot of “Letting Go”. What that project needed was a lot of time. It took up energy for too long while I procrastinating doing anything about it.
After the rooms are painted and the new carpet is in place, the glassware will be returned into its permanent place. There won’t be any empty shelves, but there also will not be a RubberMaid crate full of papers that I don’t need.
The pamphlet is now in my desk drawer. It might be seen more often than when it was at the bottom of the crate. I’m hoping that it will resurface occasionally to remind me to clean something out and to make a little room.
I had to put it in the drawer, of course. It likely would have been lost on the surface of my desk. If that mess grew beyond the surface of the desk, I might need to reconsider whether I’m a candidate for Hoarders.