You see it on the front of every magazine….you see it on every self help site and every talk show… and I’ve tried them all….and 15 years later, still clutter.
I’ve been trying for the longest time to figure out why no matter what I do, the clutter continues to build. It’s the must frustrating feeling in the world. And those around you keep telling you to get rid of things, my husband was infamous for calling it “crap”…and all I saw was my stuff and my memories. It went so far that I took all of my things out of the house and put them in storage just so I didn’t have to hear it anymore. The worse part is, it seems that no matter what else you want to do, the clutter gets in the way and keeps you disorganized. And it wasn’t long, I noticed my son was doing the same exact thing as I was. Does the word “failure” come to mind? It did mine. Until about a month ago.
My husband and I were talking one night about our childhoods (we didn’t know each other as children), and I was talking about how often we moved when I was a child. We left our hometown when I was nine and moved around from there until we ended up in Houston- at 21. The moving wasn’t bad…I actually look back and it was an adventure, met so many nice people, saw lots of great places, and although it was an inconvenience at times, it was still an adventure. But when we moved, we had to put some of our household items in storage, and the rest in my grandmother’s attic. We couldn’t take it with us until we had a place to call home- which was about a year after we left and got settled in Tennessee. We headed back to Maryland to get our things, and we had a horrible surprise…. it was all gone. Not stolen, but gone. It was either ruined in storage, or thrown out of my grandma’s attic by another family member who felt it was junk and we didn’t need it. All of my childhood toys, posters, everything…gone. All of our furniture- gone. It was devastating. While talking about it with my husband, it’s like something exploded in my head- and it all came together. I had never talked about it before, not even with my parents. After the ‘discovery’ of having NOTHING except what we had in the car with us when we left, I started holding on to everything. I somehow made a subconscious decision to hold on to everything and never let anyone tell me what to do with my things, my collectibles, my treasures, ever again. I wouldn’t even let myself throw things out. I would hold on to them even when I knew it should go to someone else or in the trash. They were my treasures.
All the years I’ve been trying to declutter my house and my life, I made sure in a deep place in my brain that I was doomed before I started. I finally figured out the answers. It didn’t change things immediately, but I did figure out the root of the problem, now I had to “kill the root”…just like you do with a nasty old weed. So I cleared out my storage unit and started putting everything in the garage so I could start going through it. One box at a time. Now while some things really were collectibles, I found five boxes of “gotta-go’s” for every one box of collectibles. That is not a good ratio! So I had my husband put the box of keepers in the attic and every day I would go through the other boxes and look at everything- knowing it had to go, but not ready to do it yet.
Then it happened. I gave myself permission to get rid of it. I finally decided that I could give myself permission to get everything to a home that would appreciate it and not just hold on to it because I felt I needed to. And that’s when the big project began. I started putting them in a box for a garage sale. Some things I decided could be re purposed and still have those couple of items in the garage, but my garage full of clutter suddenly became a garage again. Then it moved into my house- I got rid of a lot of things in the house I didn’t need anymore, including old clothes, utensils, old computers that didn’t work anymore…(why was I holding on to those??- note: I did pull out the hard drives from the computers before I got rid of them!)..everything. I took items that were sitting around collecting dust and cleaned and put them in a new home out of the way. But for each item, I verbally gave permission to myself (anyone listening would have thought I was crazy) and it made it okay. What didn’t sell in the yard sale was donated so that the money would go to a good cause. Two truckloads of treasures.
Decades have been removed from my life. Decades of something close to hoarding, decades of unappreciated things, decades of clutter. Decades. And now I can actually breathe when I walk into my house and through my house. I have a sense of accomplishment, a sense of control. I even find time I never had before for the things I’ve never had time to do before.
So next time you try one of those “declutter your life things” and can’t seem to make it work, look a little deeper to see if maybe something a little deeper is going on. You might just find the need to give yourself a little “it’s okay” to get it done. Hopefully you’re not a slow learner like me and take 15 years!