Category Archives: dehoarding

Defining the Job

I finally came up with a set of concrete goals for the house work. I’ve put it on the 7 levels site. You can find it here.

It was interesting to finally figure this out. The sliding scale of how much is enough has been an issue of mine for some time. It is possible to go way over the line from hoarding to OCD and the definition will also help (I think.) to keep me from doing that.

And, because of the need to find that “enough is enough” and not too much, I think the set definition will also help keep the PTSD anxiety at bay.

Another step,

HURRAH!!!

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Modifications

  1. One of the “truths” I’ve gotten to which I wrote about is that I not only need to do maintenance cleaning (dishes, laundry, sweeping, etc.) but deep cleaning (cleaning cabinets, appliances, windows, etc.) to get the house clean.
  2. I’ve also noticed that the only way to keep areas where items are always in use decluttered is to put more away than you use, like the chart, here.
  3. These days, whatever I’m doing, I look at the pieces with the idea that maybe I should get rid of some of it?
  4. Today I decided that if I ever expect to declutter this house, I have to make the culling and removal of the items stored in boxes as much a part of my cleaning routines as the others.

So, what did I do? I swapped out the summer and winter scarves and robes today. In the process, I pulled 2 hats out for culling, 1 purse I’d forgotten was in there for resale. Then I opened a box and found FIVE chunks of old business records from 1990-1992 to put into the paper recycling.

The swap is part of the regular seasonal shift. Also included: washing the shower curtains, refreshing the Never Wet on them (We have a lot of iron in our water. Without the Never Wet, the curtains turn ruddy brown.) Cleaning and storage of the heavy winter blankets/flannel sheets. Swapping winter clothes for lighter ones.

Just for grins the other day, at Target (?) I looked at shower curtains/liners. Curtains were about $25, liners $5. We have 2 cloth liners, one black, one white. Works fine!

Our plan today is to take both cars to the dump and get rid of the bags of leaves as well as another large chunk of stuff.

DH put the knobs on the new bathroom cabinet. More progress!

I put things away into the new cabinet. Found the missing back stock of deodorant and shampoo, got the emergency supplies (first aid and eye wash) organized and in one place again. (Did that first.) So, although the bathroom project isn’t finished, there’s a bit less chaos now than there was this morning!

 

Philosophy of Clean

It seems to me that there are “truisms” about cleaning. Some of these I’ve discussed:

  1. Clutter is usually made of “stuff.”
  2. “Stuff” is frequently made up of pieces you can pick up with your hand.
  3. Hard surfaces are easier to clean than soft ones.
  4. The only way to get an area clean and keep it that way is to keep cleaning.

My new one is related to #4. That people who manage to get and keep areas clean don’t see cluttered or untidy as acceptable.

For someone in their 60s who’s trying to learn to live differently, that last piece is not easy. Even when I clean regularly, I just don’t have that muscle. I’m so used to mess and clutter that I often just don’t see it.

This creates an all-too familiar situation for me: that I clean/cull an area and within a week or so, it’s a mess again.

I noticed this because of yard work. I’ve been working on raking out the beds, specifically, the bulb bed. For weeks I’ve had piles of leaves in the yard. I’ve been pulling them up and taking them to the dump, when I can get to the dump, at a rate of about 8 bags a trip. The piles aren’t there forever, and I finally have one more trip and that’s it to finish picking up those leaves. (It will be 4 trips when I finish.)

I’ve restricted myself. I’ve been slowly, but surely cleaning out the leaves in the other areas, and piling the leaves into neat piles. If I keep it up, it will still be another month or so before I manage to clean up most of the yard. This is an acre and I’ve never done this before; we’ve lived here 20+ years. Lots of dried leaves!

My neighbor’s yard always looks neat. Both of them work on it, instead of one person. And, whatever yard work they do is entirely cleaned up, before they quit. It occurred to me that there are some reasons for this: they have more storage than I do (a garage and a basement) also, they ALWAYS clean up and put away whatever accumulated mess and tools before they quit.

Also, in this neighborhood, we almost all have wood piles. There’s a neighbor who has a wood-fired, exterior furnace, with large wood sheds, as you might imagine. His wood piles, even when it’s a grapple load, are rarely messy. The wood is almost always cut to size and stacked in the sheds. The neighbors with a garage and basement have a small pile of wood for power outages, it’s tidy. Us? We have the end of two cords in a pile in front of the porch — which just looks messy.

The difference is that the large pile and the mess is something we live with, and the others won’t, for whatever reason.

I’ve been pecking away at that pile, a log or two here or there. I’m very aware of my weakened elbow and the potential for permanent injury if I’m not careful. Otherwise, I would have tackled it long since . . . .

But my observations are what got me to item #5.

5.  Keeping an area clean requires the attitude that a hodge podge isn’t visually acceptable.

J

More Culling

I wrote a comment about clothing on another blog. Occurred to me that the last time I purged/culled the closet, I hadn’t looked at the 2 hat boxes, hadn’t even opened them?

There were 2 purses (I own 3) in one and one hat in the other.

I decided to get rid of the hat boxes, the hat and one of the purses. That leaves me with 2 purses, one now has nowhere to live, it’s a black Coach bag. The purse I’ll get rid of is a light denim blue bag I used in the summer, if I had a reason to do something “fancy” in the summer, which I haven’t since oh, 8 years ago or so?

I no longer own “summer” shoes, that is, a pair of white dress shoes. Of course, for that matter, I don’t own a black “winter” pair either. The last time I went out dressy, I took the small black bag and wore black leather clogs.

I need to return to the French Dressing idea, again. I have gotten far afield from that!

The hat is a grey felt. My first try at a capsule wardrobe, when I worked in an office, oh years ago, was to use greys as my background and build from there. The hat was bought for that. The last two times I’ve worn it have been for funerals: my Dad’s and a dear friend’s. My dad liked me in hats. The hat was special and a way to honor Jane; she would have understood that.

Also for Jane’s funeral, I bought a funeral shirt, which is a cream, black and white expensive, patterned classic blouse.  I bought it 12 years ago or so and used it a few times for this funeral or that. Just about the time I would have chucked it, an old boyfriend/neighbor died. The next year another childhood friend died. I haven’t used it for the past few years. I don’t know where the funeral shirt is? After wearing it for 5 or 6 funerals, I may have just bundled it into the goodwill box after the last one. I know I wanted to! The shirt still looked good on me; it’s still in fashion, but . . . . If I still own it, I may chuck it.

Also today, I pulled the obvious winter clothes from my closet. The big problem with this is that although our plans include closet space for out of season clothing, right now it doesn’t exist, so it just becomes clutter. If I can find the large roll of brown paper, I can at least wrap the pieces up and get them out of the way that way.

Sigh.

There’s excess clothes everywhere, again. This is going to take some time!


Because of this post and the blog I responded to, I culled one pair of flip flops, a totally ragged pair of sweats, and some yardage. More to do! I forgot that I’d also gotten rid of a blanket. On Sunday, I culled a balaclava, a bed pillow cover, and took the hat boxes and hat to the booth.

More Rug Stuff

The blue slubby fabric for the stairs was returned by the seamstress a while back.  She made it more finished than I had in mind, which is both a good and bad thing. Good in that it may just wear longer. Bad, in that she put a seam down the middle of the piece and DH is concerned it will wear more quickly or be bulky there. We unrolled it down the stairs and I will say it looks stunning. The stairs need to be painted, first. I also need to decide if I’m doing stair rods or how I’m attaching the fabric, if not with stair rods.

The living room rug which was in front of the couch has been replaced with one of the new rugs. The replaced rug was made by the Mennonite Committee from old blue jeans. I don’t have a designated place to put it. Now I have too many rugs, or too many rugs I’m not sure where they’ll go — of course!

There are:

  • The 2 newest rugs (which match the living room rugs). These are runners.
  • the blue jean rug. This is a runner.
  • a rug made from old saris I bought used two years ago. This is a very long runner.
  • the dining room rug. This is NOT a runner!

I started this post before we’d found the new living room rugs, and solved that part of the problem. Obviously, I like runners!

The other issue, that of the stair rug? It doesn’t have a solution yet either.

So I solved the living room rug dilemma, but created another or added to it. That’s the way it goes around here!

Good Enough

Well, the three areas I want to keep clean, bathroom counter, the dishes and the laundry are all being worked on, daily, which is new. It isn’t always perfect, in fact I’d say it’s rarely perfect, but I have a large backlog of laundry to get through, the bathroom is still a construction zone, and the kitchen, although cleaner, isn’t where I want it to be, ultimately. That said? I’m going to say I’ve done what I set out to do.

Why? Because I know I can and probably would keep pushing the goal line out, looking for perfection, rather than giving myself credit for what I HAVE done. It’s a characteristic of mine that whatever I do is never enough, fast enough, complete enough, or in short good enough.

(Hello abuser!)

So, I’m going to declare a victory instead. And add something new. I want to start making the bed, daily. All of this is really simplistic and easy, if you don’t have panic attacks in a clean and ordered space. I’d really love it if someone could just come up with a drug or a switch they could flip somehow and it would just go away. No panic. No guilt. No “not good enoughs”. Because then I could set a goal and just X off the steps in between as I got them done.

I’d give one whole heck of a lot to have that work! But after 50+ years of fighting myself I know it doesn’t. I can get all caught up in trying to make the perfect plan. I can get all caught up in all the things I haven’t done. I can get all caught up in whatever flavor of not being perfect/good  enough fits, this time. Or, I can do a dramatic push and work and work and work — and then find a reason to sabotage myself, because internally I am freaking out/panicking.

So — I won’t do that this time.

It’s not perfect. I don’t care. It’s getting done, most of the time. It’s better than it has ever been — and that has to be good enough, because I know that if it isn’t either I’ll never get there OR I’ll freak out/panic.

So. I’ve won!

J

The War with Clutter

I have been fighting clutter for a long time now! My big issue remember isn’t getting rid of things, for decades it was living in a cleared space, which gave me panic attacks. That meant I was “wedded” to having clutter. So — I kept trying and before my PTSD diagnosis and work, there was no way I could fix it.

Since, I’ve tried, lots of different ideas (I’ve talked about some, here, for the past 6 years) and attempted to find ways around/through/vanquish my stupid panic attacks.

In the process, I came to a few realizations about clutter:

  1. Clutter gets in your way when trying clean an area.
  2. Removing Clutter is almost always the first step in a cleaning plan. (For anyone who isn’t me.)
  3. Clutter is normally made up of things you can pick up: dishes, laundry, papers, game pieces, bills, etc.

But because I’m me what this all means is that it’s interesting, certainly, but it doesn’t help me declutter.

What works? Well, the same thing that works when I’m knitting: being just slightly distracted. I tried trying to “dance” while I was cleaning and although that was fun, and Gawd knows I need the exercise, the cleaning was subpar. So no.

I tried “writing” in my head, that is storytelling. Except that what would happen is that I’d inevitably go back to the bad stuff, punch that button AND BRING ON a panic attack. No again.

I don’t know about others with PTSD, but math is my friend. Math is concrete, it is almost always the same. It has no emotional good or bad or family or traditions that I know of to punch any buttons at all.

So, I invented a game for myself. It’s 5:1. For every item I use, I have accrued 5 items I need to clean, clean up, put away, etc. I also learned from the 6-5 lists that I can’t carry it forward, or I’ll get too discouraged, so the counter is reset to 0 every morning.

When I get up in the morning, I have a cup of coffee with milk and stir it with a spoon, and that puts me at 10. After a couple of weeks of this, I am doing things like putting dishes away while the coffee gets hot, so I start with 0 or in the + column. Daily flatware (forks, knives, spoons) 3 pieces = 1, most everything else is 1 for 1, so a pot is 1 and putting a serving spoon away is also 1.

I wrote down one day last week:

Description Negative Positive Balance Time
Mug & spoon used -10 -10 7:30 a.m.
Dishes washed +14 +4 10:00 a.m.
Wood stove glass cleaned +1 +5
Hearth swept +1 +6
Wood stove accessories cleaned +3 +9
Wood box tidied & maintained +2 +11
Kindling boxes tidied & maintained +2 +13
Trashcan emptied & put away +2 +15 10:10 a.m.
Shelf cleaned +1 +16
1 item to trash +12 +17
Mug in sink -5 +12
Swept 5 areas & kitchen +6 +18
Cleaned 5 stairs +5 +23
Rag & spray bottle put away +2 +25
Broom & dustpan cleaned/put away +4 +29
2 chunks newspaper trashed +2 +31 11:25 a.m.
8 papers trashed +8 +39
6 things put away +6 +45 11:38 a.m.
1 plate used -5 +40

5 items used while making lunch -25 +15 12:10p.m.
Dishwasher emptied +10 +25
Cooking, serving lunch used 9 items -45 -20 12:39 p.m
22 items washed +22 +2 1:06 p.m.
Package arrives -15 -13 1:15 p.m.
Dishes put away +11 -2
Dinner was provided by a friend. One pan needed to heat it. -5 -7 5:20 p.m.
2 dinner dishes & 2 forks -10 -17 5:30 p.m.
Washed dishes & culled items +19 +2 9:05 p.m.

If you don’t have to make up games to do this sort of thing — good for you! I wish that was true for me, but it isn’t. Also, I only do this Monday – Friday. Weekends are for being with my husband and focusing on US, not cleaning!

If you’re not dehoarding, you might want to try this at 3:1 or 2:1 or even 1:1. I’m trying to get rid of a lot of excess stuff, finally, and this seems to work. Your mileage may vary!

clutter war button

(The image isn’t mine but I got it via images.google.com)