Friday, August 14, 2015

The Emotional Toll of Clutter . . .

I ran across this 2013 article, by Jessie Sholl, online the other day:  "The Emotional Toll of Clutter."

Yes, yes, and yes again . . .   The words "tired" and "overwhelmed" leaped off the screen at me.  I don't have collections of things - well, I don't any longer - and I have already done yeoman's work earlier this year on the books and the basement.  And yet there is still so much to do and I just can't seem to get my act together to do it  . . .

The article is well worth the read.  She's divided it into sections, and each one resonates with me on some level.

"Other People's Stuff."  Most of the other people's stuff is gone thanks to the construction earlier this year.  I never knew why it bothered me so much to have all that stuff in my basement.  It wasn't hurting anything - but I really needed it to be out of my space.  It never occurred to me that it came with its own energy that wasn't mine and that it was taking up energy space that I needed for myself.  Very interesting, that.  And I've gotten rid of pretty much all of my mom's things now, but it took me a decade to do it. (I still find that so hard to believe that she's been gone for 11 years.) There are, however, still a few boxes of her things downstairs that I need to go through - like the funeral box.  I tried with that one about six years ago and found I wasn't ready.  Maybe I'm ready now.

"Out of the Past."  I think I've done pretty well with this section.  I loved the story about the cashmere sweater from an ex.   I continue to use and enjoy the potting bench my ex built for me, but it was a relief last August to pass on my former automobile to one of my cousins - it still had memories and energy attached to it from a very long time ago . . .

"Unused Goods"  Yeah - the most recent pantry purge, and all the trips to the Second Chance Shop earlier this year with things that were never even used.  I am much more aware now of what I have and what I don't need to be spending money on, but OMG, just like in the article I can't even tell you how many cookie cutters I have that I have not used in more than 20 years because I keep thinking, "I'm going to make cookies!"  Yeah, no, not so much.  In my head somehow they were part of having a well-stocked, useful kitchen.  I might have already divested those - I'll check tonight.

Which brings us to "Incomplete Projects," where I fall over almost immediately.

There are still pictures stacked up in the living room that the painter took off the walls in error back in April.  There is still a small amount of junk sitting in the living room from construction, as well as a bag for the Second Chance Shop that I have been filling since construction ended back in May.  I can never seem to keep the kitchen counter clear and the stack of "I'll look at that this weekend" just gets larger and larger.  I haven't managed to make up the guest room since Linda the Chicken Lady was here in early July.  I'm out of shape and too large, and I have 16 knitting projects in various stages of "not quite done."

My home is cluttered.  My body is cluttered.  My mind is cluttered.  My creativity is cluttered.  I sleepwalk through my days and collapse in the chair in the sunroom when I get home because I am tired and overwhelmed.

So much energy tied up in things that are not finished, not cleaned, not dusted, not sorted, not put away.  I have spent so much time divesting in an attempt to avoid all this, and I still find myself in this place.  It is uncomfortable to be confronted at every turn with the evidence of my inability to follow through and finish something.  Anything.

This is not normal for me.  This bad habit of letting things go unfinished thinking I'll finish them tomorrow, and letting crap pile up in places other than my office (which is a designated crap location).  Maybe it's this house - I have gone through it multiple times in the past decade, divesting wave after wave of my mother's things, year after year.  Could it be that maybe I've finally - just this year - gotten to my own crop of clutter?  Did I not give myself enough healing and recuperation time after the accident last November?  I mean I only took one day (not the brightest decision I've ever made).  Did trying to heal and work at the same time allow things to snowball because I was too occupied with healing and working to keep up immediately with things in the house?

And now I'm wondering if I can get some sort of disposition by the end of the calendar year on all 16 of those projects I've been huffing and puffing about for the past couple of days.  A lofty goal - but even if I don't finish them all, I will have finished some, and some is better than none.  I feel like bit by bit, with each project completed, each picture rehung, each item dropped into the Second Chance Shop bag I might be able to reclaim my spirit.

Because that's the emotional toll of clutter for me.  I am lost. The flame of my spirit is dangerously, sputteringly low. There is no light on the path. That happy, fun-loving, hilarious, amazing, musical, creative, smart, compassionate, brave, and spirited woman that I am and that I love - she's MIA.  But she is calling me and singing to me and pleading with me to come home.


Ely said...

Oh no- don't despair or give up on yourself! You've got to attack your projects a bit at a time, and these small steps will lead to a bigger finish.

I must admit, after reading your post, I revisited your previous outline on the WIPS and I have to say, I think you should reexamine the list. Aside from the projects that need blocking, maybe you identified a handful more that you seem interested in finishing and the rest seem like some kind of obligation to...? Honestly you don't sound super excited about any of them, but sometimes the written word doesn't always convey one's emotions properly. All of which is to say, the way you turn a critical eye to your plants and send them on to their "great reward" could also apply to these WIPS.

So I am all about action plans, and time goals. Might I suggest listing down what needs to be done, with each room as its own category, and declutter that way. Systematically. I also find it helpful to set a time goal meaning, I'm going to spend x amount of time or one episode of this show, working on project x. Once the time is up, take a break and do something else, rinse and repeat. Crossing something off a list feels like tangible progress.

And finally, please be kind to yourself.

A :-) said...

Interesting point and I love how you tied in my Great Reward speech :-D I am excited about them all in some way. Maybe excited isn't the right word. :-D I want to finish them - they are all too far along in the process to frog them - I mean I have no trouble frogging something, but none of these seem to fall into that category yet. Except for Sock #7, that one got tossed and the remaining yarn moved to the leftovers bin. Progress!

Linda said...

I was too wrapped up in my own "decluttering" day this weekend to read this until now. It does sound like you're being very hard on yourself here. As independent women we have a lot on our plates. Working to support ourselves and making time for self-care often take up most of our time; keeping our living spaces organized is often something we place at the bottom of our To Do lists, understandably! You're taking the first steps now by figuring out what needs doing and then you'll create a plan. I have faith in you. :-)