The Crazy Suburban Mom: A fresh start...

Monday, January 14, 2013

A fresh start...

Not a day goes by without my Filofax To-Do list including at least one thing to organize. 

Why do these things (that have all been managed before) keep showing up as daily things to do?


"Organize make-up" must have been on thirty lists in 2012 so why is it here on a 2013 list?


"Go through clothes" too.   I feel like I take care of it but in a week or so it shows up back on the list.  What's going on?

 I felt so  dejected about my lack of progress and couldn't figure out what the heck was happening. 

  Since New Year's Day I've been obsessed with TV shows about hoarding...  At first I watched to convince myself I wasn't like any of those people... But after 15 or 20 shows something nagged at me.  My house isn't as cluttered but my reasoning about possessions is similar ( i.e.  the way I deal with the excess (See number 4 below).

According to the Mayo Clinic the signs of hoarding are as follows:

  1. Cluttered living spaces
  2. Inability to discard items
  3. Keeping stacks of newspapers, magazines or junk mail
  4. Moving items from one pile to another, without discarding anything
  5. Acquiring unneeded or seemingly useless items, including trash or napkins from a restaurant
  6. Difficulty managing daily activities, including procrastination and trouble making decisions
  7. Difficulty organizing items
  8. Shame or embarrassment
  9. Excessive attachment to possessions, including discomfort letting others touch or borrow possessions
  10. Limited or no social interactions
I'll cop to more then half of them; 1, 3, 4, 6, 7.... And 8.  

Especially eight.  

Referring back to what the Mayo Clinic has to say: "People who hoard typically save items because they believe these items will be needed or have value in the future. A person also may hoard items that he or she feels have important emotional significance — serving as a reminder of happier times, for example, or representing beloved people or pets."


The reason I've not needed to be on one of the shows is Number 2, I have no difficulty throwing things out; in fact I really enjoy it.  But managing that balance is similar to a juggler who spins plates on a stick, constantly dealing with the one about to fall... Problem is as soon as you manage one, another starts teetering on the brink.   Keeping plates spinning (and managing my stuff) is a constant, never-ending rush to put out the worst fire.  

One of my resolutions was a spending diet. 


 The more I think about that one the more I realize it's not as much a financial thing, as a stuff thing.  I have trouble managing what's already here.  Decisions about what has to go is difficult and buying more things will ultimately add more of those kinds of decisions, as well as further complicating the  daily chore of moving  possessions around. 

The quote, You can have anything you want but not everything you want, keeps running through my mind because here's the thing:  If I want clean uncluttered spaces and a workable home, some stuff has to go. Right now everywhere I look I see a pending decision (What is that doing there? Should it go? Should I move it? .... Why did I even buy that?) and it's draining on so many levels.

Cleaning around clutter is like trying to bail out a leaky boat and continuing to bring new things in is like bailing out a leaky boat in the rain.

I need to take a look at the resolutions I wrote a few weeks ago and alter a few things to find the kernel of what I wanted when I wrote the list.  I don't want 2013 to be about keeping things at a level that's just shy of unbearable, I want this year to be about solutions.  Permanent, doable solutions.

I want to breathe easy when I look around and don't want possessions to be a reminder of the great undone mass in my life.  I want to finish what I start so the sames things don't pop up list after list.... And apparently, year after year.

I want a fresh start.


Vonlipi 1/14/13, 12:16 PM  

Well girl, that post hit me right at home!

This is why my word for 2013 is organize (TCB). Because in need to take care of business.

I will be sending you lots of positive energy because this is a big endeavour.

Vonlipi 1/14/13, 12:16 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tracy Reinhardt 1/14/13, 12:58 PM  

Vonlipi, I'm sending some right back to you! Maybe by the end of 2013 we will be there!


Josh 1/14/13, 1:03 PM  

Hey Tracy,

You know, I've been thinking about this a lot lately too. But I'm fighting back. All these hoarding shows on TV and eastern inspired notions of material minimalism are pushing this idea that we all need to live in ultra-tidy, ultra-organized homes. Ironically, these streamlined homes are to have lots of complex digital technology to replace the authentic with the virtual: Virtual friendships, virtual art, virtual planners... I'm fed up. I want authenticity in my life. I love my stuff and will never live happily in a clutter-free home. I have my dead best friend's dead favorite dog's leash hanging on a hook in my kitchen and I know it's sentimental but I'm not letting a list from the Mayo Clinic make me feel guilty about that. I know people who GOT RID OF THEIR BOOKS AND REPLACED THEM WITH A KINDLE! I'm horrified by the notion of losing my books!

I've therefore decided that if I don't like something and it has no sentimental value, I'm getting rid of it. If I like something, I keep it. Of course, this needs to mesh with the limits of storage I have. So those things I love but cannot keep due to lack of space I will try to give to people who will appreciate them. I also, like you, am working at limiting what comes into my home in the first place. So, no new, mass-produced crap comes in now (which cuts out shopping trips to IKEA or Staples) and I will choose quality over price and quantity. I am going to choose to minimize digital technology going forward. I am going to continue to collect items which tell stories; like my pair of 1970 Bertoia chairs with their cracked vinyl upholstery or my 1950's library reading room table with graffiti scratched into the surface which I use as a kitchen table.

But I guess that I'm ready to write the anti-consumerist-minimalist manifesto! More is MORE!

Josh 1/14/13, 1:07 PM  

oh, and by the way, I missed your blog lately! And, I totally don't mean the above to demean your efforts! I am just getting so angry with everyone making us all feel guilty for having "stuff." Especially if you have stuff you enjoy and value.

Tracy Reinhardt 1/14/13, 1:12 PM  

Josh, I know exactly what you mean and didn't mean to imply I wanted an austere life. Or that anyone should lose more possessions then they are comfortable losing... Everyone is confined to a certain amount by the space they have and financial means. For me this kind of thing aggravates me daily, I mean don't want to put away clean pajamas because there is no room in the drawer... So things don't get put away the way they should. And every time I look at the pile I think - task to do - and look at the mess. If there are a lot of things like this in my day it just feels suffocating and like a viscous circle.

HM 1/14/13, 2:06 PM  

Wow, feels good to know I'm not alone! But I agree with Josh (I do love my Kindle, but kept all my favorite books. I move way to often to own books...)
So my resolution is now to have only things I love or that are useful around me. Everything in my house, I have to love it. It works for the moment :)

Tracy Reinhardt 1/14/13, 2:25 PM  

HM, oh you are not alone! I hemmed and hawed about posting because when you have trouble with 'things' it does feel very alone and I feel a lot of shame about the state of my house. Its not so bad that it could be condemned or anything but it embarrasses me. And I worry what people will think

Anyway - thank you for the comment, it's comforting to know I'm not alone either

The Perpetual Student TPS 1/14/13, 2:52 PM  

Hi Tracy!
I know how you feel, I have SO much stuff in my room... I'm quite happy with it all at the moment, but my mum is constantly telling me to tidy and sort my stuff out, even though I don't think it needs doing! I guess she sees something I don't about my room and all my stuff...

Anyway, this might help. If you think you need a fresh start, try this: Take EVERYTHING out of the room you are focussing on: put it in another room, or the garden on a dry day. That room is now empty. Categorise the stuff you took out as you feel necessary so that you can see groups of stuff. Then look at the piles of stuff and pick out 1) Stuff you NEED; 2) Stuff you love (sentimental etc); 3) Stuff you want. Put all that stuff back in the room in logical places, it doesn't have to be in the same places as before. Your room should still be quite empty. Go back and look at the stuff that you still have outside the room. Be tough: Do you NEED it? Do you LOVE it? Do you WANT it? Is it taking up space? Is it unnecessary? Have you used it/touched it/even seen it in the past year? Are you keeping it just in case, but have never used it or needed it, and don't see a need for it in the realistic future? Is it a sentimental thing that you are keeping just because? (so take a photo of it for memory's sake): and then:

Tracy Reinhardt 1/14/13, 3:00 PM  

Kate thats an excellent suggestion! I did something a few years back with huge moving boxes (that I bought) and banker's boxes (the largish file size boxes with lids you can buy at staples) I put everything in them except essentials and lived with the clear. Problem is I wasn't quite ready to get rid of things so I lived with the boxes for quite a while until eventually everything came back out of them... sigh. I think doing this again or your suggestion because I'm ready now! Thank you so much Kate for commenting - I will work on this now

HUGS to you!


The Perpetual Student TPS 1/14/13, 3:08 PM  

Hi Tracy! That's a really good idea! It reminds me of my suitcase when I go to/come home from university: I pack my suitcase, then come home/arrive at uni and don't unpack it for weeks. When I was packing I thought I should take everything that I packed because I'd need it all; but when I get there I don't actually use any of it! Mostly because I forget I actually already have most of the stuff I need at home/at uni, or I don't actually need that stuff! So like you, it's like leaving my stuff in boxes and using just what's out already, until I give up and unpack, and then realise although I love the stuff I packed, I don't actually NEED any of it! But I wouldn't get rid of it!

Tracy Reinhardt 1/14/13, 3:17 PM  

The stuff I love... Yes, that's the point really. I don't need a completely minimal space. Somethings I'd really miss and couldn't replace.. Some of my vintage stuff especially. But really, like you said - How much of what I have around me contributes to my life on a daily basis. And does some of the stuff I love hinder things?

It's hard.

Ray Blake 1/14/13, 3:45 PM  

Two ideas. Firstly, you could choose to operate a rule: for every item that enters the house, two have to leave it. Secondly, put a big cardboard box in the corner, one in each room to collect items you want to part with; make it easy for yourself to dispense with them. And just in case you act too hastily and soon regret disposing of a particular item, make it a rule than something has to be in the box for a week before it leaves the house.

Ray Blake 1/14/13, 3:46 PM  

Oh, and take digital photos of everything you get rid of. Sometimes having a photo of a thing is as good as having that thing. Sometimes it's better.

Tracy Reinhardt 1/15/13, 8:20 AM  

Ray, I agree about one in/two out. And the photos too! I like the idea of a box in rooms too - I have to work on the living room today and I'll see how it all goes.

It's all very frustrating to me... I really do need to look upon clear spaces..

jemilyea 1/15/13, 1:08 PM  

I don't know if you like reading organizing books or not. Out of all the ones I've read, I liked Julie Morgenstern's "Organizing from the Inside Out" the best. In fact, I should go reread it and get inspired to clean out my workroom/sewing room/home office....

Kimmie 1/15/13, 1:57 PM  

Ugh! I was doing really well last week. I guess because it was the kids' first full week of school. I was pitching stuff left and right. And now, I've come to a standstill. Guess I'll just keep the list and hope I make some progress.

K 1/15/13, 5:00 PM  

Such a great post. I recently moved and finally got rid of a lot of my stuff... It feels so good to finally be considered a "neat" person. My home is finally clean and tidy after many years of total chaos and messiness.

LJ 1/16/13, 12:57 PM  

I totally get where you're coming from with this - I still don't get how I can sort through all my clothes, still be able to find nothing to wear, and feel the need to sort it all again within a couple of months... how does that happen?

Tracy Reinhardt 1/16/13, 1:20 PM  

jemilyea - I have read that book and it's great. Maybe I should reread it too!

Kimmie - That happens to me a lot, much progress at first then I peter out!

K - Sometimes thats a fantasy I have. Getting rid of it all and starting over...

LJ - I wish I knew how it happened too!

Debbie 1/16/13, 2:15 PM  

Tracy I found a website a few years ago that really changed mu life and the way I keep house. She has changed the lives of so many people and she does it for FREE! her site is called Fly Lady and she is awesome. Now I can be ready for anything within a hour.
I don't have any affiliation with her site but she has helped me a great deal.
And I love your site,I just ordered the success choice trial set. Thanks for sharing it with us

Susanne Namdar 1/17/13, 7:47 PM  

I enjoyed your entry as my motto this month is "Declutter". I was surprised that I may be a hoarder too, according to the list of signs.
My idea is to go one cabinet in one room at a time. I have a big bag or box ready for stuff to give away (Goodwill), then there is always stuff that I keep, because I could sell it on eBay, but I never take the time to do that, so it stays with me forever.
On the other hand, everytime I throw something out, without fail, I do need that item later on. And then I go, why did I get rid of that? So I keep most of the stuff, because I know I will need it one day.
However, I do not feel guilty about stuff that makes me happy, like my books, my yarn stash and my paper and pen addiction as long as they are in bookcases, drawers, etc. where they belong.

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