Like many people, I have enjoyed watching some of the many TV shows which feature sensationalized looks into the deep interior recesses of the homes and minds of individuals known as “compulsive hoarders.” However, not until recently, did I ever dream that I had drifted, ever-so-slowly, down that slippery slope myself.
First, it was a family member suggesting that I should probably sort through my stacks of mail and clean out a closet to two. Later, another family member mentioned that my spare room and some cabinets could use straightening. No alarm bells went off. Yet, whenever the prospect of housecleaning loomed, I noticed that I had begun feeling stressed, and that, although I found it more and more difficult to sleep through the night, I had no trouble sleeping through day-after-unproductive-day.
Eventually, I decided to take a friend up on her offer to come help me with the messy house I was always complaining about. As she began pitching in, she discovered my secret. What she found was the hidden chaos that had been building, not only in all of my closets, and dresser drawers, but in my refrigerator and cabinets as well. We worked hard together, dividing up the daily chores of laundry, dusting & vacuuming. She even cleaned out my refrigerator.
I really appreciated her help. But, after double-teaming the chores, at the end of the day, the clutter and deep-down grime still remained. Being the good friend that she is, she didn’t grow impatient with the fact that my frustration was unabated. As she left, she simply prodded me gently to “just get started somewhere,” and “do a little each day.”
“Eventually, you’ll get it all done,” she encouraged. But, that was where my problematic viewpoint loomed before me. “That’s just it,” I’d think to myself. “Before I ever get caught up, the new tasks keep piling in on top of me. If a mountain is going to fall on my house, why bother sweeping the walk?” I reasoned, in my own irrational way.
Wikipedia defines compulsive hoarding, more accurately described as “hoarding disorder,” as:
“a pattern of behavior that is characterized by the excessive acquisition of and inability or unwillingness to discard large quantities of objects that cover the living areas of the home and cause significant distress or impairment. Compulsive hoarding behavior has been associated with health risks, impaired functioning, economic burden, and adverse effects on friends and family members. When clinically significant enough to impair functioning, hoarding can prevent typical uses of space so as to limit activities such as cooking, cleaning, moving through the house, and sleeping. It can also be dangerous if it puts the individual or others at risk from fire, falling, poor sanitation, and other health concerns.”
…”excessive acquisition”…”unwillingness to discard”…”large quantities of objects”…”cause significant distress”…
(Check. Check. And double-check.) Well, in all honesty, I didn’t really need to read the definition, to recognize that I had a problem, after it was pointed out to me! All I had to do was look around. So, I did. And I made an impressive-looking list of the tell-tale signs that had previously been lurking in the shadows, beneath the flimsy floorboards of my stubborn consciousness, like the dismembered corpse in Edgar Allen Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart.
First, there are the obvious signs, which, although glaring to others, I’d grown accustomed to:
1.) There are piles everywhere: papers, mail, laundry, materials for various “Things to Do” projects
2.) There is dust everywhere (Even the cleaning supplies have acquired a layer of dust on them, since being abandoned, in the midst of a trying or tiring day, sometime in the distant past.)
Then, there are the more-detailed and less subtle signs: (summarized, for brevity)
Kitchen Pantry Cabinets full (end up buying more of same items)
Refrigerator full (only hungry when I shop, lose my appetite at home; resort to throwing food away)
Freezer full (piled on new; old was stuck to frost-free freezer; had to get new freezer to get it cleaned out)
Multiples of everything: jewelry, shoes, hairbrushes, toothbrushes, nail polish, deodorants, perfumes, even multiple grades of toilet paper
Closets full (I even managed to buy the same sweater twice!)
Stacks of blankets (enough to throw a fair-sized slumber party)
Tags still on clothes
Old clothing that has come back in style (or that you are still waiting to come back in style)
Storage cabinets full
Stacks of notebooks of to-do projects & old writing and art ideas
Greeting cards (some addressed and sealed, but never mailed)
45-year-old art supplies
Unopened packages (from online ordering frenzies)
Never throw away bad photos (the kind Wal-mart &mK-mart give you credit for when you picked up your developed film—in the olden days!)
Tool hoarding (multiple boxes and contents)
Floor full of furniture (multiple chairs, tables, end-tables, bookshelves, footstools, lamps, ladders)
Walls full of pictures, etc.
Windowsill holds a “collection”
Never get rid of old computers (keep their lights on, like they’re still “alive”)
App-aholic (iPhone and iPad age full)
Multiple redundant directories
Full backups (incrementals feel too insecure)
Multiple redundant photo albums
Never delete “.old” files
In my April OCD World post, I mentioned that I was planning on trying to break down the task of getting my home back in order, by photo journaling any of the little baby-steps I might be able to make. So, I just dropped everything to go take some pictures, to catalogue
my mess..I mean, my menagerie. True to form, I didn’t just take several; I took 140 of them! (Did I neglect to mention that I’m OCD Bi-polar, as well?) Right now, I’m also drinking from 2 Dr Pepper cans at once!
Here are just a dozen photos to give you some highlights:
So, I plan to use the photos as an outline, for my bold, brave attack on the insidious “Clutter Monster.” And, I’m going to hurry up and get started . . .