My Clutter Story

For those of us who can't get it all together, or if we have, have forgotten where we put it

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Wendy J
Posts: 258
Joined: Thu Apr 13, 2006 11:35 am
Location: Iowa
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My Clutter Story

Post by Wendy J » Tue Jun 15, 2010 8:52 am

Okay, no one has posted on this forum for over a year, and I have been thinking about it for a long time, so, here we go...

I have had a great deliverance from clutter in my life. At one time, the "stuff" in my life was so important to me that I would get physically sick at losing something or the idea of having to get rid of things. If we had ever suffered a fire or a flood I don't know what I would have done. Probably killed myself. I literally would not have been able to handle the panic and anxiety and distress from something that big. When my husband and I were first married, if we were away from home for more than a day, I would have a lot of anxiety about whether or not everything would still be there when we got back. That moment of turning on to our street and seeing our building still standing because it hadn't burned down was always a huge relief for me.

But at the same time, I was miserable because of the stuff. My childhood home, my college dorm room & apartments, and the first apartment my husband and I lived in, all were stuffed to the gills. I spent so much time organizing and re-organizing, trying to get everything to "fit" and look tidy, that I was exhausted all the time. If I had a dollar for everytime I tore everything out of a closet with the intention of cleaning it, just to find out that I didn't know what to do once I had it all tore apart, I would be a very rich woman.

I am a little bit of a shop-a-holic. I was always terrified of spending money because I was raised by a penny-pinching father, and spending money caused all kinds of panic. But then I married my husband who was raised by a mom who was the opposite - she was very free and generous with her money to the point where she had problems with debt, and my husband was more like that. So when we got married, it was quite the disaster! Here I was, freaking out if he spent so much as a dollar. But it wasn't long before I swung the other way and tt really snowballed. My husband really wanted me to be happy and he kept telling me to go ahead and buy what I want. Or he would spend money and I would feel resentful - like if he can spend money, why can't I - and then I would buy stuff too. It was usually small things - but it still adds up!!! We have quite a bit of debt.

Well, very quickly we ended up with an apartment that was chock-full. It was full of stuff from my chlidhood, stuff from his childhood, and stuff that we had bought together. We could barely breathe. It felt like such a weight.

But there were so many reasons why I COULDN'T get rid of things. I couldn't get rid of things from childhood because they were part of ME. Gifts were part of whoever had given them to me and represented their sacrifice in giving them to me. Things from my husband were part of his love. Things I had bought were an "investment" and to get rid of them would be a waste of money. I was stuck. I was miserable. I had no way out.

It was probably about the same time I found the 12 steps - about 7 years ago - that I also found another online group that helped me to start thinking about my clutter. I know that I was led to find this woman and that Heavenly Father was using her voice to bring truth to me. For the very first time, I was able to see that keeping this stuff was making me more miserable that I would be if I let go of it. I was holding onto things that had BAD memories associated with them and for the first time I had the epiphany that I didn't HAVE to keep them. That was a huge moment for me. I started to find the courage to let go of things that made me sick when I looked that them because of the bad memories associated with them. I have slowly progressed to be able to let go of more and more, tackling my fears of losing myself and the people I love, tackling my fears of being ungrateful, and tackling my fears of wasting money. It's also helped my shopping too, as I have learned to really look hard at what I want to buy and deciding if that item really belongs in my home before I buy it.

I know that the atonement has worked in me to change me and make me able to change this behavior, but I don't think I've really focused on that very much. There are some miracles in my life that light up like neon signs for me as OBVIOUSLY having come from the atonement. This isn't one of those. But I need to start focusing more on that and realizing it and thanking my Savior for it.

During the past month as I've started working on my inventory, I noticed something very surprising. I noticed that doing my inventory kind of FELT like the early stages of decluttering my house. I had some of the same sensations. I think that learning to declutter the physical stuff was almost like a practice run for the work I need to do decluttering the inside of my head. It taught me the skills I need to do it and helped me to trust that it is okay to let go of things.

I still struggle with clutter, in many ways. I still shop sometimes - I can tell when I'm struggling because I do spend more money. I know I have really been struggling lately because I have been going to Goodwill at least once a week and coming home with little "treasures" like books and teacups.

It's more than just the shopping that I still struggle with. I still have a hard time of letting go of some things. And honestly, there are a couple things I have let go of that I regret and all those feelings of nausea and panic wash over me as I wish I hadn't gotten rid of them. This is probably the hardest part of it all - regret at giving up things I can never get back. Actually, the WORST are the things I convinced my husband to let go of that he regrets. I feel like I was a terrible person for pushing him to get rid of something he wanted to keep. I haven't figured out how to deal with this yet. I sometimes have panic attacks if I let myself think about it. I get physically sick from the regret.

I still am still a chronic organizer. I am constantly ripping apart perfectly fine drawers and closets and putting them back together as if that will somehow make things better. This might not seem bad, but the problem is that I will spend a weekend rearranging one closet while rotting food sits on counters and toilets are stinking and laundry is piling up because I'm too busy organizing to do any of the cleaning that actually needs to be done.

The biggest thing I have left is probably my magazine obsession. I am obsessed with buying magazines of pretty things and cutting out the pictures I love. Then I file or scrapbook the pictures to use as "inspiration" either for decorating my home or gardening or to use as reference for drawing or watercolor paintings or to use as ideas for jewelry making, crafts, sewing, etc. Then there are all the articles on mental health, and how to handle stress, and how to be happy, and all the recipes I will cook someday or work-out routines I will try someday or any of the million other things I think I'm going to get around to. I constantly have piles of these papers to tackle. Then when I have too many (I have limited the amount I am allowed to keep) then I have to sort through and figure out what to get rid of. It is an ongoing thing. I suppose it is harmless enough since it isn't terribly expensive and it can be contained and doesn't take over the whole house and I do find it inspiring and relaxing, but it is one darling that I have held on to and it does take a lot of energy.

Anyway, my home does mostly look like a "normal" person's home. I have taken so many carloads of stuff to Goodwill and Ebayed a lot of stuff too. Other than the one back bedroom which is our current "dumping ground," my home is fairly tidy and organized and uncluttered. When we bought our first house a couple years ago, I specifically wanted a small home to force me to keep things in check! So it is a little crowded, I suppose, but not bad. It is an ongoing process of constantly evaulating what I buy, being willing to let go of things that I don't love anymore, and facing the stress of how my family reacts to me getting rid of things.

That part is still huge for me. My parents are clutter bugs. And if I get rid of something, I face gulit trips from them. They probably don't mean to upset me, but it is hard and I am still hanging onto a couple of fairly big items that I REALLY don't want because they came from my parents and I am not ready to face their reactions if they would ever find out I got rid of them.

So, that is my story in a nutshell. I could go on and on, believe me. But this is one area in my life where I have actually seen change happen - seen an inside-out change happen and actually work and stick. I am frustrated that this hasn't happened with my other addictions, but I know I need to focus on my blessings and be grateful for the things that HAVE changed because it helps my faith and helps me to have hope and helps me see the reality of God's miracles in my life. This has DEFINITELY been a miracle in my life. A huge change. And it has brought a lot of peace and happiness. I truly believe that God's house is a house of order. There is no peace or happiness in clutter and chaos!

Anyway, I hope to see others posting in this forum.

Wendy

Celeste
Posts: 77
Joined: Thu Mar 16, 2006 8:15 pm
Location: North Charleston, SC
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appreciation

Post by Celeste » Tue Jun 15, 2010 8:46 pm

Thanks Wendy for writing that all out. When I'm feeling a bit less tired and painful, I will write out a bit of my cluttering/chaos stuff. The clutter around here possesses a third of our space in this one bedroom efficiency. I think it overwhelmed me so much that I sunk into depression and isolation. The chronic pain and fatigue was a good reason not to clean anymore around the house too. I'm just beginning to work on deep cleaning in the kitchen this week and not listening to the pain and fatigue as much. Trying not to over do though. I've always swung between the two extremes. Anyway, thanks Wendy
Celeste

PhilH
Site Admin
Posts: 681
Joined: Tue Jan 10, 2006 8:29 am
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Post by PhilH » Tue Jun 15, 2010 9:50 pm

I have boxes of stuff that I have moved from state to state, still unopened. Part of my problem is not getting around to sorting things and putting away the papers that are truly precious to me and throwing away the rest. So I end up with boxes of paper that are 95% junk, but I don't dare throw them away because of the 5% treasure.

Another form of cluttering I have suffered from is hanging on to stuff that is broken but that I might be able to fix, or at least use the parts from. I have come to realize that this kind of hoarding comes from a scarcity mentality, and that the real answer is to trust God in everything. Trust Him that He will provide, and that I can let go of a lot of stuff without the fear that I won't be taken care of. That is starting to kick in, but I have a long way to go. This summer I hope to make my shop usable again by getting rid of a lot of junk.

Wendy J
Posts: 258
Joined: Thu Apr 13, 2006 11:35 am
Location: Iowa
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Post by Wendy J » Wed Jun 16, 2010 8:28 am

Thank you, Celeste & Phil, for your responses. It is funny how I see some addictions so atonement-related, and yet I see clutter as something that lives is a whole different world. But it doesn't! It's just as much an issue and addiction or weakness as anything else I struggle with.

Thanks for sharing. I may not have a very strong testimony about the atonement's ability to deliver someone from overeatng or mb, like a lot of people around here do. But I *DO* know it can deliver us from the chaos we live in physically, whether we struggle from an attachment to things, or an addiction to acquiring things, or just lack the energy or motivation to do what's right in front of us to clean up. I do know He will make it possible to tackle it when the time is right for you when you're willing to just take the first step and spend five minutes facing it even if that's all you do. That's where it started for me.

Celeste - I tend to swing too. I am just one big pendulum. When we first got married my husband would get so frustrated because I wouldn't clean at all and things would be awful. And then I would get the cleaning "bug" and would spend 8 hours cleaning one bathroom, down on my hands and knees with a toothbrush to get all the gunk out of the grout. And then he was frustrated because even though I was "cleaning" my guts out, nothing was getting clean! I am still learning on how to prioritize and figure out how to keep a tidy home without always obsessing over the details. I definitely haven't gotten that far yet. :) I am very blessed with a husband who is willing to tackle all the surface cleaning when I'm not up to doing anything.

Anyway, thank you again for sharing. I think I said that a couple times already...

Much love,
Wendy

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