Tag Archives: hoarding

Where We Are

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Now that I’ve been
nurturing hope,
repeating
“I love myself, I love myself,”
as much as possible,
moving toward
self-acceptance
and self-compassion—
I’ve been naturally drawn
to taking better care of my living space.
I’ve been decluttering the house
room by room,
taking trips to the local donation spots,
and each time I release something,
I can hear the house
sighing in relief,
breathing better.
Ahh, space.
If space is really what we need,
why do we spend some much time
accumulating things
to fill it with?
Friends,
may we stop
acquiring things
just long enough
to take a breath,
smile,
look into one another’s eyes,
and remember
where we are.

Our Stuff

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Sometimes we get caught up in our stuff.
Sometimes we identify so closely with it
that it becomes an extension of our self–
our stuff becomes us.
Sometimes we become so obsessed with acquiring things
that we lose touch with what we already have.
All of a sudden, we have so much stuff
that we can’t find anything of value
hiding in the mountains of our perceived identity.
We might even become buried alive by all this stuff.
What is an alternative to this terrifying scenario?
Let go.
The stuff is not you,
and the fear of letting go
is not as intolerable as you imagine it to be.
As you soften your grip on your stuff
you increase your handle on reality.
When you let go of illusion and open your eyes to life,
you will see that you have always had
everything you need,
and so it will be
forevermore.

Beyond Holding On and Letting Go

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I am a descendant
of  a long line of hoarders.
My father’s mother grew up
during the Great Depression
with six siblings and her mother.
Her father died in the shipyard
when she was nine years old.
Without her husband there to earn income for the family
her mother was forced to work
to make ends meet,
which they often didn’t.
I can see why she held on to things,
and how her holding
led my father to hold on also.

The Great Depression ended a long time ago
But its energy lives on–
the energy of lack
of fear of lack
of grasping what is known
in the face of so many unknowns.

I have worked hard
at letting go,
because I don’t want to walk down this
path of fear, of holding on.

And yet,
today  as I was sorting through things
to pack for our upcoming move
I looked at clothes my children wore
as tiny newborns.

I looked at my daughter’s receiving blankets
my father’s music box
some beautiful yarn that I have had for years
just waiting to be knitted into something
soft and warm…

And I thought,
“How can I let go of this?”

Maybe I can let myself hold on
until I’m ready to let go.

Maybe I don’t have to hold on to the idea
that I must let go.

Maybe, in this moment,
I can let go of ideas
about who I think I am
so that I can be who I actually am
right now,
celebrating the mystery
beyond holding on and letting go.

There’s a LOT Happening

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It’s not a big surprise or anything
but anticipating the move ahead
and all that needs to be done
is starting to feel a bit scary

I want to stay present,
really I do,
but there are five years
of living in this house to sort through
and I come from a long line of hoarders

I am ready to let go.
I have been affirming this thought
for much of my adult life.
I don’t want to become my father,
holding on to everything
until there is no longer room
in his house (his heart?)
for his family.
I am ready to let go.

And yet,
I’m a bit sentimental
and I become certifiably anxious
when I’m asked to throw something away
that could be turned into art,
which is everything,
now that I stop to think about it.

Just a quick note to say,
there is a lot happening,
and I hope I can keep
some stillness and some silence within,
so that I can remember the changeless
in the midst of all this change.

Sorting Out My Life

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How many of you are good at letting go of clutter?  I mentioned a while ago how I come from a long line of clutter bugs, and how I have a natural tendency to hold on to lots of random things until they start to pile up around the house and it becomes obvious that some decluttering is in order.  We have come to such a point in our house, and the better part of this past week has been spent pitching things that have no obvious use, sorting through clothes that the kids have outgrown or clothes that are simply no longer being worn, taking a good look at things that I have held on to for years and asking why they are still in my life…

And I am exhausted.  Each object I keep in my life has some kind of sentiment attached to it.  In spite of all of the books I have read about the importance of clearing clutter, I don’t seem to have developed a natural ability to just not accumulate it in the first place.  With two young children added into the mix, I have plenty of excuses for not keeping up with my possessions and routinely sorting through my stuff and doing clear-outs.  Going through bursts of clutter clearing like I have done the past pew days leaves me feeling positively wiped out on every level–physically, mentally, emotionally.

And yet I’m excited at the same time.  Every time I do a good, honest purging of my possessions, it is as if my whole life has room to breathe again.  My living space is more vibrant, energy flows more easily, and positive coincidences crop up with noticeably greater frequency.

In my personal journal writing, I keep asking muses, divine helpers, guides, teachers, guardian angels to be present and assist me in discerning between what is no longer useful and what is truly beneficial to keep in my life.  I pray for the courage to let go of the memories that some of these objects represent…past relationships, experiences, feelings that I had back then.  I know that letting go of the past leaves more space for me to be in this present moment, but I also am acutely aware of the comforting feeling that some of these things give me, just to have them, even if they aren’t immediately useful.

I noticed today that I really do have a thing about rocks…I have rocks from France, from California, Utah, Colorado, Montana, Italy, Turks and Caicos, India, Scotland…I can look at each rock and remember where I picked it up or who gave it to me.  This one came from a river.  That one a beach.  That one from a mountaintop.  This one from a friend…And rocks are heavy.  Do I want to hold on to them and eventually move them into a nice new house when the time comes for that?  And if I don’t hold on to them, what could I possibly do to honor their existence?  Surely I wouldn’t throw a piece of the French Alps or the California coast or the Italian Dolomites into the trash.  Surely they deserve some beautiful resting place…beneath a tree maybe, or in a flowing river?

My journals were mentioned in a previous post–I have boxes and boxes of them, chronicling decades of my life.  Do I want to hold on to them and move them when the time comes?  Yes, I want to hold on to my journals.  Should I question this wanting, or can I just allow myself to have it, despite how heavy those boxes are?

Who here is really good at decluttering?  Who here understands the psychology behind the accumulation of possessions, and can offer some words about how you give yourself space in which to create, to express, to feel and to know this moment?

Any words of advice?  I have many, many nooks and crannies to sort through before our house is anywhere near presentable.

And by the way, we’re planning to put our house on the market this coming Wednesday…

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When I close my eyes and become still
When I let go for just a moment of everything outside of myself,
When I come home to the center of my being,
I remember:

Everything I need is exactly where I am.

As I begin to create more space in my life,
in my mind, body, and spirit,
I become excited about the potential for fresh, new experiences,
and yet…

Change is so scary. Uprooting is scary. Letting go is scary.

But does it have to be that way?

Divine Spirit, guide me back home to myself.
Help me to carve away the excess so that I can
penetrate to the deep core of my essence.

Help me to remember that the real treasure
cannot be held in my hands,
only in my heart.

And help me to laugh as I let go,
Like a child who throws rocks into a pond
and PLOOF!
delights in the sound of splashing,
and then silence…and endless ripples
radiating from the center.

Clearing Out the Shadows of My Past

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Because I could hear them scratching at the door,
and because they had been doing so for quite a long time,
I finally mustered the courage to look into the closet
and examine the skeletons of my past.

I discovered they aren’t as scary as I thought they were.

Writing 101, Day Seventeen: Your Personality on the Page

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Hmmm, today’s writing 101 prompt kind of stumped me.  Here’s the bare bones blurb:

We all have anxieties, worries, and fears. What are you scared of? Address one of your worst fears.

Today’s twist: Write this post in a distinct style from your own.

I have to say, I would’ve worded that last sentence differently…I would’ve said either “Write this post in a distinct style, different from your regular one,” or “Write this post in a style distinct from your usual style.”  There was a little confusion when comparing voice and style, and I discovered upon further research that voice is your own personality shining through, whereas style is a broader concept–are you prone to writing ornate sentences or more sparse?  Are your words flowery or straightforward? Choosing a particular style and sticking with it can give coherence and continuity to a piece, can help the reader feel like they have a better handle on what is being said. Ah, whatever–can’t escape from my own voice, don’t think I want to–but style, geez…uh…style…uh…what is my regular style? Yikes. I’m overthinking. Whatever, whatever, I do what I want, I do what I want.

Anyway, what am I scared of? If I stop and think, I’m afraid of many things.  One of my worst fears is that I’m just as bad a hoarder as my dad, and I’ll end up like he is.  Here goes…

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It’s getting worse.  My mother has been home for two weeks, and every so often she relays bits and pieces of information to us about the state of my parents’ house.

“There wasn’t room for my suitcase.  We had to leave it in the narrow walkway he has left in the kitchen and move it when we had to get around it.”

I rarely go there; there’s no room for my kids or me to just come and visit.  There are boxes on the kitchen table,  no room for a meal, no space to sit, even the sofa has boxes piled on it.  My children–their grandchildren–have never been inside their house.

“July 1, I’m outta there,” my mother tells us. I wonder when my dad will be buried alive.

A couple of years ago I contacted the show Hoarders because I was curious to see if they would do an episode about my parents’ house.  I thought they might be able to help, given their budget and their resources.  I filled out the questionnaire on the Hoarders website and was contacted a few days later by a woman who works on the show.  She asked me for some pictures, and I obliged.

Cliff and our baby daughter distracted my dad enough for me to walk through the house with my iPhone snapping shots of the tiles falling out of the bathroom walls, how he has used packing tape on some of the tiles around the shower to hold them together, the mildew growing underneath the packing tape. I took pictures of the kitchen table piled high with bags and boxes, envelopes, empty vitamin bottles, old circulars, random electrical wires, tools. The kitchen counters with no space for food preparation.

I announced that I was going upstairs to my old room to fetch an old book of mine, and on my way there I snapped shots of my parents’ bedroom, the ceiling held up with a long slab of styrofoam affixed with tin can lids and nails placed at regular intervals; the familiar floor to ceiling bookshelves with pens, slips of papers, and plastic bags peeking out from the books,  multiple bungee cords hanging from the shelving brackets, and all of this reflected in my mother’s dresser mirror, as if to double the cluttery hell.

 I continued capturing images through the living room on my way to the stairs.  The whole house had a cavelike quality to it–musty, dark, heavy.  Could barely see the sofa around the wall of boxes, old computers from the 90’s, trash bags full of more plastic vitamin bottles.  We used to play in here.  We used to have slumber parties.  Take naps on the sofa.  No room now.

I found the book upstairs, dared to take pictures of our old bedrooms where the evidence of my father’s sickness had stretched its tendrils in ever widening circles.  Some of my sister’s stuff was there, and I wondered what I had left in my closet; impossible to get to it now–my father had commandeered my old room and it contained floor to ceiling stacks of old computer equipment from the 80’s and 90’s.  He had told us he would donate the computers to schools.  Practically nobody could use them now.  What are they doing here?

When my sisters and I lived there, when he was still working, when my mom and dad had moments of togetherness that they actually enjoyed, our house was livable, welcoming even.  It was never normal.  No, it was never your run of the mill middle class abode–it was always kind of cooky although I didn’t realize the extent of the craziness until well after I left home.

The pictures taken, I immediately emailed them to the woman on the TV show, and within days she said that they would certainly be interested in filming an episode of the show at my parents’ house, but that they would need my dad’s cooperation, his consent.  I knew deep down he would never agree, but we were all outwardly hopeful.  My husband and I made a DVD of several episodes of Hoarders, gave the DVD to my mom to show my dad.

She later told me that he watched part of an episode, then turned to her and said, “I am nothing like these people, and don’t you ever try to do something like this to me.”  And there you have it, the man wouldn’t budge.  I never told him of my plan.

These days, when I take a look around my house, I see evidence of what I grew up with in the miniature piles of random bits on the counter–my daughter’s hair things, a pair of sunglasses, unopened mail.  These are normal things; we use them…but the sight of them makes me wonder where we’ll draw the line.

I go downstairs to put in a load of wash.  I see boxes of books, many of them holding the journals that i’ve been keeping since middle school. They seem so heavy to me.  The climbing gear that I haven’t touched in years because we live in Maryland.  There isn’t any rock to speak of in Maryland.  And I have two kids. And they aren’t of climbing age yet anyway.  The dust has settled on my hangboard, my climbing shoes, my quick draws, my long board, my helmet and kneepads and elbow pads and wrist guards.  I see my beautiful fluorescent green cyclocross bike hanging upside down, suspended from  hooks in the ceiling.  I feel wistful.  And Aren’s baby clothes, a few old hats, my sewing supplies, moved downstairs because there was no room in the dining room for them.  Lots of beautiful fabric, just sitting there.  My Christmas serger, which I haven’t yet learned how to use, because I have an overfull schedule and time simply does not permit.

So I see my father in myself–all of those things he has but never uses–and I wonder if I am him.  There is a sense of deep terror, wanting to get out, break free, wanting so much to reclaim some space in my life, but wondering if I have been permanently broken by this compulsion to accumulate.

I pray to God that I will never reach the same level of mental illness…but then I wonder if I haven’t already reached that level, but it has become so normal to me that I don’t question it.

Save me from my Father.  Same me from this fear of letting go.  Save me from the oppression, the burdens, the resentment, the sadness.

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I write  a poem a day–
That’s what I do.

can I be free now that I have written a few lines,
can I sleep?

Can I succumb to the bone deep fatigue
and trust that all is well?

Eyelids are heavy.
Time for sleep.