My husband calls me a hoarder, something I vehemently deny. I suppose my idea of a hoarder is someone with a QVC credit card, a collection of dolls, or stacks of National Geographic magazines gathering dust atop every surface of the home. I do love my library, my research, my DVDs but there is still a place to sit at our table. However, there was visible relief on Chris’ face when I promised him that I would declutter the house of my overzealous blossoming belongings which seem to have grown in girth, dust and bulk in the years since I last had any kind of sort. I suppose the horror that look swept away had gradually crept along his face as he was continuously marginalized in his own house by stuff. This feeling must have gotten much worse for him, when I gave birth to Hoarder Junior. When we discovered we were expecting a girl, I could see him bristle with the expectation of shopping trips, clothes closets full to the brim, a collection of pets, purses and paraphernalia. Women are a mystery of stuff, bathroom stuff, bedroom stuff, makeup stuff, baby stuff etc etc.
Therefore in his honour I have begun this momentous task, this art form of the Purge. After reading in the new years resolution email blasts that it is best to take 15 minutes every day and tackle a small space, I attempted to do just that, in other words make realistic goals and small progress. This sounded reasonable but I have tackled decluttering with the obsessive gusto only a hoarder could habituate, ironic as that might be!
I started by taking a day off to clean out my closet. I was able to dispose eventually of six trash bags of clothes, clothes like the magenta dress that was so beautiful I had to purchase it for the future me who never quite fit into it, but someday would and the jackets ( I have a propensity for jackets) which I have shrunk or out grown. And the parts of my wardrobe, which were just momentary lapses of control, or downright unflattering and fashion backward, I should not admit to such missteps but it was time for the closet to divulge its mysteries, keepsakes and mistakes. These decisions required a full scale modeling session for my purge worthy self critic, alone in my bedroom one resolute morning in front of the full length mirror, titled slightly backward to give the most unflattering angle.
I have spent considerably more time since I purged the closet going through other drawers in the house, but I seem to not be throwing anything out, instead I am cleaning and rearranging, I even alphabetized my spice rack, after all I do have a Virgo rising sign. Anything I have managed to remove from the house, not just the room, I have given to Reza. I am not sure this constitutes purging either, it is more or less a kind of exile, because if I wanted it back I could probably ask for it back, kind of like my beloved dog Piglet who lives with Reza, who I happily visit every Saturday. I can visit my pots and pans now too, see how they are doing, if they miss me, if I need them back or can do without.
During this process I have realized that all of the “stuff” in the house is if you had to attribute it to someone rather than to us as a collective unit, you would say it is “mine.” I am forced to admit to buying and using all the kitchen appliances, the multiple tools on my fashionable and wallet thinning trips to Williams Sonoma, there are the shelves of books that grew from a stack of reading to be done into a shelf and then into an entire three tiered bookcase. I will get around to reading them one day, and no I do not believe in kindles nor do I own one. I love a library, a large overflowing one. I could never throw a book away, any of the ones I have given away I have gradually replaced, missing their place in my library. Purging one’s library is probably improbable for someone who likes to collect ideas, reference material and aspiring reads across multiple genres including the collected works of Kipling.
I have however grown interested in audio books, simply because I can listen to them while driving, while washing dishes, while purging! Or why don’t I just come out and admit that my “purging” is more of a pretense for organizing. I am hoping that my husband will be satisfied with organization and in place of space and order. I still have my work cut out for me in more ways than one.
Eva’s room is a continual work in process, because in Eva’s room I do the dance of two hoarders vs. one minimalist, it will be an eternal argument mostly between the two hoarders. For instance, I used to hide Eva’s friend’s birthday presents in her closet until she got old enough to discover them, and I would find a trail of plastic wrapping and the guilty child and no longer new toy at the end of it. Eva’s room before she was born was a dumping ground for my old clothes, winter coats, a hiding place of all and sundry- but no longer, I have had to relinquish my back room domain. Instead in the nooks, crannies and drawers I would stuff things I had no other place for, there are stuffed animals, books, crafts, mementos, baby apparatus, clothes, and more clothes, future clothes and past clothes and Sponge Bob Square pants shoes three sizes too big she is waiting to grow into with impatience. There may be truth to being too prepared for the years to come.
Eva never goes anywhere without her stuff, which includes of primary importance and stature, her bunny lovie with the wobbly nose. When she discovered we had three alike which we rotate when they need to be washed, or are misplaced she began to demand all three, then she became fixated on blankets, of which at least one has to accompany her and her three bunnies when we leave the house. She also needs to bring one of her four cozy dressing gowns. At home Eva has a heaving collection of other stuffed animals, which come in and out of fancy. Her life size sea turtle which she likes to sleep on top of, her shark who lost a fin in a tug of war fight at nursery and was then banned from attending due to the high possibility of future injury.
Eva likes things so much she has developed the terrible mother mortifying inclination to take things she desires and when questioned prefers the descriptive verb, “to borrow.” It is probably unnecessary to say that Eva has yet to willingly return any item she has borrowed. When new toys appear in her backpack or at home in the milieu, which is her playroom, I have to interrogate her on the origin of its species. I have returned many stuffed animals, small toys, bears and other preoccupations of children’s imaginations to parents of Eva’s friends, red faced and embarrassed to admit my Eva had taken the other child’s toy. She also regularly dismantles toys at my parent’s house and removes them to her own home, some have come to permanently reside at our home, which I suppose was Eva’s intention all along but all of this stolen booty adds too to our mutual hoarding problem. I prefer to include Eva within the umbrella of hoarding rather than Kleptomania. At home, our living room has become a child’s playroom, which we once cleaned regularly and now we have all forgotten to put away anything, in fact the most attention the area gets is from our dog Piccolo who likes to use it as his inside toilet if we forget and leave the door open. Once a showpiece it is the room we all mutually pretend is not there, a mess safely behind closed doors,- that is with the exception of Piccolo.
Since we have moved Eva to her big bed she has spent less and less time sleeping and more and more time playing with all her toys as now that she has outgrown her crib she has absolute access to all of her toys all at once for whatever purposes she desires. After naptime I regularly discover her buried beneath a mountain of soft toys, having to dig her out to resurface her for the afternoon, literally ply her out from underneath her toys, which feels ever so creepily like an episode of Junior Hoarders.
Last weekend when I went into Eva’s bedroom to dig her out she was there uncharacteristically unsurfaced with an evil smile on her face.
“Mommy, look I made everything really PRETTY.”
My eyes scoured the room. As I took in what happened with shock, she seemed eager to explain.
“Mommy, you left the diaper cream out, HA HA HA! You forgot to put it away.”
“You are right I did forget, to my eternal regret. ” For Eva had smeared not only her self head to toe in oily impenetrable diaper cream, but she had worked it into all the corners, and holes, notches and joints of a BORROWED train set, she had greased the brand new pink mesh of her canopy with the stuff, generously given my two nonwashable red dachshund door stops a new cover of cream, wiped along the furniture and drawn what could be described as rainbows along the wall.
“Its Beautiful and Destructive,” I said deciding to celebrate her artistry rather than get upset, and part of me did think it was funny although I wasn’t laughing.
“Ha Ha Ha, Mommy I am LAUGHING, he ha he ha.”
Needless to say the diaper cream was a COSTCO sized container I had never managed to use up, I should have known I could leave that to Eva.
I was reminded by certain family members that it could be much worse, she could have been smearing POO. I am all for that kind of optimism.
This incident has given my decluttering some inspiration, because the less I hoard, the more I declutter, the less I have to clean, sew fins back on, lock away, or discern its origin. The less stuff we have, the less we will be ruled by it. I do of course believe that, but getting rid of stuff is hard for a Hoarder especially when there is a new generation of stuffed animal clutter, because of course- I still have my own mildewy eyeless worn out collection of stuffed animals from my childhood, STILL.
Maybe I should give up?
Xx Derelict Mom