I may have mentioned before that I have watched an episode or two of the television show, “Hoarders” and the more disgusting variation, “Hoarding: Buried Alive” otherwise known as cockroaches, poop, mold, and gross things. I watch people recoil at the moldy food in the oozing refrigerator and smugly sit on the couch thinking, “I would never let my house get like that.” Well, lah dee dah, missy. No, I recognize my hoarding tendencies. I have always had a difficult time letting go of things. I look at the paper box that my son made in first or second grade that says I love you mom and there is no way that’s going in the garbage. Instead I put it in a box and shove the box into the attic. Or at least I did. Heads up people, I have changed. I have had the breakthrough of a half century. The shutdown has led to a massive cleaning in our house. Hoarders helped. I started to actually listen to the counsellors on the show and take it to heart. Here’s what I discovered.
- I like my things. I can’t just get rid of only the things I don’t like because I do like them all. If I didn’t like them I wouldn’t have them. But I have to get rid of things I like because it’s just too much. It’s like Bruce and the chocolate cake in Matilda. The psychologists on Hoarders ask do you use it? Does it fit your life right now? I guess if I didn’t know it was there until I uncovered it in the attic, well no.
- Many of the things were gifts and have memories attached. I’ve always been afraid of forgetting things. I’m afraid I will forget without things to bring the memories back. I guess this is true, I may forget. But for me there is a real danger of living in the past. I hold the baby clothing and remember how precious and adorable they were. (I’m talking about my kids, all over 26 years old, still precious and adorable).
- Something about my kids’ artwork just screams “Keep Me!” Especially the self-portraits. It doesn’t help that they are good…that’s not what makes it tough. I told my husband if I throw out a self-portrait it feels like I am throwing out a piece of the kid. It’s like Voldemort in Harry Potter—each self-portrait is kind of like a horcrux. But my kids did not leave pieces of themselves in paintings in the closet.
With all of these mental roadblocks, I have still cleaned out about six moving boxes worth of stuff. I have thrown out artwork. I gave away baby clothing. What happened? Simple, my son and daughter-in-law bought a bounce house.
My grandsons are six and almost three years old. With the COVID shutdown their activities have been curtailed aka non-existent. Of course I had some ideas of what they should do, but before I even thought to offer my keen insight, or at least much keen insight, they bought a bounce house. Yes, a bounce house! The kids absolutely love it and the six year old can connect it to air and fill it up. It’s wonderful! Even more wonderful is that it is something I never would have thought of!
Here’s what I realized in two nutshells: they are creating their own memories. The boys will grow up and say, “Remember when we had that bounce house? That was so much fun!” I had the chance to create memories with my kids. I don’t need to keep every game, every toy, every book for the grandkids because they have things of their own. Honestly, I don’t think I was keeping it for them anyway. I was keeping it because I had such a good time with my own kids I thought we could have the same time with the grandkids. I wanted to relive it. But it wasn’t for them it was for me. I just didn’t realize it.
My kids are making memories. They are good at it. I don’t have to worry. I’m giving away all the stuff I have hung on to for so long. They have the right to create their own remembrances. I don’t have to pass mine on. The best things in life are ephemeral anyway. When I used to play something on the cello and it went really well (not that often but even I got lucky sometimes) it was magical. But we didn’t have cell phones with recording and when I was done it was gone. Even now recorded music can never have the same feeling as the live moment. The moment is loved and enjoyed then it’s gone but that doesn’t mean it was nothing. My kids’ art is sort of similar; it reflects a moment in time or a person in a moment in time. Keeping it won’t bring that moment back. The kids moved on to more moments. I need to as well.
The other nutshell holds this thought: stuff can really weigh you down both physically and mentally. I don’t want to walk from room to messy room. I can’t clean the ever present dog hair or cat snot off of stuff. It’s bad enough to vacuum the floors every day and wipe down the bathroom mirror so people won’t think I’m a snot face. I don’t want to clean dog hair and cat snot off all the shells I picked up from the beach or the stuffed soft kitty, or the kid’s paper box that says I love you mom. I can’t solve the world’s problems if I’m busy moving stuff around. I have to clear out my head and my home.
Not that it’s easy. When I have a difficult time my husband knows now…he switches the tv to Hoarders. It’s always on, I swear. I watch the lady with the mansion—9000 square feet of hoard. I tsk, tsk, shake my head, then I’m back. The counsellors say you have to live with the discomfort. I can live with the discomfort and let it go anyway. It’s OK. I am brave.
We have reached a milestone as of last weekend. Our attic is totally cleaned out. And no, I didn’t just move it to the garage, I know what you’re thinking! Well, I did move one thing, but only one and it will be gone soon. My dear husband has made full car after full car trips to Goodwill or Salvation Army, and our dumpster was overfull today. In fact I put a white plastic bent drawer thing out for the trash and someone took it!
I know this post isn’t about Chester, but Chester has been a lazy boy lately. He has only wanted to go for short walks and when Brittany comes he just lays on his back so she can scratch his tummy. She knows his tricks though and usually can get him outside. While I clean, he watches. Good news–he has conquered his fear/outrage at the lawn mower. John can mow and he ignores it. He does like to pee on my new plants, which can’t be good. I included a picture of him just because he’s so darn cute. Now if you’ll excuse me I must go clean something.