Thursday, August 09, 2012

Diary of a Recovering Hoarder

Written Saturday, Aug 4.

It's 6:20 and I'm alone, tired, and feeling accomplished.  My hubby took the boy to our oldest son's place to swim in the community pool on this sweltering, humid day, and then the three of them were going to play golf.  It's always a highlight when the little brother gets to be with his big married brother. He kept calling it a "guys' day."

My daughter drove to Ohio with two of her friends, and today they are having a girls' day out with the friend they went to visit. 

My other son is at the beach with his girlfriend and her parents. I guess it's a couples' day out for them.

So, I looked myself in the mirror and asked, "Do you want a self's day out?" Self didn't answer, so I took it as a no.  Self took one look at her bedroom closet and made a big decision.  This would be the second of 12  days I get rid of 27 things.  (This kills two birds with the proverbial one stone; purging 27 things  12 times is on  my 101 in 1001 List.  Is that enough numbers to throughly confuse you and your third cousin twice removed?)  

A few years ago I came to realize that I had a big problem with stuff. Liking stuff too much. Collecting stuff. Thinking about stuff. Taking care of stuff. Ignoring stuff. Storing stuff. Stuffing stuff.  It's not like stuff was piled up everywhere; I could usually contain it or close doors or drawers on stuff.  I could push it to the perimeters and make things presentable. It's not like I was saving gross things or germy things. No, I wasn't the classic hoarder that we've all seen on TV.  I wasn't dysfunctional nor did I collect rabbits, cats, dogs, or chickens.  

But there was always the nagging feeling that I had too much, and I was failing to evaluate its importance. The task of deciding what to get rid of was overwhelming, so I blocked it out.

Occasionally I would get fed up and donate a bunch of stuff to Goodwill or a charity that sent a truck to my doorstep.

I read decluttering books. (Stacks of them.)
I read decluttering magazine articles (then kept the magazines).
I argued with hubby about what constitutes clutter and what doesn't.  (Of course his memorabilia is  clutter to me, but mine are keepsakes..Ahem)
I thought my generosity atoned for my greed.

Then a transformation began to take place. I don't remember exactly when, but God got ahold of my heart at  a deep place and revealed that I had a serious trust poblem.  He also showed me that I had made a lifelong habit of justifying my keeping of stuff.  

For example, I doubted that He would supply all my needs, so I saved stuff in order to take care of myself.  I justified it by saying I was just planning ahead.

I feared losing my memory, so I hoarded pictures, even blurry and dark and insignificant ones.  I justified it by organizing all my photos by year, and only tossing the super bad ones. Never mind that others would never be worthy of a scrapbook or frame.

I doubted God's love and other people's love for me, so I saved greeting cards of every kind--happy birthday, thinking of you, get well, secret pal, Mother's Day, Merry Christmas, and happy anniversary. The affirming words would be there on my closet shelf in the event people stopped telling me I meant something to them.

I saved all kinds of things, from hotel soaps and shampoos to outgrown winter coats of the kids'  I rationalized that I could give them away to some poor soul in need someday. Psychologists call this a savior complex.  I called it "just being thoughtful and merciful." What I failed to tell myself the truth about was that, nobody how many things I supplied to other people in need, I would never be their Savior.  And if I were to be asked to meet a need someday, would God not supply it for me to give? Saving a little is fine, but deep in my heart of hearts, I knew I was clutching and amassing stuff in order so that I would always be needed.

That was the reality and mentality I thought would be mine for life. Bondage to stuff with no way out. 

But, thanks be to God, He had mercy on me and broke the chains.   I would like to say that the change was so immediate and forceful that I got rid of all my stuff within a month of Goodwill trips. Or that there was a sudden shortage of full-size shampoo somewhere in the lower 48 states, thus rendering my one-ounce hotel bottles the saving grace of dirty hair everywhere.

Nope. It wasn't that easy, but it was a start to a new way of thinking.

Thinking the truth.

 Believing the truth.

What's the truth?

1. God has always taken care of me and always will.
2. He will take care of everyone else, too, even if I never lift another finger to help.
3. He will love me forever, even if no one else does.
4.  Other people do love me, but they are flawed like me, and fail to express their love verbally often just like I fail to do.  Let people be people and just be the kind of person you want to have in your life.
5.  The best pictures in my memory are clear as glass.   The next-best ones are in scrapbooks or frames or on my blog. 
6.  Forgetting people and events someday if I get dementia, as painful and scary as that might be for me and others to realize, can't compare to the pain I cause the Lord every day when I'm in my right mind/ Daily I  forget His benefits (His blessings).  Forgetting, biblically speaking, is choosing not to remember.  If I don't choose to remember them, I have forgotten them.

Those guiding principles have helped me enormously with the emotional and mental blocks of dealing with stuff.  But practically speaking, there is something I gleaned from Fly Lady , and that is the 27 Thing Boogie.  I call it a 27 Thing Fling because I like it better.  Simply go through your house (or area you want to purge within the house) with a bag and start flinging stuff in . Trash the obvious trash.  Count pieces of trash. Take a different bag or box for giveaways. Keep counting where you left off with the trash. When you get to 27, stop. You will notice quite a difference.

I did that today in my master bedroom closet (a walk-in).  Started at 1:30 and kept working at it till 5:30 .  I pushed through the clutter until I had my quota of 27 things and a much-improved closet that can now breathe.

It feels good. Today it was better than a girls' day out or a day of swimming in the maddening sun, or
playing golf (which I don't know how to do and have no desire to learn). It was better today than taking a nap or a drive.  It feels good to walk in victory over a besetting sin (that of mistrusting God) by letting go of the lies that evidence themselves in the mounds of stuff. 


Joyce said...

You go girl!

Anonymous said...

A good thoughtful post that has given me pause for thought.

Lea also known as "CiCi" said...

What a great entry! We can all so easily become "slaves to our stuff" if we are not careful. I imagine all of us need to work on ridding ourselves of unnecessary stuff and I bet we'd have way more than we would ever want to admit.

Inspiring post!

Laurie said...

Good points, Zoanna! Thank you for the honest confessions and look at stuff … I can relate to many!
Congrats for managing some-o-that stuff
Praise God for His truth, power and grace to change our thinking and increase our faith!

Tina Leigh said...

Wow!! You have made me think about some things here!! Thank you so much for sharing..for being so honest.