Clutter: will it kill me or make me stronger?

The thing about being at home a lot more – something I’ve looked forward to for some time – is that I’ve become more and more aware of the “flaws” in my living space.  Seems like each time I open a closet or cupboard I shake my head, clench my teethclutter(my dentist has already warned me about that response) and heave a sigh.  How did all of those things get onto my closet shelves?  Where did it all come from?  Why do I keep it?  How do I keep it from overwhelming me?

For several years when my children were young I wrote a special story for each of them – nicely illustrated by my then-husband – as a gift for one of the nights of Hanukah.  I remember the one I wrote one year (wish I could find it) for my older son which was about things piling up and piling up until we’re neck-deep in mess.  Did I write that for him or for me I wonder?

Motel of the MysteriesI also remember a book called Motel of the Mysteries that I frequently used with my gifted class; here’s the premise:  in the 40th century the North American continent is covered with 200 feet of detritus from “pollutans literatus” and “pollutans gravitas” (junk mail and air pollution).  Into this milieu enters Howard Carson who, like Howard Carter (an English archaeologist and Egyptologist, noted as a primary discoverer of the tomb of Tutankamun early in the 20th century), stumbles into an archaeological funerary site and opens the door into … “wonderful things.”  True, I don’t fear being literally buried by my clutter, but it’s definitely threatening my peace of mind.

I’ve always prided myself on being well organized.  That’s meant that when I need something I know just where to find it.  Of course once I married David that started to shift a little because he’s far less obsessive-compulsive than I am.  That said, I’m at least as much to blame for the clutter ss he is – although it sure is easier to have somebody else to blame.  Does this create stress Brain under stressin our lives?  You bet it does.  I’ve recently read studies that show that at least in animals, stress results in damage to the hippocampus, a brain area involved in learning and memory, with associated memory deficits.  Is this why I’m forgetting things these days?  Is the clutter in my closet creating a mess in my brain?  Is this why it seems so much harder to learn new things these days?

Before I retired it didn’t seem to be such a big deal; perhaps that was mostly because the clutter wasn’t right there staring me down day after day.  Now it’s hard not to feel overwhelmed as I walk from room to room looking for the missing screwdriver or the second set of keys to my car!  Am I alone in this?  I think not.  But … what to do?

In another attempt to avoid the mess, I’ve just read that there’s a study that shows that “the clutter underneath your desk is to blame for all the failures in your life!”  Okay, I think that’s a bit of an overstatement.  I don’t think the clutter in my home is leading to any major failures but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t causing me lots and lots of distress.  I’m making rather lame attempts to deal with it but it doesn’t seem to be helping all that much yet.  Each day I try to pick one small space (maybe 1 shelf in a closet or the space on top of my bedside table) and clear it out.  I’m passing things along, throwing things out, finding new uses for things.  And still … I’m overwhelmed by it all.

How did I ever manage to accumulate this much?  How will I ever manage to get organized enough to not be driven to distraction every day by the niggling feeling of being “out of control” … something I definitely don’t like.

A Perfecct MessAnd then as I continued surfing the net (still avoiding cleaning?) I came upon a book called “A Perfect Mess:  The Hidden Benefits of Disorder“.  This book actually claims that crammed closets, cluttered offices, and on-the-fly planning make the world a better place.  What?  The clutter is a good thing?  I’m contributing to making the world a better place by leaving the mess just the way it is?  Now, that’s an idea I can get behind.

Nonetheless, if you have any good ideas for how to get rid of some of this clutter – or the time to come and give me a hand – do let me know.  In the meantime, the sun’s shining and my bike is waiting.

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4 responses to “Clutter: will it kill me or make me stronger?

  1. You might consider renting a storage space, then take things there if you’re not sure about getting rid of them. After one year, you can clear out the storage space – if you didn’t need it, get rid of it.

    • Sylvia Bereskin

      That is a brilliant idea Rita. I’ll inventory what I’m putting into the storage space and unless I go looking for something and have to retrieve it before the year is up then …. tada …. it’s gone. I love it. Now to convince David!

  2. Barbara Sher’s book “Live the Life you Love” has a chapter on clutter, cleaning up and so forth. If the clutter does not serve you, which appears to be the case, her methods are simple and effective.

    • Sylvia Bereskin

      I’ve ordered it. Of course that means I’ll now have one more book that I need to find a place for. I’m hoping those methods will work for me. Thanks so much.

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