Be Our Guest

[CW: description of thought processes that can trigger hoarding]

Fox and I spent pretty much every available second cleaning in preparation for Ron’s visit on Friday. It was quite the workout, and somewhat intense … but not quite as intense as I thought it might be. Maybe because I knew Fox was cleaning, too, and I’ve developed coping mechanisms. For example, I found a calendar with beautiful images that I might’ve been tempted to keep, but it’s obsolete (and damaged). So I looked through the images, showed one particularly beautiful one to Fox, then tossed the calendar. Minimal stress.

I’ve also decided to treat clutter like an addiction. Part of recovery (from what I’ve gathered, I’m not an expert by any means) is recognizing that while others may be able to engage in a certain behavior safely – even to their benefit – I cannot. For example, I’ve heard tips about reusing things like wrapping paper – but for me that’s a recipe for disaster. If I let myself think “I can reuse this” I will angst over every decision of what to/not to keep, hoard random items I don’t need, and drown in clutter. No. Maybe it would be ideal to reuse this wrapping paper, but I cannot keep it. Into the trash it goes. End of story.

I lost track of how many bags of garbage we filled, somewhere around 8. Maybe 12?

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(Don’t) Let them in, (don’t) let them see …

So… umm… I “might be” in love with Ron. And ze’s in love with me. And we’ve been connecting on so many amazingly awesome levels … It’s magical. I feel like I can talk to zir about anything. And I want to share the universe with zir.

(I should probably take a moment to mention that I’m in a polyamorous vee with Fox and Banji, and we’re open to additional romantic partners. They both seem more comfortable with this new development than Ron and I are!)

I know I was wary about this before, but I feel like our efforts to get to know each other are having a positive effect on me – including in the direction of finally doing something about all this clutter …

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Hoarding

I am a hoarder. There, I said it.

My apartment isn’t just “a mess,” it’s really, really bad. Like probably a health and safety hazard bad. And by probably I mean almost definitely. If nothing else, I keep getting sick – and I don’t think I can blame that entirely on protesting in the cold, while being precipitated upon…

But I digress.

There’s a path through the apartment: You can walk through the front door, down the hallway, into the kitchen, around the kitchen table, and out the back door.

From the hallway you can enter the bedroom and access the near side of the bed. Around the foot of the bed is a bit hazardous, and you can’t walk on the far side at all. I’ve stopped using the armoire on that side for practical clothing storage, instead I use the bed. (Fox sleeps on a futon in the living room, his choice.)

From the hallway you can enter the living room and access Fox’s futon, the TV, my desk, and my piano (if you’re brave). You can access all the important things in the kitchen, but you can’t sit at or really use the table. You can also enter the bathroom, which, umm … I don’t remember the last time I cleaned anything other than the toilet.

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New Year’s Resolutions for 2015

Last year I resolved to remember that my episodic mood disorder NOS is part of me – not all I am, but not somehow different from the “real me” either. I think I did a pretty good job of that throughout the year.

This year I want to renew that resolution and make a few more:

  1. to be physically active – let’s try 10 minutes per day
  2. to join and regularly attend in-person meetings of a group
  3. to express my spirituality
  4. to do something musical every day
  5. to keep in touch with people I care about

Why these resolutions?

1. I’ve been saying for a while now that including physical activity in my daily routine would be good for my physical and mental health. I feel so much better when I do something that gets the blood pumping – usually walking for longer than it takes to get from one room of the house to another, or dancing. I’ve seen what an extremely sedentary lifestyle has done to my godmother (who is still in the hospital, doing better but Mom wouldn’t say she’s “okay” yet) and it scares me. The extent to which I was winded after carrying a chair up one flight of stairs yesterday scares me. I don’t need to be in tip-top shape, but it’s important that I improve my stamina. I want to be able to do things. I want to feel alive.

2. I’ve gotten a lot better at being with myself or interacting with one other person, setting boundaries and asserting myself and the like. I’ve always been more comfortable with one-on-one interactions. However, especially since I realized I’m an extrovert, I have increasingly felt the need to be a part of some group. I had my friends over yesterday to celebrate the holidays and, as crazy and overwhelming as it got at times, I felt great. I was tired last night but today I want to do it again; I hate the idea of being alone. I know I can’t be interacting with people in groups all the time, but I need it to be a more regular part of my life. Hopefully the classes I’ll be taking in the Spring semester will help, but I need non-academic social groups, too.

One group I’m considering is Clutterers Anonymous because I don’t even know where to start trying to clean my apartment. Fox is just as much of a clutterer as me – if not even moreso – and I learned the behavior from Mom. Ideally the three of us would all go … but he has work and I don’t want to be dependent on her to interact with this group. I need to be able to attend it myself regardless of whether they come with me. I would have specified this group in my resolution, but if it doesn’t work out for some reason, I want to be able to find another group and have it count. The most important thing is to get out of the house and be social.

Another possible group is that Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance support group I attended once and haven’t been back to since. There are also a ridiculous number of Meetup groups in my area; all I have to do is join and actually show up. I’d even be willing to count going to different groups’ meetings toward this resolution, as long as I stay remotely consistent with it (say, at least twice a month?).

3. Spirituality is an important part of who I am that I had been neglecting until very, very recently. I used to feel at one with nature, dance under the stars, direct the energies of the various elements as they flowed through my chakras, practice zen Buddhist meditation, and pray. Even though I didn’t always agree with the lyrics, I found the act of singing or playing sacred music to be a profound spiritual experience. All of that fell apart as situations changed and I withdrew instead of adapting.

Now Fox is going to work most days and I worry about his safety. About a million things could happen to him; I could lose him. You just never know these days, and the world just seems to be becoming more and more dangerous. If I get caught up in thinking about this stuff, it could destroy me. So instead I pray: “Keep him safe.” I close my eyes and visualize him coming home to me. I send out my love and wishes for his protection and clothe him in armor made of positive energy. It helps me feel better. And so far he’s been safe.

I want to expand on this to more fully live my spirituality, especially acknowledging the seasons as they change.

4. Music is another important part of who I am, that I’ve also been neglecting. Among other things, I got too caught up in trying to do it perfectly; I was so worried about making mistakes that it interfered with practicing! That bright, cheerful, simple song would become painful and strained, until I’d drop my instrument and start crying. I was trying to force something that wasn’t there, and suppressing what I needed to let out. I need to find a way back to making music that is for me. It starts with picking up an instrument – any instrument – and trusting myself. Wakana helps in our music therapy sessions, but I only see her once a week. I need to build on what she’s given me.

5. This resolution is kind of difficult and I’ll be honest, I’m tempted to take it off the list for this year. The people I care about are kind of scattered, living in different states and/or busy with their own lives (and/or lacking funds for transportation). I intend to call or text or email or contact via Facebook or something, but then the time just keeps going by and … nothing. People aren’t exactly the best at contacting me, either; many of my family members go through Mom.

I want to maintain and strengthen the connections I have, so I want to try and reach out to them more often. Maybe send a text when I’m thinking about them or something. Emails. I still need to send out thank-you cards. I need to address why I don’t like calling people on the phone. This could probably be its own post, but at the moment I’m struggling not to fall asleep…

Yuletide Blessings and Happy New Year!

It’s ironic. I talked Mom into decorating for the holidays even though she didn’t want to. She put up a little ceramic Christmas tree and an ice palace. She put garland around one of her tables and she has some cute holiday-themed stuffed animals that I assume she’s going to put around the house. It’s just a little bit of cheer in her apartment that’s kind of nice.

I had all these plans: I wanted to put lights outside the house, but that didn’t happen and now it just seems kind of pointless. I wanted to get a tree and even cleared an area for one, but now I keep looking at the floor there; I want to vacuum, but if I’m gonna vacuum I should vacuum the whole floor. There’s so much stuff on the floor and nowhere to put it. And I need to dust but there’s so much stuff on the surfaces I need to dust and I don’t know where to put it! there’s so much clutter in this house and I don’t know where to put anything!

So I’m just sitting here crying and talking to my phone (to write this post using speech-to-text). I feel like such a hypocrite because I got my mom to decorate for the holidays – Mom would’ve been content not to bother – and yet I – the person who cared about it in the first place – haven’t done anything! I might not be able to do anything. I don’t know, Fox said he might be able to help me out a bit before work tomorrow because he has the late shift; I hope we’re both up for it. I want to do something myself. I want to something that I don’t need him to lean on for, but I can’t. I need somebody. I need some kind of support; it doesn’t have to be much. I just feel so alone.

Perpetual Clutter and the Attack of the Dust Bunnies

Today, The Daily Post asks:

Tell us about something you know you should do . . . but don’t.

I am absolutely horrible about cleaning up after myself. It’s not so much that I don’t care – I want my home to be neat and organized, really I do! It’s that … Well, I don’t know. There are several layers to it.

Part of the problem is that cleaning is a task that never ends. Sure, the bathroom might be sparkling, the dust bunnies vanquished, the laundry and dishes all clean and put away, every single item in its place NOW … but in a minute, it will be imperfect once again. Someone will use the toilet or take a shower or eat something. The clothes you’re wearing are dirty. The dust bunnies started respawning before you even finished vanquishing them. You’re going to use something, I just know it! and … now that item is out of place again. There’s the satisfaction of completing a task for about a moment, and then it is once again incomplete.

from theoppulentpoppy.blogspot.com

from theoppulentpoppy.blogspot.com

I’m just not willing to be constantly vigilant, ever doing battle with my own house. I’m a bit too preoccupied with homework and relationships and trying to be places on time to care about where I take off my slippers or the fact that there are dishes in the sink. When I see the clutter I know I should clean it, but there’s usually something else I’d rather do (such as blog about it!). Cleaning just isn’t rewarding enough for me.

from The Dapper Rat, an awesome and informative site that introduced me to the joys of having rats as pets

from The Dapper Rat, an awesome and informative site that introduced me to the joys of having rats as pets

For example, playing with my rats is infinitely more rewarding than locking the poor dears in their carrier and sticking my upper body in their stinky cage to clean it … just to find, a minute later, that they’ve pooped outside the litter box again. And in their minds, all I’ve done is take away their scent marking and filled their home with alien smells that they just have to cover up again. They’d much rather get to climb on me, groom me, explore, show off their intelligence, and eat tasty things.

I’m not sure if this is a legitimate problem or just an excuse, but I also feel like I don’t have a home for all my things. Organization relies on each object having a place where it belongs. Okay, so clothes go in the hamper or the drawer. Dishes go in the cabinet. Used tissues go in the garbage. Etc.

But what about the schoolbooks I use every day? This random thing I got in the mail that I have to do something about but don’t feel like dealing with right now? Coupons? the hard copy of the dragon I just drew? my backpack, laptop case, canvas shopping bags, etc? moisturizer … I think you get the idea. Sometimes I’m too lazy to put something back in its home after using it, but other times I don’t have a home to put things in! I need to give each item a place and return it to that place when I’m done using it.

But sometimes, my anxiety gets in the way. I want to leave this thing out so I’ll see it and know where it is. If I put something away, I might forget that it exists, or not be able to find it again, or it might be eaten by underwear gnomes. If it’s out, I know I have it; I can access it fairly easily.

Sound crazy? It’s partially based on experience: often I’ll clean up and later, when I’m trying to find something, I’ll remember where it was before I cleaned – but not where I actually put it!

from reelmomevents.com

from reelmomevents.com

And finally, it’s really hard to get rid of stuff. Papers take over the room because I don’t know if I’ll need them again for some reason. A lot of garbage just never gets thrown away. Stuffed animals are too cute to get rid of. This thing most people would recycle makes a great rat toy! My goal is to have entire walls covered in books, so clearly I must keep every book I own even if I never read it and don’t currently have the shelf space. I’ll need these boxes the next time I move. These clothes/shoes/other items are still useable, it would be a waste to just throw them away. I’ll donate them (but do I ever?) or sell them (in my dreams, perhaps, but not reality).

The worst is when something I don’t use, want, or need anymore has “sentimental value.” I might have forgotten I had it, but when I see it again it’s the most precious thing ever. I’m overcome with guilt at even thinking of getting rid of it. How could I? I might not have a place for it, looking at it might be painful, I will probably never use it again, but on some level it’s a part of me. A physical reminder of my past. Perhaps a gift from someone I care about – it would be betraying them to get rid of it!

Especially with the move back to my mom’s house, it’s so much easier to just let the clutter continue to sit there than to get rid of it. Going through things is emotionally draining for all the reasons described above: it never seems to end, I’d rather (or need to) do something else, I don’t know where to put each thing, I’m afraid I won’t be able to find it again, and I feel guilty getting rid of the things I no longer want or need (or do I? Maybe I’ll want or need it at some point in the future!). I feel so overwhelmed by all the stuff I have, sometimes I almost wish it would all just disappear.

Almost.

Daily Prompt: Burning Down the House – What Cannot Be Replaced

Daily Prompt: Burning Down the House | The Daily Post.

Today, The Daily Post has set fire to my house! All the people and animals are safe and I have time to grab – and save – five items.

I glance around quickly at all the things that will be lost: my furniture, clothes, beloved books, countless nicknacks. My eyes tear up as they fall upon the bead curtain my friends and I have been working on since college. But all these things, as painful and expensive as it may be to lose them now, can be replaced. The air is filling with smoke; it’s getting harder to breathe. I must act quickly.

The very first thing I grab is my viola; if I’m lucky it is already packed, with its bow, in its case. My viola is not an inanimate object, it is a beautiful musical instrument with a unique personality and with which I have a very meaningful relationship. To lose it would be to lose a part of my soul.

Next I grab my guitar, also already packed in its case – which I can sling fairly easily over my shoulder. I knew this was My Guitar the moment I first strummed it. There is no way I could leave it behind.

Choking, I run over to my desk. I grab the external hard drive that houses the only copy of some of my older files, most notably music I composed in college.

Once that is secure, I unplug all the wires from the back of my desktop computer. This baby was custom-built three years ago and my only complaint about it is that my security software somehow manages to slow it down – nothing some extra RAM couldn’t fix. More importantly, it has the only copy of some irreplaceable files on it. There is no way I will willingly leave it behind.

Finally, I am torn as to what my last item should be. Do I try to wrangle the bead curtain? Grab my digital camera, which likely has some pictures on it I have yet to transfer to a computer? What about my sketchbook? It has my unique drawings in it … but the ones I care about most have been scanned.

I check my left hand – yes, I’m already wearing my engagement ring.

The air is thickening; I can barely see. My eyes fall on my laptop. It is one of the most valuable items I own, and it also has irreplaceable files on it. Though I’ve had the desktop longer, the laptop – because I can use it in bed, take it anywhere with me, etc. – feels more like I have a special relationship with it. I grab it and run for my life.

I escape just in time, running from ground zero as my home collapses behind me. Ashes, smoke, and flames billow into the air. Somewhere in the distance, sirens are sounding.

I am so relieved to join my loved ones in safety. We hug, we cry, we tremble, but we’re all here, safe. I think about all the stuff that I have lost … but it is precisely that: stuff. What I really need is what’s around me: Love.

*****

As a hoarder, especially a hoarder who is transitioning between spaces, I find it exceptionally useful to respond to this kind of prompt. It can be so hard to get rid of things. As crazy as the clutter drives me, it’s also comforting. Each item I get rid of is like throwing away a part of myself. It hurts.

But they’re just things! This prompt has me thinking about which of my things are really important, and which I could live without. Ultimately, the answer is that the items I need most enable me to express myself. My computer hard drives contain some of my most meaningful self-expressions.

Yes, I need things like clothes. Yes, I want to keep all my books and other media. But most of this stuff is just stuff. The emotions, the memories, they all live inside me. I can be whole without this stuff! And that means I can let some of it go …