Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Organizing the Hoard

For those that didn't know my mom...she was an interesting person. For those that "thought" they knew my mom....I would wager a bet that you really didn't. It is funny how people deal with and move on from incidents or circumstances in their lives. An example would be that my mom and her siblings grew up before, during and after the depression. Mom was born towards the end....but growing up on a farm in Oklahoma meant that they survived on necessities and everything above and beyond was considered a luxury. This lifestyle tends to leave indelible marks on a person and I am sure there is not one of us who hasn't been around a depression survivor that even all these years later....regardless of income.....they still have a frugal side to them. Often it leaves them with a minimalist decorating style, simply because they grew up that way. This could not be further from who my mother was.

I think because my mother grew up with nothing....things meant something to her. They meant far more to her than they ever did to me and as I have grown older....they mean even less. My mother when we were growing up had a love of garage sales...mainly because this is what we could afford. My brother and I wore, played with and had every inch of our living space decorated by yard sales, garage sales and estate sales. Our Christmas's were phenomenal growing up as mom would garage sale from early spring to late fall and she had an eye for a bargain. If it wasn't bargain enough...she would haggle. No...our things were almost never new....but we never really cared. As you can imagine....over the years, stuff started to fill our house.

Growing up....even though we had a lot of stuff...Mom was an impeccable house keeper. Every week she cleaned and every two weeks she thoroughly cleaned....moving furniture, cleaning windows and flipping mattresses. It would take her two days as she had to also clean her collection of antique plates, my collection of dolls, her nick knacks that covered every  open space and pictures galore. Most people would walk in our house and be amazed at all the stuff and for those with any kind of claustrophobia.....our house I am sure was not a comfortable one.

Christmas time was a particularly uncomfortable time for me. Mom had decorations that she had collected since she had left her parents home. She also kept every Christmas picture and decoration my brother and I had ever made in school. Add all that to new found garage sale finds and decorating our house took days. Like her decorating style the rest of the year....Mom filled every nook and crany with with Christmas. Helping her decorate was out of the question for she had a purpose for each decoration, each light and each bulb. A misplaced decoration or God forbid an accidental bulb breakage and Christmas was darn near ruined. It was overwhelming before, during and after. Granted....the tree was always gorgeous but the taking down of the decorations was not nearly as much fun as the decorating....so often we still looked like Santa's workshop long into January, sometimes February and one year.....March. I grew to dislike the decorating aspect of Christmas early on.

Later in life....Mom started working, and as my brother and I left home....her house did not stay on the same cleaning schedule as in earlier years. Now though....Mom had more money and she still loved to shop. If she found a shirt she liked, pants she liked or shoes she liked....she would buy them in every color. She was also an earring fanatic. The woman had earrings for every day of the year and seldom would she ever wear the same pair twice. She also developed a love of Boyd Bears and all things angel. It almost became an addiction and her supplier was a lovely woman who owned a small shop in an adjacent town. She was a Boyd distributor and whenever she got a new shipment in....she would call Mom. Since my brother and I no longer lived at home....her second story was vacant and since she really didn't have time to display all of her pretties nor apparently to even remove them from their boxes (likely because she didn't have the room)....her upstairs became a store room for bags of clothes, Boyds, angels and anything else that struck her fancy. Coming to her house was never much fun if she sent me upstairs for anything.

After Mom was diagnosed with her second to the last cancer...her shopping became survivalist. She would go to Sams and buy literally tons of toilet paper, paper towels, laundry detergent, etc. It would either be hauled to the 2nd story or when room ran out there....I would haul it to the already overflowing basement. After one shopping trip and me hauling arm loads of items she already had....I asked her WHY? Why did she keep buying all this stuff? Her answer: "Because I have to be around to use it all up." Sadly....her philosophy on stuff vs. survival was incorrect.

My take on growing up and my mother is: I have no idea. Perhaps stuff gave her security. Perhaps it filled a void somewhere deep inside her. Perhaps I will simply never know why stuff was so important to her and why in the end she used it to guage her survival. What I do know is that systematically as an adult I too was turning into a hoarder. (Yes...I said hoarder). Mom not only bought for herself...she bought for my brother and I too. She loaded us up with Christmas decorations and nick knacks every chance she got. It wasn't long before stuff was bulging out of my 900 sq. ft. house and my husband was not too happy about it. I hated it too because I was no great lover of cleaning and the more stuff you have the more stuff you have to clean.

Even when we moved and had about 300 sq. ft. more living space....we still had too much stuff. Then Tim...my husband died. I looked around and I had so much stuff and I didn't want to touch a thing. It was as if I didn't move, touch or throw out anything.....that somehow I would be able to keep Tim alive. Then Mom died. It was at this time that my dad offered me her house. Even after my brother came in and took the things he wanted.....there was still so much stuff. There was her stuff and now my stuff and there was no room. I felt so torn because I couldn't get over the feeling that this was her house and somehow getting rid of anything was disrespectful to her. It took a couple of months for me to realize that until I made it "my" home......it would never be comfortable for any of us. So what did I do? I had a yard sale. I went through what I thought was everything and I filled the garage, the driveway and the yard. We had somewhere around 100 pair of shoes, literally bags of clothes some with the price tag still on them. We had over 1000 pair of earrings and Boyd Bears and angels coming out our ears. I sold it all dirt cheap as I really wanted it out of my house. What a relief when all was said and done, to have room for my things in my house.

That was ten years ago. Since....I have had several other garage sales as well as made many trips to Goodwill with literally car loads of stuff. Each time I think I have cleared it all out....I find more. I try very hard to live minimalist....but I have a few minor addictions myself such as....shoes! I can't help it. I still also find myself in a struggle when it comes to getting rid of things. My upbringing of honoring stuff sometimes gets in the way and I have to give myself a mental talking to. Every time I think I have it all cleared out....only to later find I am still holding on to things. 

It was my desire that this year (2013) would hopefully be the year of organization. The older I get the more I crave it. I knew this meant going places and doing things I really didn't want to do. I made my mind up to do it anyway. This last week...when being sick permitted....I decided to tackle the utility room of my basement. This room has been the bain of my existence for a very long time. This is where I have to do laundry but it has always been so cluttered and dingy that I simply hated going down there. In this room housed tubs full of stuff; blankets, decorations, tools and miscellaneous crap. My first step was to clean under the stairs. It dawned on me as I was dragging all the stuff out....that I had never cleaned under these stairs. I had shoved stuff back there on stuff already there....but I had never actually cleaned. This was more than evident as I pulled out things that I remembered my mom storing back there 30 plus years ago. I am sure that it had been that long since anything was pulled out and cleaned. I found things I hadn't seen in years and the emotional struggle of do I keep them started rearing its ugly head. Then I would ask....."Do I need it? What will I do with it? Can someone else make better use of it?" I quickly began making huge piles for Goodwill. Once the stairs were cleaned then I had room to store all my Christmas and other holiday decorations. Then I went through tub after tub of sheets that no longer fit beds, magazines that no longer had purpose and pictures. Now the pictures I am still having issue with and set them aside to go through...BUT...I gave myself until the end of the month to decide on a course of action for them. The last thing I did was go through tools. I had Mom's tools, Tims tools and tools of my own. They all now have homes in lidded and labeled containers. Never have tools been so accessible in this house.

As of yesterday the utility room was cleaned. Cement walls were cleaned, the cement floor was cleaned and everything had a place. There is room to deposit dirty laundry and room to hang and fold clean laundry. It dawned on me as I was finishing up that in all the almost off and on 40 years that I had lived in this house....that never had this room been so clean nor had it been so empty (even in Mom's manic cleaning days). It really felt good and made me excited to move on to the next room.

I guess Mom's growing up with a lack of things made her cherish things. On the other hand....my growing up with an emphasis on things....has made me appreciate and strive for something more satisfying than things. I have come to the conclusion that for me....satisfaction is a clean house with little clutter. It makes me wonder though how my ways will affect the next generation. Only time will tell.


Anonymous said...

Way to start the new year.

MarniJ said...

This blog makes me smile. I was one that had LOTS of stuff (not sure as to the reasons)and loved it all. But then I got to a point (maybe on the 10th time of moving all the stuff) that I had to cut down. I had tubs and tubs of my kids school work. Every single paper they brought home!!!! Yep....and all their toys...I mean ALL. Maybe because I had nothing from my own childhood and I wanted them to have something from theirs...so I kept it ALL. LOL!
I have gotten rid of a lot...kept special memories and the rest had to go. I now have a rule...if I havent touched it in 3 months...its got to go (expect for special memories). The kids have a couple of tubs.....and toys have already begun to be passed down to Greyson and Lilly.
SO.....Im very proud of you Lisa. This takes a lot of work, dedication and just plain strength to get rid of STUFF! Good for you in starting your new year off this way!!!