Tag Archives: tidying

Purging and Cleaning and Finding Stuff

Matt Paxton Hoarders

Matt Paxton from Hoarders

I’ve been at it again. Cleaning out my house. My therapy. And also, kind of a strategic get out of jail plan. In the next year to 18 months I plan to move, and sell or rent out my home — the former hoarder’s house to which I fled upon the demise of my marital bliss — just one half step ahead of the hot flaming lava chasing me from my volcano of debt. Dramatic, I know.

So might as well start the pre-listing clean out now, right? Plus the kids are not here and I need to alter my surroundings. Again. And, it’s freee entertainment, which is a necessity right now, the free part.

I needed to seriously clean. Things are dirty. Even though I always felt like I was cleaning all the time, I wasn’t really cleaning. I was straightening up and clearing and cleaning around things — and those people I made — and dogs — but I never had all the stuff out of the way long enough to get to the really deep cleaning.

Pulp Fiction

Pulp Fiction

We had downsized already when we moved here and got rid of around 2/3 of our possessions. Many other belongings were removed along the way as I realized I still didn’t have room for them. My parents got my formal sofa and chairs (and I got rid of their outdated stuff) some other casual furniture purchased for the house just didn’t fit. I get rid of things all the time. But as the kids grew in our modestly sized home, we have been stepping over each other. Literally. We’re all relatively and objectively tall and have large feet and long legs. We take up a lot of room. And the sprints to be the first one to get the only bathroom in the house were getting serious, and a bit dangerous. But now the kids are gone for a while — a college thing — to be discussed in another post — it’s time for me to, as a good friend I recently reconnected with said, “reset.”

“Reset.” I like that.

As part of my clean out, clean up, and just clean, I went through an ottoman that doubles for “storage” of our miscellaneous electronics. I’d throw any cord I couldn’t identify, or those I could identify but did not need at that moment, old phones, parts of video games, remote controls, etc. in there. Some of these electronics were even in baggies to keep them from tangling around each other. I was proud of that and that at least most of the stuff in there was part of the same category. But I hadn’t taken out everything in years.

Until now.

And at the bottom of the cords, games, adapters, phones, remote controls, and extension cords, there was a cassette tape. (For those of you who are not familiar, cassettes were used to store audio information before CDs, and CDS were and are used when music cannot be accessed from phones, or there is an absence of wifi or available data.)

raiders gifs

This particular cassette was an audio recording of my wedding.

Huh.

The church where I married recorded everything that happened there. The good, the bad, and the ugly. I assume this was to preserve sermons and music. In my case it preserved our voices stating our now defunct wedding vows, along with some really good music (I had a brass quartet at my wedding. It was beautiful . . . but I digress) and it recorded the reading of probably the saddest poem ever read at a wedding, “The People Who Never Say Goodbye.” This was a cry for help. As I’ve said before, ladies, your job as bridesmaids is not limited to showers, bachelorette parties, and shopping for dresses. Your job is to read the room, the bride, and call the whole thing off if necessary. Almost a Runaway Bride

My first thought was just to throw the cassette away, like my husband did with our vows. No fuss, no muss, no pomp, no circumstance. A Twitter friend suggested that I burn the tape. I’m no stranger to the burn. This ain’t my first rodeo. My Wedding Album. In response I joked that if I was a guy I’d whip “it” out and pee on it. The same Twitter friend reminded me — “You could squat.” Smiling about that, I put it on the table while I finished going through the electronics. Maybe, I thought, I’ll just listen to the music.

My next find wasn’t really a find.

crazy-ex-medication

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend finds a pill on the bathroom floor in front of the toilet.

I knew they were there. While cleaning out the medicine cabinet, I saw my old friends Mr. Xanax and Ms. Ambien – relics of my clinical major depression, anxiety, and insomnia following that pesky time when my husband of many years and father of our many children broke up with me. The pills were expired of course, but I’d kept them. Weird, because I never really liked them much and used them very sparingly. If I took a sleeping pill I couldn’t properly wake up in the morning. If I took a Xanax I was just a little bit off, out of it. But I tell ya, this was very helpful in certain situations. Very helpful indeed. It was my pharmaceutical prophylactic in difficult, awkward, or painful situations. Sharing Celebrations .

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend French Depression

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

Having the pills in the house gave me comfort. I think I kept these old meds, you know, just in case . . .

After the scrub down and disinfecting of the cabinet (you’d be amazed at the mess that old razors for four girls leave), I found that the added space in my cabinet was far more calming than presence the old pills.

So — I chucked them. I brought them downstairs, opened the bottles, destroyed the labels and trashed the pills so no one could find them and sell them (it would be wrong for someone else to profit from my misery). And then? I casually dropped the wedding cassette — the audio proof of the “till death do us part” fallacy — in the same trash bin. I don’t want any of those particular reminders of the good, the bad, the ugly or the pharmaceutically numbed in my house.

And that was that.

There has been a slight shift in the universe. Did you feel it?

The Good Place - Season 1

The Good Place

Just Me With . . . space, and some peace.

Oh, and I found the remote control to the actual TV! Now I don’t have to get up to change the input from cable to Netflix. Not too shabby.

Plus, I already own a CD of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons and am blessed to have access to a classical music station, wifi, and a smartphone. There is no reason to listen to a cassette recording of my wedding music. Nope. No reason at all.

Plus, one of the brass players was this asshole, I Don’t Go to Weddings.

My Old Wedding Dress

The Party's Over

The Party’s Over

My son’s graduation is over. It was the first big celebration that I had to share with my Ex-Husband. See The Unspoken Pain of Sharing Celebrations. I made it through. And by that I mean I stayed off the six o’clock news. In the weeks before the graduation, during the graduation and after the graduation some bad things happened, and some very good things happened. I’m too close to it right now to write about it. But in the midst of all the brouhaha, of the visiting relatives, of the planning and anxiety, the tears (some mine, some not), something quite unexpected happened . . .

I got rid of my wedding gown.

My sister was staying at our parents’ home. When she left she cleaned the old bedroom — her old bedroom. She dusted, organized, threw things out, removed bedding and vacuumed — even under the bed. To clean under the bed, she pulled out everything stored there, including an airline cardboard garment box. The box had the logo of the airline, along with my maiden name handwritten on it in black marker.

It was my wedding dress.

I couldn't find a picture of a box like the one my dress was in so here's a cardboard coffin.  Draw your own conclusions.

I couldn’t find a picture of a box like the one my dress was in so here’s a cardboard coffin. Draw your own conclusions.

Now, I’ve written before about how I have dealt with the mementos of my lengthy but ultimately failed marriage. Wedding Leftovers — What To Do With The Dress and The Wedding Album — Time to Reduce it, Perhaps by Fire. And the gist was that I sold my rings, reduced the number and manner of presentation of my wedding photos, but I kept the wedding gown in a box under a bed at my parents’ house — untouched.

And I’ve also written before about how I moved into a hoarders home and had to clean it, see That Hoarders Smell, and that I’m also trying to clean out my parents’ home, which is too full of stuff. See Goodbye Hoarders. I’m a big believer in getting rid of things. It’s my free therapy. See Craigslist Angel’s. It truly is contrary to my belief system to store something I would never use. So when my sister pulled out my wedding gown to clean under the bed, it suddenly felt kind of stupid to put it back.

I’m supposed to be cleaning out my parents’ house. I shouldn’t be keeping any of my stuff there, I thought.

Rule One of de-cluttering is to get rid of stuff that doesn’t belong to you. My parents shouldn’t be keeping a big box of white dress for me, taking up valuable real estate under the bed.

When I first married I really wanted to keep my dress. My parents, who are still married, had a big church wedding back in the day. My mother looked beautiful.

Classic Grace Kelly, though I submit that my mother was more beautiful.

Classic Grace Kelly, though I submit that my mother was more beautiful.

I like tradition, antiques, old houses, etc. and I totally would have worn my mother’s wedding gown when I got married. But my mother didn’t properly preserve it, it yellowed and she eventually just threw it away. My young self chastised her for this over the years and I swore I would always keep my wedding gown just in case future daughters unknown to me at the time might want to wear it. So after my wedding, I carefully packed away my gown, according to the instructions from a professional. And I left it at my parent’s house. I’ve moved many times over the years but the dress stayed at my parents’ house.

I did have daughters. See Fertile Myrtle. Technically this meant that there was a possibility that one of them might want to wear my dress. But the dress is woefully out of style. I got married when women were still allowed to have straps and sleeves. Still, any dress can be altered, and there is plenty of material to work with. But none of my daughters have any interest right now in vintage clothing, except for Halloween or dress up days at school. Even if they did, call me silly, call me superstitious, but it seems like bad Mojo to marry in a used wedding gown, even heavily altered, from a wedding where the marriage did not last. I’d gotten a lot of suggestions from my earlier post on possible other uses for the gown — dye it black and use it for Halloween, donate it to particular groups that collect gowns, theater groups, etc. But as I looked at the big box with my birth name on it, I was sure of two things:

(1) I need to get it out of my parents’ house; and

(2) I sure as hell didn’t want it in my house.

I also didn’t want to take the time to find a proper home for the dress. I didn’t much care whether or how it was used again. And I was also quite sure that I didn’t want to touch it. I was almost afraid of the damn thing.

 Helena Bonham Carter as Miss Havisham, wearing her tattered wedding dress. (Source: blogs.indiewire.com)

Helena Bonham Carter as Miss Havisham from Great Expectations, in her wedding dress. (Source: blogs.indiewire.com)

It was freaking me out.

So I put it in my car — my beloved car, where I spend way too much time. It is my refuge. See My Very Own Personal Olympic Games. But since my car is my refuge, I didn’t want to leave the gown in there either. Bad Mojo. I didn’t want it to infect the only space I have for me. Then I started to have visions that I would get into a car accident and they would find my bloodied wedding gown in the wreckage — and think I had some connection to it — that I had kept it for sentimental reasons –that I was purposely driving around with my wedding gown because I must still be in love with my Ex-husband and — and NO!

I’ll say it again. The gown was freaking me out.

I’d been doing some Spring cleaning in my own house (free therapy after an emotional time) and had a couple of things I wanted to drop by Goodwill. Goodwill, if you don’t know, is a charitable organization benefiting the disabled which is funded largely by Thrift Stores. (Yeah, I looked it up.) During my move from the marital home I spent a lot of time at Goodwill, giving away many of my possessions. I’ve shopped there, too, finding good buys, especially with furniture and wall decor. So I stopped by my house and grabbed the few other items that I planned to donate and took myself to Goodwill, making a special trip. Had it not been for the gown I would have waited until I had more stuff to drop off, but this had suddenly become quite urgent.

Still, I had some doubts. Consequently, I had a little conversation with myself on the ten minute ride:

Should I take the dress out of the wrapping?

(Why should I? I don’t want to see it.)

But what if I’d hidden money or something valuable or embarrassing in the box?

(But I didn’t. Those pesky photos of my husband and a stripper were never stored there. My boudoir photos I made for my husband during happier times have long since been destroyed.)

What if the wedding dress had yellowed or gotten otherwise ruined?

(Well, then the kind folks at Goodwill will dispose of it for me.)

Shouldn’t I let my daughters see it one time? Maybe try it on?

No. They’ll want to keep it, because they are hoarders-in-training. I can’t even let them know that it was in the car, because they’d have what I would deem as a morbid interest in it. And, it’s my dress, my memories. My kids did not exist when I got married. They have no right to keepsakes of my memories that predate them. I still have some of the wedding photos, that’s enough. If I abided by the reasoning that I must not destroy things related to my relationship with my kids’ father, then it follows that I should have kept the boudoir photos for my kids too, right? Wrong — and ick. Plus, if I saw any of my girls try the gown on, even just for fun, I think I’d have a panic attack and start screaming to the visual representation of my younger self standing in front of me — Run! Run! RUN! See Almost a Runaway Bride. No, I could not handle it. No, no. Did I say no? No.

Just, no.

Plus, when you think about it, my husband wore a rented tuxedo when he married me. He didn’t even keep his wedding attire for more than a day. Why do I have to keep this — thing — forever?

So, without any ceremony or further ado, I pulled around to the back of the Goodwill thrift store and left the box that contained my wedding gown on the concrete slab.

And that, as they say, was that.

And you know? I feel really good about it.

One less thing in my parents’ house, one less item from my marriage that I have to think about or make room for.

I have lightened my load. The dress wasn’t even my house yet it still haunted me. Just being in close proximity to the box that contained it led to irrational thoughts. It needed to go. I’m sure at one point one of my kids will ask where my gown is. I’ll simply say that I got rid of it, just like my mother had. If my girls marry, they can choose their own dresses, without resurrecting my vintage error in judgment.

As my oldest child is moving on to his next stage in life, preparing to leave the nest, it seemed like a good time clean up some of my old stuff. It was time to grow up and stop storing items I can’t even look at under a twin bed at my parents’ house.

So I’m good with it. So good.

Just Me With . . . no wedding gown, not anymore.

I can’t help but wonder how much it’ll go for in the store, it sure cost me plenty, in more ways than one.

Goodbye Hoarders

A&E's Hoarders

A&E’s Hoarders

It was with a heavy heart that I heard confirmation that the A&E reality show “Hoarders” would not be filming new shows.   Hoarders has been cancelled.

Having purchased a partially hoarded house I found some comfort in Hoarders, which profiled one or two homes an episode and “cleaned house” with the help of Psychologists, professional cleaning crews and the hoarder him or herself.

I know that some folks complained that the home owners were being exploited and objectified for entertainment, since audiences seemed simultaneously to enjoy and be disgusted by seeing the filth and mountains of mess (and sometimes poop).  It seemed to me that the hoarders were getting help that they would not have otherwise received and  were the better for it. The crew never laughed at or belittled the hoarders, instead they just tried to convince the hoarders that something had to change.  Getting rid of the hoard was always a safety and mental health issue, and usually a financial necessity.   Yes, it was a television show, but it wasn’t just about entertainment.

As for me, I found some brethren. I was not aware of the show while I was cleaning the worst of the worst out of my new house, a friend told me about it and said I should watch.   When I did, I found that  the shows  gave me comfort.

Comfort you ask?  Among the piles of wet papers and rotten food?

Yes, comfort.  Because until I saw Hoarders I didn’t know that I was not alone in stumbling upon a collection of bottles of urine.   Hoarders showed me that  people other than the former inhabitants of my house have found themselves at a point in life where the kitchen is as likely a place to dispose of  human waste as the bathroom.  In Hoarders I saw how, like with my house,  a home’s smell can make visitors gag while the inhabitants remain completely unaware of the stench.   And at the end of each episode of Hoarders, I was amazed at how the hoarded houses looked after they were cleaned out, and it reminded me of how far my house had come.

So yes, comfort.

Now, as I help my parents clear out some of the decades of accumulated clutter in their house, I find myself using the techniques I viewed on Hoarders.     I’ve learned to understand how so many things can simply be piled up —  unused or incorrectly stored.    My parents are not clinical Hoarders, and their house is still functional and the front rooms pristine.   However, the private areas and attic and basement are full, and unsafe.   My parents are like a lot of true hoarders in that  they are old and  grew up with next to nothing.  Though my parents went to college, married, had children and bought a home, they were never wealthy.     And they never moved.   As a result, decades of stuff has never been relocated or inventoried.

My parents, and their parents before them, lived through some of the most economically and socially challenging times in United States history — the Wars, the Depression, the time both before and after the civil rights movement.  I think they grew up with an underlying persistent worry that they could lose what they have at any given moment, or that someone would  try to steal it from them.  So, like some of the clients on Hoarders, they ascribe value to things that no one would buy, and by piling up mountains of stuff, they endanger the most valuable possession they have —  their house.

The show Hoarders helped me to know that even the most unlikely item has a story, that sometimes the story  needs to be told before the item can be discarded, and that when the smallest treasure is exhumed from its grave of stuff, it triggers a memory — of a different time, a different place,  a different person.

As I help my parents clean out I have specifically utilized a few Hoarders tricks:

1. Lay out a tarp to place items on outside, they look different in the light of day.

2. When cleaning out a closet, dresser, or any area, I don’t stand there  and pull out items one at a time.  Instead, I  take everything out at once and set it all out,  assuring my parents that we’ll return the items they choose to keep, but we need to get everything out first.

I’ve learned it’s easier for most people to  justify keeping an unused item in a closet– it’s not hurting anybody — but it’s a lot harder to justify putting useless things back in once they’re out.

3. Try to do as much in one day or sitting as possible.  It’s never a good idea to allow extra time to think about items.

This was the genius of Hoarders.  It wasn’t  just for filming that the task had to be accomplished in two days.  It’s better for the hoarder to have to make quick decisions.

4. Remove discarded items immediately.

Even when possessions are marked for trash, there can be a “declutter remorse” if there is a bag or piece of furniture or appliances or tools left in view.  It’s just too tempting for someone with hoarding tendencies to revisit the trash, go through it and bring stuff back in,  promising to fix it, or find a use for it, or sell it — later.  I’ve been known to load my parents’ trash in my car and take it home to put out in my own trash, just to avoid the temptation to “trash pick.”

A&E’s Hoarders may be cancelled, but it has and will continue to help me.  Now, as I watch my Dad go through piles of once expensive clothing piece by piece, stuff  that’s over forty years old, suits that he has never worn and he probably  inherited, clothes that have mice dirt on them and moth holes in them, I think,

What would Matt Paxton do?

and I feel better.

And as I clear an area, making it easier for my parents to get around and find the things they  actually need, I know that no matter how hard the fight was,  the process is important, especially when it helps them locate and display —  or even sell —  the things that do have real value.  Plus, I feel better making the home safer.  But it ain’t easy.  No, it’s not.

Matt Paxton from Hoarders

Matt Paxton from Hoarders

So thanks Matt and the whole Hoarders crew. You helped. You really did.

Just Me With . . . among many other things, a collection of vintage Ebony and Look magazines, a couple of flat mice (but not cats!), a tractor, bowling shoes, and more patience than I thought I could ever conjure up.

Related Posts:

Piss, Puke, and Porn — The discoveries I made inside my new old house.

That Hoarders Smell — How to get rid of that awful smell.

Toilet or Kitchen Sink —- Who Can Tell?  —  I saw some nasty stuff in the old kitchen.

Exhumation by Accident — I dug up something in my yard.

Craigslist Angels — One Man’s Trash Is Another Man’s Treasure  — Giving Away Christmas Decorations Can Be A Very Good Thing.

My Wedding Album — Time to Reduce It, Perhaps by Fire

A while back I wrote a post entitled, “Wedding Leftovers” where I discussed what to do with the remnants of a failed marriage.  I concluded that I’d keep the wedding pictures.

But . . .

Today I am consumed with the idea of destroying somejust some — of my wedding photos.   Is it a coincidence that this feeling comes on the eve of what would have been my wedding anniversary —  the first one since my Ex-husband has remarried?  I think not, but  there’s a slight possibility I’m fooling myself.  It just suddenly feels a bit icky to keep all this stuff in its original form.

I have children as a result of that  now defunct union.  I think that in later years they will enjoy seeing the pictures from their parents’ wedding.  Consequently,  I do not feel comfortable destroying — all of them.   Anyway, I looked good that day.    My  best friend looked good that day, too.  And, from a distance, my Ex-husband looked good, too.  So yes, I’ll keep some.

But  I do feel comfortable taking the pictures out of the leather-bound book and velvet cover.   I don’t need to preserve the formal display anymore.

I also feel comfortable destroying the picture of my father with my then husband’s sister, a picture that was  included in the album only because this sister was nowhere to be found when the rest of the family was posing for pictures so we kept this one shot so she would be in at least one photograph.  Anyway, there are other, better pictures of my father.    Plus, this is the sister who was not very respectful to me, my home, or my parents during “the invasion”  or the “War of the Roses” situation as I call it — Humph —  so her photo can go.

I am also content with reducing the number of pictures of the groomsmen, since the best man is the most un-photogenic person I’ve ever seen.  He was good-looking guy, but didn’t know how to smile naturally.   Embarrassingly bad pictures.   Anyway, I have not seen him or his wife or family since my Ex left me years ago.  I don’t need multiple pictures of him  in my house. See, “I am Here!

And, I do feel comfortable destroying the poorly touched up close-ups of my then husband, whose face broke out right before the wedding.  (Even his skin was trying to tell me something.)  He hated the pictures because he looked so bad and he wouldn’t “let” me show the album to anyone anyway.  Humph.

I’m even cool with limiting the bridal party pictures of the women.  My second best friend was suffering from a stomach disorder that was so bad that she had  to be  released from the hospital just to attend the wedding.  She’d been throwing up — a lot.   She didn’t look so good.   I would guess that she’d probably be quite happy if I made some of the pictures that include her . . .  disappear, especially since she’s a television personality now.

Also, I am completely cool with losing photographs of some of  my Ex-Husband’s friends and those wedding guests that now I’m not even sure why we invited– except for, of course,  that photo containing the likeness of one guest who is now somewhat famous (Nope, I’m not telling — heh, heh).  I’ll keep that one.

Yeah, I’m ready to reduce and downsize my wedding mementos and preserve them in a manner of my choosing and befitting their relative importance.   It’ll be like the olden days when there was only a portrait of the bride, maybe some pictures of the wedding party and the happy couple — but just not so many damn pictures.  I really don’t need all of them.  If my whole downsizing thing has taught me anything, it has taught me that  I don’t need to preserve everything.   Hell, my Ex-husband and his new wife don’t have this stuff taking up space in their home.  I don’t even want it taking up treasured space on my hard drive.

So yes, I am completely cool with reducing the number of photos, and placing them in a less shrine-like album.  And bonus, my taking control of  the manner of display may make it more bearable when the kids do want to look at them.

Sadly, it has started to rain.  So there will be no fires today.  Sigh.   But another day . . . burn, baby, burn . . .

Waiting To Exhale — Burn!!

Just Me With . . .  a need to reduce and control the physical manifestation of my wedding memories.   Yeah, I’m good with that now.  (And I promise not to take a Sharpie to his teeth.)

See also:  Always a Bridesmaid