I spent all last week cleaning my bedroom. A week, you ask in horror, imagining a scene from “Hoarders?” Well yeah, and there’s a reason why. Several, really, that I’ve been thinking a lot about as I schlepped and dusted and mopped and sorted.
I’m coming up on the five year anniversary of moving here. Before that I’d spent about fifteen years caring for my parents in a home that became increasingly cluttered due to… well a lot of things. They were in the antique and resale business for more than 50 years, and kept quite a lot of wonderful stuff for themselves (and me.) When Dad retired, a lot more stuff came upstairs, got stored in the basement or out in the garage. (I don’t even like to think about the fact that I walked away from a full garage and a half-filled basement when I moved.) And as their health deteriorated, we added a lot of home health clutter to the mix.
Housework became an exercise in simply keeping up with the increasing mess, keeping critical things like kitchen, bath and bedrooms clean and relatively neat. Dementia, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, depression and a host of other, more minor ailments are not tidy afflictions. You don’t cough delicately into a lace hanky and swoon on a velvet couch. There are pills, and ointments, syringes, bandages, adult diapers, walkers, hospital beds, oxygen concentrators, canes, gait belts, commodes, and more dirty towels and garbage than you can begin to imagine. There are the useful gadgets to help with routine tasks and the not-so-useful gadgets that waste time, money and emotional energy. There are piles of magazines and newspapers, piles of laundry and mail, stacks of games and toys intended to, if not improve cognitive function then at least slow the loss. We even had some sort of machine that was supposed to help Mom’s hip knit. (The bone never solidified. Or something. What I recall of those days is imperfect.) In short it’s a long, messy business and once it’s over there is a fantastic amount of stuff left, in this case on top of an already fantastic amount of stuff.
All of which is to say nothing of my own clutter, all the stuff I had, all the stuff I bought to make myself feel better. (Bad habit. Working on breaking it.) When my folks passed I was left with a over 4,000 sq. ft. of stuff piled on stuff.
I promptly got about as sick as I’d ever been in my life, and while I was in a decongestant-induced haze I had a dealer come in and take what amounted to about 1/3rd of the stuff to sell. The money stopped coming a year or so ago, so I assume it all sold or has been given to charity. I sold a bunch of stuff on eBay. And when I moved I still had about 4000 sq. ft. of stuff to move into about 2200 sq. ft. of space. So for five years I’ve had boxes of stuff
But I also think that some of this reluctance to get on with living here was because I simply didn’t know how or even if I wanted to. It was an enormous change that I never really wanted to make. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad I did, all things considered. But the whole process was something I never felt ready to cope with.
Little by little I’ve been easing into this new place. We have a garden, and every time we plant a rose bush it’s really an act of faith. The basement is finished. We’ve gotten to know our neighbors. (Many of whom we both love to pieces.) I’ve got a couple of rooms painted. And last week I got everything in my bedroom squared away. (Okay, to be fair, I still have one tote to empty, but it’s the odds and ends of cleaning. And the room needs painting.) I’m building a sense of belonging that I desperately need if I ever want to feel at home here.
I love this place. I don’t ever want to leave. I think if I ever needed to leave it would kill me. I suppose that would solve the problem, wouldn’t it? I just need to let myself feel like it’s home.
This is what helps: