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I have wonderful friend who is the dearest of human beings but has one dreadful flaw. She is a hoarder. She isn't as bad as she could be, she doesn't refuse to throw out trash or keep piles of newspapers or margarine tubs stacked up in corners, but she does have a problem that creates the worst kind of clutter and mayhem in her home. I have attempted over the years to help her to organize her existence and refrain from holding on or collecting mountains of ridiculous stuff, but not with any real success. She is such a wonderful person that I absolutely detest the idea of hurting her feelings or causing her sadness, so I have walked a very fine line in dealing with her affliction. This is a situation that requires that I exercise extreme self-control since I am a person who detests clutter, dirt, and the accumulation of unnecessary stuff. Every year, at least once and sometimes twice, I go through everything I own and purge. Purging means throwing out things I never use, clothes I never wear, (let's face it, my chances of getting back into a size 3 or 4 at my age are slim), shoes that are worn, out of style, or ridiculous, dishes, pots, pans, décor, knick knacks, and anything else that is just taking up space or gathering dust. Live as much like a Quaker as you can, that's my motto. Don't collect anything, don't be acquisitional for it's own sake, don't be spoiled, and be a conscientious consumer with self-control. I'm not always successful in adhering to these rules, but I try, and generally speaking, it keeps my existence clutter-free.
I find clutter so unpleasant that I don't like stores with too much stuff shoved too close together and try to avoid them. I can live with strange little shops full of interesting and unusual things because they have their own kind of weird charm, but I have trouble with most places where products are small, numerous, and everywhere. I don't even like those candle shops where 200 different kinds of fragrant candles create an environment so odoriferous that it gives me a headache to be in them. They are so close, clinging, and claustrophobic that I can only stay in them for a short time before I have to get out and find some fresh air. Once a month I clean out my handbag and throw out any items that have accumulated in there like old shopping lists, receipts, etc. If I find two small bottles of hand sanitizer or hand lotion, one is tossed out. In truth, in my own way I am probably almost as neurotic about purging as a hoarder is about hoarding, but I like my results better.
My friend has finally reached what I call her 'Hoarder Waterloo', where she absolutely has to do something about her living conditions or face rather serious consequences. So, being her friend and as fond of her as I am, I find myself once again on the clutter battlefield ready for combat. This time, I am determined to be more ruthless than I have ever been before, for her sake. Last weekend we tackled her two upstairs bedrooms, dealing almost exclusively with clothing and linens. I told her that anything I found that resembled any article of clothing worn during an episode of MacGyver was history. There were piles of clothing everywhere, some up to my waist. We had to get rid of those before we could even get to her closets or dressers. The process was pretty combative. She had to closely examine every article of clothing as if she were a quality control inspector. For me, on the other hand, it usually took about .02 milliseconds to decide if something should stay or go. She would have a thousand reasons for keeping something that was old and out of style and that she hadn't worn since Regan was president and I would fight like a tiger to convince her to get rid of it. It got so bad that I resorted to tossing things surreptitiously when her back was turned to avoid having to have an argument. Since she had no idea that these items even existed, I didn't feel too bad about it. Eventually, it became obvious that she owned about a thousand pairs of underwear and socks, mostly because she would lose them in the clutter or forget that she had them and go out and buy more. It was crazy. All her kids are gone and it is just herself and her husband and she has a linen closet stuffed with about 100 bath towels, hand towels, and washcloths. I find this ridiculous. How many do two people need? I nearly had to knock her unconscious to get rid of any of them.
In the end we took out 15 large 30 gallon trash bags of clothes and linens and we aren't even done yet. Even with those 15 bags she still owns 5 times as many clothes and shoes as I do. If I had my way there would have been another 15 bags right behind the first ones.
I don't look forward to moving downstairs to the living areas and into the cellar. I'm surprised I don't have bad dreams about it. If nothing else, this experience has taught me that patience and kindness is still possible, even when all your instincts make you want to pick someone up and shake them until their teeth rattle or their brains start working properly. In the end, love and compassion can prevail...even over the insanity of clutter.
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