By Mike Nelson
Read by David Elias
3 hours, 30 minutes
This year I moved from an 1800-square-foot house with a large shop into a 545-square-foot house with two small sheds. This required the wrapping, packing, hauling, storing, moving, re-storing, unpacking, unwrapping, and shelving of all of my worldly possessions. In the process, I sold some things and I gave many things away. And still, I was drowning in stuff. Since my mother, grandmother, grandfather, and great uncle have all passed away, I also have their stuff, everything that I have not already thrown out or given away. I have my souvenirs from Russia that for some reason are impossible to part with. And then there are the books.
In the face of all of this, I still have the audacity to say that I don’t have a problem. I’m not a hoarder. I can walk through my house. My kitchen is clean. And yet, the 30 remaining boxes out in my white shed tell a different story, that after nearly five months of spending every weekend unpacking and recycling, I am not done. If it’s not my problem, whose is it?
My grandmother lived through the Great Depression and afterwards, she knew to hold onto everything. When she and my grandfather became rather affluent and in her old age, she decided to “invest” in collectors plates. And invest, she surely did. She also “invested” in butterflies and even though she was a conservationist at heart, she helped to drive many species of butterflies into extinction in South America.
My mother was a hoarder. That’s hard to say, but it’s true. They say that one can be genetically predisposed to be a hoarder, so then I have to ask myself: do I suffer from the same affliction? I want to say: no, certainly not! This isn’t me. I’m simply straightening up, for five months. And I’m tired of doing it. I’m so tired of stuff.
I checked out the audiobook, Stop the Clutter From Stealing Your Life, free using the Hoopla app. I listened to it as I worked on meeting my weekly quota of unpacking boxes and figuring out what to do with the stuff inside. Keep it? Throw it out? Give it away? As I listened, the book transported me back to my mother’s life and my grandmother’s life. As I listened to it, I was touching the things that used to be theirs before they died, things that were important to them, so they should be important to me too, shouldn’t they?
Does it bring me joy? So many things don’t, and yet I hold on to them. Does it bring me joy? No. Let it go.
And then in my denial, it occurred to me yesterday that this year, in fact last Monday, my mother has been gone for ten years. The stuff in my hands is mine. This clutter is my clutter. This mess is my mess. There’s no more blaming my family. These things are my things. And I can let them go if I want to. I don’t have to have a garage sale. I don’t have to recuperate the money. Time is money. Time is life. I can give these things away. I don’t need a porcelain statue of a cockatoo!
The books, of course, are harder. And the audiobook says that. Do the easy stuff first and do it fast. Do not sit down to read a thousand books and say you’ll throw each one away after reading them and clear the clutter that way. How long would that take?
Tonight as I write this, I have two boxes ready to go to Good Will and four boxes in my living room marked “documents.” And I think, how could this be? I have already shredded so many documents.
My strategy seems to be a good one. I am strict about my weekly quota. And I remind myself that it is a mathematical certainty—eventually I have to run out of stuff.
If you or someone you love has a problem with clutter, this audiobook is a great help in getting your mind around the problem and learning some strategies to make it better. It will also help you understand their thinking.