Folks, this is a rather long post about hoarder disorder and spring cleaning. Grab a cuppa.
I had a little brain snap over the weekend. I’ve been angstified about my stepson using as his bedroom the verandah space RIGHT NEXT to our bedroom, which is accessible from our bedroom via a set of ill-closing French doors, the only thing between us and computer games when he visits. It has been like this for 4 years, which is long enough in my opinion for a regime change. He’s now 17 years old, needing some privacy. He has also had to share his space with the Oh Jesus* room, a euphemism for the office space DH uses, which also serves as a storage area.
Sunday morning I woke up with the niggling feeling that THINGS NEEDED TO CHANGE. After I
nagged gently suggested DH mow the lawn because forest, I started thinking. What if, instead of Waiting for Godot** we created our own dressing room and study right here, right now, in the West Wing? And that’s what we did. On the very weekend anniversary of our move to our house 4 years ago, DH and I changed some rooms around. It took more and less time than I expected. More time because OMG the crap, but less time because the crap could have been worse. Stepson has been moved into my old teaching space, rattly louvre windows and all. DH and I now share a study – WITH A VIEW – and we finally have a private dressing room/wardrobe in the west wing. Huzzah!
Our house is partially made up of uninsulated but enclosed verandahs (with linings and all, fully electrified – they’re not THAT crappy), and it’s there where the stepkids sleep and where our stuff goes. The verandahs are each 2.6 metres wide by 8/9 metres long, so they’re a useful space, if somewhat long and thin, with cracks between the floorboards. There’s an East Wing and a West Wing. Originally, stepson lived in the west wing while stepdaughter lived in the other bedroom. Then my youngest child moved north to live with us and we had to move everything around. We’ve been living in the house rather uncomfortably for 18 months now, and it’s awkward with three permanent adults and 2 visiting stepkids trying to squeeze into a small 3 bedroom house containing a teaching studio.
I taught singing in the east wing for three years, and it’s the detritus from this phase which is the saddest turning of the tide moment. There is no longer anywhere to put the music gear. I’ve been teaching at the local conservatoire for the year, and the study wasn’t being used. If I am still teaching singing in 2016 I will be hiring an external space. Anyway, the keyboard is now skulking in the space next to the bathroom, an entirely unsuitable spot for electronic equipment. But there’s nowhere else to put it. Also, as with all good music teachers, I have a raft of gifts from ex-students and my old pre-school teaching days. There’s certainly nowhere to put all THAT stuff. I’m talking about picture frames and fun music toys and music mugs and my rainbow flag, that sort of thing. I also have decorating items from my former selves. Little knick-knacks which are adding to my sense of desperate overcrowdedness.
Yes, folks. Time to admit it. I am a bit of a hoarder. Not the reality-TV kind. More the kind that would prefer a little more storage. Just a bit.
DH is always impressed when I do a clean out. He would much prefer to live with a lot less. I’m not untidy, but I do collect stuff. We have no real storage solutions in our hundred-year-old weatherboard home, with 2 households of stuff to make room for (and we have already gotten rid of SO MUCH JUNK). The things we buy for the house now tend to be storage solutions. New coat hangers or pantry containers, that sort of thing. Yesterday we bought a third portable wardrobe, one of those sturdy if industrial-looking chrome storage units. Very retro/trendy. DH can’t believe it. He finally has somewhere to hang his shirts and get his shoes off the floor. A moment of quiet jubilation for him.
DH gets antsy when I bring a new thing home. He asks me – only partly joking-: “what are you now going to throw out?” Looking at the STUFF, I finally see how he is feeling. It’s too much. I regularly clean out my closet, removing old, mouldy or long-unworn shoes and outfits that are out of fashion, tired or ill-fitting. I began this habit a few years ago, and I’m now trying to extend it to other areas in the house, but it’s hard. My worst hoarding habit, I think, is book buying. I rarely throw out old books, as I often re-read them. I’m looking at one of our bookcases as I write this. It’s double stacked. All of our bookcases are. We have 10 large free-standing bookcases, including one in the toilet. Each bookcase holds about 300 books. So we have about 3000 books, texts, academic books, magazines, recipe books, CDs, photo albums, and music books in our little house. No wonder DH is overwhelmed! I also buy art glass, pottery and porcelain things. Usually from overseas trips, they are almost always small, but where to store them? We have stacks of little decorative bowls in our kitchen cupboards, although I now throw out any old glassware and china that’s chipped.
Another of our equally serious problems is the paper trail dogging our heels. We have lots of the stuff. Every six months or so I have a bit of a clean up and manage to partially empty my in and out trays, but almost immediately they fill again. DH is the same. He can’t keep a clean desk at home (given that his desk is bright pink – an old pine desk from years ago that we painted for my stepdaughter, it could be worse), and nor can I. He collects playbills and concert programs and receipts and things. I collect bills and invoices and decorating magazines and receipts and things. I am a hoarder of old electronic equipment and pretty paper things. In my desk drawers are about 100 old computer wires. No idea of their purpose, but I’m pretty sure I don’t need most of them.
In the master bedroom I have a lot of cute little decorative boxes (many of them gifted to me) in which I put all my mostly cheap paste jewellery, which then sit on my tall boy making a visual mess. This stuff is horrible to keep clean and dusted. I even have a white and gold porcelain heart-shaped box WITH A BROKEN LID in which I put my single earrings and jewels THAT ARE BROKEN. Why?! (I just threw it out, with sorrow because it was a gift from my daughter from about 1998. It has been broken since 1998).
We went away for a holiday a while back and to ensure our housesitters felt comfortable sleeping in our bedroom I cleared out all of our bric-a-brac. I liked it so much when we returned I haven’t put it back. This includes my perfume bottles, jewellery boxes and decorative items – things from a former design look (girly romantic, if you must know). It’s getting annoying now, but I loved the streamlined look. It also made me realise I can live with much less than I thought. I’ve worn the same 2 bracelets for months, and rotated the same three pairs of earrings. I’ve worn the one perfume. Now I want to expand a little, but I can do this without the jewellery boxes that hold earrings I haven’t worn in 25 years. While I’ve been writing this post I’ve been quietly going through these old boxes, throwing out broken pieces and empty perfume bottles. I’ve popped all the earrings I’m never likely to wear again but are a reflection of my past in one of the boxes, which I’ve taped shut and stuck in the bottom of my tall boy. A memory of me. Not important to anyone but my grandchildren, perhaps.
Now, the master bedroom is looking roomy, clean and tidy, although long overdue for a dust. The dirty laundry basket has been removed to the “dressing room”, and an old comfy armchair has likewise moved into the west wing. DH’s shoes have gone from under the bed, and we removed the French doors from the doorway. I’ve cleaned out one of the Oh Jesus* boxes and the other is now full of unused picture frames, postcards and some scrap-booking things (scrap-booking: one of my little projects for when I have a project room. Why scrap booking? Because STATIONERY, folks. I have a thing for it).
The next area to tackle will be the paperwork, my desk drawers and the music stuff. I’m not looking forward to it. But already I feel so much better. And I’ve been writing this post from my new study area, which overlooks a view of the city and greenery from my neighbour’s garden. Beautiful.
*Oh Jesus rooms were labelled as such by my mother. They are rooms so full of crap that when you look inside the room, you think “Oh Jesus”, and close the door again. Not intended to be blasphemous.
**Waiting for Godot. Things that will never arrive. In our case, builders’ quotes and renovation commencement.