Sunday, January 10, 2016

Lunchtime musing

It's one thing to sort your own stuff and be surprised (why did I keep this? hey, I thought I lost this! ooh, I know where the missing piece of X is, and ugh, I bought a duplicate because I couldn't find this one). It's much stranger when you're sorting someone else's things. One of the reasons I think I've been a successful home helper is my lack
of judgement about other people's possessions, in the sense that I don't ever think of a person who accumulates beyond their means to deal with it is lazy or stupid or creepily mentally ill, just overwhelmed. We could analyze all the reasons I don't, but I think the simplest answer is that I live in a glass house, as do many people. I know people who feel that hoarders are disgusting, and then I see their homes and it's clutter central, but they 'aren't hoarders, because there's no sentimental attachment.' Sure, they'll get rid of stuff without remorse, but only under duress, like if there's a party coming up. They 'don't have the time to deal with it' because they are doing other things, it's a low priority. I'm fine with that - those are easy jobs, for me. I wish they were less judgmental, but they have their own opinions and that's okay, too.

I think it's important to eliminate that false dichotomy of of hoarding vs. cluttering and the idea that it's better to be sentimental than lazy, or busy rather than stuck in the past. It's the folks who aren't sure what's got to go that are the true challenge for me, sometimes exhibiting both kinds of behavior, because it's a puzzle to figure out how to help them in the short AND the long term. Straight-up clutterers I just go in, do a whirlwind now and then, problem solved. Sentimentalists, they sort at a snail's pace and if I move a stack to get access to something else, I've derailed their progress and they start all over again. Yet I must get my cleaning work done, too. It's a long process, I try to make it less of an ordeal but you can't really stop someone from beating themselves up about decision making by telling them to hurry. Decision making is its own scientific study. <

As an ex-Catholic I think sometimes about the people I've met who regularly confess their sins and do their penance and are supposed to go sin no more yet have to keep confessing, in horror and shame, until they are a walking wad of guilt and misery. I am perplexed by the attitude that "just don't do it" is the answer to most queries about how to not sin any more. So, to extrapolate this to our current situation, if you know you have a problem, and you find yourself burying yourself in stuff or just 'churning the stash' as some call the process of shoving boxes around but not actually processing the contents in any helpful way - how do you stop? I guess what I've discovered by comparing my experiences with the people I work for, the answer is: you must find your own answer. But you must seek it.

The answer may be, as mine is, a matter of making task lists that are truly doable, and doing them in any way you can - enlist help, reward yourself with library time or a museum trip (with no souvenirs allowed) somehow make the work itself its own reward. It's not a one-size-fits-all answer, though. There's a pretty broad spectrum of people who clutter and collect, and I've only met one person who was in such denial of the problem that they flew into a rage when we tried to simply sort real trash (candy wrappers and used dirty food containers) from the ordinary things. I learned from that house that I don't want to work with someone because their relative hired me.

We all have our issues we are in a kind of denial about; mine is how much free time I have to work on projects for myself. I get stunned by deadlines that come and go about my personal projects, since I'm pretty darn punctual and organized about other people's work. I know what it means: that I'm not prioritizing my satisfaction, or rather, true satisfaction, not instant gratification. My laptop and I are mindlessly eating cookies, as it were. Well, it's back to work, for me. Hope my ramblings are a way to get you thinking about what sort of work you need to do to make your own home pleasant and tidy.

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