A homeless person could live happily ever after out of my car.
At any given time it has a blankie, snacks, a flask of whiskey, paper towels, toilet paper, extra
clothes, analgesics, antihistamines and a first aid kit. Now this would be great if the stuff was
organized in brightly labeled plastic bins. But it’s not. My necessities are tucked loosely in
nooks and crannies and strewn out all over the floor space in the back.
My desk at work is similarly well supplied. I have snacks, fast food packaged
condiments, a sewing kit, hand lotion, extra meds, and greeting cards in addition to the
obligatory planner, pens, writing pads in all sizes, assortedly colored and sized stickies,
paper clips, staples and hole puncher. Unlike my car I DO have little containers for everything
but usually once I use something it hangs out on a corner of the desk for awhile before it finds
it way back into its plastic home.
I like having my stuff surrounding me where I can see it,
not hidden away in organizers. Which means, yes, I’m a slob. No ifs,
ands or buts. If the neatness cop ever arrests me I will have no one to testify in my defense at
the trial. Plus I have a touch of hoarding disorder. I still have the gumball machine and all the
other treasures my son designed in wood working class. I still have the masks and drawings
my daughter created in art class. Both of my offspring’s handprints from preschool, the
cookie jar my first boyfriend gave me, and the covered wagon Oklahoma clock from my Aunt
Mary reside in various corners of my personal space.
Got the picture? Now imagine my house, the same house I moved into nine
years ago after my divorce; the tiny two bedroomed home into which I transferred forty-plus
years, five bedrooms and two children’s worth of memories; the house that stores the
mementos of my new life….. When you’re done shuddering I have to tell you that I
invited my 22 year old daughter to live with me for the next few months while she figures out
what comes next in her life. Deep breath.
So I’ve been spending the past month cleaning house. My first realization was
why those globs of dust and lint are called bunnies – they propagate like rabbits. My second
insight is a bit more profound. If a single woman wants to make room in her life for
someone else, be it her lover or her baby girl, she needs to make room in her
I actually had read that somewhere before. And I’d done a bit of feng shui-ing in my bedroom
by purchasing two bedside stands and lamps. But making room in your bed is not the
same as making room in your closets and bathroom. And emptying an entire room of
junk is major.
Rusty recollections of my youth resided in my back bedroom. While there might be
something revitalizing about neat shelves in your house, and order in your
life, chaos predates renewal in my universe. In other words I had to go through
stacks of trinkets and toys and other tangible things before anything resembling tidiness
emerged. At one point there was barely a footpath through my entire house. Stacks of
papers, books, art supplies, jewelry, stuffed animals and old clothes were everywhere you
Musty memories are found in 15 year old hand lotion. My sweet daughter tried to help me go
through old toiletries so we could make room for her cosmetics in the bathroom. I couldn’t let
her do it. For years my friends have given me bubble bath and other smell good potions. So,
I had to handle each bottle myself and remember who gave me that particular present before I
reluctantly dropped the mostly empty container in the garbage. Then I had to pace myself to
swim through the flooding of reminiscence. I can only do a little bit at a time. Sorting
stuff is exhausting.
Each drawer, shelf and area that I’ve cleared has taken a few minutes of time and a large
chunk of emotional energy. The garbage bags of clothing and old furniture have
gone to the trash or the Bandon Teen Center thrift store leaving me with the
peace of accomplishment. But the process of donating my son’s first real bed and
costumes from Halloweens long ago has awakened anxious crooks of my mind.
I’m not totally sure what these emotional gymnastics are about. What if the
emptied space makes me forget those precious days when the kids were little?
What if nothing worth remembering ever happens to me again?
What if taking in a grown up daughter has to make me grow up? What if I was to grow old
and someone else had to toss out my gold lame purses?
So, for me hanging onto stuff must have had something to
do with hanging onto life. Most days I will tell you I have a good life.
Life IS good here on the Oregon Coast. And I did try to make the most of the dry October with
which we were blessed this year. But there were a few sunny days I whiled away inside,
some lost hours looking at the ‘puter or TV screens. Most of the time I will tell you I am a
“good” person. I am loving, honest and responsible. But in addition to my
aforementioned idleness there have been a lot of thoughtless words that
have escaped my mouth over the month (and years.) It is these
indiscretions, like the spider webs in the corner, which haunt me. Ah ha.
Sometimes I fall into the trap of beating myself up for being a sloth and a shrew.
In a bizarre way I realized clinging to possessions is my personal reminder that I’m not always
so “bad.” When I reread yellowed letters, pet tired stuffed ducks, and try
on old outfits I remember someone loved me once and I used to be
skinny. This trash helps me to feel good about myself. How silly is that?
It was this third and last insight that surprised me.
Our image of ourselves needs to inner, not defined by others or
outer trappings. I really thought I had learned that lesson a long
time ago. But as I struggled with letting go of obsolete objects I
stumbled on my antiquated insecurity. The truth is I do have
friends and I’m a pretty nice person. I don’t need to hang so tightly
onto the past to enjoy the day. So for me cleaning house was long
If a fall cleaning can freshen my house, the possibilities for my future are infinite.
No doubt I will continue to collect new junk and I might never get rid of that dumb clock.
But at least for now there is room for another person in my space
and new experiences in my world.
By Dianne DeVilliers
(This column was originally posted in November,
2006 on www.bandon.tv where Dianne writes
under the name of The Ducque. As you can tell
when you read it, Dianne also has a touch of
hoarding disorder. It is resubmitted to
housewifemafia in hopes it will give a touch of
insight, albeit irreverent insight, into some of the
psychological issues of hoarding disorder.
Dianne went to college with Holly and “Leanne.”
And I’m proud to call both of them my friends after
all these years.)
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