MUSEUM OF MODERN JUNK: Give Thanks, Honor History, Get Out of the House

There are exactly three things to do today:

Be thankful.  Make it a habit.

Honor History.  Think about what really happened when the pilgrims came here.  Don’t look it up or surf the web.  Just think about it.

Get out of the house. If you have absolutely no invitations, make a few phone-calls to friends and relatives (keep them short), volunteer, or go out in nature.  No staying home!  Remember you are not shopping today, tomorrow, or possibly never again!

Spend some time with friends or family.  Call ahead and see if it would be helpful to come early.  You can help cut vegetables or set the table.  If not, go for a walk near the person’s house and be on time!

Here is the list for quick jobs before leaving the house.  Remember “Good Enough is Good Enough.”:

  • Pick up every towel or cloth in your kitchen.  Keep three kitchen towels.  Put the rest in the trash, in the recycle bag, the give away pile (they make up rag bags), or, if new, with tags, take to the thanksgiving fest as a gift.
  • Take everything out of your kitchen sink. Take out rare heirlooms or valued dishes, wash and put away.  Can’t find a place?  Make room by throwing out things.  Anything rusted or rotted or cracked goes out!   Throw it all in the trash (ceramic cannot be recycled with single stream).  Do not try to recycle.  Get that sink empty NOW.  Take the trash out.  Scrub the sink with soap and water.  Leave a good sudsy layer on for a few minutes and then scrub off.  I like these purple scrubbers because they stay clean.
  • Sweep the floor that is visible.
  • Throw out the trash and put all recycling out.  Take it to the curb or ask for help.
  • Put furniture out on the curb now (someone might take it over the holiday weekend!)

Now get outta here!  Take a book with you and leave it for someone else to read when you finish it!  Take the dogs to the dog park.  Donate towels and newspapers to the pet shelter.  Call a friend and go for a long walk.  Do not stay home!


MUSEUM OF MODERN JUNK: How not to drown. Total Immersion = Deep Knowledge

im·mer·sion iˈmərZHən,iˈmərSHən.   Immersion is a technique used to quickly bring a students knowledge level up by living in the unknown until you absorb it.  Seems counterintuitive for people who live in messy houses and become apparently clutter-blind, but how about we give it a try and see if it works.  I speak more than three languages thanks to living and immersing myself in the language and cultures of other places.  The process of really seeing stuff in the home has started, right?   So lets go full immersion!

immersion:  a method of teaching by the exclusive contact with the subject (a language or skill)  as an apprentice or volunteer, intern or placement, in a special guild, school, or in a foreign country.  So for clutter-blindness = constant exposure to your clutter.  People who live in clutter (O.K. I will use the H-word) or Hoarding, will do anything to avoid CLEANING UP AFTER THEMSELVES.  Then the people around them don’t feel like cleaning up either, since it is pointless.   The person who identifies as the Clutter-bug can try this method:

IMMERSION:  Stay in your clutter 24/7, except for work or school, parental duties, health appointments. This is a one week process.   No movies, TV, reading, computer (other than reading this).  No going out for coffee or a quick meal, bowling, fishing, or shopping (especially shopping).  You may be clutter-blind, but you won’t be after this!  This is cold turkey.  Ask for help from classmates, work-mates, family, friends, or spiritual colleagues.

Most clutterers, messies, and even self-acknowledged hoarders (yuck, how I hate that word), are now familiar with the work of Randy O. Frost. If you are not, check out his Clutter Image Ratings by clicking here.  I diagrammed one of the Living Room Image Rating photographs.   Just pick up a piece of scrap paper and a marker and draw a similar diagram of the room-project.

This is a drawing of a living room from Randy O. Frost’s website science.smith.edu

For the next week we are going to do an experiment.  Call your friends or relatives that have been begging to help you buy getting supplies and making sure that you are eating well.  Don’t let them come in and help you just yet.  Here is a list of things they can do for you.

Shopping for you (don’t you dare go out!)

  • Large Marker (Black is Best)
  • Kraft paper Lawn and Leaf bags (like giant grocery bags) (pack of five is under $5 and these are reusable, 5 for $1.99).
  • Fruit and Vegetable tray-like boxes
  • Trash Bags (strong and leak proof)
  • Gloves and masks (if needed)
  • Shovel
  • Broom (industrial and household)
  • Zip-close bags of various sizes
  • Small nails (copper is best)

Maybe others can help by:

  • Bringing you food for 3 nutritious cold or hot meals a day.

The Immersion in Stuff

Here is how it goes.  If something is really important treat with care; no matter if going to storage (avoid), display, donate, or sold.

Pick up one thing, if you don’t already have a place for this, make one using the markers and the bags.


  • Important papers:  make sure that you have a very clear place for recent bills, tax information, library books checks, etc.  Unless you are in the middle of a tax audit, divorce, or small claims court, you do not need to keep past bills, old routine checks, …)
  • Newspaper (all of goes in one bag, sorting happens later)
  • Photographs (all go in one box to sort later, keep these safe)


  • Books you KNOW you want to give away (leaf bag)
  • Books you have read and probably could give away (once you see how many you have) (leaf bag)
  • Books you definitely want to keep (put on shelves or if you don’t have shelves, leaf bag)
  • Fragile books that could be worth something (carefully put them in a box, well labeled)
  • Furniture and Lamps:


  • You love
  • You hate
  • Needs painting
  • Needs major work
  • Needs minor work
  • Was a gift or an heirloom so you feel like you can’t get rid of it.

Each time you uncover furniture you have to put it on the right or left.  One side is keep and one side is fix.  All the other furniture goes outside on the curb for others to find and treasure.  Hopefully you can have someone come in and help you get this out a week before trash pick up so that it will be gone by trash day and you won’t have to pay extra!


  • You can sort or not sort.  If you sort keep the labels general:
  • Barbie
  • Stuffed animals
  • Sports equipment
  • Playskool
  • Polly Pockets
  • Random toy bits that could really only be used in arts and crafts


  • Children’s
  • Adult
  • Classics
  • Musicals
  • Empty cases for DVDs and Videos (they each get their own bag if we are talking about many)
  • Orphaned tapes
  • Orphaned DVDs and CDs (put in zip lock to protect and put in a box)


  • Empty frames go in a box large enough to stand them up
  • Frames with art or photos:  Put all of them on the wall with the nails.  This keeps them safe and you can decide about them or replace the art/photo later

Art work:  Best to lay flat, if you have a fruit box or an “under the bed bin” or a large portfolio with handles, this is perfect.  Otherwise find a place to safely lay flat artwork that is unframed (and fragile)

  • size
  • color
  • subject
  • which child made it

Trash:  goes in recycling or in a plastic bag if not recyclable.  When in doubt call it garbage.

Garbage:  Goes in plastic bags and out on the curb in your big bin (your friends can take this away as soon as they show up on the curb to avoid pests and critters)


IMMERSION:  Just keep going along, making new bags as needed.  The goal is to avoid feeling like you have to sort into “Keep, Give Away, or Recycle” .  That advice “Touch each thing only once” is bun·kum or nonsense.  Just ignore that advice for now.  People who have difficulty making decisions can’t do this touch it once thing.

Clutterers have trouble making these decisions.  For now we are going to just sort away with no intention of giving away or getting rid of our stuff.   Sort as completely as you can. Every time you have something that doesn’t have a place, make a new bag!

This sounds crazy.  We are immersing ourselves in our stuff.  We are sorting it and touching it and NOT giving it or throwing it away.

Here is an example.  Say you have a lot of books.  You may feel like sorting by hardcover or paperback, by size, color, or topic.  Whatever makes sense to YOU.  Go to it.  Sort!  Use the bags.  Sort anyway you want but don’t think about giving away (unless it is in bad shape or you know you don’t want it (have your book give away bag ready!)

Schedule time for someone to help take the bags that you have labeled “out” of your house and schedule a Goodwill, Salvation Army, or Hospice pick up. Ask for friends to take to the curb, to the dump, to recycling (usually there is a drop off), or if you have bins, to the curb and back again empty.  If there is no one to help and you can’t do it, call around or have a friend call, or call a senior center to discuss availability of volunteers.

RECYCLE for you: Remember, you don’t have to recycle, but if you have friends who are willing to help you, this is the only way you can do it:  The friends recycle for you.  They take cans and bottles to recycling center for money (one full leaf bag = about $7 so really consider if it is worth it.  You can also call volunteer agencies or have your friends do this.  Some animal shelters will pick up towels, blankets, and recycling (and you donate the money to them).  Some bike recycling places pick up bikes in any condition to use to repair and teach children about bike safety or to place free bikes around town for transportation.



MUSEUM OF MODERN JUNK: Zen-Sweeping: Self-soothing with Sweeping. Putting a Hold on Recycling and Composting.

Click on this link: Sound of Sweeping Close your eyes.  How do you feel?

There is a reason that the act of Sweeping figures prominently in art, it is such a soothing and familiar image.  Think about sweeping for a moment.  What does this image do for you?

Look at these images by clicking on these links:  Japanese mythology Woman Sweeping, oil on panel by Édouard Vuillard, c. 1892; in the Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. Intimist.

When I was in high-school it seemed like everyone was reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. by Robert M. Pirsig. It seemed that everyone was carrying that pink-purple paperback around at school. I don’t want to spoil the surprise, but this book is about life and the way we live it. You can read about it by clicking here and here.

So how does this apply to us? We are going to start practicing some new behaviors today! We are going to try deep focus on sweeping. This deep focus is restful and pleasantly t distracting; and in the case of a clutter-bug, it also helps with the clean up.  Take the broom and the mighty dust-bin. It will be hard work but as you sweep do not think. Every time a thought comes into your mind, sweep it away, concentrate on the sound the broom makes as it moves across the floor, see the amount of sand, dust, and dog fluff. Do not assign feelings to this. Just see. Feel your hands on the broom. Feel the strength in your muscles and feel the movement in your body as you sweep. Notice the outer boundaries of the swept area (at this point it is just a tiny area and that is OK). Move along as much as you can even if you have to crawl over stuff to get to another spot clear enough for sweeping. Do this every morning and every night. I am going to go do my morning sweeping now and then we can talk about it.

OK.  I just did my sweeping. Apply the scientific process of observation to the dust bin! Have a trash container and recycling container next to you.  I don’t recommend trash containers in every room yet unless you have a clear path to the trash containers.  For now, just have an easily recognizable bag labeled TRASH (with a trusty marker) and your lawn and leaf bag labeled RECYCLE (single stream).

Before we document what we swept up…Did I talk about taking a break from some forms of recycling?

I give us all permission, until the house is a home to:

Stop mulching or composting!  In most areas compostables can go in a paper bag in the green waste can.  If you feel overwhelmed, give yourself permission to throw this stuff in your regular trash container.  Trust me, you will be back to your environmental-saving and protecting ways soon!  Why do I recommend this if we are all concerned with saving the planet?  Saving yourself and your home and family is the goal now.  Compostables can pile up, smell, and attract critters.  This is just not the right time. Don’t have the time and energy to compost now?  Don’t have energy to garden?  These beautiful activities will be waiting for the future.  Take a break and get the house clean!

Stop taking cans and bottles to recycling center for money.   You do not have time for this.   Put all of your recycling in a single stream container.  If you do not have curbside trash removal get it.  It comes with free recycling and green waste pick up in most areas.   Many companies will let you have two blue recycling bins and two green waste bins for free.   If you cannot afford trash pick up ask for help.   I will assume that you have trash pick up for now (…to be continued).  Many clutter-bugs have a defective system for dealing with trash.  Since you have already stopped spending money on non-essentials because you have prohibited any visits to stores,  it is imperative (super-important) to have proper waste-management.   Call the company, get a trash bin and two recycle bins and two green bins.  Ask about the least expensive plan, but get a plan!

Applying science to sweeping.  I have my trash bag, my recycle bag, and an empty top of a box to use as a sorter.  We are recording what is in the sweep so we can learn.  I pick out the things I know will go in the trash or recycling and I have picked out the things I think might need saving and I put them in the sorting tray (don’t worry friends and family, we are working toward skipping this step in the future).  I immediately throw the rest in the trash (dust, sand, dog hair, chewed up ? from the pets).

When I was still married, I used to sweep up and then leave the little pile of swept up debris in a corner with the broom next to it.  I didn’t know that I had a problem with throwing away little objects (OCD).  My husband would come along and we both thought I had just become distracted.  He would sweep it up and throw it away.  I think he did pick out any coins because he had jars of coins everywhere!

Here is my list from the sorting tray:

  1. fluff from a pillow the dog chewed up — possibly could go into single stream recycling (cloth) but since I am not sure, trash
  2. 3 socks — two thrown away and one to wash.  It is possible that the socks could go in single-stream recycling, but when it is not clear…trash
  3. a money belt — into my suitcase so I know where to find it.  If you can’t find the suitcase, toss it.
  4. 4 coins — three went into my wallet (which I always keep in the same place next to the keys.  One went in the trash on purpose!
  5. one rubber band animals bracelet (very big in elementary schools a few years ago) — trash!
  6. Small pieces of paper –recycle?  No, trash!
  7. beans and seeds — trash!

So how did it feel to read through this?

Were you uncomfortable?   In support groups for OCD or for anxiety, it helps to rank your feelings:  1= very calm and at peace  5 = very uncomfortable, can’t take it.

Now wait a few minutes and see if your discomfort decreases.  I bet it does.

People with clutter often are very thrifty and love to recycle.  So why did we throw out money, beads, and recyclable items?  We are practicing DESENSITIZATION, (click here to read more).

Desensitization is part of the process.   We are practicing throwing away perfectly good things and being present while we do it.   We feel the discomfort, but then we slowly stop feeling the discomfort.

The battle against clutter requires desensitization to perfection.  Comfort with doing an O.K. job is key.  Good enough is GOOD ENOUGH!

Homework:  Sweep even one small area everyday.  Focus on the sound and feeling of sweeping.  When you finish, sort through the dust bin.  Separate out seemingly important stuff such as coins, crafting supplies (embroidery thread, beads, cool little bits of stuff for collages, small bottles of paint), pills, buttons, etc.   Throw the dust and obvious trash away immediately.  Now try to throw away as many of the so-called precious items you have saved.  Yes, even coins!  Desensitize yourself to the need to save and find a purpose for everything.

Take the time to do this everyday until you can throw away almost everything that you sweep up.   Keep one container for all the bits that you couldn’t throw away.  Now look at even this with your newly trained eyes.  Can you throw it away now?

Tips:  If you have large quantities of the following, start a lawn and leaf bag for them and dispose of them properly:  Medicine and Batteries: hardware stores have pill recycle bins and battery recycling.  Find a local site for this.  Arts & crafts:  when you are ready, have a friend take your whole giant leaf and yard waste bag to the nearest youth center, thrift store, or even craft recycling center such as Legacy (click here) or Scrap (click here).  Do not drop stuff off yourself! Stay away from shopping or acquiring more stuff!  Most friends or acquaintances will help out by picking up stuff and dropping it off for a good cause.  They can get a receipt for tax purposes.


Now you have learned to sweep away your cares and you can do this as often as you would like when you need soothing.   Self-soothing with sweeping is lovely.  Try to do it at least once a day.  Teach your children and your dog to self-sooth with sweeping too!



MUSEUM OF MODERN JUNK: Diagram the Clutter: Little Project to Get Started!


I sporadically attend a Makers group. Makers make things out of stuff they see laying about.  Don’t do this yet but perhaps give them a call and see what they are doing and what kinds of donations they could use.

Start a Bulletin Board now.  If your house is in bad shape and it doesn’t matter, just start taking this information to the wall so you don’t lose it.  This is where you can put all those lists that come to you like the annual holiday wish lists that come from non-profits, the do’s and don’ts of recycling (what can go in the single stream bucket), and other useful tidbits related to cutting clutter out of your life.  Many clutter-prone folk are recyclers.  Put this talent to work!

Map it!  Back to the Makers.  One cool thing that they did was use a 3-D printer to print out a topographical model based on a map.   I thought we could do something like this.   Draw on any old piece of paper or draw on the wall if your house = disaster.    We will make a diagram or a map of the mess in one room.  It will be a side-view for many of you who can’t get up high enough to look down at the rivers and lakes and mountains of your mess.  So let’s change that to a line diagram.  Here is an example from Forest Gardens (Wikipedia, retrieved November 19, 2014).  Below that you will see a diagram of a fox-hole.  My father had a book of these diagrams from WWII and I don’t know who the author was.  They were a type of political cartoon circulated among the troops.  They are also diagrams of a setting.  What we are going to do now is draw a picture of the clutter in one room.  It does not matter if you are not a talented artist.  As I learned from the Professors Janulaw in my class “Teaching Science in Elementary School” (at Sonoma State University), the first step in developing a scientific eye is to draw the thing you are studying.  This is an observational skill.   “Clutter Blindness” is a common barrier to removing clutter.   We draw the clutter so that we can see it.  We draw to motivate further study.  We draw it so when we read and learn we are visually intimate with the mess.  Our drawing can also help with the game-plan.  If you are intimately familiar with your mess, you will know it and see it, and then you can get rid of it!  We learned that by carefully drawing our observations, we can analyze and learn more.  We can notice things we didn’t notice.

Forest Garden from Wikipedia, retrieved 18-November 2014

Forest Garden from Wikipedia, retrieved 18-November 2014

When my dad was in the army he showed me some cartoons like this.  They look like observations of real things but they are actually parodies of life.  The author had to really be noticing what he/she saw around and then modified it to bring humor to the image.  I used to love to look at this type of mapping of reality in the drawings of Rube Goldberg and in the cartoons in Mad Magazine.

The advantage of sketching out your problem area is that you can label items, you can feel how patterns develop as you document (are you mostly drawing papers, or clothing, or a mish-mosh?  Our  semblance of order is laking somehow (clothes here, clean clothes there)?  Another advantage is that you can draw as wide-angle and imaginative as you choose.  You can capture parts of the room that no camera can.  You can focus on some details that seem important or gloss them over.   Looking at a photograph of your mess might result in the same clutter-blindness as looking at the real thing.  As we learned in Science, if you draw a bug you learn a lot more about the bug that when you look at a drawing of a bug!

DSC_1535                                                                                                                                                               So now that I have made my point, we can diagram our mess:


This cartoon of a bedroom seems ready for clutter-blindness right away, but since I drew it and labeled it, I have a unique perspective and I started noticing a few things right away.

  • The Hello Kitty migrated from my daughter’s room because she no longer wanted it there, and when it showed up out of her room, I couldn’t bear to give it up because it was “my little girl’s lamp”.  Do you know what that means?  Take a picture of it in her room with her standing by it looking sweet.  Then put it safely and gently into the donate or sell box
  • See that map of Ireland to the right of the bed?  How about the pop-art dress kimono hanging from the curtain rod.  These two items, presented this way, they  are not art (at least night in the setting of clutter.  Take them down and put them away.  Visual clutter noisy and clutter) do not help when you are trying to make sense of it all.  They can come back when you get to the chapters on tableau, still life, staging (the part when you get to PLAY!)
  • There were lots of books that I was planning to read, but keeping in mind my new goal of only reading one book at a time, I put my school books away on my school-book shelf.  I put the young-adult books on my daughter’s bookshelf, and I put magazines and books I am not currently reading away on the bookshelf.  I do not believe in touch it once.  I believe in sort it and see.   So the next step is:
  • Noticing what is most numerous.  In this room it became painfully obvious that clothes had taken over the bedroom.  I knew this as soon as I started drawing (studying) the room.  So this is a great place to talk about sorting.

I am admitting right here that I do not believe in the “touch it once” philosophy and I feel this type of processing is almost impossible for people with curated collections and museums of stuff.  So don’t do it.  My way is scientific and works.

The curate your collections like you won the “MUSEUM OF MODERN MESS”!  It works. After all, curators at museums have to sort, repair, organize, select and display their beautiful pieces (and send some things for restoration and repair (trash and donate for us).


  • Label the bags something like this:
  • Take the big paper leaf and lawn bags (recyclable, made from recycled matter, and stand up on there own and are reusable).
  • Because so many people who collect things have an attachment to items that to others may have no value, we recognize this, NO WE EMBRACE IT and the collector’s artist heart.  The goal is not to throw anything away right now.  Difficult at this stage?  We can’t throw stuff away, so we skip it.
  • Sort by value and attachment as well as sellable items and representative and non-representative collections.  If something is in great need of repair or restoration, put aside (for us they most likely won’t be fixed, but that comes later.)
  • Prioritize main collections and sort them into usable blocks (see how I am building in a natural distance between you and the items?)
  • Sort by genre (books, clothing, etc.)  Still no give aways so you can relax and not feel any pressure.  You are in control.  You are just doing a sorting and inventory.  That can be fun.  See, that doesn’t hurt anyone!
  • Inventory (that is what we did with the quick sketch).
  • Now is the time to put the bags to work.  In this case we are focusing on the clothing/ linens as they are taking up the most visual space.

    Make fun labels:

  • Clothes I hate
  • Clothes I love and have an abnormal or sentimental attachment with (baby clothes)
  • Clothes I love but never wear
  • Clothes that are in good condition but don’t fit
  • Clothing that is so out of date it could be used for a costume
  • Collectors items, heirlooms, etc.

Why no bag for KEEP?  Because these clothes will be hung immediately in your closet.  Check to make sure they are clean, use your laundry basket by your side, and start a load while you are doing you other work.

All items that are staying are hung up NOW (even T’s and tank tops).   OK, you can put folded P.J.s, underwear, stockings and shorts in drawers.  Make sure your drawers aren’t hiding anything that belongs in the bags.   Put your stuff hanging in the closet if you really want to use it.  If you find you don’t have enough space or hangers I guess it is time to search out a few more items to go in the bags.  Nothing to be thrown out, just sorting.  Now fold down the top and put them somewhere.  If your house is a mess you might not have anywhere to put them so line them up behind your bed like some type of neo-post-apocalypic headboard.  Now take a look around at the dust and the sand, the trash and the beads, coins and dog hair.  Instead of having a good cry, have a good zenatative sweep.  Visualize a mantra, listen to each sweep of the broom, gently guide the dust and sand into the Made-in-USA stand up dust bin that works so incredibly well.   Stop and check for coins and beads, kid toys and secret messages.  Really this OCD stuff is easy to work on later.  Enjoy yourself.  Pick through it as you may.  Remember you did not invite any haters to THIS party.  So pick through that dirt and feel confident that the dust that you throw into your trash bag is really refuse.

Use your old fashion broom which such a lovely sound and meditate on that soothing sweeping sound, the metaphor of your life and quest.  To dream the impossible dream!

Feel how good it feels to not see dog hair, dust bunnies and sand all over the place.  You just passed GO!  Lay down on your foam back roller on that tiny clean patch of floor and relax…Oh, geez, just look at the dust under the bed, Edith!

See you tomorrow because we ain’t done with this room and we are going to work an hour a day on this room until it merely a  bunch of stand up recyclable leaf and lawn bags to deal with in one fell swoop.   Think of this a sorting.  We are taking inventory.  We are not throwing away.  But we are doing something very helpful.  We are detaching the grip this stuff has on you and helping you fall in love with the beauty of the floor  below you and the ability to sleep on your bed, walk into your room, even lay on the floor and read a book.  Donate every moment that you used to drink excessive coffee. smoke a joint, or cigarette, tomar una cerveza or obsessively work or exercise.  Donate this time to YOU.  You can go back to your crazy life after you home is a sanctuary and you come home.



MUSEUM OF MODERN JUNK: Curate our collections.

If you haven’t figured it out already, this blog reads best from first entry to the most current.   It is important to read the previous entries because there is a process going on here.  Let’s look at why we hoard.  There are lots of books on the subject and I will also be listing some great resources at the end of this article.  Here are a few reasons just off of my head.  There are psychiatric, physiologic, endocrinology, neurologic, genetic and psychologic reasons for being “frozen” and being unable to rid your life of stuff.  The three main issues are:

  1. Inability to make decisions:  The reasons are many (see list below).
  2. Exhaustion:  Many different reasons as well, see below.  If you are ill, in pain, suffering from a disorder, have a chronic disability or short-term injury (broken hip, or other mobility problems), this might set you off in the wrong direction.
  3. Mental Health Problems:  If your brain is not working, you cannot make decisions, see above.  Depression can lead to obtaining too many sentimental objects, planning for things you never carry out (refurbishing furniture, crafts, remodeling), and isolation.  There are many other mental health problems as well
  4. Addictions:  Face it, addictions to shopping, cigarettes, alcohol, drugs (including marijuana), prescription medications,  thrifting /dumpster-diving, or even recycling, leads to HOARDER’S HELL.   Get help or wean yourself off as soon as you can.  Seriously, if you cannot go into a thrift store or drive by an old chair left on the side of the road, you have to find a way to stop the influx of material goods into your home.   If you must have home delivery of groceries to avoid purchasing things you don’t need, so be it.  It is worth the delivery fee to stay out of stores! If you have to ask someone else to do your shopping for you, ask for help.   If your substance of choice is numbing you to your situation, please find a way out before it is too late.  If you watch Hoarders:  Buried Alive! pay attention to the number of beer cans and cigarettes that are lying around.  Addiction leads to apathy.  Apathy leads to indecision.  You know the rest!

The following list gives details:

  • Genetics:  Seems weird, but the impulse to hold on to things can be inherited from your parents and grandparents.   Sure, part is nurture (learning from your environment), but science shows that nature (genetics) plays a great role.  So shake that family tree.
  • Post-traumatic Stress Syndrome:  If you check in at a deeper level with yourself and with just about anyone else, trauma happens.  Some trauma is severe and can have an impact that leads to chronic coping problems.  One strategy for dealing with PTSD is to surround yourself with stuff.  If you can’t bring anyone home you can avoid a lot of surprises and you could feel safe.  You might also feel lonely and isolated.   If you have a history of a great personal trauma, or many smaller ones that have an accumulative effect on your soul, the best thing to do is to join a support group and talk to a trained therapist who can help you work on this and refer you to the best group for you.
  • OCD and OCT:  Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or Trait.  This tenacious tendency makes it hard to let go of collections.
  • ODD:  Oppositional Defiant Disorder  Someone says pick it up so we don’t.  Even after whoever has been bossing you around is out of your life completely (in part because they can’t stand your hoard) you still feel resentment.  This is a very complex issue with some serious brain chemistry and habitual pathways that really need help from a professional.  For partners and parents of defiant people, there are numerous books in the library and on-line.
  • Dementia:  Many families do not realize that
  • Sleep Apnea:  This is more common than you think.   Sleep apnea is usually associated with a certain stereotype and certainly Pickwick suffered from Sleep Apnea.  Slim people can have sleep apnea for many reasons.  If you are too tired to pick up after yourself or too tired to make decisions, check with your doctor.  You may find that C-Pap helps.  Don’t be surprised if it takes a few months to a year to start to feel better.
  • Poor sleep habits or other sleep disorders leading to exhaustion: restless legs, excess caffeine, irregular sleep hours, night shifts, grave language.
  • Endocrine disorders.  Hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, hyperparathyroidism are just a few endocrine problems that can lead to anxiety and exhaustion as well as slow mentation and chronic pain.  All can interfere with
  • Autism spectrum, including Asperger’s (or Aspie) personality
  • Perfectionism (can be related to almost all of the other issues above).
  • Loss.  Losing everything you own in a fire can lead to a feeling of freedom and the opposite of hoarding.  It can also set off a horribly intense pattern of hoarding.  Many hoarders report some situation where they lost their belongings due to immigration, refugee status, family violence, moving, fire, flood, or simply cruelty by another.

Here is a book to check out of the library if you are ready.  Remember reading before taking action is fine.  It is part of moving from Pre-contemplation to Contemplation.  Only one book out of the library at a time!

Stuff, by Randy O. Frost and Gail Steketee



MUSEUM OF MODERN JUNK: Curate Our Collections.

This may seem like an entertainment break, and it is, but it is also part of your homework to guide you to the contemplation stay (thinking seriously about having a problem and getting ready to make a change).  So let’s have a little fun but also apply our scientific study to these clips:

Ross and the Dirty Girl, from Friends:  

Link to the Video and watch it as many times as you need to to answer these questions.  Be sure to watch the video at least once before you read the questions:

What is the surprise waiting for Ross on the other side of the “Dirty Girl’s” door?

What does she do with her keys, purse, and jacket as soon as she comes in?

What is Ross’ response when she says, “Make yourself comfortable,” or “Have a seat”?

Who plays the part of the Dirty Girl?

What does Ross decide to do after talking the problem out with his friend?

When they were kissing on the couch, what did Ross put his hand into and what did he find and throw away with disgust?

After the paper chip began to move what did Ross use to beat the critter?

When she found out it was not her hamster she was relieved.  What did Ross feel when he found out it was a rat (as he suspected)?

Do you think he ever went back to the gorgeous Cheryl (Rebecca Romijn)?

Now how do YOU feel about clutter and mess?  Are you contemplating change yet?


MUSEUM OF MODERN JUNK: Overwhelmed and Freaking Out. Normal Stages of Change.

Don’t be alarmed.  Where you see overwhelming work that is impossible to attack, you will soon change your vision.  There are people who take a class in classical music and suddenly their ears are opened to a whole new world of music, opera,   modern and traditional classical, jazz and ballet scores.   I remember taking a class in ornithology (birds) and suddenly birds and their songs were everywhere!  How could I not see them before?  This entry is all about finding that new eye and getting ready for change.   Take a moment to read about change:

This quote comes directly from Wikipedia and I put it here so you do not need to search around for it.  I also jazzed it up a bit to make it more fun to read.

Stages of change
(from Wikipedia retrieved on 11-18-2014)
In the transtheoretical model, change is a “process involving progress through a series of stages:”[25][27]

Precontemplation (Not Ready)-“People are not intending to take action in the foreseeable future, and can be unaware that their behaviour is problematic”
Contemplation (Getting Ready)-“People are beginning to recognize that their behaviour is problematic, and start to look at the pros and cons of their continued actions”
Preparation (Ready)-“People are intending to take action in the immediate future, and may begin taking small steps toward behaviour change”[nb 1]
Action – “People have made specific overt modifications in modifying their problem behaviour or in acquiring new healthy behaviours”
Maintenance – “People have been able to sustain action for a while and are working to prevent relapse”
Termination – “Individuals have zero temptation and they are sure they will not return to their old unhealthy habit as a way of coping”[nb 2]
In addition, the researchers conceptualized “relapse” (recycling) which is not a stage in itself but rather the “return from Action or Maintenance to an earlier stage.”[25][nb 3]


These images from Wikipedia, Hoarding, accessed on 11-18-2014.

These images from Wikipedia, Hoarding, accessed on 11-18-2014.

Now take another look at this kitchen.  Think about the pre-contemplation stage.  You are not ready to make change, and you are perhaps not even aware that you need change, but you probably are becoming aware as you are looking at this blog!  Take a look at this photo and see if we can get you past the pre-contemplation stage to the contemplation stage.  This is not your kitchen, so it might be easier to look at and really see.  We are trying to get you to the next stage so you can see the clutter, and be aware of your own desire to change.  So, like all good scientists, let’s look at this and document what we see.  This is called data collection:  observe and document.  It helps are mind to see more deeply and if we see more deeply, we understand and can create questions to be answered.  No need to identify specifics or impress anyone because this is not a test.

Do you see any pots or pans in this photo?  How many?

Are there dishes in the sink?  Is the sink stuff with dishes only or stuffed with stuff?  Are there papers near the stove top?  What do you see?  Are there other flammables near the stove?  Some examples include plastic, oils, cardboard, paper bags, and even metal pots if left on the burner too long!

Do you see fire hazards?  What are they?

Is this kitchen actively being used?  What evidence do you see?  Is someone using this stove top to cook greens?  Is there a coffee maker in there?  What kind is it?  I agree, it looks like a Bialetti to me!

How many spice bottles do you see.  Does it look like there are more than one bottle of a single type of spice?

Where is the box of Quinoa?  What the heck is Quinoa?

How many plastic bags do you see?

Do you think that this sink is usable?  

Do you think this kitchen smells good?

Do you think anyone could get to the sink or the oven without stepping on clutter?

How many paper bags do you see?

Fine.  Done.  It is not your kitchen.  So how do you feel?  Overwhelmed, motivated, excited, bored, hopeless, embarrassed, suicidal, primed for change, eager to learn?   Take a moment to really think about your feelings.  What concerns do you have for the person who uses this kitchen?  Are you afraid of microbial growth and sickness, allergens and asthma, chronic cough?  Are you afraid of fire hazard?  What about the open food containers inviting pests and contamination, even poisoning?

Coming next:   Some homework to get you into the contemplation stage and beyond!