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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.

Paper:

  • 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:

  • 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:

Furniture:

  • 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!

Toys:

  • 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

Videos/DVD/CDs/records/tapes:

  • 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)

Frames:

  • 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.

 

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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!