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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: The science of Awareness. Can you see the need for change?

Seems like I am harping on this issue over and over again.  I won’t be long this time.  I just want to know if you feel a desperate need to change and get this Museum of Modern Junk closed!  Are you ready to apply more science to clutter?

Anyone who is contemplating change needs:

  • support
  • energy
  • ability
  • knowledge

Support:  If you do not have patient, delightful, humorous friends and relatives around you, get some!

  • Beware of the Bullies.   If you watch the shows about hoarders, most of the ones produced in the USA have gruesome, demoralizing, and frankly abusive family members throwing fits and threatening their supposed loved one with abandonment, violence (psychological or otherwise), aggressively waving their arms around, shouting, name calling, and even physically threatening with small gestures such as poking, jabbing, nudging, or throwing things.   I have written to these shows that this is abuse and should not be tolerated.  Eventually the interventionist (shows experts) stop the abuse, but usually it goes on long enough to be really upsetting.   Warning:  do not let those people into your home.  Do not call them.  Do not ask them for help!
  • Be thrifty.  If you can find people who are willing to help you without berating and making noise, find them.   Start by trying to do this with just friends. Most people who curate their own personal Museum of Modern Junk in their homes are also tight with money and they have reason to be.  It is a hard time to survive.  Shopping addictions (even thrifting) can lead to a seriously leaky budget.  Close that leak now and put a moratorium on out flow of money.

Energy:  This is the time to go to bed at the same time every night.  Get up every morning at the same time.  Take a shower and dress for a battle.  Clean comfortable clothing (find some in that pile!).  Energizing music.  Get that sleep apnea C-Pap near your bedside and USE it.  Keep it in a zip lock bag during the day to keep it clear of dust and fluff.  Make sure you have taken care of yourself physically before you even start.  Energizing music has been shown to improve exercise intensity and time.  Put that music on because we are going to be exercising your brain and body!  We will also be talking about friendly DELEGATION.

Ability:  Set some limits.   This is critical.   If you have been curating and hoarding for a while, you have to relearn new habits.  Fatigue and feeling overwhelmed are enemies.  Pick a small area and get to work.  Work alone everyday for 15 minutes.  Call in the troops when you have studied your problem and begun to chip away at it by yourself.  This is testing ability.  This is learning to be in control.  This is feeling like it is your decision!  Our job here is to help you feel ABLE. There are a few things that immediately sabotage ability (and energy).  You must deal with these things:

  • PETS.  If you can afford to ship your animals to a friends for a while, do it!  If you can afford boarding them, do it.  If you have more than 2-3 pets, you will probably be unable to attack your clutter.  This is the reality.  The energy you spend cleaning up after even one pet is enormous.  If you are truly giving them a good home and feeding them twice a day, healthy amounts, and giving them a clean place to stay, then you are doing a great job.  If not, it is time to make tough decisions and re-home pets.   Many people are interested in fostering (to see if they can be good pet owners).   Several rescue programs will help a person out if they have health problems and will relocate or adopt out animals or even care for them.  You can put up signs at places of worship.  This is a good job to delegate to someone you know who loves animals.
  • Physical and mental limitations.  If you are fragile, unable to move freely, nursing a fracture, in a brace or splint or cast, battling cancer, super depressed or anxious, you will need help.  We will talk more about that.

Knowledge:  Remember in a previous entry I talked about learning about birds or music, and suddenly the world opens up and you hear and see things in a new way?  Knowledge can lead to reawakening.  Next entry will have more about this.  First step, read about the problem (do I need to remind you one book at a time so you don’t get fines for “library book hoarding?”   The brain needs re-training if it is going to be helpful and not a hindrance.  Let’s get started!

Remember:  Don’t watch TV about the problem.  This is part of the problem at times.  Leave that for later when you have guidance as to What to Read and What to Watch.  Coming soon!

Book to read:  Have you finished Stuff?

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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