0

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!

 

0

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?

0

MUSEUM OF MODERN JUNK: Training the eye.

So now you have a short check list:

  • Supplies:  Ace Lawn and Leaf Paper Bags, broom, stand up dust bin (also available at ACE and made in USA!.
  • Friends.  We will talk more about this later
  • Get scientific.  Have you observed and documented what is in your space?
  • Read.  Keep reading one book at a time from the library.  While you are reading one book you can order the next to be derived to your local library (don’t buy more books please!)
  • Open eyes.  Can you see the clutter?  After a long time not really seeing what is around us we can become clutter blind.
  • Doctor’s visit to determine if you need further evaluation by a psychiatrist, psychologist or support groups, pulmonologist for sleep apnea evaluation, endocrinologist to see if you have a glandular problem, or primary care for sleep issues.   Please refer to previous entry for more details.
  • Speak with work.  Seems crazy but your Employee Assistance Program can help.   Look around.  If you are disorganized at home it might be due to stress at work, irregular work hours, graveyard shift, alcohol or other substance abuse problems.   This illness can be linked with distracted work patterns, chronic lateness, chronic staying late at work (to compensate).  Chronic disabilities can also lead to exhaustion if you are staying at work longer hours to compensate as well.   EAP can help.  It also documents that you are trying to overcome problems.  It is important for everyone who has clutter beyond their control to try and open up and release the secret and get a clean bill of health before starting.   The health check can help start to improve some of the reasons why and also make sure that it is save to do the mental and physical work that lays ahead.
0

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

 

0

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?

0

MUSEUM OF MODERN JUNK: The CAGE questionnaire. Assessing your problem.

Precontemplation.  It means you don’t really believe you have a problem.  Perhaps the previous entry helped you get there.  Maybe not.  Here is a tool that might help.  It is called the CAGE alcohol screening test.  It has not been proven to help self-identify other addictions, but I think we can use it to become self-aware.  Here are the questions, modified to apply to a clutter problem (the original had 4 questions but I added more):

CAGE Questions

  1. Have you ever felt you should cut down on the amount of shopping, dumpster diving, bringing home “found objects”, shopping at thrift stores, shopping at all?
  2. Have people annoyed you by criticizing your clutter and lifestyle?  Have they threatened interventions, clean-outs, calling Adult Protective Services, Child Protection, or threatened divorce or moving out?  Have these things already happened?
  3. Have you ever felt bad or guilty about the state of your home, car, and yard?  Do you feel sad, depressed, anxious, overwhelmed or desperate about your cluttering
  4. Have you ever gone in search of treasures first thing in the morning to steady your nerves or toget rid guilt feelings?
  5. Do you crave the slight high or feeling of good-will when you buy a “perfect treasure” for a friend or family (then it “doesn’t count”), or a deal on a piece of furniture that you can fix up and resell (free is best!)?
  6. Do you hang out at thrift stores or discount stores like some people hang out at bars?  Do you secretly feel you are better than alcoholics or drug abusers because all you do is collect things?
  7. Do have a scheduled time or day that you regularly thrifting.   Does everyone at the local thrift store know you by your name?
  8. Are you making yourself into the curator of our times and our paraphernalia?  Do you think that if you don’t save certain treasures no one else will and they will be gone forever?

So, that is your homework.   I do not want your journey to the contemplation stage to stymie you or block that wonderful coasting that happens when you climb the hill of pre-contemplation to contemplation.  Get to work answering these questions and I will see you when you come back!

0

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!