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?


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.

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!