Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Big progress in the living room!!!

I could not be happier today. Mom was in a great mental space today and we must have plowed through 7 or 8 hundred magazines that had been junking up the living room since 1999.

The lesson of the day is, take your cue from the hoarder. If she's interested in cleaning up magazines instead of going through her old records, go with it. Everything has to happen at the hoarder's pace, with gentle(!) cues from the helper from time to time.

It started with mom going through a cardboard box that had been full of magazines forever. Then she kept asking me to bring her another pile. Being from a military family, she's not stereotypically neat, but she does follow through with a task once she starts and gets momentum going. This was an absolute shock to me. I NEVER thought she would part with any of these hundreds of old junk copies of Newsweek, the New Yorker, Scientific American, etc. Lo and behold, she begins a huge pile of "give-away" magazines. All I did was provide her the tools (the recycling box for things too crap to give away) and she did the rest, quickly and efficiently sorting through at least 100 pounds of old dusty magazines and catalogues. I told her over and over how proud I was. I called up my aunt to give her the heads-up about my mom intending these materials for her, she said bring them over, she collages and scrapbooks now and is happy to take them.

Poof! Like that, one of the biggest slices of the junk pie almost totally removed. She did save a small, neat stack of current publications, but she ruthlessly dejunked all the others. Something she never would have done 5 years ago. I'm seeing a change in her and it's so inspiring. When I cleaned off the mantelpiece I made sure to keep and proudly display a small but lovely piece of art she made about 40 years ago (when she was the age I am now). It's a reminder to me, and hopefully her, that there was once a wonderful, clever, strong, creative spirit inside her often thorny exterior. The more junk gets removed, the more that spirit can emerge.

Plus we put an entire blue recycling bin full to brimming out, and filled up a bag for charity. I also cleaned off the entertainment center and put the old Playstation and its games into a bag to truck down to the local thrift shop.

My dad wasn't as happy as I would have liked him to be, but that's his personality. I totally psychoanalyzed him and told him that I understood how painful the house must be for him, and how I know he's negative about it b/c he's been dealing with it for much longer than I have. He immediately opened up to me and told me about times in the past when he was working 2 jobs and all he wanted was to come home to a nice house. And he couldn't even have that. So eventually he gave up beating his head against the wall. He resigned himself to living with a hoarder. I know he probably only stayed for us kids.

Overall I'm very happy with the progress we made today, emotionally as well as junk-ily.I feel like it won't be quite "real" until we cart all that stuff out tomorrow.

I've got everyone in the house working on dejunking now. In addition to my mom's sudden surprising fervor today, I had my brother clear his comic books out of the living room and my dad chose to recycle all his old HOME magazines that we had sorted from the piles. Even my boyfriend is dejunking the house he's currently living in. Let's start a minimalist trend! Less stuff for everyone!

I would be overjoyed to see a dejunking trend hit this country - let's all try having just enough instead of much too much.

1 comment:

  1. Oh wow that's really amazing, I'm so happy for you! Good on you (or whatever the kids are saying these days) for being able to get your mother (and father) to open up enough to be willing to change like that. (And good on your mother, too.) I would try the same sort of thing with my father, but it sounds like he was rather further gone than your mother, because I'd only get a little ways and then he'd stonewall, no matter how gentle or patient (and I was really freaking patient!) I was.

    Anyway, though, congratulations!!