Monday, July 19, 2010

Inroads in enemy territory...

I've nearly exhausted my options in the living room. Most further progress involves persuading mom that it's not worth keeping hundreds of old VHS tapes and decades-out-of-date encyclopedias. To give you an idea of what it's like trying to help a hoarder:

Me: "I can't wait to get this room painted! No more ugly yellow walls!"
Mom: "This room just always seems depressing. We better paint it bright semi-gloss white. You know how dark it gets in here."
Me: "Gee mom, did you know that interior designers say that contrast, and not color, is what makes a room look dark? Even a small room painted dark blue will seem large if everything coordinates. It's lots of contrast that makes rooms seem small and dark, because it's aesthetically confusing to your eye."
Mom: "So what do you think? Should we paint the bookcase [full of VHS tapes] white too?"
Me: *facepalm*

This isn't the end of it either...

Me: "Mom, you're stopping just one step short of the real solution here..."
Mom: "I know, you think we should throw away everything and live in a ti-pi."
Me: "Well I just mean, you're thinking of how to disguise the problem, not solve it outright. When is the last time you derived and joy or pleasure from these? When's the last time you even watched one of the tapes?"
Mom: "I can't remember. Whenever we set up the system. So a few months ago."
Me: "A few MONTHS? Doesn't that tell you something?"
Mom: "I am not getting rid of the movies."
Me: *long deep sigh*

And you have these conversations every day.

Anyway, today I was having a giant urge to just....clean....something!

  • First I took down the light fixture in the hall and cleaned the bugs and dirt and dust and soaped off that weird grimy layer which stuff near the kitchen tends to acquire. Then I walked aimlessly through the house a half dozen times, looking for a project with a clear goal.
  • I set up the big mirror which I got for free off Craigslist above the mantelpiece. It still needs to be properly hung, but it felt good getting it up there. It should really increase the light in what tends to be a very dark room (high contrast from all the junk in there!).
  • I went into the dining room and began cleaning there for the first time. I cleaned up the office supplies area, a small black bookcase (are you seeing a trend here?) packed to the gills with all kinds of paper, bent up notebooks, chalk, pencils, old binders, at least 6 kinds of tape, a million tacky kiddy folders that belonged to me when I was in elementary school, and, get this, 38 used manila folders. My mom sure loves to save. I cleaned everything out, put back what we could actually use/what she would miss if it were suddenly gone, and then made a neat stack of all the remaining supplies and carried it over to the low-rent housing across the street from me. I put a hand-made sign on top saying "FREE school supplies. Take one or all!" I've had good luck getting rid of stuff this way, and it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy b/c I know people did the same thing for my family when we were little.
  • Then I cleaned up behind the other door to the dining room, which is next to the dryer (yes, the dryer is in the dining room...when you barely ever move around your house, spacial planning doesn't really mean the same thing) and thus is a haven for dust bunnies the size of greater Montana. I put away a couple of boxes full of expensive preserves mom bought forever ago and then forgot she had, and recycled the boxes. I rearranged all the crap that's back there so it actually fits. Tomorrow I'll ask my dad (a lot of it is clearly home project stuff that was bought but never started) what's good and what's junk.

So, both the entryways to the dining room are relatively clear. The first wall has French doors, one of which has not been opened in years because a bookcase blocks it. The other door at least is finally able to swing open all the way. Now to begin my 2-front war on clutter!


  1. Oh my gawd, used manila folders. Usually folded with the "clean" inside part out to be reused. I mean if my father actually got that far and didn't just throw them in a heap somewhere.

    Crazy how specific some of the similarities between hoarders are.

  2. Haha wow Thalia, that's pretty bizarre - it's such a random object, too!

  3. I can so relate to what you are going through! Glad I found your blog. Just became a follower. :-)