There’s nothing like watching a clip from the TV show “Hoarders” to make you want to clean house…and closets…and garage. Clearly, most of those people are suffering a form of mental illness. No rational person would choose to live in a house piled with stuff so high they can only get through a path in the room and make no effort to unclutter and throw stuff away. Especially those whose clutter includes filth: rotting, moldy, decaying junk.
I’ve been in a couple of homes like that, with stench so strong it made you want to gag just walking in the door. You don’t sit down and have conversations in those homes. You stand. You don’t dare sit down for fear of what may come scurrying out from the corners.
There is a world of difference between clutter and filth, and most of us do battle with clutter. I think clutter must be an American (or at least Western World) disease. What makes us so afraid of letting go of the stuff we no longer use? Sometimes it’s sentimental value, a memory of the person who gave it to you, such as my bowling ball. Back when we were newlyweds, I bowled on a league. And my dad, the scientific machinist, drilled that ball so it fit my hand perfectly. Never rubbed a blister, just rolled off my hand so smoothly. I stopped bowling when the kids were small, and over the years as my daughters have gone bowling, they have borrowed my ball to use. But with my battle with lyme combining with now being sixty years old, I feel sure I will never bowl again. So when my son was cleaning out closets to help us reorganize, he suggested giving that ball to a local thrift store. I was amazed to find tears welling up and rolling down my face. Dad passed away several years ago, and that ball is somehow my “connection” to him and how much he loved his family (and me) because he fixed that ball just for me. And I couldn’t part with it.
Thankfully I have no such attachment to other stuff in our house, because after 40 years of marriage and raising nine kids, there’s a lot of things to sort and give away. I have developed a rule for making those decisions: if I haven’t used it in the last two years, it goes. If I haven’t needed it, I probably won’t. And if I do, I will find a way to borrow or buy another one if the need is really there. It feels so good to repurpose used furnishings to our kids who are grown and setting up their own homes. It’s easy to let go of the things that are going to be useful to bless someone else. And it feels so good to clear junk out and have open space where there was clutter before.
I am wondering, before the warm weather goes away, if it wouldn’t be a really productive thing to have a giveaway party. Like a flea market, only everything you bring is offered free to someone who has a need or desire for it. That would satisfy our need to hold onto something because it’s still useful, and clear out those closets and sheds. Just as long as we don’t come home with a truckload of someone else’s stuff!