Based on a prompt from Plinky: Is there “junk” in your life? What kind? What do you do to get rid of it?
Physical junk and clutter have been a significant issue in my life lately, and just one of the challenges I’ve faced since moving back home to live with my mother.
My mum and I have never been the neatest people on the planet, or the greatest house keepers. We both have a pretty high tolerance for mess. When I was growing up, this was never much of a problem, because my mum had an excellent cleaning lady, and my Dad, who’s never liked a messy house, was always a bit of a jerk about keeping the house clean (he never fails to take things too far or to make things a little more insulting than they need to be). Throughout my early to mid 20’s, however, things gradually started to change. My parents split up, the cleaning lady retired, and I eventually had a lot more disposable income.
This was when I started to realize that our house was too full of stuff.
I should say immediately that my mother is not a hoarder. My house doesn’t look like one of those shows you see on television. It is, however, overstuffed to the point where it’s difficult to put things away after you use them or to buy new things without first thinking about what you might want to get rid of to make room. The closets are full of stuff, the bookshelves are full of books, the cupboards are packed to the brim, and all the surfaces are covered in pictures or vases or antiques of some persuasion.
As I mentioned earlier, problems really started to arise once I had a little disposable income. I was out of school and had a crappy job, and I wanted to enjoy myself. This led me down some fairly dark paths and I wound up with large collections of anime box sets, television series box sets, print manga series, and a whole load of other crap. Problem was, there was no room in the house for me to store any of the stuff. I had a couple small book shelves in my office and one in my bedroom, and a tiny closet there as well, but the extent of my home storage space was pretty limited. All the other storage spaces in our enormous house were occupied by my mother’s crap — including a large storage room that I had been responsible for maintaining and was slowly turning in to a terrible mess of “I don’t give a crap.”
And so, I brought it all up to my mother, and she didn’t want to hear it. My only alternative was doing some pretty major de-cluttering to make room for all my new, and mostly useless stuff. And the whole pattern just kept repeating. I was consistently having to give things away or sell them simply because I had nowhere to keep them, where my mother continued to buy stuff, cram it in to whatever small space she could find, and then sometimes even try to blame me for the fact that the house was untidy. Needless to say, all of this became a source of some tension around the house, and my storage methods became more and more efficient. I ditched all my DVD and Blu-Ray cases, opting for wallets instead, I ripped and then donated about 90% of my CD collection, and I forced my mother to spend some time cleaning out some storage space under the stairs so I could store a few old text books and journal articles.
When I moved to Alberta, I wound up leaving most of my possessions here at home. I was moving only with what I could fit in my car, so the essentials were all I could manage. As someone who had never had an emotional attachment to most things, and was actually beginning to see my things as a burden, it was terribly freeing to let it all go. My budget was pretty tight for a long time, so I had a few things I really liked in my apartment, but I never bought anything extra. I had a few personal items, devices and media, but it all fit in to one low book shelf. My kitchen didn’t have any extra utensils, my bathroom didn’t have any extra products, and everything had its own place to live. It was heavenly.
And then I came back to live here again, and it was awful. My mum and I wound up fighting a lot about all these problems, and I know that I hurt her feelings a few times, but I wanted her to understand how much better the house could work if we had room to actually tidy up and put things away. I’ve never meant that we needed to give up everything — I love my stuff — but I’ve wanted her to see that there’s a huge difference between the things you really love and the things you have because you’re too lazy or stubborn to get rid of them. She’s always telling me that she’ll dedicate time to work on all of it once she retires, which will be soon, but I sometimes worry that this will never actually happen. I can only hope, and she is getting a bit better, but it’s going to take more time to really change her mind.