OMG! Where do I start?????

adobesunlightOctober 6, 2007

I followed the link regarding the college boy's mother that was a packrat and even though my house isn't that bad compared to her's, it was certainly a "wake-up call" to what mine might be if I continue hoarding! Right now I'm faced with not only a cluttered home, basement and garage, but also a dirty, dusty mess! I do not know where to begin, but with today being Sunday and Tuesday trash pick-up thought it might be good to "try" now, even if it means doing it in "baby steps" as Flylady suggests. Here are the reasons for procrastinating----

1. forced to sit rather than stand or bend due to degenerative spinal disease (I'm only 53 years young!)---lucky to get a sink full of dishes done without taking breaks to sit down. UGH!

2. husband only adds to the mess----as soon as one tiny area is cleared, he piles things in it's place! I no sooner get a drawer organized and he decides that he's looking for something and tears through it all like a bull in a china cabinet!

3. allergies to dust, mold, etc.-----hate having sneezing fits when shuffling through this stuff! Guess I could wear a mask...?

4. getting help from a friend would be nice, but spoiled little Chihuahua can be quite threatening when visitors come over (not that I've had any lately due to this mess!!)----also can't restrict him to one room as we'd be plagued by his screaming! Same thing goes for keeping him outdoors=( Bacially I have resigned myself to the fact that this work must be done by me and me alone! ACK!

5. Where do I put the stuff and how do I lift it once it's all put into boxes and trash bags? I don't want rows of this stuff lining my walls and also hate the idea of animals tearing thru the bags should I put it outside until trash day!

Okay, this must all sound like excuses for not kicking into gear, right? And yes, I'm totally overwhelmed. Also have this problem of looking at items and realizing either how much money I've spent on them in the past or find sentimental values that I seem to attach to "things" making it very difficult to let go.

Please help! With only my husband and I residing in this two bedroom home and sharing it with our beloved pet, there really is no excuse for living like this! Even the refrigerator is overrun with "unidentified, useless garbage". Oh, and dirty windows inside and out, heavy furniture that must be moved in order to clean appropriately AND.....the list goes on!! Clutter, clutter, clutter everywhere I look!!

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Flylady is a great place to start. Remember, it didn't get like that in a day, and it isn't going to get fixed in a day.
One of the best helps for when I started cleaning out the kitchen junk drawers was to get some of those parts bins from Lowes, and some labels. I dumped a drawer on the kitchen table, and did a rapid sort - rubber bands, matchbooks, keys, you get the idea. Don't pick up every little tiny thing and decide what pile/box, bin it goes in, decide on the category and pick all those up. It goes way faster. By labelling them, DH can find things much easier and hopefully make less of a mess. I hung mine on the wall going to the basement above the railing.

#3. yes, you can wear a mask.
#4. have you thought of disciplining your dog? Offer to put him in a kennel for a day if a friend will come and help. Kennel fees are less than if you had to hire someone to help you. If you have a friennd that is willing to help, you need to do whatever is necessary to ensure her safety. Make your DH take him with him for a day, he sure isn't helping you around the house.
#5. When he gets home with the dog, ask him to take the stuff to the trash pickup area the day of pickup.
As far as the money you spent on your clutter, think of the price you pay to move it, dust it, store it, fret over it, and until you either get rid of it or find a permanent home for it, you will keep paying in emotional stress.
Buy some microfiber cloths from Wal-mart, Sam's Club, or Costco, and use one to clean one window. Just one, no more. You will be so thrilled at how wonderful it looks you will want to do another. And also go on the 'cleaning' part of this forum.
You can do this, let everyone know you are taking back charge of your life and surroundings, and don't let 'em mess with ya!
I have been there, and done that.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2007 at 4:39PM
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1. I have back problems, and other medical issues, also. Try sitting in a chair or on a stool with casters. If you don't have a rolling chair, it's well worth the expense given your problems. I ask dh to move 2 or 3 bins or boxes to a place where I can sort through them over several hours, taking breaks as needed. You didn't make this mess in one week and you won't clean it up in one week, either.

2. Maybe you can't change your dh's behavior, but if there's less junk there will be less for him to pile. It may feel as if you're taking one step back for every two steps forward, but you can make a difference.

3. Cheap, disposable masks are available at drugstores, big box home stores and online. Buy them by the dozen.

4. Spoiling the dog doesn't make it happy. I suggest starting to discipline the dog for its own sake, as well as yours. Meanwhile, try playing some music to drown out the dog's fussing and train yourself to ignore it. Just as with whiny children, the dog will learn that fussing doesn't work.

5. Animals are unlikely to tear up your trash bags unless they contain food. However, if you're concerned, why not buy an extra large trash cart? You could also hire someone to haul the bags & boxes away for you in between regular trash pick up days. If you cannot bag the discards by yourself, and your husband refuses to help, you could hire a neighborhood boy to help you. If you cannot afford to pay a kid $5/hr. to help, perhaps your church can offer assistance.

The money you've spent on this stuff is "sunk cost." You cannot get it back (other than perhaps a fraction of it through a yard sale), so thinking about the cost doesn't help you now. Remembering the wasted money could help you in the future, though, if it keeps you from buying stuff you don't need. Then maybe you can spend that money on household help instead of more clutter.

Right now you shouldn't be aiming for perfection. That becomes another excuse to not start. Instead, just focus on spending a little time each day - whether 20 minutes or several hours spread over the day. Pat yourself on the back for making the effort, and you'll eventually see a real difference. You can do this!

    Bookmark   October 6, 2007 at 6:03PM
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You've been given excellent ideas. Are you a list maker? The one thing that has kept me on track has been to make a long list of everything that needs to be done. For instance, in the computer I put down every drawer and every cabinet in the kitchen on the list. As I completed each one, I highlighted it with the date and time of day done and moved it to a new list below the original. This way, I could see my progess and it felt as though someone was giving me a pat on the back each time I completed a task. There were times when I ended up changing a task from one task to several tasks when I realized it was not going to be completed at one time. This way, I was still able to mark something as done.

Are you allowed to put out more trash than just your garbage can? I get charged $5.00 for each extra item I put out. If this is the way it is for you, too, I'd suggest that your goal would be to make sure that your trash can is completely filled each week. Once you get to the point of cleaning out more and thus having more trash, perhaps you could get a second trash can and make sure that the two of them are full each week.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2007 at 9:47PM
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Adobe, I know what it's like to feel completely overwhelmed, and I know what it's like to have to do the job by myself. I undertook the decluttering and cleaning of my house at a time that was already extremely difficult for other reasons. The reason I succeeded (and I'm still working on it) is that I was very strongly motivated. If your motivation is sufficient to sustain you, I know you can do this.

I suggest having a talk with your DH. Tell him you want to make a nicer, cleaner, more comfortable home for the two of you, and enlist his aid. At the very least he shouldn't undo the progress you'll make.

A couple of things that helped me:

Equip yourself. I bought large quantities of plastic bags (black trash and white tall kitchen) at Sam's Club. SprayWay (less than $2.50 at Walmart) does a great job on windows. I second the suggestion to get microfiber cloths. I bought mine at Sam's and in the auto aisle at Walmart. They're wonderful.

Take advantage of the momentum you will build up. You will begin to enjoy seeing big bags of trash and donated goods leaving your house. Let that enjoyment inspire you to do more. Don't drift off and abandon the project for an extended period. It will be hard to get going on it again.

If you find yourself holding on to more than you should because you "might need it" someday, remind yourself that in the unlikely event that happens, you can always buy another one.

If you tend to anthromorphosize inanimate objects and that makes it hard to let them go, tell yourself they deserve a better home than you've given them. (This works well with stuffed animals.) :-)

At the end of the day, don't keep yourself awake by thinking of all you have left to do. Instead, think about all you accomplished that day.

Good luck!


    Bookmark   October 6, 2007 at 10:01PM
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I do think your list is just excuses. You can do plenty of decluttering, throwing out, cleaning and organizing sitting down. Put your foot down with your husband and stick to your guns. If you make the commitment to tackle this job, don't allow him to continue his ways. You said your house is dusty already. I doubt the lifting of the current dust will be much worse but you can wear a mask and open a window. Usually a job like this is better done by you than a friend. A friend can't make decisions what to keep or where to put it. Instead of enlisting a friend, identify areas that your husband can be assigned to tackle. There is no reason why he should not pitch in. If you have as much stuff as you indicated, box and bags of trash lined up somewhere in your house shouldn't be a problem. Have your husband lift heavy things and bring outside for garbage pickup.

It may look overwhelming now but look around your house and find an area that you can tackle quicker than other areas. Once you tackle one area, it will really make you feel better and motivate you to continue on. Don't start with tough areas.

As far as throwing stuff out, look at it this way. Either your house is a warehouse for stuff or your house is a home to live in. You will gain much more enjoyment out of your house once all this stuff is gone.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2007 at 11:37PM
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My 74y-o mother also has spinal degenerative disease. SheÂs partially paralyzed already, and canÂt walk very far. Her house is clean anyway. She makes and takes time to do what she can, and enlists the help of others to move heavy items.

Do know this  if you donÂt use it, you lose it. Yeah, sometimes Mom hurts, but moving is better than sitting, especially if youÂre sitting in dust and crap. So yes, you do sound a touch whiny about this.

Get your dog trained. I donÂt care how sweet he is, an untrained dog is obnoxious. Put him in a room and listen to him bark if it means you can get some help. HeÂs a dog, and shouldnÂt control your life. (I love my dog, and had to overrule my DH who wanted to spoil her. SheÂs much happier being a dog, and NOT in charge, and even the DH appreciated the difference.)

Tell your husband that the "CLEAN" belongs to you. He's simply not allowed to dirty or clutter an area you have cleared. If he can't abide by that request, well, you need other help.

You can sit and sort as youÂre able. Wear a dust mask if you need to. Fill those bags, and ask your husband to take them out on trash day. I donÂt see a problem with them sitting in the house until then  youÂve already said itÂs pretty much a disaster area. IÂd rather see bags sitting and waiting for trash day than the mess you say you live in.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2007 at 1:26AM
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Thank you SO very much for these ideas!! Here's the part I always have problems with-----

"Don't drift off and abandon the project for an extended period. It will be hard to get going on it again."

I can do really well for a day or two and then stop.....and this break isn't for a few hours but more like several weeks!!!

I like the idea of lists and the feeling of accomplishment, so will start there and cross off as I go. One of the reasons for complaining of not having anyone to carry out the trash was because my husband worked out of state, so unable to see him except for 2-4 days per month, leaving me here to tend to the house, trash, little dog, etc. He has now found local work and starts tomorrow..YAY! At least now he can take out trash and move the heavy furniture. Also complained of dust and having to wear a mask (due to allergies, etc.). I was jumping ahead to the basement when I mentioned this because of mold and mildew AND dust, dirt, etc. Will definitely need a mask for that or wheezing will begin. Have decided the basement is something that will have to wait, even though now that prized possessions are being stored there, most likely they will always smell like damp icky mold from now on...ugh! Maybe that will make the job easier when the time comes...? I hope not everything is ruined (family photos, mother's dolls, German board games still wrapped in cellophane, etc.). Scary to say the least!

Today I plan to work in the kitchen before picking DH up at the airport. I started emptying the foreign substances that were growing in the fridge yesterday, but didn't get around to doing the dishes yet. No Flylady, my sink is not sparkling yet, but will be soon! Worried about mopping the floor in there as my back usually doesn't cooperate for very long. Yes, I must keep moving! Too many hours at the computer and not enough footwork is making this worse than ever (not counting the extra weight I'm carrying around).

Anyway, I'm armed with a brand new roll of heavy duty black trash bags (our area just delivered 6 months worth a couple of days ago! WOOT!), various cleaning products and motivation from this board and all who posted responses.

Thanks again! Wish me luck!

    Bookmark   October 7, 2007 at 10:10AM
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One more thing: It helps to develop new eyes. Because we're so close to our surroundings, we tend not to actually "see" them. We need to recognize what is truly revolting and must be tossed immediately, and, in more general terms, what our home really looks like.

I took "before" pictures. My son thought it was insaneÂwho'd want to photograph a mess?Âbut it proved to be effective. We're so used to seeing interiors photographed in a perfect state, i.e., magazines, etc. It's a shock to view our squalor in glossy color prints, but it's a shock that some of us need. Besides, the "after" pictures are so much fun to take!

    Bookmark   October 7, 2007 at 11:12AM
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adobesunlight, I am replying here from your post on On Strike. How often do you really need those little screws? I'd toss most of them. It's easier to buy a few if you should need them than sort through all of them now. Unless you're going to be using all those pens and markers, I'd toss a portion of them as well unless you have a drawer set aside just for them. I had saved every pen, marker and pencil we ever purchased and with 5 kids (now grown) that was a lot. The only time I ever really touched them all was to check if they still wrote which I did once a year. To be honest, I recently did this again. But they are all sorted into their own ziploc bags in a designated drawer.

Another thing that helped with my original organizing a couple of years ago was to make a list of all the categories of items that I would be keeping, such as photos, maps, books, computer items, stationery, tools, etc. and sorted everything into the designated areas for each category.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2007 at 1:33PM
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Dear "Adobe," I feel your pain and frustration. I have been there, done that. Maybe not exactly the same way, but with the same feeling of "Where do I even begin to put a dent into this messy house?"

Do whatever you can to make housework more comfortable and manageable. It made a huge difference for me. I realized that I was putting off washing dishes because my back would start to hurt because I was bending over to hold the dishes under the water. So we got a new faucet for the kitchen sink ... no more back pain! Then I realized I was still putting off the dishes because my hands would get dry and cracked in the winter. So I got myself some gloves to wear while at the sink. Every time I found myself procrastinating, I tried to figure out the real reason. As soon as I removed the obstacle, the task was easier --- dare I say enjoyable?

You're on the right track. Hang in there!

MaryLiz in Michigan

    Bookmark   October 7, 2007 at 4:15PM
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Excellent advise above, just a couple of things that I thought of and nobody else mentioned:

Don't be tempted to do a yard sale to get some of your money back. The money you'll get will be painfully little, a LOT of work and a great delay in getting your home cleaned out. Donate and take the tax write off instead.

Perhaps it will be better to put your dog in a kennel and enlist the help of a friend the day before trash pickup. While having trash bags in your home until pickup won't really make a huge difference, it WILL BE more encouraging to have stuff OUT OUT immediately.

An occasional painkiller to help you remain on task won't do any harm and having the radio playing so you can keep your mind occupied /interested /entertained while your hands work will help. Having a cleaning companion, whether it is your husband, a friend, a hired neighborhood teenager or a church member, will help you emotionally to keep going too.

Good luck, and please keep us posted. I will send good thoughts (i.e. prayers) your way!


    Bookmark   October 8, 2007 at 3:53AM
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WOOHOO! My husband is home and working locally now, so will have help with the heavy stuff FINALLY!! We had a talk last night about getting our lives in order and on track. I expressed my feelings about living in a mess and how stressed and irritable we become when surrounded by junk, etc. He agreed that it sounded like a plan! I am going to clean in "baby steps" so as not to become overwhelmed and warned that he may or may not notice a difference in the beginning, but to please help me by not littering! Use the trashcan! LOL! Today is Day One on my "clearing away trash and clutter", so will arm myself with an empty bag and start in one room; most likely the computer area since that's where I happen to be right now=).. I have an idea for getting rid of "stuff" that just might make sense! We have friends that live down the street that are not doing well financially and always struggling to make ends meet. I have decided that once or twice a week there will be a box on my front porch for "pick up" and if they are interested the oldest boy could come by and take it home to do with as they please. (My friend has daughters with their own families that are struggling as well). She goes in for knick knacks and just about anything that's FREE so this might be an option! Her son has offered to paint the interior of my house at no cost granted I provide the supplies of course, so this is one way of doing a favor in return. Does this make sense? I'm only referring to items that I think she will like....not junk, but excess "stuff". Everything else will be donated and taken out for trash day. Let me know what you think, k? TIA:)

    Bookmark   October 8, 2007 at 12:58PM
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A small suggestion for you on where to start....I think the first things I would tackle are the kitchen sink and the dirty dishes. That pile is only getting bigger if you aren't doing them on a regular basis. And, if you are emptying the fridge, there has to be some pretty gross stuff there. I know the back problems slow you down, but do it in small pieces, maybe cups and glasses first, take a break, then bowls, take a break, then plates, then silverware, etc. I find if I break things into segments, it is less overwhelming. Telling myself I have to wash the cups and glasses isn't nearly as much as 'the dishes'.

The kitchen is the center of most homes, and cleanliness there will naturally set the tone for the rest of the house.

Good luck.


    Bookmark   October 8, 2007 at 2:01PM
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It looks like you have a good plan with a place to start. I find the hardest part of any task is simply just getting started. Once that happens, momentum picks up, especially when it starts making a difference. I'm sending good thoughts your way!

    Bookmark   October 8, 2007 at 2:19PM
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What good neighbors you have! I think it's a wonderful plan to offer items to those in need, especially when one family member has offered to do the hard labor of painting your house. He could also use you as a reference for future job searches. Now you have another incentive to get the mess in order. You are going to have your whole house painted!

    Bookmark   October 8, 2007 at 4:52PM
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I'm new to this forum but will not post anymore until I get up and do the dishes in the kitchen. That was a great suggestion---to start with the dishes 1st. Be back later.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2007 at 11:03AM
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