Magical thinking about *stuff* - declutter help needed!

(14 Posts)
cakedays Sat 02-Aug-14 17:55:57

Not sure where to post this but wondering if anyone has any similar experiences/tips or can suggest anything to help!

I've always been a happy minimalist and chucker-outer - I grew up in a house where my mum hoards (not very badly but enough for it to have a negative impact on us). She is very untidy and keeps both useless and difficult items out of sentiment (think boxes of dead relatives' funeral service cards; half empty bottles of hotel toiletries from holidays years ago). Nothing was ever organised or even done (we didn't have a proper bathroom for years; rooms half decorated, etc.). I determined I was never going to live like that and all my adult life have been (mostly) organised and not too attached to stuff.

Fast forward to now - recently a very dear loved one was very ill with an aggressive cancer (aggressive chemo, infection control, isolation ward, ICU etc.) Miraculously, they survived (though are at constant risk of relapse). I was also pregnant and had to move house unexpectedly, had awful financial problems, and am exhausted from small DC. I loved our old house (and my pre-baby life there) and do mourn it a bit.

I'm slowly trying to recover from all of these things, but I seem to have started having magical thinking about stuff - like I can't throw lots of worn out old clothes away because I wore them whilst visiting the hospital (eg. I used to wear particular old clothes for going in so I could wash them separately for infection control). I feel as if I throw stuff like this away, my loved one might relapse. I've got outgrown baby stuff, papers, just generally loads of things that I need to get rid of, piling up, but I can't seem to do it in case something awful happens.

We moved house last year (smaller house), and my DC desperately need their rooms sorting as they're half finished and full of piled up boxes. We've got very very little storage space (basically one built-in wardrobe and the cupboard under the stairs). I have almost no time with full-time work, toddlers and I'm exhausted and below par so I'm really tired whenever I do have a snatch of time spare and then the mess is so huge I just don't know where to start!

It would simplify our lives enormously if I could do a radical declutter and free up living and work space. I feel like I'm drowning in stuff and the mess is making me miserable but I can't seem to get on top of it - and when I try I'm beset by all these awful thoughts that if I get rid of anything something bad will happen. I also worry that if I get rid of something I will need it and not have enough money to replace it (our income has shrunk a lot recently).

Basically, now I understand why people hoard, and I need help! Can anyone who's overcome something similar give me any tips to sort my head out about this? <hopeful>

I know I could probably do with some counselling as I haven't really processed everything from the last couple of years, but I've used up all the six NHS sessions I can get free here and we don't have any spare cash at the moment for private counselling. So I wonder what else could help me get out of this rut. Intellectually of course I know that whether my loved one relapses isn't going to be because I threw out a pair of old shoes with holes in, and that I won't magically get my old house back if I keep loads of stuff that used to be in it - but somehow I still can't manage to get rid of them.

Help!

cakedays Sat 02-Aug-14 18:10:58

(Oh and I follow zenhabits etc., UFYH and used to do flylady too but they don't seem to be helping at the moment, argh!)

GobblersKnob Sat 02-Aug-14 18:22:58

A book called The Happiness Trap by Russ Harris, might have some useful stuff to help you. It is a type of therapy called ACT, you sound as though you are experiencing some anxiety that is being expressed as magical thinking, there are lots of simple exercises and ways to reprogram your thinking that I think you would find really useful.

Other than that start small, give yourself baby step challenges, it's really important to challenge your beliefs, just be prepared for it to be really hard at first. Throw something out, see what happens, repeat, repeat, repeat.

I have been in a very similar place to you, and interestingly had a very similar upbringing, my Mum won't even part with receipts or carrier bags.

cakedays Sat 02-Aug-14 18:39:26

Thanks gobblers - that book looks really interesting! I know exactly what you mean about the receipts and bags - my mum does exactly the same. They aren't even receipts for things she might want to take back - they're for packets if sweets or tissues and so on. An afraid that her hoarding is catching up with me....!

GobblersKnob Sat 02-Aug-14 20:00:08

It's hard to watch them isn't it? I find it really sad visiting my mums, she resists all attempts and offers of help, and now she is drowning in stuff, she also has a shopping addiction, bags and boxes of things everywhere, purchased then never touched.

I think I am quite frightened of becoming the same, but there is no doubt 'things' make me feel safe and I am thankful that we have a big attic. I am much better than I used to be but it is a battle.

GobblersKnob Sat 02-Aug-14 20:03:11

Also were the six sessions at your gp surgery? You can get access to more telling therapies on the NHS, I have had three years of CBT (though I know that that is unusual and I am lucky), I am still officially on my therapists books, but coping okay atm.

MILLYmo0se Sat 02-Aug-14 22:20:37

I can absolutely understand your situation . I was a pretty good 'chucker-outer' in my pre-baby days, though I do like my ornaments and bits and bobs but didn't have loads of clutter . Then we had to move pretty suddenly when I was 7 months pg and didn't have time to declutter, DD was a refluxy baby that was basically in my arms til she was 3 months oldand then I was back in work and knackered from pumping/still doing night feeds. I started doing a 2 year course when she turned 1 - so by the time we moved again we were drowning in crap cos I had no time/energy to sort stuff. My plan was to take the week off work and pack/declutter - then DD got a tummy bug so I had a sick 2 and a half year old at home with me and nothing was done. DP packed EVERYTHING - even crap that very obviously didn't need to come, broken things even and I didn't even know where to start.
It is much easier to do it as you go along rather than let it all pile up, and I get the financial side of it too. Even though I knew the chances of me concieving again were minute I still felt 'well I better hang on to baby things just in case cos I can't afford to buy them again'.
I found that selling stuff and using it to buy DD something she need/wants made it easier to part with things, and once I started unloading it got much easier - in fact you nearly get addicted to the thrill and starting decluttering like a mad thing. I'd start with 'easy' things and do it in an easy way. Go round the house with a bag and get rid of everything that is obviously broken/bin worthy -newspaper/reciepts etc and put them straight out of the house . I find once they are gone, I dont worry/think about things but if I start dithering/leave things in a pile to bring out later I start second guessing myself .
If you have big toys/items of furniture post them on a local FB selling page or somlike that, if you have a million barely/partly used bathroom products sick them in a box and give them to womens refuge/advertise to give away free.
It sounds very cliche, but it really is getting started thats so bloody difficult, you just have to re-learn how to let go, and with practice it does come back to you.

cakedays Sun 03-Aug-14 23:25:29

Thank you! Milly yes, I think I do need to relearn how to let go... we have a good car boot nearby so maybe I should try to get some cash to put towards something new for the DC. I just wish I could get rid of the nagging fear that if I throw stuff out, I will regret it... I'm very dependent on the whole "piles-of-stuff-to-deal-with" thing at the moment so I need to break that habit! It's good to know that others have had the sane experience though...I've begun to feel so useless that things are in such disarray for such a long time after we moved (did I mention we moved just before Christmas and then I went back to work full time from maternity leave a week later? I suppose it's no wonder really that it's never got sorted but it's making me feel like such a rubbish person. Did you manage to get everything sorted eventually after the house moves?

Gobblers the counselling sessions were through my GP surgery, but since last year they have cut all the counselling apart from those 6 sessions of CBT per person (unless you are referred to the proper psych team for something like bipolar, GP said I wasn't ill enough confused Maybe I should sell some of the stuff just to pay for private counselling! wink

Sandthorn Mon 04-Aug-14 08:22:41

Oh holy shit, OP... You've had an awful time sad It's no wonder you're feeling depressed, and demotivated, and anxious. You also seem very self-critical, which I understand too, but I wonder whether you're jumping to the worst thing you can think of (irrational hoarding) without considering the more benign reasons for your situation: you're depressed, you've just moved, and you've got two toddlers... Having a disorganised house may not be a sign of hoarding tendencies! And hanging onto those clothes: well, we all know you getting rid of them isn't going to make your loved one ill, but you also know it's possible they will get ill again, and not having those clothes might be a real inconvenience then.. Right? And all this is exacerbated by having less money than you're used to: if you throw away something you need later, it's no simple matter to replace it.

If you can identify some rationality underlying your "magic thinking", you can come up with a rational response to it. Like keep two sets of the old clothes, wash them, dry them, and pack them up in a vacuum bag, in a suitcase, in the attic (or otherwise out of sight). Get rid of the rest. Now you're equipped for the worst case scenario, but not constantly reminded of it.

I also think you'd benefit from putting some effort into falling in love with your new house: You probably haven't had time or energy for that, yet? I'm sure you're grieving for the old place, but this is going to be the one where you see your children grow up... Fast forward 16 years or whatever, to when you're waving your youngest off to uni, and imagine how you're going to feel about it then. I don't think the kids bedrooms are the place to start. Put on your own oxygen mask first, and attack the room that's going to make you feel great, and that's going to give you energy to deal with the rest. Get the kitchen organised and efficient (if it's smaller than the last one, small kitchens can be incredibly functional, you know!), or get the main living space calm and decluttered.

Another book recommendation, if it won't just add to the clutter wink - Mindfulness in Plain English. To help you start living for now, rather than agonising over the past, and worrying about the future.

Sorry for the epic!

cakedays Mon 04-Aug-14 12:17:45

Thanks Sandthorn - I feel a bit teary just reading your post! Thank you for being so sympathetic. It really helps just to have a bit of encouragement and some cheering on as well as some good suggestions for things to look at (thank you everyone on the thread!) I guess "I can't go over it, I can't go under it", so I just have to start doing small things and getting back into the swing of decluttering. Found a toddler poised to lick my old hospital shoes this morning (only turned my back for a second to wash my hands!) so that's a good impetus to chuck them, at least!!! smile

And yes, I realised reading your post that I haven't really got into the swing of making the new house nice. It's a lot smaller than the old one, but more of a blank canvas (and with a nicer colour scheme), but I haven't even got around to putting any pictures up yet. Maybe that will help smile

Montegomongoose Mon 04-Aug-14 12:37:42

You poor thing, what a trying and awful time for you and I completely understand your 'touch wood' thinking. flowers for you.

How about just doing ten minutes every day? If you fill a bag get to out of the house and straight to a charity shop/dump/recycling bin.

You will come back feeling lighter in every way.

Bit by bit it will get better; i absolutely agree with the pp who said make yourself a nice place first - what's the kitchen like? Your bedroom? what would make you feel more able to cope when you get up in the morning?

cakedays Tue 05-Aug-14 11:23:44

Thanks Montegomongoose! I did a bit of tidying yesterday in my bedroom and got rid of a couple of bags of old baby clothes. Will try to do another hour or so this afternoon and see what I can get rid of quickly. I have some things to go for fabric recycling and an old duvet which needs to go.... little steps! smile

Montegomongoose Tue 05-Aug-14 16:54:23

Little steps will get you there. Best wishes to you!

BoffinMum Wed 06-Aug-14 21:32:00

I can't advise about the therapy side of things, but would getting one room looking nice and ordered help at all?

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