April 10th, 2010

One of the main differences between my commuter hubby and me revolves around cable television: I don’t have cable. I think it is ridiculously expensive and frankly I’d rather spend my discretionary income on high speed internet and “presents” from my favorite home shopping network.

However, Mr. J, being very much of the male persuasion, has every cable channel imaginable in his apartment. When I’m ‘in residence” at his pad I admit to ‘jonesing’ (pun intended) for a few channels: A&E is one of them. In January A&E started a new season of “Hoarders.” In case you aren’t familiar with it, the name is pretty explanatory.

Each episode showcases two separate people whose inability to let go of things is so out of control that they are headed toward disaster: the house is unsafe and they might lose their children (‘lose’ as in: taken away from them, not ‘lose’ as in they can no longer find them in the mountains of junk); a loved one has fallen down stairs, breaking bones, and is now threatening to leave them unless the clutter is cleared. The show considers hoarding a disease and cleaning out the house is only the beginning step to change the person’s life.

After watching two episodes in February I turned to Mr. J and said, “We are about 2.5 steps from being hoarders.”

Now I might have been exaggerating just a little (and I hope anyone who has ever seen my house is nodding their head in agreement right now) but I am serious in my concern.

Both Mr. J and I are packrats. We tend to keep everything: books, plastic containers, electronics that are completely outdated, clothes from the 1990s and my personal bugaboo: paper.

Paper breeds in my house, multiplying like bunnies. Paper slays me: I don’t know what to do with it and I can’t let it go.

To piggyback on the problem of being a packrat partial to paper, I struggle with organization as well. Historically my bosses have complained about my desk being piled high with folders, industry magazines (an occasional copy of Oprah! thrown in as well, but they couldn’t see it, now could they?) and paper.

Yet, if anyone needed something I could lay my hands on it immediately. Eventually, tired of the comments, I’d give in and clean my work area. Of course, the minute I’d either tossed or filed something I needed it within days.

Like everyone who has been through any sort of time management course, you know the number one mantra: “only touch paperwork one time.” You are supposed to: Deal with it. File it. Trash it. All at the same time. Unfortunately for me, once it is filed it is lost to me forever, like a black hole: I have no idea where it is.

Just to pile on: I also have a family history of clutter: my parents’ house has been known (occasionally) to have a tiny, tiny bit of clutter. My grandparents who lived through the depression tended to stockpile non-perishable goods: coffee, aluminum foil, soap, etc.

With those two and one-half strikes against me (not even I would be so negative as to claim three strikes):
Predilection to hang onto everything
No innate sense of organization
Maternal (thus the one-half) family history of hanging onto or hoarding “stuff”

I felt justified in my comment to my hubby: we are about 2.5 steps from being hoarders.

We might not be hoarders today, but where would we be 5 years from now?

It was time for an intervention!

Stay tuned as my friend Cyndee first comes into our house and we begin to declutter what should have been an innocuous room: the mostly unused upstairs bathroom.

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