27 May, 2011

Put the good things on the shelf and the trash in the trashcan!

Years ago, in one of my biannual feeling that somehow I must reorganize my life, I bought Julie Morgenstern’s organizing books. 

You know how I am; I think that by buying books I can change my life. Want to get organized? Buy a book about it! Want to learn how to cook? There’s a book for that! New hobby? Feeling anxious? Want to plan a vacation? Book. Book! BOOK!!

Want to de-clutter your home of all the crap you have, including a LOT of self-help books? Guess what, there are MULTIPLE books that will help you do it!

Anyway, that’s a subject for another day. What I was thinking about is that this was about 10 years ago, and Ms. Morgenstern had started a forum on her site about all kinds of organizing, and one part of it was about cleaning. I used to read the forum every couple of days to see what people were posting about. And one day, on this Cleaning forum, a poster named Kimmy started posting about how she’d been living in squalor, until things were so bad she was about to be thrown out of her apartment.

This was YEARS before Hoarders was a twinkle in a producer’s eye. This was just a bunch of (mostly) women posting about their struggles to achieve and maintain some order and cleanliness in their homes and offices.

Anyway, Kimmy wrote a lengthy series of posts about her efforts to bag up and throw away a house full of junk, clean things that could be saved, and throw away what couldn’t. Then, my friends, she posted pictures. And that was when things when crazy on the forum. Somehow, this woman admitting that her life had descended into filthy, dangerous, demoralizing chaos and being brave enough to post before and after pictures – it gave a bunch of people permission to admit that they too were struggling along in situations that were beyond the usual “my house is a little messy.”

Pretty soon the “squalorees” had overwhelmed the Morganstern forums. (I am pretty sure Ms. Morganstern got aggravated by all these folks who were not commenting on her books and services, and were instead talking about their own problems.) Eventually Julie's forums were closed so the Squalor people started their own forum which was called (I think) Squalor Survivors. 

After a number of years, the woman who moderated it decided she needed to move on, so Squalor Survivors regrouped at Stepping Out of Squalor.

Occasionally when I am feeling overwhelmed, I like to drop in over there, to remind myself that I am not actually living in squalor. Yes, I wish I was a tidier person and that I was more organized, but I am not living in life threatening clutter or filth. So sometimes I go there to get a little bit of there-but-for-the-grace-of-God-go-I. And mostly I get a boost, and then I get up and clean something or throw something away and it's all good.

And then sometimes I read a post that just drives me nuts. Some of these squalorees have obviously read every psych books around and know every reason they live in squalor. They have tons of information and reasons and excuses. What they do not have is the determination to wash a dish or throw away a used Kleenex. And they are so verbal and well-written (like well-spoken, only written) that I don't believe that they are actually mentally ill at all. They are just full of bullshit excuses.

For example:

I know I have all sorts of organizing and sorting and categorizing problems and demand resistance and depression and probably ADD and maybe OCD - but I do wonder sometimes if I might also be the "L" word.

And then she goes on to explain why she's not lazy! No, she's a perfectionist and has "fear of starting" and "fear of failing." And I say, no my dear, your problem is that you are reading too many selfy-helpy books and psych websites, and you are doing too little picking up and throwing things out.
NO, OF COURSE I DIDN'T SAY THAT ON THE SITE. I never post on the site, since I am not a squalorous individual. But I thought it! I mean some of these people (mostly women) have every reason in the world why they don't throw anything out or EVER clean their house. Some of their reasons, like severe clinical depression, seem like good reasons to me. Others, like, "My mother threw away my stuffed animals once when I was little. Then I read The Velveteen Rabbit and saw Toy Story II, and now I can't throw away anything of my childrens, because OBJECTS HAVE FEELINGS!!!!"

So, I have vented and am feeling a little better. We are having a little bbq tomorrow, so I have cleaning to do! Adios, muchachas!

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