Small Victories

Tonight, I threw something away.

It was a phone charging cord.

Now, that doesn’t sound like much.  It wasn’t much.  Just a phone charging cord.  It was blue.

But…

It still worked.

Well, sorta.  Sometimes it worked, and sometimes it didn’t.  I could plug my phone in at night, and the next morning – no charge.  Pick up the phone and look at it, and it would suddenly start to charge.

But not always.  So I decided to throw it away.  I picked it up – and then the internal dialogue started.

“Anything that still works, even if it is only sometimes, should not be thrown away.”

“After all, what if my good cord should quit working?  I could still, maybe, use that as an emergency back-up.”

“It is WASTEFUL to throw something away that can still be used.”

Those thoughts ran through my head.  I started to put the cord back.

Then…

I CHANGED the dialogue.

“Stop that, Melinda!  You have two cords that work perfectly fine.  You do NOT need to keep a cord that does not work properly!”

And…I THREW IT AWAY!!!

Such a small thing.  And yet, so significant.

And there is more.

As I was writing this just now, as I was writing that sentence “It is WASTEFUL to throw something away that can still be used,” I made a connection to my past.  And I started to cry.

When I was young, my mother used to tell us to always clean our plates.  She talked about starving children in other parts of the world, starving children who would love to have our leftovers. We were not to waste any food.  If we did leave something on our plates, usually my dad would finish it off.  No waste.

To this day, I tend to clean my plate when I’m eating.

I also hold on to things that I don’t use, because they are too good to throw away.  Some of them really are too good to just throw away.

But others?

I have a huge pile of old shirts – stained, missing buttons – but I can still use them as rags.  Or recycle them into weaving projects.

I have old towels that are ragged, ratty, I don’t use them in the bathroom anymore – yet I don’t throw them away, because they still have some use in them.

I have a pile of mending – some of these clothes I have not worn for years.  But they only need a button, or a few stitches in a seam.

And in thinking about how much I don’t want to “waste” things, I had a thought.  One that I have never considered before.

Do I hold on to things – things that are too good to throw away, things that still have a little bit of use in them – because of a message that I internalized as a child?  Did my mother’s message of not wasting food become a personal message of not wasting anything?

Tonight, I threw away something that still had some use.

I might have gained a new insight into my personal hoarding issues.

Small victories.

But oh, so great…

 

 

Achievement. Abandonment.

I haven’t written anything on this blog in quite a while.  I have been in counseling, for grief, my hoarding, and some other things, and instead of pouring my soul on paper for the world to see, I have been pouring my soul into my counselor’s ears.

But something happened to me tonight.  Something that is puzzling to me.

Here is my story.

A couple of weeks ago, I was put on bed rest by my Dr.  I have  circulation problems in my leg, and it was swelling quite a bit.  I also had injured my knee earlier this summer, and have not recovered from it.

So, there were some things that needed to be done, and I hired a family member to come do them for me. I didn’t have much money to give her, but I gave her what I had, she came over, spent an hour or so doing the immediate tasks that I needed done, and left.  When she left, she told me that if I needed her again, to let her know.

Well, I did need her again.  My van is persnickety, and the hatchback is currently not opening from the outside.  There is a rope attached to the latch, but you can only pull it straight up, so you have to get into the van and close to the back to open it.  I had pulled out as much from the back as I could, through the side door, but I had things that I needed to get out, and put in.

I wasn’t sure, between my leg, my knee, and the pain that I have also been having in my lower back, if I could crawl into the back and open the door.  But I knew this family member could do so.  So I called. And texted.  She asked me what I needed, I told her, she told me she wasn’t at home but would come by when she got back.  So I waited.  and waited.  And she never came by.

A few days later, I asked again.  I had a school program that I needed to unpack my van, and pack for.  No response.

Today was the last day that I had available to do this.  I contacted her once more.  She responded enough to tell me she was at home – which is just down the road from my house – in fact, her family are my next door neighbors – country next door neighbors, but less than half a mile.  I told her what I truly needed – my van to get opened, and that I had more work that I would pay her to do, if she wanted.  Opening my van would take her less than five minutes.  I was in town, but would be home in about 15 minutes.  I got home. And sat in my car.  And waited.  And waited.  I actually dozed a little bit – in between texting her.  And calling her.  With no response.

I finally texted her brother – no response from him, either.

By now, it was getting dusky, I have to leave tomorrow.  I knew it would hurt for me to crawl in and open that door.  But I had no choice.  So I crawled in.  It hurt.  It hurt a lot.  I cried.  And cried.

I finally got the door open.  And then I sat in the back of the van and sobbed.

And while I was crying, I was asking myself why?  Why was I crying.  Part of was physical pain.  Part of it was emotional pain.

I had accomplished something that I truly wasn’t sure I would be able to do by myself.  But I did it.

I DID IT!

With pain.  But with grit and determination, I did it.

And yet, I was crying my eyes out.  I felt so alone.  So lost.  A person whom I love, who had said they would help me – just give a call – had ignored me.  Had left me to my own devices.

I had accomplished something that was difficult.  Yet instead of feeling triumphant, I felt desolate.

But why should this be so?  And while I sobbed, and cried, I wondered about that – why would I feel so sad when I had just successfully done something that I had both dreaded and that I knew would be hard.

I cried even harder.  I realized that I was feeling so bad for two main reasons – first,  the fact that I ended up being the person to do this difficult and painful task was evidence that I was alone in life.  I had asked for help.  Even begged.  And the person who had said they would help me if I needed it ignored my plea.  I felt a loss of relationship with my own family  – it is always hard for me to ask for help, and when I did, my pleas had gone unanswered – not once, not twice, but three times.

But the second reason that I was crying so hard was this – I had no one to celebrate my success with.  I had no partner to rejoice with me, to cheer me on, to tell me I could do it.

I felt totally abandoned, and totally alone, and those feelings overwhelmed my success.

And while I thought about that, I realized some things.  Often – I discount my successes.  I have often allowed things that I have accomplished on my own to bring me down – if for no other reason, it reminds me of how alone I often feel.

And my feelings of abandonment, of loss, might not even be legitimate.

This person that I had hoped would help me – well, she is young.  A teenager.  Her phone might be turned off, on a charger.  She might never have gotten my messages, she might be doing something with her parents – there are all kinds of legitimate reasons why she might not have responded to my plea for help.  I truly hope that is what it was, rather than that she was unwilling to take five minutes from her day to do something that was so difficult for me, but would have been so much easier for her.

I’m not crying anymore, and even tho the light was gone, I was able to get some of the things done that I had to do.  Despite my feelings of loss, of abandonment – I am learning more about myself, and how I react to things.  Hopefully, next time this happens, I will be more aware, more able to rejoice in my success, and not feel so alone.  I need to learn to allow my successes to lift me up, not bring me down.

 

It is Okay to celebrate my successes.  I can let success build me up, not tear me down.

 

 

 

But it is still useful…Really???

Well, I have had so many thoughts that I wanted to write about in the last few weeks.  Have I?  No.  Just thought about it.  I have been a roller coaster of emotion and frustration since I agreed to do that interview.  It was rough.  There were things in the article that I never said, but from the placement, it seemed as if I had said them.  The pictures were horrible.  I cried again when I read it.

But…I learned a few things.  For example, evidently there is only one therapist in all of Arkansas who specializes in Hoarding behavior.  Or at least, there was only one that the reporter was able to find, and the therapist in question said as far as she knew, she was the only one.

There are no physical support groups for hoarding in Arkansas.  There are some on-line support groups, and there is a facebook support group for hoarders, also.

And – The reporter told me that after the day the story came out, five different people came to her and said that they had family members with hoarding issues.  I had friend requests on face book from people I had never heard of before. (one of them worked at the newspaper) One person even looked up my phone number, called me, and said they wanted to help me organize.

But between my emotional state after this article was published, being in a very fun but highly exhausting temporary job, and some family medical issues, I had pretty much given up doing anything with the house.  At least for a little bit.  It doesn’t help that my water has gone out, yet again.

But I have gotten very tired of looking at my junk.  My hoard.  My treasured trash.  And while I am usually pretty good at putting empty cans and food wrappers in the trash, that is where a lot of the things that I keep will eventually end up.  In the trash.

So the rain today cancelled my work.  I had gotten up early, and really should have gone back to bed for some extra rest, but I chose instead to play on my computer, take care of some on-line business, set up my new uverse account, and otherwise waste the day away.

However…I set my timer.  15 minutes worth of decluttering on my kitchen table.  And some more playing around.  And another 15 minutes of decluttering.  And then a little more.  Now, my table is so filled with STUFF that 45 minutes or so of decluttering on it has resulted in me being able to see one small corner.  Admittedly not all of that 45 minutes was done on the table.  But at least 30 of it was.  And I can only see one small corner that is more or less clear, with other parts of the table still covered.  The piles are not as high.  But still covered.  And I went from a trash can with a half full garbage bag to a trash can with a full garbage bag, now ready to go out.

Maybe it sounds like I didn’t do very much.  But I can claim a small but important victory.  You see, one of the things on the table was a headset – headphones and microphone combo, that I used with my computer.  But the mike went out.  Quit working.  So I replaced it.  But I never threw the old one away.  Now, the mike on this headset quit working months and months ago. In fact, I just bought a replacement to the replacement, since the replacement is no longer stereo.

So, Why haven’t I thrown that set of headphones away long ago? Because even tho the mike didn’t work, the headphones did. That made it still “useful” and thus worthy of saving. Even though I wasn’t using them, and hadn’t for months. I still couldn’t bring myself to throw them away.  After all, the new set might go out, and I could use the old one again – or at least, the still working headphones part of it.

Crazy thinking.

Well, today, I claim a victory.  Those headphones, despite the fact that they are still “useful”, are in the trash.  GASP!!!!   I THREW AWAY SOMETHING THAT WAS STILL PARTIALLY USEFUL!!!  But I realized that I would never use it again.  And no one else would want it.  So it has left my table, left my sight, is bagged up in the trash, and will leave my house when I take the trash out for pick-up.  VICTORY!

Every time I overcome that impulse to hoard, to hang on to things that I don’t need, won’t use, and no longer make me smile or spark joy – it gets just a tiny bit easier to toss the next thing.

So – did I waste my day?  Some people would say yes.  They would look at everything that I didn’t do, while I was reading Facebook or playing a computer game.  Maybe they are right.

But I have a corner of a table that I can see for the first time in over a year.  And something that a few months ago I had to keep, could not allow myself to throw away, because it was still “useful” – is now out of my life.

It is a baby step.  But for someone like me, throwing that one item away is as much of an accomplishment as for a non-hoarder to clean an entire room.

Today, I decluttered.  I filled a trash can.  I can see a small result.

Today, I claim victory.

Bucket list item: Accomplished! My book is in my hand!

Ok, I have a bucket list.  If you don’t know what a bucket list is, it is a list of things that you want to do before you kick the bucket.  I don’t have very many items on my bucket list.  At the top has been “have a clean house” for about as long as I have known what a bucket list is.  Other items include “Get a book published”, “Visit the highlands of Scotland”, “get a couple more cds out” and “Become a better artist”.  I have a couple more which I doubt will ever happen.

Well, today I hold proof that one of the items on my bucket list can be crossed out.  My author’s copies arrived today.  A book.  With my name as the sole author.  A real book, that I wrote.  And it is not a vanity publishing.  I did not pay a cent to have this book published.  My author’s copies are an advance on royalties.  And hopefully, between me, the publisher, and Amazon, enough copies will sell so that I can earn a little bit in royalties.  Honestly?  I would love it if a million copies sold.  If this went viral.  I would love to know that my struggles with hoarding could help someone else.  I am a hoarder.  The cover of my book is my living room 5 years ago – and it doesn’t look much better today, at least, not right at this moment.  So often I feel like a failure.  But…

I have a book published.  I have the proof, right here at the side of my computer.  I can cross off something from my bucket list.

And more than that…when my book was accepted for publication, I had to read it to make the edits.  Then I had to read it again.  I read the galley.  And in the process of reading and rereading my book.  I started thinking about my bucket list – which I talk about a little bit in one of the chapters.

And I started to paint more.  I am not an artist.  But I am beginning to teach myself how to translate the image from my mind to canvas.  I have a painting in my mind, and it is my dearest hope that someday, I will be able to paint it.

I’ve crossed one item off my bucket list.  I’m beginning to work on another.  Who knows – maybe I will be able to go to Scotland someday.  And, someday, I plan on crossing off the one about having a clean house.

I am not a failure.  I am able to succeed.  And so can you.

If you are interested, my book, Meditations of a Hoarder, is available at Yard Dog Press, and may be purchased as a paperback or an ebook.   http://www.yarddogpress.com/books/MeditationsofaHoarder.html

Cleaning for Christmas

Well, it is Christmas Day. Have you put your 15 minutes in? Yesterday, I got my stairs completely cleaned off, except for one basket which is specifically a stair basket – designed to go on a stair. First time in years and years and years. Cleaned off, swept, dust mopped. Just in time, too. My staircase has a landing where the stairs turn a corner. I have open stairs, and due to the location of my wall heater, that landing is actually one of the warmest places in the house. I had a nice, clean landing to lay out my Christmas presents, wrap them, fix the stockings…such a nice feeling. And then I made sure that everything was put away. Wrapping paper and tape in it’s “up” location, scissors in their basket, scraps in the trash, left over candy in my tummy – well, only a couple of chocolate pieces. And I have a nice clean staircase to look at. When I do, I smile, and the world seems better. Cleaning the staircase might seem a like a small victory, but it is a victory nonetheless, and my house is a little bit safer for it. Next task? Clearing out the junk that is by the wall next to the staircase.  This vacation, I created a huge “to do” list.  I won’t have very much work until school starts again, so I just set down and wrote down everything that I want to do for the next week or two.  Now, mind, I do not expect to do all of them.  If I only do half of them, I will be ecstatic.  But writing down some specific goals is one way of helping stay on task.  My list is on my computer, and I do not delete the ones that get finished.  Instead, I type in a big DONE in front of the task and tab it over.   You see, if I deleted them, then I wouldn’t see what I had accomplished when I get discouraged about how many items are still on the list.  By simply indenting them over, I can see all the work that I’ve already done, and I won’t get as discouraged if I don’t get to all of them.  Baby steps, baby steps…The longest journey begins with but a single step.  Hope your holidays are wonderful, and full of the small steps that lead to a great journey.