Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Messy? Or Messed Up?

One of my little fascinations is people who live lives of out-of-control clutter. Yes, I will gawk at Oprah's show (on the rare occasion I'm home to watch it), when her featured guest is someone whose home is subdivided into "rooms" made of stacked newspapers going back to the Kennedy Administration.

I guess this interest has its roots in my own youth. My dad was one of those people who were terrified of throwing something away. As he got closer to retirement, this propensity got much worse. He decided he had to start recycling, but didn't know how to go about it. His solution was to keep all the trash in the garage until he could get around to separating out the aluminum cans. It's a good measure of how tuned in I was at that age, that I never thought to volunteer for this job. Instead, Mom and I rolled our eyes at each other and shook our heads, watching the bags of refuse pile up ... until we started seeing mice and badgered Dad into just letting Sanitation pick it up.

Anyway, the National Study Group on Chronic Disorganization has put together an interesting tool (downloadable .pdf format) for evaluating the degree to which a clutter-bug might be edging into the Need-Help Zone. It's called the Clutter Hoarding Scale - down along the left-hand side of the organization's linked website.

In these stressful times of economic crisis, I have a hunch that more people than ever are finding themselves awash in this type of problem -- less ability to organize, combined with dwindling resources to maintain their home and make disciplined decisions about "stuff." We see more people moving "back home" as they become unable to keep up house payments, or downsizing to a trailer or one-bedroom apartment. Possessions suddenly take on heavier significance. Am I wasteful if I throw that away? I have so little already -- how can I afford to cast off still more? We live in thrifty times. I should save that old _____ and make a _____ out of it, like I saw in a magazine.

I subscribe to a news feed from Unclutterer.com. Check it out if this topic draws you, too.


PersonalFailure said...

I'm on the opposite end of the spectrum- I can't sleep unless everything is in its place. I am one more organizing spree away from full blown OCD.

Oddly, this allows me to recognize this sort of thing for what it is: mental illness. Some people can no more throw away a burnt-out light bulb than I can leave a dirty coffee cup in the sink overnight.

I think you hit the nail on the head when you submit that this sort of behavior will increase in troubled economic times. I control my own stress levels by cleaning. Someone inclined to clutter will react the opposite way.

My house is very, very clean right now. You could perform surgery on my floors, my counters or in my toilet.

Volly said...

Being middle of the road also has its disadvantages. I'm referred to as either "the anal-retentive neat freak" by half my friends & loved ones, or "the inconsiderate slob who refuses to grow up" by the other 50%.


Barbara Bruederlin said...

I am a wannabe minimalist who lives with two hoarders. It's challenging.