Mental Health

It’s a Process

Last week, I talked about how I stumbled into realizing that I had, if not hoarding disorder itself, hoarding tendencies. It wasn’t easy, and I want to thank everyone for their kindness. As much as I try not to shy away from talking about my struggles with my mental health, it is embarrassing to actually show through video what’s going on.

As I mentioned last week, after realizing that I had, or at the very least was developing, a serious problem, I decided I needed to do something about it while it was still within my control. I enlisted the help of my friend Pup to help me get rid of things.

The biggest culprit of clutter in my life has always been my crafting space. I’ve always been a crafter, even as a young child. When I hit the lowest point in my depression about 5-7 years ago, I lost the motivation to work on the vast majority of my projects. The desire was still there; I wanted to do these things and I thought if I could just find the motivation to do them, I would “snap out of it.” I ended up buying a lot of supplies hoping that if the means were readily available the motivation would come.

The motivation didn’t come. I kept buying and buying and buying, but all that happened was I felt more and more overwhelmed by my incomplete projects, which just made the depression worse. Eventually, even if I did have the motivation to work on a project, I didn’t have the space to do anything. I could do a few small projects while sitting on my bed—the only clutter-free area of my room—but otherwise everything else was deadlocked.

I decided I needed to start with those craft supplies. I had boxes of craft supplies stacked everywhere. The tabletop couldn’t be seen for the piles on top of it. They’d began spilling into other areas of my room: the closet, the bookcases, my desk. If I didn’t get that stuff cleaned up and decluttered, I would never be able to adequately organize the rest of my space.

Let me say this: This. Fucking. Sucked.

I knew there was no way I could keep everything. I’d have to prioritize things—really prioritize them, rather than tell myself that I have a use for every single little thing. Top priority had to be tools and machinery. My sewing machine, my Silhouette cutter, stamps; things that could be used over and over, indefinitely. Those things would stay. That was the easy part.

After that, I made a list of all the projects I could think of that I wanted to do and ranked them in order of what I most wanted to do to what I didn’t really care that much about. Then I made sub-lists of everything I would need to complete those projects, right down to the little accoutrement. Honestly, this part was kind of fun, too. I’m a compulsive list maker, so anytime I get to create lists I’m happy.

The hard part came when I needed to sort things. I grouped all the needed parts for each project together in boxes (generously provided by Pup). Once everything was boxed up and my craft area was completely clear, I would put everything back starting with the highest priority and working my way down until I ran out of space.

Anything left over had to go.

There were a lot of things I actually didn’t even have projects for. Those things were gotten rid of before we even started. I pared down some of my tools (stamps and stencils in particular), only keeping the ones I really liked and used. Surprisingly, I was able to keep the majority of my projects, probably thanks to getting rid of things that I had no projects for and just took up space. The only projects I had to get rid of I really didn’t care about and only planned on doing so I could use up the stuff I had for them.

In addition to cleaning out and organizing my craft stash, Pup also took away piles of things that I had planned to sell, but couldn’t possibly work my way through anytime soon. That made a huge difference, as well.

Everything I got rid of was stuff I didn’t need or even really care about at all.

I cried over it. Pup and I did this over a weekend and on Sunday I bawled my eyes out after everything had been taken down to either the trash or Pup’s car to be dropped off at Goodwill. I didn’t care about these things at all, but I hated to let them go. As much stress as they put on my life, having them also gave me some strange comfort.

I didn’t need them. I didn’t even really want them. But I’d had plans for them. They were a part of my life and a part of my future, in however small a way. Letting go of that was painful.

This was a lot harder than I expected it to be. For the first week or so after we removed everything, I felt a lot of remorse. All that wasted potential. All that wasted money. I had to resist the urge to replace some things or buy new stuff for new projects.

That’s the hardest part, I think; not refilling that empty space. It’s so empty, now. I want to fill it. Even now, three weeks later I desperately want to fill it, even though I know that will just put me right back where I started. But that urge is strong. It is really, really, really hard to say, “No, I don’t need that,” when my mom offers to buy me something when we’re out. Even though I don’t need it–I probably wouldn’t even use it. But fucking shitting goddamn hell, I want it because I have space for it and space exists to be filled.

Sometimes, I feel even crazier than I did before. I find myself reasoning, “I’ve gone this long living in that space. I don’t really need to invite friends over. Climbing over stacks of literal garbage (literal. bags. of. stuff. I. plan. to. throw. the. fuck. away. actual. fucking. garbage.) to get to my clean clothes isn’t that big of a deal. Do I really need to wear clean underwear today?”

Yes. I do need to wear clean underwear today, because goddamn it I’m not going to let myself turn into a disgusting little garbage troll.

So, I’m trying. I’m trying very, very hard to get used to having space. I told myself that I wouldn’t buy anything for any new projects until I’ve finished at least a few of the old ones. There’s one project I’ve been sitting on for at least six years, now. It’s first on the list, as soon as finals are over.

It’s been a few weeks since Pup hauled away the casualties of my decluttering. I haven’t had a chance to work on the other spaces of my room (the desk is next and will be handled in roughly the same way as my craft table). Even so, just having organized the craft area and removed about half of my “for sale” stuff, the appearance of my room has improved drastically.

Right now, I’d say it’s probably a 2.5 on the Clutter Image Rating Scale. The bookshelves bring the score down (or up?) significantly. They’re next on the list after my desk.

It’s going to be a long process. Not just getting all of these spaces organized, but resisting that urge to fill them back up.

A lot of people make jokes about hoarders, or say they don’t understand how someone can “live like that.” I’m telling you first-hand that it’s not that easy to “just throw stuff out.” These things, however insignificant they seem, mean something. Anyone struggling with any mental illness, including hoarding, should be treated with respect and compassion.

I’m trying to have compassion for myself.

I love you all.

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Mental Health

It’s a Trauma Itself, Really

I’ve always been very open about my struggles with mental illness. I talk about my depression and anxiety, and I made no qualms about sharing my PTSD and agoraphobia diagnoses in October. I’m a big advocate of self care and am not ashamed to take time away from things that exacerbate any of those problems. The only way we can end the stigma surrounding mental illness is to talk about it.

However, there has been one thing I’ve struggled with that I’ve yet to share: Hoarding. Continue reading “It’s a Trauma Itself, Really”