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Monday, November 23, 2009

Helping a friend in need

I’ve spent the past couple days helping someone, who will remain unnamed, dig out from under all their clutter. What a task!

[Dear Unnamed,
If you happen to read this …
Please know that this post is not intended to embarrass or ridicule you in any
way. I don’t want you to feel guilty for the mess. We’re moving on … leaving it behind. I just really need to express what I’m feeling dealing with all this stuff.]

Anyway, I walked in and hadn’t a clue where to begin. I knew why the woman felt so overwhelmed. She should be! Way too much stuff under that roof (and outside also, but we won’t go there – we’re just focusing on the inside right now).

There was a time when I, too, felt overwhelmed. I had two young children and was pregnant with my third. Working full time. And I had too much stuff. Not nearly as bad as what this woman is dealing with, but still. I have since managed to work my way through it (and still am in some places) and I intend to help her do the same. I’m glad God had me go through that myself and find FlyLady to help me deal with it. Because in doing so, I am now able to help someone else. Funny how God works sometimes.

I found that it is difficult to go through someone else’s possessions and make decisions about what to do with them. So I didn’t get far with the decluttering on Sunday. I just cleaned the bathroom as best I could. Not the most fun job, but one I knew I could handle.

And I told her 4YO daughter to look through her piles of stuff that were taking over the living room and pick out things that were broken or that she just didn’t want to play with anymore. Of course, she found more stuff she wanted to keep than throw away, but it’s a start. We threw some stuff away and found some things that are good enough to give away.

I also took their huge pile of laundry home with me. Again, overwhelming to this woman. I told her the best way to deal with it is to just wash everything and start fresh, so Alex and I took it to the laundromat this morning.

(On a side note, Alex was too funny at the laundromat. I wasn’t sure how he would be; I figured he’d get bored really quick and start to act up, so we took a few things for him to do. But he loved putting the quarters in the machines. He busied himself with one of the wheeled baskets – pretending he was grocery shopping, picking imaginary things up off of imaginary shelves and putting them in. I tried to get him to sit down and color with me, but he was too busy with the basket. Then when the clothes were ready to transfer from washers to dryers, he helped put them in the dryers. Then he helped get the dry clothes out. He was really a good little helper! Too cute!)

Two hours later, we had several baskets of clean clothes. My only thought was – where is she going to put them? Looking at their bedroom yesterday, there seemed to be no room for any more clothes. Yikes!

After lunch, Alex and I went back out to their house … and I had a plan. I told her that the only way I can help her is if she agrees to get rid of stuff. You can’t organize clutter – as FlyLady would say. She agreed, thankfully, so we began.

The daughter and I went back to her bedroom and began going through her piles of stuff. My goal was just to be able to find the floor (seriously, that’s how bad it is). The problem was that the daughter was finding things she hadn’t played with in a while because it was lost under all the other stuff. So she and I sat down and had a little chat.

I explained to her (nicely) that if she didn’t have a place for her things, then we weren’t going to be able to keep them. And “the place” couldn’t be the floor or the bed or stacked up on her dressers or shoved in her closet. And I explained that if she had less stuff, she would have less to clean up (ha ha) and more time to play. She reluctantly agreed.

But once we got started, she really got into putting her things (mostly stuffed toys) into the garbage bags. In fact, she ran to the kitchen and grabbed 3 more bags while I was taking the filled ones to my car. (I figure if I left them there, she’d manage to get a few things back out to keep.)

By the time I had to leave today, we had filled 6 garbage bags just from her room. Plus I took a large tote filled with her clothes to wash. (Her hamper was full in her room, unbeknownst to me yesterday, or else I would have taken those clothes to the laundry also). Load #1 is drying right now.

I also took my FlyLady declutter kit. There are 3 collapsible hampers. One marked Give Away, one marked Put Away, and one marked Throw Away. The daughter and I went over which was which and she agreed to put some things in each this afternoon/evening. Hopefully there will be more things in the give away and throw away than in the put away. I guess I’ll find out tomorrow.

As the woman and I talked today about her circumstances, she was almost in tears several times. She expressed how embarrassed she was. I told her not to worry about what is past. Don’t beat yourself up for letting things get like this. It is what it is. Let’s just move forward and get things straightened up. Then we can develop a plan to keep things in order.

The whole time I'm helping, I’m wondering, “Why?”. Why do they feel the need for all the stuff? Why does she (and the dad) continue to buy more things for the daughter, when she clearly has more than she can handle. This girl has more shoes than most adult women have. Seriously.

Clutter begets clutter. (Yeah, another FlyLady expression – sorry!) But it is true.

FlyLady talks about your “hot spots”. The places in your house where stuff just seems to accumulate. Have you ever noticed that if you set something down where it doesn’t belong, say a piece of paper or mail or something, then next thing you know, there are 10 more things there that don’t belong?

My kids are good at doing that. They will leave something on the dining room table. Then by the time dinner rolls around and I’m ready to set the table, they’ve accumulated a bunch of stuff there that shouldn’t be.

Nick will get out his coloring stuff and leave it on the table even though he’s moved on to playing with his trucks.

Then Keira will start her homework then go up to play her violin, but instead of putting her homework in her folder and then into her backpack, she’ll leave it on the table. It makes me crazy!

They get so tired of hearing me say, “If you get it out, then you need to put it away.” But it is so true. This one simple act will really have a great impact on how uncluttered your house is - or at least appears.

Now my house is by no means perfect. But I’m not striving for perfection. Just progress.

Hopefully I can help my friend make some progress too.



LAURA said...

That's great that you are helping your friend! I have a few I would love to help but they won't let me haha.

I clean my closets out AT LEAST twice a year. I am almost too good at getting rid of stuff. I hate clutter and have eliminated almost all clutter spots in my house. That's a miracle for me because I used to be one of those people that couldn't clean at all. My house was constantly a mess when it was just Mike and I. But I figured if I wanted a simple life with kids then the house needed to be clean... so I went one room at a time and got it all sorted.

It's amazing the difference between how you feel when your house is a mess and when it is clean. This friend of yours is going to feel a huge burden lifted and so much less stress when she can RELAX in her house and all the open spaces that appear from cleaning out.

Kimberly said...

Laura - I have also been purging things. I got to a point where I realized that my kids don't need so many clothes/shoes/toys/ whatever. All that does is make more work for us (me!). Who wants to wash clothes when you have nowhere to put the clean ones? That's what we're facing with my friend right now. But I'm confident that we will get through and she/they will be much happier. They just don't know it yet. :)