Confessions of a Possession Purger

Confessions of a Possession-Purger

I haven’t been very faithful with my blogging the past few days because I’ve been preoccupied. I’ve been overcome by an obsessive compulsive disorder which is the opposite of Hoarding. According to a website presented by a professional decluttering expert entitled, Jeri’s Organizing and Decluttering News, it is called OCS (Obsessive Compulsive Spartanism). I prefer to call it PPP (Proactive Possession Purging)   Our 26 year old daughter Rebecca is getting married on September 4.  We will have a house full of McKenzie family company for several days. I realize that is still 2 months away, but I’m feeling PSU (premature sense of urgency). Our house is 10 years old now, the time when they say you should move, when the windows need washing, and the paint peels on the front door, and the tile starts to crack on the kitchen floor, and the pillar on the front porch develops an odd hole at the base that looks like termites ate it, except that it’s plastic and I think they only eat wood. That was starting to sound like the description of aging in Ecclesiastes 12, only applied to a house. Almost eloquent. You remember chapter 12 of Ecclesiastes, “Clean your house in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come, and the years draw near when you will say, “I have no pleasure in it…”

Perhaps I waited too long. The place is not exactly the House of Usher, but it’s looking a little dilapidated to the naked eye. My plan is to compensate by cleaning and decluttering, hoping that guests will be so overwhelmed by the orderliness and cleanliness of the little things in my home that they won’t notice the major structural deterioration. The fact that my spices are alphabetized in the pantry will distract them from the fence that needs painting.  The fact that the interior blinds are dust free will distract them from the missing shutter on the front of the house. (It blew off in the last windstorm and the contractor won’t return my calls).

I resent never having the time to organize my life at the micro level because I’m always working on something at the macro level. I have resented this for years. I hated the title of Rick Warren’s book The Purpose Driven Life.  I have purpose enough to fuel a small city. What I don’t have is time to recycle all the old electronic equipment in my attic. I wonder if each of the Presidents has, at one time or another during his administration, perhaps in the middle of a cabinet meeting, or a briefing with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, thought to himself, “I’d rather be organizing my sock drawer. Probably not. He has somebody to do that for him. But I don’t, you see.  And I wouldn’t even if I could afford to. Because I want to  micro manage my life myself. Why is that a luxury? Why isn’t that the right of every person? What can’t I putter around for days on end without a sense of guilt, fixing the little doo hickey on the high boy that broke off when we moved and finding the missing handle to my spaghetti boiling pot and going to Lowe’s for the right sized screws to fix it? Some people do. Why can’t I?

I come to certain times in my life when I feel like I can’t proceed with the big purpose until I take care of the ground level stuff, the stuff that nobody ever breaks into your house and does while you’re out of town making a talk: throw out my outdated mascara, trim the dead fronds off my palm tree, (I live in Texas, I have a palm tree),  take the desk my son bought on EBay that turned out to be too low for him to our Community Outreach consignment store, vacuum the air conditioning vents throughout the house, and retrieve the phantom rattling coin from the interior of the console of my car.

So the wedding is a good excuse to micromanage my life for a while. I’ve made some progress. I just went out this afternoon with a pair of scissors and spent 12 minutes cutting off some weeds at lawn level so they would look like grass, so the front is looking pretty good now. I took a duster and flicked it over the wood blinds in the family room and kitchen. I took all Nana’s china out of the china cabinet and dusted the shelves. I sprayed Pledge around in the air like air freshener. Now I have to decide whether to wash everything or just put it back in the cabinet as is: the green ceramic bird with the chipped tail, Nana’s blue teapot with no handle and the pewter plate with Ben Franklin on it in his cute little knee breeches and his soft, gray shoulder- length hair signing the Declaration of Independence, to mention only a few of the items still on the dining room table.

Last night I spent 3 hours taking stuff out of the closet between the laundry room and the garage. I have to be careful when doing domestic chores that I don’t zone out thinking about Corinthians or grace or something else deep and chop off just a little bit of my left thumb (I’m right handed) mistaking it for a cherry tomato or trip over a phone cord, falling  (literally) on my face and crack my  left cheek bone,  or forget that the last step that has no carpet and blends in with the floor is a step and fall backwards to land on the hardwood floor with a mini fridge doing its best to crush my sternum.  Yesterday was accident – free, but it was filled with difficult decisions which I made in the absence of any articulated criterion. When you clean out a closet, there is a lot of (I’ll have to call it stuff because this is a family column) stuff all spread out in the family room and you wonder- what is all this stuff? What should I keep and what can I get rid of? I love getting rid of things. One time when my husband was gone I gave away a third of his clothes and he never noticed. I told him about it when he came home, but he thought I was kidding and never missed any of it. This is possession-purging at its best. 

Back to the closet: what to get rid of (put in a black plastic garbage back and give away) and what to keep?  I remember a couple of rules from something I read somewhere. If it has bad associations, get rid of it. Just because someone gave it to you doesn’t mean you have to keep it. If you haven’t worn it in a year, get rid of it.

I got rid of the clown shoes and multicolored wig that our now 26 year old daughter bought one long ago Halloween in an unsuccessful attempt to face into her clown phobia. This was at her own initiative. I see nothing wrong with having a clown phobia.

I kept the little ceramic plant holder shaped like a cradle somebody brought me when I had one of my children that plays “Rockabye Baby” like a music box. The combination of its art deco look and the general creepiness of music box tunes somehow made it a must save.  I got rid of the potato gun – this was a phase my son went through before he got a scooter and before his water ice stand. One hot summer day when he was 12, he and his friend Warren made $45 from their water ice stand, using sugar free syrup, pitching it to weight obsessed neighborhood women driving by. Potato guns are toy guns you shoot pieces of potato with. I don’t know why.

I got rid of the rope hammock chair that you hang in the corner of a room that no one ever hung. I kept the macaroni noodles and little wooden heads with eyes painted on them and glue I bought at Hobby Lobby to make angel Christmas ornaments with 6 years ago. Maybe this Christmas my now grown children will want to sit around for 4 hours and make cheesy Christmas ornaments with their mother.

If someone walked in my house right now and didn’t realize I was in the midst of a deep clean, they might think my house looked messy. The bags of cords and plugs and dead flash lights and empty CD covers and other stuff from the pantry closet I haven’t made decisions on yet are still sitting around the walls of the kitchen. The vases, plates and miscellaneous glassware are still sitting on the dining room table waiting for me to bathe them or put them back in the china cabinet just as they are without one plea.

If they walked in the kitchen they’d see several post a notes on the fridge (it’s the kind that doesn’t hold magnets)  On each one is a decluttering  projects I have to complete before I can turn my full attention back to my macro level projects; writing, workshop and course planning, and blogging.

One is to clean the garage and get rid of old bicycles, weight machines, and snow shovels we brought to Texas from Pennsylvania 10 years ago. Another is to clean both kids’ rooms upstairs, getting rid of and/or taking to the already crowded attic things that they don’t want enough to keep but want enough to have Mom keep in the McKenzie family storage unit which my house has become.

I’m not sure if this explanation of why I haven’t been blogging lately is even blog worthy. Perhaps it implies profound themes with regard to the importance of achieving and maintaining order in small matters to facilitate order in large matters. Perhaps it holds wisdom about the decisions we make as to what to keep and what to get rid of in our lives.

I’m not sure if my deep yearning for order at the micro level of life is A.  a sign that I’m a trivial person or B. a sign of my profound respect for the everyday details of life that affirms the goodness of creation. Let’s go with B.

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  • LiberteEgaliteFraternite

    My mother Alice was a compulsive discarder, I believe she also had frontal lobe damage from a fall out a window as a child (her family said she was never the same after but did not have the medical resources they do today to discover it 1928). She had extreme anger and lack of impulse control, would say rude and inappropriate things to everyone. She medicated her anxiety issues with alcohol, promiscuous sex and multiple marriages (5). She constantly moved every six to 9 months using that as her excuse to throw everything out and start over. But even when she wasn’t moving she constantly threw things away (including people could not bond with anyone, had no friends, and she permanently alienated all her kids). She could never sit still, always jangling keys or tapping foot or some nervous habit; could not look at people when they were talking to her and would not listen to others. She was also extremely controlling of others, another sign of anxiety.
    She would constantly buy clothes, wear them once or twice and toss them in the trash, not even donate to charities. Very expensive clothes, shoes, etc. She even threw out my shoes and clothes and would lie about it when confronted. I would give her furniture and tell her to give it back to me if she decided she didn’t want it, and she would still get rid of it for no good reason and not allow me to take back. We have few photos from our childhood because those were tossed as well!
    She was traumatized by the sudden death of her mother when she was 7 years old and her father had told her mother had gone away on a trip, so she waited over a year for her mother to return. Her sister said that she misunderstood her father, but it was after that she “fell” out of a two story window.
    I believe she had anxiety issues from her mother loss and brain damage that was never discovered or addressed because of the time she lived and her anger and hostility when anyone would confront her about her behaviors.