Tuesday, May 4, 2010


I've discovered over the years that most people fall into one of two categories - Hoarders and Purgers. Or, put a different way, folks who hang on to stuff and folks who throw stuff away. Me? I'm a lonely throw-it-away Mom in a house full of pilers, stackers, save-it-forever stashers.

When Steve was still on active duty in the Marine Corps, frequent moves prompted us to clean out regularly. Did we want to pack fill-in-the-blank, haul it all the way across the country, possibly store it for a season in a rental unit, move it again, unpack it, and then go through the entire process again in six months or a year? Amazing how that process clarified what things we really needed and valued enough to keep. Amazing, too, how effectively it kept the clutter to a minimum!

Fast forward to today - we have been living in this house almost five years, and, this being the family farm, Steve and I will probably die here. That means no more moves in sight to motivate us to clean out. What looked like a spacious attic five years ago is now crammed to capacity. Locating anything up there is a daunting task due to the difficulty of having to shift heavy boxes and climb over clutter. And that's just the attic....

There are also the closets. Beneath the beds. The laundry room shelves, groaning under who-knows-what. The screened in porch/"storage unit". The shed out back. THIS IS CRAZY!

When Steve was in architecture school, he brought home a book he was reading for one of his classes. I believe the title of that book was simply Home. Anyway, the book described an interesting phenomenon which occurs annually in a community in the Netherlands. It's called Hell Week. (Yes, it actually has an official title.) During Hell Week, all the homes are completely emptied of their contents. Completely. Attic to ground level. Everything is drug outside, covered with tarps or stored elsewhere, and the houses are scrubbed top to bottom, aired out after being closed up all winter, and repainted if needed. Personally, I find the idea of a Hell Week almost heavenly - must've been the men who had to haul everything out and back in again who named the event!

I suspect that if we implemented an annual Hell Week at the Kendall house, we would be able to manuever in the attic, find the pruners in the shed, and vacuum easily under the beds. But, after five years of accumlating and cramming, trying to start such a tradition would probably lead to weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth. So, I've got an alternative plan....

I want to take one room a week and clean it completely, top to bottom, baseboard to baseboard. Everything OUT....furniture, toys, books, clothing, everything. I figure that by taking one room a week, we should be able to work through the entire house - including attic and storage shed - before time to start school in the fall. Maybe, by tackling only one room at a time, cleaning out won't be so traumatic for my save-it-all family. Maybe, by having to move everything out and then back, it will be easier for everyone to decide what is really worth keeping and what they can let go of.

And maybe, if we're successful in actually carrying out my plan, I won't have to wonder any more if the foundation of this house is about to collapse under the weight of so much accumulated junk.

Okay, Readers, I obviously need some help here! What tips do you have for fighting clutter at your house? I'd especially welcome advice from those of you living with family members prone to pack rat-ism.


Lisa Smartt said...

We desperately need a "Hell week" around here....but yeah, it would definitely live up to the name by the time we were finished. I'm a strange bird in that I tend to be a "messie" AND a "purger." I think I realized a long time ago that if I didn't want to end up on a reality TV show, I would have to live with very few items. We do successfully use this rule: Bring something in, throw something out! I love the simplicity of our living room. If someone gave me a vase I loved....I wouldn't put it out unless I could let go of another item already in the living room. I don't like to feel "crowded." My boys DEFINITELY don't share the desire to be free of "crowding." SO I'm one of those moms who pretty much lets the boys have a room that resembles a house of horror! But they are not to let their hoarding horror spill out into the rest of the house. If their small rooms can house their horror....so be it. I know....I'm always questioning this philosophy. How will I be able to look their fiances in the face?????? Hmmm. I have some time to work that one out.

Suzanne said...

Reading this has me thinking of Grandmother West not wanting help down-sizing to move into an assisted living apartment. Grandmother's stuff is important to her, not a bother, not just clutter. A helper might think something important is disposable. Egads!

All I know is that my stuff is less of a bother to me than anyone else's stuff! But truly, the hard part is organizing and reducing their stuff to make getting my hands on my stuff easier. Sometimes they even have the nerve to pile their piles in front of my piles.

Maybe I should be less attached to my stuff. Less materialistic? Maybe. Or maybe I just need another Rubbermaid storage tote. I have had an orderly attic in recent history. Maybe there is an orderly attic in my future.

Let us all pray thanksgiving that none of us can take a moving van to Heaven. Amen.

Camille said...

Amen, Suzanne!

Camille said...

Lisa, I like the "bring something in, throw something out" strategy!