Every time I am in my parents’ house, I want to junk stuff.
I get this itch to grab big black garbage bags, and just start throwing things in.
Empty boxes start to look mighty tempting to me because I want to fill them up with all these old, outdated textbooks from my collective familys’ college years (seriously? a book on programming from the 1990s? WHO IS GOING TO USE IT?!!?) and just … BURN IT ALL.
BURN ALL THE CLUTTER!
Okay, maybe not burn all of it, but at least bring it to the nearest Goodwill (of what makes sense to bring), and get rid of the clutter.
Just to give you an idea of what it’s like, here are a few choice photos to give you an idea of what I am living in:
A SPARE “GUEST” BEDROOM (nobody visits, they all go to a hotel)
RANDOM CRAP IN THE HALLWAY
UNDER THE KITCHEN SINK, ONLY THE BOXES ON THE LEFT ARE USED
THEIR “OFFICE” AREA AND DESK.
THERE IS A LAPTOP SOMEWHERE IN THERE IF YOU MOVE THE FOOD AND THE BROKEN FAN.
I’d love to help them get rid of all of this junk but alas.. I know I cannot do this.
1. MY PARENTS ARE PACK RAT HOARDERS
They’re hoarders. Maybe not quite as extreme as the ones you see on TV but pretty bad in my opinion.
I have discovered over the years things like this:
- A box of old hotel shampoos/conditioners/lotions circa 1980 in a box underneath the bathroom sink
- EMPTY tissue boxes — somehow they think keeping these tissue boxes as a frugal storage option is going to happen
- ALMOST EMPTY bottles of old cleaners — there’s just a little bit left, so they can’t bear to throw it out but forget to use it
- Very outdated textbooks on subjects that are no longer relevant (e.g. computer programming back before Windows existed)
- At least 10 TIMES the amount of tools needed — e.g. 10 hammers, 10 flash lights, 10 screwdrivers (all the same heads), etc..
- Boxes of random leaflets, flyers and papers — not even important ones like bank statements
- Old broken dishes and cups
- Old chairs with the wheels missing or part of the leg broken off
- Magazines from at least 1995 piled to the ceiling that they promised they’d get around to reading but don’t / never will
…. it drives me mad. Totally mad.
They buy things again because they can’t find the stuff they already have. I mean who has 10 hammers?
Who has 10 almost identical screwdrivers save for age or the colour of the handle?
All my tools are in a pouch or in a larger toolbox with one hammer, one screwdriver with each head type, etc.
ALL MY TOOLS.
In contrast, there are 4 tool drawers (those big honkin’ ones) in the basement that are so full of tools, the doors can’t even close.
In their house, I have to try and block out about 90% of what I am seeing and concentrate on a blank space to find my inner zen.
2. MY PARENTS CAN’T STAND TO LET ANYTHING GO, EVEN JUNK
Case in point:
My mom actually cried when I sold some old, manual exercise machines they found FOR FREE ON THE STREET.
These stupid machines were taking up a third of the entire kitchen and NO ONE could walk in that area because of them.
They started putting boxes on the machines, and hanging plants off them, and I knew it was time to junk them, because they would NEVER get used.
She was in tears.
She was feeling actual, physical pain when I told her I found a willing couple on Craigslist to come by, pick up the machines and deliver them back to their own house.. while paying for the privilege of doing so.
Total Profit: $100
Total Work Required: 0 — I did all the negotiating, handling and coordinating
Whenever I go to try and junk things I know are useless, I have to do it in secret or else they get mad at me or start crying.
3. MY PARENTS HATE SEEING EMPTY SPACES
When they see an empty space, their brain thinks:
Hmm.. something.. is off here.
Why isn’t there a huge pile of junk or random crap there?
I feel very uncomfortable.
Let me go find some old useless crap and fill up that space. It just isn’t natural.
Thus, every time I clear a spot and want to leave it EMPTY and CLEAR, they bring in a bag of .. crap. I can’t even describe what is in it because it’s just crap.
I once opened a bag of crap that filled up an empty corner of the house, and found in it old broken eyeglasses in its original eyeglass case, random leaflets from a catalogue of a company that went bankrupt years ago, 2 bank statements, 3 screwdrivers, empty boxes of medication and an old rag.
You get the idea.
This actually happens more often than I care to admit. I cleared the kitchen table the other day and put everything away / tossed it when it needed to be tossed, and the next morning, there was a pile of CRAP back on the table because it was too empty.
Me: *twitch* *twitch*
In the kitchen, they keep all their bank statements and random pieces of papers from the past 20 years — in kitchen cupboards where you are supposed to put pots and pans.
So where do the pots and pans that we use go?
On another shelf in the kitchen that they had to buy to store all their junk because the kitchen became their office as well. In fact, it’s pretty much the only living space they use in the entire house except for the bedroom and bathroom.
4. THEY CAN’T ORGANIZE TO SAVE THEIR LIFE
They think organizing is finding ways to pile that crap up in a neater manner.
They don’t realize that organizing means decluttering, which means getting RID of stuff.
If you have 100 items in a room, and they’re sucking up all the space in there, you need to get rid of some of those 100 items BEFORE you stick it all back on the shelf and “organize” it.
Otherwise, you’re just shifting clutter around and trying to put lipstick on the proverbial pig… (poor piggie.)
The ironic thing about all of this? My mother loves watching HGTV (home and garden television) and designing shows.
She LOVES the Swedish style of design where everything is so Ikea-style that it makes your eyes hurt.
You know, white walls, blonde wood, clean, empty, open spaces, and just a sculpture on a mantlepiece.
Basically your minimalist home design wet dream, kind of like this:
I tell her she can achieve all of this if she would just JUNK 50% of her crap, and she gives me a horrified look.
SO MY PLAN HAS BEEN TO DO IT IN SECRET!
To secretly junk stuff while they’re away.
While they were out of the house one time and we were decluttering and downsizing our own things (which by the way, is NOT A LOT OF STUFF), I even managed to sneak out those two broken office chairs with missing wheels and/or snapped seats.
While they were on their vacation, I successfully got rid of a full garbage bag of crap (old hotel samples, random tissue boxes, etc).
Another time, I got rid of 50% of the coats in the hallway closet because they were ripped, stained, etc.. and my mother didn’t even notice.
I wanted to get rid of these 50 pairs of old track shoes kicking around from my brothers’ marathoning days too, but that’s another mission for another day.
I basically refuse to let them open those garbage bags of crap and I rope my minimalist partner in crime to do it (my partner).
He loads up the car to which only he has the keys to so that NO ONE can go in there and fish out that junk, and I find things to junk.
However I am aware that I can’t go too far because once they start seeing how oddly “clean” and “decluttered” the house is, they might get suspicious. So I suck it up, and wait for opportune moments to get rid of things I know should go, and hope that they don’t go out in a panic to buy more crap to fill the space.
Anyway, this just makes me want to buckle down and be even more of a minimalist.