Holly Whiteside presents a touching perspective on dealing with her own possessions as she faces the disposition of her late mother’s treasured possessions in The Caregiver’s Compass. Since clutter is a problem at varying degrees for nearly all of us and since the media has also jumped on the bandwagon with shows on and interviews with family members of hoarders, I invited Holly to write an article. To prove there’s much to write about this topic, her article had grown into two. Brenda Avadian, MA, Editor, TheCaregiversVoice.com.
Meaning, Madness, & Reality: Owning One’s Stuff
by Holly Whiteside
From my Caregiving Diary:
I hope it’s a better scene than yesterday. As ever, it was Mom’s amorphous fear that undid her. With nothing specific to address, she latched onto the concrete annoyance in her path, her clutter—she wanted it cleared out of her room. I left with boxes piled high on a cart. My garage is filling with boxes of her life, and the piles keep getting higher, my car displaced by my mother’s history.
Clearing away clutter and the feng shui of well-ordered space have become popular topics. But in defense of clutter, maybe it’s not a bad thing.
When I thought about my mother’s relationship with clutter, I ended up thinking about my own. I have always loved my clutter and stuff, referring to its accumulation as my nesting instinct. And I like to have history in evidence. A room empty of stuff looks as though the owner never lived. There’s no soul in the room, no history. Stuff is evidence of life, participation in life. So, how else does stuff embody my life? Numerous email folders hold in existence past relationships, and the piles of papers and books surrounding me hold in existence… Me.
Taking another tack, maybe I’m just a fearful person trying to look like someone of substance. Paper is evidence that I am of use, that I am making things happen. The things in my world tell me I do more than take up space. I hide behind clutter, safe with the appearance of progress, but with no real movement.
What if I cleaned out all the unused stuff in my living space, might something new happen? Oh dear! I might get some movement in my life!… and so we come around again to feng shui, which teaches us that open space brings good energy that fosters movement and life. For me, the issue was freedom. To get it, I’d need to give up the comfort of hiding behind old habits, stop hiding behind the clutter of my history’s construction. On the other side of habitual clutter is my life. It seems I can’t escape making a case against clutter, even as I like having things of meaning in my environment.
Our next article, Clutter — Meaning, Madness, & Reality: Others’ Stuff will explore the other layers of meaning in possessions when sorting and disseminating the estate of a loved one. Also included will be a footnote on what to do if you think your loved one may be a chronic hoarder.
Holly Whittlesey Whiteside
The Caregiver’s Compass
Guest Expert Blogger to TheCaregiversVoice.com