Saturday, June 16, 2012

Clutter, clots, clogs and chaos.

The other day I read about a workshop that explores sleep disorders and I toyed with going, not because I have a sleep disorder but because I am curious about what it is that causes some people to suffer sleeplessness hour after hour.

I decided against going.  For one thing I do not have the time to spare, nor do I know the orientation of those who would be taking such a workshop.  I fear too much emphasis on behaviour and the superficial.  Such an approach would drive me potty.  

Worst of although I fear attendance at such a workshop might put the mozz on me and suddenly if I allowed myself to think too long about it I, too, might begin to suffer from insomnia. 

Sleep is such a fragile thing.  It comes in waves.

We looked after our grandsons last night while their parents went out to dinner and drinks for one of our other daughters' birthdays, the first outing my daughter and her husband have been alone together since the youngest was born eleven months ago.  It comes into my mind now thinking about sleep.

Around 9.30 pm I pushed my nearly one year old grandson's pram up and down the corridor willing him off to sleep.  Up and down the corridor I pushed his pram but he was determined to stay awake.  Eventually he could not keep his eyes open and dropped off.   The pram’s movement was irresistible.

My mind does not want to work this morning.  I tell it to think about sleep but it is too cluttered with thoughts of the day ahead.  All the jobs I have to deal with, including a visit to my mother early, because we are having a dinner for the same daughter’s birthday – multiple celebrations for a birthday that fell last week while she was away.

 See how cryptic I can be, avoiding the use of personal names so as to avoid identifying those who might not want to be identified. 

My heads a clutter with ideas, and prohibitions.  The other day I heard about the three Cs of anxiety, ‘clutter, clots and clogs’.  You can read about it here.  They relate  to hoarding, but my interest is in its less pathological manifestations, as something I can get into not only literally – if you could see the junk room in my house you’d know what I mean – but metaphorically, in my head.

The idea is that a degree of clutter is part of the stuff of life. We need stuff to live and in a family of several folks, young and old, you will find lots of things, in use, put aside, open and available at the same time.  

The kitchen table is covered in condiments, open school books, unfinished sewing, shopping lists and more besides.  A lived-in house.  On the other hand, there are areas where the stuff gets piled and is not used regularly nor removed, though it could be if someone put their mind to it. 

An example of clutter that borders on chaos.  I'm the one in white.  

The stuff that stays for months on end becomes a clot.   And finally, there are the areas in the house that can spread one clot after another into a serious clog, serious to the point that activities must be curtailed because there is no room to move. 

You can’t even open your doors for the stuff.  You can’t use your table or bench top for the stuff.  In other words you can’t live. 

I once visited the house of the artist Mirka Mora and her place was like that, only her stuff was mostly art works, great gorgeous canvases and stuff she used as still life, dolls and taxidermic animals and post cards.  An amazing place and some how it did not offend me in the same way a really cluttered, clotted, clogged place might. 

When I was young and worked as a social worker I went from time to time to visit an elderly man who lived alone in Carnegie. The local doctor had referred him because he was concerned about this man’s life style.  The man refused to throw anything out.  The hall way was lined with newspapers in piles and empty tin cans.  There was not an open space in the entire house.  I could only interview him in his bedroom and I was reluctant to sit on the one chair available beside his bed because it too was piled with newspapers. 

He must be dead by now, and I wonder what happened to his stuff.  Did it wind up somewhere on a tip, the useful and the junk all blended together into one unusable mass?  


Laoch of Chicago said...

Having a sleep disorder gives me some insight into the question of why. In my opinion it is probably a genetic deficiency.

Rubye Jack said...

It's funny. My father was a bit of a hoarder and my mother didn't want to hold on to anything. I'm like my mother and sometimes wish I was like my father.

Juliet said...

How special for those parents to have a night out. It's amazing what patiently wheeling a pram will do for a baby who needs to sleep.

River said...

My house is a little cluttered here and there, but then I clear it all away, I must have neat and tidy! My sister's house is clogged, she is 63 and still has her old childhood clothes and toys, along with books, papers from school, and everything since.
Sleep is a wonderful thing, I feel so sorry for those whom it eludes night after night.

Jim Murdoch said...

I don’t like clutter. Today is the day when my wife, daughter and I celebrate our birthdays; my wife turned sixty-five in June, I was fifty-three in May and my daughter with be thirty-two next month. I find it odd to think that I have a wife who is a pensioner and a daughter who is not a teenager; when did all this happen? So we have to tidy the house before she comes. Not much needs doing. The biggest mess is under the bird’s cage. Despite all we do to catch his seeds and their husks he still manages to spread them over an annoyingly wide area. But I don’t feel like doing anything today. I’ve woken up—as is so often the case these days—feeling as if the night has given me a good doing. Carrie’s decided it’s time for a new mattress and has, as she is wont to do, begun researching the pros and cons of the modern mattress. Our old one is ten years old she tells me and that’s about as long as we should leave it before seeking a replacement. The miser in me doesn’t want to spend the money—it feels perfectly fine to me—but if a new mattress helps me sleep better then fine. What I resent—and that is the right word—about being fifty-three is that I had expected by this time in my life I wouldn’t need quite so much sleep as I seem to. A while back when I was at my worst my sleep pattern was all over the shop. I used to keep a chart for my doctor and I rarely slept for more than two or three hours but then I’d end up going back to bed and again in the afternoon; it was awful. Now I go to bed at eleven and (mostly) sleep through the night until often after nine in the morning and still wake up feeling like that gorilla from the TV ad for Wella has had his wicked way with me.

Carrie is more untidy by me—I refer to her office as ‘the tip’ and it is—but we’re both inclined to hoard a little. I have more shoes, scarves, ties etc than I will ever wear but I do have this fear—which I suppose I acquired from my parents—that one day we will run out of money (or things will get so expensive) and we’ll need to sit around the flat with seven jumpers on just to keep warm. I finally had to move all my cassette tapes into boxes though to free up some shelf space for books. It would kill me to throw them out though seeing as what there’s about a thousand of them, about two months worth of music if played back to back. I like to think I’m not a materialist and in my heart of hearts I don’t think that I am but given the world we live in and the life I’ve chosen to live in that world it does kind of revolve around things. The thought of only having one computer that could break down terrifies me so I have spares. A few years ago just thinking about owning a single laptop was something but now I have three plus a desktop (okay it’s getting a bit slow now) and a tablet and yet I don’t have a car; these are my car; these take me where I want to go; Tesco and the postman take care of the rest.

This year my daughter says we are only to give one present. She tried to tie me down to a £10 limit but I refused point blank. I told she could spend what she liked but she was my only daughter and I would be damned if I was only going to spend £10 on her. As it happens I bought her a CD for £8. Carrie said to me that she’d promised nothing and so got her a top but as we never got round to buying them a wedding present there’s an original oil painting sitting all wrapped up in my office with a bow around it. It did not cost £10. I do get why she might want to cut back but I find only being allowed to buy one present it a far greater burden than buying fifty. That one has to be right. It has to be special. There is no margin for error. But I’ll try and not go overboard for Xmas.

Anyway it’s almost lunchtime and after that, food in my belly and feeling like it or not, I’ll get started putting this place into order.

MedicatedMoo said...

A night out after eleven months .... that's part of life I'm glad is way behind me!

I've been an insomniac since my late twenties and, despite seeking various forms of treatment and recording particular events or possible triggers, have yet to pinpoint the reason. Sometimes it happens because I'm simply happy and can't 'close the filing cabinet'.

To have a full nights' sleep of seven hours probably happens to me around twice a year.

As for clutter, I hope that the stuff we have is not put away for short(ish) periods and I'm a brutal chucker-outer. Moving to another country with only three suitcases also helps!

Ms. Moon said...

That is one thing I will not miss when I am dead- the trying to decide what to do with this or that-whether to toss or whether to keep. It's a constant battle between chaos and serenity, common sense and insanity.

Joanne Noragon said...

I was thinking no time out for almost a year is dreadful, until I thought back on it. It was dreadful, in retrospect, but that's how it was. Time flew back then. Not that it doesn't now. Timre really doesn't change.

I do not like clutter, but I live with one clutterer and one hoarder. The hoarder is worse. I mentally declared one floor of the house to be a no hoarding and little clutter zone and achieved that by being the person who cleans those rooms.

cheshire wife said...

We have moved house often enough, but not too often, to keep the clutter level under control.

Kirk said...

I have a tendency to hoard. I tell myself it's because I grew up more or less poor. But my sisters and my brothers grew up just as poor as I did, and they're not like that, so I really don't know what my problem is. I just have this fear that one day I'm going to need one of those things I'm about to throw out. It really is a neurosis. One way to cure hoarding, or at least to cut down on it, is move from a house to an apartment. The price of hoarding become much more clearer then.

Anonymous said...

I loathe clutter and dream of those beautiful Amish homes where even the chairs hang on the walls for cleanliness and tidiness.
Ironically it is my hobbies and pastimes that create the most clutter (useful). It is the other family members that only create clutter because they won't throw anything out, leaving it to me to purge. Inevitably I am then blamed for every missing item that no one can be bothered searching for.
Often people who have trouble sleeping ignore simple advice to remove obvious stimuli from the bedroom and have a room full of radios, tv, iPods, computers, laptops etc.
Having been a victim of insomnia when my children were babies makes me understand why sleep deprivation is such an effective form of torture.
Karen C

persiflage said...

Lots of people have too much stuff and I am one of them, but I do go through things often, and sort, tidy and discard. Sometimes clutter happens because there are not enough shelves or cupboards in which to put things. And a goodly amount of spare and uninterrupted time is needed for tidying and reorganising the contents of the clutter.

A friend never keeps anything, and as soon as she finishes a book she gets rid of it. This seems to be quite incomprehensible. How can anyone live like that?

She keeps telling me that I have far too much stuff. She'd love to tidy me up, to minimise my possessions.

I just keep buying books. I cannot seem to stop.

It must be very satisfying to know exactly where everything is.

phyllis nobles said...

you are such a great mother to keep the baby so your babies now grownup can go out for an evening. i love your sentence - Sleep is such a fragile thing. It comes in waves. About things. I think our things symbolize little stories - good or bad. And having them with us keep us connected to our stories. Lovely piece as always, Elisabeth.

Elisabeth said...

I wonder what sort of genetic deficiency leads to a sleep disorder Laoch, especially when there are so many varieties?

Thanks for the suggestion.

Elisabeth said...

It's the lot of some children to have parents who operate at either end of a spectrum. For you, from hoarding to a reluctance to hold onto anything, Rubye Jack.

I expect it must have made your childhood confusing, or perhaps more interesting, torn in two directions.

Thanks, Rubye Jack.

Elisabeth said...

It's a gentler version of rock- a- bye baby, Juliet, this wheeling of the pram. My daughter when here boys were tiny used a sling. That would have to be another gentle form. In my days it was less common than it is today.

Thanks, Juliet

Elisabeth said...

It's funny how two siblings from the one family can take on such different approaches to their households, River.

We are like you and your sister, only my older sister and I are the reverse. She's scrupulously tidy whereas I'm less fussy, though neither of us reach the extremes I reckon - I hope.

Thanks, River.

Elisabeth said...

It's funny how two siblings from the one family can take on such different approaches to their households, River.

We are like you and your sister, only my older sister and I are the reverse. She's scrupulously tidy whereas I'm less fussy, though neither of us reach the extremes I reckon - I hope.

Thanks, River.

Kass said...

I spent the day rearranging the clutter in my basement and now I can't sleep. The timing of your post is a serendipshitous coinkidink.

Rob-bear said...

I have lived with a sleep disorder most of my life, though it as only been within the last decade that it was diagnosed. It was something I did not need, and I am still suffering the after-effects.

I like things to be clean and tidy, but stuff seems to accumulate, despite my best intentions. It is as if my desk became a clutter magnet. Or something like that.

Elisabeth said...

I've just had to tidy up an immense amount of clutter, Jim, in the form of children's toys following a day long visit from the grand children. Now I'm exhausted.

I remember the days when my girls were little and the daily tidy up proved exhausting as it has today. It's a simple thing really but it takes it out of me.

As for bird seed mess. We once had two African love birds and what a mess they made. Sadly they escaped into the back garden one day when we were cleaning out the cage and were careless in securing them. I was sad that they probably would not have lasted long in the wild, sad for my daughter who loved them, but relieved for me, the one who had to clean up the mess after them.

That seems my response to mess these days. We need to make it in order to create anything new, including writing.

I gather our early years as adults involve a degree of gathering necessary and/or desired acquisitions and then at a certain later point of our lives we begin to think about off loading our possessions, except for those things we might really need. It's all very idiosyncratic of course. One person's needs might not be the same as another's.

I look forward to the offloading stage because there are times when I can feel overwhelmed by too much stuff.

As for gift giving, I'm with you here. I enjoy giving the best to my loved ones, if and when I can. It gives me such pleasure.

Thanks, Jim.

Elisabeth said...

Moving countries with only three suitcases would have to be a way of reducing clutter, Kath, and more. I still remember you trying to flog you fridge on FB shortly after you realised you were leaving Melbourne. What a task.

Having lived in the same house for over thirty years I dread the day we leave, not just for the change associated with moving but also for the relocation of stuff.

Thanks, Kath.

Elisabeth said...

The 'battle between chaos and serenity, common sense and insanity' is a constant for me too, Ms Moon. And death might seem a relief or release. In the meantime, we go on trying.

Thanks, Ms Moon.

Elisabeth said...

Clutterers and hoarders compete in your house, by the sound of things, Joanne. It must make it tough for you caught in between.

And as for time flying, it certainly does, and most of all when you're in the middle of it.

Thanks, Joanne.

Elisabeth said...

Moving house is a good way to keep clutter under control it seems, Cheshire Wife. And staying in the one place for long periods of time can result in the opposite, an excess of clutter, as it is for me.

Thanks, Cheshire Wife.

Elisabeth said...

It is amazing how different the various members of the same family can be in relation to clutter and hoarding, Kirk. All my siblings differ from one another, but none it seems to me is as bad as me. If anything most have a tendency to be overly scrupulous about mess. I suspect this is on account of our early experience of chaos.

Thanks, Kirk.

Elisabeth said...

I agree, sleep derivation is a sure form of torture, Karen and what's worse is being so tired you simply cannot get to sleep, as if all your nerve fibres are charged to stay awake.

I also know the horrors of throwing out other people's junk only to be accused of being the worst of the worst. It happens all the time in families I expect.

One person's treasure is another's junk.

Thanks, Karen.

Elisabeth said...

Books are among my treasures, too, Persiflage. I cannot bear to part with them. It's okay at the moment because our house is large enough, but one day I imagine we will need to cull.

As for storage space, it is essential if you want to be able to deal effectively with your clutter. I too can never quite get enough storage space.

Thanks, Persiflage.

Elisabeth said...

It's good fun being able to look after your baby's baby, India, almost more so than looking after your own baby in the first place. Though it can also be tiring, more so than when I was younger.

Thanks for the kind thoughts, India.

Elisabeth said...

A 'serendipshitous coinkidink' indeed, Kass. Lovely to hear from you again, though I'm sorry to hear you can't sleep especially when you deserve it all the more for having cleaned out your basement clutter.

Thanks, Kass.

Elisabeth said...

My desk is a clutter magnet too, Rob-bear, at least that's my excuse. The magnet draws the stuff to me, I don't put it there.

At least I don't usually have to put up with sleeplessness and I'm sorry to hear that you do, or at least you have in the past.

Thanks, Rob-bear.

A Cuban In London said...

I read your post with interest because I've just finished a novel that is considered amongst the "difficult" books that one must read before one dies. It's about a man's quest to become a poet and the last chapter is all about a dream the man's mentor has.

Dreams, a as a part of sleep, come in waves, too.

Thanks for yet another beautifully written, honest post.

Greetings from London.

Zuzana said...

Dear Elisabeth, this was a very interesting read for me, as I have tendencies to hoard stuff.
I think it is a trait inherited from my grandfather who I resemble a lot, but also is a result of my nomad life and my desperate search for home. All that stuff I had in the basement of my white house and also in other rooms made me somehow connected to places in time, and mad me feel I belonged somewhere.
It took us a week almost to dispose of it all and made me realize I never want to collect so much things again. Thus now I really think hard and long about keeping items that I do not use. But it does not come easy, somewhere deep I still feel the need to keep things.;)