When you don’t see the clutter around you, and we’re not talking about not being annoyed by it, just not “seeing” it, you’re clutter blind.
I put my hand up to temporary clutter blindness. If I have people coming around, I see it. Or maybe it’s partial clutter blindness I have? I have hot spots that collect stuff but normally they’re in my peripheral vision where they don’t register.
Mr S is one step on from clutter blindness.
He has clutter dementia. This includes clutter blindness but also has an inability to accept stuff is his or remember where he put it.
I’ve given up on clearing the garage which was a challenge I set myself last year, but have started under the house. My house is on stumps. Our land slopes away so at the front, it’s only about 30cm from the ground while at the back, you can stand up.
Mr S put things there. Things he wants to keep. Things I lose my shit over as they’re cluttering up the house. Things he doesn’t want to deal with. Things he thinks may come in handy in the future. Things he doesn’t know what to do with.
Mr S calls me unsentimental, cold-hearted even, as I don’t believe in keeping
shit stuff. Which isn’t entirely true but the stuff he hangs onto, well it’s too much, and includes rubbish as well as valuable stuff. All piled together. My view is if it is valuable, then treat it well, put it somewhere safe or on display. Not in a box with rubbish under the house to go mouldy and dirty. (I will put a separate post about so-called sentimental stuff.)
We’ve lived in this house for about 15 years. Mr S has resisted all attempts to declutter. Soft requests. Tantrums. Rational appeals. All were ignored.
For the month of October, we have been clearing out under the house.
What prompted this call to action? What lifted the veil of clutter blindness?
We’ve been talking about getting renovations done in a couple of years. I pointed out that builders wouldn’t work around piles of stuff. Nor would they move his rubbish.
Mr S declared there was no rubbish under the house. It was all his stuff and he knows what was there.
“The bottles in the crates?”
See! Clutter dementia.
Mr S used to brew beer. In our old house. So over 15 years ago!!! He had a dozen or so crates all full of large beer bottles. He’s unlikely to ever brew again. While he made great beer, our life has moved on. So why keep the bottles?
Well, he forgot all about them. He asked me how I knew they were there? As if I forget things, just because I can’t see them.
He brought the crates out and I’ve slowly been putting the bottles into the glass recycling bin.
As luck would have it, at the same time we were having this round of our latest battle about rubbish under the house, we had some workmen over to clear the overgrown shrubbery around the pool. The chief poolman said, with a nod and a wink to me, “We’ll get rid of the rubbish under the deck too.”
At this, Mr S’s head shot up, “What rubbish?”
All the old pool toys, floating devices, perished pool hoses, dead cleaning equipment.
Mr S has been using under the house as an alternate landfill, but now saw it with different eyes. Not my perspective. A stranger’s.
Again, luck was in my side. The coming weekend was council cleanup. Mr S dragged a tonne of stuff up to be taken away. Neighbours commented. We normally put out so little.
A further prompt came when I asked Mr S about a large box under the house. Mr S said it belonged to one of our sons and so he claimed he didn’t know what was in it. Turns out it was Mr S’s box and full of stuff Mr S brought home from his latest workplace – but at least one year ago. Next to it were boxes from his old workplace – one he left nearly 8 years ago. Pens. More pens. Printed material. Desk accessories. Little toys and fidget things. Stickers. Photos. Stuff. Stuff. And more stuff.
Of course, sometimes among the stuff is something of value. Something that can be used. Something that is of emotional value. Something that someone else may want. So the stuff has to be sorted through.
We’ve been spending an hour every weekend sorting and tossing. An hour is enough for a hoarder. Sometimes Mr S wants to go longer but I see the signs. He gets irritable and says “just toss it in the bin”. But I know he will regret it, and accuse me of making him toss important things. And, crucially, he will regress – stop any further efforts and add to the clutter.
Clutter blindness can return. You cease to see things when you walk pass them every day. And when stuff is out of sight, clutter dementia returns.
The only treatment: slow and regular decluttering and celebration of creating space!