Clutter-blind

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.

Part of the Under the House stuff

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.

Until now.

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?”

“What bottles?”

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.

Last of the bottles

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!

11 thoughts on “Clutter-blind

  1. I used to call Brett the “King of the Packrats.” He threw NOTHING away. Ever. Whenever the military relocated us, he would have to go through is stuff because we had weight allowances and I wasn’t giving up a piece of furniture so he could move papers, etc. from years ago. One move I remember filling an immense rolling bin three or four times with his stuff, hauling it out to the trash dumpster, and having to pull it out of the bins by hand to throw into the dumpster because we couldn’t lift the bins. After that move I told him never again, and he got the message.

    I have always been guilty of getting rid of too much, and have been accused of being unsentimental (I just rarely associate sentiment or feelings with things). So, we have been a good combination for a while. Brett finally caught the decluttering bug when we got ready to move to Hawaii, and he is now a minimalist. It can happen. He still keeps a small pile next to his place at our dining table – notebooks, papers, etc. Every once in a while he will go through it and throw out a few things, but I see it as the last vestige of his former clutter dementia that he just can’t let go of (his whole family were/are hoarders so I think his hoarding was a learned process, not a part of his personality, which is why he was able to reform).

  2. I perhaps sit closer to Mr S’s side of things than yours. Don’t see the clutter and forget once the door is closed. I work best under pressure for these missions (and with the assistance of my super organised friend). So – an all day focus of painstakingly going through the 20 years of treasures/useful things in order to allow painter access to the walls.
    I like the idea of a little each day but am yet to develop the habit. A work in progress.

    • Mr S doesn’t work under pressure with these things. He’s just move them all the another place. Hence the big box from work. His office was being painted and he had to empty it. So brought it all home.

      I could toss everything now. And not be sad. But we’d need a skip! Did you get a skip?

  3. My DH has finally begun to get rid of a few things. He expects me to roll out the band and have a party for every pile of 40 year old magazines he gets rid of, but sadly (for him), I am not that kind. The fact that besides his ‘black hole of Calcutta’ man space, he also has two-two car garages and a large garden shed full of his things (besides the cars) means that I am a hard sell when it comes to praise. Definitely guilty (happily so) of being unsentimental about getting rid of junk. 🙂

    • I love the image “roll out the band”. With that many spaces to clear, even if you were to give that kind of praise for something that just needs to be done, you’d soon run out of puff!!!

  4. This is such a common problem maybe it should be part of the national curriculum at school! This coming new year I am definitely going on a no buying diet – I think it was the Minimalists who said ‘Not buying something is your future self letting go of something’ I really don’t want to spend my life decluttering over and over. You are making great progress and doing it slowly means that nothing will be thrown out in haste. Good luck.😊

    • I might make a change to the minimalist saying: not buying something is your future self NOT having to let go of something.

      But I agree with you. The flip side of decluttering has to be not buying things. Otherwise you just have more to declutter.

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