I wouldn’t call myself a hoarder. At least, not in the clinical sense or in a way that would get me cast on some “reality” show. When you walk into my place, you won’t find mountains of boxes, old newspapers, or a maze of dead and useless artifacts. You won’t hear distant sounds of gnawing critters, step on the skeletal remains of their ancestors, or endure the cries of newborn vermin. Not here Satan!
Oh, but what about the babies? They need a place to live and grow. Shush you! Not in my humble abode because it’s not that bad!
Stop it! Don’t look at me like that. I’m not delusional or ignoring the glaring reality of my situation. Yes, I’m sure. No, you don’t need to call in a biohazard team to cordon off the area. The building does not need to be evacuated. There’s no reason to stick a big bright biohazard sign on the door. Let me reiterate: IT’S NOT THAT BAD!
Well, not yet anyway and I’m sorry I yelled. That was just rude, but I assure you I’m fine. It’s fine. It’s okay. It’s all right. It’s fine. I promise you it’s…Fine? Do you know what it is? It’s controlled chaos. Yeah, let’s go with that. Controlled chaos.
Mm, I like the sound of that. It’s eccentric and we all know that eccentric is posher than madness. It adds an air of whimsy and mystique. It tows the line between lunacy and individuality. It’s a person that has a, shall we say, character that’s endearing in a quirky sort of way.
Even though, if we are being truthful, one is just a fancier way of saying the other. A kinder way? Uh, sure why the hell not? And, as someone who tows that very flimsy line behind a rickety old boat, I appreciate the kind gesture but it’s really not necessary. I’ve made friends, all be it reluctantly, with my rickety old boat and the line that binds us together.
Ah, but I digress.
Over the last few months, I’ve come to realize that my rickety old boat has sprung a leak. I really need to do something to reign in my chaos. Not because I’m worried about being overrun by a camera crew or people in bubble suits storming my barricades. Sure, those images aren’t pleasant, I’ll give you that, but what’s bothering me is: me.
I can’t look at it anymore. It’s gnawing at me. It’s a termite that has burrowed its way into my brain. It’s tickling the connective space between my left and right hemispheres. My eye is twitching, and I think I’m losing control of very random parts of my body.
(Please not the bowels. Please not the bowels. I’m crossing my fingers that it’s not the bowels.)
I thought my hand tremor was annoying but this is getting ridiculous! That damn termite is causing me a lot of problems. If I don’t do something about it, it will sink the both of us. Listen you, little bastard, you better hope the tide is low because I can’t swim. If I drown? So do you. You damn insect!
Ignore the fact that a grown woman can’t swim and focus on what really matters. The controlled chaos has slowly evolved into a basic, average, run of the mill, ordinary chaos. I’m know longer eccentric! It has become a very real problem that will, quite rapidly, become a full-blown situation.
Nobody wants to deal with a full-blown situation! I don’t want to deal with a full-blown anything and this mess, oh boy. I just can’t take it anymore. Something has to be done, but it’s so overwhelming. Where do I start? There’s so much to do! Do I just pick a spot? Pick something up and hope nothing jumps out and eats my face? That can’t happen. Can it?
Well, now I’m imagining all forms of menacing, facing eating, creepers and I’m tempted to back out of the room very slowly. What’s that sound? Oh, it’s a bird outside. It’s nothing. I’m fine. It’s okay. Reeling in my imagination. I mean, what are the odds a chimera is living in my laundry pile? It’s a mythical creature so, like, one in one thousand?
I’ve seen clips from those shows, the ones that capitalize on someone’s mental condition, and I’ve thought, “How do you let it get that bad?” Yeah, that makes me a judgemental ass because, apparently, channel surfing mutes my empathy. Instead of seeing the person, I saw the mess and, for some idiotic reason, I equated the value
The person’s value wasn’t in the mess they lived in, but it was a reflection of their state of mind. For the record, I’m not a psychologist, so I don’t know if this is scientifically accurate but if they’re like me then, maybe? I’m just pretending I’m a fictional private eye who once lived in London, on a street named Baker.
Deduced from logic, dear Watson! Or my unique brand of it. Uh, five minutes ago there may or may not be a mythical creature living in my laundry pile. I think my state of mind is very clear. Please don’t call the padded room people. I’m exaggerating for literary effect.
What isn’t an exaggeration is the state of my home and how it very accurately reflects my state of mind. Cluttered. Visually noisy. A lack of care given to even the most basic of necessities. Things tossed around or left abandoned. I’ll get to it later but later comes, and it’s still there. Now it’s been there so long, it hardly seems worth the effort. Maybe it likes sitting there, precariously balanced on a pile of forgotten and abandoned toys. Discarded. Unloved. Uncared for in thought, but maybe not in reality.
Everything about my life reflects how I’ve been feeling these last few years. It feels like I’ve been floating along on a tired, rickety, old boat. Looking for something but, damn it, I forgot the compass and, no, I don’t have a map. I don’t know what I’m looking for, so I bob along with the current. Hoping, half-heartedly, that the wind will pick up and give me a sense of purpose.
It should come as no surprise that this strategy hasn’t worked out for me. I haven’t found direction or purpose. Floating along, hoping against all hope, hasn’t brought me to my destination. It has brought about a sense of chaos that I keep on a tight, strained, rope. Sure, at the moment, it’s controlled, but the line can only take so much tension. How long until it snaps? How long can I keep the chaos tied down?
Slowly, I’ve been working on decreasing the chaos on the outside. Looking at the mess, as one giant entity, was too overwhelming so I narrowed my vision. Taking one day of the week to work on one spot for one hour. One-One-One. It’s so much easier and I’ve started to see some progress. It’s looking like a home again.
When I walk in my front door, I smile a little more because I’m not assaulted by the chaos. There’s one less physical reminder of my mental state which means, for me, I’m able to take some breaks from the madness within. I’m not being haunted by it. The glaring state of disarray isn’t stalking me. It’s calmer which is easing the tension on that old rope.
It hasn’t fixed the rickety boat, but it’s patched a few holes. I think I might be able to stay afloat a little while longer. In the meantime, it’s bought me a grace period to find a map and maybe a compass. Do I know how to use either of those things? Do they come with Siri? Can I ask a computer to do the work for me?
Ah, so we’re working with an analog system, eh. Brilliant. Fantastic. Wonderful. Groovy. Did I just thumb through a thesaurus? Maybe.
So, I’m going to have to go old school. A couple of paddles, an old sextant, and a clear starry night. That’s all I get? Did I mention that I can’t swim, and the boat is getting old? Because uh, it might sink and then I’m metaphorically screwed. I wanted to write metaphorically and literally, but that seemed inappropriate and I think the paddles have splinters.
What was I saying? And what’s a sextant? Oh, thanks Google. Look at that, I typed a word that actually turned out to be a thing. Am I smarter than google? No, just smarter than I realize because the chaos inside my brain can be very distracting. It overruns my wise mind and spills over into other aspects of my life.
The outside matches the inside.
As hard as I try to patch over the holes, it still finds a crack and drips out. If it was a burst pipe, I’d notice and try to stop it. A drip, though? That’s some master level spycraft, right there. It slowly builds up until one day I find myself standing knee-deep in a substance I don’t want to identify. It’s a little sticky and oozey. Ew. I think it’s moving. What do I do?
It’s overwhelming and paralyzing. I want to ignore it, but it’s too late. I’ve seen it. It’s glaringly obvious and now it’s become a choice. Do I live with it or do I change it? Yeah, I gave you my answer already and totally forgot to include a spoiler alert. My bad.
I’m decluttering my outside, and it’s restoring some sense of calm on the inside. No, it’s not a cure-all, and there’s still a lot of work to do on the barrel full of monkeys rocking my rickety boat. Nothing will ever be a quick fix when it comes to my mental health. However, living in external chaos has only stoked the internal chaos.
The outside may reflect the inside but the two seem to feed off each other. By minimizing one, it’s minimizing the other. Not taking it away. Not curing it. I’m not selling some miracle here. It’s just helping. That’s it. Helping.
At least, it’s helping me feel a little less seasick so I’m taking the win.
You’re not alone on that ocean, my friend. Thank you for the story, it gives me hope.
That’s so kind! Thank you so much.