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4 Things No One Tells You about Having OCD

I had an epiphany when reading this article. I have had hoarding tendencies for as long as I can remember. Cleaning my room was fraught with guilt, shame, and terror. I had always known that some cases of hoarding were linked with OCD, but I didn’t really understand what that actually meant. This article broke it down in a way that really made it make sense to me. The OCD aspect is why so many statements about hoarders didn’t work for me. I am extremely aware, ashamed, and embarrassed of my hoarding and the ridiculous thoughts that keep me shackled to these piles of useless things. I am very good at organizing and making decisions— what paralyzes me is the thoughts that go through my head when I consider throwing something away. The broken rice steamer? The broken toaster? That’s a no brainer, right? Throw it away! Except: maybe I can fix it. I should really try to fix it. If I throw it away, I’m filling the landfill and ruining the planet. I’m wasting the hard work of the people who made it. What if I throw it away and then find some magical toaster fixing device and I will have wasted a perfectly good toaster! Let’s not even go through how I have to throw it away the right way. Yes, there is only one right way to throw things away, and getting that wrong leads to guilt, shame, anxiety, and panic.

Throwing it away means freeing myself to get a new one, but there’s so much mass consumption in the world and I don’t want to contribute to slave labor or more junk that will break in a year, forcing me to go through the same process. Going through this is why when I finally got rid of the microwave five years after it broke, I refused to buy another one. And then got one as a gift. The display broke after six months (this was in 2002 or there-abouts) and we have been using it without a display since then because it’s otherwise perfectly good.

Yes, I am overthinking it all, but that’s what OCD does. If I could just stop, I would have when I was a six-year-old hoarder, or a 12-year-old hoarder. I know now my thoughts are broken.

I don’t live in a very enlightened town, but once I move someplace a bit better, I’m going to get cognitive behavioral therapy. I do have depression, but other than the hoarding, I don’t really suffer from a lot of anxiety. I feel optimistic that if I work hard, I can fix this. Now that I understand why the normal characterizations of hoarders (lack organization skills, lack decision-making skills) didn’t apply to me, yet I am still a hoarder. Organization skills don’t apply in my case. Decision-making skills— well, I am deciding to avoid pain. If it hurts to throw something away, I’m going to keep it. It hurts MORE to throw something away than to work around the clutter of broken objects. It hurts more than not being able to have friends over. That is totally messed up.

Here’s something weird, though. Although I am a hoarder (albeit not at the tunnels-and-paths stage, and trying my hardest not to get there), I can park my car in my garage. I feel an absurd amount of pride in that. Yes, it is walled in on one side with boxes that haven’t been gone through in 13 years, but at least I can park my car in the garage.

My son is going to help me in the garage. He is not a hoarder, thank goodness. He is almost old enough to move out on his own and the idea of him never coming back because of my hoard is more terrifying to me than the idea of throwing away a toaster. I’m going to get this under control.

After my yoga, I’m going to set my UFYH timer, throw away the toaster and the rice steamer, and clean my corner of the living room. If I survive, I’m going to find something else ridiculous to get rid of tomorrow. Maybe the six bags of clothing for charity.

In fact, I am setting a goal right now to get rid of one ridiculous thing a day. If I have to come on here and list my thought process just to prove to myself how ridiculous it is, I will.

It’s been a long, strange three years. All of the important things are still going well, but we’re finding ourselves in a position where we will be moving again*. I’m still fighting the messie hoarding battle, though things are not desperate now. Honestly, I have found myself in a place where I no longer fit into the forum I created, which is fine. I have every intention of keeping the forum as is, but I don’t have any plans to add new members any more. I just couldn’t keep up with it, especially with everything else that was going on in my life. If that changes, I will let you know.

That said, I will be adding more articles about cleaning, decluttering, de-hoarding, and moving. I also have a tumblr where I occasionally post on my decluttering progress. http://www.tumblr.com/blog/mymessyhouse. There IS salty language on that tumblr. I found that when it comes to decluttering and cleaning, the salty language helps motivate me. This website will remain clean, but I have no promises of the same for the tumblr.

*We don’t know when or where we will be moving. In order to move without me having a nervous breakdown, we need to avoid putting our current house on the market until we have all our stuff moved out. That means both of us have to have jobs there. We have two strong target cities and two desired locations, but only time will tell. The good thing is, this gives me time to sort through the accumulated junk. I found boxes in the garage that were packed in Germany in 1999 and have not been opened since. (A cleanie would say “chuck them!” but there are things I have been looking for, so I still hope to find them in those boxes.)

Registration for the forums is now open! Note that once you are registered, you will need to post an introduction to be fully activated!

Registration will not stay open indefinitely. I will probably cap it at about 20 people, then let those people settle in before opening it again. The forum is NOT for solicitations for TV shows, nor is it for cleanies to complain about living with messies! (Cleanies are welcome, as long as you recognize that our minds work differently and things that are easy for you are difficult for us. Think twice before posting any tip that starts with “just”, such as “just put your mind to it.” If we could “just,” we would be cleanies!)

The main forum has a strong Christian bent, but there is a private group for atheist/ areligious check-ins. PM me (Jenne) if you want to be added to that group. The atheist group is for atheists only. No proselytizing in either direction, please! (Expressions of faith are appropriate on the main board.)

I’m adding a new category that I’m surprised I didn’t have on here before. I’m adding a category for moving. I moved twice, from Germany to Texas and then from Texas to Missouri, after starting the first version of My Messy House. Now, after ten years in the same house, we’re getting ready to move back to Texas at the end of July (or so.) I’ll have this next week, plus three weeks in June, to really concentrate on decluttering and to start packing. I’m using a combination of Flylady’s 27-Fling Boogie and David Allen’s Getting Things Done management technique to get things going. I’ll be trying to add new content to this site nightly as I find tips and motivation for decluttering.

Some of our challenges on this move is that we are doing the packing, loading, unloading, and unpacking ourselves. We plan to give away all of our pressboard furniture when we move, but we do have several big wood furniture pieces, along with a fridge, a washer, and a dryer, a waterbed, dining set, rocking chair, mattress, and bookcases to move. What’s really frightening, though, is all the small stuff. I hope to document the process in pictures over the next few months. I’m looking at this move as a chance to declutter and try to minimize our stuff as much as possible.

This is one of the books I’m rereading for inspiration.

Hello! A few people have mentioned wanting to register for the forums. If you are interested, please email me at mmh @ mymessyhouse.com with your desired username. Unfortunately, I was getting too many spam registrations and it took too long to try to figure out who the real people were! I’m afraid I might have rejected some real people on accident.

UPDATE: It’s .com, not .org. I’m so sorry for the confusion. If you want to join, please email me at mmh @ mymessyhouse dot com. I will try to get you added as quickly as possible. If you’re not added within a week, email me again, please.