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Well they say that moving house is on the top 5 most stressful things you can do in life but ah … yeah, I’m finding moving to be deeply stressful, anxiety-filled and so on. A good friend of mine called Bullshit on my blog of late, and he’s right. I’m only talking surface feelings and whilst they are true and honest, they’re not all of it. Not by a long shot. I got a lot going on. And I still feel quite self conscious [1] about expressing that all to the fullness that I used to do.

So moving house is stressful. It’s a hoarder’s nightmare really. And now the truth about why I was mainlining so many episodes of those shows is out! I promised myself after the last time I moved house, which was so deeply traumatic and stressful that I haven’t been able to even contemplate it til now, that I would slowly go through all my possessions and declutter. So that next time I moved, it would be less stressful. And for periods of time, I did do that. But I had the luxury of space and as long as I couldn’t see things cause they were packed away, I was happy.

But now… now I am moving again and I have to look at things. And I am upset as to why I have so much stuff; why I need to hold onto so much stuff; and why I can’t seem to just part with it now. The other thing is, when you’re living in a place, you have the luxury of not having to deal with something if you don’t want to. You can just put it away for later. And later, you know, you’ll look at it and deal with it. When you move, that “later” becomes “right now”, whether you like it or not.

I imagine this experience is on some spectrum of what it would be like to go into a diagnosed hoarder’s house – the degree of hoarding such that they sleep on the floor by the front door because they physically cannot get further inside their house due to “stuff” – and telling them they have to move. Now! How I feel seems somewhat akin to  the anxiety they experienced at having to face up to what is in their home and make decisions about what they can trash, donate or giveaway. But I’m a typical Pisces – always swimming in opposite directions at the same time. I want to both keep things and be ruthless and throw it all away and have clear spaces, no clutter. And so, my “later” is “now”. And if I had less stuff, this moving would be less prolonged.

Two examples of stressful situations for me this weekend.

1. An example of the “later is now”.

We’re packing up some stuff on Saturday and as we’re both taking things to my car, C asks “so who gave you this baking icing set?” And it  was like I’d be hit in the face with a baseball bat. “What?” I ask and he says, “they paid $120 for it?” Second hit to the face with the baseball bat.

And so my past caught up with me briefly. Two birthdays ago, an exboyfriend had gifted this to me. He was ex at the time, and I really don’t know why he came to my party. And he bought me this gift. The idea of a gift itself was loaded because for the entire time I’d been seeing this guy, he’d presented himself (because he genuinely saw himself this way) as something other than he really was. And as one example, he saw himself as this great gift giver but what he actually was was someone who talked about giving great gifts, or thinking of great gifts he was about to buy me, but never ever bought me anything. For Christmas, just before my birthday, he’d given me a family block of chocolate – fruit and nut, I believe, to which I am allergic. And before that, he’d felt so bad about the giant mobile phone bills I racked up whilst I was travelling and calling him (I can’t remember whether we were calling each other as much but it was local rates for him and roaming for me?)  that he was *going to buy me this great backpack” he’d seen in a hiking store. Not really the kind of gift I’d imagine people would think to give me (I have a backpack for hiking btw for when I backpacked in Europe, 10 years ago when the idea sounded more fun than now). But the thing is, he never ever bought it for me. Just. Didn’t.

And the relationship was a bad one – meh. It was my rebound from the big Ex. And whatever. And another example of me learning stuff. Booooring. The point is, after the whole thing, by the time it was my birthday, he was trying to be “friends” because he thought we would be better that way. (Turned out, I didn’t need the kind of friendship he was offering. You live and learn.) And the gift he chose to buy me was this. At the time,  I was just so stunned – it so did not seem like the kind of gift you buy for me, nor the kind of gift I’d want. He’d seen me do a bunch of baking for I think it was Wastelands II for a book launch but that was because self catering is cheaper. I do like to bake, that’s true. But … I dunno, it’s just not something I see myself doing. I need a lot of free time to be in the mood for cooking at all.

So what had I done with this gift? I hate returning gifts. So I’d left the envelope with the receipt inside and the note on the front, with the gift and put the whole thing on the top shelf of my pantry “for later”. And later, it seemed, was Saturday, when C cleaned out my pantry and found it. And what did he do? He opened the envelope and the box.  And then, at my response to this item being put in front of my face asked, “Can I have it then? I’ll totally use it!”

To which, to be fair, is the funniest thing ever. Really, it’s really really funny. It’s the perfect gift to have gotten my next (and last) boyfriend. And actually, in that case, was the right gift to get me. Since I already had the gift that is C.

So I had that kind of mixed set of emotions to process.  One example of why going through your stuff is stressful.

2. Unfinished projects; unmet goals, short attention span; things that turned out to be less perfect than envisioned.

There’s no real way to say this without sounding obnoxious but … I pretty much always feel like I am underachieving. And to have to sort through my study and craft, well it makes me feel like shit. Talking this through with C and friends this morning, I know I can list the number of things that I *have* achieved this year. But, going through my to read piles – there are several, with different levels of meaning, and then need to be moved together so as not to get lost, kinda stressed me out. Looking at the number of books I wished I had already read, and because there are so many books I also still want to read. And looking at the different kinds of books – NF, novels, collections, anthologies, graphic novels. It seriously stressed me out.

And further to that, I started to try to honestly sort through my craft projects and cull things that I genuinely will not do or complete. In an effort to put the spending guilt thing aside, kits and so on that I bought when I was on that particularly kick, and which I am no longer, I am putting up on ebay to sell. I was able to cull a few out that way, with minimum stress. It’s a beginning. There was more stress looking at the number of works in progress (WIPs they call them). And yes I know, you can’t die as long as you have some WIPs around and all that, but I seriously finish very few of the things I start. And I know it’s meant to be fun and all that and there’s not supposed to be strict rules or guidelines to down time and recreation time and I must be a process and not a product crafter. But still. It stressed me out. So many cross stitches, for example, which I could not part with, mean to finish, even though I haven’t worked on one in several years. So much cheap acrylic yarn in my stash that I may never use.

And so much time already accounted for – I think that’s partly it. Looking at how many years worth of recreational time I have already reserved with books to read, knitting, sewing and stitching. It more than stressed me out. It seems silly to write it down. But there you are.

And this? This is the small stuff. I got some bigger than small stuff too going on. July will be better, I know it.







[1] Self conscious may or may not be the right word for it but I’ll go with that for now.


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  • By Sarah Lee Parker on 7 June 2011 at 3:03 pm

    I could give cheap acrylic yarn a home if you need to give yourself the gift of less stuff.

  • By Thoraiya on 8 June 2011 at 9:01 am

    Oh, yeah, I may have forgot to mention that the paints I kept were the expensive oil paints and difficult-to-get calligraphy supplies like rare inks, vellums, gold leaf.

    Stuff that I chucked? Boxes and boxes of paper, cardboard, cushion stuffing, styrofoam, wrapping paper and tubes of acrylic paint. Will I have to buy them again? Probably. But it’ll save me keeping them for 10 years. I also had a knitting phase, it’s over now. I threw out half-scarves, half-socks, half-blankets (well, that was more like one tenth of a blanket). I kept one tapestry on its frame, but I think next time I move I might be able to throw it out. Back then, I had no shelf of anthologies with my stories inside.

    I have a feeling if I stood beside that shelf and asked myself which one I wanted more, I’d discover it was easy to put the tapestry frame on the junk pile.

    But I understand the stupidness of buying things twice, and also the feeling of carving out chunks of yourself to send up on a kind of premature funeral pyre…poor Alisa! Change is not easy!

  • By Alisa on 8 June 2011 at 10:20 am

    I definitely need the gift of less stuff and I have A LOT of acrylic yarn. Any requests of colours? I’ll pull some together for the next time we catch up.

    Thanks for taking some! Seriously.

  • By Alisa on 8 June 2011 at 10:26 am

    Ah your last sentence is the nail on the head. I do not cope well with change. At all. I already sat and explained to C cause it’s not that I am anxious or secondthinking the moving in with him. That I don’t question at all. I just do not cope well with change. It’s so not me.

    Which is funny because actually, I have always fancied living in lots of different places and lifestyles. I’ve tried a few already. And ending up with someone in the navy kind of offers that opportunity to me, *which I always wanted*. So even though right now, this move is not the most glamorous, I am trying to see it as part of what I dreamed of – living in different places, in different lifestyles. I still need to embrace the seasideness of this place a bit more. I will in time. And when we find the dog beach.

    So you really threw away half finished craft projects? Like in the bin? For knitting ones, I will happily unpick and then stash the yarn *for later*. But tapestries I have no idea what to do with. There are some that I just hate now. I would have no interest in finishing them for the joy of working on them and wouldn’t want to pay to frame them and then hang them on my wall. And I didn’t know you could just throw them in the trash?

    I don’t really see anything wrong with decluttering now and then in ten years time reacquiring – technology changes (even with yarn dyeing), tastes and fashions change too. This is partly why I don’t like many of my WIPs and why I won’t like them in ten years time either. It’s why I’d like to finish things now with things I do like now, in case I don’t later – ticking time bomb of guilt.

  • By Brendan Podger on 8 June 2011 at 6:17 pm

    ” I pretty much always feel like I am underachieving”

    LOL, you are so like my sister in this way. She is a mother with two part time jobs, is training for two or three marathons this year(including one in the US where you run a half marathon on day one and a full one on day two), and is worried that she is only getting distinctions on some of her Masters degree assignments.

    Just reading about what you do wears me out!

  • By Thoraiya on 9 June 2011 at 8:38 am

    Oh yeah. In the actual garbage :D

  • By AlisaK on 9 June 2011 at 8:46 am

    Oh wow. I’m going to try and see if I can do that – maybe tonight since the bins get emptied tomorrow.

  • By Helen on 9 June 2011 at 1:41 pm

    That never occurred to me as a possibility either. Wow! Once I’m mobile again I’ll try that – I’ve nearly a room full of ‘I can’t throw that aways’.

  • By Tansy Rayner Roberts on 9 June 2011 at 7:50 pm

    The only reason you feel you are an under-achiever is because your ambition is so epic that it would take an entire team of superheroes to achieve everything you expect of yourself.

    So you falling short of your own goals is still well ahead of a huge proportion of the population, as far as what you get done.

    If wealth is about living within your means, then maybe happiness is about setting goals that can be comfortably achieved, and being prepared to let go the ones that turn out to be less fun when you approach them.

  • By Alisa on 10 June 2011 at 10:52 am

    The feeling like I under-achieve is part of the personality type, I think. You set a big set of goals and it’s more than average because I do know how much I can get done. So when I fall short, I know that it’s more than whatever, but it was still less than *I* wanted and maybe also, if I’d applied myself *more* … though, also trying to practice the philosophy “just because you can, doesn’t mean you should”.

    If happiness is abou setting the goals that can be comfortably achieved, how would you push yourself further and do that which you thought you could not? Cause that feeling *is* exhiliarating.

  • By Alisa on 10 June 2011 at 10:53 am

    :) I think I’m always working to prove myself and my worth. I set high expectations.

  • By AlisaK on 12 June 2011 at 1:34 pm

    I’m totally going to try it today, maybe even just one or two things! Just to ease into it.

  • By James Trent on 1 September 2011 at 9:20 pm

    Yeah it’s no joke, super stressful but so long as you’re moving into a nicer place then its worth it! My only advice would be to get your conveyancing and legal stuff sorted out asap!

  • By AlisaK on 1 September 2011 at 9:29 pm

    I think it’s nicer in that its with C? The house is smaller

  • By Violet on 10 November 2011 at 11:56 am

    Oh, crap. You sound exactly like me! I’m gearing up to move for the first time in 18 years, and I found this post because I did a Google search for “moving hoarder,” hoping to find some site that had advice that might actually help.

    I just got rid of MY icing set. In my case, it was my mother’s from the ’50s or ’60s, and she was killed a couple of years ago, so it was really hard to let it go. But she’d actually given it to me about 15 years ago and it sat on the same shelf, untouched, all that time, so it was time to donate it to someone who might actually use it.

    Then, there’s the art room/library. Yep … same problems you were talking about! I have the half-finished cross stitch projects that I haven’t touched for 12 years. And I have a 20-ft. wall of 7-ft-tall bookshelves filled with books (not just normally, but every shelf has TWO ROWS of books, one in front and one behind it, because I have so many books and the shelves are 15″ deep).

    But I also have a 26′ x 30′ garage filled with supplies for never-started projects, too. More cans of paint than I can count, piles of wood that I had cut to very specific sizes for tables and shelves I was going to build one day, AND all of my mom’s possessions that I stupidly did NOT get rid of when I hired the remediation company to clean out HER house (she was a hoarder, too). I really wish I’d walked away from it all, especially the piles and piles of papers and receipts that I was just convinced I had to go through piece by piece because there might be something important in them. (The few piles I went through, I found all sorts of loose $100 savings bonds, so I’m really paranoid that if I junk the piles without going through them, I’m going to be throwing away a million dollars or something.) So all that’s sitting in many boxes in the middle of the room.

    Eesh, typing all that, now I’m hyperventilating again.

    So how did your move turn out in the end?

  • By AlisaK on 13 November 2011 at 4:04 pm

    Don’t hyperventilate! I had some bad moments but in all, the move turned out great in the end. It was a really emotional time. I did have things i needed to go through piece by piece but I threw out a lot of stuff and as I parted with things, I was able to part with more. I’m not done with culling but I’m getting better at not accumulating and at not hoarding more stuff.

    I recommend only biting off small bites – a box here and there a day – and you’ll gather momentum. It will get better!

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