A Trip To Wit’s End

That’s where I am right now. I am at my wit’s end. I don’t get here very often to be honest. I am not a patient person, but I am born problem solver. However, I am all out of ideas.

Last night, for the third night in a row, baby F woke several times. She’s now waking up to 5 or 6 times overnight. Last night it was 10:30 (I was probably asleep by 9:30 I was so tired), 11:45, 12:40, 3:30 and 5:30. She screams each time, and settles when I pick her up and put her back down. At 5:30 this morning that didn’t work. She just cried and cried and cried. But it was toddler crying – more like constant wailing. There were no tears, it was noise in order to protest something (what?? If only I knew what??).

Yesterday was the second of two day’s I’ve spent clearing out my uncle’s flat.


I don’t think I con convey in a photo the extent of this job. I haven’t shown the worst of the dirt and clutter in the kitchen and bathroom, and the blood on the floor where he fell.

Eric was a hoarder and a collector of things. The amount of stuff he had was incredible. There were things in his flat that I remember seeing in my grandparents house when I was a child. A box of lots of old tobacco tins containing nails and screws that used to live under their stairs. Paintings that hung on the wall in my house when I was a child. It was so sad.

My mum is on full benefits and has been having problems with falling over so there is no way she could manage it. I am the only other person Eric has that cares enough to do the right thing.

My uncle died in social housing with no will, no estate and no assets. His rent, at £200 per fortnight, is due from Sunday if the flat isn’t vacated. House clearance companies (I tried three), all said the same – it would cost from £200-£600 to clear the flat and they couldn’t come until the week after the bank holiday.

At about 11:30am yesterday I sat on the floor in Eric’s lounge and felt utter despair. I had already shifted around 20 black bags of clothing down nine floors and into my car, on my own, but the flat didn’t really look any emptier. There were hundreds of china and wooden ornaments that together weighed a lot more than the clothing. I couldn’t even imagine how I was going to get the furniture out.

I called housing, the benefit office and citizens advice. They all took the same hard line – rent is due from Sunday. Citizen’s advice weren’t even offering advice any more because they are restructuring.

Then I googled my situation and of course, the answer was there. With no estate and no means for me to clear the flat, I have to hand the keys back and walk away. The council will then clear and clean the flat, using taxpayers money.

And of course – this is what happens to every elderly person who dies alone with nothing but a house or flat full or possessions gathered over the decades. I felt horribly guilty. So much so that I phoned the housing office and explained I was going to hand in the keys and I apologised and cried.

Yesterday afternoon we closed the door on Eric’s life and walked away. It feels wrong in every part of me not to tidy it away properly, but it would have taken me months, in all honesty, to get everything out of the flat.

The warden for the block said that there are many other tenants with flats full to bursting with stuff. One of the house clearance men I spoke to on the phone said,

That’s just what people do when they get old. They hoard.

It is so sad, and so worrying, that we place such value on things. When I went to the tip to get rid of all the black bags in the car, it was heaving with people dumping stuff.

How can our planet hope to survive when we live in a throwaway society? Where is all this rubbish going to go when the space runs out?

Back to last night. Baby F has been sleeping in with me, her cot next to the bed, since her illness. I thought she would sleep peacefully there because she seems to need me so much in the night.

However, if anything, things are worse! She is waking more than she ever has. I feel like I am dying inside. She’s 21 months old and she has never, that I can remember, fallen asleep and not cried at some point overnight. 

She hates sleep in the day too. She’s tried to push through two days this week without a nap at all. I honestly don’t know how she’s doing it. My 6 year old is pretty much always asleep before her each evening, and baby F is always the first to wake.

Well, as I was saying, I am at my wit’s end. I cannot deal with being screamed at, multiple times a night, for what is turning into years on end. I’ve had enough.

Baby F is going back in her room today. I am going to put her to bed tonight when I am sure she is tired and I am not going back til 6:30am. And that’s what we’re going to do until she sleeps through.

It may sound harsh, but I just don’t think anyone can understand how desperately difficult it is to be woken multiple times every night for almost two years.

What To Do If You Have So Much Stuff You Can’t Even See Your Floors

cluttered room

Clutter is a state of mind.

If you are living in a house where you can’t even see the floor, let alone actually find anything important, then the origin of the problem is not physical.

This level of extreme clutter (or hoarding) tends to occur during or following traumatic life events like divorce and death, but it can also be a cumulative representation of a life that you just aren’t happy with.

Our surroundings reflect what is going on inside.

If your house is seemingly beyond help, what can you do?

It can be very hard to even know what the initial problem is when you are living this way. When you live and breathe in an environment like this every day, it becomes normal to you, and it is hard to relate to what might be going on emotionally.

I know, because I have lived this way.

You have a few options when faced with total clutter devastation.

But whichever you choose, you must first admit to yourself that extreme clutter is more of an emotional issue than a physical one. Many, many people successfully work through their own issues, but many others need help. There is no shame in that at all. It is extremely brave to stand up and admit that you need assistance.

But it is also extremely brave (and potentially harder work), to do the job yourself. You know you better than anyone else in the world. The actual process of clearing clutter and keeping it clear can be incredibly beneficial and really help you to move forward mentally. It can also reveal uncomfortable feelings, prompt a sensation of insecurity, and break down walls of protection that have been in place for a long time.

Be gentle with yourself and know that there IS a better way. I found a way out, and so can you.

Here are my suggestions for getting started when things are really bad:

Head-on, all-out, attack.

Enlist one or more helpers if you can. Spend a day or a weekend getting the worst offenders out of the way. Don’t seek perfection (you can’t clear this much in one day unless you really are prepared to throw most of it in a skip). Instead aim to deal with BIG items. Don’t start unpacking everything – instead tackle furniture, junk, rubbish, magazines, and easy items. The plan should be to scale back the chaos to something more manageable that you can then tackle piecemeal.

Start with one room.

Close off the rest of the house and start with your bedroom. You also need a functional kitchen, and an accessible bathroom. Carve these spaces out and put everything that doesn’t belong in them into the other rooms. This option is good if you have reached a point where you are committed to change. It will give you breathing space to start work, and provide a sense of relief in the areas that you use the most. It is NOT a good idea if you aren’t really sure if you can get rid of anything. You may just end up filling up the newly created space with more stuff and doubling the problem. Know yourself.

Call in the experts

Finally, as a last resort, you may need professional help. Only you can know if you have reached this point. Search deep down and ask yourself if you think you can get out of this on your own. We all have inner strength and commitment beyond our initial expectations. Is yours in there? Can you do it? If the answer is no, a professional organiser, or possibly a series of sessions with a counsellor might be the best approach to get you unstuck.

The first steps are the hardest. Once you have started your journey, you can find a wealth of information here to keep you going in the right direction.

I wish you peace and happiness on your quest!

The Loft

loft

I have started sorting out the loft.

For 2 years I have been shoving things up there: baby things, highchairs, booster seats, babygros, small shoes, little clothes, baby books, baby toys…

Gradually it has formed a layer over the the existing piles of stuff like a layer of earth covering a silent city.

If you conducted an archaelogical dig in our loft, the crust would be the most recent collection of just-too-small boys clothes. Under it, smaller clothes, then newborn things, muslin cloths. And finally, you would unearth the perfectly preserved debris of the life we lived before we had children.

Evidence of a civilisation so different to the life we know now.

I have been avoiding the loft for a long time.

It sits literally and metaphorically above my head and is a heavy weight when I lie in bed at night.

I became scared to go up there, averting my eyes when we had to bring down the Christmas decorations, lest I should inadvertently see something that reminded me of a baby I might never have.

But today I broke through that fear.

Today I began.

I sorted, and rearranged, and tidied and reminisced and organised.

The baby things stay. I still have hope in my heart, and I can’t deny it, even if at the moment the body is weak and reluctant.

Those things are now in their own special part of the loft. Stacked and ready for use, should the need arise.

They are out of the way of everything else. Neatly to one side, so as not to cause distress and annoyance when I need something else that has been stored away.

I thought I would cry, but I didn’t. I smiled. Those beautiful little clothes that both of my boys have worn, those cute little toys and soft baby things that they had in their cots. The days of the moses basket and endless, endless tiredness. Such a wonderful, wonderful collection of memories.

Those objects aren’t tainted by miscarriage and loss, because they were never used for anything other than the living, breathing, messy, noisy, amazing children that fill my home.

I was afraid of something that wasn’t even there. Something my own mind had created.

The loft is no longer a terrifying ordeal that needs to be dealt with.

The loft is where the physical memories of being a new mother are.

I feel so relieved.

I’ve started a car-boot box in the garage. I’ve thrown a couple of things out. I’ve brought down some books and reinstated them on my bookshelves. I’ve even found an antique sewing machine that I’m going to sell. There is still some work to do up there, but I have taken a big step forward today.

Minimalism and order is something I crave and it seems to vanish when I am going through a hard time emotionally.

My environment always, so accurately, reflects my own state of mind.

Funny how that happens.

This is Not a Minimalist’s Kitchen

kitchen clutter

This.

This is not at all what I want to be looking at each day.

I’ve had a break from environmental minimalism, I’ve been focusing on my mental clutter and I think I’m ready to pick up the downsizing baton again.

My brain is less full of emotional crap (not that I’ve resolved all my baggage, I’ve just gotten better at not dragging it out and around with me each day), and this journey is a bit like the journey to physical fitness:

On some training days, your lungs are tight, you can’t get enough oxygen, your aerobic capacity is being stretched.

On other training days, your muscles feel like lead, they are heavy and slow, they need to grow and strengthen.

For me, these two things alternate – one week it’s all about my lungs. My legs are strong but I can’t fuel them. Another week and I’m breathing beautifully, but my muscles can’t keep up.

They seem to have a staggered, alternating, improvement cycle.

And I think minimalism is like this.

It’s a physical and mental journey and you need to alternate them.

For me, I feel it’s time to get back to my physical environment. Christmas is looming in the distance and Christmas means stuff, family, stress, holiday, busy busy busy.

It’s time to get physical. Let’s find some stuff to get rid of.

Random Release of Stuff 5

So this was a bit of a strange one. I haven’t tackled any particular category, I just wanted to see the 700 number on my things gone list, so I pottered around the house picking out things that could go.

Today I also managed to get Boy1 to donate 10 toys to poorly children in exchange for a foam sword that he desperately wanted. So despite all the difficulties I described when I started my plan to reduce toys, it turns out there IS a way 😉

What I did notice while walking around looking for things that could go is how far I have come. Wowee – there really isn’t much in our house that we don’t use on a pretty regular basis!

Once I’ve got the toys a little more under control I’ll write up a house tour with some pictures, so you can see how we really live now. I’ve got some great photos over the years of all the clutter, so it’ll be nice to put up some “after” pics to balance them out.

So, where do I go from here?

Well, we still have a scary loft that we haven’t touched, and a pretty frightening garage. I also think that we can further reduce what is left in the house. I’m not sure yet what the next steps will be.

I feel a little like I am on the verge of a big precipice and I’m not sure what’s out there. I know that further reduction at this point is way beyond what anyone in our family or social circle would class as “normal”. But I’ve never considered myself to be particularly compliant to the given norm, so that’s not such a bad thing 😉

Anyway, without further ado, here’s the latest list of things out:

  • 1 glass bottle I was saving (for what?)
  • 3 pairs kids slippers
  • 1 pair kids cut-down shorts
  • 1 pair baby shoes
  • 1 kids hat
  • 1 kids jumper
  • 2 kids smart suits (trouser, waistcoat, bow-tie)
  • 1 kids shirt
  • 2 kids PJ tops
  • 2 shoeboxes
  • 1 china mug
  • 3 biros
  • 1 bean lizard
  • 2 small teddies
  • 1 wind-up toy
  • 1 plastic fire-engine
  • 1 plastic police car
  • 1 argos catalogue (!)
  • 4 cars with trailers

Total out

30 items

Ongoing total

700 items!

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