De-cluttering: part 1

I have just come back, having spent a couple of weeks decluttering my elderly and disabled parents’ home.  One of the triggers for this was watching a Youtube video where someone was describing house clearing after their parent’s death.  Don’t get me wrong- I am not wishing for an early death of my parents but this is was a practical necessity as my parents do not have the time and inclination to declutter now. They were brought up in extreme poverty and have got into the habit of extreme saving.  They have kept everything from scraps of rags, my school books to letters, just in case, even though they no longer had any use for these.  There was a danger from not only vermin infestation and hygiene issues but also the clutter was in the way of them getting about their lives- my mother often fell down as she hit something.  I have often helped other people after their deaths to declutter but with my parents, I wanted to do it now to help them to make their lives easier.

The decluttering was physically and mentally very tiring- I had to stop often and rest.  It is also very interesting to see what people collect towards the ends of their lives.  In the case of the people I had helped in the past, I remember a man with over 40 mirrors and a  lady with a room full of scented soaps!  In my parents case, while they used only 20% of the space and contents, the rest was full of books and stuff left by my siblings.  They also had huge amounts of kitchen paraphernalia and crockery- mostly not needed now as they only used one or two plates.  While I was clearing the stuff, I also went through my own therapy. I saw how what my parents had collected was also reflected in my own home- too many books and crockery!  Why did I do this?  Even though my parents must have influenced me, I cannot blame my parents as I have had enough time to correct this tendency myself.  But I found it very interesting to see how my childhood in a cluttered home had led to my own clutter and disorganised home.

Some people react in different ways to their childhood environments- some children grow up to be very organised as an antidote to their parents’ disorganisation.  In my and my siblings cases, we had all become very disorganized and cluttered as we grew up.  So when I returned home, I started to take a deep look at what was in my home and where.  My mother is especially grateful to me as we managed to sell some of the stuff and make some money.  However, I am even more grateful to her for letting me do this and also take the decluttering further and clean up my own environment.  For those who want to declutter, it might be a useful thing to examine the place they grew up in- it might offer clues as to why you are what you are now.  This decluttering of my own place has had effect on my own children- they have naturally begun to give things away and keep their bedrooms tidy- a small trickle effect.  This is much better and more effective solution than nagging at your children to be tidy.

Now the clutter of my parents has a very different origin to my own but the effect is the same.  My parents wanted to save every scrap of thing that they had because they were poor while I just have too many things.  So regardless of the intention, the effect manifests in similar ways.  Some people believe that by treating the cause, you will cure the problem.  But I believe that just like how you can change your mental attitude by forcing yourself to smile, in a similar way, this problem can be tackled by just removing the clutter.  As soon as I moved her stuff outside to the yard and the rooms began to look clear, my mother began to clear up other areas of the house herself.  She needed to experience the clarity of the space to get clarity of her intention.  It is said that making people clear up their clutter is impossible but I think through this experience, it can be done.  In fact, each person comes to the point when it all gets too much and they want someone to help them.  It is at this point that this kind of help can be given, not before.  My mother wasn’t ready before.  The fear of letting go of things is tied to the fear of dying, as people relate their possession of things to their lives.  Letting go is very freeing and empowering- that relates to both possessions and people!

Parenting and compassion

We can have as many partners as we like but we will have only one set of parents.  After having become a parent, I realised that there is no training for parents- you are simply handed a baby and that is it!  No matter how much you read on parenting (and I should know as I read about 150 of them!) , your child will be unique and therefore no book can tell you how to handle him or her.  It will be tricky and you can go along, sometimes winning, sometimes losing but as long as your child is happy and healthy, then you are fine.  Parenting is a great responsibility- the responsibility to make a human being as as best as you can, with no prior training or knowledge! Can’t think of any other work that is so great and yet so under-valued.

Two days ago, I sat on the train, listening to three teenagers, complaining about their parents.  It was clear that they were returning from some holiday, tanned and tired.  They had fun and probably used some of their parents’ money to fund this holiday.  Yet some of the stuff one the girls said about her parents made me sad.  She seemed utterly ungrateful.  She probably did not realise how it made her sound, how it made her look bad- not her parents.

Part of growing up includes having compassion for others, including our parents.  If our parents made mistakes while bringing us up, we can be objective about it. Yet at the same time, we can keep in mind that they were subject to the emotions, mistakes and physical tiredness that parenting brings. We can identify the things in us that may be similar to our parents.  Even if we don’t have any outer signs that we share some common features, we must remember that we are half of each parent.  In my family, no one looks like each other.  On the emotional side, my father suffers from depression and used to beat me and my sisters.  I hated him for that.  Now that he is a weak invalid, slowly counting his days, I remember that I am half of him.  Although I am a happy optimistic person, I know that I could be like him because I share his genes.  Something could turn in my life to make me depressed because the latent effect is already inside my cells.  I feel compassion for him, although I remember my childhood clearly.  After having overcome my habit of hoarding, for instance, I am very compassionate towards my mother who still hoards.  This habit comes from her very deprived childhood and I feel compassion for her.  If I did not, then I would still be a child.  So compassion is not only a great healer but also helps you to grow up!

Never tell them your children’s age

Here is a new one I found out- when out on date, never tell anyone your children’s age.  It is bad enough to get a date sometime when you tell a man you have children.  Even though you make look well and youngish, once they find out your children age, I can see it all on their forehead, trying to work out how old you are.  Even though this particular man may 1. already have children and is divorced himself; 2. does not want a family; 3. told you that he does not care how old you are- the way his mind works is that you still have to be nubile enough for him.  I still remember the shock and horror on a man’s face when he learnt that I was the mother to a teenager, although initially he professed a great love for children and dogs. Next!