I left my parent’s home at a very young age, largely because my mother was The Queen of Clutter. Every closet was filled to the doorway. Every shelf was stacked to the ceiling. So, when I started to feel like there was no room left for me, I began looking for a way out.
My mother was an excellent seamstress who bought high-quality fabric whenever it was on sale, whether she needed it or not. Yards and yards of beautiful gabardines and silk prints filled the closet in the extra bedroom. There were also three broken sewing machines she kept for parts in case her favorite machine needed a repair.
She was also an amazing knitter who collected rich, fabulous yarns for hundreds of patterns she already had on hand. I never realized there were so many different kinds of knitting needles in this world, but if they existed, she had them in her collection.
The upside to all of this “collecting” was that my mother developed excellent taste in clothing, and other people often commented on her ability to walk out of her house on any given day looking fabulous. Of course, few of them ever saw the inside of her house.
It seemed like she never recycled or actually threw away any of her things, even when it was clear they had become unusable. Our garage was packed with everything she had removed from the main house and my father was never allowed to throw any of it away.
Unfortunately, my father died 17 years before my mother, which gave her nearly two decades of unmonitored “cluttering.” Some might call it hoarding, but as a real estate agent who’s visited hundreds of stranger’s homes, I know the difference between cluttering and hoarding (and, fortunately, my mom was not a hoarder).
I frequently mentioned to family and good friends that my most difficult job – ever – would be to clean out my parent’s home when my mother died, but even that was an understatement. After donating several truckloads of items to the Salvation Army and Goodwill, and making another dozen trips to the city dump, I finally understood just how much stuff was in my parent’s house.
As you might imagine, being the only child of the Queen of Clutter turns you into an organizational princess; one who eventually grows up to become the Organizational Queen.
You can’t imagine how often I throw things out and then reorganize everything that’s left. I‘m uncomfortable with the chaos of clothes left out of the closets and become a little queasy at the sight of dishes piled in a sink. I like to make my bed as soon as I get up and my husband jokes that if he gets up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, there’s a good chance the bed will be made before he comes back.
Needless to say, this need for order and organization can look like anxiety to others, but I actually find it therapeutic. It also used to make me feel like a bit of a freak, until I discovered The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. This little book made me much more comfortable about who I am – although I find praying and saying goodbye to the ugly clothes in my closet a big stretch.
Of course, the irony (and karma) of being the Organizational Queen is that I have children who just want their stuff to be left on the floor. And that’s OK. Because the lesson I learned from being the daughter of clutterbugs is you can only control your own stuff.
Sound familiar? I’d love to hear your thoughts and suggestions in the Comments section. Don’t be shy. We don’t care if all your sentences are in perfect order.