finding calm in the chaos

It’s not all fun and games at the House of Tex.

Sure we get to swing hammers and mallets to tear down ho-hum tiles, but we also have to sort through 14 years worth of stuff. The stuff that a family of four accumulates over time. The stuff to which we attach sentimental value, even though we probably shouldn’t.

I’m a pretty hard-core purger (yes, that is totally a word), so if were up to me, I’d chuck the vast majority of it.

But I have a daughter who is a hoarder. Could the apple have fallen farther from the tree? Her room is the last on my list. I can’t even deal with thinking about it right now. I just can’t.

Mr. Enthusiasm holds onto paper. Every bill. Every bank statement. Every receipt. His wallets last less than a year because they get so deformed from having to expand to accommodate the unnatural bulge of the 47,000 receipts he keeps in there at all times.

Me? I get hives just thinking about having that much stuff.

Do you know what I did the other night?

I sat on my yoga mat, surrounded by massive piles of paper, facing an upright shredder.

No, that is not a picture of my actual home. I would have long killed myself if that were the case.



Back to my shredder. She’s very lady-like and demure; in fact she’ll only chew on 1-2 pages at a time.

Try to feed her more and rather than politely declining, she opens her mouth, teasing you, pretending she’ll take it. And then she starts gagging, choking and eventually stops eating altogether, shutting down and pretending to be asleep. Bitch.

I shredded paper, 2 pages at a time, for 90 minutes and had barely gotten through an eighth of the total pile.

But then I snapped to my senses.

A fire!

What I need is a big fire to burn this shit in.

Tonight, it’s me and the fire pit against that stupid pile of paper.

And I’ll tell you one thing for absolute certain, this shit is NOT happening in the next place. We will shred/recycle/junk things as they get dealt with, not pile them into some giant abstract art installation.

[…And here we have a wonderful piece known as, Ode to an Accountant.]

Sorry, I digress. Massive amounts of useless shit does that to me.

As frustrating and exhausting as this work is, I can’t help but feel lighter for it.

I feel like the rest of my family, and my home, are finally catching up to my level of minimalism. And whether this house gets listed and sells or not, I’ll be that much happier for finally addressing the elephant in the room[s].

It’s a good thing I’ve recently found my way to a deeper yoga experience. It has served me very well these past 10 days. I’m sure Mr. Enthusiasm and Hoarding Daughter are pretty happy about that too.


Keep moving [and open yourself to yoga],

xoxo nancy

91 thoughts on “finding calm in the chaos

  1. When cleaning out an apartment, my girl and I hired a mobile shredder. cost a couple of dollars, but they were in and out, and it was all gone – every last scrap.

    Worth every penny.

    (If it’s her mess, shouldn’t daughter be cleaning/packing it up?)

    • Dude, if I asked her to clean it up it would just end up squirreled away in another part of the house for me to find later. She has a wholly unholy attachment to stuff. My best course of action is to get rid of the things I believe she wouldn’t miss.

      p.s. I’ve already told her that she has to move in with my in-laws during the period of house listing. She is incapable of keeping her room and the main bathroom clean – and I can’t be dealing with that shit every day. My hope is that once all her crap gets boxed and taken to grandma’s, that most of it won’t make it back to the house. 🙂

  2. I do not envy you that!!
    I hated hated hated doing that when we moved!!

    we are only 2 people and had a small 3 bed semi that we lived in 8 years…you would not believe how much we threw away / took to the charity shop!!

    I hate packing…I also hate unpacking..

    I do not think I could find your level of calm! I am in awe!

    • I’m amazing myself, Sam. I honestly put a lot of my reduced anxiety on the daily yoga practice. I can’t think of what else has changed recently, other than that.
      Not to say I haven’t had my moments of minor meltdown, but it’s light years away from the way I would have been reacting to this a month ago.

      Moving is the worst. This is our 3rd home since we got married 27 years ago. We were only in the first one 3 years, in the second one 10, and now in this one 14. I always said, “we’ll never leave this house unless something really amazing or really catastrophic happens”…

      I never imagined the property value would soar this high – and right now the motivation is purely financial. 14 years since my last move and clearly I’d forgotten just how horrible a process it is.

      I’ll be glad when all the crap has been dealt with (and I’ll feel pretty good about the donations I get to make to various charities in the process).

      • we are on our third house in 13 years.

        I have no intention of moving in the near future!

        between house numbers 1 & 2 we moved all our stuff ourselves in vans and cars, I threatened to leave the country if I had to do that again!

        luckily we got movers to do the 2nd move…

        now I just need to convince mark that paying people to pack is worth it too…

        I am still seriously impressed at the level of calm!

      • I was seriously traumatized moving from house 2 to house 3. House 2 was a monster home in terms of square footage. and we had filled every corner of that bad boy. We had to get rid of so much when we moved to this home (much smaller). Sadly we ended up just hanging on to a lot of it (in boxes, in the basement). Live and learn. No more of that nonsense. If something hasn’t been used/enjoyed in over a year, it’s getting tossed, sold or donated. period.

      • I say things like that…

        but it never seems to happen!

        although I do draw the line at endless empty boxes…when we move last time mark had kept every empty box from every appliance / mobile phone we had ever owned :-S apparently we might want to put them back in them…

  3. Ugh, I feel like you do, but keep putting off the dejunking. But I’m not moving and manage to turn a blind eye. But I know it’s affecting me mentally! No more putting it off- you’ve inspired me to get it done!

    • Cynthia, you’re speaking my language. As much anxiety as the clutter in parts of the house (each of the two kids’ rooms, the basement, Ed’s office) gave me, I kept putting off dealing with it. Partly because it didn’t seem to be bothering anyone else, so I doubted I would get much support. Partly because it felt so daunting to tackle it.

      As much as it sucks, I actually feel great that it’s getting done and that I get to start clean either in a new home (or here, if we do end up deciding to stay).

      Good luck with your project! We can be each other’s cheerleaders when times get tough.

  4. Nancy, I’m definitely in the minimalist mode…with a little help. 😉 One of the first things I bought when my slate was wiped clean was a medium duty shredder. 11 sheets at a time!!! “The Beast” has served me well so far. I did way more research than a sane person should do in buying a new shredder. I do like the fire pit ideal. I just need to locate a 55 gallon drum to turn into a fire pit. Patrick

    • Ha! I love that you researched paper shredders for optimum capacity/value! you’re my kind of man, Patrick! We’ll get along just fine.

      We actually don’t have a proper fire pit; rather, Ed converted an old charcoal grill (the round ball-shaped kind) into a mini firepit by placing it on a wrought iron stand that used to house a clay chiminea. I figure we won’t be able to do the whole pile in one shot, but we can probably burn all of it inside an hour or so. wish me luck!

    • Amen, sister. I feel the same way. I don’t want to place that kind of burden on anyone. My mom isn’t too bad – she’s done a pretty good job of purging with each move. My in-laws on the other hand…holy sht, Batman, that will be a LOT of work.

  5. Oh man, I’m a hard-core purger myself, surrounded by hoarders! John keeps everything and if left alone for more than a few hours “crap”, not crop, circles appear around him with random things spread within arms reach. Ryan is even worse, not only is his room full of stuff, his pockets are too. Some days he has trouble keeping his shorts up because the cargo pockets are too full – rubber balls, lego figurines, lots of rocks, phone, pocket knife…

  6. yayayayayay Nancy! One of the VERY BEST things about moving is that it reminds you to let go of all that–that most of it really doesn’t matter. We know people who rather than deal with it just rent a storage unit and slam it all in there–and then haven’t seen (or obviously used) any of the crap for nearly 10 years. But rather than “face it” they pay the rental storage fee every single month. Crazy! That is FLAT OUT CRAZY! It’s just STUFF. Of course I’m not perfect by any means because I still have about 1/3 of my book collection (managed to donate 2/3rds of it during the last move) and about 10 years worth of journals….don’t laugh. I recycled about 1/2 of them when we moved and THAT WAS HARD. But as you say you feel SO MUCH LIGHTER when it’s all gone. Keep it up girl! ~Kathy

    • It would be much easier if the rest of my housemates shared my philosophy on less stuff, but I’ll get it done, regardless. (I do see a very real possibility of my kids’ stuff winding up at their grandparents house. But hey, as long as it’s not in mine, I’m good. 😉

  7. I love the sound of my shredder as it eats (1-2 sheets at a time), then spits out ribbons in a constant growing flow!

    But FIRE! is fun too! I’ll bring the marshmallows!

    I know lots of folks who keep adding filing cabinets to store more papers that they will NEVER look at again. Not me, bucko! We’ve moved 11 times (+/1) in 33 years and I’m not wasting time moving dead weight. We have one file drawer for current stuff and one antique trunk that holds older and less important stuff (taxes, resumes, instructions, travel ideas, etc.). When it gets stuffed with stuff . . . I clean out the old to make way for the new.

    • I keep virtually nothing. I figure in this digital world, I can access that piece of paper, somehow, somewhere, online. I wish hubby felt the same way. Sigh.

      “Til he comes around, I will burn. FIRE!! 🙂

  8. Oh girl, I totally feel your pain – the fruit falls very far from the tree in my house also. I go into Anna’s room for a thorough cleaning (the two of us) three times a year. We end up with two bags of trash and one bag for goodwill every time, and it takes 5-6 hours. It stays that way for about 2 days. Meanwhile my room looks like a showroom. Not better, just different. Very different.

  9. Good job on all of it, the cleaning out and the yoga! I am doing the exact same thing…getting rid of so much stuff! It is mind boggling and ridiculous to me the amount if stuff we still have even after losing so much with the flood. I have a massive pile growing daily of just stuff, loads of stuff we don’t need. And I agree, it feels so good to pare down to just what we need.

    • Do you have a process you’re using? Do you sort into piles: trash, donate, sell? When do you decide the sell pile is ‘ready’ and do the garage sale? If I could, I’d do garage sales every day – bits here and there, but clearly that’s not efficient! 😉

      • Well, I trash things as I come across them. No pile just straight to the can. Then I have a massive mound growing and it will go to the Emerge rummage sale next week. They held the benefit for my family so this is my way to pay back. After that, likely just donate stuff, garage sales are a pain and my husband is paranoid having strangers come by our house. 😉

      • OMG, that is too funny about your husband! I’ve only had a garage sale once. Its purpose was two-fold: 1) get ride of crap; and 2) raise money for my Weekend to End Breast Cancer walk (doing it 5 years in a row it became harder and harder to secure donations).

        I wasn’t paranoid about strangers in my driveway. I was more concerned about biting their heads off when THEY INSISTED ON HAGGLING DOWN THE PRICE OF CRYSTAL VASE I HAD TAGGED AT $10 (WHICH WAS WORTH $50) – KNOWING THAT THE PROCEEDS OF THE SALE WERE GOING TO CHARITY!! See what I mean? I can barely contain my anger now, 5 years later, just remembering that nonsense. Not sure I can deal with it. I might have to just list the big stuff on Craig’s List and donate everything else.

        I don’t want to be thrown in jail for assaulting the stupid prick who tries to haggle down the $4 price for my crock pot…

  10. Nancy, can I book you??? I so need a pro purger! I try NOT to hoard. I hate STUFF. I just need someone objective to step in. Preferably swinging a blunt object over my head 🙂

  11. I can so relate to what you’re going through, especially regarding the shredder. We resorted to the ‘burn’ and it went so much quicker. I couldn’t believe all the crap, paper and otherwise, that we accumulated and I’m not a hoarder. During our 32 year relationship, hubby and I have moved nine times. So you’d think I’d have been on top of things better. Enjoy the purging. It’s quite liberating 🙂

    • I’m looking forward to the quiet after the storm (and an entire house that reflects my level of minimalism, and not just the spaces I primarily occupy). 🙂

      Thanks for the vote of confidence on the burn. Testing it out tonight!

  12. I love your solution … a fire! Too bad Toronto frowns on bon-fires in the backyard. I would be really into that. In spite of my best intentions, paper does have a tendency to accumulate … I think it naturally reproduces when left alone unsupervised in a dark filing cabinet.
    Maybe when you’re done, you can start a small business on the side as a home organizer 😉

    • Ha! I think I’d actually love that, Joanne! Unfortunately I lack the patience I see the professsionals on Hoarders display while they are dealing with the cray–cray’s on that show. I can envision snapping violently when the person starts crying about how they need to keep that can of dog food from 1983…

      No bonfires here, we’ll keep it small and contained inside the pit. It’ll take time, but it will be faster than shredding!

  13. OMG, paper piles are my biggest nemesis. I have severe anxiety over that stuff. Big A likes to hang on to all the responsible adult stuff too, while I could just as soon burn it. He usually is so good at filing it, but sometimes the desk gets so cluttered, I want to burn my whole house down.
    And not call the fire department.
    So I feel you. I hope your fresh clutter free start is totally zen.

    • It’s a shit ton of work, but will be so worth it. So thankful that I am enjoying practicing yoga every day. It has helped manage the anxiety. Immensely.

  14. Oh so familiar, Nancy. When we moved here I had to purge 16 years worth of paper, mementos and you name it. My hubby collects (read hoards) small stuff and when I got everything packed (I had sent him to FL beforehand) I accidentally lost quite a bit of stuff. And I went to buy a bigger shredder because our old one behaved just like yours (so funny, now afterwards) It felt soooo good, and yes, one feels lighter for it.

    • Oh I plan to “lose” a bunch of stuff too. What they don’t see won’t hurt them. And the truth is, if they never even look for it, they don’t miss it — so it couldn’t have meant that much.

      • I have to confess he asked if I knew where a couple of these things were… I just said that I hadn’t seen them for a long while, maybe they didn’t want to come to FL…and that was it.

      • I have previously ‘lost’ stuff that my daughter had been hanging on to. She has asked for, maybe, 5% of it. I like those odds. 😉

  15. MTM’s brother is a hoarder AND a garbage collector. It’s amazing how stuff can take over a life.

    I’m with you on the burning thing. So much easier than shredding. More confidential, too. 🙂

    • I just don’t get it. I don’t understand the psyche behind hoarding – so I am completely unable to empathize with them.

      As Amanda was leaving for work this morning, knowing we’d be removing the bathroom vanity (in the bathroom she uses) – she literally begged me not to throw anything away. Uh…about that…

  16. Lol, mother-daughter extremes 😉

    My mum has finally started to take after me: she has been doing a great job on getting rid of stuff. Don’t get me wrong, it is pretty cool to see what all she ahs kept from our childhood and to have our kids to play with those too. But isn’t it a bit much to find 9 sleeping bags that she had kept for me and my brother? Did I mentioned that we have sleeping bags in our own homes, so I have no idea how those 9 were “ours”! Well, two I cut and sowed to fit our kids and the rest found homes among friends pretty quickly.

    I would’nt want to move now but the one good thing that comes out of it (apart from a better suited home) is a proper clean!

    • That’s so funny about the sleeping bags! My in-laws are exactly the same, Vilma! I get holding onto a small handful of things of sentimental value. I have 2-3 little outfits/blankets from when each of my two were babies, but really, is there need for so much more than that?

  17. Holy shit, Nancy, I’ve spent my entire summer dunging/purging my entire house! I do it about 2x a year (cuz my kids and hoarder husband always muck it up) and it’s a pain in the ass, yet cathartic and cleansing as hell. I’ve done every closet, cabinet, drawer, etc. AND we have the same damn shredder. The fire is GENIUS idea. Why didn’t I think of that?? Totally doing it because my recent files exploration left me with 4 large piles of paperwork.

    clutter freaks my freak. Can’t have it.

    Just this morning I video taped our closets as a threat to my husband. He’d better clean out his clothes/coats or I’m putting it on YOUTUBE!!! hahahaha He’s such a collector and has so many coats, they’ve taken up the ENTIRE coat closet, plus, his clothes take up 90% of our master closet. It’s just wrong.

  18. My mom used to have a giant garage sale every summer which always conveniently fell during the week all four kids were gone for sleep away camp. We’d come back to a spanking clean house and a month worth of, “Hey, Mom, have you seen my???” Sneaky woman …
    Good luck with the clean-up. So glad to hear the yoga is working its magic.

  19. “But then I snapped to my senses. A fire!” Hahhahahahahahaha!!!!! I love how your posts always make me smile. And good on you for clearing things out. It feels great 🙂 XXX

  20. Hehe, I love your new signature “Keep moving [and open yourself to yoga]”! And don’t get me started on the hoarding. My dread of it is so bad I could never even watch an episode.

    We have talked about my mom. Her inability to throw anything away made me a minimalist before that was even trendy. Earlier this year I went through all her old papers, and put aside a ton for shredding. Our town actually brings in an on-site shredder truck as a community service a couple of times a year. I knew when it was scheduled, and filled a plastic storage bin with mostly her stuff, but some of ours too. Cathartic and freeing! I never have yard sales. I could not deal with the cheapskates either. I donate and use It’s Deductible with TurboTax to estimate the write-off.

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