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Uncluttering

June 24, 2011

I feel as though I’ve been digging out from beneath the pile of rubble that is living with illness, and can finally see the light of day. Specifically, I feel as though I’ve overcome the mountain of clutter that accumulated while I was ill: bottles of lotion, vitamins, canned beans and frozen vegetables. Shampoo, from the time when I kept buying different lotions and shampoos to see which smell I could tolerate, and because I could never remember what I was out of. The same with spices. I still have triplicate ginger and duplicate cumin, but not duplicate cinnamon any more, because I dumped out all I had into my garden in a mountain-wisdom inspired effort to drive away snakes — it appears to have worked. For a year, since we moved into our new, big house that has a place for everything, my mantra has been, “use it up,” and I have.

That paragraph conveys an image of a cluttered home, and that’s nowhere near my reality. People visiting my house, even my good friends who feel free to snoop in my cabinets and drawers, would not call my style of living “cluttered.” It’s not. It’s the opposite.

My home lies at the point where monastic, undecorated, and lived-in intersect. But even so, there is too much clutter for me.

Clutter breeds clutter. One piece of unopened junk mail out of place on a table will metastasize into three giant piles of clutter in the blink of an eye. I know if I leave one bottle of almost-empty conditioner in the shower, before I can turn around, there will be five, and three of them will have goo beneath. Odd socks in the laundry room metamorphose into wire hangers crowding the clothes in my closet, and I just know that when we’re all sleeping, my children’s stuffed animals, the ones not sitting cutely on the shelf, engage in a Hieronymous  Boschesque orgy of reproduction beneath the sofa — how else can there be so many, staring mutely at me with their cute glassy eyes, imploring, “No, don’t throw us away!” I don’t, but I want to, because lurking clutter strikes a fear deep in my psyche that is beyond rational.

Outside, the piles of rubble that punctuated our back yard when we moved in have been reduced to remnants waiting to become planted beds. Inside, the last few household items I wasn’t quite sure what to do with when moved now have places. The drawers and closets, even the attics, are all tidy. The seemingly endless piles of unwashed and unfolded laundry have transformed into an ongoing process of washing, drying, folding, and putting away into drawers that miraculously have space.

I’ve gotten a handle on the whole thing, but still, when I see a mess, I become paralyzed with panic. It’s dysfunctional, but just one of many ways the fear of cancer recurrence creeps out of the edges of my unconsciousness to affect my life in ways I can’t begin to convey.

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One Comment
  1. Mary Knapp permalink

    Junk mail metastasizing….makes me think of all the ways being a cancer survivor influences your perspective.

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