How I Ended Up With A Cluttered Home
The path to overwhelm began a long time ago! I was born in Kent, England as the second of, eventually three girls. A month after I was born my father joined the army but when I was born he was a carpet fitter. My parents divorced when I was 16 and we were living in Scotland which is the only place that feels like home but I’ve been a nomad my whole life so home is a difficult concept.
Until my oldest daughter was born I had maybe 3 or 4 childhood memories at most. When she was born the floodgates opened and many of the memories that were unlocked were not good ones. There are still huge holes in my memory, especially memories of holidays and birthdays. I’ve been told that, with some therapy I could get those back too but honestly why would I want to? The bad ones were locked and the worst ones I apparently can’t unlock without help. But I would rather move on than dwell in the past so I leave them locked away in the back of my mind.
What got unlocked after my first child was born was being rejected a lot, living in a chaotic home where I often felt I wasn’t even on the radar, except when I was made responsible for a lot of things from an early age, like having to try and change my one year old sister’s diaper when I was only three and a half myself because the only other person in the house was downstairs drunk, and being effectively robbed of my childhood.
I also realized that a lot of the rejection I felt was simply my sisters trying to survive their own part of the nightmare. We all suffered in the chaos and maybe it was the best it could be and maybe it wasn’t. I’m a work in progress as I am still working on believing that my parents did the best they could with the tools they had. Maybe they were just unprepared for parenthood but then how many of us actually are prepared for the changes it makes in our lives or the ghosts it brings up
From my sisters’ perspective I think I was seen as the golden child that was the favorite of the man that was hurting them so much. In reality I was the powder keg that threatened to blow his world apart, the loose cannon that could sink everything. I fought back against him and got beaten as a result and I think he knew that if he pushed it he would end up injuring me so badly that the authorities would be called and he’d go to prison. So I was left alone. But I was also excluded. My sisters were taken on skiing trips, not me. They were included in family photos that I was often shunned from (by him). I was sent away from the dinner table for talking too much, or too little, eating too fast, or too slow...and a million other reasons.
As an adult I tried to compensate for those feelings of unworthiness and rejection by buying my kids everything. If they showed an interest in anything I went all-out to support that because it had never been supported for me. That led to a house filled with toys and craft supplies and just stuff and to me pushing them in directions I thought they wanted to go. But in reality it was me trying to make up for not having the ability to pursue my own interests as a child. .
I’m now realizing that I can’t deal with my past by stuffing my house full of things I was never given as a kid. That isn’t going to help anyone; it doesn’t help me and it doesn’t help my kids live a happier life. What I really want to do is break the chain and make my life and theirs better. To stop the effects of the past from ruining the future. This is what I have been working on for over ten years now. It’s been long, slow progress because I’ve had to figure out every last step myself.
But how did I overcome such a rocky start? By a lot of reading and soul searching and realizing that I wasn’t born broken, I don’t have to feel broken and I can’t buy my way out of feeling crappy. As I began to feel less broken I realized that all the things in the house were as a result of feeling broken and, if I’m not broken I don’t need them. It was like waking up one morning in someone else’s house and that house was a mess! Over the last few years I have sold, thrown or given away, or donated at least 75% of the contents of the house and massively curtailed the amount that comes in.
Right now I’m in another purging phase as I realize there are some things that I have been carrying around that i just don’t need and don’t even like. Like my Grandfather’s old desk. Sure it’s an antique and it’s kinda pretty but I hate working at it and so did he! I remember when my grandparents were moving into assisted living and I said I would take the desk. He looked at me puzzled and asked why I wanted it, it’s horrible. I wanted it to have a piece of him with me and I’ve been schlepping it around for 30 years. But he’s always with me as I look in the mirror, in our shared love of plants and growing food, and in my memories so I don’t need to keep this desk that neither he or I actually like. It’s going to be sold in this latest purge and I will use the money to buy a desk I like. I wonder what desk he would have bought if he had the money.