Over the last couple of weeks there has been a new show on called “Collection Intervention”. It is a spin off of “Hoarders”. To be honest I find all of these shows uncomfortable because you are mostly dealing with people with mental illnesses. They have intermingled their identities with their possessions. For some these items not only represent their memories but are seen as their only access to feelings of happiness. When we look at the piles of garbage we gag and wonder how they live in the filth. For many of them the do not see or smell the rubbish. They see potential. Often when the organizer picks up some item the owner quickly snatches it back saying something like, “Leave that! I’m going to use that! I can make something with that. I have plans for that if only someone would make a space for me to work. I know what I’m doing so leave my stuff alone.” It is so sad to see them in this trap. The allure of the pile is that each item in their mind has potential. Each piece of rusted metal, patterned paper, old drapes, glossy magazine, arts calendar and storage can be made into something wonderful.
I have to admit that though my home is not a labyrinth of decaying boxes I can be just as trapped in my efforts to declutter because of an item’s potential. I enjoy designing and creating rugs. Wool is the queen of materials, old Pendleton skirts and suits that will felt up when washed in hot water, are the best materials. However, there is nothing like an old worn out t-shirt for creating strips of bright colour. Having as many colours as possible gives limitless possibilities. Short of 100% cotton, I use most everything. No old clothing needs to hit the garbage. Therein lies the problem. There is no way I can hook quick enough or give the time needed to create with all this fabric. Bit by bit bins and bags overflow. But the potential. Finally you have to do the math. If you think of the square footage in your house and the amount of space dedicated to these “potential” materials you can calculate the portion of your mortgage you pay each month to store these items.
Unfortunately for me it doesn’t stop at textiles. There are claying and jewelry materials that take up three storage towers and two drawers in my kitchen. I started with the kitchen as this would keep all of my supplies out of site. Things have expanded over an entire folding table as well. Four shelves of books and magazines take up my study and three bins store dyeing supplies.
The task: Catalogue what I have and decide what potential can realistically be realized within a reasonable time frame, what needs a moratorium of purchases and what needs immediate eviction. This will take time and even the inventory will need a schedule and a deadline.
The reward: I will not get a surprise camera crew to the house with sobbing friends and family begging me to get help. I will no longer have the negative energy of an unwritten and unfulfilled “to do” list. I will have more space and a clearer focus as to what I want to do and what I enjoy doing.
I still won’t say no to a wonderful wool skirt but my potential pile has one month to be “realized” or released.
If you imagine it you can make it BUT potential is not your personal obligation. Simply put, love it and live it or lose it.
May you all make peace with the demands of potential, Deb