Posted by: Hannah | 04/23/2013

on why it’s easy to get overwhelmed

We have company coming this Friday. He’s staying for a few days, so naturally, he gets the guest room.

Wait, did I say ‘guest room’? I meant ‘room with a bed in it that currently serves as the dayhome nap room’.

That’s OK, they can share. He won’t be sleeping between 1PM and 3PM. No problem.

Oh, but I should make up the bed properly. Hmm, where are the pillows?? They seem to have migrated all over the house. Guess I should buy pillows. Oh, and the lovely antique quilt on the bed is beautiful, but not very warm, and since it still gets below freezing at night I should probably put another blanket on there. Hmm, the blanket situation in this house is pretty shitty, too…

*Go to store, buy comforter, two pillow shams, pillows*

OK! Time to make up the bed. No, wait, I should wash all the bedding first. And it’s a nice day, so I should hang everything out to dry, because air-dried bedding smells so good. Hey, the comforter is so big I need to do two loads of laundry to wash the bedding.

*Do two loads of laundry, hang to dry*

All right, let’s see… I should clear out some closet space. When I’m travelling I hate living out of a suitcase. Oh dear. The closet seems to be completely crammed full of Rubbermaid storage tubs and cardboard boxes. That’s… huh.

Ah, the Rubbermaid tubs are full of Christmas decorations! Well, I can easily move those. I’ll put them in the downstairs front hallway. That’s a pretty good storage area.

Huh, the front hallway is full of… empty cardboard boxes. Some are from two Christmases ago.

*Drag empty boxes out into front yard for later crushing & bundling*

What’s this behind the boxes? Paint cans! All the colours of the house. And we’ve painted the upstairs not once but twice. That’s… a lot of paint. And rollers! And trays! OK. I’ll put all this in the hallway closet. Oh, what is in here? The old futon mattress? I could have sworn we threw that out after the Senile Old Lady Cat peed in it.

*Drag incredibly heavy and smelly futon mattress out of house, across lawn, to the end of the driveway where it can sit until garbage day on Wednesday*

*Move one million paint cans & other painting paraphernalia into closet*

*Neatly stack all boxes of Christmas decorations in front of closet*

Return to guest room closet. Realize that all the remaining boxes – three large cardboard boxes, two small ones, and a 45-gallon Rubbermaid bin on wheels are actually all full of yet more fucking stuff belonging to father-in-law, dead now for three and a half years.


Open boxes. Get incredibly pissed off that so much useless shit got saved. Stomp around in a funk for awhile. Finally decide to stash them in other places about the house depending on their actual, and I use this term loosely, sentimental value. So the box full of generic plaques marking years of service in the Rotary Club are in a non-climate controlled & rather damp storage room off the garage, whereas the box full of ship service plaques from a career in the Canadian Navy go in husband’s game room.

Finally finish clearing out closet sometime mid-afternoon. Give up on the rest.

Finish workday, realize that you’ve done exactly NOTHING ELSE IN THE WHOLE HOUSE ALL DAY. And all you have to show for a day’s worth of frustration and heavy lifting is a clothesline full of bedding, stacks of empty boxes, and one empty closet behind a closed door in a room that almost never gets used except by sleeping preschoolers.


Next morning, make the bed.



  1. I’m stressed out just reading this. I don’t know if I ever told you, but when they moved my late grandma into palliative care, we had to clean out her old apartment. My cousin said “THIS is a reason to not give knick knacks for Mother’s Day and birthdays.” Holy shit. She saved everything, and what do you do with a crappy plaster unicorn? She also had a collection of salt and pepper shakers. WHAT DOES ONE DO WITH HUNDREDS OF SALT AND PEPPER SHAKER SETS?

    • YES, EXACTLY THIS. When the kids ask me what I want for my birthday, or Mother’s Day, I ask for their time. Like, give me a gift certificate for an hour’s help weeding the garden. Or spend some time baking with me. Or take me to the park. Please, don’t give me STUFF.

  2. When I was a kid, I always thought my mom was kind of heartless because she didn’t keep all of my art and cards and crap I made for her for Mother’s Day. Now I realize she was just trying to stem the tide of crap flowing into the house at tsunami rates every. friggin. day. I find myself doing exactly the same thing. In order to placate the kids, I take photos of the art they are really proud of, put 100% tests on the fridge for a few weeks, and recycle or trash everything else. I feel I’m in a constant battle against stuff – gifts, handmedowns, school stuff, athletic gear, there is just so much stuff. Overwhelming!

    • Oh, the endless ‘art’ projects. Mother of god. Especially from Ron’s preschool, where they have an easel station and a marker station, and the kids can use as many pieces of paper as they like. Two classes a week, averaging three “masterpieces” each class… yup, they get recycled. Because OMFG.

  3. Mom kept all kinds of stuff for us (cards we made her, art, report cards, etc.). At first I thought it was pretty cool … then I moved a few times. The time I moved across the country was when I started to really slash and burn. I’m sure I got rid of at least a few things that my brother will ask about eventually. TOO BAD!

    Thankfully, Dad lives in a small-ish apartment, so sorting his hoards when he dies will only take a week … or so …

    Anyway, that must have been really frustrating. Think positive: it may not have felt like much got accomplished, but it sounds like a lot and now it’s done (for now).

  4. Oh, but an empty closet is HUGE. Although I wish I’d been there at the beginning of the process to tell you what my friend Margot once told me that made a huge impression, about trying to make a really nice guest room: “You know guests actually know that they’re not really supposed to be there.” 🙂 Also, thank you for the ‘since two Christmases ago’ reference – I think I knew I really owned my own place the first time I looked at a pile of Christmas stuff on the stair landing and realized I had meaning to put them away since Christmas and it was already November.

  5. My mother -in-law has kept everything her children ever touched, plus anything she has laid her hands on. It’s overwhelming. I have no idea what we’re going to do about it if she ever moves.

    And now, I’m going to go clean out a cupboard or a closet because even thinking about hoarders makes me need to clean.

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