I have rarely been a tidy girl or a tidy woman. Not a dirty girl, just a messy one. Does this give the impression I’m still a quirky student in my 20s? I’m not.
Even without the assignment deadlines, binge drinking and the writing of curse-word ridden poetry of my 20s, it takes a gargantuan effort for me to maintain a ‘normal’ level of order.
There’s a Jesus on my kitchen wall. He has brown, deep-set doll-like eyes and his arms are cast wide. My ten-dollar Jesus can see almost everything from here—the Singer sewing machine that belonged to my nanna, the guitar I haven’t played for more than a year, an orgy of clothes on the sun-drenched window seat.
I’m always working on it. In a recent flat inspection my place looked amazing. I filled some boxes and big black bags with stuff and shoved them in the wardrobe and also my car. Didn’t know a car could be temporary storage space? Well, there’s one of my home-making life hacks shared.
Despite selling clothes at markets, it’s as if my clothes get together and multiply when I’m not looking. I vacillate between watching Hoarders, and in recent years, anything on minimalism in which the person’s voice doesn’t annoy me.
I have resented it when ‘they’ say that our environment reflects what’s in us—as if all that is in me could possibly be summed up in objects or the lack of them. I would like to think we are all too complex to possibly allow this to be the case—and yet the stereotype of minimalism often reeks of being anal and self-righteous, whereas the hoarders featured on TV shows are full of grief and anger.
I am filled with sadness and fascination when a hoarder episode features rats, cockroaches or bags of shit and resolve not to hold on to all my stuff so tightly. I have been to spiritual healers, had hypnotherapy, did a hypnotherapy course, done Reiki I and II, paid heaps of money to have Natural Ange put clay on me, trained as a Yoga teacher, done Vipassana and Landmark courses and used to spend too much time with a tarot deck. I did these things to heal and be a better person. Better than a hoarder with dried flat cats, better than a man with thousands of rats. When I’m trying to do some home care, I listen to music and stuff I find on YouTube. I have a non-sexual thing for Eckhart Tolle and Tony Robbins. Tolle is like a sweet turtle whereas Robbins jumps into his ice-cold custom-made plunge pool every morning and has a voice that sounds like he was dragged through glass, gravel and a teaspoon of honey.
I just need to breathe properly, think big, create a morning ritual, meditate, exercise, be in the now, plan for being old and of course, let go of all expectations. Living in an exciting hodgepodge that resembles the best op shop (a secondhand store to the non-New Zealander) one could ever find doesn’t seem to lend itself to clarity of mind or reflect my real values. I attempted the Konmari method (only keep that which brings me joy) and I love listening to podcasts by the guys who call themselves The Minimalists.
I would like to now announce that I think of myself as a 'minimalist hoarder'. Yes, I’m finding the balance folks. I am no longer totally compulsive about op shopping; it’s only taken about three years of really paying attention to what is motivating me when I walk through that door and start hunting. Sometimes I have something in mind and go and look for that thing specifically—but often with this kind of hunt it’s hoping to find an unexpected treasure. Hunting for the unexpected has been pleasurable most of my life, but in recent years I saw that it was an attempt to fill a creative void.
I imagined myself as an animal observed by David Attenborough: “the creature hunts for its little treasures and continues to line an already overfilled nest due to the fear of having nothing or missing out on something”.
In addition to all my avid op shopping I felt I had the moral high ground—I wasn’t going and buying expensive things and I wasn’t wasting anything. The problem is, having things (mostly clothes) is a waste if I’m not using most of them. I noticed it on the hoarder shows—often the reason someone is keeping it all is because they don’t want it to ‘go to waste’. I think it’s because the person feels like they are going to waste, unseen and unloved, dreams decaying in the black, broken toilet.
It is unlikely anyone dreamt of lording it over a house overflowing with filth. I have maintained order and beauty in my environment before, and these days it’s looking good again—I live in a small space and can’t justify ‘keeping it all’ anymore. In the morning, as soon as the sun hits my window it catches the prisms and sends rainbows shivering around my room. I look around and I can see some space opening up. Other surfaces are still crowded; the gold and turquoise Buddha is surrounded by crystals and things I think are cute or beautiful, the shelves groan with books and papers.
I’m moving towards less because I like myself and I want to move freely, because I will not waste things or myself. I might even love myself. These days I still enjoy op shopping, but I’m donating more than I’m buying. I know what I grieve for and dream about, and I don’t hide it. Not even from myself.