Squalor Survivors logo

Pigpen's tail tale

I used to be a perfect slob.

I couldn't eat at my table - it was piled high with junk. To sleep in my bed, I had to lift off yet more boxes of junk. In the morning I piled them back on, so there was room to get out of my bedroom. One night I was too tired to move the boxes so I decided to sleep on the sofa, just once. Six months later the boxes still occupied the prime real estate of my bed, while I made do with the sofa.

Every day I would try to clean up my mess but my efforts were ineffective. I worked all day but essentially just shifted the piles. I read Sandra Felton's books, The Messies Manual and Messies 2 (along with many other books on homemaking and organising.) But books could not solve my problem.

One day, during one of my shifting sessions, I decided to move my bed. I took off all the boxes, pushed - and it wouldn't budge. Something underneath was jamming it. There was buried treasure under there!

I uncovered a futon mattress I had abandoned years before. The futon was colourful - speckled with beautiful shades of emerald green, sapphire blue, turquoise, topaz yellow and fuchsia pink.

These were the colours of the mildew growing all over it. Worse, the mildew had even spread to the wall! I will never forget that moment. I shook with fear and shock at how low I had sunk.

But at last something triggered in my brain. I could look around the house and really see it. The mildew, the cobwebs, the dust, the piles and piles of clutter! I could hardly believe what I had created.

I couldn't sleep with...that thing in the house. After dark, I rolled the futon up in an old sheet and dragged it outside. It felt like I was disposing of a corpse.

The next morning I hired a 5 cubic meter skip. The skip looked so big when it arrived, I thought I should have hired a smaller size.

I filled it up!

For ten days I threw out all the rubbish, broken furniture, newspapers, magazines, old clothing, and mangled toys. I threw out things I was going to get repaired someday and ten-year-old projects I was going to finish someday. I threw out things that might come in handy some day and things that would have been handy except they had been ruined by years of squalor.

Till the very last hour I was cramming more stuff in there.

When I needed a break, I read Sandra Felton's books. Her advice helped with my major problem - decision-making. I discovered making a decision that might turn out later not to be the best one, was still better than making no decision at all.

Asking "What is the worst that could happen?" was another technique that worked. I would think, "What if I need this someday?" over the most worthless things. When I realised I could always get a replacement, should I ever need an item I had thrown out, it helped me to de-clutter.

I could see potential in anything. And I was so responsible, if I had no use for it myself, I would still keep it - it might come in handy someday for someone else. Sandra said in her book that keeper for the world is too big a burden for one person to bear.

She reassured me that everyone is a worthwhile person simply because they are. A person's worth is not tied up with their homemaking skills. I find that very comforting!

But I didn't take too many breaks. I focused on getting all the rubbish and junk out of my home. The deadline of the skip being picked up kept me going.

I discovered a tendency to perfectionism was holding me back. I was amazed by this realisation, because I thought a perfectionist would have a perfect house. I am far more like Pig Pen from Peanuts than the Friends character Monica. But my standards were so high, I couldn't keep them. I was a paralysed perfectionist, an all-of-the-way-or-none-of-the-way type. Mostly, none-of-the-way.

I've never gone back to being that messy again. I'm not a perfect housekeeper. I still fight slob tendencies - I'd like to kick my shoes off and relax when I get home with the groceries, drop my clothes on the bathroom floor, or leave the dishes after dinner. But I remember that mildewed futon and make myself put the groceries away, pick up my clothes, do the dishes. Like any recovered addict, I don't want to go down that path again.

I can't emphasise enough, how much cleaning up my house changed my life. It is really doggone tiring keeping a secret about how super-duper-messy your house is, always being afraid you will be found out. It is wonderful to be able to welcome friends into your home instead of pretending to be out.

Real freedom is when your insides match your outsides!

Pigpen [oink]

Receipt for hiring the dumpster

This receipt for the hire of the skip marks the date of the beginning of my recovery.

Pigpen's desk

I don't have any photos of my house at its worst, but this is my desk on a normal day...okay, it's slightly worse than normal because the digital camera had just arrived in the post and I was unpacking it, installing software, etc.

Pigpen's desk

That evening... my desk usually only looks like this immediately following a chat room challenge! ;-)

Pigpen's living room

That's my cat Milly sitting on the windowsill.

Pigpen

Me...
Mill-ee!

(taken with daughter's cellphone.)

Pigpen's mouldy futon cake

The 2005 Mouldy Futon Cake—"speckled with beautiful shades of emerald green, sapphire blue, turquoise, topaz yellow and fuchsia pink" —to celebrate 6 years since the discovery of the original.