Getting the House in Order – A departure from Chaos

We are riding on a wave that has been carrying us for some years now. I am ready to get off it. In large part it has been in dealing with my in-laws multi-generation accumulation of physical, material possessions. To say the least it has had a huge impact on me.
I will call this Stuff. Not just any Stuff, but old Stuff, cheap Stuff, important Stuff, sentimental Stuff and what has probably become one of my favourites to deal with, stuffed Stuff.
Stuffed Stuff is easy. You chuck it or recycle it. Or in extreme cases dispose of it in the responsible manner required as in dealing with chemicals, poisons or medication.
Old Stuff and Cheap Stuff are happy companions. We dealt with some of these through garage sales, private sales, collectors sales and trailer loads of charity shop visits or their collection points.
Scattered throughout all the Stuff we would find Important Stuff. Paperwork, photos and official documents. I will also include in this hand written letters describing defining moments in the families history and other such items. This we have documented and stored appropriately in acid free paper or filed for easy reference.
Sentimental Stuff is challenging. Especially when it is linked to emotions that are probably best dissolved and moved on from. But it is hard for some people to do this and I know it has been extremely difficult for my mother-in-law. Some of this Stuff defines her. Some of it gives her reason and justification for being how she is. Some of it has claimed and consumed so much of her time that even in a state of Stuffed Stuff it is still somehow deemed worthy of holding onto.

I may not hold any professional qualifications but after years of dealing with this issue firsthand I will stand by a very resolute opinion that much of my in-laws ill-health and mental well-being is directly as a result of hoarding so much Stuff. Two houses worth of it. There was no escape from it except the odd stay with friends, family or in a hotel room.

The underlying chaos of having too much stuff.

Much of it was dealt with by myself. Mostly for the reason that I was the only able-bodied male in the family to be able to shift all this Stuff around and there came an inevitable point some years ago – which my in-laws did not heed my warning about – that my wife and I would soon be expecting our first child and neither of us would have the time or the inclination to deal with sorting out Stuff.

What has this got to do with Permaculture?

Everything. I will start with two major points.

How can you live any form of a sustainable life if you can’t sustain yourself? That is your physical, psychological and spiritual well-being.

The second point is that in all my dealings with this Stuff I have seen so much time and money and opportunities wasted that I shudder to think of what possibilities might have existed for my in-laws and for us had none of us had to deal with this sort of Stuff in the first place. The extra time there would have been. The extra money to see to health issues and to enjoy holidays or to even renovate the family holiday home. Instead, the insidious disease of hoarding possessions held its firm grip over them.

I will chronicle some of my experience with this issue to share what I have learnt and to act as a warning. Not just to those that can benefit from this sharing, but also for my family to look back on so as not to repeat any of it. This is the story of how we got our house in order …

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