Clutter Calamity! by Claire

I received this story from Claire at the bottom of a long list of comments to Wednesday’s post. It is a cautionary tale of a near catastrophe all in the attempt to save some meaningless stuff. She learned more than one lesson through this experience. One is don’t risk your neck to save something far less important, and the other, sometimes you must make a choice of what is more important in your life. In her case the choice was pets or stuff likely to be damaged by said pets. Here is what Claire wrote.

“Colleen, I have a decluttering story I don’t know where to post but knew someone here would appreciate!  It goes along with a recent comment where we were discussing how many vases we all have in a different post.  I remarked that we have five vases that I could think of and could probably get rid of one or two of those.  

Well, last night at 11 pm my cats decided to chase each other onto the dining room table which they have done several times since I have been letting them play together (one is 2 years old and one is 6 months).  I have two matching vases on the dining room table – I used to have three but the 2 year old knocked one off when he was 6 months old…..and then there were two.

Well, as you can guess the cats knocked over both vases last night and I spun around from the kitchen sink to see this and ran into the dining room, about a distance of only 10 ft.  The vases were rolling across the dining table – when I bit the dust and slipped on our polished concrete floors.  I landed on my leg, rear and bad arm.  Thankfully my husband was running in from the other room and caught both vases before they hit the concrete.  I sat on the floor another 5 minutes laughing and crying.  It was pretty comical – if it hadn’t hurt so much!  I’m lucky to be just a bit sore today but I cringe at how close I came to hitting my head on the stone countertop or corner of the glass dining table.  

Here’s the decluttering part – I KNEW this would happen!  I knew someday the cats would knock over one or more of those vases again and just assumed that at most I would lose another vase and would have to clean up 1,000 pieces of pottery from the concrete floor. That would have been bad enough.  But I didn’t calculate that one or two of us would be risking our neck to run to catch them.  Something told me when the first one broke that the others were an accident waiting to happen, I should have gotten rid of them then.  So last night, when I finally got up off the floor, I put both of those vases in a box in the give away pile!  Bummer is, I still think they are pretty and really like them!  They are just too unstable for a house with cats.  Lesson is, I guess, what you think might happen probably will, and might even come with a consequence or two that you didn’t imagine!  Stuff isn’t worth a broken bone or worse……”

Have you ever encountered a clash between lifestyle choices and your home setup ~ pets and breakables on display, kids and pale carpet, allergies and furnishings, furniture and floorspace, kitchen gadgets and cupboard space, fashion and closet size, husband and decor choices (ha ha), laziness and tidiness, convenience and order… .  No matter what the situation there are choices to be made. We need to decide what is more important to us and then take the necessary steps to act of those choices. For Claire it was the cats, the vases or be prepared to clean up the mess rather than risk life and limb the next time the cats are up to mischief. I sure, she loves the cats, and it is hard not to act on impulse in the face of calamity so the safest thing to do was to declutter the vases. Yes she could store them in a cupboard somewhere, but for what? To bring them out when there are flowers to display and add extra potential mess to the inevitable. I don’t think so.

So be realistic about what is most important to you. There are always compromised to be made. Consider all those compromises when choosing what to keep in your home. I know I would choose piece of mind over stuff any day.

Today’s Mini Mission

If you have stuff stored under beds in your home take a look and see if you can find something there to declutter.

“If we do not feel grateful for what we already have, what makes us think we’d be happy with more?” — Unknown


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  • An Update On ~ Five Items I Won’t Declutter Way way back on Day 258 of my decluttering journey I wrote this post on five items I won't declutter. Today I am writing an update on that post. Pictured below are the five items in […]
  • Cascade Cleaning I made a mistake in my sudoku while having my morning cup of tea and needed my correction pen. One thing led to another resulting in a tidy bedside table and kitchen bench among other […]
About Colleen Madsen

Colleen is the founder of 365 Less Things and lives in Newcastle, Australia.

Comments

  1. I whole heartedly agree with this post and your advice Colleen. And Claire’s story is a great example and causes me to groan thanking about similar instances that happened to us in the past. We KNOW our loved ones and pets are more important than things so it seems like a no-brainer that that is where our treasure lies but we are human and seem to forget sometimes. I know for years I have been gently (and sometimes not so gently) urging my husband to get rid of some large pieces of metal steel tanks that he is keeping in hopes of making a crucible some day. I feel like I have said goodbye to so much that maybe it’s okay to ask him to pick up his stuff. My husband who is an absolute minimalist in the home has always accumulated junk in the yard. Thankfully the last couple years he has been slowly organizing his tools and letting go of steel for others to recycle, he is finally seeing with our boys that if it can happen, it will happen. One of his sisters found this out the hard way when her nine-month-old pulled a entertainment cabinet piled high with junk on top of himself. Thankfully he escaped with just a broken wrist and a concussion. Some kids are not so lucky and it just is not worth it in any degree!

    • Jean, such a scary story about your nephew. I have heard of this happening before. Thank goodness he’s ok.
      The steel in the backyard does sound like something boys would get into! I have two grown boys with their fair share of scars from that kind of adventure. I would have been ok with a few less scars and stories to tell. I hope the opportunity will arise for your husband to be able to recycle the steel happily.
      This also made me think of what might have happened here if our cats did this when my elderly parents were visiting. I can easily see my mom running to catch the vases and ending up on the floor with much worse consequences. Yikes, I need to get everyone some no-skid slippers now!

      • It’s too bad because that polished concrete can look so shnazzy and upscale. And hard floors are the best.

    • Hi Jean, it is certainly worth mentioning, and on a regular basis, to your husband what things he has that you think should be decluttered. Sometimes it doesn’t sink in right away but by planting the seed of thought you never know what might grow.
      As for your nephew, that must have been a frightening experience for your sister. It was certainly lucky that he wasn’t more seriously hurt. I know people who think that you shouldn’t need to baby proof your home but aside from constantly smacking or mentally scolding a child for touching I don’t see how one can convince them to leave things alone they aren’t meant to touch. Personally I think it is better for both the child and the adults to do the baby proofing.

      • I concur whole heartedly. When I was pregnant I baby proofed my house and I am so glad I did. And by degrees it has grown to be “autistic kid proof”. It was actually my sister-in-law, my sister is actually quite like me in the way she manages clutter, thankfully. Her daughter is following in her footsteps. The nephew I mentioned is 14 now and no worse for the experience.
        I remember witnessing someone smack their baby for touching something years ago and I vowed to myself that would never be me.

  2. When my son was born, over 40 years ago, my Mum and Dad came to visit. On the hearth I had a beautiful opaque Italian glass vase bought by my husband as a special gift to me. Mum looked at it and said I should move it to a more sensible position because once baby was walking he would break it. Oh no said I, I will teach him what he must/ mustn’t touch. Fast forward about 12 months and unsteady on his feet, newly learning to walk baby son, suddenly capsizes and sits down hard straight onto the precious vase. Vase ended in fragments, thankfully son survived unhurt. Mum not able to have the last laugh as sadly she died when baby was 3 months old. Moral of the story: if you have favourite vases keep them in a place well away from babies, small children and pets!

    • Hi Linda funny you should mention the perils of thinking you can get by with breakables around toddlers. You can read my opinion on the matter above in a response to Jean’s comment.

  3. Oh this is so tragic Linda! But it could have been worse. So glad your little son wasn’t hurt. There is something about instinct and intuition that comes with age and experience. Your mum called that 100%!

  4. Claire – I was happy to hear from yesterday’s thread that you are recovering from your tumble. I decided to tempt the Gravity Gods and put a vase up on the table but the cat gave me one of those looks that indicated that random acts of vandalism were at her discretion and not on my timetable.

    I have young nieces and nephew who visit from time to time, so I’m familiar with what is breakable and a hazard. I’m not precious over things getting broken to be honest but I’d hate them to get cut or upset.

    I remember an episode of Hoarders and the psychologist had to give them a reality check by staging a fire drill, the drill held during daylight the mother and daughter got out just as their two minutes had elapsed but the drill after dark and with a smoke machine, they didn’t get out in the two minute deadline. I read an article from the UK of a grandchild who was lost in a fire at a hoarders home, the fire crew just couldn’t get in the house, so tragic. I know those are extreme examples and a far cry from what we are discussing today.

    • Hi Moni, your fire example is always a good thing to bring up and keep in mind. It may be an extreme case but it may divert someone from becoming one of those extreme cases when they are well and truly heading that way with the accumulation of clutter.

    • Moni – cats and vases seem to be a bad combination! God forbid the vase falls on a cat. I’d never forgive myself for that!
      I’ve watched a lot of episodes of Hoarders too. They are very motivational for me. Our place looks like almost the opposite of a hoarded house but it helps me remain vigilant about not letting things accumulate. Those houses are so dangerous in so many ways. The fire risk is so scary. I saw one where the man had newspapers piled to the ceiling, so much that you had to crawl across them to get from room to room and your head would touch the ceiling. He had his GAS range burning day and night for heat! An open flame! This was just so sad. I do like that they help the person out though and that usually by the end of the show they have really improved the home.
      My own parents home has several hazards. I would help them in a heart beat but they do not want help or see the need or risk. It leaves me with a terrible feeling of helplessness. I hope someday they will let me help.

  5. Ouch, Claire, that sounds painful. Glad you are feeling better today, and that you didn’t end up with thousands of shards of glass all over the floor. It’s a good reminder that we definitely don’t need to be hurting ourselves on behalf of our stuff. I am so worried about my dad who has taken it into his head to clean out his attic, full of the accumulated junk of the last forty years. The last time I went up there I lost my footing on the ladder and fell a bit awkwardly, and I was only bringing down a very small light bag of items. He is talking about unwieldy cardboard boxes. I told him rather bluntly that he has enough clutter to deal with in every other room of the house, all within arm’s reach, but he is being stubborn about the attic. He has promised to ask a friend to be there to help and next time I’m there I’ll try and spend some time working on it too.

    • Christine – I worry about elderly people in these situations. I wonder why he is so focused on the attic, maybe he is looking for something in particular. I assume you live a distance away, is there an organisation in his town who could assist? Or do you have any siblings you could call on to organise a working bee?

    • Christine – sometimes High Schools have a work experience day to raise money, some young strong backs for a set fee might be an option you could consider.

      • Thanks for your concern and ideas Moni. I am indeed a long way away, I’m in the US and he is in the UK. We usually visit once a year but we’re always running around seeing family so there never seems to be time for these kinds of jobs, plus I know my dad dreads the whole process and really struggles with letting things go. I don’t know what is the attraction of the attic, maybe he thinks it’ll be easier to part with those really old things rather than dealing with all the familiar stuff in the rest of the house. I shall do my best to help out with it all next time we are there and I think I have persuaded him not to go up there when he is alone in the house. I hadn’t heard about high schoolers helping with such projects but that is an excellent idea. Apparently some of the local high school kids sometimes go to his University of the Third Age meetings to help the seniors with their computer questions, but I’m sure many people could gladly use help with things in their homes as well.

    • Hi Christine, I can understand your concern in this situation. Let’s hope it doesn’t become an “I told you so” story. Are you also a little concerned, since he is ignoring the rest of the house, that he might just bring that stuff down form the attic and it just ends up being part of the already growing clutter in the living part of the house. Let us also hope that isn’t the case.

      • Hi Colleen, I’m afraid you may well be right, I can imagine him finding all kinds of forgotten “treasures” up there, many of them sentimental, that will join the rest of the stuff. I’m very glad that he is now open to getting rid of this accumulation but I know how hard he finds it in practice.

    • Christine – I can really relate to your worry with your dad. My parents live about 2,000 miles from us and, despite their age, still want to keep tempting fate. Several years ago my mom fell off of a ladder in her living room – while my dad was out of town! She broke ribs in that fall and could barely make it to the telephone to call for help. My MIL also fell off of her kitchen counter top where she was standing to adjust a curtain. She landed on the opened dishwasher door and somehow escaped major injury. After the ladder incident with my mom I vowed to myself never to get up on a ladder (or countertop!) while home alone – at least! I hope your father will think better of his idea to declutter the attic until he can get some help with it!

    • Hi Christine!

      Perhaps he is focussing on the attic because he knows that he won’t be able to go up there for much longer,while he feels he still has plenty of time to deal with the other stuff.
      I wish him and you the very best for that endeavour!

  6. I enjoyed this and all the comments. I told my mom once that if she didn’t like the way people handled her special things she either needed to get rid of them, put them where most would not see them or tell people to keep their hands off (in a nice way–like that would help). She didn’t like my advice.

    • Deb J,
      I agree with you. Loved Claire’s story and everyone’s comments. If I didn’t know any better, I would think that you and I had the same Mom and were separated at birth, haha! You will appreciate this story. My Mom’s 30 year old furnace went out. Keep in mind that money is not a concern of hers. She decides to spend $600 to have her handyman fix it. Didn’t work. So, now she is out $600 and has to spend over $15,000 for a new furnace. Everyone loves to save money, even if you have gobs of it, but really….at 86 years old, with the means, why would you not just replace it with a new energy efficient model?
      She didn’t like my advice on that either, haha!

      • Ha Kimberley! Too funny. When it comes to things we already have I try to let her decide but when it is new things I get what I think is best. Otherwise we would be either swamped in debt (she believes salemen too much) or living in squalor (she doesn’t like to spend money for repairs either.

  7. Loved your story Claire. Cheers

  8. I’ve only commented once before (a few weeks ago), but I’ve been reading the comments every day for a while. I’m so glad you are okay, Claire! Funny story, other than you falling down. The stories about toddlers were also funny. I was back home on the US mainland (I live in Hawaii) two weeks ago, and I caught my little one-year-old nephew shaking his finger at my laptop, saying “No no! No no!” LOL. He has obviously been taught (scolded?) not to touch such things. It was hilarious. But I definitely believe in child-proofing (and cat-proofing, for that matter) homes. Why make it harder to live with babies and/or cats?

    • Thanks Melanie! I’ve never had 2 cats until now – there is a lot of running and chasing going on between them. I’m pretty sure it is going to more cat-proofing decluttering! Your nephew sounds like a fast learner!!

  9. Hi, Claire. I’m glad that you are ok. Thanks for sharing your story. I will definitely remember it for a long time!

    Hi, Christine. What you related about your father reminded me of an elderly couple who were family friends. I know that every parent is different and that family circumstances also differ. I hope you don’t mind me sharing a few observations.

    This couple initially had a difficult time letting go of their stuff, as it reminded them that their lives were coming closer to the end and it made them want to cling all the more tightly to their beloved possessions. They equated letting go with loss. However, they found it helpful to relate the many stories behind some of their more treasured possessions. It was as if having someone listen to them and acknowledge the meaning of those items to them helped them to let go.

    The husband also felt that his things had reached the end of their lifespan and that nobody, except himself, would want or appreciate them. Donating some of his items to a charity sale helped him to realize (as the items sold) that his belongings still had a second lease on life.

    In the end, they kept those things that they wanted to have with them till they passed on, as well as some required for daily use. The rest were donated or thrown.

    • Nicole, this one’s going to stick in my memory for a long time too! I liked your observations about the elderly family friends who were downsizing. I will remember those for future use, thanks!

  10. Usually I get the message when somethings falls and lands right on my foot. OUCH! Sometimes we have to get beat up by our clutter before we make the decision to dispose of our foes (clutter).

    • Ha, ha Brittany, that’s it! I think these vases have been trying to send me a message – they want a new home!

  11. This is so true Brittany P, I remember plowing through a stack of clutter when I stubbed my toe on it big time. Stupid little things like that can create a sort of lesser rage that provides a lot of motivation to change things.