DAY XCI

Jogged 12.7 km today at a 7:18 /km average pace.

Finished reading the second of my library requests last night, The Secret Lives of Hoarders (©2011) by Matt Paxton. This book was skewed slightly toward providing the friends and families of hoarders insights and suggestions on how to deal with people who have a hoarding problem. The tone was lighter but more practical than the previous book, The Hoarder in You, that I recently read, with less psychological examination and more direct ways to work with a person who has hoarding or clutter issues.

The two most interesting points for me:

1. The author, who is a professional house cleaner, rates hoarders or clutterers on a five level scale he has developed over the years. He explained that in the early days of his business, “the scale that my company used was a pretty subjective one and based roughly on the number of dead cats we found in a house.” He then continues, “after years of working with clients we’ve refined our language.” I found this highly amusing, because according to his description of his current scale, I would rate myself a solid “2” on his 5-point scale (with 5 being the highest level of squalor). If someone were to carefully sort through my belongings, they would find precisely two dead cats – one a completely mummified cat carcass I discovered under a house many years ago, with the second being only a skull.

2. The author, Matt Paxton, states that in his experience as a professional cleaner, 99% of the “collections” he sees are worthless.

This last statement leaves me thinking about the things I intend to get rid of by selling on eBay. My spouse occasionally helps out one of our neighbors with filing and organizing. The neighbor pays her twenty dollars an hour for her work. When I list items to sell on eBay, at best I can process two or three items per hour, and that doesn’t necessarily include the time required to photograph the items and crop and tweak the photos, and it certainly doesn’t include the time (or space) spent storing the items or shuffling them around while I’m looking for something else. With occasional exceptions, the final “take” after paying eBay and PayPal commissions and shipping costs on any single item is often less than twenty dollars. And of course there’s always a significant portion of listed items that do not sell. Is it worthwhile, then, to keep boxes full of items that I intend to sell on eBay? I’m getting better about this in that I no longer keep items that will likely bring less than ten dollars. This is a result of rising shipping costs making the sale of inexpensive items impractical for the casual “garage sale” level seller like me. Now I’m starting to think about the rest of the items I retain for future sale.

DAY XC

Last night I finished reading The Hoarder in You: How to Live a Happier, Healthier, Uncluttered Life (©2011) by Dr. Robin Zasio, the first of the “decluttering” books I requested from the library a few days ago. I found it an interesting and helpful book – I have already donated a box of magazines to the library book sale that I’ve been lugging around for fifteen years!

The main idea I gleaned from this book is the concept of “cognitive distortion,” of seeing or thinking about things differently than they actually are. In fact, I strongly, strongly recognize about eight and a half of the nine listed cognitive distortions detailed in Chapter 5, including:

  • All or none thinking, or dichotomous thinking: you see all things in black and white categories. If your performance falls short of perfect, you believe yourself to have failed.
  • Over-generalization: a single negative event seems to you a never-ending pattern of defeat.
  • Discounting the positive: you reject positive experiences by insisting that they don’t count and ignore successes.
  • Mind reading: you negatively interpret the thoughts or feelings of others even though there are no solid facts that support your conclusion.
  • Fortune-telling: anticipating that things will turn out badly and treating the prediction as an established fact.
  • Catastrophizing: expecting the worst possible outcome and responding as though your prediction will come true. This tends to lean toward highly exaggerated conclusions.
  • Emotional reasoning: Assuming that your negative emotions necessarily reflect the way things really are.
  • Should statements: you try to motivate yourself with shoulds and shouldn’ts. The emotional consequence is guilt and a perpetual feeling of failure.
  • Labeling: an extreme form of over-generalization in which, instead of identifying an error in your thinking, you attach a negative label to yourself, such as, “I’m a loser.”

I found the book easy to read, straightforward, and helpful in understanding the psychological side of not just cluttering/hoarding, but of low self-confidence in general.

DAY LXXXV

Walked, did not run, a very, very slow 4 kilometers. I was going to run again in the afternoon, but decided to work on organizing and decluttering instead.

I ended up wasting a lot of time, as is usual for me. The decluttering project turned into “reading about decluttering” online and looking at decluttering books on Amazon.com. Of course I ended up purchasing one, but it was only a Kindle eBook and it cost only two dollars. I did, however, manage to request fifteen books from the public library, including several by Don Aslett, whose Clutter’s Last Stand (which is among those I requested) is the most direct and useful book I’ve read on the subject.

The time is now 2:30 p.m., and I intend to spend the next three hours or so working on organizing and, I hope, discarding some unneeded items. I should make it a point to update this post with a note about my progress. So…

NOTE REGARDING PROGRESS: (To Be Continued)

DAY LXXXIV – Stuffocation

On a work trip to New York or London, your boss announces that you are not needed today and can have the day off. Which would you do?

The above question appears on the Stuffocation.org web site as part of an online quiz. I ran across an article by James Wallman online today about his book and concept of “stuffocation,” of feeling suffocated by our stuff. Regular readers of Chamber of Chaos know that feeling suffocated by stuff, or “stuffocation,” is one of the ongoing issues around here. Wallman suggests that perhaps those of us who are overwhelmed by “stuff” should look at replacing owing things with having experiences, or to use his term, becoming an experientalist. Wallman is getting a fair amount of press for his observations.

To me, however, Wallman seems to dwell in the rarified atmosphere of those who have plenty of money and plenty of time. When was the last time my boss sent me on a business trip to New York or London? Let me think for a moment… oh, of course; that would be… NEVER!

You see, it’s not the well-heeled or the more-than-adequately compensated people who drown their sorrows in stuff. It’s the poor people. It’s the working class who actually have to work for a living. In an interview in Forbes, Wallman suggests that sharing current experiences via Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook have become the new status symbols:

“But with all your friends, fans, and followers on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, many more will know that you’re at TEDxHOP, on a chairlift in Chamonix, or you’ve just got round a Tough Mudder course.”

On a chairlift in Chamonix. Yeah, right. I was in a big city WalMart once that had a wheelchair lift up to the second floor. That was pretty cool. But I don’t think tweeting about it would have helped my social status.

When it comes to books about hoarding and decluttering, and I’ve read quite a few, my number one recommendation is Clutter’s Last Stand by Don Aslett. Originally published in 1984 and updated in 2005, Aslett’s book addresses both the causes and the cures for clutter, for hoarding, and for finding yourself unable to let go of the stuff with which you’ve surrounded yourself. Thirty years before Wallman and his “experientalist” philosophy, Don Aslett was making the same suggestions to replace things with experiences; as an added bonus, Aslett’s writing style is hilarious and engaging as well as being inspiring.

The upside of reading about Stuffocation, and mentally comparing it to Clutter’s Last Stand (great pun, that title; I don’t know how many “of these kids today” would even get the reference), is that I’m finding myself re-inspired to continue my own assault on clutter… and I hope make a few bucks via eBay while I’m at it!

Back to jogging today: jogged 14k without walking, average pace 7:05/km. Weight is around 202.

DAY LXXXIII

Friday. Still didn’t feel like running. Weight was down a tad. But then I had “Ice Cream Night,” but I went a little easier on the toppings than usual.

Good post on the SingleDadFitDad fitness website about becoming discouraged when surrounded by people who are fitter, stronger, and better (at everything) than you are. Finally, a fitness blogger who recognizes that yes, this is a real challenge, and who does not simply gloss over the issue with a blithe comment about “other people don’t matter” or “focus on your own goals.”

A stupid article on a web site called Movoto used one of my Flickr photos, a photo from the time a few years ago when I climbed the Haiku Ladder aka The Stairway to Heaven on the windward side of Oahu. Apparently, probably because the article had the word “Hawaii” in the title, it has been circulating among local Facebook users, including a number of my co-workers. Three people at work asked me about or told me about seeing my photo on Facebook (I don’t have a Facebook account) today, and another one emailed me about it after work.

Fortunately the article did not directly link to my Flickr account. I don’t necessarily want to share my “outside of work” life with my co-workers. I removed the photo from Flickr.