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24 Years and a Box - Body by Henson, brain by Seuss. [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Kelly J. Cooper

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24 Years and a Box [Apr. 25th, 2012|04:29 am]
Kelly J. Cooper
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I don't write here as often as I mean to… I'm caught between expressing the trivial and the important. The trivial seems too trivial. The important seems too big to wrap with words. I want to talk about stuff, but then I don't have the energy and when I do have the energy, I don't have the time. When I finally have the energy and the time, my words dry up.

Actually, you guys don't know it, but I talk to you all the time in my head. Probably fortunately for us all, you don't answer, which is the main downside.

But today I wanted to show you guys something.

This is a picture of a box.



It's not just any box. This is a box that I packed in the summer of 1988 and took with me from my home in Mahwah, NJ to my college in New Brunswick, NJ.

Don't believe me?

My Mom brought it home from the hospital where she worked so I could use it for moving.



Room 430 in Campbell Hall was the only dorm room I ever lived in, my freshman year of college.



My Dad made up a bunch of special labels for my boxes on his PC and printed them off using his dot matrix printer.



This box was packed and unpacked in 1988, then packed again in 1989. I'm not sure, but I don't think I unpacked it after that. It's been with me through EIGHT moves across three states.

Now, today, this box is empty.

In fact, after I took this picture, I cut it into pieces and dropped it into the recycling bin there.

Why am I telling you this? Because I am a packrat.

In the last few years, I've learned a lot about myself. I have ADHD, dysthymia (chronic depression), chronic fatigue, hypersomnia, and a bunch of hoarding issues that are strongly related to my ADHD and influenced by my depression. I've also gone through some really bad relationship problems and some periods of extreme depression coupled with suicidal urges.

Although I'm constantly working on my stuff, my efforts have (ironically) gotten more focused since my ADHD diagnosis in February of 2010 (those posts can be found via the ADD tag).

In particular, I've been actively working on cleaning and organizing our house for over a year now, since I saw an ADD coach in December 2010/January 2011. Most of those posts can be found using the cleaning tag. There's a lot of overlap between the stuff related to cleaning and the stuff I tagged with ADD, but there are more posts associated with the ADD tag since those included a bunch of thinky posts as well.

After seeing the coach, I started up my 15-minute project (do at least 15 minutes of straightening, cleaning, organizing, etc.), which ran from 11 January 2011 until June, maybe mid-July 2011.

When that wasn't moving fast enough, I switched over to working with Jen Hunter (Find Your Floor). After I went through a 6-week program with her (13 July 2011 to 23 August 2011), I spent about two weeks on the body double project (well, 31 August 2011 to 10 September 2011).

Shortly after the body double project ended, in the fall of 2011 through the beginning of March, I actually cleared out someone else's apartment (they were no longer in residence). During that time, some of why I didn't post here was because I didn't think I could keep myself from talking about that apartment and I didn't want to create a confidentiality conflict. But what was critically important was that one of the inhabitants of the apartment was a hoarder, so I got to see my own behaviors reflected back at me while working through all this physical stuff.

I ended up shredding well over 50 lbs. of materials, throwing out dozens of trash bags, filling the complex's extra large recycling bins repeatedly, donating probably seven or eight bags of clothes, and freecycling a LOT of stuff. There's something very different about doing this for someone else. I realized I was half blind to all my crap.

It was… enlightening.

When that project ended, I got the opportunity to work with Jen Hunter again and that has been great. So far, we've thrown out, donated, or recycled hundreds of pounds of MY stuff. And there's lots more to do. But THIS time, we're working on the attic. My hope is to not only get rid of the psychological burden of all this crap but to also make room so that I can shift things around. If I empty space in the attic, I can move a bunch of things from the second floor up there and then have room to unpack, sort, and toss crap on the second floor. Then do the same for the first floor.

It's been intensely interesting because I'm finding things from 11 years ago as well as pockets of stuff from 15 years ago and other pockets from 20 years ago. I have been a packrat a long time and it's hard to learn to let go, but I am SO READY right now. I'm not getting rid of all of it, but I'm getting rid of a LOT and in the process, looking at old memories and remembering old friends. I'm also finding out a lot about what I want to keep and I've been thinking about why. In light of my depression and ADD, it's easy to see that I need the things that are touchstones: notes, cards, postcards, pictures, papers where I wrote something creative, the occasional contact list full of names I'd almost forgotten. Really well-crafted bags and boxes that I can use again. Jewelry (mostly relatively cheap, albeit well-made, so don't rob me).

Much of the stuff packed away up there hasn't been touched since I moved into this house in June of 2001. Many of those boxes were last packed in one of my previous moves, some more than 23 years ago… out of my dorm room and into my first apartment in 1989; from apartment to apartment all, over New Brunswick, from 1990 until 1994; from New Jersey to New Hampshire in June of 1994; from New Hampshire to Cambridge in March of 1995; from Cambridge to Somerville in June of 2001.

This is the story of 24 years and a box.
linkReply

Comments:
From: (Anonymous)
2012-04-26 11:50 am (UTC)
Omg, thank you so much for writing this, Kelly. I have been thinking recently about how hopeless my apartment is. Had not considered contacting a hoarding consultant. After reading your post, this sounds like it could be worth a shot. Can't tell you how much I appreciate reading about your experiences. Many thanks!!! Sincerely, Cherry
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[User Picture]From: kjc
2012-04-28 07:44 am (UTC)
Thank you, Cherry.
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From: i_leonardo
2012-04-26 12:04 pm (UTC)
wow....srsly!
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[User Picture]From: kjc
2012-04-28 07:44 am (UTC)
Thanks, babe.
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From: (Anonymous)
2012-04-26 02:13 pm (UTC)
Lj won't let me log in today... But this is Cecilia. And just gotta say this post is awesome. I've been doing the 15 minutes a day cleaning/straightening sinceFeb 20, and it's been good, but not enough. But better than nothing. After some other deadlines pass I might up it to 30 minutes for a while....
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[User Picture]From: kjc
2012-04-28 07:45 am (UTC)
Yeah, that's what the coach always said... "15 minutes is better than nothing." It's a good mantra. Good on you for doing it.

And thank you.
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[User Picture]From: missionista
2012-04-26 05:54 pm (UTC)
You are incredible! Thank you for posting this, and many congratulations for the great progress you are making.
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[User Picture]From: kjc
2012-04-28 07:45 am (UTC)
That's very flattering, ma'am, thank you!
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[User Picture]From: catness
2012-04-27 06:38 pm (UTC)
Wow, this is *so* epic. Congrats on unpacking that, and your internal structures. :)
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[User Picture]From: kjc
2012-04-28 07:46 am (UTC)
Heh, unpacking. You funny lady!

Thanks.
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[User Picture]From: Ken Stone
2012-04-28 07:06 pm (UTC)
From one of those random mental boxes you packed away with random faces years ago and then mostly forgot the contents of, I offer *hugs*. There might be additional moral support buried around here somewhere as well, should you have any use for it...

Ken, formerly frodo
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[User Picture]From: kjc
2012-06-04 11:04 pm (UTC)
Hey, thanks! (Sorry. I missed that you'd commented.)
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From: (Anonymous)
2012-06-04 12:29 pm (UTC)
I did not see this post - wow - that is a lot of carrying around - no wonder you are tired Keep at it
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[User Picture]From: kjc
2012-06-04 11:04 pm (UTC)
Mom? Or whomever. Thank you!
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