Kat was making the most of being in the Preparation Stage of the Stages of Readiness. She read a lot of books and articles about decluttering. She watched programs on TV and videos on YouTube. She even attended a talk at her local library about how to help someone who is hoarding.
That’s where Kat met her new friend, Mary. They sat together, chatting about the reason they’d come. Kat was quick to tell Mary that she wasn’t a hoarder, although her parents had been. Her problem was that there wasn’t enough storage at her house, and that her family wouldn’t help to deal with the stuff that needed to be organised.
As Mary explained her own situation, Kat was impressed with her honesty. She was also struck by the things the two had in common. Mary shared that she lived all alone in a big house she’d inherited from her parents, who had filled it up with hoarded things. Now Mary was surrounded by their stuff. She found it overwhelming. But she was troubled by the decisions, the what-ifs, the responsibility she felt to their memory. And she had no one willing to help her.
By the time the Q&A part of the library presentation was over, Mary and Kat had made a pact. Kat would help at Mary’s house, and vice versa. Kat felt confident. After all, other people’s stuff would be easy to declutter and organise. She’d learned so much lately, she knew she was ready.
The next week, armed with some garbage bags and the tips she’d be studying, Kat arrived at Mary’s doorstep, full of energy and a determination to help her new friend. Mary was nervous but willing to give it a go. After all, Kat’s own experience was not much different from hers. Over a cup of tea, Kat told Mary her plans.
Kat explained, “It’s ok, Mary, I’m here now. What you need is some tough love to make the tough decisions.”
And so they started. Mary would hesitate about a decision. Kat would overrule her. Mary would tell a story about the origin of the dented and rusty “antique” biscuit tin. Kat would insist it was just junk and put it into the giveaway pile. Mary would retire to the kitchen for another cup of tea to steady her nerves. Kat would sneak something into the garbage bag.
They spent some time on the kitchen pantry. Mary agreed that anything past its use by date could be tossed out. Kat proceeded with gusto. They had filled one garbage bag already when Kat started sorting through the herbs and spices. “Oh my God!” she cried. “Mary, do you realise this jar of basil is from 1995?! And this cinnamon still has the old printed price sticker attached!”
Mary, who had been stoically holding it together had had enough. “Well, let me smell the cinnamon. If it smells ok, I can still use it”, she replied. “Everyone knows those dates are just so you have to buy more.” She snatched the cinnamon and basil from Kat’s grasp, and rescued the basket of out-of-date herbs and spices as well. She called for a break and the pair sat huffily through lunch. Mary was beginning to regret trusting her new friend, and Kat was wondering what all the fuss was about. She was only trying to help!
Through mutual agreement they moved to a different part of the house. The pantry was left unfinished. Kat said, “We’ll finish it next time.” Mary thought, “There is not going to be a next time.”
But work continued until they were both exhausted. Kat was thrilled with the progress made. By the end of the day, they had filled 2 garbage bags of rubbish and 3 bags to go to charity. She offered to take the donations to the op shop herself.
Mary was relieved for the day to be over. She promised to call Kat next week so they could set a date for the decluttering session at Kat’s house.
On the drive home, Kat reflected about how much easier it was to get rid of someone else’s stuff than her own. And she got to thinking about the 3 bags of goodies in the back seat of her car. She planned to take them to the charity shop, but first she’d take them home and check through one last time. There had been some gems in there, after all. She’d heard that charity shops were inundated with unwanted stuff since the whole Marie Kondo craze. She didn’t want to be part of the problem.
When Bill came home he wondered where the 3 large bags sitting in the entrance hall had come from. He was a little hopeful that they were things heading out of their house. Maybe Kat’s new friend had helped her declutter today?
But the bags didn’t move. Over the following week, Kat checked the contents. She discovered part of a coffee machine that was the same model as hers. Perhaps she should keep the glass pot in case hers got cracked? The rest might be good for parts as well.
There was also an old half-knitted jumper that Mary had set aside for donations. What would the shop do with that, for goodness sake? But Kat could unravel the wool and make something herself. So the coffee machine and the half-made jumper stayed. And Kat wanted to check through those bags just one more time.
Then the phone call came from Mary. When would be a good time for them to work on Kat’s house?
Oh no! Kat couldn’t let Mary see that the bags, the jumper and the coffee machine hadn’t made it to the shop as she’d promised. She put off their appointment, saying that Bill was busy working in the house and didn’t want to be disturbed.
Drinking her tea alone that afternoon, she thought again about how much easier it was to help others than to deal with her own stuff. She’d learned so much already about what to do, but couldn’t yet do it for herself. It was another sign that she was still in the Preparation Stage. After all, learning is preparation, and she’ll get to the Action Stage soon enough.
In the meantime, she wondered who else she could help. Even if she never got her own house in order, she could help others. She’d seen it done on TV. She’d even had that professional organiser, Jane, come to help her, so she knows the drill.
And right then, Kat got her lightbulb moment. Maybe that’s a profession for her? She started to brainstorm business names. Maybe this was the Action Stage she needed?
Catch up on the past Adventures of Kat here…