Yes, we’re doing another holiday episode, because I know a bunch of you are with me in the same leaky boat. Let’s see if this sounds anything like your life…
My mom, sister, and brother-in-law are visiting for Christmas. My 850-square-foot condo would not be a natural gathering point, but it’s close to many of Jordan (brother-in-law)’s relatives who are sprinkled about the region. My mom will sleep in my office on the daybed while my sister and her husband bunk out in a nearby hotel. My former husband, who is a close friend, will also be up here part of the time. I don’t know how the days are going to go, as I only have comfortable seating for 3 people if you move the sewing table so the third recliner can tip back. (Usually that’s the cats’ chair and they don’t need to recline.)
I’ve been trying to spruce up the place to get ready. Over the last few years, I’ve carted out literally car loads of stuff in an effort to get ready to move and downsize further. The problem is, the onslaught of stuff flowing back in never stops. My well-intentioned neighbor and my friend across town are both hobby bargain shoppers, trolling Goodwill and the local thrift shops for deals. They are forever finding me Stuff. I had a talk with both of them and they backed off for a while, but soon they came back with Stuff I can’t refuse—really thoughtfully picked out Stuff that of course I’ll want because it’s so special. Not so much, really, but I graciously take it and put it back out in the donation pile.
And the gifts! It’s getting so I send out bulletins to my family before my birthday and Christmas, saying please, no stuff. I list gift cards I would welcome, mostly for consumables or non-materials like iTunes or Kobo e-books. I still get boxes delivered. Managing the flow of Stuff in and out of my place is a full-time job all by itself.
A year ago last spring, I was pleased with how spare my place had become. I was ready to jettison the last of the furniture before moving, and leave with a very small truck. Then I made one of my infamous outside job attempts, delivering for a multi-local-restaurant service. I thought 3- to 4-hour shifts would be fine; after all, most of the time I would be in the car driving, with lots of healthy walking in between. I quickly discovered that in-town driving, done for more than a stop or two, is a major pain trigger. All that getting in and out of the car destabilized a rib head that had finally settled down after healing from adjacent spinal fractures, and I missed about 1 in 4 shifts before I gave up. The rib head issue didn’t settle down for months, and after that, I had a knee injury to contend with. My housekeeping suffered. A lot.
A year later, my knee is finally improving and I made a day-by-day list to be ready for my family’s visit. I’m not fully recovered, though, and my endurance is still compromised. I don’t have enough in my energy budget to meet the demands of my work day, the constant self-advocacy, physical therapy, and make my home visitor-worthy in 2 weeks. Thick dust coats my surfaces in less-used places. Drifts of unwanted, unsolicited Stuff clutter my corners. I can’t help it. I don’t have time or energy to collect it all and haul it away. My family is going to see my place like this.
This is made much worse by what happened 8 years ago. I had recently lost my job, where I had graduated from the cube farm to an office the size of my bedroom I filled with my own, specially purchased furniture. The contents of said office had to be absorbed into my small condo before sorting and finding new homes for things. My family was due to visit in a week and I had stacks of things in my living room, all designated for various donation destinations. I left for a bike ride that afternoon and woke up a week later on a respirator, having been hit by a car on my way to the Thai House to pick up take-out. My family walked into the mess I left at home and thought it was normal. A few years later, when they visited, my dad remarked, “You’ve really been working on the place.” No, that’s just how it looks when catastrophe isn’t my dominant element of décor.
I bet a lot of you are feeling the same way around now. Tell me about it! Let’s validate one another and be proud of what we do manage to accomplish instead of stressing about what we don’t.