Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Why I did 30x30 and what this blog is about

[Fair warning: this is a lengthy post. If you don't have the time or interest to read the whole thing, here's the summary: I participated in the 30x30 wardrobe challenge to put a face to the name of a child of a hoarder, to reinforce the fact that you don't need a large wardrobe to dress well, and to live with intention. To fight against the habit of pushing goals to someday and most likely never achieving them, I will be posting the progress of my own small goals and challenges to keep me accountable and to encourage others (especially fellow children of hoarders) to better their own lives, one step at a time. This project will be called Someday is Today.]

Some of you might be scratching your heads and wondering why I decided to do a wardrobe challenge on a blog that primarily addresses growing up with a hoarding parent. The connection may not be obvious, especially to those who didn't grow up in a hoard or who don't know me very well, so let me see if I can clear up the confusion.

Building good habits

First, I did it to force myself to get into the habit of updating more often since I fell off the bandwagon for a few months thanks to grad school and I wanted to establish a much better routine.

Exhibit A: Child of Hoarder

Second, I wanted to put a face to the name of a child of a hoarder. Many children of hoarders who blog do so anonymously or as close to anonymously as they can make it. I considered going this route myself because hoarding is such a personal topic and can be very embarrassing. I have changed many names of friends or simply have not given names so that my friends, family, and I can have some privacy. Ultimately though, I decided that for those who are unfamiliar with hoarding and for those who are currently living with a hoarding parent, seeing the normal looking face of a person who went through living in squalor can be powerful for the uninformed and comforting for those feeling isolated in their cluttered environment. Anyone you see, whether they look like they live or have lived in a hoard, could be affected by hoarding. It's much more common than you think. Someone does not have to look dirty or disheveled to be a hoarder or to have grown up as a child of a hoarder. In fact, many hoarders go to great lengths to look and have their children look well dressed and put together in public because they do not want anyone to be suspicious of what is actually behind closed doors.

Less equals more
The next reason why I wanted to do the 30x30 challenge is because I wanted to reinforce the fact that a large wardrobe is not required to dress well. One of the items my mother hoarded and continues to hoard religiously is clothing. We couldn't eat on the dinning room table because the table itself and all of the chairs were covered in clothing. My mother could not sleep in her bed, let alone enter her bedroom, because the bed was piled high with clothing and bags upon bags of clothing were scattered about the floor. We didn't have hampers. We had two teetering piles of dirty clothes in the hall. Our closets were full of old clothing we never wore. Clothing was not put away after it was washed and dried. It was placed in the dinning room until my mothered ironed it and we wore it that same day.

My mother was and still is a fanatic about ironing. She irons absolutely everything: t-shirts and pillowcases included. While I took a shower, she would frantically iron a top and bottom for me so that I could pull them on before running out the door. I didn't have the luxury of planning outfits when I was living with my mother. She picked out what I wore the morning I wore it. I had very little say in what I wore and, because there was so little time and planning in the morning dash, I wound up wearing a lot of the same outfits over and over again. Instead of attempting to remix what I had, we would simply go shopping fairly frequently and, therefore, add to the ever growing clothing hoard. (I would also like to add that my mother did not like me to wear anything remotely formfitting nor spend very much money, so I wound up with a lot of cheap, ill fitting clothing.) Since moving out of the hoard, I've tried to keep a smaller sized closet of items that fit me well and that I actually wear. Doing the 30x30 challenge affirmed my smaller closet and opened my eyes to new ways I can wear the clothes I already own, thus reducing my impulse to go shopping because "I have nothing to wear."

Enough of the somedays
While all of these reasons would have been enough for me to go ahead and do it, the main reason why I wanted to participate in the 30x30 wardrobe challenge is to fight against what many of us children of hoarders (and many, many other non-hoarding affiliated people) have heard our whole lives: someday change will take place, action will be taken. Someday. Hoarder's Child recently wrote a very well written, pithy post about this same idea. Someday my mother was going to go through the clothing with me. Someday my mother was going to fix the leaks in the basement and bathroom. Someday my mother was going to call the eye doctor and make an appointment for me. These somedays never came. Living in this "someday syndrome" environment caused me to think this same way for many years beyond living with my hoarding mother.

While I was battling a deep depression that landed me in the hospital, I had an epiphany: if I want things to change, I need to take those steps and those actions in order for that change to happen. Very, very few things are just going to fall into your lap without you putting in some effort. If I wanted a better life than one wallowing in depression, I needed to go out and seize it. If I wanted to save money, I would need to watch my spending and transfer that money to savings. The money just wasn't going to appear out of thin air. If I wanted to visit another country, I needed to set aside the money and make the arrangements. I wasn't going to just magically wake up in Europe one morning. If I wanted to dress better, I needed to sit down and see what I have and what looks good together. I wasn't going to look down and be wearing a well planned outfit without the planning part.

What this very lengthy post is really all about is pushing myself to live mindfully and with intention. My mother is always a victim, letting life happen to her instead of shaping her own life. I thought for a very long time that that is simply how life is, but I've come to discover how wrong that perception is. She claimed that she would clean the house someday when she had more time. I went along with that thought process, thinking that one day she'd miraculously have nothing to do but clean. What we both failed to see (and what she still fails to see) was that she sat for hours in front of the TV everyday and never made an effort to fill those hours with something more productive, like cleaning. There will never be the perfect time to reach your goals. There will always be other life things going on. She didn't need to find more time, she needed to prioritize. 

I took the 30x30 wardrobe challenge to remind myself that if I want to dress myself better, it requires some effort on my part. On a big picture level, I shared my 30x30 experience to act as a gentle reminder to my readers (especially those who are children of hoarders) that making goals, even small ones, and pushing yourself to achieve them is an incredibly important part of gleaning meaning and fulfillment out of life. It's very easy for the goals to get lost in the mix and for you to push them to someday because it's easier to do that than to take action. Plus, achieving small goals gives you the strength and willpower to achieve the bigger goals on your list.

Someday is Today
Going through 30x30 gave me the push to get my blog back to what I want it to really be about. One big step in that direction is executing the idea to start a project called Someday is Today. I will be picking a smaller goal that I've been wanting to work on and sharing the progress on the blog. My goals will cover all aspects of life and will vary in length depending upon what the goal entails. Sharing provides the duel purpose of keeping me accountable and providing encouragement for readers (especially fellow children of hoarders) to tackle their own goals. 

Stay tuned for my first goal! I hope you'll be inspired to start turning your somedays into today.

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