by Carolyn Noel, Webmaster, The Pain Community

I recently read an article, Does Chronic Pain Lead to Hoarding?, the photo with the article caught my eye. I lived next door for five years to a hoarder and I know what it looks like. What I saw in the photo was clutter–and I also know that quite well.

I’ve always been a perfectionist. My house was tidy with everything in its place. My movies were alphabetized on the shelf. My six hundred books were organized with the Dewey Decimal System–complete with pockets and cards to keep track of them when I loaned them out. Then, chronic pain happened and a new word entered my vocabulary–can’t.

There were so many things I truly couldn’t do and everything cost me more spoons (read The Spoon Theory if you don’t know what I mean). As the years passed, I gradually accepted all of the “can’ts” in my life. Six years ago, I bought my first house–a “fixer upper.” It was all I could afford and I guess at that point I was still thinking I could fix it up a little at a time. The reality didn’t go so well. Trying to paint and repair on a limited budget along with the constant unexpected expenses that come with owning a home in such disrepair made it impossible and I felt defeated.

Enter clutter. The constant construction zone (I didn’t even have flooring in most rooms) and my perfectionism (which is quite debilitating in situations like that) gave me an excuse for not having my home set up the way I wanted. Some things were organized like I wanted but no room was “perfect.” There were always painting supplies stacked up, hardware that needed to be installed, etc. It was definitely not a peaceful, stress-free environment.

Still–I used my “can’ts” as an excuse to accept this as just how it would be.

Something rather dramatic happened this year that helped me get out of my rut physically when it comes to my own self-care. After over 18 years of chronic pain, I finally had some improvement in my mobility (read more). At the same time, I was able to sell my “fixer upper” (3 days after I listed it “as is”–for cash!) and move to a brand new home. I was ruthless getting rid of anything I didn’t absolutely need. It was freeing!

As I sat in my new living room this Christmas and looked around, I finally felt like I had a home. The clutter was gone and I am able to keep up with everything. I still have to pace myself to keep up with the housework, but not having all the “junk” collected over the years made that task so much easier.

That article on hoarding and chronic pain caused me to do a little self-examination about all of this. Chronic pain can be paralyzing–for relationships, for personal goals, and for so many things in our lives. This crazy COVID year of 2020 has helped me to focus on what’s important and pull myself out of the pit of depression and have hope again. A good friend came over when I was moving to help pack and cleanse the clutter and give me a new start. My daughter went in the basement and purged. She put all sorts of things in black trash bags and I have no idea what was in them but I threw them out–and it felt great!

I never could have done any of this alone. I wrote an article many years ago during the beginning of this pain journey about the importance of the 3 F’s — Faith, Family and Friends. If you are feeling overwhelmed by your surroundings–call in reinforcements and kick the clutter to the curb.

As I look at the start of 2021, I look forward to the positive things this year will bring–realizing that when I take care of myself and my surroundings, I’m a much better mother, daughter, sister and friend. I encourage you to think about how you’re spending your spoons each day, determine what’s important and find your peaceful refuge from the chronic pain cycle.

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