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OK, I hit bottom. My house is COMPLETELY unmanageable.

Old 05-19-2013, 10:56 AM
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OK, I hit bottom. My house is COMPLETELY unmanageable.

This is, and isn't, a bit OT. I'm sure a lot of the effects of alcoholism (other people's and my own) have contributed to this situation, but I am officially asking for help. Sorry, but it's long post. Feel free to skip if you aren't interested in hearing about housekeeping issues.

I moved into my modest 35-y/o townhome seven years ago. I bought it because we sold the property I had owned with the last guy I lived with, and thought it made sense to buy rather than continue to rent the apartment (an AWESOME apartment with awesome views, BTW). I had the place inspected and it had been lovingly maintained by the previous owners (who bought it new).

I never really got properly unpacked/organized (or what passes for organized for me) because my adult son moved in with me the first week I was here (moved from Colorado). He stayed with me for only a year, but during that time I wound up with two cats (he wanted them, I was basically stuck with them after he moved back to Colorado). My drinking continued to ramp up for the following year, but I got sober a year after he moved back.

So the place was pretty unkempt by then, and to make matters worse, my fourth day sober a sewer backed up into my basement COMPLETELY flooding it. I lost a lot of stuff, and they had to rip out the carpet and flooring. I was insured but held off a bit on replacing the flooring until I took care of some other projects I wanted to do--including some renovations to the basement.

By the next year I was working on some of those renovations--planning, etc.--and I found a friend in AA who was a carpenter and he was taking care of some minor problems I was having with sticking windows and stuff. He discovered, when trying to fix one of the basement windows, that my house was SINKING, and I had developed huge cracks in the foundation that were not there when I bought it. So that resulted in engineering consultations, discovering a collapsing retaining wall owned by the Homeowners' Association was probably causing/contributing to the problem, hiring a lawyer, fighting to get the wall replaced. The retaining wall is now replaced but I am trying to get them to help pay for the damages. More attorney's fees and engineering fees later, and we still haven't seen a dime.

Just before I retired, my icemaker leaked, causing water to soak through the floor on the first floor into the basement. More damage, as they had to rip out the basement ceiling to dry out the flooring. The living room rug, which already needed replacing, had to be partially ripped out.

By this time, I pretty much had given up on trying to do ANYTHING at home. I quite cleaning, I quit putting anything away. It is such a mess right now that cleaning is a losing battle, and everything is piled all over the place. I'm not a hoarder (have no problem throwing stuff out) but I cannot figure out what to do with anything, and so it pretty much stays where it gets dropped. I manage to stay on top of my finances (though the paperwork is a mess, too--I pay bills immediately when they come in, and have autopay set up for almost everything), and I manage to do my job, but my home office is a disaster, too.

I can't have anyone in my house (my neighbors take care of my cats when I'm gone but I try to pick up a bit if they are coming in), and I don't even like to have workmen in here. I feel extraordinarily embarrassed and ashamed of the way the place looks. Please be assured, I am NOT exaggerating. The place is disgusting. Because I have not let the cats into the basement since everything is piled up down there, I have the litter box in the living room. I need to get it back into the basement, but I don't want to do much with the basement until I get the foundation fixed (probably two walls will have to be torn out, I am told).

So I am feeling trapped in this squalor. I finally sent an email to a home organizer/life coach from Angie's List. She has glowing testimonials there from clients, her fees seem very reasonable, and she seems to be very nice and non-judgmental. I already got a call from her and we are playing phone tag.

My older son is planning to visit later this summer and I want to have the place at least somewhat under control before he gets here. I want to be able to invite friends over. I want to be able to move around in my own home again.

I can afford the organizer, and once we get things under control, I can afford to have someone come in and clean every couple of weeks.

Anyway, as I said, I have hit my bottom with this situation. I feel better just for having made the call. I spent the weekend cleaning out my clothes closets and I took four HUGE bins to Goodwill. So that's a start. I gave away stuff with tags that I have never worn, as well as stuff I haven't worn in years. It's a start.

Thanks for listening--this has been a huge burden on me, and just as with the drinking, the insanity of living with an alcoholic, and a couple of other unmanageable situations, just getting it off your chest helps.
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Old 05-19-2013, 11:08 AM
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I can't even imagine how frustrating and hopeless all that must seem! Holy craparoni! BUT--you made a start on fixing the problem, right? You called and got someone to help you. "The journey of a thousand miles starts w/a single step", and the cleaning up of a zillion messes begins w/getting someone to help you find a corner to dig out from.

Best wishes w/all of that--I'm sorry you have to deal w/so much crap but feel confident you'll overcome! Again, my sympathy on having this dumped on you.
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Old 05-19-2013, 11:37 AM
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I am so glad that you decided to get help on this - I have heard great things about home organizers and the work they do. I think you will feel a lot better when this is taken care of.
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Old 05-19-2013, 11:46 AM
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While I haven't encountered this problem myself, I have seen mention in other forums about ways to completely clean your home in 15 minutes per day for a month.

There are many resources online, but this blog seemed interesting:

Organizing Made Fun

I know what you mean that it seems pointless to keep a clean house when the house itself may sink into oblivion. But a clean house will help you feel better about life in general. Good luck!
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Old 05-19-2013, 11:52 AM
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Thanks, Charlie, but I have read ALL the organizer/cleaning things around. (FlyLady, etc.) I completely cleaned and organized my old apartment years ago using those methods, but it is beyond that at this point (for me, anyway) without help. I get started and then I can't seem to continue and the effort in starting creates new messes and it just seems to get worse.

I think stuff like that will help once I get the basics done, but it's getting to that point that is hanging me up.
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Old 05-19-2013, 11:57 AM
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OMG, I just had to respond to this.

I went through a lot of similar things that you are going through, I'm still going through a lot of it, but by the end of this summer, things should be manageable by that time.

I bought a foreclosure, because that was all that I could afford. A raised ranch log cabin.

I already knew that I had a lot of work to do with the place. Knew that I had to replace the carpeting, remodel the kitchen. Knew the place had carpenter bees, but never really knew the damage that they did, and I purchased the house in February so I did not see them. Plus I figured that I am really quite handy, so I considered it a challenge, and something that will keep me busy for awhile.

So, I moved in..... Had no furniture except for some patio furniture. Used patio table as my kitchen table, outdoor (really old) lawn furniture for my living room. An air mattress for my bed, then eventually someone had given me an old bed that they had.

So, life is good, right????

Tried to contact my ex regarding the furniture that we had to see what I could take. I wasn't living there when the house was sold, and I didn't know what he did with the furniture. He told me that it is all gone, and that none of it was mine. Did find out later on that he put it in my daughters garage, but I am a stubborn one. I refused to take any of it. It is still sitting there, and I will not touch it, it would only remind me of what an "a$$" he is.

So I really was content with starting out new.

OK, first thing I had to do was to pull up all the rugs. The house did smell, they had 3 St Bernard dogs living in there. So my first surprise was, they had poured oil or something on the floors, and I had to replace the sub floors.

Not something that I really wanted to do, but, ok, I can work with this!!!!! I called at least 7 or 8 contractors to replace the sub floor. They either did not show at all when they said they would, did not call to say they wouldn't show, or they would show, would say that they would get back to me with an estimate, and then I never heard from them again.

This went on for weeks, and during this time, I would try to put whatever I could on the floors to try to get the oil up, nothing I did worked. Sunk into a really bad depression, my drinking got the worse then it ever was. I got up and started drinking instead of having my coffee, lunch was beer, dinner was some more beer, while I sat and looked at that oil.

Then I would see the army of carpenter bees. I would try to leave my house, and the swarm of carpenter bees forced me back into the house.

So here I am 5 months later, still sitting on patio furniture in my house, drinking, looking at oil, watching the ants, watching the bees, and its raining, and the rain water is flooding my kitchen, I am still living out of boxes, still didn't unpack anything, because "why unpack"?, it will just be more stuff to put away once I start working on the house.

It was now getting close to the winter coming. It's Sept, and I realize that I cannot live like this through a cold winter. I got out the phone book, made a list of all the contractors again. Made my mind up to call one a day. First one doesn't return phone call, second one makes appt to come over, doesn't show. Third one does show, does give me an estimate, does come back, does replace sub floor, does remodel my kitchen, does remodel my bathroom. He was "my angel". I even went to his wedding. I was the only client that he invited.

The carpenter bees and ants ----- well I had a lot of time on my hands, so I researched them. I did have an exterminator come over, but he didn't do it right. I bought the equipment, and I took care of them.

I still have many more problems, but since the other problems were taken care of, I refinanced my house, appraised value was a lot higher now with the other work done, and took a "cash out" on it, so that I could have the carpenter bee holes filled in, and the woodpecker holes filled, ( the woodpeckers came to get the carpenter bee larva, and let me tell you this, they can do a lot of damage, lol), house will be restained, deck will be fixed and stained, basement will be finished, and guess what? I can finally start to unpack !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It took me 2 years to get here, but I will finally have a real house.

Did get a kitchen set, also a living room set, a new bed, and will work on the other furniture when I have the money. But also, made a lot of really good friends during this process.

Lexie, you will get there, and your house will be beautiful. When I bought my house I looked at it somewhat as a "project". It needed help, but so did I, and we are healing together, and that is what makes it so special to me.
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Old 05-19-2013, 12:03 PM
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I worked in sales management for a long time and an acronym we used a lot with trainees was SMART. Set goals for yourself that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely.

For example, go out today and buy an organizing system for all of your papers lying around; eg. a file cabinet and accessories, etc. Plan on tackling everything paper related in one or more rooms today. I always feel like writing a bunch of small steps down and then being able to check a lot of items off makes me feel like I am actually accomplishing something.
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Old 05-19-2013, 12:10 PM
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Wow, amy,

LOL, it does sound like we both got the home ownership gods ticked off at us or something.

I have a couple of good contractors I can use, once I figure out what to do first. I'm stuck in that seemingly endless loop of, "but first I have to do x, which I can't do before I do y, and then I must do z, but x has to be done first," yada yada. I know there definitely is a way to tackle this, but my brain has gone into hiding when it comes to this. I need someone objective, who can tell me to do this first, then this, then this.

Sounds like YOU are making GREAT progress, and I know I can, too--I just need a little help.

It's funny--I went through something similar when I first owned the property with the last guy I lived with. The property was in my name, I leased it to him, so I had all kinds of tax issues to keep track of. I had always done my own taxes, but I got so stressed out trying to figure them out (I worked in law enforcement so I was terrified of making even an innocent mistake that would cause IRS problems) that I filed two extensions before FINALLY hiring an accountant. I use the same guy to this day, even though my situation is less complicated now. I find that spending money on experts is WAY better than hurting your head trying to figure stuff out on your own.
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Old 05-19-2013, 12:15 PM
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Originally Posted by CharlieNoogan View Post
For example, go out today and buy an organizing system for all of your papers lying around; eg. a file cabinet and accessories, etc.
LOL, half the stuff lying around my office IS the "organizing system" I bought. Organizing does NOT come to me naturally.

You are in management--that's what you do. I am not a good manager. Give me something to do and I can work the heck out of it. Ask me to manage a project, or system, and sorry, not my thing.
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Old 05-19-2013, 12:16 PM
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Lexie,

I do so understand about trying to get started. I know what it feels like when you start a project, like sorting through clothes, and you look at the new mess that you just made and you just want to give up. I'm still there with you.

What I try to do then is something easy, like clean my kitchen, then I look at the nice clean room, and I am motivated, so I then think of another chore to tackle, while I am feeling good about myself.

It's so hard to get motivated when you are feeling so overwhelmed.

One step at a time, and one day at a time. Break things down to a manageable level, don't try to think of everything at once.

And always remember, you are strong, you are stubborn, and you will get it done !!!!!
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Old 05-19-2013, 12:17 PM
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Lexie, rest assured that you are a member of a very LARGE sorority. If you only knew how many others have this same monkey on their backs!! It can be anyone of us--- just as often affecting very highly achieving and competent people.

For myself, when the house has gotten to the unmanageable stage--it has been when I had been overwhelmed or entirely focused on some other important aspect of my life---and it just piled, and piled, and piled up. After it passes a certain tipping point--then the issue becomes dread, fear, and an ugly little habit--procrastination. Have been there.

But, you have already done the right things!! You took the hardest step (the first step) and have gotten help. The next best gift to yourself is to have someone else com e in every 2 weeks and do some cleaning. That is soo smart. Just knowing that the cleaning lady was coming, somehow, kept me on my toes!!

Please give us a blow-by-blow of how the journey goes for you. You will inspire and help so many other sisters (and some guys).

Thanks, Lexie, for sharing with us.

very sincerely, dandylion
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Old 05-19-2013, 12:21 PM
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Google "Unfu** Your Habitat." With the "ck".

It seems silly, and it's kind of like flylady, but it's keyed into people who have disabilities and are overwhelmed by the size and scope of the household mess. There is also an app available for download. It breaks the projects down into increments and will provide projects for you if you don't know where to start. I don't follow it to a T, but it gave me a great foundation to start from. My house looks the best it ever has since I've been an adult. Still kind of cluttered from my umpteen projects, but completely livable.

Be ruthless! You can do it.
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Old 05-19-2013, 12:25 PM
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Originally Posted by Florence View Post
Google "Unfu** Your Habitat." With the "ck".

It seems silly, and it's kind of like flylady, but it's keyed into people who have disabilities and are overwhelmed by the size and scope of the household mess. There is also an app available for download. It breaks the projects down into increments and will provide projects for you if you don't know where to start. I don't follow it to a T, but it gave me a great foundation to start from. My house looks the best it ever has since I've been an adult. Still kind of cluttered from my umpteen projects, but completely livable.

Be ruthless! You can do it.
YES! This was what I was originally searching for. I knew it had a profanity in the name but I couldn't remember exactly what it was.

Good real life examples, before & after pics, etc. Pretty motivating IMHO.
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Old 05-19-2013, 12:30 PM
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I am thankful you can afford an organizer and a cleaning service. I try to learn one good habit at a time but keeping up is a struggle. I am good at throwing out 10 things a day. When I buy new clothes or shoes it replaces something. I sort out the junk mail right away. I have this written on my messy desk, 'Clutter is delayed decisions.' Best of luck!
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Old 05-19-2013, 12:33 PM
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Originally Posted by Florence View Post
Google "Unfu** Your Habitat." With the "ck".

It seems silly, and it's kind of like flylady, but it's keyed into people who have disabilities and are overwhelmed by the size and scope of the household mess.
Hey, thanks! I relate to the swearing and cursing. FlyLady is too cutesy/chirpy for me.

It looks like there are some good tips there, and it should help once I figure out the overall scheme of what I am trying to accomplish. I feel like I need to see the big picture--to get a bit of a roadmap, so to speak. Otherwise I tend to wind up re-doing stuff because once I do another part, it turns out I should have done the first part differently.

I hate to sound so helpless when it comes to this stuff. I can do so many quite complicated things well. (Trying a murder case, for example. )There are just certain things where I have a block, and this is one of them (finances are another--retirement planning, and such--I've got someone at the place that handles our retirement plan working on that piece for me).
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Old 05-19-2013, 12:38 PM
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Originally Posted by LexieCat View Post
/So I am feeling trapped in this squalor. I finally sent an email to a home organizer/life coach from Angie's List. She has glowing testimonials there from clients, her fees seem very reasonable, and she seems to be very nice and non-judgmental. I already got a call from her and we are playing phone tag.

My older son is planning to visit later this summer and I want to have the place at least somewhat under control before he gets here. I want to be able to invite friends over. I want to be able to move around in my own home again.

I can afford the organizer, and once we get things under control, I can afford to have someone come in and clean every couple of weeks.

Anyway, as I said, I have hit my bottom with this situation. I feel better just for having made the call. I spent the weekend cleaning out my clothes closets and I took four HUGE bins to Goodwill. So that's a start. I gave away stuff with tags that I have never worn, as well as stuff I haven't worn in years. It's a start.
You are not alone. One of the reasons I am moving out is because this is our house. Since we moved in 8 years ago, nothing much has gotten unpacked. There are piles everywhere ... The cats can't go in the basement s there are litter boxes in the dining room. And my husband cannot seem to organise anything, he gets stuck in the I have to do x to do y to do z, but he also won't listen to anyone else telling him how to do things... It's hopeless.

I can't and won't live like this any more. I am not sure why he does this, or recreated this chaos, but, I want to have friends over. I want to have a house. I am sad it has to be by myself. But I will be glad, if I can get through it, to have my own space. Up until this house, I had clean neat spaces and I could entertain and so on, and I hope to have that again.

Good for you. You are taking steps to fix it.
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Old 05-19-2013, 12:40 PM
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My suggestion is to tackle the basement first. You know you have to do this, they can't fix the foundation or replace any walls without getting the basement under control.

I have put this off for a long while also. Almost everything is still down the basement, but that is on my list for this week. I can't have someone come in and finish my basement with all of my stuff still down there. So while they are working on the outside of my house, I will go through at least 2 containers of things a day. Will not pick up the 3rd container until all the stuff in the other 2 were gone through, put away, or disposed of.

I am already aware that I will have a mess on my main floor, but I do know that once the basement is done, I can then put it away there, but it will be put back in some kind of order.

BTW, I have 4 cats, and I have a litter box in my kitchen, but that will also be going once the basement problem is resolved.

And I so agree with hiring experts. I can do a lot of things, but my house did become unmanageable. So I am even paying people for things that I really can do myself. It just takes less time, you see results faster, you start to feel better about yourself, and it then motivates you to do things on your list that might have at one point be # 47 or # 48.

After I get all this completed, then I will get to work on what I really do like to do, and that is landscaping.
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Old 05-19-2013, 12:43 PM
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Well, Blue, I've always tended to be on the sloppy/messy side, but it definitely got worse when I was drinking, and I never quite recovered that piece of my life when I got sober.

I hope your new place allows you to have the peaceful, orderly surroundings you long for!
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Old 05-19-2013, 12:51 PM
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Originally Posted by LexieCat View Post
Well, Blue, I've always tended to be on the sloppy/messy side, but it definitely got worse when I was drinking, and I never quite recovered that piece of my life when I got sober.

I hope your new place allows you to have the peaceful, orderly surroundings you long for!
And let me be clear, I would win no awards for housekeeping. Ever. My bathroom and kitchen are clean, dusting is just a suggestion and I hate vacuum cleaners so very much...

But up until this house, and until (as I now know) his drinking got a lot worse, everything was okay, not great, but okay. I truly think part of it is just the hamster wheel of his brain, not knowing where to get off, and one aspect that may help is me moving and getting my stuff out so that he can concentrate on sort of one thing at a time without the overwhelming "stuff". Part of it I don't know. I would pack bags for goodwill and give them to him, he would put them in the car - and four years later I go into the basement and there is a pile of them against the wall... I don't know what that's about, honestly. I just don't. But I like the idea if working on a house as prt of the healing... It's one positive way to look at it, to try to make some order out of chaos, this is one thing I can try to do.
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Old 05-19-2013, 12:51 PM
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Originally Posted by amy55 View Post
My suggestion is to tackle the basement first. You know you have to do this, they can't fix the foundation or replace any walls without getting the basement under control.
I did do a little bit on the basement, but here's the situation. The walls they will have to re-do are the OUTSIDE walls. I really don't have much in the basement now except storage stuff which can be pushed to one side or the other. I also have some junk piled up by the door I am planning to have hauled away (as soon as I get the rest of the junk in the house gathered together)

The biggest obstacle in the basement is a pool table, which I haven't quite figured out what to do with. It came with the house, and my son and his friends enjoyed it (heck, I did, too). It is very old, though, and looks more like something you would find in a pool hall than a piece of furniture. I'm sort of inclined to have it hauled off. Maybe I'll put it on Craigslist. I got rid of some other furniture that way. If I ever want another pool table I can buy one. Seems dumb to have it taking up space down there.
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