ADHD Paralysis and Getting Rid of Stuff

The relationship I couldn’t let go

ADHD Getting rid of stuffMy den, the room where I spend most of non-working hours, has been held hostage for the last year by a hulking leather sofa-bed. But today I feel like I got my house back again.

For 25 years, “Old Leather” had been a treasured piece of furniture, well built, over-sized, sinfully comfortable, the kind of piece to build a room around.  It had moved with me six times, and could have lasted a lifetime.

It met its demise at the hands – or rather claws – of a stressed-out shelter cat I adopted. For months during my home renovation, the sofa-bed sat in purgatory in an unused room. And night after night, unbeknownst to me, the cat used it as a scratching pad.  The severe damage finally became apparent when the sofa was moved into its intended place in the new den.

Although I reluctantly bought a new sofa to replace it, I couldn’t bring myself to give up Old Leather.   It was too big to maneuver into the basement, and there was nowhere else in the house for it to go. Listing it on Craigslist brought no takers (the photos of the cat scratches were discouraging).   No charity would accept it.   I couldn’t bear to have it hauled out as garbage. For months, I begged anyone and everyone to give it a good home. A few people showed interest, until they pulled out the tape measure.

And so half my den remained inaccessible, blocked by two huge sofas where there was only room for one.   I couldn’t get to my crafts table, arts books or storage closet. My most-used room was a crime against feng shui.   I am now convinced that it blocked my creative and psychological energy flow, making me feel stuck.

It is ironic that I coach many ADHD clients in similar types of dilemmas, where they feel stuck in situations that are largely of their own making. As an ADHD Coach, it is easy to see solutions. But when caught up in my own ambivalence – whether by sentiment, or horror at throwing out a perfectly good sofa-bed — I remained paralyzed and continued to do nothing.

Freedom finally arrived today via The Junk Luggers, guys who come with a truck and haul your stuff away for a fee. As they loaded the scratched old sofa-bed onto their truck, I noticed the thick seat cushions were relatively unscathed. And I just had to keep them. Because hey – who knows – I might want to re-cover them someday!

Do you have a dysfunctional relationship with “stuff” you don’t need?  Do tell – we’ll talk about why in the next post.  Please share!

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Categories: Blog,Clutter,Overwhelmed and Stuck

Author: Bonnie Mincu

28 Responses to "ADHD Paralysis and Getting Rid of Stuff"

  1. Cynthia Braun Posted on May 30, 2013 at 10:24 am

    Great article! Very common dilemma

  2. Angie Posted on May 30, 2013 at 11:41 am

    I hate getting rid of items because I always think I’m going to need them. It finally took my daughter-who was relentless – to help me let go of stuff.

    • Bonnie Mincu Posted on May 30, 2013 at 11:46 am

      Angie, your comment has perfect timing. My next blog post is all about the “I might need it someday” syndrome! (Can I adopt your daughter?)

  3. Monica Posted on May 30, 2013 at 12:36 pm

    Excellent article Bonnie! Thanks so much for sharing this blog with us! I related so much with the feeling of paralysis when facing letting go of things, specially with that stuff that I give sentimental value. As when you described about storing your sofa in an unused room, I normally put away those “important” things (that I “need” to keep) in drawers that get messier and messier, that I never open to avoid facing the “junk” I accumulate! It always struck me that I do not give those “important” things a worthy space to live in, but stuck them in a closed drawer to keep, but forget about them.

    • Bonnie Mincu Posted on May 30, 2013 at 1:35 pm

      It’s the old “out of sight, out of mind.” Though there’s something to be said for a junk drawer. If you automatically put all little miscellaneous things in ONE junk drawer, you’ll know where to go to find them!

  4. Barbara Battles Posted on May 30, 2013 at 2:46 pm

    Is this something related to ADD or is it something else at work? I am sentimental about many things and have in the past needed something I have gotten rid of shortly after finally letting go.

    I have the same paralysis about throwing away stuff and even about putting things away for fear I won’t be able to find them or that I will forget that they are there and may need attention. You know, “out of site – out of mind.”

    I am still learning about what is caused by my ADD and how I can learn to cope with the issues.

    Thanks.

    • Bonnie Mincu Posted on May 30, 2013 at 2:50 pm

      There may be something else at work, but it certainly is a common trait in ADD! There is the fear of forgetting about things when you can’t see them. But a sofabed? I must admit a lot of my paralysis was sentiment.

  5. rosie r Posted on May 30, 2013 at 3:36 pm

    and how about that beautiful old high ‘carriage pram’ still in my attic, from the days when you could leave the baby in it to sleep outdoors in the fresh air of the garden, and load with all the shopping beneath and put another toddler on the top, and it pushes like a dream because of the wonderful springs – yet none of my children would be seen dead pushing their kids in it!!! they prefer the buggies with the baby at car exhaust level… that go in and out of the car and weigh a ton..heigh ho

    • Bonnie Mincu Posted on May 30, 2013 at 6:13 pm

      That carriage pram sounds like a valuable antique — or at least it will be for your great-grandchildren. That one sounds like a keeper through the generations, especially if you have an attic. If you absolutely must get rid of it, ebay.

  6. Nona Posted on May 30, 2013 at 4:04 pm

    I have learned that very rarely have I regretted giving up something.

    Besides, if I wanted the item again, it’s most likely that I wouldn’t be able to find it!

    I’m now in the midst of a major de-cluttering project. Indeed, I just reviewed my notes from your excellent “Overwhelmed” webinar. Thanks to your information, I’m focusing on one, specific clutter pile. Since I can’t stand working on it, I allot 20 minutes to the task. If I get on a roll and want to keep at it, I keep at it.

    What helps is the fact that the clutter pile is specific; the 20 minutes are specific; I can crow with success when I complete the 20 minutes. That’s all I’m requiring of myself: that I devote the 20 minutes every day except Sunday. Oops, there’s a second requirement: I’m not allowed to add to the pile.

    The above is all based on your advice, which is really helping. THANK YOU!

    • Bonnie Mincu Posted on May 30, 2013 at 6:17 pm

      It sounds like it’s working – congratulations! For even more specific step-by-step De-Clutter advice, read the Clear Clutter Guide (free when you subscribed); you can download it at http://www.thrivewithadd.com/clearclutternow.pdf.

  7. Dennis Posted on May 30, 2013 at 5:55 pm

    I also have a difficult time to throw things away. My parents were kind of like this too, but we never had a whole lot of money, so saving things that could be useful, is something quite normal. It has been quite difficult for me to let go of even simple, useless items as well. Things do not need any value, or even any useful purpose to hang on to them. I think part of my problem with letting go of certain items that are useless to me, is the fact that they simply were once used by my parents. Maybe something just to remember them by. Things with no value, no real good use, except maybe for those who collect worthless old goods.

    I live in a small house, not much room to keep things I don’t need, or use. Hanging onto such things is crowding my space, and I myself, need to make these choices of simply getting rid of the stuff.

    Now, I don’t want to be confused with be a hoarder! I do not go out collecting things that other people throw away, or anything like that. My problem is simply that these things are still useful, and are not junk. Some of the stuff may be worth nothing, while other items may be worth a few dollars, or even more. It is not a dollar value issue though. It’s more like a relationship kind of issue, or something like that. Almost like giving away, or throwing away these items is like breaking off part of the relationship with a person. Not sure myself.. but in any case, I just need to begin to let go of many things, so I can get my space back.

    For me, I would have cut the leather off of that sofa, and used it in making other items! I am artistic, and love to make things, so I may have discarded the sofa, but to throw away all of that good (non-scratched) leather, would have been very, very difficult to do, for me.

    We live in a throw away society today. But not everything is throw away!
    Thanks for letting me share this..

    • Bonnie Mincu Posted on May 30, 2013 at 6:24 pm

      Beautifully said — I understand completely! There actually was a sentimental component to that sofa that I didn’t mention, and made it harder to let go. Because of that, I was unable to bear the thought of it sitting out by the curb, waiting for the garbage truck. If you must get rid of a sentimental item, it can help to think of someone else using it, which could happen if it’s donated to a thrift shop, or sold in a tag sale.

      I love that you can artistically re-purpose things. I still have the sofa seat cushions to do SOMETHING with.

  8. Jan Posted on May 30, 2013 at 6:04 pm

    Bonnie – You took a common, and sometimes sad, phenomenon and put a happy face on it! I think those of us who make our livings guiding others in this area are often the last to fall. Finding myself at a crossroads, I have decided to sell my way too huge home. With everyone gone, I’ve realized its main purpose now is merely to house all my “stuff.” Letting go will not be an easy task, but good memories don’t need four walls or a giant mortgage in order to live on. Thank you for picking such a great time to share your story! The photo of your sofa is on its way to my fridge door and I trust that “Coach Couch” will turn out to be a great motivator…Happy summer!
    Jan

    • Bonnie Mincu Posted on May 30, 2013 at 6:30 pm

      Jan, that’s a brave decision to sell the house. I hope you have support during the purging process. I love the phrase “Coach Couch” … the spirit of Old Leather is honored!

  9. Carol Posted on May 30, 2013 at 6:56 pm

    It’s time to come clean about items that I save and can’t bear to part with:cards-birthday cards, Christmas cards, thank you cards, just because cards. I have cards going back 10 maybe 15 years. Sometimes I will run across an old card and can’t even remember the person who gave it to me. My thinking is that someday I will get real crafty and the pretty pictures on the cards will have a purpose. Is there any hope for me? Of course, some of the cards do have sentimental value as the person who sent it is no longer around.
    Help!

    • Bonnie Mincu Posted on May 30, 2013 at 7:17 pm

      Carol, do you really need help? Perhaps you save them because going through the cards gives you pleasure. People collect all kinds of things simply because they like to look at them: owls, ceramic pigs, beads… Unless they are taking up space you really need, or have become a fire hazard, I see nothing wrong with your card collection. Sentiment and pleasurable hobbies are reasons onto themselves!

  10. Harriet Meltzer Posted on May 30, 2013 at 10:27 pm

    Dear Bonnie -what a wonderful article. Yes! I too have a difficult problem getting rid of things. Actually, I just got a truck to come today to help me unload a lot of items which needed to go in order to make space for some new construction. Although it was difficult preparing for the arrival of the truck and gathering all of the items, it felt really good to say goodbye to all of that “stuff.” Regarding a wonderful, old, comfortable couch that all of my grown children and myself had used for over 20 years…I finally got rid of that one a couple of years ago (replaced with a gorgeous, comfortable and modern one). In order to deal with the sentimentality of saying good bye to an old friend, I wrote a poem called “Ode to the Sofa” which really helped a lot. Every time I read it, it brings back some wonderful memories. (I also took several photos of the old couch as an addition to the poem). Regards!

    • Bonnie Mincu Posted on May 31, 2013 at 11:05 am

      Harriet – Trust a creative ADD person to come up with a wonderful solution to “letting go.” If you would care to submit your ODE to the SOFA, I’d print it!

  11. Patti C Posted on May 30, 2013 at 11:11 pm

    I’m a teacher and a hoarder. I’ve taught various levels from Pre-K (currently) to 6th grade (13 years ago). I can’t let go of any of my teaching “stuff” with the thought that I might need it again…I have at least 30 years until I retire. But it (along with all the stuff from my own kids) is eating me alive. I buy books by the dozen at Goodwill, for my classroom and my kids. I recently read “Does this clutter make my butt look fat” which motivated me for a little while. A very little while. I have trouble walking through my house, I never invite anyone over. I have no problem giving away stuff I KNOW I’ll never need (clothes the kids have outgrown for example), but even that, I have to “pass on” to someone I know will use it. My mother hoards also, but it’s food…her basement looks like a store, and my grandmother was depression era so SHE saved “stuff”. Is it genetic?

    • Bonnie Mincu Posted on May 31, 2013 at 11:13 am

      Patti, Hoarding behavior does tend to run in families (as does ADD / ADHD). I’m not a hoarding expert, but I would guess — since you ARE able to give away things you know you won’t need — that you’re not a hard-core hoarder. Perhaps with the help of a sympathetic professional organizer or friend acting as body-double, you would be able to purge your teaching materials. It would help if you first decide on a non-profit organization or charity that would be grateful to receive them.

  12. Judi Posted on May 31, 2013 at 1:59 am

    Just moved from a 3-story house to a 2-bedroom apartment, with husband who is ill. Talk about a one-man show! And being ruthless with “things” became giving young families and needy families things that THEY take delight in! Nice part! It will take a long while to de-carton the new dwelling, but we are certainly learning a lot. Your timed de-clutter system sounds perfect. Slowly, but surely.

    • Bonnie Mincu Posted on May 31, 2013 at 11:15 am

      Judi: You’ve discovered the joy of giving your stuff a higher purpose! (That’s what I was holding out for with my sofa-bed; alas, no one could take it.)

  13. Dennis Posted on May 31, 2013 at 3:05 am

    Bonnie, Chances are that those leather pillows are somewhat firm, since they were from the seat part of the sofa. But just maybe they would be good for sitting on the floor! Floor pillows, to either sit on, or even hug. Maybe do an Asian theme, and use them around a coffee table. Kids love to sit on the floor… Use as extra seating, when you don’t have enough for everyone! You can stand them up behind your new sofa, and they will be out of the way! If you decide you don’t really want the pillows, use the leather and have a vest made! Maybe a sack type purse? I’m just trying to be creative, and maybe one of these ideas will make you go Wow!

    • Bonnie Mincu Posted on May 31, 2013 at 11:17 am

      Yes, floor cushions is what I (vaguely) had in mind. Since they’re only leather on the top, they would have to be re-covered. Unfortunately, the leather has hundreds of tiny claw holes!

  14. Susan Edlis Posted on May 31, 2013 at 6:21 pm

    One thing I did was to get rid of Clinical Social Work Journals, and Social Work from NASW. They had been sitting on a pile on a table in my living room. I kept thinking I would read them. Some of them were still in the plastic wrapper they mailed in. What I finally did was look through the table of contents to see which article might interest me. I read the article, and then proceeded to throw out the Journal. This year, when I renewed my membership, i did not subscribe to the Journal, as some of the ones had been sitting there for two years.

    My biggest problem is my desk…it’s simply a mess. I cannot seem to get things into neat piles.

  15. Susan Edlis Posted on May 31, 2013 at 6:30 pm

    I can also identify with your couch dilemna. I had a couch that was completely falling apart. I wanted to get rid of it, but it took me forever to find a new couch! I was very happy when the porters in my building took it away, it had served it’s usefullness, and was betyond the point of salvation! However, I did keep the pillows, which I sit against when I watch television.

    • Bonnie Mincu Posted on June 3, 2013 at 5:14 pm

      I feel like I copped out by keeping the huge seat cushions. They really aren’t practical. But it made me feel better to keep them for a bit.

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