It Was Like Going from Being Sick to Being Well

I was working with a client whose home had a rotten smell. It was the scent of food gone bad. He couldn't figure out what was causing the bad smell. I opened his fridge and took a look. On the bottom rack towards the back was a plate with a gray lump covered with plastic. It was so pungent I thought my eyes were going to melt. This was the source. We tried to figure out what the gray used to be, but couldn't tell. I went to the dumpster out back and tossed the "food".

Clutter doesn't have to be food to go bad and spoil your living space. At one point it could have been as fresh as the mystery food. But things change and what was important looses its importance. Its becomes unessential and it starts to rot in its own way. Instead of being stinky, it could make you depressed or uninspired.

It's easy to get spellbound by our things. I've been living in my apartment for a year and three months. About three months ago it started smelling like cigarette smoke. I don't smoke. It was coming out of my two closets. It was the weirdest thing. It was like my closets were smoking. I told my landlords. They said the person on the floor below me was complaining about the same thing and he didn't smoke. It turns out the guy below him smoked. It's not illegal for people to smoke in their apartments in Evanston, so there's nothing they could do about it.

I didn't try to do anything else about the smokey apartment for a while because I liked my place and didn't want to move. I was enamored by the reasons I moved into the place and the memories of waking up in the morning and feeling the sunlight on my body and looking out the window at the silhouette of the big beautiful trees. I didn't want to lose that. Meanwhile the smoke was making me sick. I had to go to the doctor and she said the smokey situation was wearing me down. That's the point for me where it was crystal clear that my place had become clutter.

I wrote a really strong letter to my landlord and they found me a new and better place to move into at a significant discount. Looking back at the experience was interesting. Trying to ignore something that wasn't working for me anymore diminished me. I shut off a part of me that was saying, "this isn't right", so things could remain as they were. But once I said, "Enough!" I felt a big part of me return. It was like going from being sick to being well.