Saying What Needs to be Said

Saying What Needs to be Said


I keep waiting and waiting and putting it off. By that I mean writing here about you know…my “stuff”.  Why? I keep asking myself and I keep hearing the same answer—

because sometimes words don’t come easy.

And again come the whys. Why don’t words come easy anymore?  Maybe because I’ve been in a quieter, more contemplative state than what feels normal for me. Or because I’m writing so many words for other people/places/projects that for my own blog I feel tapped out. Or because there doesn’t ever feel like there’s enough time in the day. Or because I would rather use my blog for lovely things—and although I deeply believe that there is beauty in everything—life is kind of messy right now (literally).

There’s not really one, uncomplicated answer. In fact, all of these things are true and they all answer the whys together. I’m imagining there are lots of folks that can relate to some of this stuff and I know I’m not alone. And like many of you, I’m sharing plenty about my life through a continually running stream of images that tell my story in a way that feels good to me. So what’s the issue? Isn’t that enough?Why am I so desperate to share more?  Because what I am sharing through both images and words isn’t the whole story.  And considering I’m someone who has created an entire career around documenting everyday life, it seems strange (and hypocritical) that I’m not sharing it all.

 So, what is whole story?  The whole has to be the sum of all of the parts. And the parts that have never really been illuminated are the parts I’ve been ashamed and embarrassed to expose in pictures or words.  These are the parts that aren’t  shiny, bright, exciting, or pretty but they are the parts that I feel like I have to reveal to not only share my whole story but to share the whole of who I am. I’ve grown weary of keeping some things hidden because it’s exhausting quite frankly and I think it’s time to come out of the closet.

{Here comes the messy part}

I have a huge, ugly, shameful, embarrassing, on-going, often paralyzing battle with clutter.

There. I said it. Long, slow, deflating, defeating exhale.

Considering the tone of some recent posts,  I think I have  prepared everyone for the worst (a dear family member called the other day certain that something was really wrong over here because of the tone of my writing) so admitting I have a problem with clutter might leave people wondering what the big deal is. Well, for me, my clutter issues often feel insurmountable. Sure, I can joke about it, I can avoid it, I can ignore it (or at least try to) but it’s a really big, dark, debilitating issue for me and if I have learned nothing else over the years, it’s that the darkness often just needs to be illuminated to make the whole thing seem a lot less, well, dark. So I supposed, this is my attempt at using a flashlight.

This brings me back to me wanting to use my blog for lovely things and how when you’ve got a clutter problem enclosing in on you, lovely things aren’t as easily found. And let’s face it, there’s nothing about clutter that’s lovely. Alas, I am a master at shooting the things around me that bring me the most joy, comfort and peace. Anyone who has ever seen my photographic work knows that it’s a rare thing for me to disclose the mess. It’s not what brings me joy. It’s not what I want to see. And it’s certainly not what I want to elevate in my daily life. And so, no pictures of it. Or very few anyway. But, back in November, as I sat in my cluttered office, overwhelmed with hopelessness, I shared one simple image on Instagram that brought my issue and feelings to light (see the image above). After a number of long comments of people commiserating with me, I realized that there are many others with similar issues and after getting a letter in the mail that confirmed it, I realized that perhaps sharing my burden might be the only way to carry it and hopefully one day be able to leave it behind. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Today, right now, I’m finally coming out of the clutter closet with a commitment moving forward to share my “stuff”; words, pictures and all. Yes, there will be pictures (gut clinching as I type that out). I realize it’s going to be a journey, a process, a practice, an evolution and that this one post is just merely cracking the door open. But, that feels like plenty for one day.

And with all that, I might have to go lie down. Right after I clear off my bed.

  • Marcie
    Posted at 13:03h, 24 February Reply

    You know what they say? That by shedding light on the darkness…it makes that darkness disappear. And – you have done exactly that. Bravo!

    • Tracey
      Posted at 11:17h, 25 February Reply

      Thank you Marcie for always being so encouraging. It means so much.

  • Kath
    Posted at 13:52h, 24 February Reply

    Good for you!

    Used to be a clutterbug/packrat – now I’m not.

    You can do this!!

    Kath (friend of EPL)

    • Tracey
      Posted at 11:17h, 25 February Reply

      Oh yay! Thanks for the cheering on!

  • Jessica New Fuselier
    Posted at 13:55h, 24 February Reply

    Well Done! The truth will set you free. Thanks for shedding light on our “family curse.” You are inspiring more than you know. How to be Brave, and how to push through the fear and say what needs to be said anyway. I’m so very proud of you! xo

    • Tracey
      Posted at 11:18h, 25 February Reply

      xo to you my sister.

  • Xanthe
    Posted at 14:03h, 24 February Reply

    If I can do it, you can too.

    It’s not easy, I found it hard both physically and emotionally. Really hard. And I thought the process would never end. But I tell you, once the pain is over… It’s so freeing. I feel lighter. I feel better. I feel clearer.

    It’s huge. It’s so worth it.

    I’m cheering you on. If you need any guidance I’d be happy to offer a pep talk anytime. Love you xxx

    • Tracey
      Posted at 11:18h, 25 February Reply

      I long for that feeling of lighter, better & clearer. Thank you Xanthe.

  • kybarb
    Posted at 15:29h, 24 February Reply

    OMG! After the past few months imagining the worst I am ecstatic that you have finally posted your “secret”. I have the same problem and am anxious to follow along with you to clear out my own clutter! Actually I have been working on mine for a year or 2 but still have a long way to go (at least that’s how it feels to me). I would never have imagined clutter was a problem since I have always thought the photos of your home showed such beautiful clean decor which I have been quite jealous of! Thank you, brave girl, for posting! You are such an inspiration!

    • Tracey
      Posted at 11:20h, 25 February Reply

      Barb, I wondered if anyone would say that. : ) But, truthfully, it does feel as huge as those other “worse” things could. It’s such a burden! Sounds like you know too. I appreciate your kind words.

  • Misty
    Posted at 17:04h, 24 February Reply

    I was also thinking it was going to be something worse- medical, marital, etc. So I am relieved that this is what it is- but I also understand the gravity of the problem. My mom is/was a hoarder, and it pretty much destroyed my childhood, as well as my adult relationship with her. “Stuff” can be a really serious issue, no doubt. I don’t know the extent of what you are dealing with, but I will be praying that you can get the right resources in line to solve this. This makes me super extra impressed with your photography- I know how clutter can create an extra set of challenges as far as producing good images, and you have been working around it amazingly well.

    • Tracey
      Posted at 11:21h, 25 February Reply

      Yes Misty, I can work around it like no one else! : ) But, it’s time to start working through it. I know I’ve got to do it!

  • Jen Burden @WorldMomsBlog
    Posted at 18:36h, 24 February Reply

    Clutter — a sign of a working mind, I say!!

    Jen 🙂

    • Tracey
      Posted at 11:21h, 25 February Reply

      Aw, thanks Jen! : )

  • marly
    Posted at 06:26h, 25 February Reply

    Did you ever read that book Dark Side of the Light Chasers by Debbie Ford? She just died recently so it was in the news. She wrote the book several years ago and it is a lovely book that talks about how we all have sides about us that we don’t want to see. Her point is that we have to go into those dark corners if we ever want to truly become the person we want to be. Kudos to you for shedding light and beginning the hard work of understanding your dark corners. I have a family member with this problem as well and I so wish there was something I could do to help her. She told me once that she wouldn’t even call the fire department if her house was on fire – that’s how humiliated she was about the mess. And I thought that statement was more than about the fire department. I think overall in life she feels less than everyone else around her. I wish I could urge her to read your blog. Maybe you can be beacon to others going through this as well. Please know my thoughts are with you and that I’m wishing you the best!

    • Tracey
      Posted at 11:23h, 25 February Reply

      Thank you so much Marly for that resource. I cannot wait to take a peek into that book. It looks great. And yes, if my progress and process can help others, it would be the best added bonus I can think of!

  • Kristen
    Posted at 16:47h, 25 February Reply

    I am so proud of you for opening up about this. You are not alone.
    It’s going to sound strange, but is the site that helped me to pair down the physical clutter. She has something called a 27 Thing Boogie… where one day you get 27 things to throw away. The next you get 27 things to donate. Then, you throw them away and donate that day (or immediately). If you are a garage sale person, that might be harder as the longer you have to hold onto the clutter, the less freeing it becomes. Anyway, you do each once a week and before you know it, you are getting out from under the clutter. It’s so freeing.

    Freecycle was my way of getting rid of clutter. I loved that I could meet who I was “blessing” with the stuff I no longer needed.

    Anyway, just wanted to say I’m proud of you and we’re all cheering you on! Love this post.

  • Wendy T.
    Posted at 18:31h, 25 February Reply

    Good for you for sharing something that I’m sure has felt very personal. You’ve taken the first step towards conquering your demon 🙂 xoxo

  • Laura BC
    Posted at 19:04h, 25 February Reply

    I’m with you. I get so embarrassed by our house that I don’t let my daughter have friends over for play dates because I worry about what other moms might think. We have a word for the last bit of cleaning when you are out of time and have the bits left with no home – tote-ify, when everything gets stacked in a plastic tote. When I’m feeling humorous about it I state that I’m challenged by horizontal surfaces. I come by it honestly – my father has the same problem but worse.

  • Janet K
    Posted at 19:11h, 26 February Reply

    I get this in so many ways. I’m right there with you. This is one of the things I am working on for myself this year. It is something that embarrassed me about myself and I would really like to change it. I have noticed that it is something that I just have to keep working at, For me, it has become easier to break it into much smaller tasks. I found when I looked at the Big Picture, I got overwhelmed and then nothing got accomplished.
    Thanks for sharing.

  • Kim
    Posted at 19:16h, 26 February Reply

    You’re not alone Tracey! I’m constantly frustrated by the clutter and mess in my home, and I avoid capturing it in photos. I know how you feel. I’m glad you shared this.

  • Deb Medina
    Posted at 20:36h, 26 February Reply

    It just doesn’t seem right to read something so personal and not respond. Thank you for saying what needs to be said. Each of us has that part of our life that needs to be cleaned out. It helps to know we are not alone in our imperfections. I hope, tomorrow, the door opens a little wider.

  • Sue Taylor
    Posted at 03:47h, 27 February Reply

    So pleased to hear you, Tracey.
    Clutter has a ‘role’ in our lives. Sometimes it has been our protector, sometimes it shields us from harm or calms us by it’s presence. If we know it’s importance and ‘who’ it is then a conversation can follow, one in which we can meet and talk it through. In my work I encourage folk to have a conversation with their clutter, a kind of ‘get to know’ you cum ‘make peace with’ place. Then I think the clearing is not something that you are driven to but a journey to clearer place at every level of your being. Hope this is a help not a hindrance.


  • Deirdre (superdewa)
    Posted at 05:26h, 27 February Reply

    I am the same, Tracey. l am overwhelmed, I don’t know how to deal with it (I’ve read the books and the websites), and I’m embarrassed. The only thing that keeps me in check is my husband, who doesn’t have the same problem but has had to give in to mine. I don’t believe I am a hoarder — It is pure clutter and the way clutter gets in the way of cleaning.

  • Angie Lucas
    Posted at 16:15h, 27 February Reply

    Tracey, you ARE brave. And I admire you even more for being brave enough to share. When I chatted with you at CHA, you said something that really resonated with me. You said, “Some people struggle with a weight problem. I struggle with a clutter problem.” Speaking as someone who has had an actual weight problem, only coming clean about it very recently on my blog (not that it wasn’t obvious, but I’ve been afraid/ashamed to admit I was much heavier in high school than I am today), I know exactly what you meant by that. I don’t have the same clutter problem*, but I know how it feels to feel burdened/ashamed/afraid of letting others know the areas in which I struggle–the ways I am flawed.
    (*My husband, who is a clean freak, might disagree with this statement, as I am far messier than he is. But the point is that I personally do not at all feel burdened by “stuff” and I’m always conscious of not letting more “stuff” than I can handle into my home and into my life.)

  • rakusribut
    Posted at 12:26h, 02 March Reply

    tracey, you are soooo brave….! thanks for sharing! (btw did i tell you that clutter and mess and disorder are some of my middle names? lol!)
    if you need some comfort and support i recommend this book
    A Perfect Mess: The Hidden Benefits of Disorder – How Crammed Closets, Cluttered Offices, and on-the-Fly Planning Make the World a Better Place
    written by Eric Abrahamson and David H Freedman
    i just loved it, it helped me shed a different (and more positive) light on my own messiness and relieved me of some of the guilt and shame i used to feel.
    love from helga

  • annie
    Posted at 13:00h, 06 March Reply

    Tracey, your post really resonated with me.
    I have been feeling “heavy” lately knowing that my clutter is weighing me down and preventing me from finding joy each day. Even though my clutter is relatively organized and clean, I live in fear that I will become my brother who has full-blown hoarding disorder. It scares the crap out of me, in part because, if something happens to him, I will have to clean out his “stuff.”
    So today I started with one room. I am hoping I can keep up the momentum so that I feel lighter and freer to create and see the beauty around me.

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  • Janice Croze
    Posted at 22:47h, 29 March Reply

    I have a clutter problem too!!! And it is so debilitating! I think a lot of my problem comes from my inability to make decisions, and being overwhelmed w too much to do. Clutter builds when I procrastinate over the decision about what to do with an item and then the mess gets overwhelming! I do feel so much better when I tackle parts of it but there is always so much new clutter coming in! Sigh thanks so much for sharing! It makes me feel so much better to know that even my heroes struggle w clutter!

    • Tracey
      Posted at 23:14h, 11 April Reply

      Thanks sweet Janice! Clutter is still such an issue for me. I’m sure it’s a lifelong battle! Ugh.

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