I went back to Kuala Lumpur for ten days to sort out some work things and got back earlier this week. I think Mum was glad to see me: she likes what I cook, she's become increasingly tired and unable to sustain the energy to do things, and I think she likes having someone around the house, even if I'm just pottering or working.
I've found it harder to settle in. I was quite shocked when I got back to see how much Mum had changed in only ten days, not only the tiredness in her face and action, but also because she is now bald and wearing little beanies all the time. Also because I miss Paul, and because I miss our sparse, empty, sunny little Kuala Lumpur flat.
And herein lies the hardest thing about moving back in with Mum: she is a clutterer. I don't want to use the word 'hoarder', because in the sense of Hoarders on TV, she isn't. She doesn't have stuff piled up to the ceiling, she isn't an obsessive shopper and thankfully while things are VERY dusty they are relatively clean. But she also inherited a bunch of stuff from her parents, who in turn inherited a bunch of stuff from their parents, and now she has boxes of stuff piled every where that she is weirdly attached to. More and more as I see it, she considers herself a custodian of all this stuff and her job is to dispose of it thoughtfully and purposefully, or otherwise to hold on to it. Not to chuck all that junk in the bin, which is what I would rather do.
Have you ever lived amongst piles of clutter? I can assure you, as a minimalist and lover of chucking things out, it is not easy. There is no way to be zen amongst clutter. Dusting just transfers the dust from one pile of stuff to the next. What is odd too, is that I've always hated Mum's clutter. Even when growing up I was an obsessive thrower outer and I found Mum's stuff immensely frustrating, and when I moved out at 20 I was deeply grateful to never have to live among that stuff again. Even in the changed reality of terminal cancer our clutter dynamic remains the same.
So being back among the clutter sucks. I really struggle with it. I love and want to help Mum, and be here to make things easier, but being surrounded by all this stuff makes me want to gouge my eyes out. Keeping clutter clean is almost impossible. After spending a day scrubbing skirting boards we almost came to blows when I suggested chucking out a cane washing basket that hangs on the wall that she hasn't used for 20 years.
So this is a good exercise for me. I have to bite my tongue and accept that this is her house, and her comfort, and her way of living and its fine that's it not the same as what I would choose. And while I appreciate this is a deeply boring blog post, it makes me feel slightly better to express my clutter related angst. And then go and make a Pinterest board of empty white spaces and pretend I am there.