Dallas Voice (Dallas, Tex.), Vol. 18, No. 37, Ed. 1 Thursday, January 10, 2002 Page: 4 of 68
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J 3000 Carlisle St., Suite 200, Dallas, Texos 75204
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Lesbian cluttering genetic, treatable
By Jennifer Vanasco
Contributing Columnist ,
I'm a clutterbug. A pack rat. I hoard things
because — hey, they might be useful someday,
My grandmother is the same way. When
we cleaned out her house in order to sell it, we
found decades worth of drink swizzlesticks
from hotel bars, loose rubber bands and bits of
In my mom's closet, you'll find socks (she
never gets rid of a pair), clothes from her girl-
hood and Christmas presents from past years
that she meant to give us but couldn't find.
So maybe clutter is genetic.
All I know is that for a long time I was
drowning in it. I had candles with their wicks
irretrievably buried in wax, books about gay
history bought years ago that I was still plan-
ning to read, girly shoes I stopped wearing
when I came out, boxes of purple eyeshadow
(ditto), threadbare towels, three years' worth
of New Yorkers and six whisks of different
Don't ask. I have no idea where they came
Worse, I seem to be a collector of the senti-
mental. I have been since elementary school,
when a friend showed me her neat shoebox of
things she had saved from the past year. I
decided I needed a shoebox, too — only it
became a succession of boxes, filled with stuff
like scribbled classroom notes, theater tickets,
bits of ribbon, dried roses, photos of people I
can't remember (and yes, photos of my thumb)
and everything I've ever written since 1975
when I first held a pencil.
But our apartment was getting ridiculous.
We were surrounded by things. It wasn't
unsafe or anything, (And I've seen unsafe. I
once visited an apartment where you had to
walk through a maze of newspapers —
stacked, literally, to the ceiling — to get to the
kitchen.) but we were suffocating.
People would come into our apartment, cir-
cle around with their eyes wide, and gulp.
"Wow," they'd invariably say, looking at the
stuffed bookcases, the multitude of umbrellas,
the collection of candles. "You guys have so
People would say that, that is, if they were
lucky enough to get into our house. Usually
my girlfriend and I were too embarrassed
about the state of things to invite people over.
Or too tired. Guests meant cleaning, cleaning
meant straightening, straightening meant
putting stuff away — and who had time for
that if you have so much stuff?
And then, one day in September, someone
posted magical words to a list-serve for free-
The woman promised that Flylady would
change our lives.
And oh, she has.
Flylady to me was a revelation — and a rev-
An ordinary housewife who was once a
clutterbug herself, Flylady (really Marla
Cilley) runs a website and list-serv that teach
wayward women how to create homes out of
houses. Not by buying pretty containers and
creating complex organizing systems, but sim-
ply by — and this is radical here — getting rid
You can't organize clutter, Flylady says.
Why hold on to anything you don't love or
use in your home?, Flylady says.
And most important of all: Flylady says to
take baby steps. To surrender perfection. To
realize that "housework done incorrectly still
People would come into our
apartment, circle around with
their eyes wide, and gulp.
"Wow," they'd invariably say,
looking at the stuffed bookcas-
es, the multitude of umbrellas,
the collection of candles. "You
guys have so much stuff."
blesses your family." Flylady says that we take
care of things more than we take care of people
and that this has to stop.
Flylady did indeed change the lives of me
and my girlfriend — because she changed our
Both of us had grown up in the 1970s con-
necting housework with women's servitude.
One of my first memories is listening to a track
on the kids' album Free to Be You and Me with
the memorable line: "Mommies hate house-
work; Daddies hate housework. I hate house-
work, too. When you grow up, so will you."
Her point was that actresses in commercials
are getting paid to sell a life of servanthood to
women, but when you listen to it over and
over as a child, basically the groove worn
between your ears is: housework is for dum-
Strong women go out and make a differ-
ence in the world. They don't stay home and
make dinner for their families or dust the
Or so I thought.
But the thing is, in gay and lesbian families,
there is no home oppressor. There's no partner
who's "supposed" to be home. There's no
partner who's "supposed" to cook and clean.
There's only the two of us trying to create a
home with each other. And it's not like Flylady
is advocating daily vacuuming or ironing the
curtains. She is just trying to teach us all how
to make room to live our lives.
So that was one half of the equation. The
other half was the "getting rid of stuff" part.
Why is it so hard? Well, maybe because we
think of our stuff as an extension of our identi-
ties. We think that we won't remember people
who were special to us if we don't keep the
things they gave us, or memories that were
special to us if we don't keep momentos.
But Flylady says that the most important
memories are the ones in your head — and the
people you love are already in your heart.
So for four months, my girlfriend and 1
decluttered. We threw out "7 things a day, in
keeping with Flylady's dictum. We gave away
(to gay friendly charities or friends) books,
objets d'art (yeah, right), furniture and yes,
five of those whisks. We threw out so much
junk that people thought we were moving. We
started keeping cleaning routines.
This weekend, we looked around. We real-
ized that our apartment was clean. You could
see the floor and the table tops. There was
room to breathe.
There was nothing to do but hang out with
each other and invite people over.
And that's the way it should be. ▼
Jennifer Vanasco may be reached by e-mail at
4 JANUARY 10, 2003 DALLAS VOICE
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Vercher, Dennis. Dallas Voice (Dallas, Tex.), Vol. 18, No. 37, Ed. 1 Thursday, January 10, 2002, newspaper, January 10, 2002; Dallas, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth616149/m1/4/: accessed November 19, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Special Collections.