Living With PPS--Post Purging Syndrome By Cheryl L. Butler

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butler_cherylSo, here we are, the end of the holiday season is still lingering in the air and 2010 is officially on our calendars.  No matter how we managed to either celebrate or just barely survive the past few weeks, ready or not a brand new year awaits!

I’m not going to kid you, by the time I’ve hauled the last box of shiny ornaments back up those attic stairs, I’m more than ready to change gears and get back to basics like figuring out what kind of hair accessories I can still carry off as a 40-something mother so as not to embarrass my teenage daughters (or myself) when we’re out in public.  Good news, though, that shouldn’t be a problem this year because now that I’ve been diagnosed with PPS—Post Purging Syndrome, if in fact I do choose to grab a cheesy pony tail holder for my tresses, I will know exactly where to locate it.

PPS is a real shock to the system.  While PMS is a much laughed at (or feared!) topic of many, PPS is fairly new on the radar screen in the medical community.  In fact, it’s so rare that those inflicted with it are facing an uncertain future for themselves and their families.  I mean I know we can’t be the only household in town that has way too many broken pencils, expired coupons, empty gum packages and useless C and D batteries stuffed into several gadget drawers in the kitchen.  And that’s only one room in the house! Go ahead, you can admit it, your secret is safe with me.

I’ll try to make this brief so I don’t scare you away too quickly.  This past November, I started showing peculiar symptoms that I just couldn’t put my finger on.  When my children left for school each morning I would scurry about the house scavenging coins for milk money from so many drawers, purses and black holes in the house that I asked for a metal detector for Christmas to turn it into a sport.  When the bus rolled out of our neighborhood and I had actually beat the clock by getting them on it each day I would then go inside and take care of  my daily business and I’m not referring to a few moments in the bathroom.  I’m talking about cramming our freshly folded laundry into drawers that were already bulging with clothing that either no longer fit, was no longer decent enough to be wearing or in my own case was severely outdated—like all my jeans embedded with jewels and such from my best Ronco purchase ever, the BeDazzler.

As if feeling harried after scrounging for loose milk change or nearly spraining my wrists by wrestling with the laundry each day wasn’t enough to get my heart pounding, I knew my symptoms were becoming worse when I’d reach for something in my spice cabinet and find my trusty hot glue gun with a dust bunny attached or my 4-year old’s headless Barbies rather than the nutmeg or garlic powder.  Little by little, I saw what was happening to me—I had gone from a super-organized (and dare I admit stylish) 25-year old bride whose biggest challenge each day was deciding which step aerobics class to take at the gym to a 40-plus married (and sadly a bit frumpy) “Little old Lady Who Lived in A Shoe and had so many kids she didn’t have a place to put anything” matron without even realizing it.  Clutter had conquered my life and was now leaving me physically drained.  If I recall, my doctor called it “Clutterbugitus” and the prognosis wasn’t good.  The treatment plan called for either getting rid of all the extra stuff in each and every room, or prepare for many more years ahead of drowning in it. Side effects for years to come may include shortness of breath, uncontrollable perspiration and full blown panic attacks when the simple search for my wonder girdle or brass hair clips is challenged by a condition I have the power to control—without medication (unless wine counts!).

Once I was diagnosed, I set right to work sorting, chucking, straightening and de-cluttering every inch of the house.  Room by room, drawer by drawer, closet by closet, hole by hole and yes that would include all my purses and every last tote bag innocently hanging in the mud room were tackled and reorganized.

Warning “Do” try this at home!  A painful process, yes, but after I removed that first hunk of year-old Swiss cheese from behind the steak knives, got rid of all the mismatched Tupperware, put the Band Aids in the medicine chest instead of in my daughter’s dollhouse I started seeing that there is indeed something to that phrase—a place for everything and everything in its place—and my symptoms began to slowly disappear.  I’m even starting to feel like that 25-year old carefree bride again (Ok, that’s going a bit far, I know!).

Though I’ve temporarily managed to skillfully kick my clutter habit, professionals have placed me in a high-risk category for slipping back into my harmful old ways—having eight kids could do that to a person. But if I take each day in 2010 with a “less is more” stride and don’t go through severe withdrawal symptoms the next time I reach for a pair of those gem-studded jeans I used to own, chances are I’ll be able to enjoy PPS for many years to come.

Copyright 2010 Cheryl Butler

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