Decluttering With The Incredible Hulk

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June 6, 2011 by rebelwithalabelmaker

So, I had a roommate in University who was not named Bruce (but should have been), who would come down every morning with his breakfast and a glass of green Kool Aid.

"It's going to work this time." he would say.

"Yup." I would answer–ever the hopeful and supportive roommate.

"It's really going to work this time."


"Not like yesterday."


"This time it's going to turn me into the Incredible Hulk."


Then he would drink the Kool Aid, sigh, and say.

"It's going to work tomorrow."

Out of all of the Marvel Heroes–our modern Greek and Roman Gods–Hulk is one of the most mythically potent.  This reserved and mild mannered man who is transformed by rage into a giant, unintelligent, and horrifyingly strong creature has an emotional resonance with people.  Especially with my six year old.  In moments when his whole body starts to shake with rage and his face twists up like tangled rope, I've learned to crouch beside him and look intently into his eyes.  I say things like "You look so angry.  You look like you wish you could transform into the Incredible Hulk.  You look like you wish you could lift the roof right off of the house."

"And then everybody would have to listen, and DO WHAT I SAY!!!!" he often responds.  But the mythic figure of the Hulk really helps him–to describe his feelings and to calm his own rage.

I don't have that urge myself–when I think about lifting the roof off of our house, all I think about is trying to get it back on again.  The insurance paperwork.  The renovations (I am the sort of person who deals with toilet revolt by waving the plunger as though it were a wand and yelling "Stop!  AAAAAAAhhhhhh!").  But I have my own moments of frustration and helplessness.

As a homemaker, my deepest frustration is piles of stuff.  I'm very bad at putting stuff away.  I realized a year or so ago that I need to think of myself as stuff-disabled.  I can't deal with large amounts of clutter the way some people can't deal with large amount of stairs.  It just doesn't work for me.  I become frustrated and immobilized, and even as that frustration gives me energy it also saps my brains–I don't know where to start.

I have learned to plan to use these Incredible Hulk Moments to my advantage.  Incredible Hulk has much energy.  Incredible Hulk is committed.  Incredible Hulk is ruthless with clutter.  Incredible Hulk is not so good at remembering comprehensive decluttering plan or even where the garbage bags are.  Left unattended, Decluttering Incredible Hulk will pull everything out of all of the kitchen drawers, then lose energy and transform back into me.  I will then remember the grass needs cutting, go outside to do that while leaving all the kitchen stuff on the floor, come back in having forgotten about the grass but picked armloads full of lilacs, trip on all the stuff because I forgot it was there, spew lilacs everywhere, and become overcome with frustration again.  Then I will deal with that new wave of frustration by turning back into Decluttering Hulk and running upstairs to pull everything out of all the drawers in the bathroom.

Planned for, though, Decluttering Hulk can accomplish amazing things.  When an overflowing closet causes Decluttering Hulk to appear, 50% of it can be bagged and in the garbage or a giveaway zone within 15 minutes.  But Decluttering Hulk must have:  1) Bags to put stuff in, and 2) A simple spot to take the stuff once it's bagged, and 3) a Hulk friendly mission (i.e. "This closet has too much stuff.  Make it have 50% less stuff.").

"50% less" is my decluttering mantra when I attack a new zone.  I have accomplished this in my house twice now–the first time nearly killed me, and the second time was really fun.  The first time, it was done by discipline and desperation.  The second time, it was done in fits and spurts, by Decluttering Hulk.  I have learned to work with my natural tendencies.  I have provided a structure for myself that is well suited to sudden bursts of energy, poor planning, and limited follow through.  I now have entire closets and dressers with nothing in them.  There is space under our bed to vacuum.  Also, I have found the vacuum.  It was under a pile of formal bridesmaidey looking dresses.

I am not sure how one gets Decluttering Hulk to do the vacuuming, though…  this issue is not really well addressed in the Marvel Comic Series.

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