This First Person article is the experience of Samantha Don, a filmmaker in Winnipeg. In her new short film Clutter, created for CBC Manitoba’s Creator Network, Don tackles her piles of junk and the anxiety they bring. For more information about CBC’s First Person stories, please see the FAQ.

Sometimes it feels like I’m drowning in stuff.

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When I walk through my bedroom, and before I move the same pile of clean, unfolded laundry from my bed, I am almost guaranteed to smash my toe on something buried in the depths of my cluttered floor.

I dropped a sewing needle into that pile about three months ago and I haven’t been able to find it. I know it’s eventually going to stab me in the foot, but cleaning the whole area is just too intimidating at this point.

Sometimes it’s really hard to feel motivated and excited for the day when I literally have to dig myself out of bed.

Many people my age (24) are struggling with anxiety and depression right now. We’re feeling weary and bogged down.–  Samantha Don 

The pandemic, its lockdowns, and social distancing definitely haven’t helped.

Many people my age (24) are struggling with anxiety and depression right now. We’re feeling weary and bogged down.

For me, all my stuff is a symptom of my general malaise with life these days.  

Why do I, for example, still have this bottle cap a friend handed to me in high school? I don’t understand why I still have it. I am not even friends with this person anymore, but I absolutely can’t get rid of this bottle cap.

Filmmaker Samantha Don uncovered her special frog stuffie under a hoard of clothes and stuff in her bedroom. Her new short film Clutter follows her emotional transformation from anxiety and darkness to relief and lightness. (Alexander Decebal-Cuza)

My partner was helping me clean and asked if he could throw it out. I started crying. I have no idea why. It felt like I was giving away a body part or a treasured family heirloom. It’s not. It’s just trash.

I keep holding on to strange things that I’ve gotten over the years, as if when I get rid of them, these memories will be like they never existed. These items “no longer bring me joy” as super organizer Marie Kondo suggests. They are more like an intense burden.

All of my stuff has started to turn me into a monster. It weighs me down. Although it feels comforting and safe, it keeps me from doing the things I want to do. Things like making art, riding my bike, or even getting out of bed in the first place.

At the same time, my room has been turned into a museum, holding memories that I love, but also the ones I should have gotten rid of years ago.

Since getting rid of stuff, I now have space for goals, ideas and aspirations.– Samantha Don 

So I started getting rid of things that don’t bring me good feelings. These are things given to me by exes, junk food wrappers and clothes that are far too small that I keep thinking I will eventually be able to fit into. (I know now that I never will fit into them again and that’s something I’ve finally come to terms with too.)

I even threw out that bottle cap.

I feel lighter, with less baggage. I don’t have to trudge through my room to get out of bed. It takes me a few minutes to find my wallet instead of 30.

Since getting rid of stuff, I now have space for goals, ideas and aspirations. I’m excited to do things again.

After ridding herself of possessions that no longer held value or meaning, Don was able to make room for other creative pursuits, like painting. (Alexander Decebal-Cuza)

I can tell when I’m slipping back emotionally. I get back into my hoarding ways, saving extra buttons and makeup that is long past its expiry date. I don’t think that part of me will ever change, and that’s OK.

I try to be gentle with myself when that happens, because I know when it’s over, I can clean everything up and start all over again.

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