The cost of clutter

One hundred fifty dollars is a good sum of money for just about anything. It could be considered a hefty tip on stage back in my stripping days, or a huge dent in my wallet if paying a speeding ticket. Not this time. This week it was the cost of attaining a portion of self-worth that seemed to have lost her way in the back seat of my car.

Like most creative types, I posses a certain panache for designed chaos. When traveling, no sooner is my luggage on the bed than are my belongings strewed across the room. Perhaps I’m marking my territory; something I always felt the need to do growing up having shared a bedroom with my sister for years. Whatever it is, I know Kevin doesn’t like it.

Kevin is every woman’s dream when it comes to a partner. He’s organized, clean and pulls his weight with the chores. I never need to ask him to take out the garbage or empty the dishwasher. On the same token, he knows I share the load gladly. Where we differ is clutter.

To some, a trip to The Container Store is another item on your To-Do list. To Kevin, it’s foreplay. Ok, I get excited too (kind of) when we walk hand in hand between aisles of closet organizers and Lazy Susans. We allow ourselves to get whisked away to a land where everything really does have its place and all is right with the world.

Fast-forward fifteen minutes to our house and while I am perfectly content with the mail and vitamin bottles on the kitchen countertop, I know Kevin’s OCD goes into overdrive.

So I do my best to put (ok, hide) things away. And he does his best not to have an anxiety attack over the office desk draped with five of the books I am reading.

The simple reasoning that I am more relaxed with clutter than Kevin is what brings me back to my car.

In the trunk you will find my gym bag next to my roller blades and emergency car stuff like jumper cables and a half used bottle of oil. Seems like a perfectly acceptable amount of car clutter, don’t you think? It would, if I didn’t have two garbage bags worth of my stuff filling the back and front seat. Somewhere between moving in with Kevin and marking my territory my car was abused; treated like a garbage can and I am ashamed to admit I let it go on for so long.

After months of procrastination and Kevin saying wanted me to drive for a change, I finally got around to cleaning out my car. As I was pulling the trash out from under the seats and rummaging through old clothes and paperwork, I realized I never drove us in my car because I was too ashamed.

After my cathartic de-car-cluttering, the only thing left to do was to get her detailed. I owed it to her to get her scrubbed and rubbed from roof to rims. I wanted a fresh start and couldn’t think of a better way than to invest in a professional auto detailing service.

After I picked my car up from the shop, I was blown away. Not only did I feel different about what I was driving, I felt different about myself. There is something to be said for taking pride in material things we own. When we take care of our things it’s a way of taking care of ourselves.

Whether it be your office, car or home, there is a fine line between clutter and just plain loosing respect for our space, which really is another way of losing respect for parts of who we are. Peter Walsh with TLC’s Clean Sweep makes some great points about the connection between self-esteem and clutter. I never really connected the dots until my own personal auto epiphany.

It cost exactly one hundred and fifty dollars to detail my car, which to some, is a lot of money. For me, a small price to pay for getting back a part of my self worth I never knew was gone.

So tell me: Are you tidy or does your clutter cause chaos? 

Christine Macdonald


Here is my interview with the National Association of Memoir Writers.


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An Interview with Christine About Her Memoir Writing Journey So Far

NAMW: Tell us what you want to write about, or what you are working on.

Christine: I’m currently working on a memoir about my life as an exotic dancer in my hometown of Waikiki from 1987 to 1996.

Most people think of coconuts and surfboards when thinking of Hawaii. My book takes you past the palm trees, behind the paradise curtain to a grittier type of lifestyle full of drugs, sex and tons of rock and roll. Also, I have a sense humor about my story so there are tongue-in-cheek moments weaved throughout the pages, which provide a delicate balance of comedy in the face of adversity.

The common thread of my manuscript is how far people will go to find their self-worth, and that feeling beautiful really does come from within. Although I went to extremes, what I took from my experiences and discoveries are universal.

NAMW: If you could imagine the title of your story—what would it be?

Christine: I obsessed for months about the title of my manuscript and finally came up with Pour Some Sugar On Me: Tales from an Ex-Stripper. The title came about when I was driving my car one afternoon and heard a familiar song on the radio. The music transported me instantly. I turned up the volume and sang my heart out in traffic. People next to me on the road must have thought I was completely insane, which I embraced fully with every air guitar and fist pump maneuver from the driver’s seat. I knew anything that struck such a chord (pardon the pun) would be a great title for the book.

NAMW: What helps you to get your writing done—for instance—a writing schedule, taking a class, reading?

Christine: I work full-time, so weekends and evenings are prime real estate for my butt to be planted at my writing desk.

I attended my first writer’s conference last month and found the environment and teachings invaluable. Conference calls, such as the ones NAMW provides have proven to be motivating and thought provoking and I always feel really pumped up after a call.

When I feel blocked, I don’t fight it. I take a step back, pick up a memoir and start reading. Losing myself in someone else’s story always helps me find a way back to mine. I find myself thinking: wow, they really have a story – wait a minute, so do I – and I start typing again.

NAMW: What are your five favorite books—okay, you can make it a little longer if you need to.

Christine: I know you will find this shocking, but I love a great memoir. Given my history, I am drawn to personal stories of triumph in the shadows of addiction and family dysfunction. Add to that my adoration for self-deprecating humor and sarcasm and you have a Carrie Fisher fan through and through. Wishful Drinking is one of my favorites, and I was thrilled to learn this memoir will soon be the basis for an HBO television special.

Scar Tissue by Anthony Kiedis and Larry Sloman had me flipping back to the first page as soon as I reached the end. This is a book that greeted me by surprise like a set of finger-laced hands whispering from behind saying, “Guess who?” Reading this story was a true, poetic experience.

Another book that resonates with me is Some Girls: My Life in a Harem by Jillian Lauren. There were so many “me too” moments when reading, it was hard to put down. Here is a woman who knows the road to self-worth and possesses the type of writing talent that leaves me in awe. 

Running With Scissors (Augusten Burroughs) is another book that really spoke to me. Learning of this survival story helped me see that even the most bizarre childhoods can be overcome. Augusten’s ability to paint vivid scenes with his words intimidates and inspires me to the point of reckless writing abandon. I find my best scene-structure is born from attending The School of Augusten.

My list would not be complete without mentioning Don’t Call Me Mother: Breaking the Chain of Mother-Daughter Abandonment by Linda Joy Myers. I learned so much about myself through reading her story. I recommend this book to anyone in search of a memoir that is not only heartfelt, but moves you to the point of tears. Tears traveled down the curve of my lip; a subconscious smile in knowing it is indeed possible to survive personal abandonment.

NAMW: Is there anyone who does not want you to write your memoir? Why not?

Christine: I wouldn’t say she doesn’t want me to write my story, but I don’t think my mother understands my need to share it. She would much rather I move on from my past without ever looking back. I try and explain to her that in order to do this, I must revisit the wounds to finally heal them without the use of drugs or stripping. The beauty of my story is how far I have come since my stripping years. I hope anyone reading my book, who thinks they are stuck in a similar world, will find that inner-voice inside them like I did.

NAMW: Talk about who the audience is for your memoir. Be brief and concise.

Christine: Anyone who has ever felt marginalized by circumstance, struggled with feeling less-than, has a taste for the wild side, sexual adventure, or is simply curious about life as a stripper is the ideal audience for my memoir.

NAMW: What is the most significant turning point in your life?

Christine: I write about this in my book. The second I stepped on the plane and moved off the island is by far the most significant point in my 41 years. I started over with very little money, two suitcases and a dream of a normal life. It sounds simple and a bit corny, but when you think about happiness and peace of mind, isn’t that what we all aim for?

Christine Macdonald

Crazy is the new black

Being medicated is like being in the criminal system: once you get locked in, it’s hard to get out.

I’ve been called coke whore, boozer, pill-popper and just plain crazy. I have answered to all. When unsupervised, my brain can be chaos.

Thanks to self-induced damage from decades of abuse and good old-fashioned hard-wiring there is nothing more I can do than embrace The Crazy.

I am obsessive.

I am a drama queen.

I am compulsive.

I use double spacing and fragmented sentences for effect.

The reason I love Carrie Fisher so much (and Wishful Drinking) is because we share the same balls-out attitude. What is the alternative – shame? I don’t have the right wardrobe for that.

Everyone has a story. So tell me — what’s yours?

Anonymous comments welcome.


Christine Macdonald