moving and unmoving

We are settled in our new home and have almost emptied all the boxes to sell them back to the moving company. As moving day drew near, the strategy towards the end was to dump junk into the box. I only found my Diet Coke and the cat food yesterday, nearly 20 days after it was packed. That quickly became a running joke with my friends, “Did you find your Coke yet?”

While we were moving, so were my HP and stepmother. I have yet to hear if they have successfully moved into their newly constructed home built alongside the outbuilding they erected a year ago. They have posted photos along the way. The idea was to build a handicap accessible home. I fail to see the logic, though, in two retired people building a large new home in the country, practically across the road from their old home. I know how strenuous moving was for us, and I’m in my early 40s. For my father who can hardly walk, I can’t understand. They went into debt at a time in their lives where downsizing and minimizing living expenses are sensible considerations.

I am a bit saddened by their choice while understanding the excitement they feel for a new home. The hoard, however, has not been conquered. I received an email from my stepmom that I really need to answer but have not been able to address:

We’re so thankful to have the luxury of not showing our house until we have a chance to get out of it and clean it up to some degree. I just fear that we may procrastinate on getting it emptied and cleaned and on the market. It’s much too valuable to just sit here empty. We MUST work hard and steadily to get it on the market. We don’t need two house payments, two utility payments, two heat bills, etc. […]

and even more stunning to me:

You still have quite a few things here in your closet and dresser drawers. We sure hate to get rid of your things. A lot of it is paper items that, if they were mine, I would want to keep – – journals, notes, and such. Other items are family photos from long ago – – again things that if they were mine, I would want to keep them, even though I might not ever look at them again. We started an “A. corner” in the storage shed over on the property; we may just move the rest of your things into that corner. I don’t know.

That paragraph starts with “You.” Me. I have things there? What do I have? I last lived at home when I was in high school and have only visited for a week here or there for the last 25 years. [Note: I interrupted this blog post to tell my stepmom to burn my journals and sell the photos if she wants.] Nothing they have saved for me can be worth moving again.

I feel scared for my parents. They may never have the courage to confront the junk and they clearly do not know how to let go of things. My stepmom went on to praise her sons for taking next to nothing from their bedrooms (they both live within driving distance of her and visit regularly). She concluded her message with self-condemnation for being hoarders, for having trouble letting go. I suppose this recognition is a possible first stop in healing. I see no movement, though, towards cleaning out the hoard.

moving right along

After months of looking at all kinds of houses and being very picky and demanding about the area but open to fixer-uppers, we are about to close on a house in our neighbourhood. Once that decision was finally determined, we immediately put our townhouse on the market and have since been playing the game of “hide every shred of human existence and make your house look like a hotel and do it quick.”

The market in Australia usually runs by open houses rather than private showings, though D and I never hesitate to ask for private showings of listings when it suits us. The result of the open house is a frenzy of people winding their way through the house in a thirty-minute span, dripping with sweat, and by the end of the day they are totally dizzy with what they have seen. My one neighbour went to six open houses today in her search for the perfect investment property, and another neighbour was doing the same in search of the ideal home for her growing family. Our house was opened up around the same time as two others on our street today, so people filter down the street like a parade.

While keeping our home as pristine as one can with a school-aged child and three pets, not to mention two full-grown adults who like to live and eat and work at home, I have slowly begun the boxing books.jpgbusiness of packing up. I am ever amazed at the quantity of things we moved to Australia on airplane trips. We have all of our photo albums from birth to now, little treasures like our Christmas ornaments, my grandmother’s silver, and then all the clothes (considering we dumped what felt like the majority of the wardrobes before we moved here and have constantly donated since we moved here, this, too, is impressive). I have fifty-three boxes that can be filled (the suggested quantity from our removalists). I wonder how many will be full on moving day.

As I pack, however, I see D and S really struggling with this move. This one is somehow different and harder and scarier even though we are moving only three streets over and about 5 houses up the hill. This townhouse has been an anchor for us. Our daughter has lived here for the majority of her little life. We have loved it and hated it and we are about to move from a new modern sleek place to an old funky one that needs a lot of love and attention.

In all of this, I have realised, for reasons I cannot explain, I just keep pushing forward. I push even when it is not the most sensible thing to do. And as I push myself, those who love me and want to live with me get pushed and pulled along my path. I was speaking with S’s therapist a couple of weeks ago about this and she pointed out that sometimes when we are pushing forward, we just drag more and more and more stuff behind us. I’m clomping on through the snow that’s up to my knees and I’m on the verge of collapsing. At some point, I’m going to need to stop and sit still and work on what’s here in front of me without the distraction of moving again.


revenge of the hoard

Nothing will cure a hoard better than selling your home, though natural disasters might have a similar effect. We put our home in Kansas on the market in March and it went under contract within three days. A week later we were at our house to clean out what remained after five years of absence. Our tenant and good friend A. called me a tornado, because I whipped through the piles of stuff without mercy sending the bulk towards the trash heap. It is easy to sort unaffected when you have absolutely forgotten the things in the hall closet even existed. We took two car-fulls of useful things to the emergency shelter to donate (some of it belonged to A.) and were grateful for the tax receipts. In spite of this culling, there was still some furniture and exercise equipment lingering. The tenants posted items on craigslist, had a yard sale, sold a few more items of theirs and ours, took a commission, and donated the rest. Today the real estate agent told me that he removed 12 bags of trash from the house (what??!!) after the tenants moved out, and the house is now cleaned and empty. I wish I could see the empty house today, but that would be a long way to fly just to have the satisfaction of knowing our former home is ready for a new owner to love it.

i have (a) disorder

IMG_3528My second book is in a bit of a mess right now as I cobble together the chapters. I was looking through my introduction notes today and kept seeing reference to Huyssen. I realized I needed his book to pull together a point I was trying to make, but somewhere in the back of my mind I thought, I must have read this book or at least looked at it. Being a visual person, I googled it to see the book cover. Definitely familiar. In my mind, I could see the book in my university office, on a high shelf, but knew I had not seen it recently. I read a few reviews online to see if that could help me get what I needed.No, I needed the book. I looked through the titles pushed against the wall on my desk. Not there. I looked on my bookshelf to my right. Not there. Should I buy it online? Then out of the corner of my eye, I could see behind my laptop, just in front of me and within easy reach, a pile of theory books. There it was. Second book down. I have no recollection of bringing it home or putting it there. I think I have (a) disorder. At least for now it’s made its way to the top where I can see it.



Last year my father (HP) concocted a plan: build an outbuilding on vacant land, move the hoard into it, build a new handicap accessible house by the outbuilding, move into the new house, sell the old unhoarded house.

I still do not follow this logic. The de-hoard part of the plan was vague and included a lot of verbal couching in “hopefully,” “at some point,” “may,” and “I hope.” The idea is to put up shelving in the building and “start to liquidate some of our junk here and elsewhere” by eBay, garage sales, auctions. The wisdom, however, was priceless:

That should be interesting but painstaking. I have literally thousands of them. There are some […] that may bring in hundreds of dollars per [item]. That is a problem in life . . . we work for years collecting junk and then we die. Ha! What good is it to us then? Lesson learned: DON’T COLLECT JUNK!!!

From memory, there were enough items stored in the yard, shed, and barn around the current home to fill this outbuilding. I believe there are also storage units rented nearby and the outbuilding is also meant to reduce the cost of renting those. outbuilding

Nonetheless, the shiny new outbuilding was built. One of the first comments on the photo on Facebook from a young in-law was, “That is bigger than my whole house. Don’t go filling it with junk.”

Hoarding on Flipboard

I have been collecting news stories about hoarding for about a year now. It only just occurred to me that my Flipboard Magazine might be of most interest to readers about hoarding. If you are curious, please visit and feel free to follow:

I primarily curate stories from the news, but there are occasional research articles or other items that catch my interest via the COH (children of hoarders) group. I post without comment.

desktop updates

I am not dead. I even got good news that I am not apparently quickly dying 🙂 All reasons to rejoice. I am very happily on research leave and looking forward to catching up and forging ahead quickly this semester. Two quick desktop updates from August 2015 and this week in January 2016. My desk is disastrous, but the rest of the house is beginning to look unusually uncluttered.

desktop 3Aug15.JPG


picking up lint

I just spilled nut mix on a recently vacuumed carpet and as I plucked out the little pieces to throw them away (in case cat hair may be involved anyway), I had a vivid memory of my brightly colored carpet in my childhood bedroom. For some reason I do not quite grasp, picking up lint was one of our frequent chores at home. We were tasked with picking up every speck of lint we could see on the carpet. As an adult I now think this is ludicrous. Why was there not a vacuum cleaner to use for that task? Was my dad (born in the late 1940s) conserving electricity? Was it a way to keep us busy? Was it a punishment? It seemed to take forever to pass the lint test but it was always a hurdle requirement to get to something we wanted to do.

Fast forward to today, my HP father tells me he has asthma and that his recently replaced carpet had been soiled many times by his dog who recently passed away. He thinks this is contributing to his breathing issues.

*I googled “lint on carpet” in Google images to find a picture for this post but today (obviously) we have lint rollers for this purpose. That would have rocked my little eight-year-old brain right out of my head.

desktop update 2015

Don’t even ask. The good thing is that it’s not a disaster (solely) because of my desk-keeping skills.

desktop 3Aug15

sometimes it pays

Sometimes it pays off to be a COH, grand-daughter of self-affirmed packrats, and from a family of collectors. Today I was advising a student about types of assessment he can expect will studying in Switzerland, and as I pulled out a file from a history course I took in 2001, I caught sight of printouts from my research that year in France. Low and behold, I had kept all of the hard-copies from programs I attended and that happen to be relevant to a paper I’m writing right now. I was convinced that I would never be able to verify the historical point I was trying to make in the paper, and suddenly references are in front of me dated 15 October 2001. Thank you to whichever ancestor who also taught me how to file things.