Category Archives: hoarding identity

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.

 

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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.

digitizing memories

1993 for hoarding memory

A couple of months ago, I thought it would be smart to buy a very cheap printer/scanner to be able to print out a few pictures here and there for S. who is having an increasing number of school projects. The machine is total crap, but it is allowing me at least start on one project I’ve put off for many years.

I began journalling at the age of 10 with very insightful entries like “Dear Diary, Today I went to school.” I still have that journal. In the back of my mind, I always thought one day it might help my child to have my journals so they could know whatever they are going through is not so unknown. That was pretty presumptive on my part. S. would probably read my journals and say, “OMG TMI!”

In any case, I moved all of these notebooks here to Australia and I’ve decided that I might be able to digitize them. I’m glancing at pages here and there and sort of cracking up at my 1993 version of myself: very religious, very dramatic, very in love with my first serious boyfriend at university. I should dump the journals completely, but for some reason I can’t let go. Those notebooks were sometimes a lifeline to me. Writing has always helped me untangle very complicated and painful knots and has offered solace when there was none from the humans in my life. Sometimes I think I should publish them as a journey, but no one would want to read the thousands of pages of crap about my daily life – not even me, really. So here the pages go, into the computer, one by one, to maybe never come out again. At least another shelf will be clear.

be there

My guilty pleasure is watching Real Housewives of Anywhere, no matter how trashy or how silly the show is. I do not watch television to edify myself.

And so this morning I was thinking about ashy feet and how nice Kandi Burruss‘s skin is, and how she’s my favorite housewife of Atlanta. She’s short, smart, and ambitious. But I thought, “I can’t understand how she defends her mother.” She broke down in tears a week or so ago when confronted by her best friend and boyfriend. She defended her mother saying how she knew her mom would always be there for her. Obviously I can only speculate based on the show, but I thought, “But she’s not there for you, Kandi. She’s ripping you away from the people you love.” (Yes, I have really deep thoughts in the shower.)

Then it sort of struck me: I always have said that if I got into trouble, my father would be there for me. And yet, I have no evidence that he would be there for me. He has not been there for me. He even made up excuses not to attend my high school functions. He does not support me emotionally and has not supported me financially since I turned 18. Right before we moved to Australia, I asked him if he would be willing to send me things like over the counter medicine if I needed them, and I offered to pay him through PayPal. He blatantly said he thought that was not a good idea. Why would I think he would be there for me?

Do any of you have a Hoarding Parent who is truly there for you when you need something? I am thankful I have never honestly needed something from either of my parents, though it would be comforting to have emotional encouragement from either mom or dad without me asking or admitting I need it.

2012 in review

Thanks, readers. I apparently don’t blog much but still get visitors. If I believed in resolutions, I might promise more. Let’s see where 2013 takes us: may your New Year be clutter free.

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 11,000 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 18 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

scrabble

ImageMy father and I are exchanging messages again. Apparently the silence was nothing: I’m just paranoid. So we continue to play Scrabble. I couldn’t resist the following word. I wonder if he’ll respond.

guilty pleasure strikes back

When I need to relax, I do not partake in edifying behavior. I watch the worst possible television or spend time playing social games on Facebook. Farmville was an initial part of the inspiration to look deeper at hoarding. I could see I was compulsively acquiring virtual animals, and as part of the game requires visits to your “neighbors” farms, I could see their lots were not much better.

Lately I’m more interested in Castleville which is equally pointless and requires collecting. Then my guilty pleasure jumped up and bit me in the face, so to speak. This is the challenge I was issued a couple of weeks ago.

Soap and bedding, really? Never mind. I of course conquered that task without much effort.

 

 

 

 

 

 

ungrateful

Although I’m committed to the goals of the Children of Hoarders support group, I sometimes look away for long periods of time. Reading the experiences of others makes me feel somehow guilty for publicly complaining about my situation when others have had it so severely worse. Then the feeling that I am entirely ungrateful for my upbringing suddenly popped into my head about two days ago. Am I only looking for yet another way to talk about the ways in which my parents failed to nurture me? Can they ever do anything right? It’s like a revolving door and I can’t step out.

My father had clear hoarding tendencies while I was growing up. I’ve also written about my paternal Grandfather, collector of treasures, my maternal Grandmother, survivor of the Depression who throws nothing useful out, and my own tendencies to cling to objects that remind me of past travels, experiences or people. But my father’s hoarding, as far as I know, has only shut off two rooms and a garage. The family can still sit on the couch, I presume. I say that, but I am not certain. Maybe they clean for days ahead of our visits to clear those coveted surfaces for us. While some children are literally trapped in horrid living conditions, my main area of suffering was from neglect. Things were and are always more important than I am, if not in word at least in deed.

A few days ago, I finally wrote to my father to tell him of our holiday travel plans and to ask if we could come by the house for a day or two. We cannot invite them to our home because it is rented to friends. However, we are renting a vacation home and I am very late at asking if they want to visit us there. Late and hesitant. I could sense the tone in their response that they (step-mother and HP) were upset they had not been made a priority. My father couldn’t even be bothered to answer me himself and has stopped talking to me during our constant Scrabble games online. I shouldn’t expect them to feel any other way: their visits are never easy for us, but I haven’t seen them in a year and a half.

Rambling back to the point: I wonder if I am ungrateful. Look at me: I’ve got problems, but I’ve turned out ok. Did they really do me wrong? The more I read other people’s stories of abuse, however, I feel more and more resentful. And they are not even doing something to me now.

Lately, I feel resentful because my husband’s parents are equally far from us and yet they have maintained a constant relationship with our daughter. She knows who they are, she visually recognizes them, she talks with them on Skype almost weekly. My own parents (both the HP and my mother) cannot bother to write an email much less learn how to Skype or pick up a telephone to talk to me or S. She asked me who Grandpa S. was the other day and I could only get her to remember by talking about his dog. His dog who is the clear #2 priority in his life.

The unclarity in my head at the moment is probably very legible here. I feel guilty for not inviting them, for feeling ungrateful. I wasn’t really that abused, just a little abused and very neglected. And I feel anger. Real anger and frustration that they expect me to be chasing after their attention when I know I will never compare to stuff.

Being less worthy than stuff was discussed in depth on the HuffPost Live webcast “Hoarding’s Harsh Reality” last week. I am grateful to those who are willing to share publicly and to Sidney for being an advocate for the victims of hoarding. We need one, especially those of us who can’t even decide how we really feel.

revenge of the hoard

D. spent the last ten days or so in the U.S. from whence I received a few messages such as, “And the bathrobes in the guest room closet… do you want those?”

While he was busy going through crap trying to find the few items that I said I really wanted, I was busy not remembering what I had left where. I haven’t been to our house in the States for over a year, and honestly I’ve forgotten almost everything that might be there except for the requested ice skates, photo albums and art work. Mostly I want things that can’t be easily packed into suitcases and will cost a fortune to ship. I’m a practical gal.

D. finally arrived in Australia early Saturday morning and the contents of his nine suitcases vomited all over our new home. Many of the items had been special ordered (clothes for our daughter and me), some were thoughtful gestures (my ceramic beer mugs from our favorite brewery), a few odd items I’d forgotten about (a sign that says Bordeaux 1996), a few broken pieces (glass containers and photo frames that I bought at an auction for $1), and one item I thought I had lost forever that has plagued me for two years as I have repeatedly wracked my brain to think of where I put it (a compact travel umbrella that I thought I lost in Florida in 2010 when we packed up at the end of vacation).

photo purchased for one dollar in Michigan, recycled in Australia

The stuff has followed me to Australia. It pains me to see some of it though I fail to express why. I just know I’m having trouble knowing what to do with these things I’ve forgotten about. I also know that if I don’t start getting rid of items at the same pace that they arrive here, I’m going to have a relapse. That familiar weight of things is no longer a comfort here.

unpacked

How do you cure hoarding tendencies? Move 3 times in 12 months, one of those international, followed immediately by 2 trips during which you must live out of your smallest suitcase. Maybe it’s not for everyone, but it has made me habitually re-evaluate what is important to have with me at all times. It comes down to my passport, my money, my computer/iPad, phone and some clothes and kitchen things family. Oh right, family! The ones I love are healthy and happy and so am I. That’s all that really matters.

Still, there’s all this other stuff. Baggage. It trails behind me with little wheels, sometimes a comforting pleasure, sometimes a burden. I’m packing today and trying to decide if I check a bag, how to keep it light. My brain is a chaotic mess of lists that keep slipping away. My body is ready to relax. Tonight I’ll hit the road for a research trip in which I have 5 different destinations in less than 10 days.

ImageIn honor of the voyage ahead, I finally emptied my backpack (left exactly as shown). I’ve pared down the contents several times in the past few weeks, but still, the contents are impressive. It’s my “just in case I need it” inherited hoarding disorder. 3 chapsticks, several tampons, two packages of kleenex, one pack of baby-wipes, numerous pills (sinus, pain), 10 or more pens, scraps of paper, an umbrella, plastic bags, headphones, iPad charger, sunglasses, cereal bars, breath mints, a bottle of water. I even found a flashlight and a clean pair of underwear. Those are the things I drag with me everywhere hidden in pockets. That’s not including the important passport, money, phone, books, tech…

Apparently I still have work to do in the hoarding category. But at the moment, I’m pleasantly unpacked and about to start stuffing it back together again.

And you? What’s in your bag?