Now that we are more or less completely moved from the U.S. to Australia and consider that anything left behind is disposable, it’s easier to take an account of what we have. Remarkably, we shifted continents using only suitcases and small boxes over the past two years. We are settled and not encumbered with stuff. The war still wages within me to not use precious valuables that have become even more special due to the vast oceans they’ve crossed. I still have to fight daily to toss out recyclable crafts brought home from S.’s kindergarten. I have to consciously attack the clutter around me to keep my desk cleared. But progress has been made.
My Turkish rug made the journey to Australia along with its missing piece still detached. But for the first time since I purchased it in 2003, the rug is now on the floor being used daily by both people and cats. I look at the gnawed-off edge and say, So What! Rather than protecting the very happy memory associated with its purchase, I get to make new ones while playing with S. and her legos on the floor.
We returned back to our home in Australia on Friday morning with all 9 checked bags, 2 carry-ons, 3 backpacks, and 1 pillow pet more or less in tact. Although that sounds like a lot, the only things I left in the U.S. are a winter coat, gloves and pair of boots and some things that should be sold on craigslist. Oh wait … well, no there are some other things that did get left such as my grandmother’s china which was not shipped to my brother. Frankly, I forgot to send it and did not realize it until just now. I spent my last full day in our home with the vomiting-diarrhea-fall-asleep-on-the-bathroom-floor kind of illness. Fortunately the suitcases were almost packed before the illness struck.
The checked bags were not excessive: 2 bicycles, 1 box of artwork, 1 carseat, 1 bag of hockey equipment, 1 bag of odd junk like tools, my flute, and S’s new tennis racket, and 1 personal suitcase for each of us. One of the personal suitcases was filled with breakables. I did my best to protect them but sadly many things that once seemed important to us have now come to rest in our Australian rubbish bin. I packed my childhood tea set in that bag. I still have the original box (!), but 2 pieces did not survive the crossing. We broke some corning wear, handmade canisters, and jars. My favorite antique Christmas ornament that belonged to my great-grandmother suffered some splintering. And some things we really don’t care about at all came out just fine.
The rest of our things were shipped in boxes via USPS at $60 per large flat rate box. I had to go through photo albums and notebooks and decide if I really needed prom photos or if I could just resnap them quickly with my iPhone and let the distorted image be good enough. I have handwritten journals I’ve kept from age 5 to 35, which I always thought would be an awesome gift to my child (wow, what was I thinking?) or useful as notes for a mémoire. I almost tossed them, but couldn’t bear to let go of all of it. Somehow it makes me feel sane when I go back and read snippets of what I went through to get where I am today. Instead I broke down bindings and tore out pages to condense them. I’m curious to see if the pages can be scanned through a top-feeding machine.
This is the minutiae, the overwrought details of the stuff, but ultimately, that’s all the stuff there is now. We got home and our house was delightfully clean and empty. No clutter in sight anywhere. It felt good to look around and see no mess. Just a stack of mail to sort through.
The unpacking went swiftly, the shards of glass were swept up, and our life is officially here now. It’s good to be home.
Posted in Uncategorized
Tagged Australia, breakable, china, hoard, keepsake, packing, photo album, photos, scan, shipping, stuff, tea set, things, travel
As I was catching up on my pile of unread blog posts from others affected by hoarding, a word popped out of one of Sidney’s posts at www.milbetweenus.com that set a sharp pang through my heart. She said Greg had been churning.
Churning – I’m not sure how those who don’t experience it personally or see it first-hand understand it. For me, it’s painful. For the majority of my life, it was just a normal unconscious activity. Now when I see it happening, it sends me into a sinking sense of despair. Churning feels like sitting in a boat that’s quickly filling with water and you only have a bucket to try to bail out. Churning is like a dog chasing its tail: so funny to watch, so frustrating for the dog.
I sat at my desk yesterday working in a flurry. I jumped from one task to the next, to the next, accidentally got lost in a Google search for something completely unrelated, started browsing Pinterest, jerked myself back to a grant application, stumbled upon papers to mark, marked two, remembered an assignment I hadn’t posted, went to post it but instead changed the layout to my course website. In the tangled mess of activity, perhaps in spite of it, I managed to finish the grant application, the marking, the lesson planning… I found my way out the other side. I don’t know how.
Why is churning painful? I recognize it now as a response to extreme stress. I get totally lost in the activity and I have to sit back and think about what is causing this before I can get out of it. I know it’s an inherited behavior that indelibly links me to my dysfunctional father. I cannot stop the activity from starting: I can only disentangle myself by realizing it is occurring.
What stimulates churning for me is not always clear. The first time I fully realized I was doing it was only in July when we first arrived in Australia and didn’t yet have a home. I felt I was sinking and grasping onto illogical pieces of debris to pull myself up from the drowning waters. I wanted to keep disposable containers, tin foil, used tape, even though I knew I didn’t need those things. I was uprooted and lost: I wanted to create stability. I churned.
Yesterday I churned for numerous reasons combined: we’re buying a house, I’m resigning permanently from my former position to remain in this one, D. is going to be away for a week, I have numerous looming deadlines at work… Not to mention the normal stressors of sleep deprivation and a child’s temper tantrums. Oh, and PMS. I’m a downright mess. Except I’m fine. Even better than fine, I’m really good. I just churn as a coping mechanism. Familiar repetitive behaviors anyone?
Posted in hoarding identity
Tagged Australia, churning, COH, debris, drowning, dysfunctional, father, grasping, hoarding, organization, pile, stuff
When I told an Australian colleague I was running short of interesting TV shows to watch, he suggested the Australian Series “Offspring.” It’s described as Bridget Jones meets Sex and the City which mildly appealed to me.
In Season 1 Episode 2, which is as far as I’ve gotten on the viewing list, the real estate agent sister is sent to deal with a difficult tenant. She is unable to get past the front door, recoiling horrified by the presumed odor and sight. I kept vigilantly watching ready to snap a picture of the hoarded house the moment it appeared: it was never shown. In an American series, there is no doubt the unimaginable mess would have been exposed. Australians apparently are able to use their imaginations, or else they prefer not to overwhelm the viewer with vile filth in a show that’s meant to be cute, quirky and sexy.
Posted in Uncategorized
Tagged Australia, exposed, filth, hoarding, house, imagination, odor, offspring, tenant, TV, vile
Instead of blogging in the past week, I’ve been commuting to my office and preparing for the new semester that is fast coming upon us. This week I witnessed a woman spreading out ads all around her on the bus, possibly sorting, but possibly demonstrating her need for stuff to surround her wherever she goes.
Around the same time I was taking this picture, it was announced that there are an estimated 1 million (plus) hoarders here in Australia, which falls in line with estimates in the US, around 4.5% of the total population. It’s not much of a surprise to me, but hoarding still isn’t as popular a topic on this side of the world.
As I watch popular children’s programing here with my daughter, though, I can see how we are constantly guilted into not wasting material objects. Just a small example, there’s an Aussie-Canadian program called Dirt Girl World with one of the main characters Scrap Boy. It’s all about repurposing stuff. How can we let go of anything when there might be a use for it, or discarding it might hurt the nature around us?
Posted in hoarding identity, weight of things
Tagged Australia, compulsive hoarding, discard, hoard, keep, recycle, repurpose, sprawl, spread, stuff
Because we are walking everywhere we go now, I keep on the lookout for hoarding houses. Yesterday taking a new path, I came across this heap. It’s hard to see the details, but the whole yard was filled up with a mountain of things including bicycles, some obvious boxes, and other scraps. I was a bit worried the owner would come out and yell at me.
the hoarding house is to the left of the barrier
Outdoor hoarding in Australia scares me. I can only imagine the number of spiders and snakes making a home in these heaps.