Tag Archives: crap

good lord, he burned the hoard

My dad, the HP-Pastor-Santa Claus, had been out of touch until just before Thanksgiving. We tried to arrange to skype but it became too difficult for him. He finally just emailed me the story he so desperately wanted to share.

Oh yes, one more thing . . . I need to tell you that I almost burned down the house Tuesday morning. I went outside to fuel the furnace and in doing so, I dumped the ashes on the pile. About an hour later I looked outside and there was a huge fire under the patio. The hot coals had caught the leaves on fire and it expanded in two directions. One toward the patio and the other to the west side of the house. From there it caught the pile of junk I had stacked there (for maybe ten years or more) and caught it on fire. There were shotgun shells exploding and the fire was extremely threatening. I screamed “Fire” and the kids came a running to help at 5:50 am. Fortunately, a man stopped to help and called the fire department. By the time they got here we almost had it put out. Yeah! They watered down the pile of junk and then left. That’s one way to get rid of my hoarding crud! LOL!

It’s a fine example of his storytelling prowess: he saves the dramatic story for the end of an email as if he had almost forgotten, he recognizes he has hoarded junk… never mind that people could have been killed by shotgun shells blasting. But there is no account of what “junk” was lost that was so important to keep in a pile outside of the house in the first place. There is no acknowledgment of cleanup efforts or how he might avoid such trouble in the future. I can only expect that next time the local newspaper will be telling the story of his demise.

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.

clean your room

From “When Parents Text” 

April 11, 2012

Mom: I’m leaving for the weekend so I hid $100 in your room for food, clean your room and you will find it.

***

When I was about 9 or 10 years old on some random summer day, my brother and I were at home by ourselves as usual while our parents were at work. Their strategy for keeping us out of trouble was usually a painful list of chores that had to be completed by the time dad got home. For some strange reason, my mother decided one day to try positive reinforcement. She left us a note on the kitchen counter that said, “clean your room for a big surprise” or something to that effect.

Being the brilliant 9-13 year olds that we were, we flung crap around our rooms until we unearthed the surprise, completely trashing whatever had once been in order. She had bought us little toy motorcycles. In my memory, mine was buried under a mountain of junk in my closet. My brother and I spent the rest of the day playing with our new toys. Mom was furious when she got home and we had to go clean our rooms in tears. Ok, maybe I’m inventing the tears, but I always felt bad when I had done something wrong and I knew I had done something wrong in this case. Poor mom.

When I read this post on When Parents Text, I first thought, “Would that work to motivate a hoarder?” Umm, no, probably not. My dad claims there are hundreds of dollars hidden throughout his hoard. He thinks that’s just safekeeping.

paper-free with a price

Oh Ikea, it’s always all about you. How could we survive without accumulating your gadgets to make our clutter go away? I have to admit, though, that I have a soft spot for organized hoarders. Maybe it’s because my father is on that path with his alphabetized and chronologically ordered crap. Maybe because it’s the kind of hoarder I would aspire to be.

sharing a home

a skink in the back yard - not the lizard I saw last night

Last night around 1 a.m. as I tiptoed down the stairs to return some milk to the fridge, I noticed a little grey blur on the floor. As soon as I began to wonder what it was, it quickly flitted away behind the curtains. I recognized it as some type of lizard, made sure I walked clear of its path,  left the stove light on for D. who gets up very early, and went back to bed. When he got up some thirty minutes later, I was still awake and told him about the lizard so he wouldn’t be startled.

When I saw the thing, I momentarily considered catching it and throwing it outside in the rain. But I am not terribly concerned about lizards who eat bugs and don’t bite humans. I no longer have a baby crawling on the floor, no cats or dogs who are going to catch it for me, no real concerns about the thing except it’s kind of creepy to have a lizard in the house when you don’t know what kind it is.

In North America we’ve had plenty of critters trying to invade our space. We had a bird make a perch on our balcony, we watched our cat bring a live mouse in the house and let it go, we’ve had rats eat through the wires of our car engine (twice), our dogs caught a baby raccoon in our yard, and the raccoons feasted regularly on our compost. Add to that wild turkeys, an occasional fox, deer and many rabbits, squirrels and snakes who had a habitat in our yard even though we lived near the center of the city.

I grew up mostly in the country. Animals and pests are just a part of home life. But what happens when your floor isn’t cleared enough to see the lizard scampering across it, or the pile of newspapers is so huge you can’t find the mouse building a nest in it? You just hear the random scurrying and scratching. Does it become a part of your home life? Common sounds you’re used to hearing, unconcerned that you’re sharing your home with critters?

My father (the HP) lives in a rural Mid-Western community and I recall being terrified my first summer, having moved there from Montana in high school, when I stepped outside to what sounded like a rain forest. Then one night (I should’ve known hoarding was an issue by then), I was even more frightened when I heard loud scratching and crawling noises in my ceiling. When I told my parents about it the next day, they flatly said there were squirrels making a nest in the rafters. No one cared. No one did anything about it. More recently, my brother declared he wanted my father’s stamp collection (which represented his only happy childhood memory), and my father nonchalantly declared that mice had probably eaten through the stamp books. Never mind that incompatibility with hoarding crap you collect and letting it get destroyed. I can’t understand how hoarders get to the point of not caring about the critters in their home that they cannot see or access – only hear or smell. Does it become another comforting part of the hoard, or does it ever terrify them that their home is taking on a life of its own?

an HP-free Christmas, almost

The holidays have been blissfully minimalist this year with our new home, tiny tree, and usable Christmas gifts. Still, a part of me feels guilty for not buying D. more stuff. He seriously only got a few packs of herb seeds and a couple of candy bars for Christmas, just the way he likes it. The 29th was his birthday and our fifth anniversary and I was so far-gone into vacation mode that I didn’t even realize it was the 29th until 2 p.m. Oops. Happy Birthday, lover. I got  you nothing, but I love you more than ever. The intangibles matter more, I know. But the culture of stuff is deeply intrenched in me.

As I catch up on my hoarding blogs, though, I realize the beauty in giving less. Last year at this time, my parents gave our daughter several large gifts that  we obviously could not bring with us to Australia. It was so frustrating that they insisted on buying stuff that I mostly turned around and sold or donated rather than giving her.

This year, they tried to send her a package for her birthday. When they realized that it would cost more to send than they had spent, they decided it was better just to hold off. Then on Christmas eve (here), I got a frantic email from my HP father with the subject, “I’m late!!!”

My Dad was desperate to get money sent to us somehow before Christmas – as though we are small children who will cry on Christmas morning without a gift of some type under the tree. I told him it was entirely unnecessary, but he could send a check to our home in the States and it would get deposited. He followed through and proudly reported he got it sent before Christmas. What he doesn’t realize is that his frantic email detailing all the dramatic events in his small church was more than enough present. Like many HPs (or so I hear), my dad is a fantastic story teller. I’ve been asking him for some time to just write down stories about his childhood as he thinks of them. I even offered to give my step-mother an .mp3 recorder so she could ask him questions in the car and record the stories. When he goes, the oral traditions of our family are going to be lost.

I admit in the end that I’m glad to be impossibly far away on Christmas. D’s 70-year-old parents figured out how to Skype in on Christmas morning to watch S. open her presents, and again today to send more well-wishes. Mine were only concerned about sending the check on time. What is Christmas if it isn’t about enjoying each other?

oh christmas crap

The solution to the Christmas accumulation conundrum was to buy a small fake pine, about S.’s size, a package of mixed mini candy canes, some small santa koalas from the dollar store and about three other little trinkets. In total this decoration cost about $45, plus the $50 that flew out of my pocket somewhere in my neighborhood while I was walking home with the tree. (Happy Christmas, stranger who finds it!) The fact that I lost something bothers me more than the cost. Accumulator, I am.

Nonetheless, the little tree, not particularly well photographed here, was fun to decorate, only took a few minutes suiting S’s attention span, and part of it is edible. You can’t beat that. Or maybe you can. Tell me: do you other COH’s have a problem with Christmas decorations?

D. told me he couldn’t care less if there was a tree or not. I felt I needed one to get in the mood since it’s summer here. I put on some rocking Christmas tunes (including Elvis’s “Blue Christmas” and some more shameful hits), and genuinely enjoyed the time with our daughter. She was mostly interested in playing with the koalas, but she did dance a bit and asked for more Christmas songs. Frosty the Snowman was a big hit.

sharing the hurts

ImageWe moved into our new home yesterday and enjoyed the first silent night in about 5 1/2 months. Beautiful eerie silence. We also spent hours assembling furniture and putting things together so we could have the home just the way we like it. Odds and ends are still arriving, house begins to feel like home, and still I struggle not to over spend or over accumulate. Today’s debate in my head: how to decorate for Christmas with S. without buying crap I will store for the next 12 months.

In the midst of the moving, just moments ago I received the following message from a dear friend. I post here with authorization (merci et bisous à somewhereoverthepoutine):

i thought about you today. my mom just sold her house and forced me to get ALL of my shit out of it. I figured that i’d have a few boxes of girdles and whatnot, but holy shit i had like six boxes of books and two boxes full of school papers going all the way back to preschool.i spent all day whittling down my collection of school papers. i can’t describe how much it hurt to toss out drawings from when i was four!!!!! oh it hurt. anyway, you’re not alone in your hoarding struggle!! 

Happy Christmas, y’all. You’re not alone as the holidays bear down upon you, laden with gifts and crap galore.

meddling

For the past two months, I’ve been thinking about Sid from My Mother-In-Law is Still Sitting Between Us…  and her ability to successfully urge and encourage people, even strangers, to get out from under the hoard. Sid, by the way, thank you.

I would like to say that I am not a meddler, but that is not entirely true. I speak my mind freely, have been known as judgmental and self-righteous, and I enjoy introducing people to each other. However, when it comes to emotional and health issues, my usual response is to ignore sad looks and bad behavior outside my inner-circle. If a person wants to share, I’m more than open, but I have tremendous difficulty asking people if they are OK on a deeper level.

Thinking about the impact Sid’s blog (and the Children of Hoarders listserv and other resources) has had for me, I have to wonder what my life might be like if I could throw myself out there a little more, be the brave one, and perhaps even help a few people out.

Maybe I’m not quite there yet. While several kind strangers encourage me to say something to my parents about their hoarding before it really gets out of hand, I still can’t make myself do it. It’s almost as though I want to see if they will self-destruct on their own. But I do want to learn to make myself more available, even if it means I have to call up my folks and ask  how their pile of crap is doing today.

abuse and hoarding

I’ve been silent but not inactive over the past few weeks. My mind is heavily occupied, in part because I suddenly started receiving the Children of Hoarders (COH) listserv messages, even though I joined the group months ago. There are many well articulated, insightful, and blatantly painful messages shared among the members on a daily basis, and my thought process on hoarding is a bit jammed.

Recently there was an active discussion on the abusiveness of hoarding and the fear (or not) of being taken away from the hoarding parent (HP). I will be the first person to recognize that I can only acknowledge abuse when it literally hits me in the face. After some therapy I came to recognize my father as an abusive person towards me, but I hadn’t been able to do it while growing up because he was physically abusive to both my mother and brother and I was somehow spared. Now that I’m confronted with an entirely different level of possibility – that his hoarding is an abusive act – I feel on unstable ground again.

[interlude: blogpost interrupted by people seeking donations for disaster relief, and I notice they are from a certain religious group, give money, hear father’s voice screaming in my ear that this group is a cult.]

My initial reaction is to defend both my father and my situation: it wasn’t that bad, the hoarding didn’t become an issue until I left home, and so on. If anything, and my mother confirms my memory, my childhood was dictated by a stringent cleaning regimen, and my father was more obsessed with sorting and cleaning things – or at least having us do it – than he was by accumulating. He was already a compulsive spender, although I didn’t understand that as a child, and he did bring my family to dramatic financial ruin that ended in foreclosure on a home, living without electricity, and hiding from the creditors sent to repossess our car. Still, I justify him. He was trying to cope, though badly, with a divorce and single parenting, though terribly.

As I think about it as an adult, I do see his hoarding as abusive, but it is extremely hard to write that even now. He always cared for things more than for us and would constantly say he had no money to help with things that didn’t matter to him (buying us decent clothes and food? paying for college education?) but he always had money to buy things that were important to him (horses, horse trailers, guns, hunting trips). His possessions weren’t to the rafters, but he did have a problem with things. And just today we were at a fair and caught part of a horseback riding competition, and I said to D. I really wish my dad had spent time with the horses. We had them through a very large part of my childhood, but I only remember riding a few times over all those many years. If anything, he just wanted to have animals. Even today he runs a deer farm, and I believe he takes good care of the animals just as he did with the horses, but they serve almost no purpose whatsoever… they’re just there because he wants them there, eating up money and resources while he calls them a business investment.

It’s hard to label this kind of neglect as abuse for me, especially because there was real physical abuse that I witnessed and not just from him. I have trouble putting his hoarding activity on the same line as causing physical pain. Perhaps it’s equally destructive, but now far more acceptable – hell, even fashionable – to be a hoarder.

It’s a common complaint among the COH that at first really shocked me – hoarders are seen as kindly, well-meaning, creative individuals who are victims themselves. This is a cultural view as well as the perspective of many highly respected researchers. But by being the victim, the hoarders can only too easily perpetuate their abuse. We COH get angry, and the passive HP is able to turn the attention onto our bad behavior, making themselves out to be even greater martyrs, all while refusing to share and refusing to put their own children ahead of stuff.

I’m only just figuring this out as I write it. I can only imagine how insufferable it is to actually have to live in a home every single day that is so filled with crap, constantly weighing down or threatening to topple onto you as a reminder of how less significant your life is to your HP than the stuff that surrounds them.  I knew every day that my dad cared more about stuff than about me, but I didn’t have to tiptoe around the stuff that mattered more. I only had to tiptoe around him.