Tag Archives: hoarding parent

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.

fourteen days and

Still the silence hangs in the air. My father continues to play Scrabble with me but has not texted a syllable outside of the game. I can’t articulate why it bothers me. It shouldn’t. But it’s like a constant reminder of our entire relationship, “I’m here with you, but not here for you.” I stubbornly play on but have stopped the light banter about the words played. He chooses not to speak. I don’t want to ask him why. I don’t want to know. He waits for me to ask. 

The last time I remember him not talking to me, I was in University. I had emailed him requesting examples of women ministers in the Bible for a project I was working on. It took me two months to realize he wasn’t talking to me (if that doesn’t say something…. wow). I had to ask what was wrong before he would open the floodgates and unleash the feelings I really wish he had kept to himself. He was angry that I might be considering being a minister. This time, I’m not asking. I do not want to know.

That doesn’t stop me from paranoid thoughts, though. Have they discovered this blog? If so, they are probably angry. Are they stupidly upset about our holiday plans? Who knows; they haven’t said. Not angry enough to not play Scrabble. Just manipulative enough to stop talking. Talking. As if there has been talking actually happening up to this point. 

I’m frustrated that I can see I’m a fool and still feel upset about the lack of talk. Banter. Not real voices and not real topics. Just banter. That’s all that’s gone.

If you, dear reader, are a COH, I would love to hear about your HP’s manipulation tactics. Have you received the silent treatment? Did you notice?

disorganized or too much stuff?

Mason Jar Monday - organization projectI’ve fallen off the planet for the past week or so due to my new addiction to Pinterest. Seeing all my fields of interest converge visually on pinboards has given me a better perception of my work and life. The downside to it all is the accumulated information on how to better organize and clean up my life. One more thing to feel guilty about as I look at my cluttered desk space even though I know I’m being tremendously productive.

Part of me really loathes these DIY organizational tip sites. It’s the same part of me that grew up with a hoarding parent. There seems to be a real misperception among hoarders, at least my HP, that the problem is not, “I have too much stuff.” The problem for them is, “I am too disorganized.”

I love organization. I love filing, I love sorting, I love to know where everything is. But my organizational systems become so complex that it gets difficult to put anything away. And when I do put things away in the most logical place ever, I often can’t find them again. If it’s out on my desk, I know exactly where it is.

Sound familiar? It’s the same excuse used by hoarders everywhere: “I need to go through my stuff and put it away.” “I don’t have time to go through my stuff…” and so on, while the piles just grow bigger. More moves in, nothing moves out.

All of this advice about better organizing your closet, small bathroom, or tiny kitchen cabinets, require additional purchases and new projects that the hoarder in us already can’t find time to pursue. So tempting though to think, “If I just put new shelves up in the garage, then I could put x, y, and z away where they belong.”

No, the real chore is not organization. It is simply getting rid of things we don’t use. Even better, stop buying those things in the first place. It takes time and dedication to constantly purge, but it’s infinitely better than finding a new space in an already crammed home.

(You can follow me on Pinterest at http://pinterest.com/amylya/.)

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?

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.