Tag Archives: hoarding

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: http://flipboard.com/@ahubbell/hoarding-7gl9r0jsy

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.

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.

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.

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yard sale hidden treasures

yard sale hidden treasures

From Zynga with love to the hoarder. This can have no good outcome.

hoarding fake memories

My HP father has an uncanny memory. If you can get him talking about the past, he will tell you vivid stories with amazing detail about what it was like growing up. He hoards memory like he hoards newspapers and hunting magazines.

My career is based on studying what people say about their pasts (nostalgic and traumatic), but more particularly, I’m interested in how they say it. I have thought for at least a decade already that there is no way to validate memories – memories change, different ones emerge at different times, and maybe there is no true memory. For that matter, I have less faith in a concrete memory that reappears each time in the exact same form than I do in one that may reveal something different each time.

But variable as memories are, you cannot argue with someone about what they recall. How would it help me to prove to my father that his dad was not wearing plaid the day he did x, y or z. Or for that matter, what does it matter if my grandfather did not do x, y or z? What matters is my dad remembers it. He has held onto that scrap of information, however useless it may seem to me, and he has carried it around because it matters to him to retain it. He is telling me more about himself today than the reality of the past he may have lived.

Frost and Steketee have established a link between hoarders and memory (each item is indispensable because it has attached meaning, and the hoarder has a gift for seeing these connections). But how many of the links are false and corrupt? And does it matter? Because in the end, the hoard remains. 

How Many of Your Memories are Fake? from The Atlantic, 18 November 2013.

excavation

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the knot

My paternal grandmother died of cancer when I was 8. I inherited her sewing kit which I have faithfully moved around with me and constantly used and added to over the years. It’s here now in Australia and I opened it yesterday to add my newer sewing resources. It was in disarray. How did this knot get there? It’s like the little ends of thread from all the bobbins and spools worked their way together when no one was looking. The only way out of it was to break off several strands of this now very antique and newly hip thread on real wooden spools. A metaphor of my attachment to things: collected to preserve and rendered useless.

I set about organising the box yesterday as I realised I was not honouring my grandmother’s memory very well by holding on to the debris she left inside. I emptied the box, entirely, for the first time ever. I laid out the pieces. S. watched, asking questions, as she rummaged through my other inherited items looking for treasures she could play with. I dusted the box, discarded some items, but could not part with some of the most hilariously useless things. Captioned photography of the excavation below.

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the clutter below, never properly sorted

how i roll: keep the box for the stitch ripper for 20+ years

how i roll: keep the opened box for the stitch ripper for 20+ years

La Mode - maybe c. 1970, it was

La Mode – maybe c. 1970, it was

this unidentifiable green machine nearly sliced my daughter's finger. I had no idea what it was but I had 2, made in Italy. Oh, automatic needle threader. Of course.

this unidentifiable green machine nearly sliced my daughter’s finger. i had no idea what it was but i had 2, made in Italy. oh, an automatic needle threader. of course.

ideal for swimwear. complete with 1950s style metal clasp

ideal for swimwear. complete with 1950s-style metal clasp.

death trap debris. needles, snaps, screws, dust, everywhere.

death trap debris. needles, snaps, screws, dust, everywhere.

not so shabby chic. i presume i sewed this rotten elastic around age 8. trashed.

red owl. a minnesota supermarket i nostalgically recall.

red owl. a minnesota supermarket i nostalgically recall.

wtf? i red owl sewing kit?

wtf? a red owl sewing kit?

fashion patches, there were many

fashion patches, there were many

a 1966 Singer instruction manual, perhaps valuable on ebay. my sewing box matches the beautiful blue color.

a 1966 Singer instruction manual, perhaps valuable on ebay. my sewing box matches the beautiful blue color.

grandma would approve.

grandma would approve

it wouldn’t be easter

We Skyped with my father/HP/Santa Claus/Pastor this morning. I suspected he had been absent from the interwebs because he was preparing for Easter at church. Oh no, not at all. Tax season is upon him. I couldn’t see clutter behind Santa-dad but he said they had tax papers spread throughout the house. This brings back unfond memories of childhood paper organising. Very frequently we had to spread piles of papers around the office or the house and my brother and I were tasked with alphabetising and chronologically ordering the papers. It was always for taxes or for the small insurance agency he used to run. From this I gained excellent secretarial skills that helped me pay my way through my undergraduate education. Thanks, Dad.

In addition to the tax-paper-mess he declared today, he’s also taken to raising ducks. Peking ducks. Why not, anyway. 

serial hoarder

ImageI’ve started to seriously enjoy the Australian series Selling Houses Australia, so when I found out there was an episode about a hoarding house, I had to tune in. What I watched was as much a cultural lesson in dealing with uncomfortable situations as it was a show on cleaning up a hoard.

The host Andrew Winter was visibly distressed upon entering the hoarded house, but there was none of the American, “Oh my god! I can’t believe it!” sort of panic or shock. He seemed rather to be sucking in his breath and trying to think of any way to demonstrate his surprise without being rude. There were references to “untidiness,” “mess,” and “the worst clutter I have ever seen,” but after the show’s overview, it wasn’t until about 1/3 of the way in that the term “serial hoarder” was used. The difference between hoarder and serial hoarder is anyone’s guess.

The crew was sensitive to the situation, but no hoarding or dehoarding experts were called to the scene. Professional movers and cleaners helped empty the house and the process was similar to every other hoarding show we’ve seen: the man kept rummaging through the trash insisting on keeping what others would deem useless stuff. In the end, the cleaned up house received offers, but there was no mention of whether the inhabitant hoarder accepted one.

This show, which usually has a good sense of humor and cheery tone, was unsettlingly sad to me. Perhaps it’s my own experience watching the stuff accumulate that makes me feel so glum, or perhaps it’s the nature of the hoard itself that sucks the joy out of a space that is meant to be a safe zone.

http://www.lifestyle.com.au/tv/selling-houses-australia/

clutteraholic

D. left yesterday for a month-long trip to the U.S. to finish up his citizenship requirements. I have this nagging spring fall cleaning goal of decluttering in his absence. But who am I kidding really? I’m a clutteraholic (see desktop update below, and that’s only the half of it). I forget what I cannot see. I stress when my desk is clean. Really, it induces slight panic and a dizzying sense of being lost.

ImageMaybe I’m exaggerating a little. But my clutter makes me feel at home. It isn’t everywhere in the house. It is contained to my desk and a corner of our kitchen table which is cluttered with S’s amazing artwork and crafts and recent sales fliers. 

The clutter I can’t see, however, is perhaps less necessary for my mental well-being. I hope to sort through some drawers and donate or repurpose some old clothes. I’m not entirely optimistic, but a good purge might do me some good while my heart wants to clasp onto everything in the absence of D.