Tag Archives: junk

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.

scraps

It’s fall trash pickup time here in Brisbane and we have been sorting items we want to discard. We put a bicycle and a stroller out to the curb and both were snatched up almost immediately by one of the many roving trucks that make daily trips through the neighborhood looking for treasures. Some houses have massive piles of junk out front that have been well picked over and look like a junk yard. 

Yesterday I cycled into work and past the hoarding house I keep my eye on. Sadly I recognized all sorts of new junk piled in the front of the yard and onto the back of two trucks. I have watched this house for the past two years and I know that these items are not going away to good use any time soon. Children’s toys and plastic garden chairs topped off the mounds.

ImageAt least in our house some purging is happening. We scrapped an old barbecue, we’re giving away the bike trailer S. used to ride in, and I’ve been putting our old t-shirts to good use. I’m making D. his own rug. So far it contains seven tees, with number eight balled up on top. 

oh hoarder

Every day I bicycle past a hoarding house. It has a run-down camper parked in front and two other cars that seem not to work. The front yard is littered with large machinery type objects and at least three rusting wheelchairs. I can see in the front windows: there is stuff piled up 3/4 to the top. It’s a nice neighborhood with homes worth near the one million dollar mark on the same little street. This one looks like a leftover.

Yesterday as I was bicycling along, I noticed a trailer on the back of one of the cars. On that trailer, a newish looking treadmill. I smirked uncomfortably. No space in the house for a treadmill and likely no one will use it. I’m sure they got a fantastic deal somewhere. Today, the treadmill remains rusting in place.

Once upon a time, I also got a great deal on a treadmill. I bought it third-hand, and D. helped me bring it home. I used it maybe three times. I always had an excuse for not using it: primarily, if I was going to run I should be running outside with the dogs. I didn’t run with the dogs. It went into the garage to make room for our baby. I sold it very easily but 4 years later and for half what I paid for it. A wonderful machine for the right person. For the hoarder in me: junk. Space filling stuff. Accumulation. Debris. A reminder of what I should be doing but wasn’t. 

Oh dear hoarder, I know you will not stop. So I watch daily as the pile grows. I imagine you picking through your neighbor’s continually growing trash heap. I wonder if it feels good to not have space, to feel the weight of those things anchoring you in your spot, if hoarding is essentially an anxiety disorder – a need to be physically hemmed in. 

nbd, it’s npd

Thank you Hoarder’s Son and Children of Hoarders for your recent discussions on Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). Thank you, but why must the rabbit hole go ever deeper? Probably to hide away more hoarded stuff. It seems only appropriate that our HPs have collected psychological disorders along with their junk.

Without having a proper degree to diagnose my father, I can recognize obvious displays of NPD in him. Long before the hoard, the characteristic marks of this behavior were present. He has big dreams (that happen to change rather often), believes he is someone very special (divine calling, anyone?), and treated his first and second wives and his children as extensions of himself who were meant to obey his commands and whims without resistance. Question his authority and expect a fine fit of rage.

Where things get complicated for me, or for him maybe, is that my father is a pastor of a very small church. Being a pastor and doing these things for the Lord justifies almost every behavior, every dream, every whim, everything he wants. This role began about the time when the hoarding took off and I was out of the house. And pastoring fulfilled his need to have constant admiration, attention, and control. At some point I began to wonder (shudder) if he even believed what he was preaching or if he simply enjoyed being in the position of total authority in the church body.  Whatever the inspiration, he has mellowed considerably through the years — from God or from age, I do not know.

My father can be completely charming and sweet, but any generosity or overly kind word gives me a grippingly sick feeling. His sweetness is always pointed at what he cannot control, but if you ask him, he is just winning people over to the Lord. I tense up when I hear that overly sweet tone in his voice. It happened too often in my childhood that he would be in a full-on rage about some horrible sin I’d committed (blue nail polish comes to mind) and the phone would ring. Suddenly he’d be the nicest man on earth on the phone, perhaps even brag about how great I was to his interlocutor, and the minute the conversation with the unknown person was over, the rage would continue. Turn it on, turn it off. Like a switch.

I could go on and on with this analysis of my father and the ways in which he matches this behavior profile, but things get difficult when I turn the scope on myself.

I, like many people who have posted on children of hoarders (thank you, all of you), was a mini-adult, put on display at church as the model child, had perfect grades from ninth grade to the end of my B.A. degree, and every success was attributed not only to my father, but to our heavenly father. Perfect grades? Praise the Lord. Scholarship? Praise the Lord. More than once I wanted to scream, “What about praise me?” Yet still, I endeavored to please.

I was the Golden Child, the wanted child (?), the successful child. I found my rebellion through reading subversive books in a foreign language and conducting my research in a way that is entirely incomprehensible to my father. I created my space in foreign cultures and he has not once asked or attempted to understand it. His only concern has ever been if my beliefs align with his: I am so going to Hell.

Until I met D. I had no idea what I wanted in life even though I was very clearly motivated. He’s the first person to ever ask me what I wanted. I had always had some God-plan to live by. When I stumbled off of that track, and D. asked me hard questions, I came up entirely empty. How could I answer where I was going since someone or some entity had always told me where to go and what to do?

I chose a path that brought down my father’s wrath. I was 31.

And now, seven years later and in a different countries, my father is trying to use his sweet charm on me.

NPD, maybe it’s a BFD.

 

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.

the French do it, too

When I happened upon this pile of castoff furniture and junk, an elderly man was very carefully checking it over. When he saw me, he started to scurry away.

deb’s chickens

One of my new small joys is meeting the people from craigslist who actually want to buy things from our box of “junk” that D. told me I should throw out. Today I met “Deb” in the K-Mart parking lot, which was an experience all its own. Deb was waiting patiently in her car near the entrance to the parking lot while I was patiently waiting near the entrance to the store. Who can be blamed for such an innocent difference of interpreting “entrance”?

As I handed over the signed and dated glass chicken that had been given to D. for speaking to chicken farmers, Deb handed me an envelope with $3 in it and joyfully proclaimed, “I collect chickens!” 

“Cool!” I said enthusiastically as I turned back towards my car, imagining her house full to the brim of chickens. I happen to remember that Deb contacted me about some wooden ducks for sale earlier in the summer, but someone else had beaten her to it.

But what’s this collecting all about? Where does it go and what does it do for us? I used to collect fountain pens. I “restored” one of them today and tried to write a letter of recommendation with this once cherished instrument. It squeaked and dragged. It did not at all reconnect me to Leïla Sebbar who also expressed love for her Parker fountain pen. Nope, mine’s going up on craigslist, probably alongside my turtle collection.