Tag Archives: mess

a family burden

Yesterday I wrote to my step-brother who lives the closest to my HP and who sees my dad and step-mom the most often, just to let him know I’m aware of the problem and available even though far away. We have not been close, ever really, but I feel it’s unfair for him and his wife to bear the burden of what my father has brought to the table, so to speak. My brother, on the other hand, claims to be committed to cleaning up the hoard because he wants to see what’s inside. I think he underestimates what the time commitment would be. I think he also wants to find buried treasure. That desire runs deep in my genealogy.

For the moment, all is calm on the hoarding front. I think this is the right time to prepare. I tried to express to my step-brother, in a very neutral tone, that I feel comfort he is nearby but by no means expect him to deal with it. I also simply stated that I do not feel attached to anything in the home. I hope he can read between the lines and understand that if they are stuck disposing of the mess, they can dispose of the mess without my interference. Perhaps what I will best be able to offer is financial help if it comes to that.

The house is dilapidated. Carpet has never been changed. The house was constructed in the late 1970s and the only major renovations that have occurred were when my father and I moved in c. 1990. He finished the basement. That same basement is now 80% inaccessible because of the hoard.

It makes me sad for my step-brother(s). This was their childhood home. It has been the same home in the backdrop of almost every memory growing up. This is where they still celebrate most major holidays. I haven’t been there for over a year already and I don’t expect to go back until 2013. Expect it to get worse, I flatly expressed. Maybe much worse.

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desktop update – goings and comings

desktop before

A friend came to see me while I was packing up and asked if I was going to post a picture of my desktop.  It is visibly empty, and all cared-about belongings have been removed from drawers. Last week was a frenzy of sorting, tossing, shoving into suitcases, trying to be clear-headed, vomiting, washing, and leaving behind my most cared about “stuff” in the world – my best friend, D. He has been left with the chaotic mess of empty envelopes, half-filled plastic bags, coat hangers, shampoo bottles, and the like. While absurdly we continue to wait for his paperwork, he has to sift through the rubble. In the meantime, S. and I are on the other side of the planet, shuffling about dazed, waking up at 3 a.m. not knowing what day it is, and feeling empty without him.

the more things change...

The best I can do to describe my present state of disorganization is “spinning.” I grab a very very important new piece of paper — like my bank account information — put it in a logical place, and promptly forget where I put it. Then I grab my passport and join it to the pile where I think I’m going to need it next — like with rental applications — and then I need it for banking and can’t seem to find it. I’m a whirlwind of mess, chronically sleep deprived, untethered, cry at the littlest, “maybe that’s daddy?” when S. hears a noise… and so on. And my “stuff” is not here to hold me down, make me feel embedded, push roots into the earth, or any other metaphorical fodder that it is supposed to do. My landmarks are missing, the biggest one being my partner, and it feels like my legs have been chopped off in a sense.

None of this is to complain, because I’ve fallen into a weird community of genuinely happy, smiling, friendly, eager to serve and please people. Strangers stop and talk, everyone looks relaxed, the sun is so brilliantly white that everything outside seems to sparkle until 4 p.m. when it starts to get dark. Then the lights sparkle some more on the water. I feel guarded and suspicious of all this openness. In fact, I thought I had been living in a very friendly town until yesterday. Now I don’t know what to expect. Unanchored, weightless, temporary, and very sad.

you can’t take it with you

A friend of mine commented on my recent post “Separation,” that I might be fooling myself in thinking that my parents’ hoard doesn’t bother me and that I might be able to escape it by moving so far away. Obviously she’s right. The problem affects me whether I’m near or far from the actual hoard – so much so that I have a blog about it. Add to that, I’m turning my research focus towards hoarding in exile autobiography. I know full well that this has not only deeply impacted me in the present; it will continue to haunt me in the future no matter my physical distance.

My organizational strategy over the past few months as we have prepared for the move that is perpetually delayed has been to ask myself if each object is worth the cost of shipping. Will I wear this particular garment enough to grant it a spot in my suitcase? Is this book so important to me that I should ship it? Yesterday I thought I’d send a nice crystal vodka set that I bought in Turkey to a friend in Switzerland – and the shipping ranged from $85 to $270, depending on insurance. I brought the set back home with me and decided to send her flowers. If you can’t take it with you, is it worth having in the present?

With that in mind, I think about the mess of a home my parents live in. They are radical right-wing Christians who believe in storing up treasures in Heaven. They are well aware that they cannot take any of the their earthly possessions with them; yet, they continue to hold on to the odd objects. Hundreds of cool-whip containers, travel mugs, empty cardboard boxes, used coffee cans … combined with collectibles like Fiesta-ware, miniature animals, and so on… the house is full, and they can’t take it with them.

But I will take it with me. The hoard has left an indelible mark on my mind and on my own relationship to stuff. No matter where I go, I will have this mountain of things in my memory that I need to sift through so that I can live in uncluttered freedom with my own family.

desks again

desk on Feb. 13, 2011

I actually forgot I left my desk in this state yesterday. I was searching for the missing piece to my Turkish rug … because I had “repaired” a rip in our leather sofa and suddenly had a bright idea about fixing the rug, too. And so I searched in the first logical place, did not find the missing piece, and, as usual, got distracted by bits of saved paper. I sorted some and exiled others to the recycling box, including numerous baby announcements. Then I forgot what I was doing and went upstairs, abandoning my work space.

This runs counter to the feelings I was having this morning while working in glorious sunlight on our balcony. I was thinking about my colleague C, who has the  most orderly life I know. She is in her office or teaching from 9 to 5 every day, except for Fridays when she leaves a bit early to go to happy hour at our favorite bar. Her office is tidy, her desk is clean, and the atmosphere there exudes efficiency and work. I used to think if I could have her office space, I would write a lot more. But then I got to know myself a little better over the last few years.

Every time I get that nostalgic longing for tidiness and organization, it is swiftly changed into distracted clutter. It is simply how I work – from piles of stuff sitting in front of me to remind me of what I was previously thinking or doing. The same is true for my laptop desktop. I’m writing in Chrome right now with 16 tabs open. I shut at least 5 or 6 of them earlier today, but each one is open to a page that I want to revisit. Each book in this mountain of papers on my desk has pages I want to revisit. I stop, pause, contemplate the pile, and remember something for my research. That happens more often than me actually picking up the book and flipping to a certain page. Just having the text there is enough to jog my thoughts. Again, I need my stuff in front of me to remind me of what I’m doing and to simultaneously distract me from what I’m doing and to lead me into something else I’m not supposed to be doing. It’s a crooked path, but it has gotten me into a reasonably productive academic life.

That said, I now am confronted with the desire to procrastinate my academic writing to continue sorting the crap on my desk. A few items I couldn’t bear to toss out yesterday today were immediately jettisoned into the recycling box.

Order in my chaos, chaos in my order, clutter in my mind leads to order in my writing, tangled in my head but neatly laid out on the page.

just sayin’ maybe i lied

I just had a peek back at my Sept. 25 post, “a high functioning hoarder” in which I wrote, “In general, I keep my desk neatly organized…”

In light of what I saw in my desk today, I am clearly delusional. Although I know basically where everything is on top of my desk, this does not make my desk neatly organized by any objective standards. Is this progress to recognize it now? Outwardly organized, interiorly a mess.