Tag Archives: things

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.

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

another way to do it…

ImageWe returned back to our home in Australia on Friday morning with all 9 checked bags, 2 carry-ons, 3 backpacks, and 1 pillow pet more or less in tact. Although that sounds like a lot, the only things I left in the U.S. are a winter coat, gloves and pair of boots and some things that should be sold on craigslist. Oh wait … well, no there are some other things that did get left such as my grandmother’s china which was not shipped to my brother. Frankly, I forgot to send it and did not realize it until just now. I spent my last full day in our home with the vomiting-diarrhea-fall-asleep-on-the-bathroom-floor kind of illness. Fortunately the suitcases were almost packed before the illness struck.

The checked bags were not excessive: 2 bicycles, 1 box of artwork, 1 carseat, 1 bag of hockey equipment, 1 bag of odd junk like tools, my flute, and S’s new tennis racket, and 1 personal suitcase for each of us. One of the personal suitcases was filled with breakables. I did my best to protect them but sadly many things that once seemed important to us have now come to rest in our Australian rubbish bin. I packed my childhood tea set in that bag. I still have the original box (!), but 2 pieces did not survive the crossing. We broke some corning wear, handmade canisters, and jars. My favorite antique Christmas ornament that belonged to my great-grandmother suffered some splintering. And some things we really don’t care about at all came out just fine. 

The rest of our things were shipped in boxes via USPS at $60 per large flat rate box. I had to go through photo albums and notebooks and decide if I really needed prom photos or if I could just resnap them quickly with my iPhone and let the distorted image be good enough. I have handwritten journals I’ve kept from age 5 to 35, which I always thought would be an awesome gift to my child (wow, what was I thinking?) or useful as notes for a mémoire. I almost tossed them, but couldn’t bear to let go of all of it. Somehow it makes me feel sane when I go back and read snippets of what I went through to get where I am today. Instead I broke down bindings and tore out pages to condense them. I’m curious to see if the pages can be scanned through a top-feeding machine. 

This is the minutiae, the overwrought details of the stuff, but ultimately, that’s all the stuff there is now. We got home and our house was delightfully clean and empty. No clutter in sight anywhere. It felt good to look around and see no mess. Just a stack of mail to sort through.

The unpacking went swiftly, the shards of glass were swept up, and our life is officially here now. It’s good to be home.

packing up

ImageWe leave tomorrow morning for a couple of months in the States. This is the end result of the pack-up. I took an oft-used tip that Joanna discusses on her blog I won’t be a hoarder too: take some old clothes with you and leave them behind. The blue suitcase pictured here is full of clothes that almost don’t fit S. We’re giving most of them to her younger cousin and we’ll buy her new clothes as we need them.

Each suitcase has other suitcases inside it so we can bring back more things if we want. My greater dilemma, though, has been to take enough so that I do not buy clothes out of desperation that I will never wear later. I don’t want to buy things just because they’re cheaper or because I didn’t pack what I already own. I don’t want my home in Australia to be filled up with useless stuff. We’ll see how it goes. I’ve never packed so light before.

 

ungrateful

Although I’m committed to the goals of the Children of Hoarders support group, I sometimes look away for long periods of time. Reading the experiences of others makes me feel somehow guilty for publicly complaining about my situation when others have had it so severely worse. Then the feeling that I am entirely ungrateful for my upbringing suddenly popped into my head about two days ago. Am I only looking for yet another way to talk about the ways in which my parents failed to nurture me? Can they ever do anything right? It’s like a revolving door and I can’t step out.

My father had clear hoarding tendencies while I was growing up. I’ve also written about my paternal Grandfather, collector of treasures, my maternal Grandmother, survivor of the Depression who throws nothing useful out, and my own tendencies to cling to objects that remind me of past travels, experiences or people. But my father’s hoarding, as far as I know, has only shut off two rooms and a garage. The family can still sit on the couch, I presume. I say that, but I am not certain. Maybe they clean for days ahead of our visits to clear those coveted surfaces for us. While some children are literally trapped in horrid living conditions, my main area of suffering was from neglect. Things were and are always more important than I am, if not in word at least in deed.

A few days ago, I finally wrote to my father to tell him of our holiday travel plans and to ask if we could come by the house for a day or two. We cannot invite them to our home because it is rented to friends. However, we are renting a vacation home and I am very late at asking if they want to visit us there. Late and hesitant. I could sense the tone in their response that they (step-mother and HP) were upset they had not been made a priority. My father couldn’t even be bothered to answer me himself and has stopped talking to me during our constant Scrabble games online. I shouldn’t expect them to feel any other way: their visits are never easy for us, but I haven’t seen them in a year and a half.

Rambling back to the point: I wonder if I am ungrateful. Look at me: I’ve got problems, but I’ve turned out ok. Did they really do me wrong? The more I read other people’s stories of abuse, however, I feel more and more resentful. And they are not even doing something to me now.

Lately, I feel resentful because my husband’s parents are equally far from us and yet they have maintained a constant relationship with our daughter. She knows who they are, she visually recognizes them, she talks with them on Skype almost weekly. My own parents (both the HP and my mother) cannot bother to write an email much less learn how to Skype or pick up a telephone to talk to me or S. She asked me who Grandpa S. was the other day and I could only get her to remember by talking about his dog. His dog who is the clear #2 priority in his life.

The unclarity in my head at the moment is probably very legible here. I feel guilty for not inviting them, for feeling ungrateful. I wasn’t really that abused, just a little abused and very neglected. And I feel anger. Real anger and frustration that they expect me to be chasing after their attention when I know I will never compare to stuff.

Being less worthy than stuff was discussed in depth on the HuffPost Live webcast “Hoarding’s Harsh Reality” last week. I am grateful to those who are willing to share publicly and to Sidney for being an advocate for the victims of hoarding. We need one, especially those of us who can’t even decide how we really feel.

the value of things

A sweet tidbit posted by my HP on Facebook, reposted here without his knowledge. He was reflecting on the unexpected death of three of his deer.

I am so glad that the Lord has taught me not to hang on to “things”! In Job 1:21 it is reported that Job said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.” At this point in my life, I could not agree more!

 

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.

my valentine

Yesterday morning I checked into my office to find the most wonderful and coincidental Valentine’s gift from D.. Eight boxes of books arrived in my office from the U.S.     Love.

There are another seven that are MIA and probably fifteen more that need to be sent from home. Unpacking the boxes felt like Christmas, my birthday, the fourth of July… you get the idea. Among the loot were a few much needed texts, some French fiction I haven’t touched in ages but love to have on my shelves, and then the random: a pattern for a crocheted afghan that I’ve started three times and never finished.

D. has said if we move again, the books are not coming with me. I feel like whining, “But I neeeeeeed them for work!” Of course, there is that big building on campus called a …. library.

my future hoard?

Last Tuesday, Sidney at Milbetweenus.com posted the story of Greg’s journey through his parents’ hoard. It’s a compelling and tragic read that helped me understand why some COHs have encouraged me to say something now to my parents instead of waiting until they’re found clinging to life (or worse) under the weight of their hoard.

the "office"

When I consider the mass of things my parents have accumulated in their lifetimes, I prefer to just never look back. What’s really sad about it in retrospect is that while I lived in that house for the 2 years or so while I finished high school, I had mostly happy moments. But when I think about the house in the state I last saw it, all my memories are dampened. All I see now is the filth, shut off rooms, broken gutters, cracked doorsteps, and disarray. This when I know that they had cleaned the house the best they could before we got there. As I’ve said before, my strategy has been to look away and go away while letting them live their lives.

I teared up, though, reading Greg’s story, because I know this is the position my brother shares. He has long been saying he will take a leave from work when the time comes and he will go through the house, with or without family help. He feels he needs to pay proper respect to what has been kept, and he shares Greg’s desire to see it all before it goes. Just thinking about it makes my chest tighten up, not just with anxiety, but thoughts of the dust mites and mold that trigger my allergies.

It makes me angry with my parents, but still I do nothing. You’ve made your bed, now lie in it (if you can) comes to mind. Maybe I can start by talking to my brother to see if he wants to intervene at any point. Even more appropriate would be to contact my step-brother and sister-in-law who live 45 minutes from the hoarded house and see my parents regularly. But my parents have cleverly cut us off from each other — similar to what they’ve done with their home. Every communication passes through them first and they’ve created a web of information that we either are or are not supposed to know so that when we talk we navigate goat trails. It’s no wonder I left the country when I think of the weight of things that could topple down at any moment.

Enough about me, though. Greg – you’ve done a great and noble thing that I do not have the balls to do for my folks although that would be my dad’s dying wish. Sidney, you’re amazing for being able to support Greg the way you have. It’s hard enough for a COH to understand what their parents have done; I can’t imagine how much more difficult it is for our partners.

why we collect stuff

In case you missed it, the New York Times ran a collection of pieces in Room for Debate on 30 December 2011, “Why We Collect Stuff.” Randy O. Frost defines the moment when collecting becomes hoarding, and Philipp Blom has a well-written piece, “Objects of Desire and Dreams.” Blom explains:

Collected objects are like holy relics: conduits to another world. They have shed their original function and become totems, fetishes. Collecting by its very nature is animist and transcendental.

The objects and their organization bind us to something larger than ourselves, and as religion was born out of a fear of death and the wish of eternal life, collecting expresses the same fundamental urges.

This gets to the crux of my interest in memory and hoarding. The objects we cling to attempt to say something about ourselves and tie us to a broader spectrum of people, eternalizing both the objects and the sentiments behind them. The object becomes symbol of both self and community.

This works for collecting, but what about hoarding? The desire to preserve begins the same but the attachment to the object seems to be as linked to decay and destruction as it is to safeguarding. Amassing the sheer volume of things surpasses the ability to control and the collection implodes. Items are lost in the debris even if they remain in the hoarder’s memory.