I sometimes caught snippets of these shows, thinking things like "boy but for the grace" and counting my blessings that I didn't have to live in one of those houses. I knew of people who had the problem, but they were far away and no longer in my life.
Then, I had the opportunity to move back to the small Oregon Coast town where I had lived in the mid 70's, and with the people who were once shirt tale relatives of mine. They were elderly, and she was trying to come home after an extended stay at a convalescent center. I vaguely remembered the condition of her home, not having been there for over 28 years. Little did I know what I was about to encounter.
The first thing I want to say is that this is not a choice for the people who are victims of this disorder. Although her husband was not like her, he played a role in letting things get out of hand. His basis was love, and wanting to get along with his strong willed wife. But he too, developed a need to "use it up and wear it out" that so many frugal people live by. Over the next 50 years, the double wide mobile home literally became a tomb for the accumulation of food, tools, guns, cookbooks, electronics, furniture, and every thing that ever came into the house but never left it. Ever!
I want to depict the 5 months it took me to dig out and to hopefully express the need to stay frugal but not to go this far. I don't want anyone to be insulted or hurt, if this subject hits home. We will never meet, so I am going to be as gentle as I can without losing the message.
So, here goes.
The first thing you need to know is a bit of background for the couple. They met at 36, when both had been married, divorced and had children. He one, she five, but only two young ones living at home. Their social skills were adequate, they had friends, he worked and she kept the home and took as good a care of him as she could. Money was always tight, but they did fine. They had both lived through the depression, which I have been told makes people tend to keep the few things they had. However, the message I want to convey is that there is a difference between "making do" and the condition of the house in March of this year. So, instead of telling anyone how to live or what to do, I will just try and advise on what "not" to do.
I have been counseled that this article, while very long and laden with texts and subtexts, be presented in several smaller articles that deal with one or two things each. For this first one, I will deal with general "stuff". I hope this helps.
Hoarding is a problem of too much stuff. During the day to day shopping of things for the family, house, pets, kids, and more, we all have to deal with packaging. This includes things like envelopes, plastic and cardboard, paper bags, tins, boxes, mesh bags, Styrofoam, tubs, and all the ways we preserve, buy, and carry things home. None of these ever left the house. The mail was put back into envelopes, even though the sender's information was on the contents. This literally doubled the space it took to keep any and all bills and receipts, which dated all the way back to 1958, and were kept in any basket, box, tin, or other receptacle available. That is where the dust found and stayed on them, creating a breathing hazard.
I found rusty hair pins in the original cardboard sleeve that was so old it was pulp again. Tins stuffed with open bags of candy, mixed in with boxes of fabric and unfinished salad dressings. In one dresser, I found broken bread tabs and clothes pins, opened toothpick wraps, crayons, pencils that were 1 inch long, rusty spoons, twist ties that were just wire, and the list goes on.
Because of lack of room, energy, or motivation, everything in the house was covered in dust and soot and mold. There were encyclopedias from 1964, drivers manuals from 1987, 39 phone books, 234 cook books, 78 frying pans, 117 cups, 239 relish dishes, 97 butter tubs, and over 13 pounds of ring tops from beer cans. I found 12 boxes of foil, but only 3 with foil in them. There was soap that was too old and cracked to use, unfinished medicine from 1975, and rusty razor blades, all in the original boxes. I would find zip lock bags with a single folded paper towel in them. Enough Christmas cards from charity agencies to last 100 years if she sent them to everyone she knew. I found 78 purses, some with safe deposit box keys, money, un-cashed or unsent checks, and 35 year old breath mints and gum in them.
Knick-knacks were on any and every free surface, which was now gone because of them. While picking through the 15 sets of flatware, I would also find things like recipe cards too worn from age to read, bottle caps, broken thermometers, clock parts, wadded up tissues, great grandkid's photos, and more. When you opened a box or tub, you could expect to find anything from unused food that was 15 years old, to important papers from the 50's, to dead critters.
During the process, unbeknownst to the owner, I began weighing the things that were in the mobile home. Over the 5 months, I estimate that 3200 pounds were in there that did not need to be. That is almost 2 tons on a frame that should not have lasted past 1999. In the hall and the bedrooms, the floor underneath was gone, leaving, in some places, just the carpeting. I had to lie down a piece of plywood in my room for a solid surface to walk on.
The property had three storage units, both wood and metal. Most were full, but it was my responsibility to fill the newest metal one. It was essentially a Mersk transport unit, about 12X24 foot. I got that half filled by the time I left, and I was not allowed to do anything to the master bedroom, and didn't have time to do the "fruit room" that had 25 5-gallon buckets of dishes, plus two freezers full of old food, and more.
Next month, I will tell you about the food. But for now, I just have a few things to say about "stuff".
First off, I'll paraphrase the genius of George Carlin, who said "You ever notice that all your crap is stuff and everyone else's stuff is crap?" (Yes, I cleaned it up a bit). But it's true that what you have is of value, but everyone else's things don't have much. I would never think that, because I would not want anyone to think that about mine. Everyone has things that they love, cherish, value, and would be heartbroken if a fire or flood took them. Believe me, as a survivor of a fire I get that. But, what I would never want my friends or family to see is a house that has almost no where to walk, without a clean place to prepare or eat food, air that is unsafe to breath, multi-legged critters abounding, or cobwebs and 1/8 inch of dust on everything. So, as the experts now say is essential to good mental health, we need to find a balance.
Now as for me, when the mail comes, the envelopes go in recycling. I read the paper or magazines, I save and scan anything that is of value, and put the rest in the recycling too. When I have a box of crackers, the tubes go into a Pringles can and the box is added. If I find a sale on Shake-n-Bake, I put the envelopes in a zip lock and toss the box in, too. As does that package of hair pins, bread tabs, tea and cereal and stuffing mix boxes, the used margarine tubs, the clear tubs that muffins and cookies come in, the square cardboard that is used to keep calendars stiff, and anything that is recyclable goes in right away. You have just eliminated half of your "stuff".
As a crafter, I am always getting little things here and there to make someday. They go in zip lock bags where I can not only see them, but I binder-clip them to a hanger to keep them off shelves and the floor. If there is packaging, I put it in the recycling.
When I buy things to resell, I put them in a separate shelf and have an online sale once a month or put them in with others for a yard sale.
If you are a collector, and your items are small, either build or go to the Dollar Tree and get the little shadow boxes that hinge in the front, and display your wares. Not only are they cheap and perfect, but once they are up there, you don't have to dust them anymore (well, just the top of the box but that is easier).
If you find things in your closet that you don't even remember owning, off to the thrift store it should go! If it's fancy with cool buttons or fabric, cut it up for a craft project and then do it before it just becomes something that morphed from one clutter to another. Remember there are leagues that make homeless people quilts and baby blankets for hospitals, so that old pair of jeans might keep someone warm and that pair of flannel Scooby Do PJ's will do some baby some good.
Experts advise that for everything you bring into the house, something must go out. I love the concept, but the reality might not apply to you. If it does however, "Feel the Urge to Purge!" Does anyone need 15 pairs of black shoes? How about TV's in the garage that no one can even reach much less use? Would they make a nice planter, perhaps? But, they would do better being recycled at the local center rather than making little mousy homes.
So, as I end this first installment, I want to say that the five months I spent at this house taught me a great deal. I want to share it with all of you who might know someone close to this.
I sure hope this and the subsequent articles help.
Poor But Proud
By Sandi from Sweet Home, OR
Editor's Note: Here are links to the other Hoarding articles by Sandi/Poor But Proud:
Read feedback for this post below. Click here to post feedback.
I posted earlier about the mom who hoards stuff at her assisted living apartment. Thankfully, the family got a call from management saying it had to be cleared out. She was using the shower rod to hang clothes and not bathing. So we went in and bagged a ton of stuff for the thrift shop, boy, were they in luck, and re-organized the remainder. It was tough because I couldn't ask her opinion, she wanted to keep it all. But she is now proud of how her place looks, and this is so cute. She thinks she is the one who did it.
I need to say that before we disparage any certain charity as being bad and then say another is good that we need to understand that, first of all, all of the CEO's of major charity organizations make a huge and similar amount of money whether it be a high bottom line salary or a lower salary with benefits (such as a new car and car insurance and health insurance paid for, etc). Also, each charity simply receives and gives in different ways.
For example, The Salvation Army receives, along with material and monetary donations, supplemental government funds for the people they help rehabilitate for substance abuse and other problems and that's part of how they are able to give away such a high percentage of donated items.
The Red Cross is given millions of monetary donations and volunteer help from around the world every year for the awesome help they give.
Goodwill sells donated material items in order to fund paid training programs to those who are disabled and others who are in need of general training to be able to enter the workforce.
I could go on and on about how the others work but the bottom line is one charity is not better than another. They are just different and each benefit the good of all in one way or another.
Annacakes and Karenhope have good points. Some things still mean something to others, but they can be left in a will.
I am all for dissing Goodwill. The CEO of that company makes 282k a year! I love St. V's (VINNYS) or Salvation Army (SALLY'S). I also love any store that helps animals. If you have a Teen Challenge in your city, they are good too.
I have a collection that my friends will divvy up, and my teddies are to be divided between the cops and the hospitals, so everything else is incidental. My "peeps" will sell it and have a nice party in my honor!
But before I go, I will keep typing away! I love hearing from you all.
I just want to remind people that when you clean out your home to call the Salvation Army or Saint Vincent DuPaul, rather than Goodwill. When you donate to Goodwill, the profits go to the owners and CEOs, when you donate to the other places, your un-needed items can go to families in need. Goodwill donates nothing, and keeps the profit. Years ago we needed a fridge and St. VDP found one for us and even gave us a voucher for groceries and one for gas. Go in to Goodwill and see if they help you! A friend of mine needed a baby bed and they said they are for sale, sorry. She was able to get a voucher from her social worker and got one from the Salvation Army. They will even come with a truck to pick your things up!
The other end of the spectrum is the minimalist. These people do not keep anything that they won't use that week. My son is slowly turning into one. About once a year he gathers everything that isn't needed to run the house and tosses it out. (He is married and lives in a different state than me.)
My daughter in law is a minimalist also. I give her money for Christmas and her birthday because I know that she doesn't want any thing else.
Soooo, the moral of this saga is, don't save things that you think that your kids may want someday, because most of the younger crowd doesn't want our things.
At one time in history, nick nacks and dishes were prized possessions because they were quite rare, so saved and passed down from generation to generation. Now with garage sales, and dollar stores, our stuff isn't coveted as it once was.
Give it to the Goodwill sooner than later. Someone who needs it will love having it.
I struggle somewhere in-between the saver and giver. I love crafts, and enjoy finding a second use for bags, boxes, cereal liners, etc. It can quickly get out of hand though.
Another Oregonian, getting Oregon - ized
The last poster made a good point that I would like to share with you all.
Sometimes, things that remind us of people no longer with us, are hard to part with.
I suggest that you have a nice digital photo of that item, where you can make it part of your album, wall decor, scrapbook, or screensaver (photo collections can be set up as a screensaver). If you had the item and it can't safely be sent to someone far away, send the photo to them and/or to all the people who share the same memories.
That wedding dress can be given to a seamstress (out of your house...) to make each of you a drawstring purse or pillow, or the fabric could be used to cover a photo album.
That quilt can be divided up for a small wall hanging, or to be put in a shadow box.
Did they love Avon? Photograph it and then sell them to buy something useful like helping a granchild buy school books, getting dental work done, or getting some safer tires on the car.
Memories can be prompted by the reflection of things once the things are gone. By keeping the photos you can remember the items without keeping the items.
I hope this is something that will help my friends on TF think differently about what is keeping them from a balence of good health and too much stuff.
Sandi/Poor But Proud
Thanks for the great article.
We bought a new home (not new but new for us) almost 2 years ago this October. When we came to clean the house we had to deal with the previous things. The family only took what they thought was of value and left the rest for us to contend with. That meant furniture and even personal items. In the mean time we only had 5 days to get out of our other home.
We had over 200 hundred bags of trash plus gave away furniture that we had no use for. They did not even clean out the attic. We found all their Christmas stuff plus many more things. This to was an older couple who lived in this house for over 50 years.
I myself keep things saying I will be able to use this in the future. Since I am a crafter and like to remake things from something else it's hard to get rid of or throw things away thinking in the near future I can use it. But I am as I say biting the bullet and doing this.
So again thanks for the good article. I think all of us are hoarders, but some of us can not control it and even hang onto it because it reminds us of times we do not want to forget or people connected with this item we do not want to forget.
I used to have WAY too many clothes in my closet. Then one day my ex got tired of it and said "You have to get rid of one thing for each thing you buy." It worked like magic. When I want to buy something new, I think about what I will have to get rid of, and it stops my impulse.
Good luck with the upcoming move Sandi, we will get your next article posted as soon as we can. I've been pleased with the responses too :)
UPDATE NUMBER 2!
I have never put anything on here that has garnered so many responses. I think perhaps, I tapped into something here. I applaud you all for the efforts, even a little bit on Saturdays, to make things better.
I will be sending the next installment next week, so Jess might be able to put it on by the end of the month.
I have just found out this am that I am not going to be able to stay where I just moved into, so that is a shock. But, being a person of my word, I will not let this upheaval stop me from contacting some of you. I appreciate the heartfelt responses, and all the folks who sent them.
I had to laugh. I'm sure Sandi said somewhere in her essay, "Do you really need to have 20 pairs of black boots." Pleased to say I have never, ever, had that amount of shoes, and am down to four; a pair of brown winter boots, a pair of flat black canvas sneakers, a low heeled red leather pair of shoes, and a pair of flat, gold ballet slipper type for "fancy." Today was a good day. My house share person sorted out a lot of junk from his room, and it has gone.. gone.. gone!
I never stood a chance, I come from pack-rats/hoarders on BOTH sides for several generations!
On my Mom's side, her granddad didn't keep trash, but kept/collected everything else. He filled his home and garage with it. When he died, his 2 daughters divided it up and took it home. When #2 daughter died, her house was like 'Hoarders," trash stacked to the ceilings and paths through the home. When daughter #1 (my grandma) died, it took 5 of us weeks to clean her house. Two whole rooms, garage and storage shed were piled ceiling high with "stuff" and couldn't be used. The rest of the rooms were barely usable. It wasn't trash, she just collected and kept everything, like every check she'd written for 30 years, every book she'd ever read, and of course tons of unused new underwear (she was a product of the depression)! Of course, we got rid of a lot of things, but we divided a bunch up and took it home! My mom had boxes of her mom's stuff in her garage for years before I convinced her to go through and get rid of some of it, and of course I had to bring some of it home with me. LOL!
My dad's mother was the same way. She came from an extremely poor family. Picture the movies you've seen of the 'backwoods, dirt-poor, flour-sack-clothed, barefoot hillbillies of Kentucky' and that's where she came from. So she saved EVERYTHING! When she had money, she bought more things. She loved yard sales and bought things just because it was a 'good deal.' Dementia caused her to start stealing from the thrift store donation bins too. Her bedroom and living room of her mobile home had trails to the bed and couch. Everything else stacked ceiling high with stuff. Boxes of unopened underwear and clothes she never wore, stuffed animals she collected because she'd never had any! Her garage and shed were full too. And so on...
Both her daughters are the same way, you can't even get into their houses now. Her son, my dad, wasn't quite as bad. He didn't hoard, but he kept things 'because he might need it someday.' My mom was the same way, kept anything that might be useful, and she was bad about having multiples of everything. She kept yogurt and cottage cheese cartons, plastic bags, etc., etc.
Over the years, my mom continued to "grow" her collection of stuff. It didn't help that my step-dad didn't get rid of anything either. Eventually mom was so overwhelmed, she didn't know what to do. Between them, they had their house full, plus a 2 car garage and 2 storage sheds. Every time I go visit (for the past 15 years), I spend time helping her go through and get rid of things. She'd just added to it when I came back. She buys things because she can't find what she has, she buys things she thinks she needs and never opens it. When my step-dad died, we got rid of a lot of his stuff. She has managed not to fill the empty spaces created and actually seems to enjoy it a little, maybe there's hope!
I wasn't too bad most of my life. My house has always been cluttered. I like to collect things. I'm not the best housekeeper, but it wasn't bad and I was good at getting rid of stuff. But with more money, I wanted my kids to have what I didn't. What began my downfall was the death of 2 grandparents in a 3 month time period. I didn't want to let go of them, so I brought a lot of their things home with me. I kept heirlooms and family history things because I like genealogy. I kept things that meant something, things to save for my kids, things "I might use someday!" Then nearly 16 years ago, my toddler was diagnosed with Leukemia and our life turned upside down. It became a mental issue I think, because I was afraid of losing him, I held onto everything. I quit getting rid of kids' clothes and toys, I kept ALL their schoolwork. And I was so busy taking care of him, our other 3 kids, and my husband, that I didn't have time to go through and get rid of things. I started boxing, bagging, and stacking in corners to take care of when I had time. Didn't help that hubby and kids like to keep things too! The 2 older kids moved out and left a bunch of stuff here for me to keep for them too! I was already beginning to realize that it was a mental issue and that I felt like I needed to keep everything so I could remember my parents and grandparents, pass that memory down, and keep everything of mine and theirs so I could keep my memories for my kids.
And did I mention I'm an avid reader? Can't get rid of all those great books I read (and the 500 of my Grandma's I hauled home!), might read them again later, even though I have hundreds I don't have time to read now!
The years flew by. I was always so busy raising kids, volunteering at school, running scout groups, I just kept putting off getting rid of things, while at the same time bringing more stuff home. Then one day when I stopped to take a breath, I looked around and was stunned! What happened to me and when did we accumulate so much stuff?? We can't use our garage and 2 bedrooms because we have so many things boxed and stacked. I was finally ready to acknowledge that it was a mental issue and start getting rid of things. It doesn't make me happy or secure anymore.
And then the grand-babies came along! My daughter had twin boys and I ended up taking care of them 10 hours a day while she worked. And of course that meant baby beds, clothes, toys, etc. in my home. When they'd go home, I still had my 2 boys and hubby, school and scout stuff, etc. Never time to do anything now like sort and get rid of. Besides, I might be able to be thrifty and sell some of it on ebay or Craig's list, LOL!
I spent 2 years being exhausted all the time too and just discovered I have diabetes. So now I don't have the energy I used to have when I could spend hours and days working on something, otherwise getting rid of things wouldn't be a problem because I am SO ready for it now! But my energy is building as I get well, my days are my own again (almost), and I am slowly but surely getting rid of things (I donated over 3,000 books to Goodwill a few months ago!) - and TRYING not to pass too many things on to my kids!
Hi Sandi. Thank you for your article. I am, at this very moment in time, trying to clear out my house. I have been doing small bits at a time, as clearing out for hours makes the chore a long boring one. I do my best with recycling and must say, I'm quite proud of how much I do recycle now. More luck has came in the form of (THE DOGS TRUST) they have opened a thrift shop along the road from me so I hope I've found a new home for all the clothes I am getting rid of, some still have the tags on them! I will be a lot more insistent on saying NO to friends that try to give me their unwanted stuff.
Look forward to hearing from you, Magwi.
This is a classic hat we are all guilty of. Not trying to sell anyone anything but there's a great song called "the recycling song," reduce reuse recycle, written by a dear friend Michael t. Wall, known as "the singing newfoundlander." Ask your radio station to play. Great advice for future generations.
Thanks, Sandi, for this very inspiring article. I am not a hoarder but a pack-rat. The two areas of my house that are the messiest are the basement and my craft room. Every few years my husband and I designate 3 hours on a Saturday to start to clean our basement. We start in one corner and work for 3 hours. Then work our way around all four sides over several Saturdays to finally take care of all of it. If we say we are going to clean the basement, it never happens because it is too big a job, but in 3 hour blocks it can be done over a few weeks and really make a difference.
I agree with several posters that it is difficult to begin the clean up and clear out, but I would suggest to those who want to get organized to start small and in the place you would like most to have clean, like the kitchen so you could cook a meal or the bedroom so you could sleep in your own bed. Once you see some progress, you'll be inspired to do more. After the holidays, I love to tackle my craft room where I make greeting cards when everything is a mess and then to see the room organized so I can find things. Sometimes it takes me 3 or 4 weeks to get it back in shape, but I feel such a sense of accomplishment when I know where things are and I can find things immediately without spending so much time looking for items.
I am looking forward to your other articles, Sandi.
Thank you for this article, Sandi. Timely...as I am in the 'purge' right now, or you could call it Spring cleaning, as it's Spring here in Australia. Consideration must be given to circumstances, as you did for your relatives.
My status; I live in a shared, 4 room rental apartment. My house share person is non related, just someone I've known for years. So, between us we have a bedroom each, a shared living/dining area, and a bathroom. No shed, or any outside storage area. My bedroom is also my office, desk, computer, bed, bookcases, etc. Being a rental can't make any structural alterations, ie, adding shelves. To add to, I don't have a car, so am unable to take stuff' to thrift shops.
What I do do, apart from normal rubbish and recycle going to their respective bins, I have a charity that actually comes to the door to take clothing, shoes, etc. I give magazines to a woman in the next block who takes them to a nursing hone. Some ornaments were gifts from family members, so I treasure them, others I give away.
With 2 unrelated people living in a small area, he has all; his own things too. However, soldier on to defeat the rising tide, must sort out more paper junk!
Update so far: First off, thanks to all the positive responders! I will enclose photos of what was done when the last installment is complete. I promised TF I wouldn't inundate everyone, and of course the "before photos" are pertinent now as the subject was too much stuff.
In October, it will be cleaning and maintenance, and in November, food. I thank each and every one of you for the support. Anyone who has asked for help, I will contact you as soon as I catch up on being well again. I am a bit under the weather today. I have some ideas so give me 24 hours and I will respond to you personally.
PS: Here is the living room " before and after" shot, so you know it's possible to have an "after".
Great article, Sandi.
My parents are depression era babies too. They hang onto their stuff, but they don't go out and get more until they wear what they have out. If they cannot find an item they need, they search until they find it. No duplicate gets purchased, as that would not be frugal.
The danger I find is people who try to unload their crap onto others who will value it. They don't want it themselves, so they find someone else who will hang onto it. Happily, my parents have learned to say no thanks to other's misguided generosity. A true hoarder cannot say no.
I look forward to your next installment!
Sandi, I am so glad you posted this essay! You really should leave a couple of photos here in the comment section to show others what a wonderful job you did cleaning up the couples home!
About a decade ago, when I was living in a house in Grand Rapids, MI, I had a neighbor who was dying of Aids. He had been in a hospice for quite awhile but as the end was coming near he wanted to go home to die. His family wasn't willing to help day to day so I volunteered to make sure he daily took his medications, had his meals and hospice taught me how to daily clean his shunt (I almost passed out the first couple of times doing that).
Anyway, I was horrified the first day I walked in to his home! No one had visited there in years (and I had never been in his home) and I was shocked! There was barely even a spot on the floors that didn't have plastic and paper bags or magazines etc on them and upstairs you had to be careful not to slip on piled up items of every type including clothing, carpet remnants etc. I told him this wasn't safe for him and he gave me permission to clean up and get rid of everything except what he thought might be valuable to his family. He slept most of the day so I was able to work a few hours each day and be able to keep an eye on him at the same time.
It ended up that dozens and dozens of large garbage bags of trash went out, plus items such as rolled up unusable carpet, broken beyond repair furnishing, canned and boxed food that was way too old to donate to the food bank, etc. I explained to the trash collector what was going on and God Bless him that he loaded them all on to the truck for free! There were two salvation army truckloads of things others could use including over thirty large trash bags full of clothing (he had a washer and dryer so I made sure absolutely everything was washed, dried and folded before donating) and three very large boxes of boxed and canned foods that could be donated to the food bank.
It took about three months to get through everything and completely clean his home and he was thankful because he had a couple of weeks of a clean, uncluttered and safe home to enjoy before he passed away.
I've known others who hoard but had never seen anything to this extent before! Your essay is a wonderful way to share with others so they can try to help or get help for people who have this disease of hoarding! Bless you and a Huge Thumbs Up!
Thanks. Please keep posting. I need help, I'm drowning in stuff too good to throw away and yet no one to give it to. Help!
Thanks for the great article.
A tip for us " mini hoarders ". When you clean out your junk in the closets and all the bags for charity are sitting there , get rid of them immediately. If they are sitting there too long you may do like I have done and go through the bags and put half of it back into the closets.
My mother went from an immaculate housekeeper to a hoarder. She was a military wife who moved around often. Everything got thrown away when she moved even though she could have taken it all with her. There are no toys or school items from my childhood. Then somewhere in the seventies, after they retired she began hoarding. She had a 3200 sq foot house and by the time she died it was full. Every hospital trip for thirty years she brought home a bed pan, wash basin and throw up pan. They replaced the screen door in 1975 and the old one was still in the garage in 2006.
I think I am still suffering from PTSS from having to clean it up before I could sell it after they died. I started with one room at a time. I made two piles outside the room I was working on. One was for charity and the other was trash. When the room was clean we painted and repaired. The junk man came once a week and the charities called me every week. She had every check she ever wrote from 1972. Every medicare page from the day they went on it. I kept asking why in my mind. Why did she keep all that stuff? Why? Was my mother crazy all along? What happened? Her house was so big that she was able to hide her hoardings in closets and under the large vanities in the bathrooms. The walk in closets were packed. The table cloth in the dinning room went to the floor and under the table were boxes and cans of food some out dated for seven years or more. It has been 6 years since she died and I still ask why.
Sandi, thank you for posting this. Please keep it up, even after you are done with all the installments. I am fast getting to the place that you cleaned out. I've read many, many articles but I can't seem to make the move to do what needs to be done. Sometimes I am able to make some progress but the ability doesn't last too long. Life is too busy with a family and by the time the mindset, time, and physical strength returns I am back to square one. Wish I had the money to hire someone to work with me.
I feel for these people, some of them are out of histories where they did not have anything, and all the physical things around is reassuring to them, especially older people.....and also the Great Depression has made hoarders to a lesser degree, out of most of the people I know who came out of it.
Some mental illness can cause people to not notice fine details such as things stacked up or laying around, depending on how distracting their mind is during the day to them.
I am very interested in human behavior, also I have found that when I watch these cleaning shows, for me, it gets me motivated, it is like a great uplifting thing for me to see people clean and before long, I am finding something that needs to be done even if I hadn't intended to. It really energizes me to see a dirty place become sparkling clean! Junk thrown out is a great feeling too!
Me, personally, I cannot stand to see things like dishes pile up in the sink. I have been known to put dishes (cleaned) out in the shed hidden from view until the dishes in the sink are washed and I have just now decreased the size of the plates in the house so I can have more sink room.
Our house is another story altogether. NO closets, shelves, or anything.
There is the choice of picking things up or tripping over them and breaking something, and then the long hours at the ER.
Thanks to someone on this site putting in that you can store things in those huge plastic garbage receptacles and make tables out of them, I no longer have to use trash bags to store seasonal clothes.
I, too, have been watching the shows. I am nowhere near as bad as these people, thank God, but I don't invite people to my house either. I have a husband and child who both contribute, although hubby would never admit to it.
We are thinking about moving, so it has to get cleaned up. I have trouble keeping up due to some disability. Man throws just-dried clothes all over the couch and there they stay unless I fold and put away. I guess he had a disability, too, because he won't fold often. Kid thinks the floor is his trash can, no matter how upset I get with him. The floor is also his hamper.
My problems are clothes that need repair and magazine articles or recipes that I want to keep. My Mom says she would help me clean, but it's embarrassing to ask her to help me clean my house. My brother, who lives with my Mom, is also a bit of a hoarder. He has most of the basement full and one bedroom upstairs, too.
My mother is a hoarder. She had a lipstick that was over 20 years old. It was a very unflattering color. I asked her why she didn't ditch it and she said, "It isn't used up. I know it isn't the best color so I only wear it when I'm going to some place unimportant."
Her hoarding has escalated in her old age. She has been left a lot of money and uses it to buy tons of clothing she has no space for. She will buy the same garment in every color. Then she will complain that she has nothing to wear. She can't find the garments she needs to match an outfit.
I think as a reaction, I have made a living out of my organizational skills- transforming workplaces is a skill I have received recognition for. I've been hired to purge a workplace disabled by a hoarder and make it efficient. But I can't do much about my mother. She is in an assisted living apartment. I would like to take her magazines to read, but I know they will never leave her apartment and I would be contributing to a problem that will eventually land her in a nursing home. The last time I visited her she let me get rid of her expired food which was pretty much all of the food in her kitchen. She had stir fry sauce, even though in her residence only a microwave is permitted, and she gets all three meals from the dining room down the hall anyway. She also had an entire petrified loaf of bread.
Because she cannot find her stuff she is convinced people are stealing from her. Often hoarding is complicated by dementia. My mom was always sort of messy, but she could tidy up when she put her mind to it. Now she just can't. I can't just go in and take my mother's stuff and donate the extras to the thrift shop. And no amount of organization will make those mountains smaller.
What a great article! Thanks for sharing. My mother lived in such a manner, after a full year, we have finally cleared out, cleaned out, opened the boxes of things she had ordered and never opened, given away and thrown away, so much stuff! Thanks again, looking forward to your next article!
I just got through sending a lot of stuff to the salvation army! And everyone knows that if they really want something I have: like my sister asked for and got a garden art cat statue that I had; I will probably in all honesty give it to them!
I love to be able to give things to those in need; and so keep stocked up on essentials that if a person is in need of food, etc, that I can also pass these on to them!
And I always feel that what separates women from men is that women always need something of beauty around them. Even if living in a mud hut, women need an object of beauty. So: I always try and keep a supply of things that I consider to be beautiful: and always and ever pass this on as well; and let them know how I feel and that I hope it is a source of beauty to them as well.
In this manner, you enjoy the beauty of the object, like a blue willow covered casserole dish, for a time, and then pass it on for someone to hopefully enjoy as much as you did!
Books are my delight, and have to give boxes of them to others when my bookshelves overflow!
Add your voice to the conversation.