This and that, everything including the kitchen sink.

A Hoarder’s Journey

I get a lot of good out of surfing websites. I’ve discovered I am not alone, other’s face the same challenges of ill health and mental quirks. I’m going to share my thoughts about ending my OCD hoarder’s habit in hope it helps others. The cleaning part of this process I will post as I go.

Every hoarder has that behavior for their own reasons. My mom was a hoarder, my dad had those tendencies too. I grew up with a lot of stuff, it was neatly organized but anything old would be fixed or repurposed. Although that didn’t happen as often as was planned. Our attic was like the ones in the children’s books, you never knew what you could find up there. Some of that transfered to me when my parents were gone, too much of it to fit in my apartment.

Life was much different then. My parents had been through the Depression, we had a big house and plenty of room to store things outside.  Being poor meant when something broke, maybe you couldn’t replace it. You had to fix it or do without. Most families were the same way.

My folks lived in the same house for 40+ years. You had to cross the toll bridge to buy groceries. Ladies canned food, men fixed their own vehicles and houses. Having more than one of something was a good thing. Never know when you are going to need that…some day.

I’m still struggling with that mindset. Sometimes I win, sometimes I loose. The important thing for me to do is celebrate the wins, keep working on the losses. At least now I know that some battles can be won. When I manage to clean and maintain an area, I concentrate how good that feels, the nice little surprise when I walk through the island of chaos. When I get triggered by an old book, toy or decor I can’t let go, I try to figure out why.

Things that were hard for me to let go of, like my office things are tough. I’m not quite ready to admit I will never be able to work again. A past relationship caused so much trauma, anything that reminded me of it I shoved away  in boxes so I wouldn’t have to deal with it. Vintage toys that I feel sure some collector would love, but how do I sell them? I’m flooded with emotions and I shut down. Stuff gets ruined, and I leave it there because now on top of everything else, I feel guilty.

That’s my hoarder mentality. First, I would chip away at the pile by simply screening it for garbage. I love Marie Kondo’s idea of thanking something for being in your life, then letting it go, whether to the garbage or a new owner. I found donating to the local cat shelter tons of blankets, towels, clothes and housewares actually made me feel good.

Faced with fewer damaged goods and less guilt I could move on to salvadgled stuff. I could chip away at it but more went in than out. I’m alone a lot and tend to live inside my mind. I found if someone was helping me, I could get rid of much more.

I watch Hoarder episodes to inspire me to attack my clutter. I envied them their organizers, clean teams and psychologists. Finally I had enough to hire an organizer. At this point there were paths through the house. I hurt myself falling into piles on a fairly regular basis. My disabilities kept me from being able to move things or even clean much, I was mostly bedridden. I was ashamed to let anyone come in, but I was desperate. Cindy, my organizer, quickly put me at ease. While there was too much to do to make too much progress, one thing she said stuck with me all these years. Before you buy something, think about where you will put it. I’m sure that has kept me from buying at least two households of stuff. Sadly, I could only afford a few sessions, but it was enough to know it was possible to win. It really started me on track to end my self destructive patterns.

When I found a caregiver, life became better. But caregiver’s come and go, several people rearranged the mess, each in their own way. I totally lost track of what and where my things were. It’s not easy to find help in small towns.

Many years and hoarder show episodes later, I began to focus more on changing my thinking. I had learned that I wasn’t just a slob or a born messy, I had a recognizable pattern. I research pretty much everything, and there is more information out there every year.

Today I am finishing the floors with my borrowed steam mop and organizing my dish cupboards. Years ago I had gone on a cleaning spree and rid myself of the Corel bought when I was 18. I was done with my past life, I wanted to rid myself of all the reminders. I decided all of my mugs will be cute. My glassware would be pretty. I admit I have a love of glassware. I love wine glasses, but not wine. Champagne glasses, brandy snifters and dessert cups. My soda pop feels more elegant to me sipping it out of a iris tinted flute. Along the way I had inherited one of my mom’s collection of fine crystal. I don’t have a fine crystal lifestyle and I certainly don’t entertain, but they fall under the category of giving me joy, so they stay. I usually only buy one or two fancy glasses, the crystal is my back-up plan if I have more than two people over or want to be more formal. My kitchen has a tropical forest/jungle theme, bright colors. Lots of funny flamingos and flowers. When the Dollar Tree got plastic flamingo wine glasses in bright colors, I had to have them. I love glassware, but with five very active cats and the occasional child, plastic is needed. Slowly I accrued more and more glasses. I put up wire shelves for my glassware under the kitchen sink light, so it sparkles. It wasn’t until Julie and David washed everything did I realize how very much I had. My homework was to go through my glasses and get rid of any I don’t use much.

This is tough for me. I love even the bright plastic ones. I’m working on the cupboards in between steam mopping my floor. Some will become vases, or migrate to other areas. All but the flamingo plastic has gone, I won’t replace them as they become cloudy. With an organized clean kitchen and a small dishwasher, I feel it’s ok to use the actual glass ones. A gift mug will become a home for a spider plant. I may have to chip away at this project a glass at a time, but I will get there. Sometimes it’s less about getting rid of and more about giving new uses and just realizing what you have…and not buying more!




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