Friday, January 28, 2011

LONG TIME NO SEE... or even THINK about hoarding.

It's obviously been quite some time since my last post. I'm not exactly sorry, but do wish to be somewhat apologetic. Let me clarify, I am NOT sorry that I've been ignoring my Mother's hoarding. I am sorry that I haven't been keeping a detailed journal to look back at.

Now let's get on with the reason I am back... it's fascinating.

Christmas day this year brought much joy into the lives of all in our family, and not all in the ways you are probably thinking. My kids got a Wii and they are happy. My husband got a big screen TV and he is happy. Are you wondering what made me SO happy?

My parents had a kitchen fire at their home on Christmas day... A CHRISTMAS MIRACLE.

Here's the story in a nutshell. Mom was cooking a turkey on the stovetop (boiling it down for soup, I think). My sis dropped by and mentioned she was on her way to my place. A last minute decision was made and Mom hopped in the car to join her, forgetting the stove was on. Several hours later, my parents returned to a house FILLED with smoke and a burned up pot on the stove. By the way, it was REALLY STINKY smoke (something to do with the proteins in the meat?).

Now for the fun, or not so fun, part of the story - depending on your point of view.

At first, Mom thought she could just air out the house for a day or two and all would be well. She then decided to wash all the walls and ceilings with vinegar (don't you know that vinegar cures everything?) This little plan did NOT work out. After a visit to the house and a phone call to the local Disaster Cleanup Services, we let Mom in on the "terrible" news. The smell is not going anywhere. The cleanup is going to be time consuming (the DCS people told us this without even knowing that Mom was a first class hoarder) and costly. They mentioned a lot of things specifically, but I'd like to just point out the one that made me the happiest.

In a fire of this nature, it turns out that plastic items are now considered toxic and must be thrown out. It isn't exactly flattering of myself to admit, but I really enjoyed telling Mom that part. "It looks like your hundreds of empty plastic yogurt containers/peanut butter jars/cool whip containers/lids/useless empty pill bottles/crap/crap/and more crap are all going to have to be thrown out. Along with all those filled with food and herbs that you are hoarding for that "emergency" someday... sniff". (The sniff is me trying to cover my extreme desire to jump up and down with joy with some sign of remorse)

I then made one more phone call and the time for laughing was officially over...

More tomorrow.

Thursday, September 18, 2008


So it turns out hoarding isn't the only obsession my Mom has... not that I'm surprised.

My hubby was watching 20/20 the other day and he kept yelling for me to come down and watch. "You have GOT to see this" he kept saying and something to do with "your Mom".  I finally made it downstairs and sat down to watch the program.  No it wasn't about hoarding, but I did see something else that might has well have been my Mom. It was just like that time my Dad told me about "the hoarding disease" for the first time and a light went on somewhere in my head.

This was about food...  FOOD of all things! The program was all about people who took eating healthy to extremes - you can check it out HERE. It even has a name - Orthorexia.

My Mom is constantly changing her diet to include this or exclude that.  I'm not talking about little things either.  A couple of days ago she informed me that she was no longer eating meat of any kind, but she had decided (after reading some book or hearing some speech by someone) that she was going to add nuts BACK into her diet (she took them out a while back after reading a different article about how they affected some thing or other in your body).  She only eats vegetables now and some fruits.  Citrus is out because of some random possible connection to migraines, same with onions.  ABSOLUTELY NO SUGAR (I don't really disagree with this one, but I don't think it's managed to cure any of her ailments - real or imagined)!  Also, no processed foods - nothing from a box or a bag and no MSG. On top of all this, you need to know that she self-diagnosed herself about 10 yrs or so ago with gluten intolerance - so no wheat or grains of any kind - EVER.  Really all it takes is someone mentioning that "this food" might cause migraines, or cancer, or intestinal problems and Mom does a little research to back up the claim (you can find anything on the internet you know) and then it's OUT!  She also regularly (yet randomly) goes on "juice fasts".  I'm not exactly sure what they are, but I know that she eats absolutely nothing but "juice" (which I think she makes with some veggies, fruits, and possibly some herbs) for at least 10 days.  Somehow this is going to rid her body of all the toxins and "bad" stuff she has in her body, thereby curing her (from what? who knows).

I'm constantly amazed at how easy it seems for her to deny herself foods and yet how difficult it is for her to throw away a plastic yogurt container (not that she has any of those anymore because she does NOT eat dairy).

I'm also wondering how it is that she is eating so healthy, yet she never seems to get any better. To me, it seems that her health is only declining. 

Personally, I believe that her poor health is directly linked to the hoarding.  I can't put my finger on it, but I know it is a major cause of her mysterious ailments.  I once told her that if she spent even half as much time researching "hoarding" as a disease, like she does with all her other "medical" issues - then she would be able to actually see the problem and FIND a solution!  I mean she can practically starve herself without even thinking twice, but throwing away a piece of paper is like pure torture.  WHY IS THAT?

Needless to say, that did NOT go over well (possibly because my Mom does not actually believe that mental issues are real or possibly because she does not actually believe she has a problem). 

Here is a direct quote from the 20/20 article "Of course, for some people, spending so much time thinking about health food is no worse than other fanatical obsessions, like hording or compulsive shopping. But orthorexia can really hurt people."   I really love how they insinuate that compulsive hoarding and shopping don't "really" hurt people.

Of course they've never met my Mom...

Friday, September 12, 2008

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


Is July really half-way over? I apologize for not posting sooner, but my "other" blogs have been getting most of my attention these days. This is a good thing, I think...

So much has changed over the last few weeks, but I think it has all been in my mind - literally.

I'm not so mad at my Mom these days.
I've been having a lot of fun with the kids and focusing less on my bad qualities.
I don't think it's my job to change Mom's hoarding habits (WARNING... this could be a temporary thing).
My life is pretty peaceful right now, I feel like I'm in a good place.

And yet so much has stayed the same...

Mom & Dad are still out of town.
My office desk is still a mess.
I still hate hoarding.
I still can't figure out how other people keep it all together (clean house, organized, etc...).
I'm still trying to find that balance between staying close to and loving my Mom for who she is and keeping keeping my distance from her hoarding and other OCD tendencies.

There is more, but it's late and I need to spend some quality time with my hubby... later!

Monday, June 30, 2008


My Mom is out of town and I've been avoiding even thinking about her house. Once or twice the thought has crossed my mind to just pop over there and haul out a couple of bags of garbage. She'll never notice... or will she?

Last week when she was still home a bag of garbage came up missing. Seriously! Mom saves all her mail (yes all of it) and sorts it into piles. One of those piles is for anything she thinks may be subject to identity theft (she is absolutely terrified of having this happen to her), this type of mail must be completely destroyed. Anyhoo... this particular bag happened to have some credit card offers and things like that in it. Mom had labeled the bag with a permanent marker with the words "TO BURN" on it and set it somewhere in the piles of junk in the front room. Then just before her trip she noticed it was missing. I have no idea how, but she seems to have some sort of a mental inventory of all that crap filling up the house.

She asked my Dad if he took it. Nope. She asked my brother if he took it. Again, NO! Anyone who lives with my Mother knows better than to touch anything, let alone throw it away - not even garbage. She asked them both at least 20 more times, just to be sure. It was then she started panicking. She kepst nagging my Dad and Brother until my Dad came over to my house to escape (this is when he told me all about it). At this point, Mom had come to the conclusion that someone (a total stranger) must have come into the house and stolen (of all things) that bag! She is almost certain that her identity is being compromised at this very moment. Never mind that it is total lunacy to even think someone would actually have been stupid enough to think that there was something of value to steal in that house. And it is ridiculous to think that somehow they would have gotten past the dogs into the front room. And let's just say that they did, they most certainly would have turned right back around and run out as fast as they could having been overwhelmed by the sheer amount of junk piled up all around them. But let's get back to Mom, who by this time was frantically searching the house, the garbage cans, and any other place that this very important bag of garbage may have been placed.

Several hours later my parents left town having never found the bag and I was left with a surer knowledge that my Mom does not think rationally, or logically, and I hate how these little episodes always leave me feeling like i've lost something too (namely a little piece of my Mom).

I called my sister to talk about it and she told me that Mom was over at her place the other day and took home a bunch of stuff she had thrown out in the garbage... sigh*

Later that evening, another of my brothers (who doesn't live at home anymore) came over to my place for a visit. I started to tell him about the lost bag... he got this look on his face. Oh my gosh, he knows what happened to the bag!

It turns out he took it. He was going camping that evening and saw that the bag said "TO BURN" on it, so naturally he took it and used it to start his campfire.

I made him call my Dad and tell him right then. My parents were still driving to their destination and Mom was so glad to know what had happened to the bag. Except now she is worried that my brother might not have burned all the contents of the bag. She explained how she had important documents (credit card offers) of my sisters (at least now we know why she took trash from my sister's place) and a couple of my brothers all together in that bag and she was just so worried about their identities being stolen along with hers.

So all in all, my Mom was right. Someone did "take" the bag from her house. It doesn't make me feel any better though. In fact, I feel worse. From this whole incident, I learned that my Mom is paranoid to the point of stealing trash out of our (mine and my siblings) garbage cans to "protect" us. I learned that my Mom doesn't think about things rationally (in that she actually believed that someone would steal a bag of garbage from inside her house). And that she is getting worse. Slow as it may seem, time is stealing my "normal" Mom from me.

How long before I don't even know her anymore? When will this "transformation" be complete?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

My Precious...

There is so much of my Mother's story being told in this picture, where to begin...

Let's start with the T.V. You see it there in the middle, all duct taped up? This is a classic example of my Mom's thriftiness (and unwillingness to throw anything out). You probably can't see the holes in the front of it where the buttons have been broken off. We used to have to poke inside those with a pencil to be able to change the channels and change the volume. We had to do this because the remote was always lost (naturally). Fortunately my Mom came up with a solution; she affixed a string to the remote and then superglued it to the armchair! This worked until the batteries ran out and then no one ever got around to replacing them... and then we were back to the pencils.

Now let's take a look at all the videos over on the right side of the pic. See those? These are a testament to my Mom's total addiction to free or almost free deals. Who has videos still? My Mom, of course! Did you know that people are practically giving those things away at yard sales? And my Mom is out there snapping them all up, what a bargain!

Over on the right of the entertainment center are her most "precious" things. These are valued more than most things piled up around the house (if that's possible). How do I know this? They actually have a "place", a permanent spot, if you will. Everything else in the house is subject to churning (moving from one place to another). You would think that I would be happy about these things having a "spot" and all... but I'm not.

These "precious" things are mostly little trinkets brought by different family members from far away places and some treasured keepsakes from my Mom's past. None of them are worth much monetarily (the usual souveneir type junk), but to my Mom they might as well be Faberge eggs. I know that everyone has stuff like this and it's normal to hold things with sentimental value in higher esteem. But these types of things to a hoarder like my Mom can be taken to a whole new level.

Case in point... There are a couple of lovely little nesting dolls from Russia in the case. Naturally the grandkids gravitate towards these, what kid wouldn't? I remember playing with a set of nesting dolls at my Grandma's when I was little. It's a very pleasant memory. Here's what my Mom's grandchildren get to remember: My Mom throwing an absolute tantrum, because the kids got the dolls out (without permission of course - because my Mom would never let them touch them) and one of the smallest dolls (smaller than your thumbnail, I think) got stepped on. Mom went on and on and on about how special these dolls were and how they were absolutely irreplaceable and the kids are NEVER to get into that case... blah... blah... The overall result being that the grandkids now know (just like we did when we were kids) that "things" are more important to grandma then they (the kids) are.

I know my Mom didn't intend for that to be the result. But that's how it is.

That's how it's always been...

It's one of the things that bothers me the most about this "hoarding" disease. It's hard to know where I stand with my Mom. She is such a kind and caring person otherwise that it is difficult to imagine that she actually values the "stuff" filling up her house more than she does her own children. But I've seen her freak out one too many times to not believe it. I'm so confused. I don't know where I fit in to her value system and that hurts.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Just another day...

It's Father's Day.

My parents live about a minute and a half from my house.

And I haven't even gone over to wish my Dad Happy Father's Day... sigh

I really, really, REALLY, don't want to go over there and have to see the mess.

It's one thing to hear about it (which I have from other family members), it's another thing entirely to have to hang out in it! I know exactly what will happen if we show up on the doorstep...

First Mom will make a whole bunch of excuses as to "why" the house looks the way it does (as if it doesn't ALWAYS look that way). Mostly things like, "Your Father needs to take care of his stuff" (five of the five hundred things in the front room belong to my Dad), or maybe "I haven't been feeling all that well" (which seems to occur every time she even thinks about cleaning), or a favorite of mine, "I've just been so busy cleaning the [fill in the blank] that I haven't had time to clean up in here". Keep in mind that "cleaning" means moving things from one room to another, thus giving one room the appearance of being clean while simultaneously piling things to the ceiling in another. I really hate it when she makes it excuses. I think she really believes what she is saying, and that makes me sad... and mad.

Sometimes, I find myself making excuses. It's ingrained in me. I usually force myself to stop (before I start to sound crazy, I hope). But I digress...

As she is rattling off excuses she will start shuffling things about in a mad rush, moving papers from one surface to another, clearing a couple of spots to sit down. I will hold the baby on my lap because it is too unsafe to let her toddle about in the crap and all the other kids will head outside (thank heavens) to play... wait a minute!


I haven't been over to Mom's since the seasons changed! It turns out we can go over to see my parents today. You see, when the weather is decent we all sit and visit out in the shade of the tree out front. In the summer and early fall, people visiting my parents don't actually have to be subjected to the mess, the excuse making, the overall craziness! It's peaceful and relaxed, almost normal!

Well, I had better go get the kids ready!