Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Hoarding Emotional Baggage

Lately, I’ve been fascinated with the TV show, “Hoarders: Buried Alive”, where they show people who store ‘stuff’ in their houses until it practically hits the ceiling. It’s not just ‘stuff’ either, it’s old food left out and tons of garbage that hadn’t been taken out in like over a year or so. They claim they have some emotional attachment to these ‘things’ or ‘stuff’ or ‘crap’, but I say it’s a load of shit...literally. What makes a person want to live in a pile of rubbish? You can’t even walk through the room without climbing and struggling around their “emotional attachments”. I don’t mean to poke fun at their mental illness, which is what psychiatrists are calling it --but for someone like me, who has a huge OCD problem (as far as cleaning goes), I can’t understand it. If I see one tiny little strand of cloth from a blanket or other on my carpet, I freak out. It. must. go.

My mom kept a super clean house. She cleaned that monster every single day of her life. She’s still neat, but my father on the other hand, is not. He’s more of a clutter bug. He has this dining room-like table inside his bedroom so he can have coffee, do his paperwork and have it be his office/bedroom. But now, it has slowly become a pharmaceutical nightmare. There are literally fifty different prescriptions from doctors all from different months, years and so on. There are more meds on that table that he doesn’t take, than what he currently uses. Would we call this an “emotional attachment”? I don’t know. He has another “office” that is set inside one of the living rooms. We used to have Thanksgiving dinner there. The room is still nice, however one side of the dining room table is loaded, (and I mean loaded) with rolodexes, cartons of cigarettes, car batteries, tons of different hats, hunting knives, fishing knives, whatever strikes the mood knives and bowl of fresh fruit. Don’t ask. He also has a sub-table on the side which was once a nightstand. That includes: papers from business deals from years ago, a few hats, part of a generator, tools for his machines outside and tons of pens as well as lighters. I’m about to hold an intervention with “Hoarders”, but unfortunately, he’s too “clean” to qualify.

For a while, I had two cleaners that came in every Thursday afternoon and totally shined up the place. When dad stopped working, he didn’t like the fact he had to be shuffled into his bedroom while they cleaned. They usually took about 3-4 hours at a time, depending. So, needless to say, we had to stop using them to make dad more comfy in his house. I asked mom the other day if she wanted me to hire them back and just do a good starter clean, because she’s been complaining about the clutter. “No, yer fatha’ doesn’t want any of his stuff touched,” she’d say to me, but I know she desperately wants them back. I then reassured her that they wouldn’t touch his area, at least they could get the nicotine stained walls looking a bit like real wood and have her house sparkling in no time. Anytime she has company over she says, “I’m ashamed of the house.” She’s too scared to tinker with dad’s clutter. So lately, I’ve been thinking, maybe it is an emotional attachment to these ‘things’ he has all over. Maybe the fact that he’s not working as much, leaves him holding onto to these old ‘work papers’ to make him feel like he still has something of sorts. By throwing them away, does it mean that he has simply given up? Probably so, but in reality, he’d be making a new start.

I know for a fact that if I was not with Madelene, she would be a complete pack rat. Although she is super clean as far disinfecting everything, she has a huge problem letting go of ‘items’ that she has an emotional attachment to. After a year, if you don’t use something: throw. it. out. We have a room that’s an office/workout room with a bit of clutter. Some are hers and some are mine. Anything from framed artwork, clothes to be dry cleaned, a few boxes from our appliances in case something goes wrong we can send it back in it, clothes that we ordered that didn’t fit well that needs to be sent back and a bag of old photos. We just don’t have a whole lot of storage in our place. Other than that, our place can appear a little too “stiff” at times because my OCD has everything alined up ‘just so’ and glistening in case an uninvited guest arrives. Maybe my extreme cleanliness is an emotional issue, just as hoarding is seen as one too. And yes, rest assured all door knobs are wiped down vigorously. I’ve even contemplated bringing in the big guns and hiring my cleaners to do a THOROUGH cleaning on top of my own. In fact, when I used them in the past, I’d clean up first, and let them focus on the deep down heavy duty whatever needs to be cleaned. It’s like mowing your lawn before the landscapers arrive. I know. I need help. Maybe I’m the one that needs the intervention?

10 comments:

Jess said...

GET OUT OF MY HEAD, WOMAN! I swear, if you weren't like from New York and of a different ethnicity, I would SWEAR we were related!

I have a HORRIBLE problem with cleaning compulsively. I can tell you RIGHT now where fur has cumulated in the corners of the house (which I vacuum at least three times a week...mind you, we have hard wood floors) I have left the dishes for two days hoping someone else would be bothered by it...no such doing...so I will be doing that tonight.

Of course the house is clean, but I keep seeing stuff that needs to be cleaned, which appears to be MY problem. It isn't like we live like a bunch of frat people, however, it isn't right to place the pressures of the need to clean ALL. THE. TIME. on Krystal and Bobby.

SO, as much as it kills a little of me each time I walk into a room, I have to let it go...until I am about to explode and then I just do it and then I feel TONS better!

And I am TOTALLY hooked on ALL the hoarding shows...the one on A&E and TLC. Plus Intervention and Addicted.

Naturally, after watching a hoarding show I get the overwhelming feeling of needing to clean. I call it motivation! :) LOL!

Just_because_today said...

Coincidentally I had a conversation with one of our Mental Health Providers yesterday at work and we discussed "baggage" from the past- mostly childhood- that accounts for our actions today.
I think there is a difference between the two that you are discussing, one person can be a total slob living in clutter by choice and another really suffering from a phobia.
My own form of OCD is that I throw away EVERYTHING, so often I hear every member of my household yell.."where is my XWZ?!!!!!!). That's a good time to go for a run...or look in the garbage for the missing item.
Thought provoking post.

Monkey Man said...

My step dad is the complete opposite of the hoarder, (interesting show) nothing can be kept around that will clutter. It made my mother crazy since she hoarded a bit. Now that she is gone, he is on a mission to wipe every last memory of her out of their home. Not that he doesn't still love her and miss her horribly, it's just that these rememders are too painful for him. If he had a dumpster, it would all just go right in, so I intervene and will soon have a garage filled with her stuff where a less emotional gleaning of goods can take place. It's sad.

Xmichra said...

It's hard for me to imagine you not understanding hoarders, when it is a dirrect flip of your OCD issue. They have it too, just in reverse. Imagine every time you use anti-bacterial hand sanitizer, they drop a peice of garbage on the ground. It's like that. Yours, you just can't "see" ;)

I know a person who's mom is a hoarder. It was nothing short of disgusting to be in the doorway of her home, while waiting for him to get his stuff and go. NIGHTMARE city. Beyond the stacks and stacks of newspapers and magazines, were the really bad things. Mold on the floor, mold on the counter, mold on the walls.... it was gross. but she *needed* those newspapers and magazines.

I have also seen someone go through a strange post-partum depression/lazy stide that lasted far to long. It was so gross in their house that when they went to buy a whole new house and replace the old one on the land, that the fire department wouldn't even take it as a "practice house" because they were affraid of the toxins that would be released from all the black mold and fire ants... *shudder*.. so totally gross....

Anonymous said...

I know someone that is a hoarder, and its crazy! Throwing away a paper cup can send her into a frenzy. I'm not sure what the emotional attachment is with the garbage...but like you said, there is definitely something to it. Very sad and a huge problem for many people.

Shadow said...

ha, hubby's like madelene. so what i do is pack up stuff while he's not around, and store it where he can't see it, and if he hasn't asked for it in say 8 months, i toss it...... sneaky, but at least i have SPACE!!!!!!

the walking man said...

There isn't much or many things I can't live without and there isn't much or many things i care whether te old lady keeps or not. I don't live in rooms I live in my head. The rest is just me cluttering up space.

coopernicus said...

While the shrinks are scrambling to add this to DSM V, i think it's in part genetic. I can trace the pack-ratting back through my family. My grandfather had a storage area in his apartment crammed with boxes and jars from floor to ceiling. There was one box labeled 'string too short to use' and it was filled with tiny pieces of string.
Some of that comes from growing up during the depression, but that doesn't fly anymore. I could easily go the same route but every so often I get fed up with clutter and break out a snow shovel to get rid of it all. Fortunately never even close to the degree of the extreme horder cases on the show.

coopernicus said...

While the shrinks are scrambling to add this to DSM V, i think it's in part genetic. I can trace the pack-ratting back through my family. My grandfather had a storage area in his apartment crammed with boxes and jars from floor to ceiling. There was one box labeled 'string too short to use' and it was filled with tiny pieces of string.
Some of that comes from growing up during the depression, but that doesn't fly anymore. I could easily go the same route but every so often I get fed up with clutter and break out a snow shovel to get rid of it all. Fortunately never even close to the degree of the extreme horder cases on the show.

Beth said...

When I saw my first episode of "Hoarders" on A&E... it scared me silly. I saw the episode where mice were crawling up the stairs, sniffing at garbage, and 15+ dead cats were discovered under mattresses, crates, piles of garbage... it made me sick. When the show was over, I immediately cleaned my room. Like you said here, I got rid of anything that hadn't been used in a year. My dad likes to hold onto things, I don't know if it's for memories or what, but I felt like I was picking up on that, but Hoarders totally opened my eyes to what could happen. Mostly I had junk in my room, clothing tags on the floor, bobby pins all over. My junk wasn't worth anything, it was just clutter, and laziness.

I don't really understand the illness, but I do have sympathy for the people who suffer with it. I mean, can you imagine? Knowing you have this disease, and being so ashamed of your home, but the very idea of cleaning up causes you intense panic attacks? Yuck, I can't even imagine!!

Anyway, great post.